Memories of Bones
By Jenny Dickinson
"...and even after the flesh has been forgotten, we shall be naught but our love, and the memories of our bones..." -Atriel
Spring had been here scant weeks past, and with it came the flowers and birdsong. Now, summer breathed warmth into the world, as spring flowers faded into summer, and the eggs of spring hatched into the birds for next year's songs.
All the windows of the house were open, save a handful circling a tiny garret above the copula. This place was HIS and his alone. Only one dared venture up here, but she was well and fully welcomed. The room was sparsely furnished, a chair in the corner, a worn bookcase, and a brass-framed four-poster bed, bearing a filthy-looking patchwork quilt.
And atop the quilt, lay a ghost, reading a magic book.
He was comely, with auburn hair, and dusky skin. He wore a blue shirt under a darker blue vest, and a pair of breeches tucked into a nice pair of riding boots. All of the ensemble was decades, possibly centuries old. The only mar to this otherwise perfectly handsome figure was the gaping slash across his throat. Sometimes, on his worst nights, spectral blood oozed from it, and others, like today, it merely looked like a thin red line of blood.
Alex sighed, and rolled over onto his tummy as he turned another page. The seasons passed like weeks for the dead mage. Angela was his only real contact to the world, since Alastare had been moved out... and he was bored.
And worried too.
Angela was off at School in New Orleans, and he was worried she was growing up, and he was simply a toy to be discarded on the wayside, forgotten and neglected until a parent picked it up, and threw it out. In his case, he needed small infusions of her power to keep existing and the way things were going, he was edging on a thin razor's edge of deciding. He could go to the afterlife, leaving Angela to her own whims, or stay, and risk fading into nothingness once more, and being trapped like a shade, to relive, and relive the night of his death over and over until the end of time.
He vowed to never do that again, so he tried reading his old spell books in an attempt to locate a spell to either give him full life, or at least a partial one. He could feel the guardians of the beyond tugging stronger at him day by day, and he was so weakened from Angela's absence to New Orleans now he could no longer even manifest in a solid form anymore.
Angela... now she was a vision. When she was old enough to wield her necromancy, it had woken him from his torment as a shade. He saw the fair young kitsune half-breed, and fallen in love with her.
Power called to power, and heart to heart, she cast a spell, and gave him life on All Hallow's eve. They'd been in love, childish and innocent for a long time. Then the others came, Griffin, who was little more than a "monster under the bed." Righly, Lord Richard Monipiliar's strange magi Gardner with a strange taste for roses and all things pretty and/or Goth. Then Eric, Highgate cemetery's strange human fiddle-player and undertaker. Calanthe, the odd-eyed youth from Triskan, who shared Angela's skills in necromancy. Rahhnah, the healer of the very house she lived in, he was afflicted with a rotting disease, and dallying with Angela regularly helped him live, and to stay sane.
Alex sighed and shut his eyes, there were so many. So very many.
And soon, he'd be simply an invisible silent presence, until he faded out into a simple wandering shade. And to the nine hells if he wanted that. He wanted her. He loved her, adored her, he worshipped her. And why didn't she see that? Maybe he needed a body, like the others. Skin-riding them did him little good, he only felt shadows of the pleasures, like a dirty old man watching porno videos. He could look, and want, and lust, but he couldn't touch or truly feel what he was seeing.
Shadow love for a shadow lover.
He needed to be real for her. Maybe then she would notice him more. Maybe then, she and he could be together.
So the books. He spent as much time as he could reading as he did resting. He'd found several possible spells, but most of them required a living caster, and a necromancer to boot. He wasn't either, so he spent more time adjusting spells, and using himself as a guinea pig, using up his own ghostly magic to cast spells upon his ethereal flesh in the hopes he might bring himself a semblance of life.
All they'd gotten him so far was weaker, hurt, and frustrated. So he'd dug about in stolen books. Maven's books. Maven, golden-haired witch-queen of Highgate cemetery. Vampire lady to Lord Darkover himself. Maven, his murderess.
Yes, it was true, centuries ago, they'd fought on the very place this house now stood, and he died. Maven had run him to ground, bound him, and cut his throat. He died with a curse on his lips. Maven still had yet to figure out why everything she did brought her only further ruin. Alex smiled at that, at least he had something of his to leave behind if this failed. He stared at the pages, and sighed. He'd found a spell to try, but it was risky. If he failed this time, he'd have no energy left to return to even a half-life here.
He'd be a shade again, and Angela would never know what had become of him, since his grave had been moved, and she did not go there. Alex smiled again, and faded out, the book open on the bed. He needed to rest, then he could prepare. He wanted to cast it as soon as he could because either way, he was sure Angela would be angry if she knew what he was doing and what he was risking to do it.
* * *
Angela was standing in line at the fruit vendor's stall, string bag in hand, when a shaft of sunlight caught the golden ring she wore, and lit up the carved moonstone. She raised her hand and rubbed the stone thoughtfully. The skin beneath the ring was irritated, but she hadn't taken it off since she'd put it on. The stone was carved as a rose's bloom, and the band was a stylized stem, even down to a touch of green enameled on the leaves. More importantly, it was a link to Alex. All she had, since he'd decided he wanted to stay at the place of his death, rather than travel with her. The stone was cold, and she sighed. The golden skinned woman missed her ghostly companion - almost constantly, like the dull ache of a rotten tooth. If there was one thing that dominated her mind these days, it was the stabbing regret of her own inaction the first night they truly met. She closed her eyes and could almost feel the wind, and smell the grave rot. Would that she never made a mistake that big again.
