You can balance a sword on the tip of your pinky, keep its point floating in the sky like a steeple over the desert. It will hang there light as a necklace, hang in the air as if caught on a star, needing only the slightest effort to stay upright. You get so used to the balancing act, so good at it, that you can do it while juggling, while working, while socializing, while flirting. Just go on with your existence, dedicating only tiny corrections in the muscles of one finger to defy gravity for one more night.
Until the balance tips.
Then, efforts to counteract the imbalance must be sudden and great as the blade materializes on its descent into something with mass and lethality, something that swings in wild arcs and no longer stops for flesh and bone, careening inexorably to where the blood lives, the wet interstices.
I resisted so well. The first time I let the sword wobble, I supped on Thomas Hardy while his lashed body lay on the stage, and the court chambers were empty. But I hung the blade back on its nail in the sky, and balance was restored.
Then there was the Carthian loudmouth butchered in Elysium, and Hazel wouldn’t let me debase myself on her, nor on Hazel herself, no matter how I negotiated. Balance restored.
And throughout it all, I managed to frolic with Kyra for a couple of weeks or so, and play house with Danice for a little longer, and never once did I drink from them. Bravo.
But the pendulum, the sword, swings suddenly, and when it does, it bears down with all its metal and single-minded design. First, Hazel sparking into hunger, and circling and stalking me, such that I knew there was no escape save for another war-like waltz which promised to be more final than our first one. I negotiated again, but this time there was something she needed. I told myself it was only a momentary wobble in the balance, that I was saving myself from being savaged by this cantankerous bitch of a Daeva, who would take from me whether or not I willingly gave her what she craved, and besides, a chance to taste her? Why not?
Incidentally, she was wrong. She still tastes like liquor. Dark and spicy, amber-stained barrels. Old vices don’t flush away so quickly, it seems—or is that the Old Wine tasting how I want it to taste?
But then there was the confrontation with the cats. A whirl of black fur, a hundred scratches and bites, then blind fever-dreams full of mewling, hisses, caterwauls and gunshot wounds leaking the stench of brimstone, mercifully drowned in the richest, darkest, sweetest—no, sweet is a wretched word for the quality of the substance, sweet is too sweet, it is a word without power, without the terrible potency and the bone-melting satisfaction of the stuff, which overtook my own blood and coated me, an embryonic fluid through which I awoke, still drinking, sometimes crazy with hunger, but remembering still the heady, dizzying ichor infusing me, and the feeling which persisted afterwards, the feeling about /her/, which I cannot put into words, not yet, not ever, most likely.
And so the sword was arcing down so slowly, the way something far away and as large as a mountain would tip over, and I didn’t know it was falling until the scent of Danice’s wounds wafted to me like a lazy, careless candle flame touching black powder.
Woosh, boom. Black powder may be slow, but it gets there in the end.
How lucky, how goddamn fortunate that she was there, my sire, my mother, so that I could drink from her and not any of these Daeva women who would love to have me by the sleeve permanently if they could manage it. Even if she was reluctant to let me. Even if, in truth, she does not favor me, does not care much for me, finds me a failure, ugly. It doesn’t matter. I’ve lived with that inequality before, over forty years ago, the distance, the coldness. It was enough then, it is enough now.
But we were interrupted—cats! I thought. More of these fucking cats, ripping into me, opening me up with their blasted needle teeth and their kaleidoscopic paws stuffed with far too many claws, but it was not a cat; it was a bat. The bat.
She’s my mother, my goddamn mother, my second one but the only one who matters, the only /person/ who truly matters, and ever will. If we want to share, we share. Who is he to half-kill me for doing what it is only natural to do? To wait and want and be mostly ignored while being spoiled at the same time? To take what is given?
Who is he?
He wants his painting. I’ll get it. Oh, I’ll get it.
Who gets it after that is anyone’s guess.