alexconall: the Pleiades (Default)
Alex Conall, social justice bard ([personal profile] alexconall) wrote2013-08-13 07:30 pm

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted [commissioned by [personal profile] sharpeningthebones]

This is a story from the universe of my novel quartet in progress, Blow That Trumpet Gabriel. It is not necessarily canon; not nearly enough of the books have been written for me to know.

Content warning: character death.

"Don't stop," said Leah. "Don't give up. Don't lose yourself." She took Rae's hand and twisted the air: a faintly-glowing white cord, insubstantial, knotted itself around their two wrists. "Theseus and Ariadne," Leah said.

"I thought I was Orpheus," said Rae.

Leah half smiled. "That too."

Rae glanced one more time around the circle—west, the statuette of Michael the Archangel; south, coffee for Papa Legba and rum spiced with peppers for Maman Brigitte beside their bonfire; east, Leah, eyes looking into the future but aware of the present, and pomegranate seeds for Persephone; in the center, Becca, lying cool and still: she wore the bangle she'd died wearing, and Rae bent down to slip it off Becca's arm and onto zir own. To the north—

To the north, where Rae had invoked Inanna, who had descended into the underworld and survived the ascent, nothing but starlight.

"If I'm not back by All Souls," said Rae.

"Be back by All Souls," said Leah.

Rae nodded.

Rae picked up the athame, turned to face the north, and cut a door in the circle. Without looking back at zir sisters, ze stepped across the threshold.

The pathway to the underworld resembled a dim, narrow cave. Nowhere to go but forward.

Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer...

At eighty-seven, the passage widened, ending in a double door carved with erotic scenes. A step into this cave and ze saw her. "Ashley," said Rae, zir heart sinking. Bad enough Becca was dead—

The woman smiled. "Almost," she said. A step closer showed Rae dead white pupils in her eyes. "Think harder."

If Dante knew what he was talking about, or if centuries of belief had shaped this place— "Name your price, Lust," said Rae.

Lust laughed. "The knife you carry," she said. Rae's hand dropped to its handle; it was a gift from Ashley.

Zir knife, or zir sister's life?

Belt unbuckled, sheath off, belt rebuckled. "When I come back, I'm taking this with me."

"When you come back," agreed Lust, accepting the knife.

Eighty-three bottles of beer on the wall...

Seventy-nine bottles of beer on the wall...

The demon at the next door wore Mom's face, and the doors showed people eating, drinking, and smoking. "Gluttony?" Rae guessed.

"A price for opening the door," the demon warned. “The gun you carry.”

Rae's handgun, paid for with money Mom had saved for Rae's graduate school. But, Becca. "I'll want this back when I return," ze said, handing it over.

"When you return," Gluttony said.

Seventy-five bottles of beer on the wall...

Seventy-one bottles of beer on the wall...

At the third door waited a demon who looked like Sarah. Rae eyed the door, depicting grand estates on the left half and people with 'Will Work For Food' signs on the right. "Greed."

"You know the drill," said Greed in Sarah's voice. "The clothes you wear."

Wasn't naked bad enough without nude? Apparently not. Rae shrugged out of jacket, shirt, boots and socks and jeans.

"All of them," said Greed.

Rae yanked off bra and panties. "I'm taking them when I come back."

Two steps past the door, and ze stopped dead—no more floor. Nervously—heights!—ze looked down: a long drop, but climbable.

On belay, ze thought. But there was no one to say 'belay on'.

Wait. Leah's cord. Leah, don't let me fall!

Rae bashed into the rock face several times; spectacular bruises in the morning, if ze lived that long. A moment, several moments, at the bottom to breathe, but eventually ze restarted zir bottles-of-beer count at seventy.

A white-pupilled Leah reclined beside the next doors, decorated with scenes of sleep. "What's the price, Sloth?" asked Rae.

"That cord that ties you to the aboveworld," said Sloth. "You can have it back when you return.”

Nice to know somebody had confidence in zir, even if it was a deadly-sin demon the image of zir little sister.

Rae slid the loop of white cord off zir wrist and onto a convenient outcropping. Sloth half smiled, exactly as Leah did.

Sixty-six bottles of beer on the wall...

