Thursday, December 20, 2012

Heartstring Harper - Chapter 3: Cold Comfort

"You seem like you were awfully docile there," the Beast mused quietly, more polite now than he'd been the whole evening; after what had nearly come about from the argument a few moments ago, he had no desire to risk losing her tale. "And not just docile, too. Incurious. Never even looked to see who picked you up. Why?"

Heartstring shrugged, idly twirling her glass - once more empty, in the few moments since the Elemental had brought their drinks - as she spoke.

"Who knows? I was in shock, perhaps. And, too, I'd been drugged. But I think that some of it was her using a Contract on me, or something of the sort... I did eventually find out who it was that picked me
up, though. But you'll find that out later, if we get that far."

I played for her - them, really, I suppose, for certainly there was nothing about my Keeper to make me think of them as one thing or another, but that's a hard habit to fall out of, and it seems to fit for some reason, though I don't know why - until my fingers bled, and I could barely hold my arms up. And then, at last, they seemed to smile, though how when they didn't have a face, I couldn't begin to say. It was just an air they gave off, more than anything.

After that, the girl who brought me there helped me up, showed me to a room - her room, actually; I didn't quite rate one of my own - and got my hands tended to, then got me settled into bed, though we talked a while before I fell asleep...

"I'm sorry," Lure said softly, sitting down next to Anarya, and reaching out to lay a cold hand, like that of their mutual Keeper, though hers was made of frozen metal, delicately tooled with a pattern of snowflakes, no one matching its neighbors, instead of pure ice, on her shoulder. "I wish I could have put your dreams right, not shattered them like a mirror -"

The new-taken mortal hissed a negation, shaking her head, and looking rather as though she would have slapped the Changeling, had it not been for the fact that her arms were too tired for her to lift them, now that they had rested, and her fingers still raw, though the ointment that Lure - who, for all that she had been the one responsible for this, had proven to be a gentle and attentive nurse - had put on them earlier had numbed the pain from the wounds.

"You could. If you hadn't taken me, I'd not be here, so quit trying to make yourself feel better about it. Maybe if you'd left me alone, I'd have made it, maybe not, but either way, it would have been on my head, and you could have rested easy."

"You truly think that?", Lure asked with a bitter laugh, shaking her head. "You'll learn, then. After you spend enough time here, there's little you wouldn't do to stay in favor, or at least not fall out of it. Coming back empty-handed would have left me chained up with the Pack for a month or more, little girl. And you'd best hope that you never find out what that's like, even for just a night."

There was a brief silence, crystalline, the kind of quiet one feels is simply waiting to break, shatter like a glass hitting the floor and stab into whoever is around when it does.

"Well?", Lure said after a few moments, sounding almost impatient, though also, in some ways, with a touch of relief coloring her tone. "Aren't you going to ask, then? Come on, I expected better of you, what with your quick retort earlier, when I tried to apologize for dragging you here..."

Anarya flinched, having heard the mocking pain in the other woman's voice, but nodded, shifting slightly so as to be deeper under the thick blanket as she did, scared of what might be revealed when she spoke, and hungry for the comfort to be found there, even if it was of an irrational sort.

"What are the Pack, then?", she whispered, shivering somewhat as a chill passed through her, though whether from nerves or the cold that seemed to pervade this place, even here, next to a roaring fire, she couldn't tell. "And what do you mean by 'chained up'?"

"The Pack used to be people like us," Lure explained quietly, sighing, and once more reaching out to touch the girl next to her, this time slipping an arm around her shoulders. "Now the Keeper uses them to hunt with. They've been turned to beasts and back so many times they're no longer entirely human, in some ways. They're used as punishment. She won't let us die - but she will let them feed, either as a reward for a successful hunt, or a punishment to us.

Bad enough to suffer that perhaps every six weeks, as we all do, but can you blame me for being willing to do almost anything to not have that happening constantly, every day, for at least a month?"

