Vanya and the Green Knight

Roman's Musing

Post Fall of Severskii

The gold thorn pricked as he gripped the bar. A drop of blood beaded slow on his thumb, red and cold. “I do bleed,” he said to the empty cage, the empty room. The words were empty. Gilded and dead. There was pain to accompany the barb in his flesh, a slight, pleasant sensation. He did feel. But the living did not have to remind themselves of it, surely. Their breath came fast, without their remembering to draw it. Their blood surged from their wounds till they emptied, wrung in the clenched fist of their heart. He clenched his own fist until the garnet burgeoned and trickled down a stem. It took that much to squeeze it from him. He let go the bar in disgust and whirled to face his bed. Somewhere outside, in that waste of white, in that vicious and pure cold, there bloomed a winter rose. He had found something rare and vital, something at home here. The youth lived, he was certain of it. The woods had taken him in. The snow and shadows had been windblown and untouched as the boy’s skin. The poor brown brambles had covered his tracks as surely as these false golden vines had held him. Iron could not hold him. He had snapped the shackles as if they were brittle with the cold.
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Roman fingered the broken irons on his bedside table. The next time he would not trust iron, that close kin to blood. He would wrap him in gold, in his own arms. He would brush that velvet skin, coax blood to the surface, a blush, maybe more. He would feel that pulse against himself till it was his own. He would feel hot red pulsing where, even in the worst ache, he felt only swollen and heavy now, turgid with lifeless desire. His own hand could do nothing for him but massage the fluids back whence they came. Alone, he felt dead.
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He shed his sleeping robes and armored himself. It was only an hour after he had gone to rest, but he felt more agitated for having tried. His lady waited for him outside the tent, lovely as the green line of dawn after a battle victorious, black as his hair…no, he would not let thoughts of him ruin what had been his constant pleasure. He took off her armor also, whenever he rested, though leaving it on did not hurt her. She would get angry if he didn’t take it off, now, because she was used to the rhythms he maintained. She whickered to see him out too soon and whuffed his hair. “Even your strength could not drag him.” He pet her naked shoulder, soft and cold under his hand as the furs on his floor inside. At least they were of the First Vow, Voelkher’s chosen, and their blood did not freeze. Some of the newly vowed were having trouble with that, in this weather. The cold wrinkled their flesh so it chafed and split, but did not ooze. The sight of it was hard for them, who had been so recently fair and living, though they did not feel pain as keenly as he could.
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He had been fair and living once. “Do you remember life, lady?” She snorted and shook her mane, a common mannerism of hers, but he pretended it was answer. “No? Nor can I. Was battle at his side ever different than it is now? I used to joke that I would always be young and beautiful compared to him, but we never guessed how true." He paused, "Do I truly remember joking, or have I since made that up?”
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“Can’t sleep?” Followed by a furtive chuckle. Roman hated Gaspar’s laugh. He never let it out properly, so it wheezed and snorted.
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The fact that he rested for two hours of the day was a spring of amusement for Gaspar that never ran dry. If Gaspar were in a good mood, he would always ask him, “How did you sleep?”
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“Have you raised another fifty yet?”
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“Oh don’t be an ass, just because I interrupted your conversation.” Gaspar said. He also thought it silly that he talked to his horse, nevermind he talked to his thing, or to himself…constantly. “I am sure it was poetic. The rose defeated has more perfume from its crushed petals than it does fresh in victory, I daresay. You like it. I would say you let him go on purpose, except that you came running out…as you did. You would never feign your own humiliation.”
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As if thoughts summoned it (well, they did, just not Roman’s thoughts), the rotted orb floated down and rubbed an eyestalk on Gaspar’s cheek. He lifted a red hand to it.
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“Are you here for some reason?” Roman asked. His mare pinned her ears and turned to face Gaspar. She didn’t like It, either.
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It didn’t like or not like. It didn’t care that it was hideous and smelled terrible. It had no feelings of its own.
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“Yes. I came to wake you because Bertok found it.”
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“The next city.” It wasn’t a question. He had, in fact, asked Gaspar to come to him whenever Bertok reported to the dead on the outskirts of their lines. They didn’t know how far this land of little kingdoms stretched, each self contained and unique, each too small to withstand them. But where else could that boy have gone, other than to the next? He would find him.

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Nalga

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