Disclaimer: All concepts relating to the world of Velgarth, and kingdom of Valdemar, are the sole property of the author Mecedes Lackey.
The song is Mad World by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews and is their property.
Notes: This is written for Senashenta, using her alters from the Shifted Silver RP group, as she requested this when I offered her a birthday one-shot. Teegan Donoma, Companion Mindoc and Father Talich are the property of Senashenta; anyone else is likely to have sprung out of my diseased imagination. Sena requested angst, so here we hopefully go—
My favourite place in the entire world is almost a secret, and it’s a place that I’m very nearly the only one to know about. Apart from me, I think only Father Talich and the man who replaced the tiles on the vestry roof last autumn know about it. The man who replaced the roof tiles only found it because he took a wrong turning in the lofts of the Temple and ended up here, rather than at the exit onto the vestry roof.
Here is a small cubbyhole that is at the bottom of the steeple of the Temple’s Sun Tower. The Sun Tower is a tall stone structure that channels the Lord’s sunlight down into the main part of the Temple. My special place is a niche to be used by people needing to clean or repair the polished metal reflectors and it has one wall made entirely of a glass and wood window that lets out on to the parapet that runs around the top of the tower and lets you climb out to inspect the tiles and glass leaded windows of the steeple.
From my place I can see all of Haven, right the way past the vast expanse of the Palace complex, to the misty suggestion of the hills and farmland to the east of the city. If I look down I can also see the people who live in the city; not just those that come to the Sunlord’s Temple to worship Him, but everyone else who lives out in the hustle and the bustle that I avoid at all costs.
You see I can’t go out there. I don’t go out there… not often.
I’m a monster
All around me are familiar faces,
Worn out places,
Worn out faces,
Bright and early for their daily races,
The Temple is the only home I’ve ever known and father Talich is— perhaps somewhat ironically— the only father I’ve ever known. He said that he came out one morning to bless the Temple steps for the Feast of the Sun festival and found a small brown haired toddler sitting placidly beneath the public water fountain in the courtyard. That was me and he decided to adopt me.
Sometimes I wonder why.
Today it is cloudy but fairly bright, so the light in the main Temple is a muted golden colour and the air is like intangible honey, with swirls of incense flavouring it in unexpected ways. My soft clad shoes make no sound on the worn terracotta-tiled floor as I walk slowly towards the marble and metal of the alter. Hanging behind it is a large polished disk of gold in the stylised form of Vkandis Sun-in-Glory.
As I reach the alter and stop, the vague shade of my reflection resolves in the disk and I stare silently at the slightly blurry reflection. The rich yellow colour of the metal lends a wash of colour to my features that makes them match me pupil-less gold metal eyes. It also darkens the livid bruises on my right cheek and eyebrow to a brooding black colour.
Father Talich asked me to take some bread to Widow Halde and they— the other children caught me on the way back. I was lucky this time, the leader Gav, only got only good blow on me before a carter happened across us and ran them off.
I know it’s not in keeping with what Vkandis teaches us, but I can’t help but hate them for hating me because I’m different. Because I’m cursed.
And I guess that feeling like that makes me even more of a monster than my appearance does.
The wavering reflection blurs even more and I blink painfully, before loosing the battle and letting the hot salty tears escape from inside and trickle down my blank and miserable face.
I mustn’t let Father Talich see me like this. He’ll be disappointed in me, although he won’t say so, and then he’ll try to make things better which just makes the others angry when their parents tell them off and then they get me worse the next time.
Sometimes I wish—
The tears are filling up their glasses,
Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow,
The Father found out— to be honest I don’t know how I expected to hide the black eye from him— and he went out to see the other children’s parents, Gav’s parents. It won’t do any good; Gav told me himself that his Da and Ma told him that I was a freak and that his Da thought I was proof that the old Changecircles were coming back. He also told me that I deserved everything I got and I was obviously a freak as I couldn’t even talk properly.
The damned stutter wouldn’t let me defend myself, not that I would have as last time I fought back I ended up with a cracked skull and three broken ribs when they pushed me off the top of the Lady’s Crossroads fountain.
Besides, I didn’t need Gav to tell me that— I already know in my hear that I’m a monster and I think I’m at least halfway to being out of my mind. Normal people don’t have eyes like mine and normal people don’t stutter.
Most of all, normal people don’t see things that aren’t there and that haven’t happened. Some of the things I’ve seen have come true.
I pull out of my nebulous thoughts and concentrate on using the soft cloth in my hand to polish the warm varnished oak of the low backed benches that are arranged facing the alter in the main Temple hall.
