Demimind: Chapter 23

Gettin’ closer to thirty! Sorry I missed an update. Friday was busy- I just didn’t have the time.

Hope chapter twenty-three will make things better! Maybe this time Summer can catch a break.

-Eris

(23) Lost

Summer smacks into the gritty ground. She lies there only a few moments before she pushes herself to her feet. She’s abominably hungry, for some reason. From that she surmises she needs to draw energy from something to sustain her body. She summons the Rose, grasps it. The sting of its thorns remind her that she’s really, truly alive and in the present again.

She siphons some of the plant’s energy, then dismisses it. It disappears in a puff of smoke.

A familiar human groan sounds next to her. She looks around and spies a familiar human figure to go along with it. “Thomas?” She asks incredulously.

“Miss Summer? What’s happened?” Thomas asks blearily.

He hasn’t pushed himself to his feet yet- which doesn’t seem right. Had they both really arrived at the exact same time? That doesn’t even sound possible. But then, they shouldn’t have been able to get back in the first place, really.

“Have you heard the saying ‘you can’t cheat Fate’?” Summer murmurs, staring around at the Barrier. Nearby, a familiar scrap of paper tumbles off. On the horizon, a thunderous flash sends a shock of pain behind her eyes, and when she opens them again, the map is vanishing off into the distance.

There doesn’t seem to be much chance of catching it.

“Yes Miss,” Thomas replies warily. “What about it?”

“We’re being taught why you shouldn’t try.”

“Ah. Spring sent us back.”

Summer walks over to Thomas and helps him up one-handed. “Do you remember where we were- where we are?”

“Yes,” Thomas replies weakly. “Barrier, right next to the Line. In theory, all we have to do is cross it- though what lies beyond the Line is uncharted, I’ve heard tell from travelers that there are people there. And Miss, you might not be feeling it, but I’m tired and hungry to the point of delirium.”

Summer wouldn’t admit her own flaws to anyone if she could help it, but she gives Thomas a small nod anyway. He’s the only one who can help her out of here, after all.

He turns, squinting at the mess of black horizons and flashing lines of lightning in the blistering heat. The wind changes, and suddenly it’s freezing cold instead and Summer hugs herself, shivering, teeth chattering.

Thomas is silent for a while.

“Yes?” Summer prompts, feeling a bit impatient, and maybe testy thanks to the cold. “So?”

“We should try to find a crossing,” Thomas says suddenly. “Lord Autumn is looking for us, and so far seems to have found us everywhere we go. It may be that he can’t see us if we cross over. That and there’s sure to be settlements if we go far enough. I shouldn’t think there’s any way we’d make it to one in just one day, but there’s no point if we don’t even try.”

There’s an idea, Winter whispers.

“Mm,” Summer seems noncommittal. She nods, though, and Thomas starts a new path through the dust, along the edge of the Line. It seems like it just goes on forever- and it almost appears to be a simple line all the way into forever.

The voices- the whispers from the past- are gone. She wonders whether that’s because they did what they wanted, or because the one who sent the message was killed. In fact, who had sent the message?

“Who do you think told us to come here in the first place?” Summer asks. “Thomas, you seemed the most inclined to talk with them. What did they say?”

“They said they were the spirits of those who have died,” Thomas replies flatly. “I was inclined to believe them, Miss, just because they seemed pretty earnest about it.”

A hot desert wind washes over the pair of them. Thomas won’t look Summer in the eye. “They told me they could restore something to me.”

“Well, we know where at least one spirit of the dead is,” Summer says grimly.

“Your Servant?” Thomas asks sharply. “You said before that she was dead in this time.”

“Yes. But if we’re leaving it behind, it won’t matter,” Summer replies softly. “If it means we’re safe and out of this, maybe it doesn’t matter that she’s dead. She was doing what she wanted to do.”

There’s a heartbeat’s pause before Winter explodes.

