13 - Follow the Path of Bullets

It's time there was rest.  I agree.  I doubt I'll get any, though - my mind is buzzing with every possible problem or danger that could possibly be in my path.  I bathe, and all that does is make me think even more about everything, my mind in loops.  Also, I smell really good afterwards, although that doesn't give me any good ideas on how to solve things.


I'd say it was good to see Gerald, but in reality the encounter made it worse for me.  Now I can't just hope for him to break out on his own.  I don't see how he could, as talented as he is at getting out of trouble.  The Peacock King seems to know a lot about Poets, and I suppose that knowledge went very far towards figuring out how to confine one.


As if Gerald being jailed weren't bad enough, now I have the added worry of whether the Peacock King will decide that I'm a spy.  What if he catches me?  He's already threatened to tell Father about Gerald - if he figures out I'm another of the Judge's sons, I'm toast.  I wonder if I could convince him to execute me instead, in that event.

And then there's the guns.  Gerald's talking Arms, yet another way I could be found out as not all that I seem.

...Talking guns.

I dart to the pot beside my bed and hold my hand to the side.  I try to open up my ears as best as I can - how does one listen with their mind?  Is it like listening to yourself think, or listening to your imagination--

'What seek ye, brother of the one who holsters us?'

'Surely you're not like to put a bullet in your own head yet, little Poet.'

I shake my head.  "I'm no Poet, just someone taking minutes for one while he's stuck in the King's birdcage.  Can you help me?  I don't know what to do."

'Seek ye our Armed.'

'Aye, we'll clear the path to him.'


"I...I can't do that.  Breaking him out won't solve anything.  The animism will still be in chains while a war breaks out over the slaughter of the Peacock King's guards and whoever else is in the way."  I hear a strange sound, like an iron file sliding over metal, and I realize the guns are laughing at me.


'Ye grasped not our meaning.  We will clear your mind to him.'

'We can aim at him from any direction, regardless of whether we'd fire a bullet once we sighted him.'

'Though it be something we remind the little runt of every now and then when he gets too cocky.'

I'm silent while I contemplate the idea of Gerald's own guns killing him for being too smarmy. The thought probably makes me too happy.

'He's getting distracted so quickly. Figures. Of the same brood.'

'I could misfire to get his attention.'

I blink. "I...sorry, what would you like me to do? Please don't shoot me." I have bad enough nerves as it is now. I don't want to have to dodge literal bullets in addition to the figurative ones I've already been dealing with all day.

'Take a lie-down. The two of you will meet once you close yer eyes.'

I dwell on that for a moment. Dream of Gerald again? Like last time? It's good to know ahead of time. I don't want to dream of Daddy again, even think that I'm dreaming of him when I'm not.

...Father. He's Father now.

Of all the things I could be told to do, sleeping is the absolute most appealing. I flop into bed, close my eyes, and plunge down into darkness so quickly that I almost cry out. Falling asleep is something I'm used to being peaceful, not violent.

I can feel Gerald approaching before I'm all the way under, though - I sense him coming. It's audible, like the sound of footsteps echoing through my room.

* * *

Considering what I heard while falling into my dream, I'm surprised by what I see when I fully enter it. Gerald is cuffed to the wall and the floor again, so I can only imagine that the footsteps that I heard were mine. It makes sense - if he's still stuck here, even in dreams, then I would have to be lead to him, not him to me.

He looks up slowly. Something hits me, a wave of sickness, of fatigue. I blink. Is all that coming from my brother? I fall down to my knees next to him, lift my hand to press it to his forehead, but he jerks away. I recoil, myself. What did I do?

His eyes look foggy, but he registers my reaction just the same. "...Sorry. I didn't think you were going to hurt me. You just shouldn't touch me. The wards might sense you. It's not safe in here, you know." He blinks. "How did you get in here?"

"We're dreaming, Gerald. Your Arms led me to your mind. Or...so they explained it to me."

"Ah. I see they haven't shot you yet." He looks pleased with this, says it very lightly. "At least, not in any places I can see, so congratulations on that. It's better than I managed with them on my first try."

His smile doesn't go any deeper than his skin, barely even manages that depth. He sees the concern in my eyes. "It's not all that bad. I've been in jails where they treated me worse than the King here. 'Course, I was able to think straight in those cells, which is a lot more than I can say for this one." His expression sours, and he looks away. I get the feeling that he doesn't really want me to see him like this.

