Mitali Perkins writes lovely stories. She also maintains an incredible blog (one of the first I ever subscribed to over a year ago now, well before I ever thought of blogging myself). Today, while trying to catch up with some of my blog back-log, I found this little gem that fits a quandary that probably strikes us all during our writerly explorations on Mitali’s Fire Escape.
So let me ask you: do you feel as if your attention span has decreased with the advent of “short form media” such as Facebook and Twitter? Do you occasionally (as I do) use sites such as Reddit, where one might find everything from quips and snappy “Swifties” to engaging polemics on everything from politics to My Little Pony (a lot of My Little Pony actually)?
Or do you find yourselves caught in the middle, unsure of which way to express your feelings desiring outlets?
I’m not convinced that this is all that new of a problem, despite the different media used these days. People have always had to compete with the voices of others to get their voices heard, even if the voice of need for survival over the luxury to sit and write caused the interference. The need to work for a living can be both a boon for writers (it is how we get a lot of our ideas, after all) and a source of the Block of all Writer’s Blocks.
And I think that inside all of us go through this to some degree. If you look all over, on the web and off, you cannot help but find group after group designed to help people produce a novel. Some are obvious scams, but most are sincere in a desire to help people express themselves to a greater audience. Most are actually run by writers themselves who love what they do and want to share their passion with the wider world.
Because we all have a story to tell, and really, we do all love to listen to each other…. With so many voices? Is it any wonder that we ask people to not take so much of our time that we have little to none to devote to ourselves or others? It’s a sign of appreciation and of delight when we make extra time for another, often out of time we’d set aside for our own passions. I know that, you know that…it’s pretty much one of the biggest honors we can receive from another… their attention.
And given that…. I wish to thank everyone who has taken time to follow my blogs, as well as those who have begun to follow me on Twitter and Google+ and Facebook. Thank you for giving me your attention, for reading my pages and for sharing your time with me.
And now for the next segment of the “Unnamed Story”:
She wasn’t at the table when he joined the family. He glanced at Valmara questioningly. “Where is your mother?”
“She’s taking her meal with Father.”
“Ah.” He sat down, feeling the curious stares all around him as he took what had been for years Val’s seat at the table. Until Val himself claimed it, ‘Listii wasn’t about to change tradition. He was the family head in his brother’s absence, much as ‘Mara might be Heir to this House branch.
He’d be the one passing on the leadership to the younger man, not his brother. As second son, it fell on him to announce his brother’s death, would have fallen on him the responsibility of marrying his brother’s widow if she desired it–Dear Goddess, if that Atyr and Val were still married–would be his duty to arrange for Val’s burial and order the man’s affairs.
And yet, he knew that ‘Mara looked on him in envy.
‘Mara only saw that his chance to ask Atyr to be his wife. Fool kid didn’t have a clue of how he felt toward the woman.
Valistii quietly opened the meal, then sipped his tea once done. His gaze wandered idly toward the ceiling, even though he knew those two were on the other side of the building.
‘Mara was right. To accept Atyr’s hand if, it came to that, would thrill him. He loved her, had loved her for nearly as many years as his brother had…and more.
Part of what he loved about her was the fact that her feelings toward him were completely platonic despite he and his brother being twins. Even now she favored his brother’s side to his own.
No, he mused. If Val dies, she’ll choose Alanii or no one.
It was as clear as day to his eyes, and he loved, admired and desired her all the more for it.
He pushed the matter from his mind. The point was moot. Even if Val hadn’t decided to stay, the point was moot.
She’d do what she needed whether or not he wanted her to do something else.
“‘Listii ask where you were staying?”
His voice was better now. He even looked better. Not that he’d suddenly regained the lost weight and tone, but his hands were steadier; his eyes were clearer.
She nodded from her perch on the stool by his bed. “I’m staying here. I’m surprised he didn’t tell you that.”
He blushed, or he would have had he been in better health she thought. “Didn’t have the strength to concentrate on him and wait for an answer.”
“Oh. ‘Listii thought you meant to block him out.”
He shook his head before he sipped more broth. He’d tried eating. She’d removed the tray and handed him a fresh mug-full when it had become clear that his body was in too poor health to eat large quantities of food. And although he kept eying his meal wistfully, she only would allow him the small, occasional mouthful. She suspected that in the long run it would be the best course.
“Not at all. Seems our filia is just as normal as any after all. We’re just more talented than all thought. Been using mindcraft since we were in the cradle.”
“Val, neither ‘Listii nor you are witches.”
He smiled, an odd expression, then reached a hand to her. “Give me your hand, Atyr.”
She did as he asked. He took it, rubbing her fingers lightly with his thumb. Then he sat silent, his gaze losing focus.
~I do love you, little…~
The whisper, barely a whisper of a sending, faded. His hand fell weakly from under hers.
