Last set of fills, until the next ficathon rolls around. :)
---------------( 23. )
: Inception, Ariadne / or & any, minotaur
, written 1/4/17 [AO3 version
]no morality by instinct
(200 words exactly)
At the heart of every person's mind is a guardian, territorial and feral, that exacts repayment in blood and pain for all attempted intrusions; they can be evaded, confused, and with time and practice soothed to sleep, but they are never truly tamed; even the people a dreamer loves and trusts the most can still be ripped apart if they grow careless and startle the beast awake.
"Like a minotaur, a proper flesh-eater both maddened and cunning, sent to humble those who grow too proud of their power and cleverness and forget to observe the proper rituals," Eames says with a careless smile, "and you a combination of Daedalus and your own lovely namesake, both to build the maze that traps the monster and to spin the thread that guides us safely through."
"Ah, the benefits of a classical education," Ariadne says wryly, watching the slow and suspicious patrol of the squirrels and songbirds that populate the wilderness she's built in Eames's mind, and wonders whether, when Arthur begins testing her rough-draft maze for flaws, she'll have time to shoot herself awake before she learns what it feels like to die sliced apart by a thousand tiny claws and beaks.
---------------( 24. )
: Any, any, stealing the sun
, written 1/8/17 [AO3 version
]years of drought and famine
The clouds are thin in the first years, translucent veils that drape in narrow, scattered bands across the sky: the world's victory sari, people call them, and marvel at the way they seem to catch faint fire at sunset or sunrise, kindling Solstar's white to color within their refracted folds, or to reflect Oceanus's blue-green shine like a dream of verdant growth. But gradually they grow thicker and more frequent, and eventually begin to blot out Solstar's light for hours at a time: an ill-omen, people say now, and wonder in whispers whether perhaps the white witch of the mere cursed the world in her death-throes, or whether the Aeriel was corrupted in her victory; wait, say others, the world was not born in a day, nor can its rebirth be easy; all changes are terrifying even when they bring prosperity and joy at the end of the shift; but patience and trust come hard after generations of the world's slow fall and there are mutterings against the work of Crystalglass, words that might grow into deeds without a countersign, and soon.
And then, at last, in the midst of a daylight darkness, there comes a thing unseen for generations: wrapped in the lowering gloom of oppressive clouds and the fear of the stolen sun, the sky breathes rain once more unto the thirsty earth.
-----Note: Darkangel Trilogy, obviously. :)
---------------( 25. )
: Mad Max: Fury Road, any, chasing the sun
, written 1/10/17 [AO3 version
]truth, like the sun
They say if you drive west fast enough, the sun never sets; drive west fast enough and a single day lasts forever. The true metal, the true V8, they race across the sky in a blaze of glory too bright to look upon with pitiful fleshy eyes, and they will never die; this is Valhalla, the promise and the dream, where everything is caught in an eternity of perfect, howling speed and chrome.
"Flashy and hollow, just like the rest of Joe's lies, and easily turned around if the people here weren't too cowed and beaten down to think," Angharad says when Furiosa relates this bit of warboy lore, words dragged halting and unfamiliar between her teeth like a slow fuel leak she can already tell will leave her stranded and weaponless one of these endless days; "What if you drive east to meet the sun as a partner, instead of west to capture it?" and Furiosa sits in gear-ground silence for the rest of her watch rather than admit she's never thought to ask the question.
---------------( 26. )
: Any, any, treason
, written 1/10/17 [AO3 version
]the treason of pity
"If I had it all to do over again," the Dolorosa says to her kismesis as they lie, sweaty, blood-streaked, and sated, in the little nest of torn sailcloth that serves as both pile and bedding ground for the slaves in Mindfang's crew, "I'd tell my son to aim for the Empress instead of the people; she is
the Empire, after all, its incarnation as well as its creator; any attack on its power and order is an attack on her, and vice versa. Instead of making ourselves into a threat to put down, we could have shown her how the highbloods have already stolen control out from under her nose -- high treason on a scale to beggar belief -- and tried to set up something better in the wake of the resulting bloodbath; she admires strength and daring, after all, and surely after helping her regain power in practice as well as in theory, we would have convinced her that letting such qualities flourish among lowbloods does not automatically equal chaos."
