Demimind: Chapter 6

(6)Summer-Heat, Spring-Bringer

“There’s a naked woman at the gates!” A guard yells to his partner. “What do we do?”

“Is she good looking?” His partner asks, plainly bored.

“Yes!”

“Just gawk at her until she leaves. If she doesn’t have any clothes she’s probably a prostitute, and we’ve no shortage of prostitutes.”

Summer hears all of this as she’s walking up, and has half a mind to incinerate both of them. She’s not sure what stops her, really. It’s as if a part of her rebels against the idea on general principle. Strange.

“Hey!” She shouts up at the guards. “Let me in! I need to talk to Bringer-of-Spring!”

“You and every other pregnant smith’s daughter around here, milady. What makes you so special as to take Spring’s ear? He’s a very busy demigod,” The bored guard replies, though not impolitely.

“My name is Summer-Heat-Rising. I’m here to talk with Spring about a very important problem. And he isn’t a demigod, I can tell you that much!” She says fiercely. Boy, she really is tired of… wait, what was her problem again? She blinks. She knows she had it a second ago.

What is it about being physical that makes memory so weird? She shakes her head to clear it. “Look, just let me in! I’m not a prostitute, I just want the chance to talk to Bringer-of-Spring!”

The gate guard sighs. He seems to think for another few seconds, tapping his chin and staring at Summer intently. Then he nods to himself before he answers.

“Okay. My partner here can show you around town-” the gatekeeper says, glancing across at his friend’s shocked face. His partner hasn’t said anything since Summer started talking. Admittedly the woman has a nice voice, but there isn’t really any call for that sort of behavior. Totally unprofessional.

“I don’t need any help,” Summer says cheerfully. “Just open the gates and I’ll be fine on my own.”

“Begging your pardon, milady, but you’re not even half dressed. If you pop on in here lookin’ like that…. Well, I should think the madness of Spring spread in half the men’s heads- without an escort you’ll end up on your back and bearing well before your nine months is up and might earn another baby besides! Let Thomas here walk you around town, even the madness won’t let men touch taken women.”

Summer blinks at that, and then looks at her belly, which is rounded, moreso than usual, and maybe a little heavier than she’s used to. She’s pregnant?

She rubs her belly doubtfully. She doesn’t feel pregnant. She doesn’t remember doing anything to get pregnant! But her stomach is much warmer than usual too, and it doesn’t fit with her small frame. Or what used to be small. As Summer-Heat-Rising- she changed, right?- she is almost five foot six inches, taller than most men.

She hears a sigh and looks up. Thomas is giving her a look one part frustration and one part longing. She gives him her brightest smile instead of torching his lips off. Men can want her if they like. It doesn’t bother her like it used to. Does it?

She beckons. “Come on down then… Thomas? Show me around the city, won’t you?”

“Y-yes ma’am. Right away,” The guard comes to himself, snapping out of his stare with a blush. Now he’s making a point of not looking at her as he walks down the ramp leading up to the tower and closes the wicker gate that leads up to it.

He walks right up next to her, pointedly keeping his eyes on her face, though she notices them flick down over her body out of reflex several times. Hm. It was fun to be naked before. What makes it less fun now? She forces the beginnings of a blush down. This feeling is making her uncomfortable.

Summer-Heat-Rising can’t help but feel that it might be better, under the circumstances, to have enough coverage to keep people from staring nonstop. Whatever she might tell herself, she gets the feeling she doesn’t actually like being naked in front of lots of people.

Good to see you’ve some common sense, a cool voice whispers in her mind.

Summer pays it little enough mind, at first, but it occurs to her that it wasn’t her thought. Strange.

She gathers her power, pulls it into herself, and forces strands of it outward, lips pressed tight with concentration. Grass uproots itself, twines around her tightly, weaving breeches- and then a skirt- long enough and woven delicately as any work by hand. She twines it, tweaks it with little flicks of her power until it also forms a T-shirt- all green- and the two articles connect, woven as strongly as a second skin, flexing with her body and her curves.

Thomas just watches, open-mouthed, barely daring to believe his eyes.

Once Summer is done, she gives Thomas a smile, coyer than the last and indicates the city with a wave of her hand. “Do show me around. That’s what you’re here for, right?”

Thomas the gate guard nods weakly, and leads her past the open gates and into the bustle of the town.

Summer, for what  it’s worth, follows after. She isn’t quite skipping, but it’s only a matter of time. She feels light and happy for some reason.

All eyes are preoccupied, in the town, much to Summer’s relief. Thomas can’t help but think that’s rather strange- Summer is very noticeable, even in her makeshift grass clothing- perhaps especially with it. But there’s a certain something in the air that seems to have infected all the people. Couples giggle, strolling around, hugging, kissing openly. Stalls and stores are left unattended. Houses are left with their doors wide open.

“Why isn’t anyone working?” Summer wonders aloud. She knows Thomas will answer her before he opens his mouth. So simple.

“It’s Spring, miss. The first day, he came and now- well, every fortnight he holds a grand festival, every three days he declares a day of rest, and he encourages people to make merry and love in the streets.” Thomas blushes and doesn’t meet her eyes. “I thought you said you knew him, miss?”

Summer shrugs her curved shoulders and gives him a silly grin. “I may and I mayn’t.”

“What kind of answer is that?”

She rolls her eyes. For a moment Thomas can’t help but feel that she’s making fun of him constantly. “An answer to everything.”

He is very careful not to let out the derisive snort that wants so badly to escape. It doesn’t work, of course. Summer can read him like a book. He can keep nothing from her- and they’ve just met. But it’s like that way with everyone, for Summer.

“Don’t believe me?” She asks innocently.

“Miss, you do play me for a fool,” He says quietly. They walk down the street, occasionally stepping over a coupling couple. It isn’t quite that obscene, Summer thinks. But there are people sleeping together in the streets, even if they aren’t sleeping together in the streets.

She finds the experience distinctly odd.

“You could just tell me straight off that you don’t want to say anything on the subject. Oh- we’re here,” Thomas says, stopping short directly in front of the entrance to a grand, luxurious building. The words ‘Spring Shrine’ are emblazoned on the sign at the top in Eldritch. Summer recognizes them immediately, of course. How she’d forgotten them… she can’t quite remember- it’s as if her memories are slipping through her figurative fingers.

She knows she’s seen similar runes before, but for the life of her she can’t remember where.

“This is it?” Summer asks. She doesn’t need clarification, but it pays to keep up appearances.

“Yeah,” Thomas mumbles. “Uh.”

“We can talk more when I come out. Do be a dear and go back to your post. Thomas, right?”

“Yes miss. And you’re Summer. Nice meeting you- I’ll just, ah. I’ll just go, I guess. Give me a shout if you need anything!” He says brightly. He starts off towards the gate, and Summer walks up to the entrance to the shrine.

It’s built of hard wood- mahogany reinforced with iron. Around the edges of the roof- which slants sharply- there’s copper, and pillars of brass hold the structure up. It’s quite extravagant, and Summer can’t help but admire the use of such pretty metals. Hm.

There’s that voice again.

Iron… oh, that sounds dangerous… do be careful…

Summer scratches her head, but the itch in her mind doesn’t go away. What was it about iron?

It weakens us on contact, you dummy. You sure forget a lot when I’m gone….

The cold voice sparks recall, all at once. Just as the man known as Bringer-of-Spring steps in front of her, out from behind a pillar where he’d been waiting all along. He smiles warmly. “Well. I wondered how long it’d be before you came. I’m glad you’re here now, though, it saves me the trouble of finding you again.”

Summer is about to take a step back, but her foot moves forward instead, and she finds herself standing too close to him. Her skin heats up, and she means to step back, really she does, but her body doesn’t want to obey her. Bringer-of-Spring grins down at her, showing off too-white teeth. This close, he isn’t warm, but cool, frighteningly cool. Summer shivers, despite herself. Too warm for Winter, too cold for Summer, she thinks.

Spring’s skin is greenish. He stands much taller than Summer- by almost a foot. His hair stands straight up from his head in a moronic fashion, and one tooth is missing, giving his smile a gap-toothed effect. It’s probably his genuinely punchable face, Summer decides. He’s full of life, animated, but in a way that reminds her of a plant or a sapling being pushed by wind rather than any animal she could care to remember and name.

And just then, with Spring looming over her uncomfortably, the clouds in the sky obscure the sun and rain begins to fall. She feels distinctly uneasy. Part of it is her gut, but mostly it has to do with the face staring down at her, with the eyes. Those cold, cold blue eyes that gaze at her, eyes she remembers. That piercing gaze had last been set on her by He-Whose-Name-Shakes-Mountains.

But those same blue eyes rest in the skull of Bringer-of-Spring, and his expression, though on the outside speaks of genuine joy, on the inside hides sparkling ambition and lies, Summer thinks. I recognize it. He-Whose-Name-Shakes-Mountains had a look on His face just like that when He was chasing us around. Well, sort of. It was more like actual good cheer.

Of course, it could just be her imagination. Summer gazes at Spring for a while, letting the moment drag out into an awkward staring contest. Yes, Summer decides, staring up at Spring’s innocent grinning face, it’s probably her imagination.

No one with hair green on the bottom and brown at the tips- standing straight up and waving like grass in a breeze- could be anything other than a complete idiot. If she had something to fear from morons she wouldn’t have let that man- Thomas?- lead her about. It stands to reason that Spring isn’t a threat, or she wouldn’t have been headed here in the first place.

