Love is War 03:00:02:01
– 03:00:02:01 –
Life was a whirlwind of passion, sensation, joy.
This was a truth that Endrall Sahr had long believed and now that he was beginning to venture out from underneath his father’s shadow he was learning so very much. Grais, his first love, had proven to be nothing more than the poison that his father had warned him women acquired with age – the few missives she sent were filled with the blackest sort of bile. Endrall shouldered them with due grace and cried into the shoulders of Figo Jera and Veskur Wyrd, two people that were becoming her closest friends and confidantes, and other things as well.
He was young and beautiful, wise beyond his years, possessed of a mature air and charisma that drew others like motes around a star. He smiled and the world paused to watch, he laughed and all that would ever be chuckled along with him. He was quiet and lovely and shining – everyone said so – and worth so much more than what he had been born into. Given all that he was and all he could do he felt as if his talents would be wasted doing anything other than changing the world.
Sometimes, he considered what it was he wanted to do. His father and all his House were renowned healers, the best the Vanir had to offer. He could do what they did, be better at it than any other member of his line. He could turn his mind to the realm of politics, to the games the Houses played with one another, games that his House generally avoided. He could save his House, make it as mighty as Fehu or Wynn in the world of treaty and word.
Veskur told him that he was destined for greatness, and if anyone knew it would be her. He didn’t see why he couldn’t do both politics and healing, perhaps make one an extension of the other. Figo said it would be difficult to do that, but Veskur believed he was more than capable. Grais told him she hated him and all he was, despising him for his wandering heart, but while he had been moving, growing and becoming more, Grais had stayed the same.
Static things and people did not interest him. He put the idea of her on a mental shelf and resolved to come back to her later, when there was time or when he felt like it. He knew it didn’t really matter; he strongly suspected that other people existed only for his own amusement.
Figo sometimes stopped by to have small hurts healed. He had returned to the borderlands, picking up his fight with the Coeecian horde. His legend was growing and they called him the Prince of the Rose, his levl in his right hand, the glove that his Lady had made him adorning his left. The legend of him upon the battlefield was coming to rival that of even the fabled Golden Champion and he was much sought out, his soldiers coming to be known as the Band of the White Rose.
As for the Golden Champion, she spent much of her time in the back countries, passing on what she knew to the future leaders of the Vanir nobility. Endrall had yet to meet the woman, but he was sure their paths would one day cross.
Endrall had visited Figo on the rolling hills of southern borders, learning to heal along with the rest of his House’s nobility despite his father’s protests. Figo was as gentle as he ever was, eyes haunted and smile sad, the core strength of him always in evidence. Veskur came and joined them sometimes and the two of them would go out and walk the land together, leaving everyone else behind. The soldiers Figo commanded did not like this, but Figo assured them nothing would happen, that the Coeecians would not be able to touch them.
When the lovers were out of earshot Endrall learned it was not the Coeecians that Figo’s soldiers worried about.
He had heard the stories, of course, the many whispered horrors that people lay at the feet of Veskur Wyrd. His father had warned him and Farrell had warned him and the Band of the White Rose did nothing but repeat tales whispered in all the noble halls. Veskur made herself a simple target for innuendo, but Endrall had never asked her about any of it. The woman did not lie and he was not certain that he wanted to know the truth.
Figo took other lovers besides Veskur and Endrall. Some of them came from his Band, though none of those relationships bore the passion that bound him and Veskur together.
Endrall could sometimes see those ties that bound people, webs of light that shone different colors and blazed with the intensity of the sun. He was not certain what the colors meant – he had tried to keep track of them, thought they might be tied to emotions, but if there was pattern it was not one that he could recognize. The webs that tied Veskur and Figo were strong, stronger than any he had seen before or between anyone else.
He wondered what it would take to sever them entirely and claim both of them for himself.
There was no maliciousness in the thought, no intention to cause either of them harm. Endrall was a healer: he only wanted to make people stronger, better, to heal the wounds within themselves so that they could be more. Veskur spoke of things like that sometimes, when she was lucid and had remembered to do things like sleep and eat. Figo tried to make the people around him better, too, though Endrall warned him that he made it too simple for people to take him for granted. His soldiers especially.
Figo’s Band of the White Rose had the lowest number of casualties in any of the Vanir’s forces, Endrall knew, but not a one of them lay this remarkable statistic at the young noble’s feet. No one thought to credit the glove he wore for this, either, Veskur’s little mark of affection. Endrall wondered if he could talk Veskur into making him one, wondering what sort of power it would have.
