|lindenleaves (lindenleaves) wrote in het_challenge,|
@ 2008-03-05 23:48:00
|Entry tags:||a: lindenleaves, f: suikoden, r: reversathon, recipient: gamera|
[fic] Suikoden, Nash/Sierra, "Citation"
Dear prompter, if I had to describe this fic in one word, that word would be meandering. But it was so much fun.
Warnings: Suikogeekery, by which I mean there are some references to Suikogaiden in here, sorry. Unabashed languagekink. Complete lack of sex.
Request: something set post , dealing with the fact that Nash is caught between two different True Rune agendas. Harmonian political machinations, intrigue, and Nash and Sierra both at their most manipulative...
To think he’d once considered it a novelty—this incessant reading about madmen.
“Name the Rune,” he calls without looking up. “’His poor mastery caused the deaths of hundreds.’”
“Consider your point made, darling,” and it’s safe to turn, now he knows she’s in the room. She’s perched on the windowsill, cloak hanging from one shoulder. “Tells you a thing or two about the book, though. New Leaf, or Gregminster at the very least.”
“New Leaf it is,” he admits. “How’d you know?”
“Let’s say pilfered with intent to return, shall we?”
“Three months ago. Passed through on my way back from the mines. How’d you know, Sierra?”
She leans against the frame, puts her feet up. “The phrasing. Harmonian would have insufficient for poor, led to instead of caused—better yet, coincided with. And not hundreds, never a number... several somethings. Several platoons, several villages—some context-dependent placeholder.” She smiles, the glint of fangs softened by the candlelight. “But surely you knew all that? Isn’t that why you threw away the book they gave you?”
“I lost it,” he says. “And no, I didn’t know that.”
“You were just being contrary, then. You never lose anything.”
“It was outdated.”
She jumps lightly to her feet. “Well. That’s the problem with books on the True Runes, eh? And yet people keep writing them.”
“Historians will have their little pet projects,” he says, frowning at the sputtering candle. He doubts the innkeeper would react kindly if he asked for another. “We can’t always have a war going on, after all.”
Sierra pads over to the doorway (she’s barefoot, he realizes, and can’t quite say why that pleases him). “I’m going to bed.” But then she turns, hand on the doorframe. “Which one was it?”
“The True Fire Rune.”
She doesn’t smile. “I might have guessed.” And then she’s gone, through the doorway and out of the candle’s range.
Going to bed can mean many things, with her. It can mean going to his, or it can mean spending the night in some belfry or other and returning in the morning, or it can mean disappearing for days on end and getting up to who knows what before she finally comes back.
He can only imagine a freedom like that.
So he’ll continue to read about madmen, until he’s so tired that he won’t be disappointed if she isn’t there. He’s tried variations on this theme before; sometimes it almost works.
And he starts off fine, gets through another twenty pages or so. But then he wonders, would she have been so nonchalant if the pronoun had been her? And that’s when the candle decides to give out.
He shuts the book, stows it, feels his way along the wall to the next room.
He does more than imagine. He aches.
She turns up again three inns later. He keeps staring at the book—he’s become quite familiar with it by now—and tries to come up with something suitably careless to say. “Ever heard of a man called Cray?” he asks at last. It comes out overloud.
“What’s that?” He can tell by her tone that she isn’t smiling.
“Cray,” he repeats, “Graham Cray,” makes the half-turn towards her seem unconscious, distracted, “Kooluk admiral, or merchant, or some such.” Just a few more seconds to look her over: “Tutored by a Silverberg, you know.” He folds his arms. “Well?”
She frowns. “Kooluk? That little disaster? It’s not worth bothering about, if you ask me.”
Oh, she’ll answer the question. “The possible continued existence of rune cannons still haunts scholars across continents.”
“Mmm, and fascinates others, I’m sure.” Damn her, that’s a yawn. “It’s only because they like to have something to fill notebooks with.” That pause is so theatrical it belongs on a stage—“Sorry, what was your man’s name again?”
“Cray.” It’s a struggle to keep his voice even. “Graham... Cray.”
“Hmm.” Another pause. “No, can’t say I’ve heard of him.”
