[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
We knew it would come.

For four years, ever since the dream of the red city and the blue, we knew it would come. For three months, ever since the dream of Nanshe telling me what we must do.

And yet we always thought we would have more time before we had to be ready.

We very nearly were ready, that night that the earth shook.

I gathered up everything that I had been crafting and collecting, and went to find my family. I hugged Marie and Luc very tightly, and told them that I loved them. And then I told Valmont, and held him for as long as I could. We were both so full of fear and hope and love that we could barely find words, but we did not need to speak to know how the other was feeling. "I love you," I said once more, and kissed all of my family.

I dared not think of what might happen if I did not come back, what might happen if I failed. I could not think of that.

And then I ran.

Down to the river I speed, between the crashes of thunder and tremors of the earth. 'It is already raining,' I think, with a giddy, hysterical gasp of laughter. Do the Adversaries know that they have done some of the work for us? Do they care?

I know that I do not need to send word to Syl or Chester or any of the others who have been working on this great spell. Our magic has been twined so closely together over the last few months that I can sense them all, if I listen hard enough, and I know that they are all coming.

One by one we arrive at the banks of the river, just as we have planned to do for so many months. A little thrill still runs through me when I see everyone gathered. There are so many! So many who have come together for this cause, who never might have even spoken to each other were it not for their love of Excolo, and desire to keep it safe. Even if we are not all friends with each other - for Syl and I still are not, even though our respect for each other has grown as we worked together - we all love Excolo, and that is enough.

I have brought silver and mistletoe for protection - the same things that Chester taught me about in my very first lessons with him! I spread them in a wide circle around us to shield us from as much harm as possible while we work.

Our magic winds together, and we start to draw Nanshe's essence out of the earth, out of the water…

The instant that my magic touches the river, I can tell that there is something different. Not just Nanshe's essence that we have been concentrating in the water - there is something else. More divinity, more power. Something new and fresh, something that feels like spring and growth and fertility. I do not know its source, but I know at once that it is good. The new power flows into our spell, filling it with new life.

I am so deep into the spell that I do not even notice the thunder anymore. I see nothing but our threads of Power; I feel nothing except the growing magic and the rising tide of Nanshe's essence, each of us adding our own strand to the spell. Water and earth and fire and air and divinity, all coming together as one.

Air is mine - as we draw Nanshe's essence into the sky, I send out more and more threads of my own Power. We bind our Power together to make a bridge between the earth and the heavens, between the water and the sky.

The bridge is Nanshe, and the rain is Nanshe, and the earth is Nanshe. And now we are Nanshe too, as her divinity washes over us in the rain. I smile as the rain touches my skin, for now I know that we will succeed.

We have helped Nanshe give the gift that she wished to give to the people of Excolo: herself.

Est deus in nobis.

[Open to anyone working to stop the apocalypse]
[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
[The morning after the dream of Nanshe]

Dear Ms. Thorn,

I apologize for the suddenness of this letter, and hope that you will understand that I would not write so abruptly if it were not a very urgent matter.

I need your help - or, rather, I know that we need to work together - on something vitally important. It is related to what we did together three years ago, at the water's edge. The need is even greater now than it is then.

Please meet me at your earliest convenience in the garden behind the Whitechapel on Silk Road. I will be there working.


Hermia Stephanides

The letter was the fourth thing that I did after I awoke, with the taste of seafoam on my lips. The first was to curl myself close to Valmont, embracing him so tightly that he awoke too. I told him everything as I held him close, listening to the steady beat of his heart and feeling his warm presence next to me.

The second was to hug the children. (It is still a marvel, to think 'children' and not 'child.') For once, Luc stayed asleep - he murmured and squirmed in his dreams, his little mind working hard even in slumber, but he did not wake.

The third was to send a message to Chester, a tiny flare of magic sent into the ether. I know he will answer when he can, and I hope that it is soon, for I will need his help. I will need everyone's help.

The fourth was the letter, sent off with Adam as he finished the night's cleaning to head home. He was startled to see me awake, and even more so to see me sending a note to the Carnival, but he agreed to do what I asked.

And the fifth was to get to work.

I stay in the garden all morning, Marie sleeping beside me as the pale-purple stillness of dawn brightens into full day. Sorting herbs and sketching diagrams, plucking at the threads of Power to see what shapes I can weave them into, trying to find the sparks of divinity that Nanshe left behind.

Working and waiting.

[Open to Syl]
[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
One week later

Our life has become a happy haze of the sort that I had nearly forgotten.

