Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chapter 57: The Sheut Sees Beyond The Noise

Fri November 27, 2074 4:01 am- 88 Wilkins Ave. Camden, Pleasantview


In the beginning, there was nought and the nought was called God, uniform in its perfection. Today this nought stands like the silver coat backing a mirror- Known but essentially unknowable. And the Sheut passed through it, a man stepping into his own reflection, an insect beating a path beneath the thrones of Titans.

Music. The chime of silverware. Hushed laughter. When the Sheut opened his eyes to the light, his wings brushed against the oak wall of an upscale restaurant.


Ermengarde's psyche hummed with the gentle din of polite conversation and of a woman singing through the overhead speakers. I don't want you but I hate to lose you. You got me in between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The restaurant was packed with well-dressed patrons, swiveling their liquor and crossing their legs disinterestedly. At first, the Sheut did not understand how one little girl could accommodate so many entities but as they turned one by one to look at him, he knew.


It was as though some ghastly hand had rubbed their features clean away like the rain might have done to an old penny. These people were figments- False energies conjured up as a sort of battering ram to crash through Ermengarde's already paper-thin psyche. Beyond the veil of noise, the Sheut could make out the depressions where their faces should have been. They were not real. But their master was. And he was necessarily seated some place in that room. The Sheut's gaze filtered through the crowd.


Deep down, he had always known that something like this would happen. His situation with Elise was so unusual and so precarious that by its very nature, it was bound to attract unwanted attention. There were creatures in the universe that served only chaos. If they thought that they could alter the course of the history by destroying the Ib through those she loved, they would.


I forgive you 'cause I can't forget you. You got me in between the devil and the deep blue sea. The Sheut hated that song. He put his fingers to his lips and whistled sharply. The room fell instantly still.


"I am Kvornan, Sheut of the Fifth Age and your presence here contradicts the mandate of our will. Who answers for this trespass?"

Nothing stirred at first. And then slowly, the army of figments parted, leaning away from their center like tree branches in the wind.


There was a man at the heart of the crowd, stony and calculating. He looked the Sheut dead in the eyes as if to say, I dare you and the Sheut unfurled his wings in warning. Somewhere in the universe, time was lost and gained. The Sheut bared his fangs.

"Where is the child," he growled. Taking sudden amusement in the situation, the man tilted back his head and chuckled. The figments began socializing anew as if the Sheut had never been.


"Waiter!" the man shouted. "There appears to be a fly in my soup."

His words were followed by an abrupt silence. The record stopped. Everyone vanished. The presence had seemingly fled. All that remained was the Sheut, stewing in his unheeded majesty. It was farcical, really.


The Sheut took a few swift steps through the empty room. Ermengarde might have been somewhere unreachable by now. He prayed that she was not. He looked about the room for an exit and when he found it, something darted near the corner of his eye.


He paused in mid-stride. Before him was a child of thirteen or so, barring the doorway like some kind of giggling sentinel. He paused as the Sheut had paused. He dropped his arms when the Sheut dropped his arms. He tilted his head and stood with the dignity of a king when the Sheut merely stood.


"Who in the hell are you?" the Sheut breathed. The boy began giggling anew. He tossed his long black hair over his shoulder, revealing a gracefully pointed ear.

"No. Who in the hell are you?" he parroted.


Alexei had once described to the Sheut his experience of working as a newspaper printer in the late 1980's- How he learned to read from right to left. How habit taught him to think backwards. When Alexei Garrison closed his eyes at night, he saw the image of his bedroom in reverse. Life is a wall of mirrors. And this was the view from behind the glass.


The boy's laughter quieted. Candlelight flickered across his face, revealing his eyes to be a clear, silvery violet. The Sheut stood bereft of his body but he could almost feel his heart palpitating. He took one step forward and the boy took a step back.

"Don't go," the Sheut whispered.

"Betcha can't catch me," the boy replied. The Sheut moved towards the boy at a cautious, delicate pace and the boy moved backwards at the same pace; a man chasing his own reflection. Before he knew it, the Sheut was through the kitchen door, standing in an open-air colonnade, naked to the night sky.


The boy was gone. Birds were singing their last atop trees thick with moss. The Sheut could sense a presence nearby but it was not the man from the restaurant. It was a gentler, feebler energy. He pressed ahead, beneath the crumbling stone arches and the swaying vines. His pace slowed as he approached the garden wall where the object of all his searching recoiled from his light.


"Am I dead," Ermengarde asked. The Sheut raised his eyebrows involuntarily, curious as to why this would have been her first thought. Perhaps the living all knew him by sight. He pursed his lips and shook his head sympathetically.

"No," he said simply.


The Sheut waded towards her through the grass and she sucked in her breath, recoiling further still.

