Book 1: Break The Sky
By Rayne Adams
So. This is another novel of mine. I've been working on it forever, much longer than The Poisoner's Ring. It's a very different sort of story, as in modern urban fantasy instead of high fantasy, and the main character is a girl. There will be both het and slash pairings in it, so it can't really be categorized.
I really hope all my devoted readers of The Poisoner's Ring will check out and review this story as well, since it means so damn much to me to finally be able to get it up.
An excerpt from the Writings of Sir Mar Howle, Lord Superior of the Sorcerer's Consort, in the year of 1008. What follows is an approximate translation.
Who are of the cool and quiet places,
Of wind and rain, of forest and field
Where the shadow people dwell and
Day slides smoothly into night.
Where a bell tolled at the
Twilight hour rings out
Like broken echoes of thunder.
Heralds of the storm, the crystalline
Ripples of your creation.
Who are also of the dust and the grit
And the choking warmth of
Crowds and castles, where the
Burned and banished dwell.
Where minutes are preserved like
Corpses embalmed in vinegar,
And the hours are sacred,
And light are hung to banish the
Death of the day.
Who sees beyond the looking glass,
Into bending light and broken windows.
Who's dying cries will herald the end
And defame the beginning.
Who was born to burn and ravage
And break the sky.
"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table."
--T. S. Elliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The first thing Ari did whenever she ventured into Steven's apartment was to shoulder open the tiny window hidden behind an armchair. It had been painted shut once upon a time, and little flecks of white chipped off whenever she touched it. It overlooked a stretch of barely used road and a field of dead grass. Beyond that was an ancient cement parking structure, at this hour nothing more than a looming patch of black in the darkness. It was cold outside, but anything was better than breathing dirty laundry and Orange Glow.
"Why are you opening that? It's winter." Lisa's voice was unusually deep for a girl her age, roughened and scratched by cigarettes. She'd already smoked two since Ari had arrived.
"It's Fall," she countered, sliding down into the armchair, angling her body to face the window. The leather felt strange against her legs, her fishnet stockings turning her skin into tiny patches of sensation.
Greg, Lisa's boyfriend, put an arm around her, pulling her closer to rest in the crook of his shoulder. He was a rich kid from upstate, complete with eighty dollar haircuts and faded, pre-distressed jeans. He'd been hanging out with Ari and Steven for over a year. 'Slumming it', he liked to say.
Every month or so he produced a new girlfriend. October's model was Lisa. Hopefully, she wouldn't last past Halloween.
They were already beginning to show signs of the impending breakup.
Lisa pushed Greg's arm away from her. "Let go of me." She made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat. "You smell. Take a damn shower sometime." Greg didn't say anything, just resumed picking at the scab on his elbow, looking vaguely hurt.
"Think fast." Ari looked up, just in time to catch a can of soda headed straight for her face.
"Nice, way to almost knock her out," Lisa commented, dropping ash onto the arm of the couch.. Steven tossed a beer her way, and she caught it one-handed. Greg fumbled his; it thumped down on the carpet, bouncing and rolling to the middle of the room. He cussed, heaving himself off the couch and picking it up.
"Don't open that one," Steven said, offering him a different bottle. "I don't want beer all over my couch."
"Beer isn't fizzy, dude," Greg protested, cradling the bottle protectively against his chest.
"It'll still explode everywhere, it's under pressure," Steven said. A thin line of annoyance appeared between his eyes, the look he assumed whenever he thought someone was wasting his time, be they friend or foe.
Greg traded bottles. Lisa blew out a plume of smoke, opening her own beer. "Shouldn't you, like, know that already? You go to college."
Greg shrugged. "I'm an English Major," he said.
"Do you not drink?" Ari glanced up. Lisa was treating her to an expression she knew well—the 'I'm badder than you' look.
"I don't like it," she said, popping the tab of her soda. "I think it's gross—the taste, I mean. Don't worry, I don't have any morals." Steven laughed, Greg sort of grunted, and Lisa looked confused. She covered it up by slamming her cigarette down into the ashtray so hard the card table rattled.
Steven shot her a look, then sat down on the arm of the leather chair, right beside Ari, practically on top of her.
"Personal space, Steven," she commented.
He laughed, brushing his arm against her challengingly. There was less than an inch between them, and this close all his features blended together. His chapped lips, lopsided nose, the rings through his eyebrows, coming together into one She knew he wouldn't try anything with Greg and Lisa here, but still—
A tremor went up through her, starting somewhere near the base of her spine. The edges of her vision blurred together. Her fingers tingled, starting at the tips and slowly moving up.
"Fuck," She said it under her breath, but Steven still heard her.
She stood up, downing half her soda and crossing the room, trying to ignore the way her skin felt like it was trying to get up and crawl away. Her flight was halted by a rack of old records. She pulled one out at random. David Bowie.
"You okay, Ari?"
She flipped the record over. "Yeah, just wanted some music."
Steven gestured to the dented turntable in the corner. "Go ahead, put something on."
Ari started to pull the record out of the sleeve, got halfway, then pushed it back onto the shelf. She could feel three pairs of eyes on the back of her neck. Unable to think of anything else to do, she walked into the bathroom, locking the door behind her.
She heard Lisa asking what her problem was, before she was drowned out by a knock.
"You okay in there?"
Ari braced her hands on the sink, focusing on the ring of soap scum around the drain. "I'm fine, Steven. I just feel a little sick."