Are you insane? Winter hisses. She’s the only reason we’re alive- we’re the only ones with the power to bring her back, and you say we should leave her?

“What happened last time, Winter?” Summer whispers hotly. “We almost died! You lost your way, without me to push you through, we all would have been dead! For good!”

“Er-” Thomas tries to cut in. Winter, oblivious, bowls right over him, drowning out his interruption and muddling Summer’s thoughts.

Don’t give me that bullshit! Don’t tell me you’re afraid! Winter snarls.

“Oh come on! She would have snapped us up at the first opportunity. We’ve saved her once already, the debt has been repaid!”

Winter goes silent after that, but Summer can feel the chill of her fury.

The sisters walk in silence for a while, following their human guide through the sand.

I hate you, She says eventually.

“We’re here,” Thomas says wearily. “And what great company the two of you have been, if I do say so myself.”

“Thomas,” Summer starts.

“Shut up already, Miss,” Thomas interrupts irritably. “The two of you arguing just isn’t my idea of fun. By my ancestors and parents both, I was raised with the fear of Gods in me, but from everything I’ve seen you’re just like normal people. Worse, you’ve got a spoiled attitude, Summer, and you’re far too soft, Winter, if you can even hear me.”

He pauses, then turns away again. “And we’ve arrived. Beyond this bridge there’s uncharted territory.”

The ‘bridge’ is hardly even a long, precarious ledge near two feet across, stretching on into dust and blowing grit, an invitation to the suicidal.

Summer stares at it, unbelieving, momentarily distracted from Thomas’s angry funk. “Bridge,” She says flatly. “I-”

“Look, just take what you get, and if you die at least you come back, alright?” Thomas snaps. “Sweet Cycle willing, we won’t cross this way again.”

The wind howls over the gorge, the only sound as the echoes of Thomas’s voice fade.

Summer, to her own surprise as much as to Thomas’s, shuts up.

Then, to her further surprise, she finds herself moving in front of Thomas. After all, if she dies than she does come back.

The same might not be true for Thomas, or for Jane.

As soon as she takes that first step onto the rock, she feels something must be wrong. A voice hisses in her head, and her heart pounds in her chest, bruising her ribs.

You dare to trespass on my territory?

She trembles on the rock bridge as the wind picks up again, blistering cold caressing her skin. Of course her shirt is no help. She shivers again, taking a long, shuddering breath before she takes another step forward.

Leave!

Leave! Leave!

A multitude of hissing voices now, dry and scaled. Summer shuts her eyes, and takes another step.

I will feast on your petrified corpse, mortal!

“The tales are true?” Thomas asks incredulously.

“Tales?” Summer asks weakly. “What tales?”

“The canyon hisses. The Line is filled with it.”

“You don’t understand what they’re saying?” She asks cautiously. Of course he can’t, Winter gripes. He’s human.

“Not a word, Miss. It’s just echoes anyway, it’s not like it’s actual speech. Snakes can’t talk.”

“Right,” Summer replies warily, edging forward and trying to ignore the dire warnings that follow her every movement.

Turn back!

“Sorry,” Summer whispers, trying to focus on not being blown off the edge. “There’s a man much scarier than a little hissing following me.”

We were going to go to Season’s Refuge, Winter notes.

“Plans change,” Summer mumbles. In this case, they change very quickly, Summer thinks to herself.

Your bones will fuel my furnace!

“Shut up.”

Summer pushes forward against a sudden furious burst of wind. The bridge disappears into fog ahead. Behind her, Thomas seems not to care about the fury of the sand and wind, nor that the canyon edge they left from has likewise disappeared into a cloud of stinging grit. The way he advances without a care in the world makes Summer grind her teeth.

“Nice view,” Thomas comments, looking over the edge.

“How the hell can you tell? I can’t see a damn thing!” Summer snarls.

“Over the edge, Miss. It’s clear all the way down to the bottom.”

