the smuggler’s bible

Gisela

They leave with a stub of a wax and a short wick. The light falls against dark tiles, breaks and scatters throughout the halls. As a final precaution at the side gate, they use the last of the candle to tallow the hinges, then pull together and burst into the warm night of the garden.

So close, now. They sprint through the foliage past the den of his hunters, sleeping under the new moon. Above them, a shadow moving against starlight. Gisela hears a shriek and beating wings, feels the trailing hand slip from her grasp.

She doesn’t turn back.

Gisela

She waits until they’re alone in the courtyard.

“Tomorrow night,” she whispers. “We have to go then, it’s the only time.”

“He lets the creatures prowl after dark.”

“Not always. They don’t like it when there’s no moon.”

“How do you know?”

“I met one. They aren’t all bad.”

“He’s tricking you. You know he changes.”

“No, it’s easy to tell by the eyes. Anyway, we’ve got to do something.”

“We should just wait until someone comes to get us.”

“Nobody’s coming,” Gisela says, plucking a stick off the ground and snapping it fiercely. “We have to do it ourselves.”

Gisela

Rhombus stares at the object in his palm. He breathes in. The world draws close to the cottage, crowding heavily at the edge of the lantern’s circle of light. Then he exhales in a rush and tears away his linen bandage, raises the object to his face.

“Wait,” Gisela says. “It’s very cold.”

“Cold.” Rhombas stands with his palm clapped over one eye.

“Yes, it was like ice. Rhombus?” She rushes forward to catch him. “Rhombus!”

The world is retreating again, falling back as the light advances. Past the lantern, past the cottage, a bright wave rolling over the forest.

Vortigern

The teapot sits steaming on the table. Snow colors the hillside a dirty, scuffed white, but it is rippled with shadows. Like water moving below thick ice, deep and cold. Completely removed.

“Do you remember how different things were? Foolish, I know. You needn’t answer.” Vortigern laughs. “But certainly you, of all people, also recall precisely why it all changed.”

A light blooms silently on the horizon, the soft violet of dawn creeping across the treetops. But much too early for dawn. The nineclaw whips about, claws ready.

“Well, never mind. I suppose the world can’t stay the same forever.”