"Do you need anything?"
"I'm fine," Ari repeated, wishing, not for the first time, that Steven would try to tone down the male instinct. Sometimes it was sweet, but most of the time it was just annoying.
The tingling had spread further up her arms, her stomach writhing like a nest of snakes trying to fight their way out. It was a bit like nausea without the gag reflex. Things would get steadily worse the more she tried to fight it back down, along with the other, more worrisome symptoms.
The black, overwhelming need to destroy, to smash things apart.
It hadn't happened in months. Why now?
She inhaled deeply, blowing the breath out through her nose, trying to get her body to cooperate. Slowly, she dragged her eyes up from the sink, methodically checking things off. Hair that she barely ever brushed anymore, covered up with an old, lopsided newsboy's hat, eyebrows that seriously needed to be plucked, and—eyes that glowed like a party light bulb.
"Shit." Ari leaned forward, so close her nose was nearly pressed to the glass. Electric blue, pupils like a cat's. It hadn't progressed this far in over a year. Ari breathed out, trying to will her eyes back to their good old, boring brown.
She pushed her way out of the bathroom, nearly concussing Steven with the door. She turned her face away so fast she felt her neck crack. Shaking her bangs into her eyes, she pulled her hat down further, trying to make it look casual.
"I've got to go. I have work tomorrow."
She felt Steven's hand on her shoulder. The tingling became writhing, like bugs under her skin.
"Are you sure you're alright?"
Ari nodded, trying to keep the tremor out of her voice. "Yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry about me."
"Listen." Steven steered her closer to the door, out of earshot of the living room. "Look, I'm sorry about Lisa, I know she's a dumb bitch."
"She doesn't bother me," Ari lied. "I just need to get out of here. I'll see you later."
She let the apartment door bang shut behind her.
The cold helped. Outside, she felt much more in control of herself than she had in Steven's cramped little flat As long as she kept walking, kept her mind focused on something methodical, everything would be alright. She hoped.
The moon hung low and fat in the sky, making the broken glass that decorated the ground glint and shimmer like confetti. It crunched beneath the soles of Ari's shoes. Somehow, she couldn't shake the thought that she was treading on something alive, something that cracked and died under her feet . The thought made part of her shudder in revulsion, while the other part, the part that was fighting for control, giggled with delight.
It was chilly enough to turn her breath to mist, rising in smoky white wisps that disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Ari dug her hands into the pockets of her coat, wishing she owned gloves. The cold may have felt good on her face, but her fingers were turning to ice.
Chills, upset stomach, extremities going cold. That's three out of five.
She knew what was coming next. It happened the same every time.
On any other night, Ari would take the road home, walk beneath the streetlights in sight of the low rent houses that lined the street. At least then there was a chance someone would call the police if she was attacked. Most of the people she knew carried mace or a switchblade, or both. This close to DC, even packing heat seemed justifiable.
Tonight, Ari didn't go home. She walked the two blocks to the Metro station, standing at the counter and tapping her nails against the chipped surface, rousing the sleepy night guard.
"I need tokens," she said, coughing slightly to keep the rasp out of her voice.
"Use those," the man said grumpily, gesturing to the ticket machines that lined the wall of the station.
"I don't have a credit card," Ari answered, digging a few crumpled bills out of her pocket.
The night guard frowned, scratching at his stubble and hitting a couple buttons on an ancient cash register.
"Where you go'in?"
"Adam-Morgan. There and back."
"That's a rough neighborhood."
"I know," Ari said, taking the tokens and her change. She fed one into the stile and jogged up the escalator, emerging just as the lights began to flashed for an approaching train. There were only two other people on the platform, a dark-skinned woman in a headscarf and a man who bit his nails and checked his watch every few seconds. He caught Ari's eyes as the train pulled up, quickly looking at the ground, as if she'd caught him doing something shameful.
"Greenvale, Red Line," the automated voice said as the doors slid open. Ari walked further down the platform in search of an empty section. She found one toward the end, stepping inside as the lights began to flash again.
"Doors closing," the voice announced. "Next stop, White Flint."
Ari didn't sit down, she couldn't. Being in a train, somewhere so warm and close, was bad enough. She stood still for a few minutes, but by the time they reached the next stop, she was pacing the length of the car. It screeched and rumbled beneath her feet, but she barely noticed.
At Friendship Heights, someone else got on her car. He was fairly young, but still a few years older than Ari, and sporting the sort of hat you see old, churchgoing men wearing, the kind that looked like it needed a canary feather sticking out of the band. It looked odd on him, but it matched his Sherlock Holmes raincoat.
"How can you do that without falling over?" he asked, when the train started moving again and Ari kept pacing.
"Magic," she said shortly. She'd started shivering, body quaking, fingers curling into fists.
"Hey, are you alright?" the man asked.
"Yeah, I'm great."
Ari didn't look at him for the next three stops. When the train began to slow down, she and the man both moved for the door. He'd taken his hat off.. His eyes were strange, like they didn't belong in his face, but she couldn't really couldn't put her finger on why. Just big, round brown eyes, the lashes long enough to be mistaken for a girl's.
"Where are you off to?" he asked, as the doors slid open.
Please review, guys! I will probably post one chapter a week for as long as I can...don't worry, I'm still working on the Poisoner's Ring and it's sequel, The Poisoner's Game, and the epilogue will be up on Sunday!
Ari threw him a parting glance over her shoulder. "To hunt rapists."