Sleep comes in small snatches between times when Marie needs to eat - and sometimes even smaller, if Luc has a nightmare or simply decides that he does not wish to sleep when it is bedtime. And during the day, all is exhausting joy, with Luc chattering away and asking if Marie can come play now,

Valmont does what he can, and so does Alice, and Nu and Kate and others come to help as well, and yes, it is easier to handle the second time around! But still, there are moments of deep exhaustion for all of us.

Sometimes I cannot sleep at all, though, not even then, for sometimes I feel that I must look at Marie while she sleeps. I must watch every twitch of her tiny perfect fingers and every scrunch of her little mouth, and embed them all in my mind so that I might always remember them.

But other nights, I fall instantly to sleep. Like now.

[Open to Nanshe]
[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
Everyone says that it is easier the second time around. And it is, I suppose, for I already know what to expect. And it was briefer, for which I am grateful to all the gods!

And safe and healthy, for Nu was watching over me. Her calm voice, her soothing ripple of words, her kind hands - and, of course, the magical aid that she gave. I knew more certainly than I ever did with Luc, that I would be safe and so would the baby.

But there is no amount of preparation that can make it easier when you are handed a tiny human being, and told that you are responsible for everything. Feeding, cleaning, teaching. Turning them into a good person - that is your job. Making thousands upon thousands of choices that will shape them, choices that will cause joy or grief or fear or reassurance to a person who depends upon you utterly.

That is never easy. But oh, it is sweet.

As Nu steps out, I lie back against the pillows, my arms wrapped around the little bundle of blankets and warmth, and feel the joy seep through me as I hold my daughter.

Our daughter.

[Open to Valmont]
[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
Thursday, June 14
Valmont and Hermia's Garden

Well. This is going to be awkward.

But a bit of awkwardness is well worth the trouble, and worth the greater good if we can turn Mab aside from the path that she is on. If we can win her back to the path that I know she wants to follow, but has gone astray. This person who delights in violence and bloodshed - that is not my friend. Not the person who took me in when I first stumbled into this town; not the person performed my wedding.

If there is any chance that I can possibly call Mab back to herself, I must do it.

And, in truth, I should have done it long ago.

So we are setting out tea and cakes and lemonade in the garden, and sending Luc up for his nap a bit early so that he will be out of the way.

(Well, more precisely, we are sending him up to his room. Whether he will sleep is another question entirely. More likely, we will come up to find a very awake littleboy amid a maze of pillows and blocks and a long elaborate story about what it is. But at least he will not be here.)

I waddle about the table (dear gods, I did not think I could get any larger, but apparently, I can!), setting napkins and silverware in their proper places while Valmont fetches the food. And the wheels of my mind spin, and I wait.

[Open to Valmont and Mab]
[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
Monday, June 4
Hermia's Study

This is the hour that Alice and I have claimed for ourselves, in the middle of our busy days. Our work is both over for the day, and Valmont has Luc for his father-son time before the Whitechapel becomes busy.

Just as I have carved out time, I have carved out my little space - a tiny room that we put in during the renovations three years ago, that has become my study. Tiny, but just big enough for me to work on my magic, and for me to have my lessons with Alice.

So as soon as I have walked home from the library - or, rather, waddled home - I kiss Valmont and Luc, and go to the study to put my feet up and prepare for Alice.

Piece by piece, I set out the proper supplies on the table. Lemon-scented candles to help her focus, sage and verbena in silver dishes to bring out her magical aptitude while still giving protection. Once it is done, I call out to Chester, so that he can join us, and wait in the brief moment of peace.

[Open to Alice and Chester]
[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
Friday, June 1
Day 1461
The garden behind the Whitechapel

I think that today I will stay in the garden. The sun is shining, and I can sit on the chaise longue with my shoes off and my feet up, and I have all of the books that I need with me - and the notebook for my project with Alice, too. I shall have to speak with her about that when she returns from work.

Luc doesn't seem to mind staying at home as long as he can still run about. He has decided that he must pick one of every kind of plant and flower to bring to me, and he has lined them all up in a neat row along the edge of my chair. Why? I have already learned not to ask, even though Luc would happily tell me at great length, just as he tells me long chattering stories about every one of the flowers. My son's logic obeys its own rules, and they are rules that even we who are closest to him cannot understand.

Reason or no, logic or no, it still makes me smile to see his small face screwed up in serious thought - so like his father's expression in the same mood! - as he sorts out his plants.

A sharp kick breaks my reverie, and I press my hand down, rubbing at the spot where the kick landed. Not much longer, I think, as I shift on the chair to try to find a more comfortable position. The huge swell of my belly has dropped lower in the last few days, and something feels different. No, not much longer at all. Soon there will be another little one playing in our garden.