“He cut off his arm.”
One eyebrow lifts. “My, is that all it takes to get into a book these days?”
“He cut off his arm,” Nash continues, forcing the words out in spurts, “to escape a Rune.”
She clicks her tongue. “Foolish of him.”
“It was brave,” he says, very quietly.
“Did it work?”
“If it had worked,” she says, “they’d have called it brave. As it didn’t...”—and there’s nothing conciliatory about that extended hand, it’s affected, it’s—rhetorical—“foolish.”
The section on the elemental Runes is terribly dry, probably because details were so readily available. Legends lend themselves to poetry; events, to the verification of sources.
In a few years, he knows, they’ll start creeping in—the abstractions, the distortions. There won’t be names, just Runes. The bearer of the True Fire Rune, they will call him, because Flame Champion is too politically loaded—oh, and he will burn with courage, catch fire with righteous indignation. As for Lady Lightfellow—forgetting that no one ever called her that—there’ll be some line about how her heart was like ice unto her enemies. Pages will be devoted to giving Geddoe’s eye (and how many bards will remember the singular?) a flash akin to lightning’s, likening his voice to thunder. He smiles—will they call the Bishop’s hair the color of mud?
They’ll forget, of course, that Hugo’s courage, while it may have burned, often did so impotently; that Chris’ heart was like ice to far more than just her enemies; that Geddoe, when he spoke, did so quietly—that he preferred not to do so at all. Too many facts can kill a paean.
About Sasarai’s hair, though, they’d be passing apt. He’s seen mud look that color, when it’s mixed with ash.
“Are you going to tell me what the book is for?” Sierra asks at the next inn, Crystal Valley hanging promise-heavy just beyond the horizon.
“But of course.” He smiles. “You never asked.”
He steeples his fingers. “You may remember that I’m due to report to the Bishop. And seeing that things have gotten a lot more... spare... since the war, I’d best deal in True Runes if I wish to earn my keep.”
“I don’t ask,” she interrupts, “because you do such a fine job of not answering.”
Well, serve her right for expecting him to play fair after the week she’s put him through. “All in good time.” He tries out one of her theatrical pauses. “The point is... I’m trying to find another Rune. One that’s far away, in the hands of someone I don’t know. Harmonia may not have learned to curb her ambition, but I know the Grasslands are stabler now than they’ve been in decades.” He waits.
“Well,” she says at last. “That’s a change, isn’t it.”
“That you acknowledge any undertaking more important than the satisfaction of your own whims.” (The barb is so childish, so obvious! It’s an effort not to smile.)
He sets his shoulders—thoughtful, not defensive. “I don’t know. Perhaps I’m merely not used to meeting people I respect; they may have changed me.”
“And I didn’t?” she asks, and there, there is his victory. But it tastes sour.
“I can’t hope to change you,” he says. “It’s only fair.”
“You’ll settle for trying to curb my freedom, then?”
So she’s noticed.
Since the war, the list of individuals who can get a private audience with Bishop Sasarai has been rather truncated. He spends his days holed up in his chambers, food and paperwork brought to him by Dios. The former is tested before he’ll partake of it, right down to the drinking water. His shadow may be dead, but the good Bishop is not one to be fooled twice.
Nash thinks he looks like an invalid.
He watches the Bishop’s fingers, dry and over-white, as they curl around the handle of his teacup. “As far as Lord Hikusaak is concerned,” he says, the cadence of his voice as old as his hands, “nothing has changed.”
Easy to say, Nash does not reply, when you can wink at decades as others do at idle minutes. “In the eyes of the world,” he says at large, “the change has been very great indeed.”
“Lord Hikusaak is—” and if he says the world Nash will throttle him, politics be damned—but no. He trails off; he recalibrates. Thank heaven for that—dogma suits Sasarai resoundingly ill. “It is... difficult,” he says at last, “in light of his... retreat”—not absence—“from us... to know his will. Others must speak for him, and they say his will was ever thus.”
“And the revelations of the war?”
Sasarai blanches, nearly spills his tea. At least that still gets a reaction. “They don’t change what I must do.”
