The Lore-Binding

1:

Carabelle watched closely, her big brown eyes catching the amber highlights of the hearth fire, as her father put the sword he finished yesterday over yet another flame, an eldritch flame of a magic that could turn out to be good or evil. But where the hearth fire danced with fiery scarves the shades of autumn leaves, this Lorefire, circled in stone, had the shades of a deep winter night when the full moon turned a snowy forest to hues of silvery blue.

She was conflicted. Mother had made him promise never to share the ritual of Lore-binding with her.

***************

“Too much could go wrong. They’ll turn her. They’ll take her, and she won’t be able to stop them. Then what would you do?

Promise me, Pim. Promise!”

He opened his mouth, but hesitated, tried again as she clutched his sleeve, her nails scoring his skin as her body arched slightly. She gasped twice, looking, her eyes hopeful, then widened in panic as she saw that he wouldn’t. She tried to hold on for one more breath but couldn’t. The promise remained unspoken, but Carabelle, standing just outside the door, heard her mother’s plea.

Pim, after a moment or two passed, suddenly turned into a blubbering heap; all Carabelle could do was go inside the cold room, hold him in her small arms, and cry with him.

When she finally looked up, her mother’s eyes were still open, still staring, still waiting…

**************

“The secret to Lore-binding, Carabelle, is a strong funnel. The spirits are contained behind all sorts of things that separate our worlds, and a Binder needs to be careful. They crave to interact with humans, reclaim that which they left behind.

“In the space between realms, if they escape the funnel there’s no telling what they’ll do.

“Some even dream of conquest.”

“Mom told you to promise never to show me this.”

“I know, and I wanted to, but I couldn’t because the times are too perilous. But you’re of an age now, and we had no son that I could pass this down to as a legacy.” He stopped for a second, the sword balanced across his hands, his eyes locked onto hers.

“Carabelle, are you afraid? If so, leave now, and we’ll never attempt it again. I’ll never speak of it again with you, and I’ll find an apprentice.”

Carabelle was tempted, every cautionary instinct shouting, but she finally shook her head. “I’m not afraid, Father.”

Pim nodded. “Good. Bring the funnel.”

It took both hands, slow steps, and great caution, but Carabelle guided the funnel safely into position, encircling the fire, snug against the perimeter stones. Pim nodded approvingly, and she felt a warm glow of satisfaction, tinged with guilt as it was.

“Now turn the hourglass. I have to close my eyes, sweetheart. Keep watch, and call me out of the trance immediately if something goes wrong. Don’t be afraid to wake me. Do you understand?”

Carabelle swallowed as she turned the hourglass, then looked at her father and nodded. “I understand.”

Pim nodded once. “Good girl.”

He sat on the floor, cross legged, and she did likewise next to him, watching in total fascination and not a little dread.

The blue flame popped and sizzled against the funnel glass, and he took a handful of it and encased the hourglass in it so it shared the boundaries, so it couldn’t be knocked over or broken by a sprite.

The flame around the hourglass intensified, grew brighter as if someone was lighting a blue-flamed torch from the inside.

Pim barely registered Carabelle drawing close to his side in fascinated fear, trembling, but she dared not look away.

The first of the spirits came through, blurred and amorphous. It was the color of old parchment, its misty hands casting about like a blind man lost in a strange place. Hovering between the funnel and blade, its empty eye sockets found her, and it smiled, but not in a pleasant way. Finally, it moved into the blade and was lost to sight.

Other spirits followed, their fogged features better defined though they all had no flesh.

There was a disturbance, somewhere out of sight; the blue light in the hourglass flared, and a rush of spirits followed, feeding themselves to the flame to avoid what was coming.

“Father…?”

Pim opened his eyes, saw the flame around the hourglass pulsing, and grew alarmed. “That’s not supposed to happen.”

Inside the funnel, the spirits were gone.

The face of Carabelle’s mother was floating inside now, spectral and fierce, and all the more terrible for the silent recrimination in her eyes.

Pim scrambled back as the glass began to crack.

The lives that will be forfeit now, husband, are on your head. Their blood is on your hands, charged to your immortal soul.

The glass shattered.

Carabelle screamed, drew herself up into a fetal position on the floor, and covered her face with her arms. She felt shards like pins in her sides and on her legs, and a couple of pieces into her bare forearms; there’d be cuts, but nothing life threatening.

A larger piece of the coated glass jetted across the floor and caught Pim in the throat, and his mouth worked fishlike as he tried to draw breath, his neck bathed in a red cascade of blood. Panicked, he only sliced his hands in a pointless attempt to remove it.

Incredulous at the suddenness of the mishap, kneeling as he weakened, he looked at the blue flame. His wife’s face dissolved, and roiling cloud of blue-white spirits poured themselves into the blade which was now turning blue, the runes appearing, but not the ones the Wizard Larin commissioned.

