Swylce

Musings and Writing of GG Alexander

The Weaver

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I wrote this for the first writing group I attended, a year and a half ago. I didn’t have the confidence to put in something close to my heart, so I took an existing idea of mine and ripped-off the story structure from the girl who had brought in a short story the week before. The word limit was 2000 words and I killed myself keeping under it, making the story near unintelligible in the process, so here is a fuller, more comprehensible version.

This is more representative of my usual, non-Savage writing, since it is full of violence, magic and horribleness.

***

Her Past

Plan for every eventuality. That was what any conqueror had to do – especially one as friendless as Dominique. She had more power than any man could understand; they raged at how she had stolen the country from under them, and made attempts on her life at every turn. Even now, as she sat in the carriage and looked at Ethan, she anticipated an attack. But he only stared out onto the colours of the countryside beyond: yellow, green, muddy brown, scorched black, blood red. This was the man. The man it had taken two years to find; the man who held all her hope for the future.

‘How much do you know about me?’ she asked.

‘Enough.’

Of course she should expect him to be morose. He was probably repeating the cries of his family in his head; how his mother shouted at him to go while his little brother begged him to stay; how his father cursed over his bleeding leg from where her soldier had stabbed him.

‘I doubt you know anything,’ she said.

‘You killed the king and all his men,’ Ethan said, and she smiled at the childish contempt in his voice. ‘You kill anyone who opposes you. You’re a witch, a sorceress – you’re in league with the devil, and you’re mad on power.’

She laughed.

‘The devil is nothing to me. I do not act on anyone else’s orders.’

‘You have witches’ powers,’ he said, turning to her. She could see the seal glowing at the base of his neck; the red ring she had placed on him, binding him to her for the rest of his life.

‘Yes,’ she said. The pattern on the seal was like a needle diving in and out of cloth, trailing loops of thread behind it. They could not understand. They could not see power beyond the metal they wielded.

‘My mother taught me,’ she said. ‘Magic runs in our female line.’

Ethan turned back to the window. After the dominance she had displayed earlier, any gentleness now must anger him. Nothing made men more furious than inconsistency. But that was how nature was: inconsistent, constantly flowing and renewing and changing its mind, deciding to freeze one day and boil the rest. They could not understand. No-one understood as she did.

 

Her Mother

She was born in this country but never felt part of the people. Her mother spoke to her in French, spoke of her homeland and the spirits there; and always ended, in a quiet voice, by saying how their father had moved them so he could serve the previous king when he took the throne, and that was good, and that was loyal, and that was as expected of a nobleman.

Dominique grew to hate her father and the dead old king and his son the new king.

The people may have been nothing, but the land was rich. Her mother would take her outside, and show her the trees and the mountains, and though she shrivelled in the cold, her smile was like one who had just found God.

‘Oh,’ she would cry, throwing her arms out to embrace the wind, ‘how full of life and magic this land is! Can’t you feel the thirst and energy under your feet? Dominique, feel it with me! This land is all yours!’

That’s what she always said: every patch of earth she stepped on was her own. She ran away from lessons and church, and lay by the stream, waiting for animals to walk by, feeling the spark and breath within them.

The other ladies of the court warned her mother that she would be eaten by wolves; her mother laughed at them.

‘My Dominique will eat them,’ she said.

Dominique hated her father. He talked eloquently in halls and corridors but shouted behind doors. Her mother crouched over the stream with her, plunging their hands into the icy water, water that balmed and healed any injuries.

‘You’re a good girl,’ her mother said. ‘Remember that. The earth will always love you. You can always count on nature: it is what birthed you, it is what will kill you in the end.’

But in the end, it was the executioner who killed her mother.

 

Her Thread

It was her father’s fault. Everyone said they were witches, going into the forest to speak with the devil. He commanded her mother to stop disgracing him, but she could not, and Dominique could not, resist the call of the wild when the hall held nothing but petty gossip and the brutal, boring tales of oppressing rebellions far away. What ecstasy then, when the wind sang in their ears as they felt the spark of each insect and bird swirl around them, and danced for joy at the rhythm of life. How insignificant it all seemed in comparison!

