Monday, September 6, 2010

Fireflies in a Jar

Written while listening to Hello Again by Dave Matthews Band.

. . . . . Extinction. The word crashed against the inside of Diyos’s mind like a marshlight bleeder in a giant jar. He translated the word into his native tongue and back again, listened to his memory echo Azshariel’s voice to him until he felt like it was his own psyche beating on the glass for freedom.
. . . . . In the small workspace in Ironforge he rented for his tailoring commissions, he sat at his mana loom, weaving threads soaked in arcane dust with threads soaked in nether essence. Every clack of the shuttle seemed to repeat her premise: adapt or die. Under his hands, enough imbued netherweave to form a full bolt of cloth was forming.
. . . . . A craving for the bitter burn of alcohol settled in the back of his throat. Before joining the company, a few hours of watching his thoughts batter against his mind like trapped fireflies would have him well on his way to drinking himself into oblivion. But now he had a new start, people counting on him who were not obliged to toleration by filial bonds like his baby brother. He could forget the nightmares of millennia nipping at his hooves. He had a connection to this planet outside of his family’s bonds, and for all that he was not with them as often as their core members, he felt as if the company’s employees were what held him here – as well as his brother still on probation in Stormwind.
. . . . . Unlike Athos, if he screwed this up, they would kick him to the curb.
. . . . . Azshariel hadn’t said it outright, but her displeasure with him was clear; understandable, even, given that the company’s meetings had been disrupted by a pack of walking abominations bristling with weaponry and seeking his cowardly tail for questioning. His hands stilled on the loom. He had brought them. He was responsible for this mess by virtue of those filial bonds. What had Azshariel said about new predators in an environment killing off their prey?
. . . . . Extinction.
. . . . . Adapt or die.
. . . . . The wooden legs of the stool he sat upon screeched in protest as he shoved himself back from the mana loom, leaving the nearly-finished bolt behind. His heart hammering in his chest, he reached for the torch and extinguished it in the bucket of water near the top of the stairs. He could see as well in the dark as the light… The shadows tugged playfully at the edge of his white robes and the ends of his wildly curly hair. Ignoring their call, he stomped down the stairs and out into Ironforge’s stone-paved streets. Some dark shadow flickered at the edge of his peripheral vision, but he had it up to here already with shadows and paid it no mind.
. . . . . As the anchorite arranged for and took a gryphon-back flight off to Thelsamar, a pair of unholy blue eyes watched from across the Great Forge.

