Categories > Original > Fantasy > After0 Reviews
Frankie is a historian by instinct. While others might prefer to forget, she cannot help but search out the secrets of the past.
"It isn't over." Fian said, three weeks on from that morning on the Weather Isle. He was drunk, of course; he'd never have said it sober. And poetic, too; surprisingly so. "Just another turn on the spiral, another knot in the cord."
I doubt he'll ever understand why I'm writing all this down. He doesn't think history matters.
"All we ever do," he argued, "is add a few more twists and turns to the tale, so that next time around it's just a little more tangled..."
But in my world, history is linear. The past doesn't come around again - not as a rule, proverbs to the contrary - and so it's worth remembering. And even if this will all come to pass again, in one form or another, isn't it worth recording? Can't some future generation learn from the lessons of our past?
"No." Theo shook his head when I asked him. "Fae for you. Never bloody learn." And he stomped away among his bookshelves, irritated, I think, by the answer more than the question.
Kerry was never anything but supportive, of course, as much because she wants the truth herself as because she loves me.
Lin got a strange look in her eyes when I told her what I planned. "Another seeker-after-truth." She murmured, and put her head in her hands. "Saints preserve us, another one. Be careful, Francesca. For the love of God, be careful."
(Theo told me, later, how curiosity killed Deian Fox, whom they called seeker-after-truth, and how Lin always blamed herself).
But she came back, two days after I spoke to her, with the wildness still in her eyes and something feral about her stance; perched in the window-sill with her fingers curled loosely around the spear. "Of course, we thought it was over then, too." She said; no preamble. "After I killed Simon, and we called the truce. We thought that was the end of it."
"Surely Moranwen knew..." I suggested; she shrugged expansively.
"Moranwen does as she will. Fian told me that, years ago, and he should know." From the pocket of her combat trousers - ragged, stitched and mended, she never seems to buy new clothes - she produced a small hand-mirror, the frame worked in tarnished silver leaves and flowers. "So many dreams have died, the mirror turns the past to stone. Be careful what you wish for, seeker-after-truth. Some truths have edges as sharp as any sword. Look."
Five years ago, I'd not have bothered looking; a mirror's a mirror, right? Or I'd have thought there was some trick to it, something that made shadows move in the mirror's depths. But that was five years ago.
I crossed the room to look closer.
In the mirror's depths, Lin - a younger Lin, sad-eyed but without the crippling world-weariness - walked across a frozen marsh, beneath grey skies. I didn't recognise the young man at her side, but silver wings, silver veins that marched across his skin, and silver eyes added up to Sferen, the Spring Champion, her dead lover. Davy followed - shockingly youthful, surely still in his teens - flanked by Fian, stiffly alert but with a certain weariness in his stride, and Tristan, the look in his eyes hunted and haunted.
Across the marsh, a ragged band waited, no weapons drawn, but hostility in their stance nonetheless. The exiles, of course; there at their head were Trick and Seanan Tarnegie.
"I was expecting a face-off, but not this one." Lin murmured. "I thought Davy would be the target... This was, oh, a few days after I killed Simon. I didn't realise that Trick had tried to take Fian down as well. Damn near succeeded, too. Why he looks so surprised." Her voice was quite detached, as if she'd long ago come to terms.
I'm still not sure how I feel about that.
"Fianbach Gafeny." Trick-in-the-mirror grated, with his eyes locked on the Ceriog's champion.
"Patrick Tarnegie." Mirror-Fian replied, in the same tone.
"So you bring us another one, nephew?" Trick's words came out snarled and angry.
"I don't bring, cousin; I follow." Fian snapped back. There is bitterness between them still, but there, in the mirror, the wounds were fresh and new.
"Yes, you always /did/. Blind as ever." Trick rolled his eyes, and there was a grim relish in his voice.
"Not any more." Fian was actually shaking with anger; /Fian/, who's always so self-controlled. Davy and mirror-Lin exchanged worried glances.
"For how long?" Trick seemed quite self-possessed; if, as Lin said, he had been surprised to see Fian alive, it was gone now. "How long before you find yourself longing for another Frost-cold master to give your soul to?"
"I said no more/!" Fian seemed on the verge of movement, but Mirror-Davy flung out his arm, and he stopped dead. Of course Fian could have broken any hold Davy put on him; he must have reined in his temper, /let that imperious gesture hold him...
"Telling, isn't it..." Lin rolled her eyes. "Bloody puppet." I must have looked like I was about to argue, because she laughed. "Easy. That's Lacy talking. I like the man, and anyway it was never his fault. Finian was a damn good puppetmaster."