It was with this in mind that he made his way into the northern wastes, a trek he made with more frequency than even Figo. He sought control of his own destiny, a mastery and completeness that had denied his father.
My life was set by your mother, Endrall’s father had said, narrowed eyes matching tight lips. I live this hell because of what that woman did to me. Despite his father’s misgivings, Endrall could not help but feel that Veskur held some secret, some bit of wisdom that would help him accomplish more than any other Vanir in history.
Veskur was not at her keep when he arrived this time. He was as late as he ever was, but still her absence annoyed him. Her servant had the gall to tell him that she had left to walk her lands after three days of fruitless waiting.
“When do you expect her back?” Endrall asked, not bothering to hide her annoyance. The man was only a servant.
“I will send her a message,” the servant answered, bowing his head. “After that, I expect it will be a matter of hours. She doesn’t like to wander far when she’s expecting you.”
“Well, there’s that, at least.” Endrall removed his gloves, finding the idea of her tied to her home for want of him amusing. “Still, it’s rude of her to keep me waiting. We will have words when she returns. A piece of my mind as a welcoming gift.”
“Which one?” the man asked.
Endrall blinked, not understanding, and the man left.
He was permitted free entry and made himself comfortable. He was one of the few people that Veskur let into her home when she was not present, one of the highest gifts that the Good Lady could bestow on anyone. A number of letters between her and Figo had gone missing during the time when that Raido noble had stayed with her and she had grown increasingly paranoid since, especially with Figo’s ever more frequent absences.
He knew that Figo was growing, but still felt tied to Veskur while Veskur assumed nothing was wrong – it was a surprising sort of stupidity from someone that was otherwise intelligent, one that Endrall was taking advantage of in order to sate his curiosity.
Veskur returned eventually, her face white and drawn. Endrall ripped into her anyway, watching her nervous eyes and the way her shoulders shook and felt nothing, nothing. When he took her in his arms he felt her melt, her breath on his chest. She wanted him so very much.
Only two people were allowed into Veskur’s laboratory when she worked – he and Figo. He followed her in while she worked, he telling her of the many things that were happening in his life. Sometimes, rudely, she would try to interrupt him to bring up her own little foibles, but she had never been the most social of creatures and so he forgave her this indiscretion before resuming his tales.
“You built Figo one of those gloves,” Endrall said. He swallowed, dropping his gaze as Veskur turned to look at him with her haunted, haunting eyes. “Could you build me one?”
Veskur was still for a long time. There was a single long sigh where Endrall thought there should have been a scream, and then a valley of silence.
“I sometimes think I made a mistake building Figo his,” Veskur admitted, the words a faint whisper. Endrall looked at her, her slumping shoulders and twitchy fingers. “There’s a weight to them, a terrible weight. Figo didn’t want his. Why do you want one?”
“Figo’s has let him take control of his world,” Endrall said, leaning forward on his stool. “I’d like that sort of freedom. And you’ve said yourself that I’m more your equal than Figo is.”
Veskur nodded; she had said that when she noticed how his body language mirrored hers, how the two of them processed information in ways that seemed to echo one another.
“If we are equals in mind and spirit, should we not be equal in capability?” he asked, staring at her and realizing that her gaze had gone distant, to some place only she could see.
“Even so.” Veskur blinked and shook her head, the madness that claimed her so much of the time shrugged off for the moment. “Do you know what these gloves do? How they work?”
Endrall gave a slight shake of his head, frowning. He did not like admitting his own ignorance.
“Every time you make a decision or perform an act, there is a chance that it will work and a chance that it will not work,” Veskur said, perching on the nearest surface. “For every choice or act performed by every person, this is true. We live in a world of endless possibilities where anything could be and the chances of success as are determined by circumstance as by skill.
“The glove creates a circuit, similar to the circuits used by lesser scientists, only this one eliminates all but one possibility – those other possibilities simply cease to have any weight or any chance of coming into being. Energy is focused through this tool to destroy a single possibility, the energy of that destruction then used to eliminate the next and the next until only the desired outcome is possible.
“I built the original glove, mine, with a sigil of my House working as the home for the circuit. This means that all energy that I move through and by the glove is shaped by the sigil itself. This resulted in a number of abilities, the greatest of which is the…” She paused, looked at him.
“I’m trying to think of the easiest way to explain this,” Veskur said. She hopped off her perch, began pacing, waving her left hand around despite the lack of glove on it. “When you stare at the world, what do you see?”
Veskur looked at him, and for a moment he though he had said something wrong, but then she was ranting again.