Well then, Winter says in Summer’s head. Are you going in, or are you going to stay out here in the nice cold rain?

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Short Chapter

This chapter was short, in my opinion.

With that in mind, I was thinking about posting its twin today as well and undoing all my hard work at keeping ahead of this schedule in the process.

Well, not really. I’m far enough ahead that’s not likely to be a problem even if I posted a new chapter every day (which would swamp people and basically make it impossible for anyone to keep up, I’m sure)

So with that also in mind, I suppose I’ll have to deal with the subpar length and hope everyone enjoyed it anyway. I don’t want to drown you in walls of text. Really I don’t. New chapter’ll be posted monday unless I have a sudden fit of crazy and post it earlier. Don’t get your hopes up though- I’ve been having a few computer troubles lately which’ll make POSTING things easier… and WRITING things harder. But I’ll deal. I’m good at that by now, I should think.

(No, you don’t get a long involved backstory describing why. I’m not THAT nice.)

-Eris

PS:

Anyone who thinks that chapter was just long enough is a HEATHEN and will be given cocoa for sucking up. Thanks, your support is appreciated always!

Anyone who thinks that chapter was too short is one of the TRUE FAITH and will be given cocoa for sucking up. Thanks, your support is also appreciated always, even as you crush my self-esteem and ruin my day!

(you don’t really ruin my day, please keep reading)

Demimind: Chapter 5

Sixth official story post, fifth official chapter! Enjoy. Also, in an effort to give the new people here a better chance at reading the story from the beginning: Prologue. As well as a link to the chapter page: Chapters. It’s not very visible- it’s in the black bar across the top of the blog. The chapter page has all of the chapters- including this one- from the beginning! Now, without further ado….

(5)SnowBound

It takes a few seconds for Winter to get her bearings. When she is sure Seven-Spinner is gone….

“Summer.”

I’m still here.

“Where do I go?”

It may be a good idea to… well, you know. Find out where you are first.

Winter thinks for a few seconds, then nods. “Okay. In order to do that I should probably find…” She searches her limited memory. “A city?”

A town, a city, a village. It doesn’t really matter which. Any of them have people, and you can ask people for directions.

Winter walks away from the Spider Queen’s domain. Gradually frost laden branches give way to the open area of the forest. Without so many trees blocking her sense, she can feel a strong concentration of life she didn’t notice before, far, far off to the north. It may just be that she’s getting hungry again, but that’s something she doesn’t really want to think about.

Keep moving or I really will fall asleep.

“Sorry. Wasn’t thinking.”

Winter turns east one last time, glancing towards the bowed and broken branches that lead into the nest. She tries to hold it in her mind so she can get back if she needs to. It seems to work, but without any way to test it, it’s hard to tell. She shakes her head, turns to the north, and begins to walk.

At first it seems easy enough. It’s pleasantly cold, and Winter enjoys herself- had she always liked brisk walks through cold forests? It’s difficult to say, but she does know that she likes the way her feet crunch on the cold snow, likes the way the wind whistles through frozen trees. She likes everything about it, even though Summer sleeps soundly in her head.

Actually, maybe she likes it because Summer is asleep in her head. Winter really doesn’t know what to make of her. All she really knows is that Summer is in her mind, talks as if they’ve been together forever, orders her around and takes charge during emergencies- to the dismay of anyone trying to hurt her. Some bits of Summer’s past seem to have leaked through as well. She remembers that Summer had a body, separate from hers but still the same, so that whenever Summer took over people could know which one was which.

She doesn’t know for sure how long Summer has been bound, really, or anything beyond her memory barrier. For all she knows, Summer could be the one who bound herself. It’s a disturbing thought.

And then there is that strange, dangerous entity who murdered Jane. What was His name? He-Whose-Name-Shakes-Mountains is kind of a mouthful. Even if His name shakes mountains she’d almost rather say it instead of have to deal with the alternative. And just what is He?

And her memory. When would she remember everything again? Bits and pieces sort of drift back to her, but beyond when she first came to- in that circle of briar and in the stone room- she can’t remember anything at all. Her earliest memory is of Summer laughing and killing those men. It’s not exactly the most pleasant of things to dwell on. Worse than a blur, most of the stuff before that is simply gone. She doesn’t know who she is- except that she has control of some kind of magic- or what she is, either.

Winter looks up at an out-of-place birdcall. There shouldn’t be any birds at all out in the cold. What she sees takes her breath away.

Without quite realizing it, Winter has walked right to the edge of the forest. And miraculously, here snow seems to stop. The ground in front of her, beyond the edge, is covered with grass which, rather than being stiff and frozen, waves as if in a warm breeze. Small insects hop over the blades of grass mere inches from ice and snow that would freeze them in an instant. As she watches, a butterfly flutters out over a small patch of wildflowers, alights on one, and begins to drink nectar.

She’s standing at the very brink of winter and… summer? No… No, the bloom of life reminds her more of spring… And memories stir as she stands there and stares.

She reaches out, pushes her hand beyond her snow horizon, and it’s as if she’s thrust her hand into the path of a blowtorch. The heat beyond her forest of frost is stifling, ridiculously powerful. She shudders as she draws her hand away. She expects it to be blistered, but her skin is unblemished. It’s a matter of perspective, then, if she wasn’t burned up.

It wakes Summer right up.

Whoa. Yeah, wait, I remember this place. Bringer-of-Spring lives in the town just over there.

Winter follows the thought and sees a collection of small buildings, nestled in the crook of a valley. It isn’t an expansive plain of heat, it’s a little spark in the midst of a cold, foreboding woodland.

“Bringer-of-Spring?”

Yeah. He’s… a relative of ours.

“That’s just spring? How am I going to get by?” Winter asks. She looks around to see if she can see something- like a path of snow up to the gates, or a break in the barrier of heat- but she can’t see heat, of course, she just feels a bit silly.

What, it’s not like a wall or anything. Toughen up-

“No way,” Winter growls, surprising herself. “You’re completely nuts if you think I’m setting one foot through.”

And you’re nuts if you think you can stop me from making you.

And just like that, Summer takes control. Winter doesn’t know where her power goes, whether being in the heat weakened her somehow, or whether she just dropped her guard without thinking. Suddenly, Summer is making her body slide through, step on into the sun and the heat. Trying to dig her heels in does no good- the heat wipes away mind and strength both too quickly, burning her resolve to ash. This is spring? It feels like she’s stepped into a fire.

Winter wants to scream, but she has no mouth. Her body won’t obey her. It’s not her mouth, it’s Summer’s mouth. Summer, who smiles as if it’s the most glorious thing in the world, Summer, who does a little twirl in the long grass, letting it tickle her legs. Winter can’t make her body respond, and the eyes she looks out from no longer feel hers.

“Oh, it’s good to be back!” Summer cries, the widest grin on her face. “So, so good!”

She looks herself all over, and despite Winter’s feeble protests, proceeds to take off all Winter’s conjured clothing. It’s just as well- it had begun to melt in the heat of the sun of this strange new domain. It’s almost sad, watching it hiss and bubble in the dirt as it changes quickly from frost magic to water and then sinks into the soil. Winter saves her sorrow for her predicament- it seems the situation has taken a complete turn- a full reversal from mere moments before. Summer has somehow taken control.

Winter struggles to hang on to her fading mind, as the warmth blasts through layers and layers of carefully structured- if slightly disarrayed- consciousness, a furnace vaporizing a snowflake. Over in an instant, but lasting forever.

When Summer looks down at her arms, Winter notices- dizzily, since the unbearable warmth is taking its toll very quickly- that they are golden brown skinned now instead of pale white, and that her hair has grown into long, flowing white locks instead of her short cut. Her bronzed body is still lithe, still thin, but taller, too, and much stronger. There’s a heaviness in her- well, Summer’s- belly that wasn’t there before. It’s a completely different body, but one that’s familiar to her. She can’t remember now from where it came to her.

Summer takes another few steps forward, then stops, apparently confused. She’d been muzzy before, when Winter had first decided where to go. It doesn’t explain why she’d suddenly forget where the town was, and that much disturbs Winter a little, insofar as it’s possible with her mind boiling away.

“Where was I going?”

North, Winter mumbles weakly, and then she whites out, losing consciousness.

Summer, unperturbed by the loss of her mind-mate, hums to herself as she strolls north, and thus towards the town, enjoying the feel of the grass on her legs and the smell and scent in the air. She’s sure this will be a lovely day, and it’ll be all the lovelier without that fussy fool of a sister behind the wheel.

Why I Write (And ramble)

Okay, so, I know this isn’t really a story post. Promise there’ll be one come friday, likely some crazy time like ten AM or something, since I literally have nothing better to do than write all day and update my story blog. (You’d think I’d update more often, but I have a schedule and it’s enough to keep to a two day consistentlyrather than miss a lot of a three day workweek)

But I just want to make it absolutely crystal clear- I’m writing because I love it. I can sit down every day and tell a story. I can make the words dance whichever way I want them to- and sometimes it’s clumsy and it’s hard to understand, but heck, most dances are like that, as far as I can tell. Or they were when they were just starting out. I’ve been writing for a while, but my excuse is not knowing how to dance. /horrible analogy

 

I’m nuts, too, with the way I write. I don’t have a bloody storyboard all set. I know the general direction of my stories, but, to tell you a special secret that’s super, super special and all mine: I’m writing off of what my characters want to do next. Plot’ll come along with them if you write your characters well. I don’t really like to try to plan things out because I know it’ll just deviate. While I love writing enough to write down chapters and chapters at a time, I don’t hold with traditional storyboards.