Mirror-Trick looked about to comment, but Seanan stepped forward, face serene, eyes hostile. "Enough." She murmured, silencing whatever vindictive barb lay on his lips. "We're here to seal a wound, not pour vinegar on it."
"Hah." Trick muttered, with a flicker of his eyes towards mirror-Lin. "We're here on a promise." He turned to Davy. "Give me your hand, boy."
Fian half-choked at that, but Davy shrugged, stepping forward, holding out his hand.
"Damned idiot was convinced he could sense the Frost on someone. God alone knows where he got that idea. He never knew about Moranwen till she bloody told him, for a start." Lin's mutter was irritated. "Damn us all for believing he knew what he was talking about."
"It's true." Mirror-Trick sighed, after a long moment. "I'm damned if I know how, but it's true." He dropped Davy's hand, and turned aside. "Forgive me that I doubted you, Lin." He said softly. "I scarcely thought it possible that any son of Finian's/..." The name was twisted, half-spat, bitter. "We thought that /monster's blood was beyond all hope. That's why we left..."
"Left." There was a bitter, sarcastic edge to Fian's voice as he echoed that one word. Trick spun to glare at him; they locked eyes for another long moment, on the verge of snarling at one another.
Trick broke the moment with a dismissive snort, and turned to Davy. "It's been said we ran." His voice was tight, his stance and tone aggressive enough to make the slight Davy back off a little. "'Taint so. We walked away. We never ran." Davy nodded slowly. "We stood by Finian a dozen years after the Frost took him, gave him all we had, and he gave us only scars. It wasn't an easy choice to make..."
Trick glanced to Seanan, and she took up the tale. "Finian was kin, and I don't leave kin lightly. I'd not have left at all, but that I could see the Frost already starting to touch his son - and I was carrying a child of my own."
"Aw yeah, g'wan, ma, blame me fer everything!" That was a younger Morag Tarnegie, hands on her hips, green eyes flashing bright fire at her parents. Mirror-Lin chuckled, and the tension lifted a little. Trick grinned at his young daughter, and even Fian relaxed his guard.
"We gave your father everything, heart and soul and sweat and blood, until we had nothing left to give, and still he demanded more. It broke our hearts, it cost us friends," his eyes flicked to Fian, "but in the end, we had no choice. We had to go."
In the silence that followed, Davy shucked off his thin black shirt, fair hair hanging loose across his own scarred back. The statement was clear and plainly made: I, too, have served the Frost-ridden. "I can understand that." He said quietly.
Trick nodded; recognition, and understanding. All was stillness for a few moments more, and then Davy sighed, a tiny sound that somehow drew the attention of everyone there. "What do you want from me?" He asked, voice calm and clear.. "I'd welcome you back - " a hand raised to still Fian's protest - "but I don't think that's what you want." A brief pause. "He might say you want forgiveness for leaving - " another quick, calming gesture, this time to still the anger that flickered, almost palpable, through Tarnegie's men - "but I'm not fool enough to insult you by offering it."
As Davy spoke, he bundled up his shirt, and tossed it casually to Fian. In his champion's moment of distraction, he stepped closer to Tarnegie, a slight, young figure, half-naked, and the very picture of vulnerability. Fian started forward, but a glance from Davy made him freeze. "And if it's revenge that you're wanting, for everything my father and my brother did to you... Then here I am."
I'd never credited Davy with that much nerve; that scene could have gone either way, very easily, and it was obvious that he knew it. The silence stretched out.
At last Seanan spoke, addressing her words to Davy, but with a flicker of her eyes towards Fian. "I'd have peace between our people."
"As would I." Davy replied, calm and solemn, with a warning glance towards Fian that mirrored Seanan's.
"We'll not bow the knee to any Ceriog now," Trick's voice was as measured as his wife's, "but if you deal fairly with us, we'll deal fairly with you."
"So be it." Davy's voice was a bare whisper, as he held out his hand to Trick. Only a moment's hesitation, then the older man took it, grip firm, hands work-hardened. They shook and parted, Seanan calling out a couple of crisp comments that got the rabble moving along with them, while a sullen Fian fell in behind Davy as he headed away.
The mirror-image faded as Lin put it down on my desk. "Lord, but we were young then." There was a distant pain in her voice. "Day - Deian - was the first person I thought of when I found this. He'd have loved it." She shook herself like a wet dog, and repeated her warning as she moved towards the door. "Be careful, seeker-after-truth. Be careful."