14.2 – Blood Mirror

„What is wrong with you, child?“

„Whatever do you mean?“

Brittle was sitting astride a slick, jagged rock in the middle of a fast-bubbling brook, her legs and the bottom half of her dress submerged in the flow.

Brunt sighed and threw her foxtail over her shoulder. „Well. You are supposed to be grown. I will not waste time chiding or cajoling you. Nor will I tarry to witness your antics. You know the path.“ She turned to go, but stopped, as if waiting for a response. Finally, it came.

„Why are you still here?“ Though Brunt did not show it, Brittle was certain she felt the sting. Mayhaps, she thought as Brunt walked back towards the others, my unknown Mirror is a gnat. Or a knifetail.

„ O R A K I L L E R W A S P „

She stretched her legs, feeling the current’s eager caress.

„ N O W „

She swiftly cut her thumb on one of the rock’s protruding edges. A drop of blackened blood formed slowly, almost reluctantly, along the finger’s edge. With a flick of her wrist, it flew into the waters.

„ D O Y O U F E E L I T „

The river. It was as if she knew it. Intimately. As if it was inside of her. Closing her eyes, she could feel every turn and bend, the silt below, rocks, pebbles, river grass, tadpoles, fish, yes, an abundance of fish. She could even, strangely enough, feel her own presence in the waters from the weirdly fluid perspective of the brook itself. She smiled. „My blood is a Mirror“.

„ I T D O E S N O T L A S T F O R E V E R „

No. But a moment longer still. She winced. Suddenly there was a sharp pain, as if some foreign element had invaded her body. Something…other…had entered the brook. She felt it move with great speed towards…her. In mere moments it would be upon her. With pinpoint precision she shot her hands into the waters and grabbed its slippery form just in time, pulling it up and holding it aloft in front of her. In the same instant, the pain subsided. She opened her eyes to see what she had caught.

A big, fat river pike, jaws a-snapping. She had it by its gills. „Curious“, she said, squeezing the desperately wriggling fish, „I thought you belonged here.“

„ T H E E Y E S B R I T T L E „

What about them? She leant in, carefully avoiding the sharp teeth. The eyes, they were brown. Flecked with green. Just like her mother’s.

„ O H H O H O S O M E O N E I S S P Y I N G „

With disgust, Brittle threw the pike on to the bank. It was suprisingly easy, as if Brunt’s presence in the beast lessened the resistance of its form. She watched it flail about hopelessly, as if gasping for breath. Brittle knew the feeling. The tremors slowly subsided, and all the while Brittle kept staring at those familiar eyes, taking delight in seeing her mother experience helplessness for the briefest of moments. Just before life left it completely, the eyes transformed into the black pools more customary for its kind. Brittle spat. Using Mirrorsight against your own child.

„ S H E S U S P E C T S „

„Let her suspect all she wants“, said Brittle, standing up and waded back onto land, just next to the dead fish, „I have nothing to hide“.

„ S H E W I L L N O T U N D E R S T A N D „

„She has never understood anything“. Brittle took the pike and hung it on one of her belt hooks.

„ I D O „

„So you keep telling me“.

She caught up with her mother, standing close to a tree, waiting. The others were a bit further along, no doubt. Brunt’s gaze was dark, and her lower lip was actually trembling. She clearly wanted to speak, but didn’t seem to find anything to say. Brittle slapped the pike’s broadside. „Lucky catch“, she said and kept on walking. She could feel the glowering gaze like hot coals on her neck, and nothing could delight her more. The legendary composure broken. By Brittle, no less. If that was possible, then all paths lay open for her. No one could stand in her way.

They arrived at Middler’s Glen just before the setting of the sun. No words had been shared between mother and child. The rest of her kin were here already, members of all three Holds busying themselves with tents and food preparations. A wistful reed pipe whistled in the distance. The cooking fires were already burning. Brittle threw Brunt’s Mirror in the food pit, bemused by the thought that this was in fact the first time she had ever contributed. In any other circumstance, her mother would have been proud.