And you know, that’s probably okay. I’m not really a traditional author. If I could get paid for this stuff that’d be kind of neat, but I mean, it’d sort of feel fake. If I’m really a writer, I should be writing because I love it. Payment should be secondary for me. That’s how I feel about it. There are surely authors out there who are different, who slide away from that ideal. But my stuff is on here for free because I want to share it, not because I care about advertising. If this book  becomes published- and with plans to put the entire thing up here eventually I don’t see how that could happen- I’m not sure I could stomach taking money for it. Yeah, it was a lot of work. Is a lot of work. It’s stuff from my head, I’m baring bits and pieces of me.

But it’s because the characters are so special to me I don’t know if I could sell them. I’m not so conceited as to pretend they’re priceless- nothing is priceless- but the price would be too high. They’re pieces of my soul. In order to take them as your own, you’d have to give me part of yours. And I’m not actually sure if that’s ethical!

Please, no offers of souls for these characters. Really. They’re mine and I’m sharing. I don’t want anything but the knowledge that someone out there enjoys reading my stuff. Even if it’s just me, it’ll make it worth it to push keys on my keyboard until the whole thing is done.

Off topic! That was all off topic. What I mean to say is, I’m writing because I love writing, not for commercial gain. Um. I think. Maybe that was obvious. Was that obvious? I think that was obvious. But I already knew it. So uh. Yeah.

Next chapter’ll be up Friday. If you’ll excuse me, I need to find some breakfast and finish writing the next installment to maintain the buffer.

I hope everyone is enjoying the fourth official chapter. It was as much fun to write as the rest, and as a bonus it seems to have thickened the Plot.

-Eris

Demimind: Chapter 4

(4)Spider Queen

I was only trying to help, Summer gripes. God and Cycle, you get so angry sometimes… It’s really kind of childish.

“Drop it, Summer,” Winter says quietly. “We’ve been over this.”

She feels edgy for some reason. It isn’t her power levels- she still feels full up from the two men she… she murdered. No, that’s not the problem. Something is off, as she trudges through the snow, the unconscious woman over one shoulder. It’s not just the still air, either. The trees are all bent inward, creating perpetual shade. Underbrush is so thick it creates actual barriers in places, and she is forced to clear them, one handed, from her path before moving on. But the lifeforce she sensed from so far off is very near.

Of that she is sure.

Summer’s prior behavior disturbs her. Summer’s inclination for murder, even to stay alive, disturbs her. Winter shudders a little at the thought. It’s a small part of her, but there IS a piece of her that enjoyed taking that lifeforce, taking their energy.

What would you have done without my help?

Winter doesn’t know the answer to that. She lets her lips settle into a tight line and continues moving east. The crunch of her feet on the hard ice and snow is the only noise. Yes, it’s certainly an uneasy silence…

And it’s… much warmer here, somehow. As if the whole of the forest is heating up as she moves deeper into its clutches.

The sun will be gone soon, and then it will be truly dark. Winter doesn’t know how she knows this. It just feels like the truth.

She comes to a bush, a hedge about head-height, and she’s about to tear it aside when something catches her eye. There’s something shining in the middle of it. Without thinking, she reaches out, reaches in and wraps her fingers around it, tugging it out. Silken strands stick to her hand as she does so, but with her spell augmented strength, it matters very little. Winter pulls it out. It’s little more than a bead, and she recognizes the material immediately. Illmetal. Like the stone in her pocket.

She just stares at it for a while.

Hey! You can use this stuff to wish me unbound again! Summer cuts in.

“Yeah,” Winter says absently.

Do you remember how to build the pillar?

“Vaguely. Bronze, silver, copper. Twine it in veins around lime and stone.” The recitation comes as from a long lost dream, or a memory. She tries to catch hold of it, but it slips through her fingers and drops out of sight.

Winter pockets the tiny piece of magic metal in the back of her jeans. It’s then that she sees the silken strands all around her, and feels the lifeforce she’d tracked stir. After another few moments, something huge and spider-like drops down behind her. Summer shouts a warning, but Winter turns around slowly.

“I know you. Who are you?” She asks simply. “I felt I needed to come here. Are you who I came to see?”

It’s a damn great spider! You never told me about it!

No, it’s not a spider,  Winter thinks to herself. It’s too tall and the wrong shape.

She’s right, she can see that as the spider-creature steps a little closer. It’s really more like a human-spider hybrid.

It has a glossy, smooth yellow carapace dappled with red over its abdomen, and four spider legs joined smoothly to a woman’s waist to support the abdomen- which is smaller than Winter expected. It has the upper half of a woman as well, reared up where its head normally would be. Her bald head nearly brushes the ceiling. She seems to have the normal number of eyes at least- two- and a sharp nose. Her ears are missing, which Winter finds a little strange, but she decides not to comment.

The spider-woman opens her mouth, baring four fangs. Rather than speaking with it, she clicks a foreleg against her other, supplementing the gesture with snaps from her fingers and the occasional hiss.

Like when Jane had first talked to her, Winter imagines words in the noises, a hidden language. She finds herself recovering from her shock quickly.

[With respect, it must be the greatest of heroes to our people, Long-Frost. You are unaware of who you are to us?]

“I’ve… been out of touch,” Winter replies, and then sighs. “Who are you?”

[This humble servant is Seven-Spinner. I can take Long-Frost to see Ever-Widowed, if it would please her.]

“Could you take my charge here, as well?”

[Yes! It is customary to take gifts to Ever-Widowed. Is it slave or food?]

“Neither! She is a friend.”

The spider-woman blinks. Then she shrugs- it’s complicated, for Winter notices now that she has four arms in addition to her four legs. Very strange.

[If Long-Frost wishes to bring friend to give to Ever-Widowed, this is fine as well?]

Just get it over with and fry her before she makes a move, will you?

“Take me to Ever-Widowed, then.” Winter says, ignoring Summer.

The spider-creature leans forward, pulls Winter up into her grip bodily- along with the nameless woman- hangs, for a moment, by threads before she begins reeling herself back in. The silk strands are surprisingly durable.

Winter feels more than a little uncomfortable, so close to a virtual unknown. Summer seems to share her unease.

This is not going to end well, Summer warns. They’re a people I know virtually nothing about, and I don’t know what they’re saying.

Winter doesn’t want to open her mouth to respond, so she just holds the unconscious form of her rescued acquaintance closer. The ride is fast and sickening- landscape, trees, branches, leaves- air, it all flies by in a blur. Unsure exactly where she’s being yanked, she figures it can’t hurt to just close her eyes and wait for the sense of motion to stop.

Mercifully, it is only a few minutes of that heart-wrenching treatment before they seem to have arrived.

Something is different, though. Here it is warm, and out of the wind. Winter opens her eyes. Summer watches, mental lips pursed, as Winter tries to get her bearings.

When the world stops spinning, she sees that they are surrounded by spiders, spider-creatures similar to the one who brought them here- all female-, and standing before them is a woman with eight arms and two legs. She is otherwise nothing truly extraordinary.

Further, they are standing on a funnel of smooth spider silk. The ground under them is swaying slightly, as if in a breeze, and Winter gets the distinct feeling that she is quite high off the ground here.

You’re insane. This is insane. You’re going to get us killed, Summer says grimly.

“Shut up,” Winter hisses. “Not helping.”

“There’s a language I haven’t heard in a while,” The woman says. Her eight arms come right out from her shoulders, which are massive in comparison with the rest of her body. They’re thin, but her fingers end in claws, and when she speaks her mouth bares fangs. It’s a bit of a surprise that Winter can understand her at all. Summer is equally surprised that it’s a language she can understand.

She speaks English? That’s a little weird, Summer remarks quietly.

“How do you know me?” Winter asks, ignoring Summer. She gets the feeling she’ll be doing a lot of this reintroduction stuff, at least until she can get her memory back.

The eight-armed one smiles. “Oh, Winter. My people call you ‘Long-Frost’. We were childhood friends. We’ve known one another for a long, long time. I hear you’ve lost your memory.”

Winter frowns and folds her arms. “I may’ve,” She says uneasily. How could she have heard? It’d been all of a day since she had, right? Maybe less.

“If you can’t remember me, I find it unlikely you haven’t lost your memory. Is Summer still around, or did you finally find a way to rid yourself of her?” There’s an edge to her voice.

“Who are you. Tell me who you are, first.”

“My name is Ever-Widowed. But I’d feel better if you called me Silk. It might help your memory return. My servant is Seven-Spinner, and these-” She waves a hand grandly, including all the spiders, the entire silken cavern. “-are my subjects, my people. Now…”

“Summer is still in my head. She’s been-”

Don’t tell her I’m bound.

Winter pauses for a moment, then continues. “She’s asleep, Silk.”

“Well I’m sure the heat will wake her up. So let’s cool it down a little. Seven-Spinner, be a dear and chew a hole in the ceiling, won’t you?” The named spider-creature bows at the waist and then hurries off to do as she’s told. There’s a very distinct ripping noise somewhere high above them both.

“Why?” Winter asks as cool air leaks in from the ceiling. “What’s wrong with Summer?”

“Why, last time you were here and she was awake, she went on a murderous rampage and killed over half of my people! I’m not surprised she didn’t tell you, as I’m sure she’d rather you didn’t know,” Ever-Widowed says sharply. “We assumed you must not have been in control at the time.”