The smell of the polish and the incense is what I imagine sunlight would smell like if you could catch it in a bottle and use it as perfume.
A splash of dark colour underneath the bench on my left catches my attention and I sink to my knees on the cool tile floor between the seats to examine it. It is a glove, made of leather I think and I reach out to pick it up.
As I bring it into the light something tingles inside my head and I find myself falling forwards, towards the glove in my hand, even though I’m still kneeing and not moving at all.
Look: The glove is black leather and is soft and it is being worn by a fine lady and it is on her left hand and she is riding a horse and she is sitting side saddle and the horse is black and it has black tack that matches the glove which matches the rest of the lady’s outfit which is all black finery and there is a man riding next to her and he is on a chestnut horse which is prancing about and they are riding on a dusty road and the dust on the road is lit up by weak sunlight and the lady is laughing and then there is a shout and the chestnut horse rears and the man falls off with a shout of surprise and the black horse squeals and bolts and the woman is clinging on until the horse twists around a bend and she falls off and rolls down a bank and she has landed in a dusty pothole and she is cursing and the man had limped up behind her and he is holding the reins of his horse in one hand and he is laughing good naturedly at the lady and he offers her his hand…
The polishing rag is left forgotten hanging over the back of the shining bench as I clutch at my head as the daydream of nothing fades and I am left with a pounding headache.
And I find it kinda funny,
Find it kinda sad,
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had,
I have had dreams like that since I was a small child, and like the one that I had whilst polishing the wooden benches in the Temple, some of them come during the day. Some of them also come at night, when I am sleeping and these are the dreams that I don’t like, but I do like.
They are dreams about me and dreams about me are always dreams about dying.
You’d think that that would make me scared or sad, wouldn’t you? But it doesn’t. It upset Father Talich when I told him about one when I was younger, so I don’t tell him about them any more. He prayed to the Sunlord to chase away the demons that were haunting my dreams when I told him— it didn’t work, because I’m a monster and almost a demon I guess— but I told him that it had and that the dying dreams had gone away. It made him feel better.
Besides, given what my life is currently like— for all that I have a warm place to sleep and call home and regular food and Father Talich who cares for me greatly— the thought of dying doesn’t scare me really. Hell can’t be much worse that what I’ve got right here and right now.
Very rarely, I also get the dying dreams when I’m awake, although that has only happened twice— once when I was looking into a pool of water and once when I was cleaning the Sun-in-Glory disc behind the alter. If I had any faith in myself I might think that Vkandis Himself was maybe trying to tell me something, but that idea is patently ridiculous. What interest would a God have in one little freak like me?
Unless maybe annoyance at the questions that I’m forever asking.
I find it hard to tell you,
Find it hard to take,
When people run in circles its a very, very—
I’m back in my place in the Sun-catcher Tower and I’m standing just behind the squat lip that marks the edge of the balcony. The wind is fresh this high above the streets and the sounds from below are shredded and woven back together into a impenetrable song that I don’t understand.
I don’t think that I would understand it even at ground level— the stutter certainly ensures that I wouldn’t be able to add to it in any meaningful way. I think that maybe why the Sunlord has never answered any of my prayers or questions— after all, who wants to listen to a discordant song?
I wobble slightly and spread my arms out to balance. Some days I maybe think that I shouldn’t do that— shouldn’t balance myself— should just—
Children waiting for the day they feel good,
And I feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen,
Sit and listen,
Today is the day that Father Talich found me, all those years ago. Since no one is sure exactly how old I am, this day has been adopted as my birthing day. It’s nothing to get excited about and nobody really does.
So, as of today I am fourteen summers old. Somehow it feels like a lot longer.
I had breakfast, like I usually do, with Father Talich and the other Priests and acolytes of the Temple— this is one of the main Temples to the Lord of Light in Haven and it serves most of those whom worship Vkandis and live inside the second walls and the Merchant’s Quarter of the city.
I don’t like breakfasting with the others, but it’s my natal day and Father Talich insisted that I didn’t do my usual act of disappearing after spiriting some food from the serving table. I can still remember our conversation this morning:
“You are alright aren’t you, Teegan?” Father Talich is tall and dark coloured and he has a deep voice that sounds like velvet and silk and it hypnotises the congregation and raised the glory of our Lord.
“I—I—I’m fuh—fine.” I loathe my stutter, hate my voice— if I could I would cut out my tongue to get rid of the hateful, hateful sound of it and the stutter that dances around it.