"If you had it all to do over again, you'd do exactly the same as before," the Demoness says, a thread of weary resignation laced through her habitual scorn, "because I'd go back too, a thousand thousand times if necessary, until I nudged you back onto the path; my master only accepts the timeline that leads to his victory, and as we both know, there are punishments worse than death; do not seek more of them than are already your share."
-----Note: This will make much more sense if read in combination with The Time-Traveler's Kismesis: Counterthesis.
---------------( 27. )
: Any, any, following smoke and remembering fire
, written 1/12/17 [AO3 version
]the seat containing of unweary'd flame (Meet Adoration to My Household Gods)
(200 words exactly)
Magic in this world, Susan reflected, was maddening compared to the magic she'd learned in Narnia; if that had been plucking ripe apples from low-hanging boughs in a well-tended orchard, this was wading through thorns and interminable flies in search of stray raspberries not yet discovered by birds or bears, or befriending some higher, older powers in hope of borrowing the bounty of their own hoards.
Still, she fought best from a distance, whether with weapons or words, and as bows were too conspicuous and handguns both too noisy and too illegal (not to mention of limited utility at best against vampires and demons), magic seemed the most immediately useful replacement.
Susan squeezed another drop of blood from her pricked fingertip, repeated once again in halting Greek (blast Peter for laughing when he realized she would have to learn multiple new languages and writing systems to master her new field), "Hestia, queen of hearth and home, strike this spark for your daughter," and smiled when the nest of kindling in her saucer breathed a sigh of smoke; it was no clear, bright flame to strike foes or summon aid, but all things would come with time, and work, and faith.
-----Note: Part of my One Equal Temper of Heroic Hearts series, which crosses Narnia and BtVS. The halves of the title come from the Orphic Hymn to Hestia (#84, Taylor's translation) and Tennyson's 'Ulysses,' respectively.
---------------( 28. )
: Any, any, tears of flowers
, written 1/12/17 [AO3 version
(500 words exactly)
"The traditional blessing is for roses and jewels to fall from a poor but kind girl's lips with every word she speaks, but the fairy I met said that made it hard to hold actual conversations and tended to wreck local economies, not to mention the roses prickle something awful on the tongue," Morwen's new roommate, Rosamund, said when their conversation turned to their respective reasons for attending Stokey's Academy.
"Magic does have consequences," Morwen agreed. "Is that why you decided to become a sorceress? To see if you could unpick other traditional causes and effects?"
"Not exactly," Rosamund said with a frustrated scowl. "You see, the fairy still blessed me. She just blessed me to cry flowers instead of speak them, since she said if I was upset enough for tears, that's when I'd actually need flowers to cheer me up. It's a complete nuisance. The flowers are mostly violets and cherry blossom, which thankfully don't prickle, but the petals feel like tissue paper and slugs on my eyeballs, they get absolutely everywhere, and I can't even turn them into a garland or bouquet because they don't have any stems."
"Ugh." Morwen grimaced in sympathy and refilled Rosamund's teacup with the last of her aunt's best company blend that she'd brought with her from home. "That sounds like she was so proud of noticing the problems with the old spell, she didn't bother to make sure her new spell was actually any better."
"Yes, exactly," Rosamund said, and gulped the tea down like water. "That's not the worst part, though. After she cast the flower spell, the fairy said she wouldn't bother trying to make an endless gold spell that wasn't subject to abuse. Instead, she told me that my family already had everything we needed. That sounds nice, right?"
"In a vaguely moralistic and uplifting way," Morwen agreed.
"Very 'be content with your lot and beware the dangers of ambition,' yes," Rosamund said. "But it did sound nice... until we realized it was a spell too, and it was keeping our farm from ever turning a profit."
"If we already had everything we needed, what reason was there for anything to ever change? So nothing does. Everything's frozen the way it was when I met the fairy. We can't clear new fields. We can't rotate crops. We can't even buy a new goat without one of our old goats magically dying for no reason, which means the blessing is actually more of a curse." Rosamund clutched her teacup with white-knuckled fingers and said, so fiercely that Morwen almost expected her eyes to burst into flame, "I came here to learn how to break it
. Then I am going to find that fairy, if I have to chase her to the ends of the earth, and I am going to give her a piece of my mind
"I'll hold her down for you," Morwen promised, and gently pried the teacup from Rosamund's work-roughened hands before it shattered.