What? Why the hell would I have done that?

Summer is genuinely bewildered. I’d think I’d remember doing something like that. I mean, it’d be sticking in my head if I had to kill that many spiders. And I’ve never even seen their kind before.

That doesn’t really make sense, no, Winter thinks to herself. Why indeed? Summer is spiteful, sure, and occasionally mean, but there’s no way she’d attack so many people for no good reason. There’d be no challenge if they were innocent, and in all her memories of Summer being in control, there are none where she has willfully killed people who weren’t actively threatening her. Summer may occasionally be careless, but she’d never hurt a bystander. That’d mean that Ever-Widowed’s people probably attacked first.

Which, in itself is rather a scary thought. Still, it’s probably just a mistake. Don’t burn any bridges. Or cut any silken cords, or whatever.

But she can’t bring it up- she claimed Summer was asleep, after all.

The warmth- uncomfortable for Winter- seeps away, and a welcome chilly breeze leaks in instead. Summer finds herself getting a little drowsy again.

“So what brings you here, Winter? Why did you decide to come?” Silk asks quietly. “Or, if your memory is truly broken, what prompted your return? What gave you the idea that this might be safe?”

She shakes her head. “I came here because I felt life in this direction, and-”

“Did you come here to feed?” Ever-Widowed asks sharply. “I haven’t got servants to spare for that. Seven-Spinner is the only one I have left, really.”

Winter shudders openly, shakes her head again vehemently. “You’re mad if you think I want to- to do that ever again. I came here because this woman was being held captive and she’s dreadfully cold and I don’t know what to do with her,” She says, indicating the woman she’d brought. Even as she lies there she seems to shiver with the chill.

“Well you’ll need to feed eventually,” The Spider Matriarch responds. She seems to relax a little. “As to your friend, I’m not sure why you’d bring her to me. I’m not really known for my warm hospitality- I live in a forest that’s been cold as long as you’ve been alive. There’s rumors about that we eat our guests, can you believe that?”

She smiles. “It’s good to see you’ve still breath in your lungs, Winter. I’ve missed you.”

Winter is taken aback by that. No one had ever- as far as she could remember- missed her before.

It’s a trap. Without a doubt, Summer warns, stifling a mental yawn.

Comforting, Winter thinks, though she doesn’t respond.

“Now, do you need a place to stay?” Silk asks quietly. She takes a half-step forward towards Winter, but seems to think better of it, and returns to where she was. There’s something like uneasiness between them, and Winter can’t tell if it’s because the Spider Queen wants to stay clear of Summer or doesn’t want to frighten her. Either way is fine with Winter- she’s not sure if she’d like being too close to this strange old friend now, however friendly they used to be.

“I really just want you to take care of this girl for me, if that’s not too much trouble,” Winter says firmly. “I have some unfinished business I need to take care of, and I’m not really that sleepy.”

“Oh,” Silk says, sounding more than a little disappointed. “I can do that for you. You’ve done much for us. Maybe when you remember it you’ll understand I mean you no harm.”

Winter is about to say something, but stops herself, and just watches. Ever-Widowed gives her another smile, but it’s fleeting.

Something is weighing heavily on her, Winter thinks. I really will have to come back, and not just to make sure she hasn’t done anything nasty to my sleeping friend.

“Well, Seven-Spinner can show you the way out. Just leave your new friend here, I suppose. Do come back when you’ve finished with your “business”. I enjoy your company.” The Spider Queen half-turns away, arms folded.

Summer, for her part, finds herself going over spell formula in case Silk decides to turn nasty unexpectedly. Still, it’s nice to know she won’t be obvious about trying to keep Winter here forever. That sort of silly villainy always did make Summer a little sick.

Winter, on the other hand, waves to Ever-Widowed and moves to join a waiting Seven-Spinner. “Let’s go then,” she says. “Just put me back where you found me.”

[This I do,] Is the spider-creature’s reply.

The world spins again as the servant of the spider queen picks her up and whisks her away.

After a torturous descent, she is deposited on the snow once more, and after a short, clipped farewell, she is alone with Summer again.

Demimind: Chapter 3

(3)Banished

The ground here is freezing cold, but Winter can’t even feel it. Summer can, trapped in Winter’s head as she is. C-couldn’t have picked a better spot, She grumbles. What is it with you and cold?

“I don’t know,” Winter says quietly. “I… I must not have had a memory of somewhere warm. I still don’t know how I remembered this place.”

Did you mean to bring the Illmetal with you?

Winter shakes her head. “No. I didn’t know it would come along.”

She clutches the tiny bead in her fingers. She could put it in the pocket of her jeans, but she worries if she drops it it might disappear. The metal-stone had lost its luster shortly after arriving.

It’s useless without the column though.

“Yeah.”

The air is frigid. Trees stand here, covered in frost and ice, buried under ages and ages of white. Even the snow is frozen solid, so that she leaves no tracks.  For as far as the eye can see there are more trees, an infinite forest. The eye can’t see too far, of course.

She had hoped that the binding spell would leave Summer when she left the column and He-Whose-Name-Shakes-Mountains behind. It hadn’t. Winter hasn’t the faintest where she should go, and Summer is too cold to be much help.

She looks all around, trying to find a path through the trees. She has as much time as she needs, really. Summer had told her, sleepily, the last time she’d woken up, that Winter needs only the occasional bite of life energy to survive.

Summer, on the other hand, needs to be surrounded by it in order to thrive.

It seems fairly inhospitable here, but if she concentrates, Winter can feel the presence- like tingling pinpricks on her thumbs- of life, far off to the east.

She decides that will have to do. She gives up her aimless wandering and sets herself off to the east.

Her clothes are stiff. Summer had guided her through the long, laborious process of conjuring them. Of course, Summer had also been half asleep. It figured there were some flaws in their creation- namely two long blank strips made of conjured material, but not dyed, and one long slash down the right leg where Summer had nodded off mid-teaching.

After a while of walking, she feels very exposed. A strong oppressive presence lurks nearby- she can feel it.

She can feel the sting, the dangerous hum of the scar on her thigh suddenly. And Summer is awake in her head.

Uh oh. Magehunting squad by the feel of it.

“You don’t sound too concerned,” She mutters.

Comes with being a demigoddess. We could probably take them under any other circumstances. I dunno that they’ll even know we’re magic users. Our type of magic is usually undetectable. We can get by without hurting anyone.

“I seem to recall you being much more-“

And suddenly, she remembers. And the memory hits her like a hammer.

“Come on!” Summer growls gleefully, lifting an arm and sending out a stream of power towards the nearest man. It vaporizes the poor soldier in his armor, leaving hissing plate in its wake. It withers some of Summer’s power, but she really doesn’t care. What does it matter? She’s never felt so alive. The sheer life around her is granting her power beyond any mortal dream.

“Are all of you cowards?” Summer’s eyes glint. Her body is the same as Winter’s, but bigger- taller, a little plumper and with golden bronze skin. The switch between hers and Winter’s is usually seamless. Only their hair remains the same- a short pixie-cut, naturally white-blonde. Summer’s eyes are green.

The men circle her. Their lead mage sets her arms, perhaps a little uncertainly. “I didn’t even feel it!” She shouts. “What type of magic is that?”

“Thomas is down,” One of them grumbles. “We should call for backup.”

“His fault, he wasn’t wearing antimagic plate.”

“How do you know it’s magi-” says a clever third, but he’s interrupted as his skin flash-fries. The sickly sweet scent of charred flesh and the hiss of his steaming blood as it escapes from his armor fills the air.

Summer’s finger smokes. “I told you,” She hisses. “I’m a demigoddess. You can’t fight me. You can’t lay a blade on me!”

Heat rises around her in waves. It’s enough to make the strongest of men uncomfortable. The sorceress backs away, lips pressed into a tight line.

The rest of the soldiers flee. And Summer stands there, laughing.

“-vindictive,” Winter finishes weakly. The memory had been quite strong. And very, very vivid. The smell of burning skin still lingers in her nostrils, no matter how much she wishes it wouldn’t. Summer feels a bit uncomfortable.

Different days. I’m a bit different than before-

Whatever else Summer was going to say is lost.  There’s a series of fantastic ‘pops’, and three figures appear out of thin air.

One is dressed in crimson robes. Another, obviously and emphatically female from the shape of her clothing and body, wears nothing but two strips of cloth and is being carried in chains. The third, holding the chains and looking particularly morose in a wide, black-rimmed hat, is wearing sensible working pants and a thoroughly sensible vest with leather armor under it and a metal circle  on the front. In one hand he holds the chains, in the other he bares a long metal blade. From the chill it radiates- somehow much more piercing than that of the cold around her- and the warping sense it gives off, the chain and the blade are both made of earthmetals, though what type Summer has no idea. The stuff would drain her magic if she were to try to enchant it, but fortunately Winter seems nonaggressive and probably wouldn’t try it.

“See here now, Argus! You’ve gone and given me the wrong coordinates again!” It’s a man’s voice, and it comes from the crimson robes. “It’s freezing cold! We’re probably in some godforsaken tundra-“

“Forest, actually,” The man in leather and vest says mildly. He doesn’t seem perturbed by the chill.

“You’re always getting us lost and- what?”

“Tundra are bare of trees. This is a forest.”

The woman in chains shivers violently in the cold and mutters something that might be a curse. Then her eyes look up and find Winter standing there, not ten yards away, under the shade of a frozen pine.

