Shadows in the Mountain
« on: April 12, 2020, 11:06:21 PM »
The stars had been so pale and distant. Mother Night's cold eye gone dark. There had been only the sigh of her wings the thrum of her heart. Shadows had been thin, the darkness leveled by her great eyes.

And in the distance, void against the shadows, a thrumming ache. The Keep.

She hadn't gone to it the first day she'd had her fever dreams, when she'd shot awake from the images of smoke and glass shattering in the jagged lines of a sinister web. She'd been out of sorts, blind with directionless energy and anxiety, crafting webs in any available space she could find. Her hands had burned with it after, when she came to crouched between bedpost and wall, shining threads in tight spirals, in zig-zags, in sweeping arrays. Anchored with chips of opal half and half again the size of her littlest finger's nail. They shone like beads of mist suspended in dawn, some darkened with heaving emotion. Others with blood.

That evening she'd spent her hours reframing, packing away the ones with images made unclear, too blurry to discern or too full of sensations she couldn't explain away. Flight. Wind whipping through her feathers. The weight of an elk in her talons. Memories, feelings, the sliding lines of thought that never really went away. They were twisted by her dreams - the elk writhed with giant maggots, her feathers fell free of her skin in a dark cloud - but she couldn't part with them. Perhaps she could send them to a parcel of widows to pluck over, or into the deep wood.

Presenting the clearest, least incriminating to her Queen was the next logical step, once they were neat and tidy and securely framed. But Shrie found herself pacing instead.

Too many memories. Too much feeling.

Scattered, frayed, she'd taken to the sky.

The air had felt wrong, tasted wrong. The farther she'd flown from her home, deeper into the night and the territory following instinct and idea, the heavier it became. Like oil over water, thin and cloying. She was drawn to it, repulsed by it. But as the mountains rose toward her, Shrie couldn't make herself turn back. Trepidation and excitement warred within. She imagined the lingering sensation of Craft across her wings like flashes of lightning.

And all the while the Keep grew greater and greater until it speared the sky, monolith and terrible.

Silent, she dove.

Glass in foreign constellations spread across the ground, yawning empty mouths mounted in walls left in their wake. Holes, where stone had fallen from stone and the veins of the structure were revealed and the night wind roamed. Tilting, flight feathers angling to sweep aside rather than over, she circled. Avoided the tower, like its peak held a great eye that would not see her if she did not acknowledge it.

Her talons met the stone and glass with a clatter, wings shuffling in discomfort at the noise even as she took careful, clicking steps forward. Even in the dark, the shadow of the Keep lost amid the night, she could feel its presence over her, and her shoulders fluffed, wings mantling. Peering into the muted dark, she scoured the empty halls.

Not even rodents braved the corridors yet.

Curiosity winning out over prickling nerves, she took wing again, circling low searching for a window wide enough to dive through. Picking the largest she flapped faster, gaining speed before drawing her wings tight in to her body and shooting through the gap.

The stones were slick under her grip when she reached out to grab at the floor, running into yards of aged carpet too late to stop from careening into a wall. Agitated, wings mantling awkwardly in the narrow space, Shrie cursed herself. Impulsive, idiot girl, she thought, forcing herself to sooth, feathers flattening, wings forcibly relaxed across her back. This was a dumb move, Shriewhy. This was not a place built with your wings in mind. Talons clicking on the stone as she walked, probes sweeping for traps, she turned her head to watch down the hall she'd slid through. She knew any staircase for the tower would be too narrow to navigate with her differently angled shoulders, and snooping through only one floor would not satisfy the scratchy hunger the curiosity bred. She had sense enough not to shift back and walk the halls alone, but she desperately wanted to.

Pacing along a line of blown out windows she sent her probes out, feeling out the edges of the ache below as lightly as she dared. Lingering violence, and the stone-memory surrounding it all.

She'd have to come back, on her feet, and with a reason.

Maybe, with a Queen.

Beak clicking in excitement at the idea, satisfied with the vagaries of her plan, Shrie picked her way back to the big window and launched herself forward, allowing her wings to pass through the sides of the windows she couldn't navigate around rather than scratching herself on jagged glass.

It had taken everything in Shriewhy's body, both shapes, not to fly immediately to her lady. to urge her to the Keep. Never mind her wings, her lack of webs, and the lat hour at which she finally came back over her own home. She wanted to pick Glorian up by the shoulders and carry her off so they could skip the boring parts.

Instead, she'd descending into where the tree line met the wilds of her untamed yard and changed, sky already bright with the dawn. She spent the rest of the morning organizing her thoughts, her plans, however thin. Saw them pan out like flight paths over an open field, the grass just tall enough to disguise dips and gullies while she passed over. There would be areas she would have to dance around, she was sure, but not so many as to be suspicious. Pleased with herself, and the sun a hand-span above the horizon, she'd returned to bed.

She slept the day away, resting, letting her thoughts collect as strange dreams. The tower of the Keep spearing into the sky, shadow ticking across the ground and over her as the sun rose and fell in rapid succession. The rush of dozens of featherless people taking flight at once. And through it all the ache she'd felt in the walls of the keep, bone-bruise deep. Lingering.

These dreams got their own webs, once she rose. Framed in twisted branches rather than the more formal frames she got in the market. Frames from the home parcel, or like them. She left these with the others in her home to deliberate over later.

The morning after, mostly rested, best webs checked and double checked for any incriminating evidence before being stowed in her cabinet, she'd dressed herself for a trip. Good boots, functional pants, a bright, plain shirt. Her lady could fly openly, after all, and Shrie wanted to be easy to spot from the air. Sky only barely brightening from deep indigo, a basket of breakfast and a carafe of coffee over one arm as a peace offering, she set off for her lady's house.

A footman with a truly impassive face let her in - Garret? - who Shrie ended staring at for a good five minutes, contemplating the nature of non-Osheah Blood who were nocturnal, before she remembered she should stop. "I'm to see Lady Glorian," she stated, affecting her best, least accented voice. "I've something she should see."

He left her to a sitting room, hearth low in consideration of the relatively warm night. She fought not to pace, placing the basket with deliberate care on one of the tables by a well appointed settee before side stepping around it to peer at the wall ornamentation. The interior of her own home had papering in a design meant to subtly mimic leaves, and she'd appreciated it, but she'd never found much that she wanted to hang or frame that wasn't a web.

She'd moved on to the sparse decor above the hearth when Glorian appeared. Twisting to face forward, she bowed, "Lady Glorian. Auspicious morning wishes to you. I hope my visit finds you well." She straightened, wrist in hand behind her back to keep from fidgeting too obviously, even if she couldn't keep the edge of energy from her smile. Hopefully they would be on their way quickly.