. . . . . Thelsamar in Loch Modan served as one of Diyos’s favorite homes away from home. Not that he really felt he had any concept of what “home” meant any longer, after so long of moving from place to place to place. Zangarmarsh was were he stayed the longest – aside from the vessel – so he called that home when asked, but home usually implied things like a connection to a place, a desire to stay somewhere for the long term, some concept of settling down. Thelsamar was just a great place to fish and convenient to the South Gate Outpost.
. . . . . On the comparatively – compared to, say, flying to Light’s Hope Chapel – short flight, the anchorite felt almost like a privileged observer. Removed from the actual process, he watched pieces of logic and conversation, thoughts and will fit together like a broken artifact being made whole once more. Intellectually, he knew that he was approaching the edge of a psychological break and distancing himself as a coping mechanism; he’d spent too long studying the workings of the mind to not be able to see the impending crash of the vessel here. If he was lucky, this process of putting the pieces back together would fix the dimensional engine of his psyche before his mind plowed into the unyielding surface of madness.
. . . . . He was using far too many metaphors; the privileged observer within him told him that was another coping technique he used to keep himself together when all he really wanted was to drink himself stupid. The saddle he sat in shifted with each beat of the gryphon’s wings, but Diyos felt like each slow beat matched his thumping heart.
. . . . . According to his mentor, coping was as simple as choosing how he was going to feel about this and getting on with life. That meshed with Azshariel’s warning to adapt or become a relic. Somewhere in the back of his thoughts, a reminder that he had the strength of will to give up an addiction spanning thousands of years for the love of an elf waved frantically at him. Terrifying visages of souls mangled and torn and trapped in rotting bodies smoothed out into civil discourse about missing Zangarmarsh or a commission for a shirt; they weren’t so scary when they were being so…normal about things. A little girl’s giggle transitioned into a woman’s throaty laugh and then became an ice-edged rasp of breath in his memory. His stomach dropped, although the gryphon still flew true.
. . . . . That was the heart of his distress right there, pointed out the privileged observer. The memories he clung to of his baby sister in life were making her more terrifying than any of the others in death. Perhaps if he set those expectations aside, if he saw her as any of the other death knights – civil enough when they tried to be – he could find whatever it was he needed to get past his fear of them.
. . . . . Or he could fight, whispered a small voice behind the observer in his mind. He could scare them so badly they’d avoid Azshariel and him, sear their minds until they were hardly more than the ghouls they carted around behind them. He could make them leave him alone.
. . . . . And then where would he get his cupcakes? Who would remember the prayers he led at the Twin Spire with any fondness? Who would fetch him out of danger if he were trapped and needed to use his crystal to call for hel-… He stilled, all the color draining from his indigo skin. The communication crystal. All this time these death knights had been searching for his sister, and she had come to reattune her crystal to his the last time he’d seen her. He could simply ask her where she was and then tell them and they would go away!
. . . . . Until the next time she went on an extended vacation. Or the next time someone wanted to deliver a commission to him through one of the better known couriers in Stormwind.
. . . . . Extinction.
. . . . . The gryphon touched down and hopped about as the flight master gripped the reins from the draenei who was doing absolutely nothing to help the situation. Diyos barely noticed himself handing the flight master some coins and heading to the stables to get Jim out. He got onto the back of his elekk in a daze, kneeing Jim somewhere in the vague direction of the company’s outpost.
. . . . . Adapt or die. Death knights were the new predator in the environment. Either he learned how to deal with them…or he was easy prey. There was something he was trying to remember…what was it? The desire for a sip of sharply-sweet mead distracted him for a moment, but he pushed the thought away.
. . . . . Jim plodded along, not unused to his master’s silent fugues and well-practiced in the “how to get to South Gate undirected” game. There were acorns stashed among his master’s things at the outpost.
. . . . . Realization broke through the morass of trapped fireflies in Diyos’s head, clearing his mind as quickly as taking the lid off the jar. He had the strength of will to change himself. Perhaps it would take a little dangerous tinkering with his psyche, but he could erase the irrational fear of the undead if he applied a combination of the discipline he learned as a priest of the Light and the mental techniques he learned as one of the Concealed of the Hand of Argus. Discipline had served him well in ignoring his alcoholism, so why couldn’t he apply that same strength of will to ignoring his fear of death knights?
. . . . . His knees tightened on Jim’s sides and the elekk bugled a short welcome back to reality, his long snout coming around over his shoulder to seek an apple from his master. Diyos swatted the elekk’s trunk away gently and began planning, the strange feeling of remotely observing his own thoughts fading as he sorted his memory for the incantations necessary to alter his psychological reactions. He could enhance a fear in another, so what was to say he couldn’t reverse-engineer the process to destroy it in himself?
. . . . . Adapt or die.

. . . . . Diyos left Jim to seek out a tree full of late-summer fruit or some such – whatever that insane elekk did when he tried to climb trees – and walked into the South Gate Outpost, his steps full of purpose and his motions sharp with the economy of planning. Here on the right, near the door, were crates full of dig supplies. He filched a traveler’s pack out of one crate and began filling it with supplies for a few days’ journey. Up into the kitchen, there were the spare canteens; Auchindoun now was sere and dry, he’d need water. And dried jerky to eat on the way there. A shovel from the dig supplies. Paper and a quill, to write Azshariel a short note on where he’d be for a few days, since she didn’t seem to have her radio on.
. . . . . He would go to the Dark Portal and find some relic to represent the spirits of Rulaam and Valdiis both. He’d take the items out to Auchindoun, the traditional resting place of the Draenei before the shattering, and he’d bury them. He would officially mourn his other baby brother, Rulaam, and bury his expectations of who – or what – Valdiis was.
. . . . . After settling that fear, he would go to the Aldor tier of Shattrath – where it was nice and quiet – and set about diminishing his own fears and adapting his attitude to something better suited to this new environment he was living in.
. . . . . Screw extinction. He would survive.
. . . . . Riding on a surge of certainty-induced courage, he reached into his pocket and found the small purple crystal attuned to his baby brother…and sister. He lifted the crystal to his mouth and spoke into one of the facets, “Hey, Valdiis?”

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