That’s not supposed to happen…

His eyes searched for his daughter, and the sight left to him froze him with dread and profound regret at not speaking the promise.

A single blood red spirit with a jet aura glided over to Carabelle, still cowering and shivering on the ground; it turned and gave a feral smile to Pim as he died, and the last thing he saw was the spirit descending into her.

That’s…not…

The Secrets in the Wall 2

Chapter 2:  Secret Games

The last brick was laid in for the tombs, and the people came to fill it as they years passed, some with solemn ritual and whispered grieving punctuated by muted sobs, others with mirth and raucous celebration of a life violently lived, and still others seething with quiet anger and not so secret relief that the departed would trouble them no more.
   But he’d been the first.
   The girls were playing hide and seek with the boys, and the forbidden territory of the tombs was too tempting a place to be ignored.
   Karlyn and Essyna had broken away from the rest of the group, going into the shadowed end where the torches wrestled with the perpetual draft that came down the chutes into brackish water.
   There they waited and tittered behind their hands, confident no one would venture this far to find them.
   Essyna said to Karlyn, “I heard Prince Broderic is not the true son of the king.”
   Karlyn gasped. “Then whose son is he? Who’s brother?”
   “I don’t know, but if the king finds out, and it’s true, the Queen will die.”
   As Karlyn turned to look for seekers, Essyna’s braced herself on the wall; she snatched her hand away suddenly, as if something had stuck her.
   Karlyn turned to her. “What happened? Are you all right? Did you hurt your hand?”
   Essyna looked at it, curious. “No. It’s not even cut, but something stuck me.”
   Karlyn ran her hand over the brick, rubbed it with her fingertips, but nothing happened.
   The Secret could see them from inside the wall, their gowns bright but stained at the hems with a slimy wetness that would earn them punishments, and their just-so hair beginning to unravel, Essyna’s red-gold ringlets like a beaded cowl across her shoulders, Karlyn’s the bright yellow of a late morning summer sun.
   Footsteps echoed, and an older boy’s voice called their names.
   Their eyes widened in fright, and they scrambled from their hiding place to make themselves seen.
  “We’re here, Broderic!”
   They stood before him, eyes down.
   He laughed, not kindly. “Your mothers will have your hides for those dresses, and your fathers for coming down here when you knew you were forbidden.”
   “You could not tell them,” Essyna pleaded.
   “No way to explain away those stains.”
   Karlyn swept her right arm downward, and the stains disappeared; her smile held only a veneer of sweetness. “What stains?”
   Broderic swallowed.
   Another Secret joined the first, and the wall visibly shimmered.
  Broderic cried out and turned white.
   The girls turned to look over their shoulders, seeing nothing, and turned back to Broderic, questions and worry replacing their fear.
   “Let’s g-go,” he said. “I-I-I’ll tell them I f-found you in the garden.” The torchlight and the sounds of their footsteps receded, leaving only abject blackness.
   “Wise choice,” Karlyn said, and the dire echo of her veiled threat carried back as the Secrets settled into the stones.

The Secrets in the Wall

As the young man passed through the dim torchlight, hearing the flames sizzle and pop, the smoke tinging his nostrils with the smell of tarry pitch in the cool, underground caverns, the Secrets buried deep within the walls began to stir.

They were slow and sluggish, like leviathan waking in dark, watery depths.

Shuffling forward once more, they gathered in dull hope to come just beneath the surface of the wall.

Is this the one?

The oldest Secret, granted due deference, looked out through the stone.

Watching his face like eager toddlers on a sunny day waiting for their parents to wake up, their gazes were heavy on his face.

He is not.

Their brightening translucence dimmed and died as they seeped back into the stones.

Spectral tears and moans, vibrating just out of range of human hearing, deepened the somber atmosphere.

We grow weaker all the time. Soon, we’ll not have the strength to break through.

They will come.

 So you always say. But will they come in time?

The oldest Secret had no answer for that, and turned away as the other Secret left him resuming his sentinel post.

They will come.

The echoes of the passing man’s footsteps faded, and only the soft fizz and crackle of the torches remained.

The first to inhabit the wall, he now found his own strength waning, found it harder to keep the others intact.

So far, they hadn’t lost any, but the days continued to pass uneventfully; those who had tenuous holds were beginning to slip. More floors put over them, more layers to the left and right of them, and the memories of the long dead in the crypt saw fewer visitors.

The Secret began to wonder if his own words had become automatic; he still sounded sincere in his own hearing, but he wondered.

