Stone and Sea

A thousand thousand years ago, or so time is reckoned in the depths of the sea, there was a kingdom, and a cruel king, and a wicked god. And there was a tale that you have heard — because I have told it to you every night of your life — of love, and betrayal, and the fury of the wronged and unrighteous. There was a curse, and an exile, and a darkling princess, and there was a vow of vengeance.

A vow of blood.

We have lived beneath the sea for a thousand thousand years, under the curse of the wicked god; in all that time no structure made of wood or woven grass has borne the weight of our hand, for all the things that grow from the earth have been cursed to wither away at our touch. We have built our cities of stone and sand and shell; we have drunk of the salt water and eaten only the meat of the sea. And for all that time, that thousand thousand years, we have waited. We have hungered.

We are meant to stay here, at the bottom of the sea, mocked and despised by the people of the kingdom, the followers of the cruel king and his wicked god. We are meant to wither away like the grasses, to fade and die, to expend our lives in building tower after tower of stone, trying to reach the surface of the waves so that we can be drowned by the air. And once, we did that. We wasted generations in scrabbling upward.

No more.

The sea is our lifeblood, after a thousand thousand years. We do not fight it, because we have seen its power. We have seen the destruction the waves have wrought, feasted on the bodies of the people of the kingdom who try to grapple with the water's strength. We have seen the things they call ships, arrowing down into the depths, crumbling away at our touch. We have seen what they have become.

We dug deeper, instead of stretching higher. We dug down to the bedrock and learned to speak to the stones beneath the sea, to carve our towers from the slow-flowing magma of the submarine vents, to bask in the heat of the sulfur pools. We have gone deeper, and deeper still, but we have never forgotten our vow. We have never forgotten the blood of the darkling princess that runs in our veins.

We have dug deep, and we burn like the sea itself, and it is that same sea that has answered our call. On the night you were born, the seafloor exploded, and we saw the power and the fury of the ocean redoubled in fire and smoke and steam. And we saw something else. Something that made us certain that the sea had not forgotten. And it was this — this singular truth — that has brought about the instrument of our vengeance.

You were born, and the work of a lifetime was born with you. And now you are ready — ready to lead us on a voyage the wicked kingdom above will never believe possible — because they do not know the thing that we know, the thing that you were born to prove:

Not all stones sink in water.


Winter Wood

It is cold in the woods, in winter. Cold, and so quiet you can hear your breath freezing in the space between heartbeats. All the summer sounds of the forest: the laughter of birdsong, the stuttering whisper of leaves in the wind, the murmur of distant streams; they are all gone, in the winter. They […]


All Flesh

Grandmother tells me: You have beautiful eyes. She is blind, of course, her face a palimpsest of scars, like all the Old. But she sees me clearly, more clearly than I can see myself. She sees me without eyes, without looking. She sees through the Dark. I am Young. I have eyes — beautiful eyes […]


Empire

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Night Watch

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Second Skin

I still remember the first day I was pretty. The first day my skin stretched just right when I put it on, without lumps and bunches and sags. The first day my hair matched my eyebrows. I still remember. I'll never forget. I didn't want to take it off, not that skin. I didn't want […]


Ghosts at the Wedding

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Threes

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Carmine

Right in the middle of her desk there was a line. It was a perfectly straight line: it made no twists and no turns and it went from the top center to the bottom center and it was just exactly in the middle of her desk, to the millimeter. She wasn’t sure who’d originally drawn […]


The Serpent Path

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