Nash sighs. “You were better to leave the Runes where they are. Cannot your ambitions stretch in some other direction?”
“The situation demands—”
“Moderation, Bishop. Not appearances. Their cost is too dear.” Even seated, he tenses for his flourish. “Harmonia is ailing, Sasarai, and you know it. If you affect to look down at peasants, you fail to watch your own feet—and if you do not stumble of your own accord they will be cut from under you. If not for history books, who now would know the name of Scarlet Moon?”
The reaction is not quite what he’d hoped, but Sasarai considers. “What do you propose?”
“That, even if the country can’t wait... that you let me do so.” He grins. “If I thrive, you’re free to take it as a microcosm. Or a metaphor. Or, if you please, as nothing at all.”
The Bishop’s eyes narrow over the rim of his cup. “You have no other goals in this?”
Is that a test? But no—this is a man who gets his news from spies and scholars, not the gossip section of a renegade newspaper. “None,” he says, “save my own freedom.”
Sasarai drains his cup before continuing. “You are not half so singular a man as you think. Yet I shall indulge you.”
“But of course.” He leans forward. “Do you know why?”
Runes, that’s a smile. “Why don’t you tell me, Nash?”
“Well?” Sierra asks. “Do you plan to keep me in suspense?”
“Not at all, my dear.” There’s that lovely tension again, tingling down his legs. To have laid the rope—and then to draw it suddenly, blissfully taut—“I imagine it’s as true for you as for the Bishop, after all.”
Her eyes narrow, but he can’t tell, yet, if he’s caught her. “Oh?”
“You Rune-bearers,” he says, “you immortals—as much as you hate to admit it—you can’t take your eyes off someone like me.”
“Really?” If she’s unsettled, she doesn’t show it. “And why is that?”
It’s brevity one wants here, it’s—“Your years of stasis have impaired you. You long, fruitlessly, to be dynamic.” His lips curve unbidden. “And that’s what I am.”
—Then she is laughing, and suddenly there is something wrong with the air in the room.
“Dynamic?” she asks at last. “Darling”—her eyes alight on that damned book—“you’re a footnote. And if we immortals choose to follow your obscure, shrinking progression through the margins of book after book, you mistake idle curiosity for admiration.” She shakes her head, candlelight catching at her eyes. “Dynamic? The word you’re looking for is transitive.”
“It’s in your power to change that,” he says, and perhaps it wasn’t wise but the roaring in his ears makes it rather difficult to think—
“Not for the world,” she says.
“And why not, if you have such contempt for my state?”
“I should not have to explain—”
“Oh, you certainly don’t.” And it’s like having that damned sword stuck in his hand again, subtlety and showmanship tumbled on their heads in the face of the blind desire to strike something—“I know my own faults. I had no knightly training; I’m not content to serve a lady.”
It seems she can grow paler. “Nor was he,” she near to whispers, “if that’s what you’re suggesting.”
“What is obsession but devotion out of joint? You consumed him.” It’s sloppy and it’s base and it’s working. “The ideal consort for your little city, wasn’t he? Full of those whose lives you’d saved, and they bore you up like the god you wanted—”
“You little boy,” she says, and in that moment there is nothing human about her at all.
“The kind of binding I wanted,” and the words come slow and simple, as if her pronouncement had been incantation, “if words have power—that I called you my—”
And she turns away, and his fingers grasp at the edge of her cloak and brush only a bat’s outspread wing.
And then he is alone, and his longing hangs about him like a thread she has broken.
He is ever betraying himself—over and over again.
In his dreams, she comes bearing the reality of his fading. Is it not said that death parts those who marry? she asks, and tells him it’s the only promise he will keep.
He wants to say, that we have met, wants to tell her about the caprices of fate and how he thanks them even for so little time, but, spoken, it would become acted, and he will not sully her with lines. Remember me, he says instead, and I will live.
You’re sweet, she says.
He is restless, and faintly sweating, and his hair is soft beneath her fingers. The candle has gone out, but for her the moon is enough. Touched by its light, all his angles are smoothed, the set of his lips almost vulnerable. She thinks he dreams.
A little boy indeed. Transitive and finite and beautiful.