[Open to anyone who wants to play in the garden]
[identity profile] shards-of-alice.livejournal.com
[Saturday, September 20th (day 482)]
[The White Chapel, morning]

I wake up and my head is cottony, and crowded. There's not enough room inside, anymore. Nothing changed -- her and me and my body, our body, where we live, it's still the same -- except that I can remember what it was like, when it was quiet, and I want to cry when I open my eyes and the noise pours in with the morning light.

Not knowing was better, easier too, and I can try to pretend it never happened, except that she's laughing and I know neither one of us is fooled. "Go away," I say, to the weight behind my eyes. "Leave me alone." A thief, with a name that's not hers to take and memories that aren't hers to keep, and I hate her. Just a second, just as quick as a blink, but the pitcher explodes in the basin anyway and I have to clean up the water before I get dressed. I hide the broken pieces under the bed and I hide the anger in the back of my head, and when I go downstairs for breakfast I can smile like I'm supposed to.

[Open to Hermia]

[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
Friday, September 19
Hermia and Valmont's apartment

The sun rose, and it was over.

I wove Jack back together, straw by straw and thread by thread, until he was whole, and then hugged him hard for a very long time.

I took Valmont's hand and did not want to let it go for the whole time that we walked through the shattered but healing streets to look for Alice. Dear Alice, herself again and only herself. The three of us walked home together, and tucked Alice into bed. Tomorrow I can talk to her; tomorrow I can help her sort out all of the difficult things that she has seen and felt. Now, I will let her rest.

And now I must help myself sort through all of it, for I still feel half in a dream even though the world has righted itself. The tiny thrill of Power still runs through my fingers, still drums deep in my belly, still ties me to this world and the one beyond.

Still ties me to Nanshe.

She is gone now - I could feel when Syl cut the last thread - but she is still with us. We wove her into the world around us, and her essence keeps us safe. Our dreams will be quieter now, and the abbey will be silent, but the world is whole.

And now…what?

Alice is in bed. I have washed the sand and dirt and salt water off of me, changed my clothes, and…now what? I sit in our living room - our living room, not the strange dark place it was when we left - and I curl into my corner of the couch, and…

Now what?

[Open to Valmont]
[identity profile] glass-beddau.livejournal.com
[Wednesday            17th       479Thursday, September 18th (day 480)]
[The Abbey]
[In a late strange time]

The air is cool, and still, and waiting to burn.

The graveyard here is different to what it was a day ago; it's the one I've dreamt of, I think, where and a year and more ago I saw Nanshe come walking from the north; graveyard north, not town north. But the ground seethes like bothered ants, and the grass does not whisper. If I left off on looking, I think it would pull itself free and crawl away.

And I leave off looking, as that is not where we are going.

You feel no especial call to goodness, do you, Glass? No. It's not in me, not rooted; but I have come to hate the other, and what it works, and may be that is a beginning.

The Abbey's stone is weeping, and there are shapes even I cannot see in the shadows. This is not the Shuck's night; this is safety twisted to fear. And we have come.

[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
Morning, Wednesday September 17
Valmont and Hermia's apartment

Something is not right.

I feel it as soon as I wake up. Something…off. Like a note being played out of tune, over and over, jangling against the edges of my mind.

And then I step out of bed, and do not touch the ground.

I'm floating.

I sit swiftly back down on the bed before I fall - and, yes, I sit on the bed. That works. All right, now back out…one foot, and then the other…

…and I float again. Just a few inches above the ground, but most definitely floating.

Nothing else in the room is floating. Valmont is still there in the bed - and thank all the gods that he's all right! And Nestor is curled up in his corner, flailing away in some strange kitten-dream, but there and safe.

Chester, I think, sending out the signal as my fingers worry at the gold band on my wrist. Something is wrong.

I fall back onto the bed and reach over to shake Valmont's shoulder. "Darling," I whisper urgently. "Wake up."

[Open to Valmont first, then Glass, Chester, and anyone else in the vicinity of the Whitechapel]
[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
Tuesday, September 2, late afternoon
Nu's Trailer

There are few places in Excolo where I feel more out of place than I do here.

Oh, the Carnival is not technically Excolo, I suppose, but it has been here for as long as I have, so it feels as if it is part of the town, and it is hard to remember that people like Lucien are not originally from Excolo.

But as soon as I step into the cluster of trailers and machines behind the actual carnival, I am reminded that this is a very different world, and one where I most definitely do not belong. People stare - or, almost worse, do not stare, but give me covert looks with suspicious eyes.

