breakfastofchampions: (reian)
[personal profile] breakfastofchampions
I really like how this one turned out, mainly because I've missed these characters since finishing the novel, and now I'm actually managing to come up with some viable ideas for either a sequel or a "what happened next" short story collection.

Also, don't worry if some of these might seem sad! These are things I'd like to resolve in more developed pieces.

(I think the Khelaj part is my favorite, if only because I keep laughing about it. Oh, Khelaj.)

Title: After Words
Universe: Wind & Foxes
Characters, pairings: Reian, Nelius/The Wind, Pasha, Kivran, Neri, Kai, Khelaj
Rating: PG
Word count: 1,673
Summary: After the novel's end, some of the characters reflect on the silence (or lack thereof) in their lives now.
Notes: Written for [community profile] origfic_bingo, for the prompt "silence". In some ways, this is a piece about the supposed "silence" at the end of a novel, when really, the story hasn't ended yet. It only seems to (especially when the writer misses their characters).


I. Reian

He no longer hears it, although it was never much of a noise. Such a small sound, he never knew he had been hearing it until he no longer could. Imagine, hearing a very low--not a hum, not a buzz, maybe more like a whisper or a murmur in the corner of your ear, your whole life, and one day, suddenly, it stops.

Do you miss it? When you never really heard it or knew what it was? How can you miss something like that? What does it mean?

What it means, for Reian, is that the quality of silence has changed forever. When he's sitting by himself, not doing anything, and no birds are calling, and the Wind is elsewhere, what he hears is real silence, the absence of a sound he never knew existed. A sound that he can't even describe.

What had that sound been? The voice of his unused gift? It must have been something like that. He wonders if, in time, other things will begin to fade, things which came from his gift: the ability to learn foreign tongues swiftly, the ability to speak to birds. Will the language of birds dwindle, in his ears, to the wordless notes which are all others can hear? It's possible that that will happen, but he can't say for sure, because he is possibly the first person to have found himself in this position. Don't let me lose that too, please, he asks, but who is he asking? His power is gone. It can't be returned to him by anyone, not even the Moon.

If he never truly heard that silent sound, how then, does not hearing it carve a little ache of loss into his chest, like wood inscribed with letters from a language no one remembers how to speak?


II. Nelius

The needle was a sharp voice in his ear. The needle spoke to him, sometimes angry, sometimes wheedling, sometimes sad. It was not a good companion, but it was a companion of sorts. Before that, it was Khelaj who had spoken in his mind, and sometimes that low, deep voice from within the earth.

There are no voices now, except spoken ones. His mind is quiet, except for his own thoughts. His mind has not been quiet for many years.

He likes to walk out into the woods. He can go there as much as he likes. No one stops him from going. No one suggests that he do something else instead. No one frightens him.

He sits outside, among the grasses, beneath the leaves. There is another voice he heard once. A voice he misses, a beloved one. He can still hear it, if he listens, though it is not the same. It no longer speaks to him in words, and likely never will again.

The Wind winds his fingers in Nelius' hair and gently pulls. He kisses Nelius' face, and Nelius bears his throat for more kisses. The Wind is a lover without a form, without a voice. He speaks in a wordless and perhaps melancholy sigh, as if he is saying, unceasingly and always, goodbye.


III. Pasha

She hadn't expected the change to be like it was, or when. When she left home, which seemed to be the most drastic action, nothing happened, except that she moved. She found herself in a new place, but nothing happened to her, herself. She was Pasha in a new place. When she found Reian again, she was Pasha with Reian. Even when she began to do incredible things, like call down the Sun, she was Pasha with the Sun inside her. When the Sun left, she was plain Pasha again.

It was after that, in a moment she hadn't thought was particularly significant, that the Pasha she once was became someone else altogether. Such a little moment, when they said their tribe was called Tribe Telan. When they said that Pasha was the tribe's Mirza. Those things had already more or less been decided, conclusions reached by events as they unfolded. She hadn't thought that the simple formality of the conversation would mean anything.