Heartstring Harper - Chapter 2: The Instrumentality of Faekind

When I came to in Arcadia, I was hanging from a wall; apparently, someone had decided that, even if I didn't know the way home, it was a good idea to make sure I couldn't try to run anyway. Surprisingly enough, though, that wasn't the first thing I noticed – that was my new Keeper, an androgyne made
of ice, without even a set of eyes or a single strand of hair on her head, whether real or not…

"So, then. You're awake," the ice-person commented quietly, her voice sending a chill down Anriella's spine that was every bit as real as the one caused by the frigid wind, and the snow that it was blowing onto her. "Lure says you can play. I don't know if I believe her, though… She's been getting rather desperate for someone new to talk to, and I wouldn't put it past her to have brought you here just because she's lonely."

The strange – impossible, really, or at least that's what everything the musician knew was telling her – person turned away, snapping their fingers as they did, at which the manacles binding Anriella clicked open, dumping her in an undignified (and uncomfortable, for that matter) heap on the cold marble floor.
As the androgyne walked off, a massive hand settled on her shoulder, lifting her effortlessly, and with surprising gentleness, then began to guide her after them, eventually, after more twisting corridors than she could count, and, once, a room filled with people on pedestals, ice forming on their clothes and skin, though, somehow, they were still alive, to a small chamber with instruments hung on the walls, and a few – harps, and others that were too large, or otherwise unsuitable – on the floor, in recesses just large enough to hold them and their player.

"Well? Choose what you would perform on, mortal," the Shaper of the Ice said, voice soft, but with a clear tone of command in it, as she turned to face the human woman. "If it proves you do not play as well as I hope, it is Lure who will be punished, not you."

Hands trembling, both from the chill and her nerves, she stepped forward, and pulled a strange guitar, nine-stringed, from its hook, and took a seat on the only seat in the room proper, a stool at the center, then began to play, a haunting melody, composed on the spot...

As the waitress, a tall woman with ashen skin, and fiery red hair, which shifted to true flame at the tips, set Heartstring's glass down, the musician paused for a moment, carefully examining the Hunterheart she was talking to.

"Clearer memories than I'd have expected from a Spring," he said dryly, a faint, resentful, snarl in his voice. "I was under the impression that your court was primarily for dilettantes."

"And I thought Summer was for those too worried about keeping themselves safe to think about what kind of life they're protecting," she shot back, glaring venomously at him for a moment, before looking away, and taking a long pull from her drink. "Now do you want to hear the rest of my story, or would you prefer to trade insults until one of us leaves?"

Heartstring Harper - Chapter 1: Yeah, I got played

I was human, once. Normal, too, not the kind of person you'd notice on the street. At least, not unless you hung around the weirder clubs; if you did, you might have known me as the girl who played guitar, strange, experimental pieces. And if you were deep enough into that scene, maybe you'd have been aware that I wanted to get a sponsor, or if you knew music, you might have guessed that just from who I was and what I did.

 I got one. Just not the kind I was looking for; the girl I talked to was normal enough, albeit startlingly pretty for where we were, and better at talking than the people I'd seen recruiting new talent before, but it turned out that didn't mean much - she put something in the soda she gave me that put me out for a while, though I couldn't say exactly how long.

 Why not? Because the next thing I remember is waking up in Arcadia, and time is much less linear there. But that's a story for another time... 


 "Another time is not an option," the tall man sitting across the table from the Harper growled, shaking his black-maned head fiercely, and gesturing at a small knot of people on the other side of the dark bar. "My group is only in the city for one night; I hear your tale now, or not at all."

 Heartstring leaned back in her chair, the long coat she wore to hide the most obvious signs of her Durance - not because she was ashamed of them, but because some found the inhuman nature of her beauty unsettling, at best – falling open to reveal the taut strings of muscle stretched between the exposed bones of her torso. She waved for another drink, giving a musical laugh as she did.

"Fine. But you're paying for all of my drinks tonight. Tale-teller's privilege, been around longer than either of us," she answered, letting her chair drop to the ground once again, and staring into the Summer Courtier's eyes. "Deal?"

 He simply nodded, not even making a brief sound of contemplation, or, in fact, taking the time to think about it at all, before accepting, which was all the cue Heartstring needed to pick up where she'd left off…