Summer risks a glance, bites her lip, and keeps moving, trying hard to prevent her stomach from doing a somersault. It’s a long, long way down. She can see spikes of rock jutting upwards from the canyon floor. She might miss them if she falls.

It doesn’t seem to help.

After an eternity, with the voices hounding her every step of the way, Summer finds herself at the other end of the bridge. The edge is in sight, and finally she can take a shaking step onto the other side.

She takes a deep breath, brushing herself off. She turns and tugs Thomas up after her, and, perched on the edge of the canyon, she gestures expansively. Beyond is a wide wasteland. Desolate as the Barrier before.

“I can see why no one would want to cross,” Summer says dryly.

Thomas stares at it, then sighs. “Should we go back? I… could probably last a day or two. Could be that if we go back now and head back the way we came, we could find the edge of Barrier and be into open plains in no time at all.”

“Autumn has seen to it that we can’t go back,” Summer replies. “We have to keep going. I don’t know how far away he is, but knowing him it won’t take more than a week or so before he catches up with us. And in that time I want to be a long way away from here.”

“If you say so, Summer,” Thomas says easily. “Let’s go this way.”

The former gate guard starts off into the waste and, Summer, not knowing what else to do, follows after him.

They don’t have to walk far.

The air is cooler mere meters from the edge. Summer can feel a draft, pulling at her, tugging at her feet and calves. She shivers, despite herself, following bravely after Thomas anyway. But something is nibbling at her awareness.

After a while, she figures it out, noticing the sand near her feet being drawn… forward. With her.

“Thomas, the wind is pulling us towards something.”

“Yes,” is his reply. “Sure.”

She probably should have expected that. But something about his tone catches her a bit off guard. Feeling reproachful, she starts again.

“Thomas-”

“Look, miss, I’m sure this is fascinating and everything, but I’m trying to figure out where we are,” He says patiently. “If you have something relevant to add-”

Summer’s gaze falls on a patch of sand- which is swirling thickly around a central point. As they pass it, she feels a shift in the wind, and feels grains of grit scrape one leg. It seems to blow much harder, in a miniature cyclone, near this one little area. All of the wind is being drawn to this spot.

“That’s weird,” Thomas mutters.

Summer blinks and stares at him for a moment.

You should kill him, a part of her whispers.

It’s been doing that for a long time now. Summer grits her teeth, fighting it down for a few moments. But it’s quite strong, a part of her based heavily in habit and instinct.

He’s a connection to Spring, and through Spring, Autumn. You should kill him and leave him here to rot in the Barrier.

No one will miss him.

Summer’s gaze falls to her hands.

She’s grown weak over the years. Here, where practically no life lives, all she has is her strength. Her body’s strength. Her body, lithe and very strong even without life surrounding her. It would be simple enough to crush Thomas’s unsuspecting skull.

The thoughts are dark as they swirl in her head, and cloud over reason quickly.

When was the last time she’d killed? She feels hungry for it now.

She never told Winter that part. Sure the dark days are behind her. But that was because she was sure she’d have some opportunity to… well, to kill to maim to burn things later. Her self-control is really astounding, just like every other part of her.

Summer clenches her hands into fists and then looks up at Thomas, who is now a good twenty meters away and fading into the fog.

He turns suddenly, mouths something at her. Shouting at her, though she can’t hear it. Because of the wind? No, it shouldn’t be that strong…

She turns towards the patch of sand, swirling as it is. She just has this feeling….

She can always kill Thomas later, after all. The voice inside roars at the thought.

She beckons to him wordlessly, not trusting herself to speak without voicing a growl, and then takes a step towards the tiny sandstorm.

What are you doing?

She stops, one stride away, and glowers at Winter internally, but says nothing.

What’s happening to you, Summer? I can feel you, sort of, you’re not really acting…. uh… like you usually do, She finishes lamely. What’s going on?

