Betwixt and Between

Part Three: Chapter Two


"Inside the compass of the night, inside the folding of the land."


When her door creaked open, Eytasha Sphiridon cracked open one eye. A harey face, topped by two ridiculously gigantic ears, peered in, and she closed it again. Karthekeyan was, after a full two days of sulking in his room, finally seeking out the first of his... Others, or whatever he called them. She really didn't need to be disturbed right now.

But the girl-child came in, anyway. At least this time she wasn't being trailed by the infants attached to her. The less distraction the better.


She didn't answer.

"Hey, I know you're awake in there. I saw you look at me when I opened the door."

Obviously, the girl-child wasn't going to go away. She sighed, but did not open her eyes. "What is it?"

"Uh...." Whatever her reason for bothering her had been, the child had apparently forgotten it, or lacked the gumption to actually say it. How tedious.

Sphiridon opened her eyes and plucked at her gown. One strand of silk-like shadow came free and, at her wordless command, spun itself into a wide, flat pane. "You want to know what Karthekeyan does, is that it?" she demanded archly.

Whether or not that had been her original purpose, the girl-child came further in, peering curiously at the new, black looking-glass. "Sure. You gonna show me?"

Rather than answering, Sphiridon dipped one long-nailed finger into her creation and it rippled, like water, into an image. The girl gaped most inelegantly at the sight of the boy peering into the entrance cave to the entire complex, and the single figure standing between him and it. "Quiet now, child," Sphiridon murmured, focusing. "This will be important."

The child, thankfully, was quiet.


Karthekeyan stepped tentatively from tunnel to open cavern. It had taken him two days to get up the courage to finally go looking for the Others, rather than letting them find him like he usually did. The whole affair of remembering, now that he was really and truly faced with it, frightened him a little. The enormity of having a past-- and an associated future-- was something he'd never really contemplated, always assuming he'd never know where he came from and never care where he was going, as long as it wasn't somewhere he couldn't leave again. Having a past meant he would know where he'd come from, and he'd have to care where he was going.

Besides, even without his own doubts, it went against everything he had ever known, wanting to talk to the Others. And now, as if they knew that, they'd made it difficult for him. It had taken him hours of prowling around the caves to find one, and now that he finally had, it was right on the edge of the cave system: in the chamber where twice, now, he had made his escape. The glare from the unsheilded daylight outside made him squint, and made it impossible to identify which of the Others this was.

"Um, hello?"


The voice struck no chords but those that told him this was a male, and he wasn't angry. That left a fair number of them which could be standing there, staring out into the distance.

Wait. Staring out into the distance?

"See anything interesting, Westling?" he asked, approaching with a little less fear-- only a little less, but enough that he could approach-- because he knew which one this was. Not many of the Others cared about anything beyond the caves, and the only one who would be talking to him so calmly and staring longingly into unknown territory would be Westling. Westling was, in fact, one of the reasons he wandered so much while he dreamed, and whenever he got in the way of his remembering, he'd wake up sometimes miles away from the Sanctuary.

"Everything out there is interesting," Westling answered him amiably enough, half-turning to look at Keyan as he came up beside him. "Always changing, always new... alive and free." He said the word with loving relish. Everything with Westling was about freedom. That Other wasn't one he saw often, because Westling hated to be inside: it was like it was summer all the time, for him, and when he wasn't complaining about Keyan being confined under a roof, he was urging him to explore, find new places, escape from under the thumb of Lady Sphiridon. If he was feeling particularly vindictive, he would brag about his own freedom compared to Keyan's, the freedom to come and go as he pleased, beholden to no one, responsible for nothing but himself. Keyan envied him, when he said those things, in his dreams. Maybe he had when he really did live here, too.

Maybe he did now, too.

"What are you doing back here?" the Other asked when the silence stretched longer. "You escaped, you got out-- why in the world would you ever come back?"

"Because I need to talk to you," Keyan replied, eyes on Westling rather than the brightness of the outside world. The Other had green eyes, he suddenly noticed. He'd never really paid attention before. "I need you to stop getting in the way when I try to remember things."

Westling gave a dirisive snort. "Why would you want to do that? Remember? You've lived this long without knowing, lived free."

The Other echoed thoughts he, himself, had once had, before he'd left and returned over the summer, before he'd decided to start trying to remember. They were thoughts about permanence and family and being tied to people and places. It made him uncomfortable. "Because-- Sphiridon says it's important," he answered, a little lamely. "And because I can't stop thinking about it, now. I want to know."

"No, you don't," Westling countered with a smile that said he thought Karthekeyan was crazy. "Not if you had any sense. If you had any sense, you'd leave right now-- just run outside, go back to Mythicalae or any world out there, never come back here again."

"Why would I want to do that?" Keyan asked nervously, despite himself.