‘Can’t you feel the power we have?’ her mother whispered into her face, hair straggled between her shining eyes. ‘Can’t you feel it?’

Of course she could. The power to move. The power to control the spark of life, mould the glow at your fingertips. Dominique learnt it. Her skin crawled the first time she snuffed it away from a fainting faun by the riverside; then the ease of it fascinated her. With only a thought, she could make a bird drop from the sky, could quell a snarling wolf. So simple; so elegant; so powerful.

Her mother knew that power, but had buried it inside her heart for years. Now, she saw her daughter learning the magical ways, so smiling and beautiful, and remembered what she could do. The pressure built upon them both from all sides, and when Dominique’s father demanded that they not go out again, that she not give her daughter to witchcraft, she could not agree to it. She broke. She lay on the floor sobbing, raging, touching Dominique’s bruises, and told her that she had had enough.

‘Remember how strong you are, darling,’ she said, eyes red and cheeks purple. ‘You are stronger, and smarter, than I am. I know you will do well. I know you will not be as helpless as I am.’

How was she helpless? Dominique didn’t understand until she saw the axe come down on her mother’s head a week later. She had only been able to end one worthless life before being crushed in the cogs.

The king stood there and, as they carried the body away, lamented the loss of one of his best noblemen. Dominique wished her eyes could cut through him. It was good for all, he said, that such a witch should be executed, and only her status as a noblewoman had saved her from hanging as she should have done. That, and that she confessed immediately to murder by witchcraft, which of course was the only way a healthy man could appear dead one morning with no wounds or signs of poison.

Dominique did not believe in witchcraft. No demons commanded her. No devils spoke to her. Only the whispering of the people at court plagued her ears.

She ran into the fields at dusk, blinded with tears, and she cursed the world for not knowing justice; for leaving her helpless and alone. She stopped to breathe, and the breeze caught her, and tickled her face in comfort, like gentle hands. A nightingale sang, the trees rustled, the grass waved – and then she knew her mother was all around her, returned to nature, and – at last – happy. She laughed. Her spirit soared, expanding to the sky, and she felt every speck of life within her reach, from the shifting earth to the rushing heavens, as if they were hairs on her skin. She called on it, called on it to come to her, and she turned, and the energy twisted towards her, wound round her spinning figure, tighter and tighter, down her arm and to the tip of her finger, until it snapped apart, and fell to lie, glowing, on her outstretched palm.

She had created her first thread.

 

Her Patience

She waited years, spinning more threads into her hands – from trees, from wolves, from fish in streams. To her the threads glowed and sparked, more beautiful than any gold or jewels, but she learnt, over time, that others could not see them. She knew power; she knew how to drain the life from a creature without a sound, how to harness it from far away by spinning a simple line. It was the last lesson her mother had taught her.

‘You should marry,’ her aunt said as she grew older.

‘Never,’ Dominique said. The old lady only wanted this wild girl off of her hands, she knew. The gossip never stopped, the judgements and questions; the hands pulling at her hair, prodding at her body, telling her what to do, what to be. She only wanted Dominique away, kept at heel under a rich nobleman, someone strong, someone ‘just’, someone like her father. So she said Never, and she meant Never.

She spun a thread of her aunt’s life, but left the end still trailing in her body. She pulled it, stretched it, wound it over tables and through doors, into her own room, where she cupped it and whispered tales into it.

Her aunt no longer spoke, no longer moved, unless she commanded it. No-one knew what had happened. Dominique started on the others.

 

Her Triumph

They were too late by the time they caught her; she pinched all their lives away the second they raised swords to her. She, the terminal of each thread, covered in a haze of light, hundreds of lives attached to her skin, to her will. A thought, and they died; a twitch, and they were her puppets for the rest of their days. But she killed the king with her own hands. She wanted to have it visceral, screaming, attempting to be noble until the last breath, gushing blood and guts under her hands. The puff of his life as he was extinguished – it made her sing with joy.