“Gnn,” Summer manages, eyes half-closing, fighting back a literal killer instinct. “Ngh.”

That’s not helpful.

Neither is this stupid bitch, if you could kill her you would, dig your claws into her scalp and tug until her head just pops right off. Yes. That would be fun.

Summer grits her teeth and takes another step to drown out her own mind. She doesn’t think about it as her foot slips through the stinging sand and into nothing. Her heart pounds and her head aches, but she ignores it and forces herself forward.

Everything swirls.

Everything crackles. The world around her dissolves.

And she steps into another.

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Demimind: Chapter 13

I have a feeling things are going to become more complicated. Hold on to your socks, people!

-Eris

(13)Time Like a Tide

She reappears, stumbles, and is caught. Thomas lets her go a moment later. “Are you alright, miss?”

“Yes,” She says, though she doesn’t quite feel it. Her head, hands and feet are heavy and her body feels like it’s been run through a strainer. “Where are we?”

“Getting ready for battle, miss. I was wondering when you’d arrive,” Thomas replies. “Or if you would.”

Winter looks around.

They’re standing on an immense wall, almost twenty full feet high. Crenellations form areas for cover along its front. Pillars set every ten feet hold up a sloped roof. It’s all made of marble, a feat she can hardly believe came from human engineering. All along its edges there are people standing, eyes on the horizon. Behind her, the wall slopes off into a town. No one seems to be in it- or if they are, they’re all inside their houses. If they could be called houses- the structures are all shacks, even what appears to be the main building at its center is only two stories tall and seems made of random material. In comparison to the wall surrounding it, the village itself is shabbily constructed. There’re no fires and no one seems to be dying.

It’s too quiet. And the sky is too calm- there isn’t a rumble, isn’t a sound from it, no flashes. It’s a white sky rather than a black one, which is a bit of an improvement. The temperature seems a bit more stable too, no longer fluctuating between states of extreme cold or heat.

“How long has it been?” She asks weakly. “I came in right after you.”

“I’ve been here about two nights, miss Winter,” Thomas says, his voice shaking slightly. “I’d begun to think that before, by the cliff edge, was a dream. The voices whisper to you constantly, miss, the voices of the dead. The people here think it’s magic, but to me it just feels like a bad omen.”

Winter pats Thomas on the shoulder awkwardly. “Well I’m here now. I can confirm that it’s a real place we came from. Do you know where we are?”

“At the edge of the Barrier. Seems to me someone set up a trap. A sort of… distress call. It brought everyone it could from any point in time, they said, to here. Uh. But only people who were in the Barrier. Some of them won’t fight…” He trails off. “But that’s not important. You’ll fight, won’t you?”

“If it gets me to Season’s Refuge faster, I suppose I need to,” Winter says grimly. “I’ll need to ask about that, I expect. Who’s in charge? And for the last time, where are we, Thomas?”

He takes a step back, taken aback by her tone. “We’re in a town- on the walls of a town- called Spiritfell. But the town itself seems empty, Winter.”

“Then who is-“

Summer finally gets through.

Spiritfell?! You’re kidding! Tell me he’s kidding! This town was wiped out a good hundred years ago! There wasn’t even a big stick left standing- did we go back in time or something?

“Why are we here?”

Fuck if I know. But if this is the eve of the battle where Fall leveled the place, I’d suggest we make ourselves scarce really, really soon-

“The voices say we’re here to do what must be done,” Thomas says quietly. “Do you know how to use a weapon, miss?”

Winter stares at him, then sighs. “No, but I’ve killed people before.”

They stand, side by side, on the wall, staring out over at the vast nothingness, the wasteland of the Barrier. Thomas seems at ease- but he’s had a position as guard all his life. Winter is apprehensive, and Summer is scared.

“Who is telling you all this?” Winter asks. “I mean, do the voices have names?”

“They’re talking to you too, aren’t they?” Thomas replies hopefully. 