She jumped up and only barely managed to catch him as he slumped toward the side he’d been leaning toward and nearly off the bed. As she eased him to lay back down, his eyes refocused on her. His breath came in rasps.
“Why?” she chided. “You’re not well enough to be pulling stunts like that.”
His eyes closed as if the effort of keeping them open was too great. “Needed to,” he whispered. His voice was so faint that she strained to hear him.
“It could have waited until later.” She used a touch of her own talent to check that he hadn’t hurt himself worse than before. All that she found beyond the malnutrition and guastu was talent drain. Talent drain…. She sighed. “It’s been your secret this long. A few more hours or days wouldn’t have hurt.” As she said that, she gave him a touch of her own mental strength.
Her ministrations clearly helped, although he’d drained himself far beyond what she’d have considered safe, even if he had been in peak health. Although he didn’t bother opening his eyes, his weary breaths eased.
“No, Atyr. Needed. To. Say that.” His eyelids flickered briefly. The fingers of the hand she held tightened slightly.
She swallowed. Taking his hand in both of hers, she drew it up to her cheek, turned to kiss it, then held it there. “Thank you, Val. And I, you.”
The smile was faint, but not hesitant. “I know.”
A glass passed. She’d dosed a bit. He’d slept most of it, snoring horribly. Wryly, she considered that she might need to sleep in ‘Listii’s room just so she could sleep and still be held and companied. The moment he’d woken to answer nature, she’d made him suffer the ignoble, as he called it, fate of using the bedpan. Then she’d had him eat a few more mouthfuls washed down with broth. A gentle sleep spell ensured he didn’t try to exhaust himself again.
When she fully awoke, she decided contact with Katsdaniis was in order. Alanii hadn’t been at the port when she’d arrived. She certainly would have sensed him otherwise. Presumably he was waiting to hear from her before interfering.
The response to her sending was hesitant. He’d been drinking heavily, a gentle fuzz of liquor hazing his reply. ~Nassil?~ An image followed equivalent to the shamed straightening of posture and dress some soldiers made when caught at unawares by their superior officers.
She smiled to herself.
~What do I owe this contact to?~ he asked once he’d regained decorum to his comfort.
~Val’s chosen to stay.~ There was no sense in delaying that announcement, no sense in encouraging false hopes. Best that he knew right off, best that he knew she’d chosen to stay.
She should have made that choice years ago before things had deteriorated this far.
Alanii certainly had no trouble following her thought. There was grim acceptance. ~I’d heard. Valistii contacted the Palas a glass past.~
And he’d been getting drunk….
~Oh.~ She should have suspected. ‘Listii might have been loyal to his brother’s wishes. He was equally loyal to his sovereign’s. No doubt Alanii had asked the man to report to him as soon as things had settled and a decision had been made. Even beyond their mutual interest in her, Alanii had been a close friend of the family for years.
A few moments of silence passed, then Alanii asked how Val was.
Thoughts could express her feelings, her fears, concisely. She just replied. ~Not well. I’m worried for him.~
Silence played on ghostlike images of the study at Katsdaniis that settled and faded over the walls around her revealing that Alanii hadn’t broken contact.
She had avoided looking at Val for just that reason.
Finally it got to her. There had been too many silences like these of late, and she’d contacted her ‘tianii as much out of a need to talk with someone, with anyone, as to deliver news. She sighed. ~Alanii?~
The response was quiet and patient. ~Yes, nassil?~
~Did you know Val’s talented in mindcraft?~
There was a soft acknowledgment. ~He and his brother both are.~ A small pause, then ~How did you find out?~
~I could ask the same of you,~ she answered.
The mental equivalent of a shrug followed. ~I figured it out. Their filial link was too strong for them to be just potential witches. Too much of what they could do required talent.~ Another pause broke with a slight conspiratorial smile on his side. ~Besides which–I’ve watched them both for years to catch them in a slip.~
She grimaced in bemusement. ~You would.~
~Certainly,~ was the humored answer. ~With the way they teased me as a child, I wouldn’t risk a chance to even the tally some.~ His humor faded abruptly. ~Not that I’d have revealed that, not even to them, nassil. You should not have told–~
Surprise danced the link. ~You didn’t tell Val?~
~He told me.~
Another moment as Alanii clearly considered this. ~Indeed. I wonder how he figured it out. Neither of them has much talent to detect. It took me years to discern it in Val myself.~
~I’d touched Val’s mind several times–several times–before this, and I have never noticed it, Alanii. That he’d kept it a secret–~
His mental touch was gentle and comforting. ~He would never have kept it a secret from you, Atyriia. Not if he knew. Valistii, perhaps, but not Valichii. You don’t know how much he wanted to share that sort of intimacy with you.~ Alanii’s mindtouch faded for a moment as if he were being distracted by a more ephemeral concern. When his attention returned to her, it was more stern and direct. ~It’s bad that he knows.~
~Is it?~ she countered.
