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theme: still we are the past together
characters: aivlen and brya

the capital cities are fist-sized orbs: presthal is gold, jurenthal blue, and tarthal black with whorls of green. aivlen doesn't know where brya got them, whether he picked them up in some market somewhere in their travels or if they were bundled in one of elen's dusty corners, waiting for a mage's hands to free them from the cobwebs. he does know that they were the first symptoms of what he now dubs brya's illness.

"i've got to be able to picture things," says brya, calmly placing one of seven silver marbles near the string of blue beads that is the sorethain. these are the western cities: the eastern are red, and more numerous, and closer together.

he has glass beads for the villages, pale cloth for the desert, tiny wood blocks for the mountains (he has to replace these every now and again, as meltis' ash likes to devour them). somehow, he never stumbles over their placement now, this boy who once had trouble reading maps.

aivlen, for awhile, stands over him and watches the landscape take form, and tries to imagine elen working a similar spell: but elen never had the patience for large-scale resonant magic, nor the need for it, that he remembers.

and elen, he thinks, would be working with a different map--something with an equal proportion of silver and red, something where there were less beads and more marbles, where the colors might stretch in strands as long as the makeshift sorethain. and she wouldn't huddle in the guest room of a rich man's house, curtains tight over the windows, using the rickety bed as a table, because she wouldn't be pretending not to be a mage, and she wouldn't be on the run.

he clenches his teeth and waits for brya to finish, his eyes on the door, his ears on the hall. at the edge of his vision he can see brya's hands, moving over the marbles on the tatty sheets. his shoulders twitch where his wings once were: he wants them both out of here.

"relax," brya says.

"i'm fine," aivlen growls. "just get it done, already."

all their hosts know about them is that they're runaways. brya, who's gotten far too good at lying, has told them he and aivlen are disowned by their families, who are at odds with each other; they are in love, he's said, and could not bear the conflict any longer. he says it with flourishes just ridiculous enough to make it believable. apparently they're both off to commit suicide.

aivlen can't feel the magic anymore but he knows when the spell breaks--the light gradually building in the orbs goes black all at once. even as brya's turning to him, he leans, and sweeps one arm across the marbles. brya says "hey," like he's sixteen, like it's all he knows how to say to aivlen, and aivlen grins as the marbles clatter and roll across the floor.

"sorry," he says, "thought i heard someone coming."

"you are such a jerk," says brya, calm as still water, face hidden as he leans to scoop up his villages. aivlen grabs him by the arm, hauls him up onto the bed.

"hey--" the kiss is long but not overmuch, and it shuts him up, which is the important thing.

aivlen waits until the footsteps in the hall have gone away. he peels himself off of brya kalier, who is flush-faced and blessedly quiet.

"you were the one who came up with the story," says aivlen.

brya sighs, shakes his head; a few more marbles tumble to the floor.

"bad omens?" aivlen asks.

"bad. worse. i don't even..." he shakes his head again, and his eyes are the eyes of someone still dealing with two hundred years of history. but when aivlen goes to pull the curtains back, brya catches his hand.

"worry about it later?"

*

at some point, one of the capital cities crashes to the ground. unlike the marbles, it shatters. brya's hands on aivlen's shoulders tighten.

aivlen ignores it. the past intrudes enough: the future can wait.

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September 2010

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