14.1 – A mother’s embrace
The strange heartbone, unrecognizable up until now due to its nightly colouration, started vibrating with a violent ferocity. She almost lost hold of it, but her stubborn streak made her grip onto it even more tightly, with both hands. „Who are you?“ she asked through gritted teeth, „You’re not supposed to be here!“
„ N E I T H E R A R E Y O U „ boomed a voice inside Brittle’s head. The reddish light bouncing off the natural alcove’s walls intensified. „What in the Six Hardships is going on!?“
„ I W I L L S H O W Y O U „
And with that statement, tiny specks of blackness started levitating, moving up from the darkened heartbone, hanging there, in front of her, like motes of dust in a long forgotten room. As they broke off from the bone in her hands, it regained more and more of its original pale white hue. The black powder floating in the air began to move in concert, rapidly, akin to a flock of synchronized birds. A flock that started occupying more and more of the limited space, mesmerizing Brittle with its hypnotic movements. Slowly, it began to coalesce into a mix between smoke and liquid, a black miasma that shifted between a variety of nightmarish, outlandish shapes. The bone was all pure and white now, like a sheet of fresh snow.
„ D A U G H T E R R E M E M B E R „ rumbled the voice and the viscous darkness shot into her nostrils, into her.
She was instantly bludgeoned by a torrent of images, throwing themselves like a moon-addled shoal of fish against a cliff side in a storm.
She was clad in red fox fur, running away from her mate. He had dared the unthinkable, to lift a hand against a Daughter. He knew the punishment was to be extinguished and sent back into the Weave, facing three options – to perish, to flee or to snuff her spark. His indecision gave her the chance to run. Behind the roots of a toppled tree, she hid. As the blood from her broken nose slowly soaked into the welcoming fur of her coat, her Deepheart was torn between the anguish of her love, her anger and her fear.
He sat in whimpering silence as his brother was mauled by the striped fang bear. He was the greatest hunter of the Hold, yet still he held back his spear. He yearned for Brisket, his brother’s love. If he was gone, then maybe…the sound of a face being gnawed off. The heavy, iredeemable guilt.
Her child was crying. Her breasts were barren. She shook it, hard. Too hard.
She killed the stranger. She wanted his furs.
The shaky gums of her grandmother sucking the marrow from her dead brother’s bones.
The feeling of being completely alone and unloved.
The feeling of uselessness.
The feeling of terror in the night.
The feeling of wanting neither to live nor to die.
She was an ancient coarse crone, rasping her last breaths close to a magnificent tree. She wore a crown of skulls, seven botched attempts at motherhood. Failure. Pain. Grief. She once told her daughter that she could contain the horrors of others, could transform them. That to her the darkest emotions were sweet and nutritious like forest grape juice. Now, she was not so sure. She felt frail. Her Deepheart a broken echo of what it once was. Weak. Unfit. Brittle. No one was here to hear the last words escaping from her cracked, dry lips.
„ B R I T T L E W H Y D I D Y O U L E A V E M E „
The feeling of bitterness.
The feeling of anguish.
The feeling of hate.
She crawled out of the passageway, into the moonlit night above. The seven stillbirthed heads still embracing hers. The heartbone, now silent and inert, in her hand. Far above, the last remnant of a curious sight remained – the faint red sliver of a twin moon returning to the fold. She looked down at her form, she saw the streams of shimmering crimson gleaming through her skin. She saw the red glow dull, grow dark and heavy, mixed with something else. Something other.
„ S O M E T H I N G P O W E R F U L „
The red light faded above. The red light faded below.
„ N O T A C U R S E I S E E I T N O W T H E B L O O D I N Y O U I S S T R O N G „
She hugged herself, unsure of who she was all of a sudden. Whether her name was Brittle…or Briar, or a thousand names besides.
„ I C A N H E L P Y O U D A U G H T E R „
But she was sure of one thing. The piercing, all-consuming hate. That was hers, whoever she was.
„ W E C A N H E L P E A C H O T H E R „