The Writing on the Wall CH21"By rights, you should be arrested again," Dr Cordet said, her hand over mine. Her knuckles were white, and my fingers hurt, but it was almost a nice reminder that we had not died.I laughed, rather unsteadily as I worked my fingers free, dazed after travelling via hasty sigil. It was the first one I had ever made. That thought kept on repeating in my head, so that I was barely aware that Dr Cordet was speaking at all. I had to focus to understand her words."As for myself, I have spent far too much time away from my own bed. I have to compile the data gained from our little excursion, which I believe I shall do in combination with a nice hot bath. Tomorrow afternoon, I shall call on you all again." With that, she turned on her heel, with less precision than I would have normally expected from Asclepia Cordet, and left the mansion.The fact that we had ended up there was more than a little unsettling to me.
The Writing on the Wall CH20The light grew fast, but thankfully that was because Demetrius had helped me to stand and started walking toward it, taking long strides. He seemed excited to have a goal. Or perhaps that was just me. He could have been embarrassed by his faux pas and wanting to leave it behind, as if it were a physical landmark.It would have been easier to convince myself of that if he had shown at least a bit of remorse over what he'd done, but that was not something to dwell on. He would never make sense to me, I decided, and that was that.All thoughts of this nature dribbled out of my head like beads of wax down the sides of a distressed candlestick when we had come close enough to the light to discern its nature. It was a cavern, carved out of the rock by deliberate hands.I let go of Demetrius, pulling my arm away from his shoulders, and walked over to one of the walls. Placing my hand on the rock, I rubbed my fingers over it.
The Writing on the Wall CH19"That's impossible."It didn't matter who said it, I wasn't listening terribly closely. All of my attention was on the Hollow Child and its lack of teeth. Hollow Man cried out somewhere. Like a caged animal. "Being used by..." That was the question they should have been asking. Who was using him?Or perhaps I should have been asking myself why I cared. The other person inside me twitched, and I fell to my knees, retching. Oh, Dr Cordet, thank you so very much. Focusing or thinking, whatever it was she had told me to do, had not just woken up some connection. Nor a magnet pull either.Someone held my hair back out of my face while everyone else kept their shoes clear of my breakfast. I coughed and wiped my mouth on the back of my hand. The Hollow Child flickered in and out of my vision now, as if whatever had made it so hard to shake had gone out of me with
The Writing on the Wall CH18Out in the natural light of the world, I had to cock a grin. It was like going to another country, but as another person. I was a licensed sigil artist--a courier had brought the license with a dry letter from the king, both of which were in my modest rucksack.The sheer rush of it, of being outside and official, were enough to flood my emotions. I could obscure from myself the fact that we were already leaving the outside in favour of a dank cave where the walls dripped and the king's men had insisted we would find the Hollow Man.At the head of our meagre party, Soterios and Demetrius walked like soldiers. Soterios, rather less so. Although he didn't look foolish with a sword bouncing against one hip as he walked, the pistol on his other side made for a funny contrast. I couldn't say why. He followed a step behind Demetrius, who had geared himself up to look exactly the way he had when I'd first met him.
The Writing on the Wall CH17To know a thing, my mum had used to say, was to no longer know any fear of it. This had once seemed to me to be the most abject of wisdoms, comparing it to the monsters I knew. The things that rattled and bumped in the night. The fears I knew.What the Hollow Man did to his victims scared me no less when I had finished the log than it had before. This might have seemed unfair to me had I taken a moment to try and soothe my mind with something so comforting as simple irritation.I didn't want to talk about it to anyone. They didn't ask, even after I had shut Ser Naderry's dusty old book and covered my eyes. He had been a good writer, in his own plodding way. Not like a writer of tales, but as a record keeper. He did not leave anything to the imagination. I could almost be grateful. My imagination was a bit too skilled in filling in gaps with horrible things.The states of the Ho
A Cuckoo Sings Inside Me CH3He looked at her the same way that the rest of them had. Trying not to screw up her face and say something privately unpleasant, Eleuin let her eyes drift about. She could not quite explain why this young person had given her the faint glimmer of hope he had. Possibly it was that he was even dirtier than the people she saw day to day.Or it was because he was such a vivid piece of the world outside the window. It was not likely that he was the brown-cloaked man she had seen that afternoon, but she had been told that beggars all wore one like it. Eleuin tended to remember what she was told.They sat there in uncomfortable silence for what seemed like hours to her, but may have only been a handful of seconds. Time passed so abominably slow on this planet.Finally, she broke down and spoke again. He had been spending the interim inching away from her, like a worm retreating a dry spell. "It's true," she insisted.
A Cuckoo Sings Inside Me CH2When an insect sees a weaker insect, all it sees is another bug. When a cousin sees a cousin of lower caste, he may call him 'lesser', but he loves him as his own.Gremlin sat on the edge of a box and counted his take for the day. It was slim pickings by the docks, but he got less kicks than when he braved the merchant's run. There was enough for bread at least.Kicking up dirt and grinning, he made a beeline for the bakery, a good indoor shop that he was only allowed into if he wiped his feet before entering. To be sure, he had to dodge the odd swing from a patron who disliked the lack of humble hunch in his youthful shoulders, but that was all down to instinct. Gremlin was already seventeen, after all. Two years a man, and proudly waiting for the stubble on his face to become a proper scruffy beard.He had little enough to be proud of, after all.The baker looked up as his coins clanked against the wooden counte
A Cuckoo Sings Inside Me CH1There was safety in numbers. This was an axiom with which Eleuin was well-acquainted. She understood it in at least two different contexts, but it did not seem the same in this place.She leaned on the windowsill, pretending that it was open. The glass was cool against her fingers, but too cold for her face. She pressed the tip of her little nose against it anyway, eyes skyward, as they always were. Beyond the streaks of grease and salt air on the other side of the window, she could see the stars, blinking like electric lights.Behind her, something broke and someone cursed. Curious as to its meaning, she murmured it to herself, trying to divine it without context in which to place it. Perhaps it wasn't vulgar at all, nor even a word. The thought made her giggle to herself. A tiny cloud of steam from her breath fogged up the window.She rubbed at the spot. Though the window was