A mental sigh with all the strength of a physical one and more. ~I guess it’s not any longer. There was a time though that I wouldn’t have hesitated to help him forget he’d ever known the truth.~
She was well aware of the thoughts behind Alanii’s sending. Neither twin was talented enough to have done more than exhaust himself in a momentary exercise of his skill without help. Given the strains of their youth when their father had not quite treated the twins as having failed the entire Hastor clan for not having been born with mage talents….
Alanii’s mental affirmative told her he’d been following the same trail she had. Their combined intuition finished the thought. ~Exactly, nassil. They’ve both always been overachievers for their kin–Val more than his brother. There was no sense in him wasting the effort on developing that skill more than he did simply by bettering himself as a person. The Goddess wanted him to be a soldier and commander. That is why she gave him such skill in those areas.~
~His talent helped him, Alanii. I can’t detect much there, but what he has is well-honed. He sent to me tonight. He knew how, knew exactly how to focus a sending. He just lacked the strength.~ She spared a glance at Val as the man shifted in his sleep restlessly next to her. Even now as low as the man’s reserves were, she knew what disturbed him.
Before she could formulate the thought, Alanii voiced it. ~He’s sensitized to you, nassil.~ A dry mental chuckle followed. ~He’s probably felt the touch of your mind nearly as much as he has his brother’s through their filial call. I know how you enjoy mental contact during love play, Atyriia.~
He was right, of course. It was the most obvious answer, the most sensible one. Unconsciously by touching Val’s mind during intimacy she’d sensitized the man to the feel of her, her specific mental signature, the ways through her shield…
And Val, always efficient, always effective, always learning even when there seemed no immediate purpose for something, had filed the information away until he’d found a use for it.
~That seems to be one of the reasons you love him, nassil.~
She pursed her lips. If Alanii were next to her and saying that…
~However, I’m not. I have no fear of going to bed with the imprint of your hand on my face, and I intend on making the best use of this opportunity as I may.~
The mental images that followed from him were engaging. She wasn’t in the mood to fight though. To be honest, she wasn’t in the mood for much…except sleep.
Gentle agreement followed and, on its heels, sober courtesy. ~I know, beloved. I miss you though. Is there no way that you can come over for a visit?~ He hesitated then added ~There would be no expectations, nassil. We could talk only. I would appreciate your company even if…even if nothing else can come of it.~
She closed her eyes and looked helplessly at the ceiling, forcing her thoughts behind barriers she’d long ago built in need. ~I don’t know, Alanii. Give me a few days for things to settle down here–two days. I’ll contact you again around then.~
He clearly wasn’t happy with that answer, but he accepted it without argument. ~Then I will expect word from you in two days. Good night, beloved, and sleep well.~
With a nearly seductive sending of a kiss that was deceptively parental–a father kissing the brow of a beloved infant–he let go of the link, leaving her to her own thoughts and the gentle weariness of prolonged, but not exhaustive, talent use.
“How’s Alanii taking it?”
She glanced down. Val’s whisper had been faint, laced with sleepiness, but not unwell sounding. A quick scan revealed that he’d suffered no ill effects from his little stunt. None beyond scaring her half to death. He seemed fine in comparison.
“Are you hungry?”
He nodded and eased out of her grasp enough to sit up against the headboard of the bed. “Always lately.” He accepted the tray from her and immediately tore into the cold fowl, only giving a passing acknowledgment to her earlier cautions about gorging himself by chewing the meat more thoroughly than normal. Before he took a second bite, he looked up from the tray. “So?”
“Oh, sorry.” She stopped watching and avoiding the question. “Alanii’s taking it better than normal. So far.” Then she gave him a small, and she knew relatively ineffective, glower. “You shouldn’t have been snooping, Val.”
He shrugged, clearly unapologetic. Not that he’d ever been apologetic in his life. “Don’t have to with you–or him for that matter. Unless you’re really trying to hide it, I can see it in your face. And there ain’t many people you bother to talk to that way, Atyr.” He shoved the next bite of meat into his mouth, then added, once he’d moved the napkin to hide his mouth–his mother’s lessons on courtesy often found such strange surfacing points–“You got to agree with me there.”
She sighed and nodded. “True.” She leaned over, careful not to upset the tray on his lap and kissed his cheek.
“I’m not mad, Val.”
“Didn’t think y’were,” came his reply mid-chew.
“Should I be?”
He looked at her sideways with narrowed brows and swallowed his mouthful “If you want. Don’t expect me to play this time. More trouble than it’s worth, if you ask me.” Once said, he returned his full attention to his cold meal.