She lets out a clipped cry, and muffles it quickly, biting her lip and trying not to draw attention to Winter at all, a moment later.

The look had been a pleading one. Winter stands there, rooted to the spot and staring. Is that one of my- your disciples? Summer asks.

“How should I know?” Winter hisses. “I’ve forgotten pretty much everything!”

And then the men see her, too. The one in crimson robes seems to spot her first.

“Hey- Argus. There’s a woman there in the shade of that pine. Do you see?”

The man in leather is only a little slower. “Yes. I see her.”

“She’s standing there- gracious Cycle, is she barefoot? She should be frozen to the core.”

“Seems in fine enough health to me.”

“A bit rigid, perhaps.”

“It’s not exactly pleasant weather, my magical friend.”

They talk as they move toward her, carefully as though she might startle. It’s a hunter’s walk, a predator’s walk, though neither is likely to be aware of it. Summer notices, though.

Winter, these men are dangerous. That woman is a magic user, likely they’re transporting her to a prison for not having a signed doc for its use.

Winter backs away slowly, unfreezing.

“A slip of a thing, but clearly a Frostwitch. Natural, by the look,” the red-robed one says.

“You give her too much credit- she can’t be more than ten years, the idea of her using more than a cantrip to keep warm is ridiculous.” The other is still skeptical. Their respective life-forces feel exceptionally strong, this close. It’s making her strangely hungry.

They stop, some ten feet distant, still eyeing her, talking and shaking their heads. The woman doesn’t look at her.

Winter wants to keep backing away. You’ll have to fight them, Summer says grimly. The woman clutches the Illmetal bead tightly. I’ll help. Look, you can’t run- you might lose them, sure, but they can track you. I know how it works around here.

Winter clenches her fingers into fists. She raises one hand uncertainly. But she hasn’t the faintest how to fight, and she feels very silly.

Her stomach growls at her, throwing her off a bit. She’s quite hungry. She’s not sure why, but being near these three is making her very, very hungry. She tries anyway, bringing up the will, or trying to, feeling her scars begin to glow.

No, don’t use your magic. Just drain them. You need the energy anyway.

“Sort of a crooked nose, don’t you think?” says the one in his crimson robes. “A little on the ugly side.”

“She’ll sell,” Argus shrugs. “That’s all we need. Hey, kid!”

No, no. Not like that! Here, watch, Summer says.

There’s a moment where time seems to hiss and bend, where the world is distorted and everything is scrunched up tight. Summer makes Winter spread her fingers. There’s a sensation of tugging, of pulling in such a fashion that seems to make her legs wobble. The hunger inside, the gnawing emptiness reaches a glorious peak, settles in her hand, in her arm. There’s a wet sucking, popping sort of sound, like tugging a slick rubber dart off of a window.

Then there’s a brilliant flash of light. Two red streamers of twisting something leap from each of the men and writhe, twisting into her outstretched hand. The connection snaps just as the last of it is siphoned off. The last streaming tendril of energy whips out and then in, funneled to fill the emptiness in her arm warmly, snugly.

Winter just stands there, stunned.

The woman doesn’t appear to notice until the two men stop dead in their tracks and both topple, strings cut. The girl starts, at that- she can’t be more than seventeen or eighteen. Her eyes snap from the men, who lie prone, to the slip of a child who seems to have been responsible. She looks at Winter, at her outstretched hand, a mixture of pure terror and awe on her face. She shrinks away as Winter first moves.

But it’s only to stare at her hand. Her scars- visible all over her body in weird shapes and lines- are glowing brightly. She feels full again, the hunger is gone.

“What did you do?” She whispers, her gaze traveling all over her body. A feeling of horror comes over her.

Fed you, Summer says blankly. There isn’t even the slightest hint of unease.

And that seems to be that.

Or would be, except for the feeling of outraged violation Winter nurses. It contrasts sharply with the pleased, full contentedness of a good meal. It also cements something in her mind. She is extremely dangerous. And so is Summer.

The shaking in her legs she can tell herself is relief. The men were going to take her somewhere and sell her? Or take her to prison. That’s what Summer said.

Their deaths are on Summer’s conscience. Right?

Are they dead? Yes. Their lifeforce is gone.

Oh come on now. They just return to the Cycle. It’s not like you’re stealing their souls or anything. Toughen up, wuss.

“Shut up,” She hisses. “Don’t preach ethics at me, murderer.”

Hey, I’m just using what’s there to save our hides. If you can’t wise up and protect yourself, we both’ll die. If I have even the slightest bit of control, I’ll take it, Summer snaps. I’m in here too.

“It’s your own damn fault you got bound!” Winter shouts. “Don’t try and pin this on me! I never wanted you in my head!”

Winter, sweetie, I’ve been in your head from the fucking start. We just usually take turns.

“Liar.”

Think what you want, fine. Your memory’ll come back eventually, I’ll find a way to free myself.

“You’re just like you were,” Winter snaps bitterly.

Summer is silent for a moment.

“Did that hurt?” Winter asks. Summer’s silence is all she needs. “Good.”

Finally she takes a deep breath and turns to the woman. She’s since crumpled, breathing shallowly, on the snow. Her skin is blue and her eyes are shut.

Fiery anger is banked. Summer is still quiet, so Winter acts, rushing over to the woman’s side. She strips the first man of his crimson robes awkwardly, wraps the young girl up in it. The robes are probably cold, but much better than nothing. The woman’s skin feels warm to her, but she can’t trust her own sense of touch, and Summer won’t tell her what the girl’s real temperature is.

Winter eyes the chains. They’ll prove a bit awkward. She can’t afford to drag two corpses around. Searching the one named Argus reveals a set of strange metal things-

Keys. Summer grumbles. They go in the locks.

– which, with Summer’s reluctant guidance, Winter puts in the locks of the woman’s manacles and turns. Undone, she finishes wrapping the woman up, staggers under her weight, and sighs.

Here’s the formula for the spell you want. Summer offers, showing Winter the way. Borrow some of my power, it’s what it’s there for. This woman is giving me some, only fair I return the favor.

Unsure if she should trust her mindguest’s words but with little other choice, Winter recites the incantation. Her scars flare and magic floods her for a moment. It weakens her- tires her- but she finds the woman in her grip light as a feather now.

She turns. The woman’s lifeforce is strong- blurring her grip on where the faint forces were before- but she remembers the direction she was moving. The sun is hidden by treecover and clouds, but she knows it’s going to set. She needs to find shelter. With that in mind, Winter strides off through frost and snow, a new burden in arms.

The corpses of the two men lie silent in the snow, and eventually the thick forest surrounds and swallows them.

Posting Schedule & Chapter 2

Okay! Chapter 2 is up, first of all. Check out the links page if you just need to read that, otherwise I’m sure it’s somewhere in the slog of blog posts. Can’t do much about spoilers! Sorry! Just be careful when I post something new. I’ll update the links page every time I do, so no worries there.

Here’s the deal with when I’ll be posting. I know you’d love to all read the story RIGHT AWAY, but the point of the serial novel is that the author remains sane AND manages to have a regular schedule.

Since I’m neither sane nor schedule prone, you guys and gals can expect the occasional hiccup.

So here’s the schedule (subject to change, but I’ll tell you.)

I’m aiming for posting two chapters a week. That means monday and friday. If it seems like I’m not busy enough, I may just go for something like Monday Wednesday and Friday. We’ll see. Days I’m unlikely to post a chapter: Holidays. Birthdays- if I’m attending a party I’ll post ahead of time about it. When I’m so sick I can’t move. When I’ve fallen so far behind on writing it’s no longer possible to keep up. (Hah! Unlikely. I’ve got a nice buffer of chapters ready, so no worries!)

So again schedule:

Mondays and Fridays until further postage declares otherwise. When exactly is variable, but expect it before 11:00 PM, my time on update day. So go with east coast. Thanks for reading everybody! Hope you enjoy chapter two!

-Eris

Demimind: Chapter 2

(2)All Comes Crashing Down

Go. Goliath- I mean Jane- can handle keeping Him away. We can’t stay here!

“Why?”

He’s the one who bound me! He’ll kill us both!

“Maybe if I just explain-”

There’s nothing to explain. I challenged Him for power, He beat me and bound me, and now He’s coming to finish the job! He already knows about you! You ran from Him and used the last remnants of my power to phase in-

A ground-shaking rumble fills the cavern. The Servant rears, tail curling around Winter’s legs and pushing, pulling her towards a tiny shaft of light, an exit, a break in the wall that leads to a tunnel. She stumbles as Jane releases her, but runs in the direction of the light even so. She stops when she reaches the broken arch that girds the long, winding slope downward, deeper into the earth. Despite Summer’s frantic urging, she turns.

She glances back in time to see light glare down, white and pure, moonlight shining into the room she flees, the stone of the ceiling melted away, half-melted under incredible magic power. Shining in the light is a manshaped figure, with three arms, and hovering between three hands is a sphere of light with twisting color. She looks one moment longer before it sears her eyes and forces her to turn away.

Jane roars thunderously. Her massive body shifts and slaps the ceiling just above the exit with her tail, coils rippling with the effort. Winter ducks under the falling rubble just in time to avoid being crushed. Then there is no chance of going back, the stone has barred her way into the cavern. Her Servant’s thrashings cause more shaking, more rumbling. Winter feels a pang of regret, and then a sharp shock of pain, all over her.