-----Note: Enchanted Forest Chronicles. This one got a little out of hand. Oops? Also, Stokey's Academy is a bit of headcanon I made up when I was giving Morwen backstory for various other fics; it is glancingly mentioned in The Affairs of Dragons and serves as the main setting for A Splash of Color.
---------------( 29. )
: Narnia/Harry Potter, Edmund ~ or / Ginny, hidden corners of the world
, written 1/12/17 [AO3 version
]the gate of iron and emerald
"This is why you missed the first minute of the battle and left us without our best distance fighter," Edmund said flatly as he continued to inspect his mail shirt for damaged links; "Because you tripped and fell down a hole."
Ginny twirled her wand between her fingers (the way Lucy sometimes spun daggers) and said, in a tone that implied she was attempting forbearance despite great provocation, because despite everything she was fond of him and so forgave his foibles, "Because while I was scouting for ambushes
-- it's only chance that the attack came from the west instead of the east, besides which I can't believe you missed a half-dozen giants in land this flat -- I found a locked iron door in an emerald frame in the back wall of this cave, which is so ridiculously out of place that it might as well be screaming it's magical, even without the runes I can't read carved over the lintel, and I was in the middle of testing to see if opening it would be dangerous -- it shouldn't be, by the way, unless you're actually as useless as you act when you're trying to convince people you're young and ignorant, in which case I want a raise since bodyguarding that kind of idiot definitely deserves hazard pay -- but anyway, stop looking at me like I'm a particularly squishable beetle and let's go see what's on the other side."
"I feel that Susan would tell us that interfering with strange magics is a terrible idea, and counsel us instead to both employ caution and remember our mission," Edmund said, pro forma, but this journey to Harfang for truce negotiations had several days' flexibility built in to account for the general disarray of Ettinsmoor after Peter's latest summer war, and he could never live with himself if he turned down a chance to explore one of the hidden corners of the world, thus blatantly presented as both invitation and challenge; and so he motioned his other bodyguard (a grizzled She-Wolf by the name of Skadi) to alert the rest of the party to this turn of events and followed Ginny into the narrow cleft in the earth, to meet what fate awaited them beyond the mysterious door.
-----Note: A loose sequel to By Its Cover.
---------------( 30. )
: Beauty and the Beast (Disney or fairy tale; f/f genderswap), Beauty (or Belle)/Beast, roses in the snow
, written 1/14/17the heart that is soonest awake to the flowers
(300 words exactly)
Beauty walked the garden paths beside Lady Falcon-in-Flight's massive form, one hand on her spear (as always, for the spells that bound the castle were fraying with age and sometimes spun off monsters) and the other extended to rest lightly on her lady's shoulder: soft fur layered thickly over hard muscle that could drive a body tirelessly for days on end until a chosen quarry was brought to bay -- now twitching restless and unfulfilled as her lady fought to leash a beast's instinct and appetite into a pale mimicry of human form and function, just as she gifted Beauty with garlands and gold instead of the fragile heart Beauty yearned to cradle in her hands and guard from every wound.
"You should hunt, as your body aches to do," Beauty said, as she had each morning since the new moon; "Bring me back a stag or boar, hard-won with your own strength: for blood on snow suits midwinter better than soft, spell-wrought flowers that seek to make all seasons equally a lie."
Her lady tensed, and Beauty bit her lip in expectation of yet another refusal... but this day her lady sighed (a hot, metallic gust of air, like opening the door to her eldest sister's smithy), turned her great head to fix her golden, slit-pupiled eyes on Beauty's own, and said in her rumbling voice, "If you wish a kill, you may make it yourself, but you are right that this body needs to run; I will be your hound and horse together, if you will be my mistress and guide me with a firm hand lest I lose myself to bloodlust; and perhaps when we return we might search the garden until we find amidst the ice a rose that, like you, has remembered its birthright of thorns."
You know, I think these ficlets could count for snowflake_challenge Day 7: create a fanwork
, if I wanted to make this post multipurpose.
...I believe I will. :)