There is no immediacy here. There’s not a fractured, hollow ringing in his ears when the blow comes. There is only the moment.
And then there is a beach.

When he opens his eyes once more, the shade has gone, and the white sand warms his back and the waters cool his feet. The soul skiff he’d piloted to this moment has gone, and the island remains uninhabited. Save, of course… save of course for the wraith that lurks deeper still. The Norn (That’s right. He’s Norn. He’s always been one, right?) pushes himself up again, and with his torn edges and raw wounds, he follows his footsteps again, with a dogged determination. Step by step he moves back in through the thicket and jungle.

She rumbles.

He appears on the beach once more, the crabs pull forward his scraps of bone and seafowl knit together the threads of muscle. The ocean lays his skin, tucks his edges until he pushes himself back up, all rough edges and wavering faith. She simply watches him.

She waits.

There is no evening here, but it must be hours that he continues this mad march into the dragon’s den before the wayward soul settles into the sand, without direction or purpose. Sure, the world may stitch him up again, there is the preternatural sacrifice that has led him to this spot, but the rest of this was, in fact, up to him.

He cannot move from his spot. He cannot breathe. He cannot see any way forward but the mechanical trenches he’s dug into the sand.

You are losing your mooring, cub.
He looks at her, now, rather than hearing whispers.
She sees his face, now, rather than his back.

Recognition, in this most desolate of places. The relief and fear that crosses his face is palpable, delicious and tangible as the pugmarks grow closer, the boundary crossed.

You’ve been left.
I know.
Do you not fear this?
No.
Why not?
I’ve known you all along, haven’t I?
Not in my Den, no.
Teach me.
Why?
Show me.
I shouldn’t.
Show me, dammit.
You should move beyond such monosyllabic words.

She strikes him dumb. For once. Amusing in the right terms, but it seems her dear Brother has done a number on his brain. There is a rot present that She does not find in Her followers that seek Her first, a hole that He had failed to teach and fill. This one’s own lack of reverence does not speak to his lack of faith though. Perhaps… Practice. That might be it, yes.

Sleep now. You’ll need time to concoct this plan of yours.

He stands, too eager. This… will not do. Does that mean you have one?

No. That’s your job, cub.

You’re the Captain. Show me how you got there.

Author quorgi
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