"Because you know as well as I do what will happen if you remember: you'll be trapped. Trapped by whatever Sphiridon wants you to do."

Keyan couldn't help a shudder. Trapped. The word alone tickled at his instinct to flee. He'd been trapped before-- by hunters, a few times; by frightened villagers when he'd threatened someone without remembering it, more than once; by walls, every springtime; by Others, more times than he could count; by friends... once. He hated it, being unable to flee if he felt the need, unable to move, hemmed in and confined. It terrified him. Tavarez had called him claustrophobic once, said it meant a fear of being in a small place, but it was more than that. He could be in an open place and still feel trapped. He could be staring at the mouth of a cave, into the rest of the world outside, with nothing between him and it, and still feel trapped.

Because he knew what Westling meant. Remembering was what Sphiridon wanted him to do, so he could go on to do something else afterwards. She called him important, the key to-- what? Something. Some place. Someone. He'd never really known what, or why he was so important. Or, he might have once, but now... he couldn't remember.

If he remembered, he'd know. Then he really would be trapped, into whatever destiny he'd forgotten.

"See?" Westling said quietly, interrupting the stirrings of panic. "You know what I mean. You understand. Why would you want to remember whatever happened to you before-- let the past be the past. It's over, anyway."

"I can't," Keyan managed, trying to keep his voice from shaking. The rest of him was, so it wasn't a very successful effort. "Sphiridon would know. So would everyone else."

"So just leave," the Other suggested. "There's the door. Just leave."

Leave. Escape, again, for the third time. The cave's exit was right there, right in front of him, and no one was there to stop him. He could go back to the life he led before, secure in the knowledge that his dreams were just dreams and summer, though madness, was at least a sort of normal madness for someone like him. For a long, torturous moment, he wanted to escape, get away from not only the past he couldn't remember but the future he didn't really want. How many times before had he told himself how much he hated being told he was special? Wished he could live a somewhat normal life? Well, he knew, now, what he'd wanted to know, that was what mattered, wasn't it? He could even get back to Mythicalae, if he wanted to, now that Lament had proved that he could walk between places-- worlds, even-- on purpose.

Lament. What would Lament do, if he left? If he-- ran away? Would he be able to follow him? Would he want to follow him? What kind of life would his migrant lifestyle be for a dragon? For a dragon like Lament, shy and creative and with so much love and fear? No kind of life, that's what it was. He couldn't subject Lament to that; he'd decided that already, hadn't he? And he couldn't just leave Lament behind; the dragon would never understand, and--

--and he'd miss him. Just like he'd miss Yula, who he'd come to see as a friend now that she wasn't hanging on him all the time, and he'd miss her little sibling bonds, and Tavarez when he came visiting, and even his little room at the Sanctuary of the Sun.

Trapped. He was already trapped into this future, into some future, whether it was Sphiridon's or not. He didn't need Sphiridon to do it for him. He'd walked right into the cage, fully aware that it would change his life forever, and then closed the door behind him. The only thing he could do was turn and see what the other side of the cage held, now.

Karthekeyan realized, then, he'd stopped shaking. He unclenched his fingers slowly and looked back at the waiting Other. "I'm staying, Westling." He thought he heard a disappointed sigh pass through the green-eyed Other's lips, but he plowed on. "I need to know what happened, before. Please."

"All right... but don't say I didn't warn you," Westling warned.

"I won't," he promised. "You won't interfere again?"

"I can't promise for anyone else, but I won't," Westling replied. "In fact, I think I'm going to leave you to your fate. I'm tired of being cooped up."

The Other flashed him a grin before turning on one heel and promptly bolting for the sunlight beyond, laughing. As soon as he hit the light, he was gone.

And Karthekeyan remembered, suddenly, what it was like to have a home.


"Why did he take so long to tell Westling no?"

The girl-child's question was soft, and troubled. Sphiridon was silent a moment, debating on whether to bother answering her, but in the end, she spoke. "Karthekeyan has spent a long time running. Sometimes, when one has done something for so long, it is hard to stop."

"Is that what Westling was talking about? Just-- to run away? And that tempted him?"

Sphiridon waved a hand irritably at the girl, frowning at the image of Karthekeyan staring after the wandering shade. "They know what to say," she replied absently. "They've been saying it to him for years, and he's in the habit of listening to them. If you would please, child, I am trying to concentrate."

She fell silent, but there was as much pensiveness as sullenness in her silence, at least. That would have to do. There was much still to be done, and Sphiridon wanted to know why she couldn't find the shade known as Westling in her mountain anymore.


"Love me like a criminal, love me like a man on the run."


Chapter Three



Quotes from Sting's "Inside", on the Sacred Love album

Draclin'geyar are the Creative Property of Silver Midnight; Fleshshifters are the Creative Property of Drakiera