“You would tell me if anything was wrong?” I can’t meet his dark brown eyes; I’m too ashamed of myself, of what I am.
“Y—y—yuh—es.” I manage while my cheeks flame a painful red colour.
Father Talich sighs and I sense him giving me a measuring and slightly injured look. “Very well. Happy birthing day Teegan.” A swirl of gold accented black robes and he has gone and I am left to scramble to the safety of the Sun-catcher Tower, which is where I am now.
I hate my stutter and I hate the fact that I’m lying to Father Talich— something which I’m sure would condemn me to the Hells if I wasn’t already assured a place there for being a monster.
And I am a monster; normal people don’t look like me, they don’t see what I see and they don’t think about ending it all and stepping off the tops of—
The Temple bell is ringing the ninth hour; it is time for lessons.
Went to school and I was very nervous,
No one knew me,
No one knew me,
Hello teacher tell me what’s my lesson,
Look right through me,
Look right through me,
I can both read and write and do mathematics more than the Crown Laws require, but I still go to lessons, partly because it gives me something to do. The disadvantage is that I have to share the lessons with all the others who come to the Temple as their local place of education. They are the ones that don’t like me and tell me about it. Bluntly.
It wasn’t so bad when old Father Damas took most of the lessons, but he was retired this summer after he got heat stroke that turned out to be a brainstorm. Father Dumas used to like me, but since the brainstorm he doesn’t even recognise me. In fact I went to see him, with Father Talich, at the House of Healing where he is being looked after full time a few weeks ago. The whole left side of his body is paralysed now and I overheard a Healer telling Father Talich that they believe his mind to have gone.
I slipped into Father Damas’ room to say hello to him, but his old blue eyes just stared blankly through me as if I wasn’t even there so I reached out to touch him and I had one of the dreams and I saw a field of light and a cat as large as a goat and then there was a scream and I fell over as I came back to myself. As I lay sprawled on the floor the Healer and Father Talich came barrelling into the room and I realised that it was Father Damas that was screaming and—
—and he was staring at me.
I don’t know what I did and I really wish I hadn’t done whatever it was, because Father Damas died that afternoon. Father Talich told me that it wasn’t anything to do with me— that the Healer had warned him that Damas’ body was deteriorating fast without his mind there…
But… I’m a monster and I must have done something to him— the dream must have done something to him, and I make the dreams, so it must have been my fault.
So now it’s one of the youngest Priests, Seldin, who is taking the lessons. He doesn’t like me much. I cope with this by sitting at the back of all the classes and keeping my head down— the disadvantage to this is that my out of the way position allows the others ample opportunity to snipe at me.
Today’s main class is basic history and Seldin is lecturing about the origins of the Alliance that was formed between the countries of Karse, Valdemar and Hardorn several hundred years ago. I’m not paying any attention as I’ve already read about this, and Seldin is totally neglecting the other members of the Alliance: The Tayledras and their Kin and to a lesser extent, the Northern Tribes of the Migration who have settled the northwest of Valdemar, out past the northern shores of Lake Evendim.
I’m daydreaming and trying to ignore the whispered taunts that are floating around me.
“Freak! Teegan the freak!”
They’re being worse than usual today.
“My mother says that he’s a demon that Father Talich promised to keep imprisoned.”
I wish they’d just go away.
“You’ve seen what he looks like, no one normal has eyes like that!”
“I saw you staring at my sister freak, you were trying to curse her, weren’t you?”
That last voice, full of arrogance and provocation is Gav’s. He’s looking for a fight again.
“Oi, freak! I know you can hear me and me and the others are gonna get you later, you’ll see— teach you to look funny at my sister.”
I don’t want to fight him. I don’t want to fight anyone; I just want to be left alone.
Something stings the hand that I have laying on my desk, holding open the book and I involuntarily yelp and jerk backwards in my seat. In the corner of my eye I can see Gav smirking as he coils the heavy fishing twine back up and secretes it in his pocket.
“Teegan Donoma, do you have something worthwhile to contribute to the lesson?” Seldin’s tone is disdainful and his grey eyes narrow in a pale, unformed looking face as he glares at me. Seldin never notices what the others do.
“Well? I’m waiting for an answer.”
“N—n—“ Inside I’m shouting and screaming.
“Speak up boy!” Seldin barks, despite only being a few years older than me. “Or do you need to be taught how to speak Valdemaran?”
