Lizards Looked On

by Dom

“Orpheus, how I do love thee” sings Rebecca De Courci; and her wings are jagged like those of an owl or a cat. She balances with him like an angel, deft on the high wire, a thin strand of silver that passes through the wind of the White City and the lofty towers of the palace. He is dancing a slow tango, the wire bounces as he steps. She is living in his element, moving like air.

She kisses him. Her lips taste of Silverleaf. The high wire is a tripwire. Once more, he falls.

Snow catches him, cradles him like De Courci's arms, turning to water and washing the pain from him, then turning to ice on his skin, drenching his clothes, melting and re-freezing, until rough arms yank him back onto his feet.

“Get. Up.”

The voice belongs to Roland, but the face under the hood is that of an animal, of a weasel, or the Ghost-gum, the sharp toothed marsupial of the Breathing Isles. It scowls at him with wicked, sharp eyes. Orpheus had preferred it when they were led by Roland's brother, the man Autolycus, who had brought him from his home in the Whistful City to The Warming, the cellar of the palace where he had met his angel, the angel that watched over the White City. There, he had seen her wings and pledged himself utterly to her. He was her champion, breath and bone.

She had given him the package he was now carrying, the sword Vengeance, charged that he keep it safe and return it to the Northern mountains, to its divine brother, the figure who loomed still in his mind. The angel De Courcis had burnt Autolycus to a cinder, in his place sent this man - Roland the Ghost-gum, who wore his face, but not his being.

“Gods, man, you look awful.”

The white furred face softened slightly, becoming more human for a moment, more like the Autolycus he knew, a trace of concern in his voice.

Orpheus felt awful. The last of his Silverleaf had been stolen by fire, leaving an ache in his head; and the Sword Vengeance, clutched tightly in his arms, burned him like the Silverleaf never had. The further he travelled north, into Dream, the more his mind started to shift like quicksilver, less lucid, less constrained. The further north he travelled, the more he began to feel free. The cold kept him, though. Yes, the Whistful City was cold, but nothing to this endless freeze that poured through his bones like water.

Behind him, the snow of the mountains was melting slowly to worms. Orpheus knew that he had to keep walking, else they devour him. Grudgingly, he placed one foot in front of the other, closed his eyes and let the whispering mountains guide him onward - step by step.

He'll never make it. Roland thought to himself, silently watching the tottering figure, black like a raven on the white of the snow. I should carry the sword for him.

“Over my dead body.” Orpheus muttered to himself, hearing the thought carried on the breeze.

The Ghost-gum, he remembered, collected shiny things.

Years passed as the sun set and rose again. For the weeks that the moon shone, they had made camp in a palm-sized ivory box under the wolf-tree, Orpheus and the sword Vengeance dancing a tango in starlight, while the party watched with dead eyes. The Screaming had led him to the fire-place and ordered that he dance for her. On the horizon, a figure, impossibly tall, bellowed into the blizzard. Lizards looked on.


A brief, scraping, painful moment, as Orpheus opened his eyes, a moment where everything was clear and unfogged by dream. Biting his tongue to bring the mist back in, Orpheus stood, checked the package sewn at his hip; and began to walk in circles, stretching his frozen limbs and cracking muscles into place.

Today. He thought to himself, watching the others gathering their belongings together. Today.

“Today we fly!” he called to them, throwing his palms out to the rising sun, watching her unfold her wings and smile the De Courci’s smile. The party of wet, cold, hungry travellers looked up and wondered what the madman was rambling about this time. “Today!” he repeated, shouting louder. “Last one there is an ugly troll!” Orpheus whooped with joy, before turning tail and running, laughing all the way up the side of the mountain, cavorting like a lamb.

And, hurriedly pulling on their packs, swearing and cursing at his rapidly dwindling form, sure enough, they ran after him.

misc/fiction/lizardslook.txt · Last modified: 2011/03/31 20:33 by osj01
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