Happy Halloween! Here is my offering for Heroines of Fantasy's~Fright Fest. A little possession, anyone? From A Time Never Lived:
“Myrie!” Quin’s voice went no further than the still, calm air around him. Water on his skin. Warm jam. Almost soothing. Almost pleasant.
“She cannot hear you.”
Quin startled, spinning one way, then the other. “Who—?”
“They want her, not you. You may go with the others if you wish.”
The soft, diffused voice came from inside the same strange bubble. “No,” he told it. “Not without her.”
“You cannot help her. And if those who wait choose to keep her, there is nothing you or I can do to prevent it.”
“There has to be. Please! Help me!”
The voice laughed softly, sweetly. “How do you know that I can?”
“You are one of them.”
“Am I?” A woman’s voice, now less diffused than it had been. “It has been a very, very long time since any of your kind braved this city. Longer still since one of hers dwelt here. How is it she is here, I wonder?”
Myrie’s image flashed in his mind’s eye, moments stolen from his brain and displayed one after another after another. The intimacy being pulled from private places shamed him. He tried to look away, but the images continued.
“Your heart takes you to impossible places.” A form coalesced before him. Yes, female. Young, or so she seemed. Quin squinted, trying to pull her image out of the disturbance in the air before him. Beyond the spectral woman, Myrie lifted off her feet. The mist swirled, turning her higher. Quin lunged. Insubstantial as the entity seemed, he bounced off it and to the ground.
“Please don’t let them hurt her!”
“They wish to keep her, love her, not hurt her.”
“They can’t!” he shrieked, his voice rising like flame from his mouth. “Please! I will do anything you ask in return.”
The sudden stillness of the air unnerved Quin more than the cold wind had. Heavy and thick like a humid, high-summer day in Bosbana, it formed a bubble around him that he could not see or touch but somehow feel. The apparitions in the mist had separated him from Myrie, though he could still see her, arms raised and face skyward.
The entity drew back, her form beginning to coalesce. Quin scrambled to his feet. The mist swirling around Myrie picked up speed. Her body twirled slowly within it.
“Anything?” No longer giddy and girlish, the voice was decidedly mature. “Will you brave the fire?”
Quin remembered those words. Hulath had said them, in the Library tower.
Her presence swelled. It warmed him like a bath. “Then carry me out of Vodi. Let me live inside of you for a time, and I will save her.”
“Done,” he said. “On my honor, I swear it.”
“How noble love makes a man.” The entity laughed softly. “How foolish.”
Something like a needle pierced the skin in the corner of his eye. Quin stumbled backward. “Ah!” He grabbed his head. The pinprick burned, spread, flowed through his body.
“Let me through,” the voice now in his head commanded. “Do not fight me or I cannot save her!”
Quin quieted; he bore the burning, the discomfort. His vision blurred. He saw the square as if he were looking down a long tunnel. At the end of it, Myrie. He struggled to maintain his balance. The cobbles under his feet at the ends of his ridiculously long legs were too far away. His arms flailed at his sides.
“Ease,” the voice said. “I will do what I promised.”
Quin obeyed. He could feel the entity inside him, behind his eyes, in his heart, her body stretched out within his as if he were the glove and she the hand.
Just ahead, Myrie still twirled. Around her, singing joyfully, a dozen distinct human figures danced in a circle. Quin’s occupied body moved forward into the gathering. They startled silent, parted for him to pass. Myrie’s spreading form coalesced.
Fool child! What have you done?
I bargained for our freedom. Let the dragondaughter go.
Never! She will be one with us.
You forget whose city this is. You forget your place.
If not for you, we would not be here. We want her. We will have her.
This body has agreed to house me, to carry me out of Vodi in exchange for their freedom; his, and hers.
Quin felt time stop, a collective breath drawn.
Out of Vodi? How is this possible? A stern voice broke from the chorus of voices. Quin’s eyes moved to find a hawkish nose and angry eyes far too close to his own. His entity held their ground.
I cannot leave Vodi. You cannot. But he can, if you let him. We will not get this chance again. It is the first in thousands of years.
It will never work! They will seek retribution, and it will be worse than what they have already done.
Do you speak for all, Rashul? Do you speak for anyone but yourself?
The Therk desecrated the temple! The Northman stole the dray. That cannot be allowed. They must be punished. Not even you can alter the curse. The chorus of spectral figures stood silent, stood still. The hair on Quin’s body prickled. His eyes never blinked.
We are ever-trapped, the one she called Rashul told her. The curse is a desert viper biting its own tail.
Quin’s lip twitched into a smirk.
The curse has already been altered, she said. They have escaped while you rejoiced over this dragondaughter, proving it can be done! Let the Therk have whatever bauble he took. The dray is of no consequence. This is our chance to undo what was done, for good and for all. Let her go. I will brave the fire as required. We will all be free. A rush of warm air rose up, blew him in circles. Cold air chased it; sea air dispersed it. The mist curled backwards, up the steps, down streets and alleys, into buildings. A rumbled boom hit low in his belly. Then, silence.
Dusk tinted the sky pink on the horizon. Above, stars were stepping forward into night. Quin straightened. Myrie stood before him, eyes bleary, cheeks crimson. Her fever raged in heat waves rising. He lifted her off her feet. She flopped in his arms, light as a doll. Quin’s strength surged. He shifted her in his arms, nestled her head against his shoulder. Kissing her brow, he lingered there, breathing her in. His heart tumbled in his chest. Relief threatened to overwhelm him.
“It is time to leave Vodi,” that voice spoke now inside his head, deep there, where he had been only moments before.
“And you are coming with me.”
“How? Where are you?”
“I am the sparkle in your eye, the extra step you take when all others tire. Leave the how and the where to me, and I will leave all else to you. Tell no one I am with you. We shall be one another’s secret.”
“No one would believe me anyway,” he murmured. “It feels…strange. Like a buzzing under my skin.”
“You will become accustomed to me.”
Myrie stirred against his chest. Quin’s arms tightened around her, hefted her higher. He left the domed temple, the square, the city that once again waited. Now, he knew what they waited for.