“Alright. Alright. Fair enough. But everything large is made of smaller things, interlocking parts that go towards building a larger whole. If you divide down far enough, however, what are you eventually going to hit?”
“I don’t know. God?” They both laughed; the illusion of divinities that the other, lesser, nations clung to was proof of their base inferiority. Only the Zaerm seemed to share this understanding.
“The base line of everything must be nothing, which means that the entirety of what we live within is illusion. We are all ultimately made of the same stuff, but as that illusion moves through time it adheres to certain shapes, concepts, and equations. An act is taken, a consequence results. Even our behavior and the capacity of that behavior is defined by these equations, which would be so monstrously large that one could spend a decade working through the mathematics to predict the entirety contained within a single day for a single vector.
“However, the equations would deal more with ratio than a base equation with real numbers. There are certain events or outcomes that come more naturally to us due to the nature of the math behind us, certain capacities that specific individuals carry that others, by the nature of their math, do not. Moving energies through the sign of my House allows one to change those numbers, resulting in a chosen outcome rather than a passive one.
“So when you say you want to take control of your life I understand and there is more truth to that statement than anyone else should ever know. When I fought Jesam all those years ago? I saw the whole of his life; I saw all the possibilities in it. I took away the numbers that would have given him victory while making certain the only outcome for myself with success. And, with that glove, I can do that with any one at any time.”
Veskur paused and looked at him. Endrall realized that he was shaking and forced himself to stop.
“Figo can do this, too?”
“No. No, no, no, a thousand times no. His glove does something different.” Veskur walked over to a pile of books, sorting through her notes. “As far as I can tell, Figo’s glove lets him stop the flow of time around people, places, or things for a certain period of time as we understand it. Whatever that noun is simply ceases to exist within out continuity for a specific duration and is unaware of whatever passage happens around it. He can also reset himself. The reason so few of his people die isn’t his knowledge of tactics but rather his ability to reset things to a time before the death of his soldiers and, while they may not remember what happened, Figo will. He remembers the placement and movement of his enemies.”
“No wonder the two of you were always felt so confident walking off on your own,” breathed Endrall. “Even if there had been an ambush, Figo could have reset it so that you were ready and you could change the ratio of victory to favor you and fail them.”
“Or change things so that we avoided the confrontation entirely,” Veskur said, looking up at him with eyes that were all too sharp. She ran a hand through her hair, nervous. “This is not a power to be used lightly. The math, well, the math is terrifying and the powers being used are incredibly complex. I can barely wrap my head around it most of the time. I think… I think there’s a responsibility to use power like this sparingly, if at all.”
“How come?” Endrall asked. Veskur went quiet.
“There was a river by your family’s home, right?”
“The one we dammed, yes.”
“What happened when you dammed it?”
“There was some flooding,” Endrall said, remembering the consequences of that action. A village had been lost, a full fourth of the peasants who lived in that village caught by the change and drowned. Almost all the rest had been injured, but the end result had been exactly what the nobles of House Suwilo had expected – a source of fresh water to better clean the wounds of those that came to them for healing.
“Yes, some flooding.” Veskur hissed, pacing again. “Your House moved a river, a simple river. I’m moving the numbers that define everything. There is an important illusion that we all possess, that of choice. By using that glove I remove myself from the proper equations and make up my own as I go along. Figo, to a certain extent, is doing the same thing.”
“You’ve made yourself and Figo the gods everyone else claims to worship,” Endrall whispered. If he hadn’t been sitting he might have fallen as the enormity of what Veskur had done struck him, the full weight of what lay between them.
For a long time neither of them said anything.
“I tried to make Figo’s glove like mine.” Veskur sat on the floor, hugging her knees and rocking back and forth. “I tried to make Figo’s glove exactly like mine, with my House sigil on it. It didn’t work for him, it can’t work for him. There’s something in our intrinsic math that won’t let us use the sigils that are not our own.”
“What would my glove do if you were to make one?”
“I don’t know,” Veskur admitted, closing her eyes, her voice so soft that Endrall could scarcely hear it. He went to her, held her, felt her stiffen and then relax, her head pressed against his chest. “I won’t know until it’s built. If it gets built. It’s not a toy and it’s not a tool. It’s as much a weapon as a levl, but on a much grander scale. There’s a weight to taking such a thing. Are you sure you want it?”
Endrall was quiet for a moment, considering.
“Alright.” Veskur whisper was a slow sigh that went trickling along his flesh. “You know I can’t deny you anything, not really. You’ll have what you want.”
“Don’t. Just… don’t.”
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