Summary:Spring dreams of speaking once more with Winter.


< A Vision of Darkest Night | Sol Invictus Logs | I'm Going To Live Forever >

A tavern explodes.

`Spring snores and turns over, even as the constantly aware part of his brain decides that he needs to eat more carefully to avoid dreams like this.

The empty sky stretches out in front of Spring, though he cannot see it. From miles above, he hears the sounds of burning wood falling at terminal velocity through the huge empty space outside the vast tree, while through the entry-hole behind him, he hears the rustling and clanging of war preparations.

A few moments later, three more explosions echo: two branch-cities to the upper-right and straight left of his location, and a Spearfolk knothole fortress almost directly below where he stands... this time he can feel the entire tree shake with the force of the destruction.

`Spring glances back through the entrance questioningly, wondering whether it is worth it to wait, or whether he should begin climbing.

The other figures who -- he could swear -- had been in the room within have disappeared, and the weapon racks that line the edges of the chamber are half-emptied -- presumably they all ran off to confront the foes who have brought the war to them.

On the outside of the tree, the rain of burning debris grows stronger and thicker -- there doesn't seem to be any way to move on out there.

`Spring sighs, briefly contemplating a climb through the flames, then turns and heads for the tunnels going into deeper and, to the sighted, darker, places.

Spring winds his way through tunnels yet familiar and yet incredibly strange, navigating through smell and touch as he learned to do from the earliest infancy, even as he feels the Wasirranu shake and rattle around him with each following explosion. He winds his way down into the lower depths of the tree, until finally he sets foot in a chamber he does not at all remember, from life or from any previous dream:

the top half is perfectly spherical, with three tunnels (including the one Spring emerges from) leading into it at equidistant points. The floor is polished to a shine and lacquered, a vanity almost unknown amongst Heartwood Spearfolk settlements. And at the center is a tall chair of intricately carved wood, rendered into elaborate scenes of war and death, upon which sits a very familiar figure...

`Spring "Ah," Spring says neutrally, while his sleeping body grapples for a pen and paper. "Winter. How nice to see you again."

`Winter waves his metallic arm at the new arrival. "Nice of you to join me here." The entire tree shakes once more from another distant explosion.

`Spring "To be honest, I did not see another option."

`Spring "Are you possessing me again?"

`Spring I would prefer you not."

`Winter shakes his head. "No, no, nothing like that today." He looks around the room with interest, using his creepy red eyes.

`Spring cannot see them and does not find them creepy at all. "A social call, then? I wish you would not drop enormous balls of fire on my tree merely to announce yourself."

`Winter "Oh, none of this is my doing," he says. "I would have picked a more pleasant place to chat, I'm sure. There are no victuals here." He gestures, as if to establish that there is indeed no food or drink.

`Spring "Ah. That is, indeed, problematic."

`Spring "What, then, brings you here?"

`Winter "We still have things to talk about," he says, and stands up from his chair.

`Spring "I suspect we will always have things to talk about."

`Spring steps forward along the floor, feeling the smooth surface under his feet.

`Winter "Do you now," says the figure, as he walks around to the back of his chair. "Have you been busy, preparing for the crises ahead?"

`Spring "For once, I am proud to say that my compatriots will be shouldering much of the work, while I wait to see what events require of me."

`Winter "That must be difficult for you," he says. He walks away from the chair and another explosion wracks the tree, this one dislodging debris and chunks of wood from the ceiling of the current chamber.

`Spring is struck by a piece of debris, and brushes the blood from his arm. "I am hoping that it will teach me patience and readiness."

`Spring "And how have your plans been progressing?"

`Winter "I have no plans," he says, spreading his hands in the air. "My existence is tenuous, ephemeral at best." He reaches out with his soulsteel hand and pushes over the chair, which falls eagerly to the floor with a loud crash. "What could I possibly be 'planning'?"

`Spring slips, as the tree shakes, and feels his way along the floor, his fingers running in the gouges the chair's fall left in the lacquer. "You have something. I feel it. You have Verbena, and Innocence, and the seal. You have some intention."