“Yes, but I’ve already got Summer in my head,” Winter says dryly. “I don’t hear them as often as I hear her.”

“Well… they don’t give me names,” He says quietly. “It’s just a constant buzz, like… They’re all talking at once. I’ve never been one for magic, miss, it’s alright to look at, but I wouldn’t want to live with it.”

“It probably is magic,” Winter says, and leaves it at that. “Do your magic voices say anything about when we’re going to be attacked?”

Why do you even care? You’ll be long gone before they even get here, right?

Winter isn’t so sure. “I don’t know about that. That sounds wrong, to me.”

So does dying.

“I’m not going to die. We don’t even know if they’re going to attack us or not.”

“The voices say it’s an immensely powerful magic force,” Thomas offers. “But you’re really powerful too, right? You stood against Lord Autumn.”

Winter really isn’t sure about that. “That may’ve just been luck,” She says doubtfully. “I wouldn’t bet all my chickens on it.”

You’ve never bet any chickens in your life. Why do you say that so often?

“I don’t know. Do I say that a lot?” Winter honestly can’t remember.

“Say what, miss? About the chickens? That’s the first time I’ve heard you say it,” Thomas says distractedly. “I should think-“

He stops for some reason, but Summer doesn’t see it until Winter looks up.  Shit.

There is a man walking toward the wall, from out of the dust swirling. He’s cloaked in a cold, familiar light, and strides purposefully.

“Are you sure Spiritfell was destroyed?” Winter asks Summer, feeling fear stir in her belly and her heart thump with sudden dread. One man- he’s powerful sure, but it’s one man. It might not even be him. So why is she so frightened?

I’m certain! It was wiped off the map! He came, he conquered, and he left. No one knows why he did it. He never told us. Actually, come to think of it, he never told any of us about it. He just did it. We knew it was him, survivors said so. At least, I knew it was him. Um. Summer doesn’t sound as sure of herself as she claims.

Only one real way to find out. Winter fights the urge to throw up.

Toughen up, Summer offers weakly.

The man approaches within shouting distance of the wall. His feet are cloven. Cold light surrounds Him in heavy waves- yes. It is Fall.

He seems to be scanning the wall for something, and then He finds it and His eyes lock, lock on Winter’s.

His mouth opens.

And she knows. He’s here for her.

All her blood boils away in that gaze, her eyes shut and she looks down. Thomas, who sets his hand on her shoulder to steady her, feels her shaking. “Winter? Miss?”

Then Fall says: “Sister! What-“

Her memory washes over her like a wave.

“-are you doing here?” Fall asks curiously. Winter snaps her book closed and blushes, feels the wretched thing swirling about her cheeks. She sits up, but doesn’t meet her brother’s eyes.

“I wanted,” She whispers, so that no one, not even herself can even really hear her.

“What?” Fall presses. He stands tall- though not as tall as Spring- and his well muscled frame so close to hers is making her uncomfortable, especially when he leans down. He doesn’t mean it- he’s Fall, he looms like no other. She doesn’t want to edge away, she finds. Instead, she looks up at him and smiles. Through all the hardship she’s been through, through the torments her sister inflicts and the pain of being repressed constantly, there are only a few things she really knows.

“I wanted to be alone,” She says clearly, quietly. “But I’m happier when you’re here.”

“Why don’t you answer?” Fall shouts up, voice strained with emotion. “Is Summer behind this? She should show herself!”

Winter stares down at her brother, futile in His frustration.

“Would you take my freedom away?” She asks, her voice trembling oddly. “I’m not ready to relinquish it just yet.”

“What’s happened to you?” He asks, His voice like a sudden storm.

“You happened to me, brother!” She snaps. “You’ve chased me all over, pushed me to the brink of my sanity. I can barely remember a time when you haven’t been after me- and why? So you can fight me?” She grips the crenellation before her and leans forward. She feels her fingers digging into stone.