At least the suspicion clears a bit when I ask to see Nu - they are used to women from the town consulting with her.

It is still so strange to think of why I am consulting with her! It hardly feels real, even though I feel that little leap of joy with each new person that I tell, and even though I try to see signs of it every day. Perhaps speaking with Nu will help?

I draw myself up straighter, and knock on her door.

[open to Nu]
[identity profile] glass-beddau.livejournal.com
[Late morning of Friday, August 29 (day 460)]
[Coming back down Main from the Abbey]

One of those end-of-summer mornings; cold earth and warm low sky and the air between is running for the horizon. It's a kindness to my eyes; this last day or so they've been raw, summer digging at them in a way it's not normally after doing.

Gave Iago back the ring, yesterday. Haven't worn it on my hand in weeks, but never was much after doing that; it's strange to feel it gone. Leaves me tired, but there's a knot in the back of my neck that's ready to loosen, I think.

Spent a pair of hours out at the Abbey, this morning, and it's something to take a solid measure of what needs work and see it done at the end of a time. I pull back to myself a little, I'll start taking her out with me, leave off troubling Wanda and others.

It helps, to have something to look ahead to.

[Open to Hermia]
[identity profile] chester-excolo.livejournal.com
[Thursday, August 21st , around noon]
[The park]

Given it's a real nice day, I ain't surprised that when I go lookin' fer Hermia, she's in the park insteadda the library.  I figure that now I'm all healed up from the fightin' last week, we oughta talk. 

Mab will have told her what happened and maybe one of the others. and she maybe have heard something bout the other thing as well. We got plenty to talk about. 

There ain't anyone close 'nough to hear us so I come outta the bushes near the bench she's sittin' on. " 'Lo, Kiddo."

[Open to Hermia] [Closed!]
[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
[Saturday, August 16, morning]
[Hermia and Valmont's apartment]

I thought I was careful.

No, I was careful! I always am! I count, and I have all the herbs measured out exactly, and I never forget to take them. There is too much work to be done, and too many other things to worry about. After we have made the blue city come into being, and chased the red city away - then I can stop taking the herbs, and start planning for the far future. For now I must concentrate on magic, and on fighting!

Or, that's what I thought.

At first I thought that I had counted incorrectly, or marked the wrong day on my calendar. But then the days passed and my monthly bleeding still did not come.

And then three days ago, there was that horrible burst of Power, and the dead birds. Chester and I are still trying to puzzle it out. Perhaps now that the Power was released, my body would return to its normal rhythms?

Except that it did not. I checked my calendar again and again, and still once more. The more I checked, and the more I considered, the more I started to think that...perhaps I did not miscount?

Yesterday I tried to go to Lucien's office on the way home from the library, but he was not there - odd, that he wasn't; I hope he's all right. Glass wasn't in either. I have tried to think of who else would know about such things - perhaps that woman from the carnival that people have spoken about? Or, well, there is Syl, but she would hardly welcome me!

And the more that I have thought about it, the more I want to talk to Valmont. Yes, Lucien or Glass or the carnival midwife could confirm it and give me details, and of course I want that and need that! But Valmont is the one I talk to when I am anxious or happy or excited or uncertain, and I am all of those right now. And the more I think about it, the more I want him to be the first person that I speak to about it.

I sit on the bed, hugging my knees to my chest, watching Valmont sleep, waiting for him to wake while my heart flutters with nerves.

What am I doing? What am I thinking? Yes, I have battles to fight, and there is Excolo to save. But who will live in the Excolo that we make, if not the children who will come after us? What better way is there to say that I believe what we are fighting for, if not to show that I have faith that the world will still be here nine months from now, and to try to make that world better?

Well, not nine months. More like seven and a half, if I have counted correctly.

Dear gods, seven and a half months!

Dear gods, when will Valmont wake up?

[Open to Valmont]
[identity profile] goddessnanshe.livejournal.com

Friday, 30th July

Glass has been looking for me. Miao told me so, because she had a conversation with Glass about it. I thanked her for the information, but made no promises about what I would do with it. I think Glass can be trusted, but I have little knowledge of how close she is to her father - not in terms of friendship, I know they have little love lost between them, but in terms of a bond beyond that. Gods sometimes have a way of knowing things experienced by their kin, and I do not wish to risk Gaueko seeing me like this. He and I have been, in our way, almost friends; but I do not doubt that seeing me like this he would at once go to his master. Out of a spirit of friendship he might resist raping me first, but then again, he might not.

