Silk and Steel
Ahoi! I hope you’re still hanging on in there and staying safe and well! We *may* be going a little CABIN FEEEEEVERRRRR! XD XD XD Every time I sit down two of the small folk begin murdering eachother or one of the big people asks me to cook something! XD So to remedy that we decided to build a giant catapult out of cardboard boxes. Finally finished the monster this morning and now the kiddos are in the garden looking for things to send into orbit (best lock up your cats! XD ) We still have cardboard left over so we’ve started crossbows and armour now too… if I disappear, tis because I have been roped into a full scale cardboard war! XD Hope you guys are all filling your days with delightful distractions! 😀 Here is Xander after he leaves Vraxi in The Cross Keys…
To all outward appearances, Xander remained calm and in control as he stalked the main street down towards the bridge.
Inside, however, his emotions roiled like the hunter ships tossed through the stormy skies above. Curse the Yag, he thought furiously, and he cursed himself as well for letting someone – anyone – get that close to him. Why did the infuriating little cock so love playing with fire?
Unless, Xander’s glower darkened dangerously, unless the Yag really thought they could be friends. Really believed it was possible for Xander to let someone in through that wall of intense control he had spent so long perfecting.
‘Idiot’ Xander thought furiously – and he wasn’t sure if he was rebuking himself or the fire djinn – I’ll be the death of him.
He shook his head resolutely. No. He refused to let that happen. The Yag was the only person he’d ever cared about – true he thought about killing him several times a day, but the fact that he hadn’t actually done it yet was testimony to… well, he wasn’t sure… but definitely it meant… something.
Xander had signed up for the army when he was fourteen, a few years before the end of the world had begun; it was an easy choice for a boy leaving institutional care – army or factory – and army had seemed the sweeter option.
Seemed, he thought bitterly. No one had mentioned demons.
Now he was stuck with this creature inside him and the horrific memories of the things it had done through his flesh. He clenched his jaw and willed his mind to focus on his surroundings; the lamplight licking over the dark waters of the red river, the cobbles beneath his feet, the bite of cold from the rising fog.
These things kept him focused on who he was – a being of flesh, and blood, nerves and sinews, real touchable things that he could control.
He smiled, not out of mirth but simply to prove that the muscles obeyed his command.
He frowned and again, there was no emotion behind the performance, merely the reassurance of self control.
He stopped, then started again.
Sped up, then slowed down.
This was his mantra, his ritual, his method for banishing all those thoughts and feelings and fears that had been sown inside him by someone else’s hand.
Vraxi was right about one thing, he relented; he hadn’t chosen this. All moral, religious and social order, all law and sanction, punishment and reward was based on the idea that people had the power of choice to control their own actions. The demon-bound… almost every race left in this hell really… had had those choices taken away from them. In the name of national security, in the name of protecting assets or preserving the power of choice for others. His soul had been judged as dispensable, worth the sacrifice.
Well, the world was ended and Xander – and many others like him – were still here. That must be it then he surmised, this surely was hell and for all that he’d done he no doubt belonged in it.
He considered, for a second, just giving up, letting loose the beast right here and now and giving his body over to it entirely, ripping the Yag and anyone else he came across into shreds and not stopping until the city watch brought him down and put him out of his misery with a Soul-blade.
But no, even that wouldn’t work, he realised bitterly. With nowhere for souls to go to once they left their bodies, they simply hung about, looking lost, their shadow-forms trying desperately to mimic the things they had done in life but to no effect.
He stopped when he reached the sky-dock and listened to the raucous singing and chanting of the union protesters who had begun to strike earlier that week.
Part of him desperately felt like joining them; although he knew it was not his fight, the chance to gain a moment of release for all this aggression and anger and stress that was constantly roiling inside him, just to let it out, just for a second…
If he closed his eyes, he could hear the military drums, the bellowed orders to attack, the screams and shrieks of the battlefield as if it were all around him…or was that the demon? Was it his own will guiding his feet towards the violence and the rioting, or was it the will of the creature inside him trying to satiate its own need? He had never heard its voice directly, he understood that it could only truly possess his consciousness if he activated one of his sigils, and even then its powers of control were limited… but nevertheless, often he felt that his thoughts and desires were not entirely his own. And it terrified and infuriated him in equal measure.
He stood, irresolute for a few moments, before turning on his heel and heading back towards The Cinders and home. The yag’s last expression as he’d left the inn drifted across his mind; he had not expected to hurt him. Had not intended to at all. If only the idiot would understand; he was trying to keep him safe. He snorted at that thought; as if anyone was ‘safe’ sharing a room with a violent demon-bound miscreant who had killed too many people to count and had to be periodically chained up just to prevent him from killing more while he was asleep.