She’s of your- well, my-blood, idiot! The closer to her you are, the harder it will be to move! She’s in pain, do you understand? You’ll feel everything at this range!

The young woman hesitates but a second longer before continuing on into the darkness. Her limping run is illuminated by glowing glyphs on the walls. There’s no time to look at them closely.

“What about J-Jane?” She asks weakly, as she leans against a wall, panting. Her body is most certainly not used to this type of exercise, and she’s growing a little tired of always fleeing for her life for as far back as she can remember.

Admittedly she can’t remember very far back.

Summer’s answer is short and sharp. She’s beginning to hate that.

She’s probably dead.

“What?” Her voice trembles a little.

You can bring her back. Or rather, I can. I mean, I have power over life. Yours is one of death and the doomed. I’d need your help but I’m pretty sure I can bring her back. Later. Now keep running.

The path curves, and then leads down, a slope which she needs to walk down with care, lest she trip and fall. The ground is littered with bones, jagged stones and little holes or pitfalls. She can just barely see them by the light of the sigils lining the walls.

She walks like this for a time, one hand out, brushing the wall to steady herself. Then, just as she wonders if she can go any farther, just as she’s sure she’s walked a mile, there’s an earthshattering roar, a thunderous rumble, and a piercing, awful pain in her heart that sends her to scraped knees, clutching at her chest.

Anngh…!

Even the voice in her head sounds weak and in pain at that. It’s an ache now, that won’t go away. It moves into her mind and shakes her to her bones, grinds her into the stone for a while before finally moving on.

When she comes back to herself, she’s sprawled on stone. Not bleeding, thankfully, but scraped in places and bruised all over from her thrashing.

She pushes herself to her feet again, shakily, leaning against a glyphed wall for support. Her arm is shaking. Her fingers are trembling.

“S-summer?”

There’s no response from her strange friend. It’s silent, in the tunnel. Frighteningly so, now.

She gropes around in the gloom, finding a rock and tucking it in her fingers. It doesn’t make her feel much safer, really. She’s achy and weak and her head pounds. But she needs something. With rock in hand she continues moving, limping now and unsure why, her heart thumping in her chest painfully.

After a time, a hissing dances on the edge of her awareness. Not like a snake, but as something hot being shoved into cool water, as steam. It doesn’t begin to grate on her nerves for at least a few minutes. She’s tempted to look behind her- where the noise is coming from she couldn’t say, she half-guesses it must be a trick of the tunnel- but focuses on moving faster instead. Her hands won’t stop trembling.

It’s almost worse than the silence. A scritchingly irritating sound, like nails grazing a board, like resonance in a wine glass raised to a screeching crescendo.

“This is insane,” Winter whispers quietly. The sound of her voice makes her feel just a little better. “All of it.”

Finally, though, the tunnel opens up slightly, and beyond a single stone door, she feels, must be the source of both hissing and humming. The door has the same runes as the one she opened to enter Jane’s cavern. Just smaller and less numerous. Still, there are some she doesn’t recognize immediately, as well as ones warning of danger even worse than her two-headed servant. She ignores them.

Her hand stopped bleeding a while ago. Her blood is dry, sticking to her hand like rusty black paint. The air here, just in front of the door, is stale and… oddly sulfurous. Still, she can’t allow herself to be turned aside. Weakness here could lead to death. Not only hers, but Summer’s as well.

Shakily, clumsily, she brings the rock up before her. No sharp edges, nothing she could use. She should have chosen a jagged one. She could grind it, given enough time, but time is something she isn’t entirely sure she has much of. He could come for her at any moment, and that terrible light could be searching for her even now. She shivers at the thought of Him melting His way through the collapsed rock to get to her, at the thought of that chilly, eerie light shining down the tunnel.

Not knowing exactly what to expect, she just sort of wills the rock to bear a point, to sharpen, bringing to mind the image of her blood-spear-sword thing, the one Summer had helped her make.

Nothing happens. It’s no worse than she expected. The sound of the hissing is drawing closer. Now she feels if she listens hard enough there’s a moan to it, as of tortured stone.

She takes another shuddering breath. After slapping her hand to the rune and achieving nothing, she realizes she needs a sharp edge. Needs it.

She strokes the stone, eyes closed. Sharp. Something trickles down her spine and gathers in her belly. Warmth spreads up one arm and centers around her fingers as they touch the stone. The rock itself seems to bubble, and the scent of brimstone fills the air.

Abruptly it shifts and tapers to a long, thin point. She can see it in her mind’s eye. Winter draws the sharp stone across her hand quickly. A flash of pain on her palm. She slaps her hand, welling with red, against the rune. The hissing is getting louder. But when her hand touches the rune and her blood fills the outline, the door pushes open. There’s a shock, a tingle as she crosses the threshold that runs down her entire body.

The girl’s eyes open again, and in time to feel the sharp pain in her palm and the panic of being exposed. Still, she turns and catches hold of the stone door, pushing it back into place, letting it grind closed.

Then she just sits, panting, letting her body relax. Letting out a short, choked sob. The rock in her hand slips from her fingers.

She gasps for breath, leaning against the door as it shuts. Something like relief clutches at her. She doesn’t know why, but she feels much safer in here. The room is familiar. The hissing has been silenced. The barrier of the door has stopped the noise, and for that she is grateful. But the humming still whispers in her bones and her skin.

She looks around for the source of it curiously.

The room is solidly built, constructed of smoothed stone that couldn’t have been mined by anything short of magic. Her heart, pounding before, calms. She remembers this place.

She takes a few steps inward, at ease for the moment.

Sigils and runes dance over the walls and floor, spiraling, twisting and turning in her vision. Their shapes leave playful shadows, some of them flying about the air. And at the center of the room, the source of the humming is an enormous column, a stone pillar marked with copper and bronze and silver.

She walks around it cautiously, and, as she stands there, whether by trick of the light or by magic, sees that inside the pillar there is a second pillar, a second column. It is made of a brilliant shaft of light that hums through the center of the first. And at this column’s center there is a tiny, incandescent bead.

“Illmetal. It’s said to grant the wishes of any who touch it with pure intent. ‘Illmetal’ is a bit of a misnomer. I’ve always thought of it as the Wish element. In all the world, this is all of it that’s ever been discovered, and had Summer not stolen it… it would be mine.”

She starts, whirls. The door behind her, the archway, her runes erased in a flash. Standing there is a tall, long-legged, spindly man with thin fingers. His head is adorned with two ivory horns which curl like those of a ram. His feet are clawed and one hand is outstretched. Light follows Him in, dangerous light, the twisting, torturous light responsible for melting through the ceiling of Jane’s cavern. His skin is pure white, so pale it almost hurts to look at it, and His eyes are a cold, cold blue. It was the light that made it look like he had three arms and three hands, surely. Except no, there as he turns and steps through the melted remains of the doorway, is his third arm, shining with light bright enough to make her eyes water.

The smell of brimstone is gone, erased by the scent of something much stronger, like white vinegar, sour and almost painfully real. The sight of the melted slag where her door stood makes her tremble where she stands, tremble with fear.

“And you would be… Winter? I suppose Summer is still bound, then. Were she not I would not have crossed this threshold alive.” There’s a smile in His voice. He isn’t being smug. His is the soft assuredness that comes from knowing He has won.

Winter, however, has gone white, pale skin going paler, backing away until she reaches the column. The playful sigils and shadows are gone from the walls and floor and ceiling, gone from the air. There’s a dreadful charge building, making her hair- short already- stand straight up and frizz out. As the man attempts to take a step forward, twin bolts of arcing lightning thunder forth from either wall and strike Him quite squarely.

He jerks, arches and then stumbles, going down on His knees for a moment while the bolts ground out, His arms and legs twitching spasmodically.

It lasts only a second though, for even as His clothes steam and smoke- and two tiny holes in His livery are stained with His blood- He stands. “Not bad,” He comments, His voice even and unstrained. “Pretty good defenses for a hedgewitch.”

“How dare you! This is my Sanctum and you will not desecrate it!”

The voice is Winter’s, but it doesn’t come from the frightened woman cowering against the pillar. Instead, a swirling spirit has taken form in the air, and as both she and He look on, it coalesces into a brilliantly sparkling crystalline woman about six feet tall. Its eyes burn, one envious green emerald, one pure blue sapphire.

“Go, Winter. His power is greater than mine, I cannot stop him. Touch the pillar and go.”

“Fascinating,” The hoof-footed man says. There’s something deeply unnerving about how calm, even pleasant He is. “A simulacrum made from crystal. I’m sure under any other circumstances it would be quite difficult to destroy, but I am in a hurry.”

The horned man extends one digit and unleashes a jet of thin cold light at the new threat. It is instantly swallowed by the crystal and refracted into a billion brilliant beams, each of which tear a tiny smoking hole in anything they strike, peppering the walls with dark dots. Winter feels sudden stabbing pain along the back of her hand where she hides, and can’t suppress a yelp of fear. The skin, when she looks, now bears two bloody holes, steam rising from each in a scalding little plume. If she stays, she’ll die.

She reaches out as light flashes again, bolts towards the pillar and grabs it. Go, the statue had said. There’s a sound, as a window shattering and an inhuman rumble of rage. Bits of shattered transparent rock scatter across the floor. Her guardian is not invulnerable.

At the same time, the doorway spits forth another two bolts of lightning, the energy leaping from stone. Though she can’t see that they strike Him, she knows, she can hear the hiss and smell the smoke, the sick scent of burnt flesh. His yell is drowned by the thunder which reverberates around the cavern. For a moment she prays He’s dead, but the statue’s words still ring in her head, echoing as the thunder fades.