You're our Mirza, Reian had said, or something like that, and suddenly, she was not Pasha as the Mirza, she was, like her father before her, and his father, and many fathers and mothers before them, The Mirza, the leader of the tribe, with the gift of sovereignty lighting in her like a fire, like a little sun. Her sun.

Pasha is the Mirza of Telan.

She'd always known--a Mirza's daughter, how could she not know?--that being Mirza was far more than having the gift and using it, that actually being named the leader of a tribe meant something altogether different, that your tribe became yours and you became theirs. She'd always known that, but experiencing it was something else.

Reian and Nelius are the two members of her young tribe. Imbri, being of another people, is not included by the gift in the same way. Reian and Nelius are Pasha's. She is aware of them in a way she never was before. She knows where they are, and how they are. They are always in her mind now, not a loud presence--a quiet one, but unmistakable. They are like low voices speaking always behind her, close enough for her to hear their tone, but not clear enough for her to make out any words.

It's like an itch at the back of her skull. It's more than a little maddening. How has her father dealt with it all her life? He has so many more in her care than she does. How does anyone live with this? What if something happened to her people? How would she bear it?

When Kivran meets them, waiting for them on the edge of the waste, he smiles at her. He must see it in her eyes. Kivran understands, in a way Reian and Nelius can't (although maybe Imbri does). Kivran's father is a Mirza, though one without the gift. Gift or not, all Mirzas and children of Mirzas know what it is like, to give up yourself and become what you were meant to be: your tribe.

Kivran goes out of his way to speak to her alone that night. He doesn't have a great deal to say, but he says it with a smile, and she knows he means to offer her comfort, or sympathy, at least. "Think of it this way," he says. "You'll never be lonely again."


IV. Neri

She runs. Through the grasses. Fast. She feels her heart in her chest. She feels alive. She does not stop running until she reaches her nest. There, Kai is waiting. Neri slips in, curls up beside her. Kai's fur is warm. She says hello, softly, sleepily. Neri says it back and closes her eyes.

All her life, Neri always heard that her people were foxes in human form. It wasn't that she hadn't believed the stories. She'd believed them, but she had been born as a human. She'd lived her whole life as a human, sorrowed, sung, and wept as a human. Now that her people have been returned to their original form, the form of their ancestors, she should feel content, shouldn't she?

She isn't content. The form of her ancestors isn't her form. She never felt like she was in the wrong body, until now. Now she feels like a human trapped in the form of a fox.

Is it possible to be something you're not for so long that you become it? She'd like to ask Kai that. What does Kai think about it? Yet she's afraid to do that. Kai seems completely content. What if Neri is the only one who feels that way? What if it's true, what they said about her when she was young, that she didn't belong? Maybe she should have left the tribe then, though terrible things happen to those who leave their tribes.

She couldn't have left, even if she should have. She would never leave Kai. She will not leave her now. She wants Kai to be in the form she prefers, and whatever form Kai is in, Neri will be in it too. That is the thing she is that surpasses form: with Kai. That's the most important thing.

Neri will not speak, but she cannot forget. She carries them quiet inside her, words she cannot say.


V. Khelaj

He doesn't know what real death feels like. He's never experienced it. Death is for other men, not for true sorcerers. He is the only true sorcerer. Yet at first, he is deceived. He believes himself dead. It's unlike him to be so foolish.

It was the unexpectedness of it that threw him off, the sudden powerlessness, the inability to move, speak, or alter his situation in any way. The darkness, too, the seeming absence of any environment. He hadn't known what to make of it.

He had lived inside a stone for hundreds of years, but that had been different. That had been like a long, long sleep. Now he is aware of things and of himself, but he is powerless, bodiless, silent. It takes him--he can't say a long time, for he has no way to mark the passage of time. It takes him some time, then, to realize where he is.

It is not completely quiet in the darkness he finds himself in. It is not hard and cold, like a stone. Somewhere, nearby, there is a steady rhythm, but he is so close to it, it is difficult for him to perceive it at first for what it is. When he understands, he wants to laugh, but he cannot make a sound.

He is alive in the only thing that can sustain him. In the blood of a sorcerer. A secret, kept so close to a heart.
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