Eyes of Summer Ice

My trading for the day complete, that night I found myself on a night road between towns, journeying on despite the salacious female entreaties to stay and spend more money on excesses. I left too late, now regretting the rejection of their invitation.
I could either camp or keep moving; unfamiliar with the land, and being armed, I decided to keep going.
The twin crescent moons were poor companions for light, but better than darkness.
Tendrils of mist slinked along the ground, shrouding the trees like pale and ancient serpents.
The wind began to rise, and its temperature drop.
In the north I would have taken the change in stride, but I was far to the south where the sun burned much hotter, and the night at best should have been balmy, not cold.
As the mist closed in and grew thick I lost sight of the path.
The map was now useless, and I was no sailor to navigate by moonlight and stars.
Celestial brightness dimmed as incoming ribbons of black clouds veiled the moons, now seeming like a woman’s eyes staring through black silk.
My attempts to find the path proved futile, and stumbling about in the dark could only prove fatal. Finding a gathering of stones, I made my peace with ceasing the journey and sat down to rest.
I stuck my knife in the ground and put my arms around my knees, making as small a target as I could, and tried to sleep.
 
***********
I heard a woman’s mellifluous voice.
‘Traveler?”
I opened my eyes and saw a vision of stunning loveliness.
‘Traveler, this is not a good place to stop.’
I looked into the face of a young girl with skin the color of sapling branches, her eyes the color of diamonds in the sun, the faintest of gold traces in them.
I rubbed at my eyes; looking at those shining irises took some effort. “I got lost.”
She gradually came into focus, but when I looked at her, I had to turn away. An ethereal light seemed to shine from her; the slim netting in her hair and small gems she wore flared in the shrouded moonlight.
“I was trying to find the path, but the mist…”
*Why is it so cold?*
“Ah. Yes, the mist. It is ever the mist.”
“What?”
“It disorients you.”
“Yes. Yes, that’s what happened. Can…can you help me?”
“Yes, traveler. I know the way.”
Relief flooded me. “I’ll follow you.”
“There is nothing to follow, traveler.”
“What? Can you take me to the path?”
She stepped closer. “I am the way out; you have to kiss me.”
I picked up my knife, and the cold shot up my arm so fast that I cried out and dropped it, looking at her in shocked anger.
Her eyes narrowed, her voice all the more menacing for the fact that it was low and quiet. “You will not threaten me in my home.”
“Your home?” The sense of being lost was stronger. “This forest is your home?”
“I am as much a part of it as the trees, the wolves, the soil; it is all here, in me.
“We…share each other.”
She had me at too many disadvantages. The cold was seeping through along with a mild panic.
“What must I do?”
“Kiss me.”
“Why”
“So that you might be on your way.”
“But…”
“What I say makes no sense to you?”
“Yes, I mean, no. I mean, yes, it makes no sense to me.”
Her eyes glinted as she smiled with amusement, as if they were connected.
“I can help you find your way, but you must kiss me first.”
Perhaps her embrace will warm you.
I took her in my arms, tilted her face to mine…
 
************
It snows here all the time.
The freezing wind blows all the time.
There are others trapped in here with me; I hear them stumbling about, footsteps crunching, but our voices are gone.
Only the perpetual blizzard makes its white noise.
The light inside her eyes has blinded us, but we can hear her lies.
Another traveler on another night; the mist has led him to her.
I hear his voice and scream at him to run, to kill her, but he can’t hear me.
No one hears.
Soon he’ll walk among us, never traveling again, trapped behind the prison of her eyes.
Her eyes of summer ice.
 
You must kiss me first…

Shadow Love

I see it standing there

at the

bottom

of my life

like a

snarling wolf

at the

base of a ladder

 

This amorphous shadow,

Shifting, shining stars

contained in

incorporeal limbs.

 

I remember when

they reached for me

and held me close,

One hand on my eyes,

the other on my throat

so I would not see it

was killing me,

as it sang

death’s lullaby

so sweetly

in my ear

so I couldn’t feel

my life ebbing.

 

But I grew too heavy

with sorrow

to carry,

and it set me down.

 

Gorged on my misery,

it could not pursue.

And when I returned

to the sunlight

it fled.

 

I remember it,

not fondly.

And these days,

not long.

 

But I can still

feel its eyes

boring into me,

And it waits,

black and coiled

round the cold scraps

of what it once prized.

 

Wanting me back

even as it moves on

to claim

new souls

to suck.

Clear as Dark Glass

In the window

at dawn

you used the light

to wink at me.

I came to the window

to admire you

and assess what it would mean

to possess you.

And now inside,

I hold you,

and see that you are etched

with life’s hieroglyphs.

They are a riddle,

and you are a puzzle.

‘I know you,’ I say,

holding your dusky essence,

turning you in my hands.

I hold you up to the light

and look through dark glass,

seeing clearly where I would come to rest

in tortured love sublime.

3 a.m.

At 3 a.m.

they come to play,

disturb your sleep,

disrupt your day.

 

They sing and giggle

out of sight.

They cry and cut you

through the night.

 

“They don’t exist!”

the people say.

The creatures like it

just that way.

 

Their smiles malignant,

gleaming white,

‘Your blood so red,

it tastes so right.’

 

And in the sunrise,

glowing gold,

your heart is still.

Your flesh is cold.

 

At 3 a.m.

they come to play,

cavort, and

steal your soul away.