Mark here, folks, with what amounts to a rough original. A version of this will appear in Pevanese Mosaic. I tried for a fable-like tone for this February Love theme. I'm glad I got to go first because, from what I have seen, what's coming up for the rest of the month will be mind-blowingly cool. My effort concerns the love between Grayce Stonesmith and Devyn Ambrose, two fun people who have been percolating on my pages for some time now. I hope you like it. Enjoy the rest of the month!
Another Shade of Green
She came to the city on its hill poised above the bay; drawn by white walls and roofs of red tile and streets that mirrored the lines she had followed through the trees to the valley. Memories drove her, shapes, sounds and smells urged her ever forward until she found herself standing amid the dust of the road before the broad open gates.
The one who let her ride in his produce wagon named it for her: Pevana, city of the King.
Days she spent wandering the alleys and ways, observing, drawing, noodling herself into the rhythm of the place. Work she found that memories not dark allowed she had skills to complete, and by degrees, a gentle smudging away of the road's hardness and those other, darker memories, she let the veils of contentment drape themselves over her fears so that home became part of the whispers she would hear in her city-wide wanderings.
She had left her old life in search of a new shade of green, but Pevana showed her a palette-full of tinctures ruddy, honest, bold and subtle, and for awhile the whispers of green faded beneath the bustle. She left her mark on Pevana's vacant walls, scratched her mysteries in the alley dirt, and connected the whirls of her waking and slumbering self by lines.
Lines of power. Lines of truth. Wordless poems. Joined.
She smiled at the world, then, aware, content, happy, in as much as she had any sense of the word, for always there remained the vague outlines of those darker memories, lurking, waiting, THERE.
And in those times when lines would break, those thoughts would perplex her hand, the quivering bringing her effort to an end so that she would have to pause and will her heart to slow, her breath to calm, her hand to still. Her only defense against the worst of those moments was to recall a poem on a page tucked behind a rock in a cave on a hill and the face of her lover that came to her from the words...
But she had no lover. Would have none. Such things as love long driven out by those dark memories and more immediate needs...like shape, sound and smell and the need to draw it all.
And then one day she met him: dark hair framing a tanned, weathered face ghosted by a beard that moved when he smiled and caused his eyes to whisper intimations of green before fading to hazel beneath a brow creased, or so she imagined, all too often by concern.
He took her hand, decorous, careful, and breathed a greeting.
"I am Devyn," he whispered to her fingers before meeting her eyes. "And I feel as though I know you. I find myself turning down odd streets in the city, and when I do, I find...things, images, shapes. They must be yours, of course."
She gazed at his eyes, saw again the flash of green behind the hazel and found her breath.
"I am Grayce," she said, taking back her hand, but she felt a line connecting finger tip to finger tip nonetheless. "My drawings, yes, I'm sorry they caught you."
A question flared in his expression, quickly dispelled by a casual smile.
"No, not caught, lady. No trap this, I think."
And lines entwined after, his and hers, taking up the spaces, places and people of the city on its hill above the bay. Little by little, the way a drawing evolved from first scratches on parchment, they drew themselves a hope. And the lines became a pattern and the pattern became a binding and when the moments reached a certain pitch they shared what they were with each other.
A story in a caress.
A promise in a glance.
Two worlds that met in a first embrace.
She saw the city of the king and its hill above the bay with different eyes then, touched by his vision, and she sought points of convergence, clarity, a place to make fast and forbid the memories dark that had all but driven her there. And he looked afresh at the home he thought he knew, and his own memories of dust and struggle, want and loss faded beneath an upwelling so strong he had to catch hold of his heart lest it burst with the new.
"My love," he whispered to her in the night, that first of many nights.
"Always," she sighed, rising to meet him, and again, always over many nights.
"I love your words," she said to him once by the shore. "They take me places I dared not go before. They trouble me, sometimes, and yet in the end I always find comfort." A breeze teased her hair, making several long tresses dance, eldritch, before his face.
"And I love your shapes and images," he replied. "They speak new words to me, color my meaning and myself. And your hair tickles away my cares."
"Have I such power then?"
"As much as I, and more it seems."
"But what if I were to go?" she asked, and her words nearly caught in her throat when she saw his face fall to grey.
"Then I would follow your lines, as before, until I found you. Please, love, stay."
And so she stayed.
Days fell out of time for them, became stardust, magic, cadence, song-endlessly repeated but never the same. She found herself laughing at the way light fell on spoons. He grew youthful in lust and hope and all the things matched couples fall heir to. She imagined roots of some mythical tree. He dreamed of green...
But there came a time when storm-clouds rose in the east, fire-tinged at their edges, driven by a hateful wind west to loom above the city of the king on its hill above the bay. And underneath those clouds an armada floated on cruel ships that spilled forth an army of death clad in grey. Fire descended from the clouds to strike the city's high places, and fire came from below as the enemy struck the low. They forced the harbor gate, spilling spears and fear ten thousand fold, breaking the spaces, places and people of the city webbed by their conjoined lines.
Red and yellow lines of fire spread throughout the ways of the city, and Grayce wept to feel them, to see them in her mind's eye. All color, all hope of green bled to black. And when Devyn came to her, arrayed for battle, hard edges and hard eyes searching hers for understanding, very nearly she left herself.
"I must, love, for the saving of this place. My duty calls me. Let you stay here until I return."
She had no word for him, then, her voice stilled by the sense of unraveling lines, departed lives, welling memories of a past she had thought forgotten. She accepted his rough, last embrace, met his kiss, lingered at the touch of his warm lips, sickeningly aware of the coldness of her own.
"Stay," he said.
"I will try," she replied.
Then he was gone, and she felt a severing as though a world ending. She fled before the advance of red-dark death and fear-driven fire and left the city of the king on its hill above the bay. She ran blind. Instinctive flight. Silent to the world yet soul screaming and ruptured.
She found old lines, grasped them like a lifeline and followed them back, back to a cave beneath a hill and its dearly remembered poem...but no earthly fire could warm her. She waited, cold, barren, without color for the end.
There came rains, and when they ended in vapor shredding through trees, she saw him ride out of the mist, leading another mount on a line behind.
He dismounted, armor-less, ragged, wet, one arm wrapped in a bloody bandage. He reached into a saddlebag and proffered a roll of pages: her drawings.
"You left these," he said.
"And you," she husked, ashamed, astounded by his presence.
"And me," he agreed.
"And the city?" she asked, taking the roll.
"Burned, mostly, but saved in the end."
"And you came after me?"
"It was saved, but not for me."
"I don't understand."
"Old lines kept me, but new lines called me, after. I said I would follow."
"But the rains, how?"
She let him take her in his arms, felt his warmth ease her chill, felt his tears on her cheek answering her own gasping sobs as loss, remorse, and fear all leached away in the now of the two of them.
And after a silence, she heard his words through her hair.
"Love, rain cannot wash away the ties between you and me." She felt his laughter like a joyful tremor as he pulled away to look into her eyes. "Besides, I've been here before."
"How did you know?"
"How does anyone know? I left something here once, a bit of my soul, perhaps. I think you have always had it."
"So what are we to do, now?" she asked.
He took her back to the mouth of the cave. Westward, the setting sun outlined a mountain peak.
"I've heard there is a pass there," he said, helping her mount, "in that cleft to the right. Let's try it."
He swung into his own saddle.
"What will we find there?" And yet despite her question, she felt a smile tease the corners of her mouth.
He returned her smile, and the hazel in his eyes blinked.
"Perhaps we will find another shade of green..."