ONE HUNDRED ELEVEN
Okay. Notes from a life. It’s a whole lot easier to describe a lot of stuff, especially scary stuff, happening all at once when you’re not in the middle of it. It’s a lot easier when you’re sitting at your computer (mostly) staring into space and drinking too much tea, and experimenting with a phrase or a paragraph and if it doesn’t work deleting it and plucking another one out of your thesaurus and your overcaffeinated brain.
It’s especially easier to see anything at all when there’s light to see by.
You’re at a big disadvantage, description-wise, when a lot of monsters and bad guys from your worst nightmares—the nightmares that freak you out so much you haven’t tried to put them in your fiction—materialise, out of the caliginous malevolent non-air that has been corkscrewing unpleasantly in the vicinity and messing both with your sight and your increasingly besieged sense of well-being, inches from your nose, and immediately attempt to eat you or behead you or burn your house down. Although it did seem to me, insofar as I was noticing anything past the immediate business of trying to stay alive for another few seconds, that the fire was mostly on our side. I saw it take out a couple of guys, or guy-like things with swords, with a kind of flaming butterfly-net effect. Then there was a mouth-thing, this sort of giant maggot with a hole at one end full of teeth, that really was about to swallow me, as I pretty much stood there paralysed (again), except some kind of fireball blew over my shoulder and down its throat and it exploded instead, flinging wet gobbets of . . . never mind. That was pretty ghastly. No, it was very ghastly.
But I didn’t have time to go off in fits or throw up or any of the normal reactions to this kind of experience because I was busy swinging Silverheart up to block some new ugly scumbag with a sword. I say swing, but it was mostly her getting in the way of danger and me trying not to fall over. This kept happening. Watermelon Shoulders was right: Silverheart knew her business. My increasingly sore and aching arm just followed along where it was led. The rose bracelet’s focus was maybe even better. The widest part of the band, the rose medallion itself, was only about three inches long, and yet every time I raised my other arm against some other sword or set of teeth, while Silverheart was occupied elsewhere, the rose bracelet took the blow—which is to say I still have two arms, thank you. The contact was often dizzying; not just the force of a blow that is trying to kill or maim you, but as if the medallion was defusing that deadly momentum by transforming it into some other force. As my body juddered and staggered, visions burst behind my eyes as violently as claps of thunder, as dazzling as lightning striking at my feet. I saw a castle on a hill and, because visions don’t care about the reality of eyesight, I saw the banner flying from its topmost tower very plainly: two sword blades crossed to divide it into quarters, and in the quarters were a horse, a hawk, a sighthound and a rose. I saw a company on horseback galloping, galloping and—again thanks to vision-sight—I saw one of the riders in the lead raise an arm to point, and the pointing arm was wearing a rose bracelet identical to the one on my arm.
I saw a woman kneeling by a stream. Her long hair trailed in the water with the leaves of the willow that bowed beside her. She held her arms out toward the water in a gesture that looked like pleading; she drew her fingers across the water’s surface as if it were an animal she was stroking. She looked up fearfully, toward but past me, wherever it was that I was. When she turned back to the water, although I couldn’t hear her, I felt that I knew she had caught her breath on a little sob, and as she breathed out again she murmured, Please. She let her hands drop beneath the water’s surface—and then she dived, fast and suddenly—or had she been drawn into the water by something I could not see?
I saw a stand of young trees, moving restlessly in a wind I could neither see nor feel. It took me a moment—clang, and the bracelet defeated another my-life-threatening wallop—to realise that they were not behaving like ordinary trees in an ordinary wind, for they were lashing in different directions. And then my vision-sight kicked in, and I saw that only a few of them were trees, and the others were young women—dryads? Under the circumstances this seemed quite likely. They were dressed in green and brown, in long strange ribbon-like wrappings that didn’t look at all good for walking in, but then perhaps dryads didn’t walk much. One of them seemed to see me, and stretched her hands out toward me, but whether she was saying come here or go away I couldn’t tell, and then the vision ended. . . .
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