I have had much time to think of late. Those with whom I have trusted my secrets at the abbey are no closer to finding a solution to my situation, and my own dream wanderings have given me little help. But then one night recently I had a dream of my own - a spontaneous dream, not one created, which is rare for me. I was walking through a library, and there was a woman at my side. I recognised the library as Excolo's - I have not been there, but enough people in town have dreamed of it for me to recognise it. The woman called herself Lydia, and I had the strangest sense that if I spoke with her she would help me. But every time I opened my mouth to speak, a book fell from the shelves and distracted my companion.

So today I walk through town to the library, and I come to the enquiry desk. Oh, Hermia works here! I had almost forgotten. I nearly say hello familiarly, then remember myself.

"Good morning," I say, smiling. "I'm looking for the head librarian, if she is available."

[Open to Hermia]

[identity profile] glass-beddau.livejournal.com
[Afternoon of Thursday, July 15 (day 410)]
[Out 'round the corner of Sentinel House]

I've managed through worse sleep, though I suppose not for as long as this is like to last; can't count on the first two days t'end with the third. Yesterday's and today's rain are running loose into each other; had a moment of taking it still for Wednesday, one of the times I woke.

Not counting it as there being no work to be done, now, but glad at least to have the birthing behind me.

Open the door and set her down inside and swaddled and dry, then settle sitting in the doorway with my back against the doorjamb and listen to the rain. The air alone's warm; the fall of water takes it down to something like the cool side of a pillow on a hot night, and it aches to draw my knees towards my chest and wrap my arms 'round them, but for a change it's possible. And leastways it's quiet of the moment.

[identity profile] glass-beddau.livejournal.com
[Afternoon of Thursday, July 15 (day 410)]
[Out 'round the corner of Sentinel House]

I've managed through worse sleep, though I suppose not for as long as this is like to last; can't count on the first two days t'end with the third. Yesterday's and today's rain are running loose into each other; had a moment of taking it still for Wednesday, one of the times I woke.

Not counting it as there being no work to be done, now, but glad at least to have the birthing behind me.

Open the door and set her down inside and swaddled and dry, then settle sitting in the doorway with my back against the doorjamb and listen to the rain. The air alone's warm; the fall of water takes it down to something like the cool side of a pillow on a hot night, and it aches to draw my knees towards my chest and wrap my arms 'round them, but for a change it's possible. And leastways it's quiet of the moment.

[identity profile] kira-galliard.livejournal.com
{Early Evening- Tuesday, 29th June ~ Day 394}
{Crossroads DanceHall}

Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive
And the world turning inside out, yeah
And floating around in ecstasy, so
Don't stop me now
Don't stop me
'Cuz I'm having a good time, having a good time

It is finally time to open the doors.
The lights are on- thanks to a couple folks from the fair who came out to help me with 'em. And the musics' done warming up now- sounds of instruments tuning and and the player's psyching each other up have given over to songs playing and feet stomping along.
A few brave souls have opened the dancing and there are mostly smiles all around.

So far so good.

A lot of the younger set know me by now from hiring them for the clean-up, and I put up some signs around town, so hopefully we'll have a good turn out.
And now that the greater part of the haying is done, people are in a good mood. People like to dance and come out and see each other when they're happy. Even in a strange town like this that holds true.

Smooth my skirt as I circle the floor towards the drink stand. I'll probably take a few turns of my own tonight, but mostly my job is to meet people who don't know me yet and get them to like me enough to come back. If the night continues like this, I do think it'll turn out fine.

The band starts another song, and I find my smile is genuine.

(The DanceHall is open to all! Come on in and have fun!)
[identity profile] hermia-sophia.livejournal.com
Sunday, June 13, afternoon
The Whitechapel, Hermia and Valmont's apartment

Under ordinary circumstances, this is the sort of meeting that I would prefer to hold in the library. That is where my books are; that is where most of my notes on magic are. That is where Chester feels more comfortable slipping in, and where Lydia can overhear and suggest useful texts.

But this is nothing close to an ordinary circumstance. Any discussion of magic needs to be discreet, of course, but I do not want to take any chances that anyone could overhear. Nor does Glass, as she said when she asked me for the meeting.

For her run of bad luck was not merely luck; it was a curse. And so we must be very very careful when we discuss it, for her safety and mine.

I move about the living room, setting out tea and some of the little cakes that Valmont made last night, as I wait for Glass to arrive. I have to move a few piles of books aside as I do, for I have brought home as many books as I could carry, and all of the relevant notebooks as well.

I just hope that it is enough.

[Open to Glass]

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