The rush of blood to my cheeks intensifies suddenly and I blink back tears as the words trapped in my throat threaten to choke me. I shove back from my desk and get to wobbly legs, not really knowing what I’m doing, just that I have to get away.
I’ve made it most of the way to the door before Seldin catches up with me and grabs hold of my arm with one rough hand. “Where do you think you’re going Donoma?”
I don’t even attempt to answer him, instead I wrench my arm free and burst through the half open door, feet pounding on the worn terracotta tiles of the incense scented corridor as I run for my haven, my safe place.
The cat-calls from the classroom and Seldin’s irritated calls for order fade into the distance until the only sounds I can hear are the pounding of my blood in my ears and my choked breathing as I trying to draw air past the lump in my throat.
I’m halfway up the spiral staircase of the Sun-catcher Tower before that idea crystallises in my head, but by the time it does the hot salty tears are running freely and it seems like one of the best ideas in the world.
I reach my safe place and collapse into it, shaking hands fumbling with the latch on the window-door before I push it open. The warm air of outside dances in around me, carrying a thousand smells and sounds with it as I crawl shakily out onto the balcony, until I’m kneeling with my hands resting on the low boundary and I’m staring straight down at the ground— at the grey stone paved central courtyard of the Temple.
A single tear slides out of the corner of my eye and tracks it’s way down my nose until it reaches the tip and hangs there for a moment, perfectly balanced. Then it lets go and the light catches it as it descends through the air and it looks almost like a diamond.
I don’t see it hit the ground, but I can imagine the graceful twists as the drop tears itself apart and scatters itself across the dry stone.
None of my dying dreams were like this.
And I find it kinda funny,
Find it kinda sad,
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had,
Dying dreams are always blue— but it’s not always the kind of blue that you can see. Most of the time it’s a feeling that I know is sapphire in colour and it’s knitted up with my soul and it winds throughout my mind.
I’m never alone in the dying dreams, but I can’t always see who else is there, and I can never see the person who makes the sapphire, is the sapphire…
Sparkle and shiver and—
Look: There is a man and he is dressed all in white and he is standing next to a white horse and the horse is a stallion and it is wearing blue tack that is covered in silver pictures and silver bells and the horse has blue eyes and there is a long cut across his face and the man has blood running down his side and there are lots of figures clad in shadows around the pair and the shadow men have swords and spears and arrows and knifes and their mouths are moving and they are closing in and the circle is tightening and the air is thick with smoke and fear and—
The man is me.
I blink and wobble as the dying dream leaves me and blink confused and sticky eyes as I once more feel the cool touch of the late morning breeze caressing my cheeks. I take a few deep breaths and stare out over the city.
I find it hard to tell you,
Find it hard to take,
When people run in circles it’s a very, very—
I should do it— do it now, save everyone the bother of having me around and that’s all I am; trouble and a bother.
And I will, I will—
In a moment, I will…
I just need to take a breath and then all I have to do is lift up one foot and step forwards, step off the edge, step into the sky and let the ground catch me.
One last look around though, which I take with eyes that are almost blinded by tears and the wind which almost seems to be trying to urge me forwards, to push me off the edge of the tower.
Something calls and tugs at the edge of my mind and for some reason I don’t understand I glance down and—
There is a Companion, arrayed in all the blue and silver finery that makes up their tack, standing in the main courtyard of the Temple. I can’t see a Herald anywhere, nor can I see Father Talich or any of the other priests. The Companion is looking around, it’s head turning from side to side as it regards the buildings.
The wind carries a faint hint of the chiming of the bells on its tack up to me, where I stand on the edge of the balcony, staring downwards. I don’t know how long I stand there, staring at the Companion with aching eyes, but suddenly, at some unspoken signal it looks up.
:You don’t have to.: The voice is strange and male and I yelp in shock and jerk backwards, loosing my balance and fallings backwards, to land with a thump on my rear half in the open doorway to the cubby.
“W—wuh—w—wha—?” I stutter as I begin to tremble violently with shock. I nearly fell forwards. I nearly fell off the tower—
:But you didn’t and you won’t, Teegan.: The voice is assertive, but warm and comforting at the same time and I can’t do anything but shudder with emotional overload and shock.
:I promise you that.: Warm sapphire mist is wrapping itself around me, inside and out and I don’t realise how tense I’ve been holding myself until I start to relax slowly and give myself over to the deep blue warmth that is encircling me in a strong embrace. I don’t think it’ll ever let go.
:I won’t, not ever. My name is Mindoc and I Choose you Teegan.:
Back to Scribbles