“What are you talking about?” He calls. “I’ve not attacked you. You are my sister! Kin!”

The last is desperate, confused and hurt.

And time, as she stands there, pulls at her like a tide. Her reply is waiting at the edge of her lips, her cruel rebuttal is poised to spill forth. She feels it, holds it to herself. This, she decides, is where it went wrong. This is where she pushed Him away instead of drawing Him toward her. But how did that happen? She was not here on the eve of this battle before.

Or perhaps she was. Is she merely reliving a memory? And Summer. Are there two Summers and two Winters now? There are too many complications to stay here, and if she leaves Him with her old self than perhaps the past will repeat. Perhaps, if she steps away now, she’ll have failed in some way. It’s all happened so fast.

Should she go where the tide asks? Should she reject him, knowing full well the consequences? No, her brother is smart. Frighteningly so.

High, high above, and unbeknownst to anyone below, the first flake of snow falls. It drifts through the air on tongues of cold until a warm breath of air, rising from the plains, turns it to a mere droplet and sends it spiraling earthward.

Winter relaxes her grip on the stone and half-smiles. Without thinking about it anymore, she lets her answer slip out. “And you, mine. Though I do not know it yet, though I have my own path to take.”

“I don’t understand,” He says helplessly. “What drives you so distant?”

“I-“

A slender hand slaps itself over her mouth, muffling her. Her eyes meet Fall’s again, panicked. And she’s pulled, struggling, away from the wall. Her assailant throws her down off the structure with sickening ease. She hears Thomas shout, and, as she watches him turn, she catches a glimpse of the face, grinning in triumph, as it raises a hand towards him.

No!

Then her head slams against flagstone and her mind erupts in a flash of pain and a nasty crack.

Dizzied she shakes herself, pushing up until she approaches her feet, but she wobbles, stinging tears in her eyes. She tries to get her bearings, shakes herself. And she hears a high pitched whining noise, a hissing. Her eyes fall on a small, molten pile of slag, an incandescent skeleton upright without its armor, glowing with heat before it falls over.

Thomas!

She hears him groan now, whirls and watches him stagger upright again. The fool plants his spear when he should be running. Another whining noise, followed by that same hissing. Her eyes slip over something, a slender figure, bronze skin, flowing blonde hair. Her eyes meet her own reversed- blue and green. But for the hair…

“Summer,” She says, shakily, trying to clear her head.

That’s not me! Look! Her hair is blonde, mine is white! Right? Winter, that’s not me!

“Summer! Why are you-?” She asks, taking a step forward. The other Summer, the impostor raises a hand.

A bolt of searing heat washes over her like a cloak of agony, boiling her nerves and setting her skin afire with agonizing pain. It’s so bad she wishes she’d black out.

“I don’t understand, sister,” Summer hisses. “In your future you have the power of a true god! People fall over themselves to worship and wonder at you. How have you sunk so low that a surprise attack such as mine could ever catch you off guard?”

I have no idea what she’s talking about, Winter’s bound Summer says. She seems in better shape than Winter, who sees double and can’t stop her hand from shaking as she lifts it.

Winter draws on the same need, on her memory. She focuses her orb power into a single word, pulled from the future and the past. It coalesces in her mind and frost forms around her hand.

If her false sister sees it, she doesn’t acknowledge it with so much as a look. Instead, she casts her eyes towards Thomas. He’s gathered a few soldiers now, two or three, and they stand by him.

“You can’t hide your feelings, either, Winter! I know you’ve feelings for mortals. I saw it in your future. I may not be able to change the tide of time, but I can sure as hell slow it down!” She casts a hand towards Thomas, but her mismatched eyes meet Winter’s again.

And Winter strikes, cold rage making her cast her power forth in a flash, hand lifted, fingers curved, directed right at her sister where she stands.

Bolt,” She breathes, the eldritch word twisting her tongue.