Rae yawned, wishing for the coffee ze'd given Papa Legba.

Sixty-six bottles of beer on the wall...

Don't stop, Leah had said. Don't give up. Don't, Rae figured, lie down; anyway the floor was hard and cold.

The passage widened into the cave with the fifth door, jolting Rae awake. Becca waited there, beside scenes of war. "What took you so long?"

Not Becca. Not with those eyes.

"You're not my sister," Rae managed. So tired... "Wrath. What's your price?"

Wrath twisted Becca's mouth into a smile. "That bracelet."

Not Becca's bangle. Ze had nothing left down here—

Becca's bangle or Becca herself?

"You will give it back."

"Of course," said Wrath, yanking it out of Rae's hand.

The next circle should be the Styx, and sure enough beyond the door was a slow dark river. Downstream ze could see the sixth door.

Achilles, ze thought, and his heel. Just as well Rae was already naked.

The water tasted foul.

A hand the same shade of brown as Rae’s own appeared on the far side. Rae took the offered help, then looked into zir own face.

"So, my sin is Envy," said Rae. Yeah, that made sense: all the children ze'd known growing up who had living fathers, who had mothers with time for them, and the way it burned inside that they had what Rae never could. "What's your price?"

Envy smiled, cruel. "Your name. Your identity. Everyone loses theirs when they die."

"I have no plans to die," said Rae. “And how do I go about giving up my name?"

"Repeat after me," said Envy. "'I am Rachel Michaela Driscoll. I am Rae.'"

"I am Rachel Michaela Driscoll. I am Rae."

"'I am no longer she.'"

"I am no longer ze."

Envy nodded. "'I am no one.'"

"I one," said ze.

Envy smiled.

"I'll take that back when I return," said ze.

"When you return," said Envy.

Beyond the door, nothing but flames. The ground wasn't bad as long as ze moved quickly. The air...ze could only try to breathe shallowly.

The cave with the seventh door was cool and damp. Ze fought tears in front of the man who waited there, with the one beloved face ze hadn't seen. "I've got my pride," ze said.

The demon with zir father's face laughed. "So you do," said Pride. "I need your wings."


Pride stepped close to her and ran a hand across zir shoulder and down zir back—and outward, without losing contact with zir body.

"Okay," said ze. "Take my wings."

"Turn around," said Pride.

A sharp tearing pain—

Ze collapsed, bleeding, sobbing. Zir pride wasn't worth much, after all.

"You'll be all right," murmured Pride's so-familiar voice. "Time to go on."

Ze hauled in a breath and pushed herself up. "Get out of my way."

Pride gestured zir through the doors.

Where had ze left off singing?

Sixty-six bottles of beer on the wall, sixty-six bottles of beer...

And then the river of blood and fire, and a pale brown figure swimming for all she was worth.

"Becca," said ze.

Becca tumbled onto the riverbank and said a meaningless syllable, then, "You came."

"Of course I came," said ze. "You're my sister."

Creative Commons License
What Becomes of the Brokenhearted by Elizabeth Conall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
cpolk: (Default)

[personal profile] cpolk 2013-08-14 02:47 am (UTC)(link)
avia: (nest of books)

[personal profile] avia 2013-08-14 05:48 am (UTC)(link)
I don't know anything about Supernatural, but this was amazing.

And the part about the wings... Pride stepped close to her and ran a hand across zir shoulder and down zir back—and outward, without losing contact with zir body. I always enjoy good wing descriptions, and this really gave me shivers.

I definitely would read more in this universe!
sylvaine: movieverse Pepper smiling. ([marvel] Pepper smiling)

[personal profile] sylvaine 2013-08-14 06:11 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, this is wonderful. ♥
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)

[personal profile] redsixwing 2013-08-14 02:58 pm (UTC)(link)
I too enjoyed the wing description.

The taking of the name gave me chills. That's a good thing.

Yay for a genderqueer character using nonstandard pronouns!
sharpeningthebones: timepunching at DW and LJ (Default)

[personal profile] sharpeningthebones 2013-08-15 02:01 am (UTC)(link)
This, this is gleefitting. This is happymaking. This is leaving me bouncing like an idiot because oh, I knew you would be amazing and just <3,3<3<3