I lean back a bit, sit and settle. "How did you get caught?" It's a question I knew he didn't want to come, but still knew to expect. He sighs, a weight deep and heavy in his chest.

"Stupidity. In a way that's the only thing that can get an Armed caught. It's certainly the most likely candidate for Poet casualties. I let my guard down, let myself get sucked into my mission without putting up the proper safeguards. I was seaking through the Palace when you kicked me out of your head. I settled into a room and decided to look through the records there. He walked into the room I was recording in. He had guards with him, even, though he didn't need them. Getting caught by the Peacock King is a nasty affair. Don't let him find you out. Once he knows to pin his mind on you, he can take you down before you even realize you should duck. He's inside his own territory, and he controls it so well that even the air serves him without question."

Things are quiet between the two of us for a few minutes. I don't really want to say anything. I feel too sick. He probably feels the same way. He's looking down at the floor, his hair shadowing his face away from me.

"...Ger?" He looks up. I know he's surprised. In a way, I am too. I haven't called him that in years. "You look terrible. What's he done to you in this place?"

He makes a sad smile. "Mister Birdface has kept quite a few Poets before me. He's already learned how to keep them from escaping, from tricking him. I can tell by how he's penned me up. Why else would he have the collar that's around my neck now?" He sees my face, the confusion on it. "It..." He looks to the side, his complexion paling. He doesn't want to talk about it, I can tell. Still, he presses on. "Even without writing, I can still make Poetry. I can sing, chant, speak prose. Words have their own power even when they're not written on paper. Even if I was gagged, even then - I could think them. Compose in my mind. Hells, even hum or tap my feet, music works too. Drawing, sculpting, carving. Dancing. But this collar blocks them all. Even if I don't do it on purpose - which is how most Poets do their strongest work, by instinct and intuition. You saw it today - I accidentally threw a word at him, and it blocked even that. I...I can barely think. It's more effort than I can describe to just talk. He knows that, and he uses it against me. He comes in here and tries to trick me into agreements. Verbal contracts. He uses every advantage he can to try to make me one more of his controlled. Oh...oh Lyric. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Not like that." His face speaks to his sincerity, but still it hurts.

"I'm not one of his. I just pretend to be, to help you. To help Faun. So tell me what I can do to get you out of here, Gerald. Tell me what I can do so you don't have to be in here anymore." I can't look at him. I can't even turn my face towards him. I just want to be gone from this cell, same as him.

He's quiet. I hear him shift and I wince. There's not too many possible positions for him, considering his restraints. "I can't write, can barely even think about writing. But...I don't know if you've ever written, Lyric. You have my Arms. You have that connection to me. I was thinking...can you write for me? It will still work. My words are my words." He pauses. "What's that face for, Lyric?" Oh, the time-worn voice of suspicion.

I laugh. "It's just funny. I started writing as soon as I knew you'd been taken. I thought I should record everything since you wouldn't be able to. I...Gerald, does he have all of your Poetry?" I turn back to face him. He shakes his head.

"I stash it away in a pocketspace a page at a time. He has the page I was writing, which contained barely any text at all. He only has enough to know I'm a Poet. Nothing on you, nothing on Faun. He's the most concerned about his daughters, actually, because that's who I was writing about at the time. I'd found some geneaology charts but had no time to trace them before I was caught." He looks sheepish.

I sigh in relief. "He's sniffing me out to see if I'm a spy, you know. It's good to know he doesn't have any proof from your end of things." I see Gerald frown.

"...Are you hiding what you write, Lyric?"

I nod. "I squirrel it away. I'm used to hiding contraband by now, brother." He chuckles.

"Learning the family businesses bit by bit, I see. Alright. I..." I see him slump a little bit. "Lyric...I need to quit. I need to sleep. Real sleep.  It's hard enough to talk like this, with the collar and the wards. I can last awhile caged up here, so if you need to...whatever it is you do...take your time and just don't get caught. Keep yourself safe most of all. Without you, we don't have anything."

I'm quiet. I try to let that sink in. It just doesn't, probably because I don't want it to.

"...Sorry. No pressure." I see him smile weakly, and then everything I see slides into a blur. The scene slips away. I'm no longer sitting on a stone floor in a cell - I'm laying back on a bed. Vertigo hits me while my body argues with itself on that.  I slip back into normal sleep before it can come to an agreement.

No comments:

Post a Comment