If that were enough to stop Him He would have died from the first blasts. Jane would have killed Him with one swipe of her tail.

She touches the column, hands instinctively finding sigils she knows are right and thinks, wills, quite vividly. Away!

As everything dissolves into motes of color and her world shakes and twists, she hears, oddly distorted for a moment, her own crystalline, agonized cry and that same pleasant voice from the horned man, He-Whose-Name-Shakes-Mountains:

“So you do feel pain. I can use that.”

Everything vanishes, whisked away in a flash of color, scent and sound.

Demimind: Chapter 1

(1)The Servant

She hugs her knees in the darkness. She knows she isn’t in the wall anymore, but the stone is still warm here, and she still has no idea what’s going on.

Her blood is still dripping down her hand, slowly sliding down her thigh. It stings, where the thorn cut it, and she realizes she has nothing with which to bandage it.

Here she can see, somehow, in the pitch darkness. It doesn’t seem to be as important a fact as the figures surrounding her. Someone is standing not too far away, and watching her intently.

She stands, rising to her feet and pulling herself together. Her legs shake though, as she walks to the figure.

“Master Winter?” The figure asks. “Do you not have combat to conduct?”

“What’s going on?” She asks weakly.

“Ah. You are the second, then. Master said you might appear. You should release control back to the other who lies in you- he is much better at fighting than you. Overall he is also more knowledgeable,” The man says, stepping forward. “Of course, I could just knock you out and release him myself.”

He takes another step forward. “After all, you really have no right to this body.”

The woman backs away. Her small frame is eclipsed by the figure- who is tall, at least six inches taller than she. Her bleeding is making her a little woozy.

I’m bound in here! This pompous idiot doesn’t know that- if he knocks us out we’ll both die, He will come in here and kill us both.

She is startled by the voice in her head, but what it says makes at least a little sense.

Let me help!

She raises her arms without willing it as the man advances. Her hands shake.

Oh, toughen up you wuss.

Suddenly, her scars glow. All over her body, lines she didn’t even know about flare with sudden light. The man pauses for an instant.

A tendril forms of red liquid, twisting up from the grit of the floor as well as from her own hand. It twines around her fingers and forms a rock hard sheath, sharpened at the tip and on the edges pointed away from her soft flesh. She staggers under the weight of it, unused to the sudden density.

It’s her own blood.

The man decides to risk it, lurches towards her with hands outstretched.

Something makes her raise that hand up- the blade of blood extends only a foot or so from her hand, but still is very, very heavy for her.

Come on!

She feels her body lunge forward, an unfamiliar position, one foot out, body bent so that she’s half-past the man, her shoulder driven into his gut. He lets out an ‘oof’, but doesn’t go down until she rams a tiny fist into a bundle of nerves, striking them purposefully until he folds up.

Finish him off and move on! Do you want to die?

“You-” The man starts. The blood-blade falls down and strikes the stone near his face, falling off the woman’s hand as she loses her concentration. It drills into the stone and sticks there with a hiss. The man emits a very unmanly yelp as bits of stone dust strike his face.

“I’m not killing anyone!” She says fiercely, and out loud. “You’re nuts.”

Oh geez, not this again. Fine, leave him, just get out of here! I still have no idea how to break loose.

The woman runs, leaving the prone man where he lies, stunned. Something nags at her, even so.

“Why do you want to break loose?” She gasps, halting her frantic flight to figure out where she should flee to. There’s light along a passage to her left, so she ducks into it. It’s merely torchlight, but it’s much better than nothing.

You think it’s all pie and pudding in here, watching you fuck everything up?

“Who am I?” Her eyes scan the stone walls for something, anything she can use. Seeing only a torch, and seeing that the light is gone up ahead, she takes it from its hook and holds it in front of her, taking a deep breath to steady herself and trying to ignore the ferocious stinging. She’d grasped it with her injured hand.

You want your name, my name, or both?

“I don’t know!”

Your name is Winter. My name is Summer. Everyone knows both of us as Winter, though. So that’s what you’ll be answering to. You’ve lost your memory.

Winter presses herself against the wall, edging forward a little more cautiously than before. The ground here is loose grit, if she took to her heels she might slip and fall. The halo of light from her torch illuminates grim shapes in the dust- bones. Is it a crypt or a tomb?

It’s a lair. Don’t worry though, the thing that used to live here is dead. You’re going the right way!

She doesn’t believe ‘Summer’. Something about that voice seems a bit off to her, though she can’t touch on why. But she moves forward anyway. She can’t go back, that much is pretty clear now.

There is a thunderous rumbling, followed by a long, low hiss. The very walls seem to hum with it, and dust shakes itself loose from the ceiling and drifts down to coat her hair and back. She holds in a sneeze, because the silence is that dead, that foreboding. She continues down the hall.

From behind her she can hear shouting. Two voices now, instead of the man she left behind. Those are my servants. Don’t let them catch you, Summer’s voice whispers.

There is an enormous door here. The hall widens so much that the word ‘cavern’ becomes appropriate, and now there is this immense stone door, all covered in sigils and arcane runes. It shouldn’t budge no matter what she does, and for a bare moment she pauses. It’s too big to move.

Just put your hand on the hand rune. It’s still got blood, right?

Her hand does indeed still have a little blood on it. She looks around for a rune in the shape of a hand. But it doesn’t take long for her to realize she can read the runes, that she can understand them instead of looking around aimlessly.

“You mean the one that says hand or the one that is a hand?”

How should I know? I can’t read this stuff. Usually I have you do it. If your memory is broken I have no idea. You just said it was a hand rune.

Winter pauses, eyeing the door. She looks down at her hand, then up at the stone again. It only takes a few seconds of reading for her to find what she was looking for. She traces the rune- all along its curves and the shape of it. It’s like no hand she’s ever seen- but then, she’d only ever seen four so far.  This one has four fingers. It has no thumb. Imitating the shape of it on instinct, she presses her hand to it, pulling her thumb away. A most peculiar sensation greets her, such that she almost yanks her hand away. It’s as if the blood in the wound is running from her hand into the runes. She can feel it sliding, as if to its own personal gravity, around her hand in an outline, traced along her fingers.

The rune glows, flares, and then the door slowly begins to slide away.

Shouts from the hall behind her make her wish the damn thing would hurry up. She pushes on it, and, to her mild surprise, it begins to swing outward.

As she pushes on forward into the next room, as the hallway widens into something enormous, as her heart thumps in her chest and her good hand- she’d switched her grip on her light source- clenches the torch tighter than before, a nagging thought wonders whether going back wouldn’t be a grand idea after all. Anything could have made that hiss.

She’s here with naught but her name and a voice in her head.

Is it really her name?

More shouting from behind her urges her past the little gap in the door and into the greater cave beyond. As soon as she steps through, the door reverses its arc and slams shut with frightening celerity. Just before it shuts, though, the shouting turns to screams.

Her torch is blown out by the great gust of wind that follows the huge portal’s swift passage. Winter is left in silent darkness. Even so, she gets the feeling that she isn’t alone. The stick flares hot in her grip, though it doesn’t relight, and it’s suddenly way too uncomfortable to hold it.

She drops the burnt stick reflexively. The darkness seems that much more oppressive now.

She hugs herself, suddenly self-conscious of her nakedness. Someone is watching her, and watching all of her. Something. It’s not right, it’s a prying sort of feeling, as if it were studying all of her at once.

No, don’t curl up. She doesn’t bite much, it’ll be okay.

Summer’s voice is less sharp now, more urgent.

C’mon, toughen up. If you show weakness she will pounce.

Winter feels a furred something brushing her legs, something long, sinuous. It flicks up and touches her belly and leaves her feeling weak and sick. She slaps it aside on reflex, hears another long, slow hiss. In it, she imagines words.

–So. You finally come crawling back to me.–

Now there is something hot against her back, and she turns and darts away from it, pressing her back up against a wall. A wall that feels scaly, coiled, and deadly, a wall that is dry like snakeskin. Dry like the voice as it returns, as something wet and unbearably hot flicks her cheek, as a breath scented with spice pushes her hair away from her face.

–Are you the Ever-snow or the other, the Eternal-fire? No, don’t answer…. I can feel her, she’s been bound. You are Ever-snow. Winter. Winter-Long-Frost.–

Winter feels herself shudder. “I thought he was a man.”

–Summer is not a man. Is your memory gone? Do I sense weakness?–

The warm thing is back, draws twin lines of fire up along Winter’s belly, but she swats it away on reflex, trying to keep from collapsing. Trying to stay firm.

“My memory is fine,” She snaps. “You stay away from me, snake.”

–You lie, but it is good to see you are not weak. Yet. Let me reintroduce myself.–

A blaze grows, an unbearable flame behind her. She stumbles forward, then turns, catches her balance, leans against another wall. It’s as dry and scaly as the first. It doesn’t strike her as anything particularly wrong until the blaze glows as well, illuminating the length of the creature she’d awoken.

Truly magnificent, the beast is a hundred times as large as she could have imagined. It takes up the entire cavern, surrounds her, its coils stretched out over a cave larger than the sky itself. For a moment her panicked mind wonders what could possibly be happening, then she realizes that the monster is glowing, and the blaze was in fact one of two heads, two serpentine, twining necks that extend from a long, serpentine body. Its scales are iridescent green, but it has bands of white fur as well, all the way down to the tip of its tail- which rattles slightly when the snake shakes it.