`Winter shakes his head. "A mere feint," he says, and shrugs smugly. "What could I possibly do with those things?"

`Spring grasps the edge of the chair and pulls himself to his feet. "If I knew, I would not be asking."

`Spring "What do you want, Winter?"

`Winter grips the top edge of the now-overturned chair with his soulsteel hand and squeezes. "What does anyone want?"

`Spring stands straight, sightless face pointed at Winter. "Wealth. Safety. Power. A perfect end to all suffering."

`Winter nods bemusedly. "Those are very desirable things, aren't they?" His creepy red eyes narrow. "And yet you think I want something else."

`Spring "Because, as you have said yourself, you are not real."

`Winter grins.

`Spring slides, as the great tree shakes, and leans heavily on the side of the chair, feeling for the first time in many years weak from loss of blood.

`Spring "If you die in a dream, what happens to you?"

`Winter "Your soul is claimed by the umbral chimerae, who slowly devour it over millennia while it remains wholly conscious in unendurable agony," he says, grinning, and releases his grip on the chair. "Or you wake up, safe but shaken."

`Spring "Well, that gives me even odds."

`Spring "What if you die in reality?"

`Winter "If I do?" He stops to rub his chin musingly. "When someone 'kills' me, takes what passes for a body in this spectral existence and destroys it utterly.... well, you've seen what happens there already." He looks down at the mocking form he's taken post-resurrection with, perhaps, the tiniest hint of shame. "So that can't be the meat of your question."

`Winter "If I truly die...." His voice trails off in a way that suggests he's considering something more seriously than he has in, perhaps, a very long time. "Then that's the end. My future, annihilated. And my past gone, a retroactively meaningless prelude to an anticlimactic conclusion." He shakes his head.

`Winter "The final ending of the undead is what the naive living only think they fear in the great beyond."

`Spring attempts to ponder this and bleed out at the same time, with mixed success.

`Spring "We fear oblivion. But we receive...Lethe?"

`Winter seems irritated by the very mention. "The perfect ending for the endless hordes of the weak," he snarls. "A soft, warm, healing embrace for those not daring enough to seek for immortality," he says, and then, overly proud, "much less those clever enough to actually achieve it."

`Spring "Can you achieve immortality? Can anything put you beyond that fear of true death?"

`Winter "I don't fear true death! No one can get close to me!" he shouts, and his soulsteel hand squeezes the wood of the chair so hard that it too bursts -- shards of wood exploding outwards at high velocity in perfect time with another, much larger explosion that shakes the entire Wasirranu so violently that Winter is almost himself thrown to the ground amidst the cracking and breaking of the chamber walls.

`Winter After a moment, however, the assault ceases, and he straightens himself up, adjusting his cloak slightly as he, newly calm and reserved once more, carries on as if nothing has happened. "I do intend very much to be immortal. However long this world carries on, I will be there to smile cruelly at it in its final moments."

`Spring lounges back, somehow breathing easier despite the hand-sized fragment of wood protruding from his chest, rising and falling with his lungs. "But is this your destiny, or just your goal? How likely is it that things will go as you do not intend?"

`Winter -- still entirely untouched by the debris and damage now covering almost everything in the vicinity, and even the fires that have started to spread into the chamber from nearby explosions -- grins. "Things will go as I intend," he says, "I am certain of that. Who needs plans when the universe conspires on your behalf?"

`Spring "Some of us still find them useful."

`Spring "What makes you think the universe is on your side?"

`Winter blinks. "I've seen it," he says. "The stars are right." The flames are spreading more aggressively now; most of the room is, at this point, both falling apart and on fire.

`Spring falls heavily on his back. The piece of wood moves still, but slower, and not as high. "But which stars? The living or the dead?"

`Winter grins again, even wider, and he seems almost a bit manic now. "That's the beauty of it," he says, starting to laugh. "Neither."

`Spring The wood rises, falls. Rises. Falls. Rises.

`Spring 's lips move. "Show me."

`Spring ...falls.


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Page last modified on April 25, 2011, at 08:15 PM