A pile of rubble in the middle of an old stream valley. A sound of takk
-ing stone on stone, intermittent and variable. Someone was throwing rocks. Not with much force, either."A halo from my father,"
said the voice in the gulch. "A blade from my mother. A thousand curses from Yivvin, and..."
A cocked head, as the next fistful of rock cracked down the walls. "And good hearing from Aihtiraq, I guess. That's one thing to be thankful for."
The boy looked up to where a sable marten was curled upon a crag, looking down at him. The two seemed equally startled by each other. His pockmarked metal disc
followed his head.
He cracked a smile, looked down. The ferret-thing scampered away up the rock. He turned back to the D-shaped blade sticking up from the rocks, its handle embedded in its spine. He stood up from the rocks."Was this the best you could do?"
he asked, addressing the walls. The Jvanic spines had been cleared out long ago, but things still grew back. Forked slender points, facing skywards. "An abomination? Another bastard, to throw into the fire? Was the rape of my mother worth this?"
He kicked a rock."What am I, a Jvanic elemental? A Djinni whose element is you? Or maybe something more like a change-eater? Is that why I must burn everything that I touch?"
Sable picked up a rock out of the many, many that lay. It sank into his hand. His skin was water, the flesh beneath as mud. He watched as the stone dripped out the other side, soiling the clear fluid that covered his surface, dripping away as sepia that fled back to him on the ground."Or am I a Sculptor? Yes, that makes sense, does it not? Someone to tell the story you refuse to believe. Someone who knows his own narrative, a character who chases the conclusion for its own sake. You just want it to look nice, don't you? No matter what happens, you're just chasing the story."
Sable waved his hand in front of him. He was, in body, the spitting image of what Flux had been three centuries ago, before the change. Only younger. The sepia clouds were falling away into him again, leaving his outer flesh clear."You're willing to believe that the responsibility for change lies with anyone but you,"
he murmured. "You pay morality a tribute because it stung you in the past. Do you think you can atone for your sin the same way you solve all your other problems? By making horrors and abandoning them?"
He swept his arms up to the sky and raised his voice. "Is that what I am? Am I the body who's destined to fight you into a standstill? Is that not correct? Am I not the one you chose to fix all your mistakes? Cure the wounds you inflict and mete out the penance you owe?"
Sable's fists hardened."And I will, no matter what it takes. I will thwart you. So... Who am I?"
"Am I your keeper? Am I a harbinger?"
There was no answer. Sable lowered his hands and his voice."Am I a messiah?"
There was no answer.
Until, eventually, there was."SABLE! Quit your teenage monologuing and sweep out my fucking dojo!"
A broom clattered down among the rocks from somewhere far above. Sable's keen ears heard something about 'I'll make a good goblin out of you yet'."Yes, Auntie! I'm coming!"
Sable resolved to go within the next five minutes. He looked back out at the gulch. Nothing.
He sat down on the rocks, facing the blade.I miss them,
Sable said, quietly, in his head. I never met them but I miss them. I miss your voices.
His fingertips drummed on the stone. "You should never have died. Why did you die?"
The blade's rune gleamed at him. Wit's End.'May the one who takes up this sword forsake its use, and all other arts of combat, until words fail them.'"I accept this oath,"
he said, and put his hand on the blade. It glowed. Sable put his other hand around its grip and pulled.
It was stuck."Oh damn this,"
he whined, yanking the huge ceramic sword with both hands and a shoulder. He grunted with effort as the blade stuck fast in the dirt."Sable! Your oryx wants feeding!""Coming, Auntie!"
He spattered the ground with his hand, shaking it out to reform it. The rocks dissolved into the ink-marks, the ink-marks flowed back to his feet. At last he heaved and the weapon came free."Coming!"
he yelled again, setting the blade on his back, where a curve of liquid held it in place. Sable scrambled up the rock.