Palaces of the Wind and the Wave

‘Wonderful work against Marfellow in the end-game’

Marfellow told his woes to the unchipped mirror as he shaved.
(Damaging perfectly fine mirrors for the sake of superstition was foolish, Marfellow thought)
His reflection offered him the Deal.

He wanted to get better at the game he plays. See the lines of power. Know whether every game he begins is doomed, at least.
He was promised insight into the wealth of possibilities and the nature of conflict. Not every game he plays will be doomed.
Marfellow is now a rook in dreams of chess. His game will never end.

The Pontifex of Metamorphoses wore his life like a glove.

Marfellow’s plays are different now. Bloody. Red.
His pieces fall one after another.
His opponents fall faster.

He is seen wandering the Prickfinger Wastes at night.
Knives biting into his shoes. Toes eaten by cruel stone.
Again and again, he eats the crystal fruit.
Again and again, he is torn apart by hunger.

Marfellow sees everything with purpose now.
His games grow shorter still.
He has developed the habit of licking his lips in anticipation.
His eyes are the colour of caramel.

Eventually, he gets bored of chess. The black, the red…

Mr. Inch is the first to learn about Marfellow’s unorthodox conduct.
His Fingerking-hunters came back to him carrying only nightmares.

The Manager of the Royal Bethlehem is second.
Marfellow is escorted into the Hotel like an old friend.
He is permitted upstairs. All the way upstairs.
“This suite used to belong to that Amets fellow, you know.
You ought to know.”

Marfellow refuses to eat anything but gemstones, and soon suffers venom-ruby poisoning.

He never woke up.

The horizon is the place where the sky and the sea seem to touch. Between them lay the Palaces of the Wind and the Wave, perfect reflections of each other, governed at their meeting-point by an impossible monarch and their other, silent self.

The lower and higher floors of their palace are busy with jade servants constructing walls of remembered sunlight, doors forged out of broken laws and hanging tapestries depicting nowhere.

In the throne room, the twice-crowned monarch is discussing affairs with a seven-coloured viper.

“Well, Dearest, I will admit that your performance with that Marfellow was entertaining, if nothing else.”

I thought entertainment was enough for you nowadays, Arbiter.

“This is simply absurd. Why kill a perfectly good Glove? And why give up Marfellow’s mind to chess-dreams over your own domain?”

The mind of a middling chess-player is worthless to me, and I got all I wanted out of the Glove.

“Verily? Do you aspire to nothing beyond this, Dearest? No greater objective than flirting with the power of the Wastes?”

This was more of a feast than a romance, Arbiter. And I have hundreds of servants by my side, should the need arise.

“The ushabtiu? They barely have a single thought between all of them! And what of the Is? Will your jade men march through the mirrors? You know this is absurd, Pontifex.”

I am just as capable of thought as I was, and there is always another Deal to be made.

“Your rule is laughable. This domain is laughable. You are laughable, Dearest! If you plan to spend your days in idle destruction, I will have no part of it.”

I shall consider your complaints, Arbiter.

“Did Prickfinger make you so insatiable, Dearest? If you are going to apologize, don’t make it sound as if I am at fault.”

I shall consider your advice, Arbiter.

“Now, then. What are you planning, Dearest?”

The lower and higher floors of their palace are busy with jaded servants constructing walls of remembered sunlight, doors forged out of broken laws and hanging tapestries depicting nowhere.

In the throne room, the twice-crowned monarch is discussing the future with a seven-coloured viper.

‘If I hadn’t eaten it. The flesh, the fruit. I might only be dead.’

The Beach-Bound Siren threw her offerings into the Zee.
(The Zee. She hated it for its curious depths. For its mysteries. For its damning feasts.)
The roses sink instantly, turning into specks of gold and red and black.

The splash shatters the calm, black mirror of the zee.
A figure emerges in the residue.
The Pontifex of Metamorphoses.
The Moulting Eidolon.

The Siren stands up, stares at the alien reflection with hollow eyes.
&quotDo you know why I summoned you here?&quot

&quotRestitution? Peace? A chance to make amends?&quot

The Siren deploys a disappointed frown.
&quotYou aren’t even trying, are you?&quot

&quotEvery truth carries its price.
You should certainly know as much.&quot

The frown deepens.
&quotI do have business with you, dream-thing.&quot

&quot’Dream-thing’? Not ‘Eidolon’? Not even ‘king’?&quot

Silence. A stern gaze.

&quotLet’s hear it, then.&quot

She gets down on her knees, leans in. Drowned-blue lips hover over the surface.
&quotThere is someone I love-&quot
A name sinks into the perfect stillness of the Zee.
&quot-the sea - the Zee - had separated us.
Had stolen her from me.
I am shackled to this bl__dy beach by the Fathomking and his Zee!&quot

&quotWell, then. I have an offer for you.
One of your drownie songs, for a month with her.&quot

The songs fall away like pebbles.
The Hymn, a triumph of the depths over the surface, tinged with the irony of the Siren’s own contempt.
The Love-Song, an icarian longing for all the deep places delivered in cold monotone.
The Song in Counterpoint, botched by the singer’s uneven passion.

The Eidolon is listening intently as the third song ends.
&quotOnly three?&quot

The Song of the Deep, that beckons tears.
The Song of the Deep, that warns against water.
The Song of the Deep, that despises the Zee.
The Song of the Deep strains against sodden teeth, tightly closed.
The Beach-Bound Siren nods.

In the coming months, Ms. E_____ suffered recurring nightmares of her past lover, steeped in zee-water and scars.

The Pontifex of Metamorphoses wore the Beach-Bound Siren’s life like a glove. The Siren swam in the depths as equal to the Zee’s beasts. She visited low Dahut, and the Low Barnet. She even spared a glance for heartless Anthe.

As for the Siren’s mind, bound to her love’s dreams, she never forgot her own nature. She never forgot her hatred for the Zee. She never forgot the Song of the Deep.