Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Nick Of Time (and other abrasions): Shadows Of Polaris epilogue

The Nick Of Time

(and other abrasions)

Shadows Of Polaris


Al Bruno III


Jason Magwier remembered because the memories were all that he had, even when they were unpleasant, even when they were wrong. He remembered how even now the Regent would be organizing an expeditionary force tasked with tearing Harnett's Tabernacle apart brick by brick, and then to grind those bricks into powder.

But there was time to fetch Audra and get away, Jason Magwier was almost certain. He scratched idly at the bandage near his ribs, the place where he had been stabbed. The blade had scraped against bone, doing little real damage but hurting like Hell. A few inches in either direction and he'd have been done for. Jason didn't like to think about that.

...but sometimes I do die and every time the Heirophant
laughs a little harder...

He shook his head trying to clear it. Lorelei stood beside him, gazing at the dead bear. "I thought," she began, "I thought all the bears had been culled. The Regent's proclamation-"

"They missed this one didn't they? She was old, old and cunning enough to evade the hunters and the traps." Jason put his arm around Lorelei.

She leaned into him, "Until tonight."

"Until tonight."

They started walking again, shell casings and snow crunching under foot. Heading for the Tabernacle and skirting around the blood and the bodies. One of the shapes made Lorelei pause, "I don't believe it."

Jack Diamond was spread eagle in the snow, blood ran down from his nostrils and one of his eyes was swollen shut. His canon of a pistol was just out of reach. Jason picked it up and examined it with a bemused expression on his face, "They might say that a man with a handgun this large was overcompensating for something."

"How can you joke about this?" Lorelei snatched the pistol from his hand and took aim at the prone figure, "We've got this bastard right where we want him. After all the misery he's caused us, after what he did to my mother..."

"You can't kill a man in cold blood."

"You don't think so? You sure?" Lorelei's finger tightened on the trigger, "Can you remember how many lives will suffer at his hands in the future? Consider this a pre-emptive strike."

..."Bastard. You knew that would happen didn't

Lorelei pulled the trigger, the empty chamber clicked. Cursing under her breath she threw the pistol as far into the woods as she could. "Bastard. You knew that would happen didn't you?"

"His sins will find their punishment in due time." Jason took her by the hand and led her to the Tabernacle. Somehow the darkness that pooled around the ruins seemed deeper, more lush. By the time they had reached the building itself they were forced to grope and fumble their way to the entrance.

"I knew I forgot something." Jason said as he felt his way along the wall, remembering where he would find the door.

Lorelei asked "What's that?"

"This." He pulled a penlight from his jacket pocket. He swept the tiny beam across the twin doors.

"You had that all along? You dork!"

Jason remembered that the right side door would be jammed but the left would open with ease.

The left side doorway scraped open and Jason ushered Lorelei inside. He let his penlight beam wander around the ruined building. This place had been glorious once, a monument to one man's Cause. Now it was relic, a doomed one at that. Jason hoped that his Cause would fare better.

They pale circle of light found Audra sitting with her back against the far wall. She was turning a wallet over and over in her hands.

"Hey." Lorelei approached her. Jason stayed back, pretending to be interested in the masonry. "Hey girlfriend."

"He didn't wait for me to wake up." Audra said, "He just left."

"I'm sure he had a reason."

"I thought this was a scam and that Matt was just your patsy of choice. I never thought he was going to actually have to go through the Weir." Audra threw the wallet across the room and buried her face in her hands, "I thought you guys would be here. I thought your damn boyfriend was going to pull one of his clever little stunts."

Lorelei nodded with understanding, "I thought it was a double cross too. I figured he worked for the Monarchs. I thought we were going to trick him, use his own trap against him."

Jason signed heavily at that, "You girls give me too much credit."

"He wasn't any of that." Audra sniffled, "He was just... decent."

"...and lonely." Wandering over to them Jason ran his hands along the wall. "Think of it, he lives in one of the largest cities in the world and
yet you Audra were probably the closest thing he had to real friend in

The effort of holding back tears made her expression murderous "And I led him to this."

Lorelei stood, "Oh Audra…"

"Besides," Jason said as he and Lorelei pulled Audra to her feet, "in the end the choice was his. No one was here to make him go through that Weir. You can lead a Pendaroth to apotheosis but you can't make him drink."

"Oh God." Lorelei rolled her eyes, "I can't believe I'm sleeping with

"We should be going." Jason checked the digital readout of his pocketwatch, "Zeth is waiting for us."

Walking slowly to join them Audra kept glancing back, hoping. She paused at the castoff shirt. Kneeling she traced the streaks of blood and dirt with her wounded fingertips. Audra tore away one of the shirt's frilled cuffs. "I'd have gone with him." She said, "I wouldn't even have waited for him to ask me I would have just gone."

"I know." Jason nodded.

And Jason remembered that sometimes she did go with him but the results were always calamitous.

"The worst part is that all I can do now is worry about him." She carefully tied the scrap of cloth into her hair, "Funny isn't it? Little Miss Nihilism turning all mushy on an Outlander.”

"Not funny at all. Your cynicism is all in your head, your heart feels differently about these things. I imagine it feels different about
a number of things." Jason urged her to follow, "Come on then, we'd
best get moving."

She hung back, her voice breaking "Not just yet. Give me a few more

Jason’s voice became tense, "Audra…"

"Don't rush her." Lorelei dragged Jason outside, into the shadows and starlight "Let's give her some space."

Arm in arm, they huddled in the doorway and waited. Jason slipped the penlight back into his pocket. "We shouldn't keep Zeth

"He wont leave us."

"That's not what I'm worried about."

Lorelei nodded with understanding "So how is he going to get us back in the City anyway?"

"He knows the way to the tunnel on Nooker Street."

"Oh great, right to the heart of cannibal central." Lorelei pushed him away with a snort of disgust. "I swear I think sometimes you are trying to get me killed."

"Don't worry, Fergus won't touch us."

"You sound awfully sure."

"It's simple, Fergus lets us through." Jason approached her, ran theback of his hand across her shoulder, "And we give him back his Amaranthine Crystal."

Lorelei pushed him away again "What? You and Zeth stole their Amaranthine Crystal? How are you two still alive?"

"Ah that's the beauty of it, they don't know it's stolen. We replaced it with a perfect duplicate made of glass." Jason Magwier grinned conspiratorially as the Pole Star shone down on them like a watchful eye full of secrets.

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