Her feet led her towards the ochre-coloured tents of Breem’s Hold. It didn’t take her long to find her quarry. Brawn was loud, her voice and guffawing laugh easy to pick out from the soundscape of greetings, expectation and general joy. She was eyeing some boy and clearly out to catch a pike of her own, when she noticed Brittle walk straight by her, head held high in defiance. Brittle beelined for the forest, and just as she had hoped, Brawn took the bait.

She probably thought she was stealthy. But even her attempts at silence were deafening. The laboured breathing, the crunch-crunch of tiny twigs, the constant sniffle, all combined to paint a pretty perfect picture in Brittle’s mind as to where Brawn was related to her. Brittle tried to seem ignorant of her pursuer, to keep egging her on. An open space in front of a huge tree, a lone ironseed of somewhat advanced age, judging by the sizable hole in the center of its trunk, was as good a spot as any. Brittle stopped and turned, her back against the tree, looking straight at Brawn, who at the same moment tried to duck behind a miniscule featherbark. Even Brawn could quickly see the folly of that course of action, and shifting her tactic, she decided to meet Brittle’s gaze and walk up to her. Chest puffed out. Fingers twitching.

She looked intently and menacingly at Brittle, just waiting, looking for an excuse. „If it isn’t the Dry Daughter“, she grinned, satisfied with her own wit. Brittle’s only reply was to spit in Brawn’s face. That did it. A single drop of moisture was enough to throw Brawn’s wit into the garbage pit. She flew into a mad rage, yabbering like a moon addled weasel, pummeling Brittle’s face with her fists. It was terribly painful. Flashes of light marred Brittle’s vision. She fell to the ground, and Brawn was quick to follow her, straddling her and punching with pure abandon. Brittle felt her nose crack, not once, but twice. Still, she kept calm. So calm.

„ S O O N „

Brittle’s black blood spattered everywhere. Onto the grass. Onto Brawn’s fists. Onto Brawn’s face. A drop hit Brawn’s left crazed eye.

„ N O W „

Closing her eyes, time slowed down. She could feel her essence, multiplied, in all the drops around her. Focusing all her attention on just one of them, the drop right now seeping into Brawn’s tear canal, she willed it onwards, pushed it inwards, through the tissue, through the veins, towards Brawn’s heart. It thrust into the chambers of the pulsating muscle, held still for the slightest of moments, before Brittle opened her eyes and let it burst in an explosion of distilled hatred. Brawn’s fist stopped a hair’s breadth from Brittle’s bleeding face. The eyes of her erstwhile attacker grew white and scared, before she fell into a puddle next to her, her body convulsing, terror writ large over her face. Brittle stood up, looking down at Brawn, the M A G G O T S spine contorting into D E L I C I O U S L Y wrong positions. Blood dripped from Brittle’s face like lazy rain, each drop beginning to smolder and B U R N like tiny globules of fire midway in their descent, bombarding the pain-stricken and shaking body of Brawn with more D E S E R V E D A G O N Y

„Brittle! What in the name of Bray are you doing?!“

Brittle spun around to see her mother I A M Y O U R M O T H E R who of course had followed her again, always looming, always protecting, always H O L D I N G B A C K N O T S E E I N G M Y G R E A T N E S S shock in her eyes and Brittle could feel the blood in Brunt’s form, clearly, pumping, flowing, so close in nature to the blood in Brittle’s veins, though hers was of course V A S T L Y I M P R O V E D. And as Brunt ran over to her, probably in an attempt to stop her from enacting her R I G H T E O U S V E N G E A N C E, it dawned on Brittle. Brunt’s blood was already a Mirror. She did not need a way in. All she had to do was P U S H



There might have been screams. She couldn’t tell. When it was done, Brunt’s form was a husk drained of moisture, her blood no more than an evaporated memory. Her eyes were fixed on Brittle, brown, flecked with green. While her bony jaw opened and shut. Opened and shut. Like a stranded river pike gasping for breath.

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