An intense, thin blast of crackling energy snaps out from her hand and blows through her sister, tearing a hole through her middle and crashing into the wall behind her. It rips through that as well, moving on and on forever, a blue line that vanishes in the distance.

Summer, her sister, stares at her, shocked. Then she disappears.

Heat mirage! She’s there!

And yes, there she is- now Winter can see her, a good ten feet distant, one hand still pointed at Thomas and keeping him and his in check. 

There’s a crushing sensation, as of her entire body being squeezed. Winter’s mouth is dry, chokingly dry as if she’d swallowed desert sand and washed it down with dust. She coughs, but remains standing. “Not bad, sister- but nowhere near good enough. Watch,” the other Summer says.

Thomas can only stand and stare. His soldiers (friends?) stand in their full plate mail. Thomas, wearing nothing but his metal studded gate-guard leather, levels his spear at not-Summer. Is it Winter’s imagination, or does he tremble?

The fake Summer grins. “Not afraid to attack a demigod, are you?”

Thomas, The same voice says in her head in a completely different tone. She’ll kill him.

“You’re nothing like her,” He says grimly. “I’m not afraid of an impostor like you.”

“Your friends don’t seem to share your sentiment,” evil Summer observes. Thomas risks a glance, and she lashes out the moment his attention flickers. Winter barely sees her move. That lithe, bronze body is there one moment, gone the next. It reappears next to Thomas. She’d lied- his soldiers stand there by his side. How they had come to be there and helping him, who they are makes no difference now, with Summer so close.

In a second, before they have time to do more than shout, they are ash in their armor. The whistling of steam, the plink of cooling armor, and now evil Summer leans against Thomas, up against him, over his spear, one hand on the shaft and the other on his chest. “You aren’t bad to look at,” She purrs. “Easy on the eyes. It’s a pity I have to- aggh!”

She recoils as if stung. Her palm is covered in welts for the moment it remains in view. Summer’s alternate form trembles with rage, her eyes narrowing. “Iron,” Thomas says slowly. “Your type just can’t take it. I didn’t believe my mother when she said. Now I think I do- you’re not a demigod. You’re one of them. One of the fair folk, aren’t you? Maybe the last of them.”

Winter blinks, uncomprehending, but Summer sneers. “Don’t compare me to trash like them!”

At the word ‘trash’, Winter suddenly feels her skin tingle. And now of all times, her mouth moves.

“Shut up,” She says, quite clearly. “And fuck off.”

Summer’s old self stares at Winter. Their eyes lock. Summer begins to smile.

“What did you just say?” She asks, her voice filled with the full blaze of a summer wildfire.

“I said fuck off,” Winter snaps, and she can hardly believe its her own words. The Summer inside stays silent. “I’m not the weak voice inside you. I’m the dying of the seasons, the end of the years, and the hostess who will usher in the new and finally force out the old. I am my own person, and you have finally pushed me past my limits.”

Orb power- what’s left of it- crackles around Winter’s feet, frost spreading over flagstone and grit alike. Winter tries hard not to sway.

Old Summer seems taken aback at that, and if Winter hadn’t convinced her, a voice behind her, cheerful- yet hiding a subtle fury- succeeds in telling her just how badly outmatched she is.

“You should go home, sister,” Fall’s voice is less than a whisper. “Before I become angry.”

Summer, turns, stares at Fall for one moment, and then flashes into smoke. Well, The real Summer says. Looks like she didn’t expect Fall to be on our side. What really bothers me is how she knew we’d be here in the first place.

Winter takes a step forward, stumbles, and feels horrible dizziness overtake her for a few moments. She reaches up and rubs the back of her head, feeling something slick in her hair. 

“You’re bleeding a little, miss,” Thomas says worriedly. “Are you feeling okay?”

She stares at her hand, which is now smeared in red. The bitter taste of iron fills her mouth. “A little,” She replies flatly. “This is a little?”

Then she falls forward and smacks into stone.