But moments after he lay dead at her feet, she straightened, and despair washed over her. She was done. Her revenge was complete. What now? Wait for other nobles to take the king’s place? Wait for her own execution? But the guards lay dead in the hall, and they had been powerless to take her. The memory of how easy it had been surged through her, igniting her – the recognition of her power hit her in full force and took her breath away, inflaming all her ambitions.

She had dismantled the cogs. They could not execute her; they could not harm her. She had killed the king, so she was the new queen – and, she thought, thinking over all the gossip over the years, all the news, and – she had a whole rotten kingdom to invigorate.

She spun threads at every moment, until it was unthinking: she whirred inside, searching out spirits wherever she stepped. She never seemed to have enough; she never reached her limit, for each time she took on more, ever more perished under her, like sand through her fingers. She kept the soldiers, because it was more entertaining to watch them fight for her; killing was too easy. No guilt. It was only nature that killed them: the ending of life was natural, after all.

And what followed was also natural. Poisoned food, a thrown knife, a pounding heart and gasping breath as she realised how close she had come. The unexpected attacks threw her, shook her, so she sharpened her wits, holding each thread in mind, vibrating the ones closest to her, sending messages down the wires. Always searching for energy nearby, always trying to control whatever she found, so no attack would happen again, so no attack would succeed. But she knew better than to flinch from facing her mortality, knew better than to think she was an exception to the rules of nature. She thought a great deal about her life, and her future, and what was inevitable – and she knew what she must do.

The birds loved her – of all the animals, she treasured them the most, and for that they worked hard for her. They sent messages back down the wires, images of villages and towns, images she scanned for hours and hours without sleep, until frustration would overcome her and she’d give up – until the next night, when the new images would be there. She strengthened her magic; she wove spells in her mind, mixing each thread together, and each spell she made was more powerful than the last, until it occurred to her that only one thing in life was impossible: avoiding death.

She searched ever harder.

 

Her Slave

She burned his village to the ground because it rebelled. He took up his sword against her, but she stopped each muscle in his body, and left him hanging, frozen, as if caught in a spider’s web. Her soldiers pressed in on his family.

‘I have a proposition,’ she said.

‘I won’t listen to anything you say!’ he spat. ‘You’re a monster!’

He was strong, so he would fight well for her. He was righteous, so it was all the more poignant that he was forced into her servitude. And he was beautiful. Of course he was beautiful. He had to be beautiful.

‘Come with me,’ she said, ‘and I will let them live.’

‘I’m a knight,’ he said. ‘I would rather die than – ‘

She blinked and a soldier stabbed through his father’s thigh – the family cried out but the swords stayed at their throats and no-one could move – and when she saw the anguish on Ethan’s face, she knew that she had won.

‘Kiss my ring,’ she said, holding out her hand.

‘No, Ethan –!’

He knelt at her feet, and he held her fingers as lightly as possible. She vibrated at the touch, suspending the woven threads above his head. His eyes were half lidded as he brought his face closer, and she saw the most touching moment: a flicker of his gaze to the floor, a hesitation, a small death within him.

He closed his eyes and his lips brushed her ring.

She sealed the spell. A beam of light closed around him, red and burning, and he shouted out and slumped over his knee, clutching his throat. When the light subsided it was there – the pattern, the red mark around his lower neck. His collar.

The family all cried for each other as she took him away, and the melodrama sickened her. People were nothing to the cry of the wind, to the everlasting pace of death and birth – a pace she knew she must desperately fight against.

‘You understand,’ she said to him in the carriage, ‘what I want of you.’

He did not say a word. She had pulled on his line, back then, sent messages down the wire into his mind.

‘You will be the father to my children – your blood will be passed down in royalty. Are you not proud?’

He did not reply, but she could feel, from the trembling of his thread, how scared he truly was. She did not care. It was all part of the unstoppable rhythm, a tide that washed over her and him and everyone else – and that never stopped for justice.

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Written by G.J.

04/07/2012 at 6:54 pm

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