Though the creature isn’t really all that thick around- in comparison with its length, its heads are disproportionate with perspective, too close to her for her to truly comprehend their real size.

And it dawns on her, as something hot and wet flicks out in a flash and brushes her cheek, that it was a tongue. Not forked, but the two heads working in unison. The thought of something so enormous having the taste of her makes her irrationally angry, but it’s immediately overwhelmed by terror.

Still, a name hovers on the tip of her tongue, and as the creature opens its mouth to speak again, is drowned in the hiss that follows.

–I am Goliath. I have been your servant for eons. I bring the heat of Summer to drown the everlasting cold.–

A memory stops Winter dead, a name rising from the hot blank sheet of her mind.

“Jane?” Winter whispers. Oh boy, Summer mumbles in her head. You remember.

–You remember!–

The very tip of Goliath/Jane’s tail coils around Winter’s legs, urging her into a sitting position and lifting her right into the air like a comfortable scaly chair.

She’d scream, but her voice is so terrified that it flees her. Instead, she holds tight to the creature’s tail.

It doesn’t seem to faze the enormous serpent.

A scaled snout nuzzles her affectionately, about throwing her from the scaly perch. The creature is incredibly strong.

–I was wondering if you remembered me. I was trying to trigger the spell to break! I guess it did!–

A few minutes pass. The reunion is turning out to be a bit more awkward than Jane had hoped.

“W-which are you? Goliath or Jane?” Winter asks, when she can trust her voice.

Both, Summer says wearily.

–Both,– Jane hisses quietly. –Or I used to be. Goliath is dead.–

“D-dead?”

–You passed his bones. He was caught in the door when you last fled this place. I guess it served him right. I still have some of his memories, though.–

She’d thought the bones were simply part of the floor. Winter suppresses another shudder. It’s uncomfortably warm here, but she’s not about to tell ‘Jane’ that. The creature is as unknown to her as everything else- all she remembers is the name.

–How did Summer become bound?–

“I don’t know,” Winter whispers.

A tongue flicks her under the chin, lifts her head and forces her to look into the Serpent’s eyes, doing the job of a hand.

–How did Summer become bound?– Jane repeats, quietly, her hiss only subtly threatening.

Jane’s eyes are grey, stone grey. Both sets. The ones she gazes into swirl oddly, like twin murky pools of liquid steel. They don’t seem to have pupils.

“She lost a duel.”

The words come from Winter’s mouth, but she doesn’t remember saying them.

Something presses at her mind, an invasive presence, picking through memories lost to try to find the truth.

–Who was she dueling?–

“She was dueling He-Whose-Name-Shakes-Mountains.”

–Stupid girl,– Jane hisses mildly. –The likes of him cannot be defeated by pure magic power.–

There’s a pause. Jane appears to be thinking. Winter doesn’t much like this form of interrogation, not least because her body seems to have fled her control. Something holds her in place. A barrier. It’s in her mind.

She presses against that barrier experimentally, and finds that it lets her slip by. She regains control of herself.

“Don’t do that,” She gasps, able to breathe on her own again. “I hate being caged like that.”

Jane seems downright taken aback, and manages to look it, even with her scaly snouts. –Do what?– She asks lamely. –What did I do?–

“You know what you did,” Winter grumbles. “Don’t give me that. You just tried a Truth spell on me, didn’t you?”

And she realizes, as she says it, she knew that it was one all along. Her memory appears to be coming back to her, if more slowly than she’d like.

–Well yes,– Jane hisses. The way her heads hang is almost pathetic, if it were possible for a two hundred foot long serpent to look pathetic ever. –It was buried, that just seemed like the best way.–

By the Cycle, this woman infuriates me sometimes. I swear she has no idea what she’s doing. She’s our servant but it’s just a pain in the ass when she pretends she knows better than us. She could have killed us, if the binding were set on a trigger.

Winter pats the tail that’s coiled around her legs.

“Let me down gently, please,” She says quietly. “I don’t know what I’m going to do now, but I know that it’s a bit too warm here.”

Her Servant lets her down slowly, placing her on her feet. –As you wish. I am here if you need me.–

An enormous rumbling boom shakes the whole cavern, sending dust crashing down from the ceiling. It looks ruddy red, in the glow from Jane’s scales.

Shit, He found us!

Demimind: Prologue

(0) What’s Yours Is Mine (Prologue)

She doesn’t know what happened to make it all so wrong. When her eyes finally open, it’s as if the light shining down on them is a claw. Her nerves scream and she snaps her eyes closed again. Groping for the switch, her hand instead finds something that pinches, that draws a line of fire across delicate flesh. She yelps and withdraws her hand, shaking suddenly, afraid in the darkness, the cage her own eyelids force on her.

What’s yours is mine.

She shudders, slowly opens her eyes. The light stings now, but doesn’t blind her the way it had a moment ago. She steels herself and draws in a breath, into a chest that aches, that feels as though it’s been eons since it last held air. The dirt floor beneath her naked body feels wrong as well, as if it’s sticking to her, in her, dirtying her blood and making her feel grossly aware of how small and useless she is. The light- there is no switch now, she remembers. How could there be a switch? She’s outside.

Now that she can see, she remembers much more.

What’s yours is mine. Always and forever, we’re together.

She feels her heart thump in her chest, and pushes herself upright, feels something slippery running down her fingers. Slippery and sticky and warm. The ground beneath her is dirt. All around her there are walls of thorns, bushes- rose bushes?- no, briars, that extend up all around her, up into the sky.

Like a movie- what movie? – Sleeping Beauty, except she fell into the black briars instead of hacked through them like the Prince, except she bleeds now, watches red, the liquid, slide down her hand and wet her fingers.

The droplets form drops, drip onto the hungry ground, soaking sand and grit.

The blood is hers.

What’s yours is mine. Always and forever, we’re together. It’s been like that since you were born, and we were born together.

A peculiar scar- she sees it only because of the weird light- glows on her thigh. She can feel its luminescence. The light isn’t so bright as midday, somehow it seems now to be more like evening, and when she looks up to the limit of the thornwalls, she can see that they are growing still, slowly sliding over, covering the light.

A low hum seems to grow in power and intensity, cover her, surround her from the air. Who am I?

Even that has been forgotten. Only scattered memory remains.

She was in a fight, in a struggle. She lost. Or did she win? What happened?

She’s still trying to fathom it, when the light flares and fills up her dark sanctuary once more, piercing down, biting into her eyes, tender as they are. The pain is searing, but her eyes widen in shock when she sees and understands what causes it.

Heat flares around her- it had been cold!- and burns, torches the briars above her with vicious efficiency. Even as far above her as the walls extend, the heat is falling towards her- illogical, really, seeing as heat rises on the air.

But it falls nonetheless, gathering speed- she can see the heat torching stone as well, blackening it on its way down towards her. Stone?

Yes, she’s in a circle of briar near a stone wall, a yard distant at most. A voice in her mind’s ear screams at her to stand and fight, but she can’t imagine how she would, and the voice is irrational, shouting invective and curse, making her want to just curl up and die. The heat is so intense now as it races down the wall. What’s going on?

She reaches out and slaps a hand against the stone of the wall, panicking, scrabbling. No way out around the briars, but maybe if she can somehow take the stone away she could hide from that unbearable, vicious flame!

In a moment, she’s pressed her entire form against the wall, desperate, pushing, demanding the earth to yield.

Which, rather surprisingly and suddenly, it does. The wall parts for her, the rock breaking and closing about her slim form and swallowing her up. Moments later, the heat slams into the ground where she once was, burning everything to a crisp.

What’s mine is yours, you stupid bitch! Use it- what’s the matter with you?

As I mean to write…

I will begin immediately!

My intention is to provide a wealth of material I myself have created, and to provide it to anyone who wishes to see it. Whether it’s in a drawing or a chapter in my latest novel, I’ll do my best to make my latest work visible as soon as possible. My goal is at least a chapter a week, but depending on how much urging I get I think my schedule will be as erratic as my namesake.

That is, quite erratic. I would like to state, for the record, that any resemblance in my books to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental, and that also, anyone who steals my work or claims to have written things verbatim the same as my work is wished the best of luck.

That is, I’ve already got my bases covered. It’s my story I’m telling, and even if everyone believes the person who stole rather than me, I’ll still know that it’s my work and mine alone. (A misnomer; in fact all work is derivative in some form. I can claim that it is ‘mine’, but only by copying and pasting could someone reproduce it to such an extent that it would in fact be mine still.) I just want everyone to know that the ideas for my stories were created entirely by me. They may be influenced by work from any number of authors, for I’m a very prolific reader, but I can say that the characters and plots within them are definitely mine.

Well, actually the first story I plan on sharing is one that a friendly fellow writer swapped characters with me in order to write, so perhaps that’s not even entirely accurate. Still, a character that doesn’t evolve with the plot is not a character worth writing. It is my belief that if s/he had written for my character rather than I, the character would have turned out much, much different. Anyway, enjoy what follows- I’ll post them chapter by chapter.

-Eris

PS:

Ah, forgot. Hello. My name is Sam, but you can call me Eris. Everyone who will know me will call me that anyway. This is a writer’s blog- rather, a writer’s story site with the look of a blog. I hope you find something you can enjoy here. I write many different genres [/boast] but in general my stories have a fantasy element to them. Be civil and kind and perhaps I’ll let you stay.