"Miss?" Shaken out of her revere she blinked and looked at the vendor. "Are you ready??" he asked.
She smiled with a flash of white teeth and nodded, almost by reflex. "Yes, just these please."
Maybe she'd pop home this weekend. The moon was between full and dark here, so there wasn't anything she had to hands on learn. All she was supposed to be doing was reading. And she could do that at home as well as here. Maybe she could convince Alex to come back with her this time.
After all, she was doing this all for him, even if he didn't realize it.
* * *
Alex sighed and sat atop his grave. he'd never told her that this was where he had to go to rest. under the earth with the scraps that remained of his bones. The hunters had given his grave a marker, and one of their number with faith had blessed it consecrating the earth. That alone had added much to the earth's restorative properties to his form.
He lay atop the earth for a few scant moments, then sat up. He had to get it all done tonight, while the largest moon was between phases. He stood, and floated up to his room to gather what he needed. He'd gone back to the circle after that first fateful night to gather what he needed. The mingled blood of the not quite dead, and that of the vivaciously living. He would need that tonight, as well as some candles, herbs, and a potion. He'd saved enough energy to become solid so he could drink it. And if this failed, there wouldn't be enough left of him to remember her, or anything save the re-enacting of his death.
At the circle of the first spell, he thinned the blood chips with water, and drew a new circle, large enough for just himself. He placed the candles, burnt the herbs, and began the incant.
A wind blew up, and he saw what was to befall him if he failed, twisted and replayed, over and over and over outside the circle, trying to get in.
He closed his eyes to them, and continued to chant.
* * *
Angela leaned on her hand as she read, then jumped, shocked. The ring that had been pressed to her cheek was heating, then cooling rapidly. With each round, it got hotter, then colder.
* * *
Alex spoke the last bit of wording, and mustered the power and will to be solid again. He swallowed the bitter tincture in three sour-tasting gulps the threatened to make him lose even the memories of his food, and with a shaky hand, he threw the last of the herbs on the flames, and was caught up in a powerful whirlwind of power. It wiped through his hair, tossing him about like some child's toy, stole his breath, battered at his body, and knocked him, senseless, to the ground beneath his feet.
* * *
Angela awoke to find herself on the floor, a large, bleeding bruise on her chin where she'd cracked it on her fall. She remembered she'd tried to stand up. The golden kitsune spat out blood into her cup. Her mouth was full of blood too. Judging from the pool and stain on the carpet, she'd been out for a while, oozing thin blood onto the ground.
"Well, there goes my security deposit," she mumbled weaving back and forth.
A moment of concentration she stood more steadily on four feet. Then she loped out and leapt out the window, bouncing off the balcony below hers, moving to a street lamp, before hitting the cobblestones. She had to get to where the portal was marked. She had to get home.
* * *
Sun warming his face awoke him. He blinked sleepily and tried to get up. Grass tickled his nose, and he sneezed, shaking his head as if to clear the cobwebs from it. Instead, a handful or so of dirt tumbled from his hair and back. He sat up, blue eyes blinking at the bright sun. He sneezed again, and rubbed at his nose before reaching for the rough pillar of stone beside him to get to his feet.
As he stood, he felt the rock, cool under his hand and started, falling back onto his arse again. He was more shocked his hand had NOT gone through the thing more than he'd simply touched it. He looked, astonished, at bronzed hands and ran them through the grass at his sides. Then he tilted his head back, and laughed. Even when he'd forced himself to manifest as solid, he'd never been able to see the world as anything more than dim and gray, or felt much more than the hardest changes in texture and light. Centuries had passed, and he'd become so used to grass and greenery looking a sickly gray, browns a muted dead color... and everything wrapped in distorted shadows only the dead could see, the bright summer scene about him was a joy to behold.
So it was he didn't notice the tall slim lady behind him, golden hair falling in ringlets about her form. She hissed, and tackled him, sending him into a tumble on the ground in the middle of the stone ring. Maven's ghostly shadow hissed, though he well knew the real Maven wasn't dead at all, and she punched him in the gut, stealing his breath, and any spell he might muster.
He managed to get up, to run, and she followed him. Astonished, the hunters within Haven saw the fully living shape of their ghost run breathlessly into the house, to stand at the foot of the steps, where, before the house had been built, his grave had been.
Maven's shade, they could not see, but those in the area of that room saw the young boy's head pulled back as he was forced to kneel, and then the thin red line across his throat that was followed by a waterfall of blood as again, his life was taken. He dropped to hands and knees, trying uselessly to again staunch the blood, only to topple over to his side again, choke out something too soft to be heard by all but the best set of ears, and he died, leaving a pool of bright blood behind as he faded out of view.
Alex hissed and sat up in the circle again. This wasn't right. As alive and yet not he was reliving his death in an endless loop, but he was Alive and aware of it. The spell had gone terribly wrong... he'd thought that being simply an unaware shade was terrible, but this... nothing could be worse than this. Maven tackled him again, and everything began anew....
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Memories of Bones © 2001 by Jenny Dickinson
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