"It's ok. I'm here to bring you back," he assured her.

"But the people with no faces-"

"They're gone. It's just you and me now." Ermengarde's fretful pout softened but her body still tensed. The Sheut halted just in front of her on the cobblestone path.


"Are you ok," the Sheut asked. Ermengarde nodded but said nothing. Her eyes widened and her lips parted, wordlessly conveying her astonishment. He did not know what he looked like to her but he wished that he could put her more at ease. Crouching down to her level, he examined her energy. She was addled and a little distraught but otherwise fine. He sighed in relief and stroked her cheek in gratitude to whatever force had preserved her.


"Do you think they'll come back?" Ermengarde asked.

"I won't let them. Come, you've been very brave and now it's time to go." As he said the words, he felt like he had said them a million times, in a million guises, to a million little girls. You've been brave... Time to go. Ermengarde's smile was sad and quivering. The Sheut opened his arms to her and she fell into them, gracelessly. He caught her by the waist.


"Gosh, you're pretty. What's your name?" she said. The Sheut lifted her up into his arms.

"I'm called Kvornan." He gently brushed her hair from her eyes and flattened her skirts even though both were only a temporary condition of the dream-state. Ermengarde scrunched up her face in confusion.

"Can I just call you Forn?" she asked. The Sheut chuckled.

"Yes but only you may. No one else." Ermengarde threaded her fingers through his hair and leaned her head against his. She was tired, he could see that now.

"It's ok. I have a hard name too. It's Ermengarde," she said, almost confidentially. The Sheut gave her the most befuddled look that he could muster.

"Herman Gourd?" he asked.

"No, Ermengarde."


"Irwin Lard?" Ermengarde laughed giddily.

"No, Ermengarde!"

"Sherwin Card?"



"I'm just teasing. I know your name. It's Earwig Garden, isn't it?"

"Nooo! It's Ermengarde! E- R- M- E- N-"


The world was fading. Soon, Ermengarde Mindelsohn would awaken in her bed to find a pale young man asleep in a chair beside her. And for the first time in months, she would feel safe.



  1. The song is Cab Calloway "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" (1932).

    Dear Veron,

    I think I'll have that epidural now.



  2. Ooooh, what an interesting way of portraying Ermengarde's pscyhe! Gorgeous pictures, Pen--just gorgeous! And I love how he was pretending not to know her name at the end, that was so cute :)

    Epidural? Seriously? Good luck with that :(

  3. Thanks, Van! hehe Kvornan. He tells himself that he doesn't even like kids.

    Ha! Difficult to produce chapter + long crazy convo with Veron = bizarre inside jokes

  4. Heheheh, nice.

    Kvornan's still a dad at heart, I'm thinking. But I guess that's something that never goes away.

  5. That's what I'm thinking too, Van. And he really was the sort of dad who did bedtime stories and silly songs. Probably something to do with wanting to be the exact opposite of his own father.

  6. Damn! Once I catch my breath here...I'm not sure what stunned me more, the beautiful writing or the beautiful shots. Both held incredible imagery.

    LOL at the ending when Kvornan teased her about her name and the fact that she persistently tried to correct him! Just like a kid to do that.

    I confess I am confused about the man and then the boy although I think I get it...going back to read again.

  7. Hmmm... the boy looks a little like a male Gvaudoin. Except he doesn't have her nose.

    Although my skills with faces are iffy at best, so don't mind me.

  8. Wow, thanks Gayl!

    Heh, I wonder if she believed him. Probably not though. :p

    The man we've seen before. The boy, no. But the eyes are a clue.

  9. I thought, based on the idea of a reflection, that somehow it was Kvornan that was the I think I am wrong. And I had the man pegged for Kiernan but, meh I don't that I am on the right track.

  10. You are headed in the right direction with the first one but the man is not Kiernan. I thought about referencing Jack in the chapter because it might have occurred to Kvornan that the energies were similar. I don't remember why I decided against it.

  11. After looking at him again, I think I know who the man is. I won't say, though :)

  12. That was fabulous Pen. No coffee in my house this morning so I won't attempt to guess the identity of the boy, but I had to comment to say this chapter was exquisite from start to finish, in words and pictures. And the name-guessing game at the end made me MELT. (and the "stewing in his unheeded majesty" made me snicker)

    Oh and FWIW I thought Ermengarde was a very believable little girl. Especially that confidental "I have a hard name too" whisper.

  13. Mmm coffee. Glad you reminded me. Thanks, Lothere! For the compliments and the feedback, that is. But also for the reminder. Somehow, I thought that you would enjoy the stewing. I know it's wrong to kick a man when he's down but I always end up making fun of Kvornan in one way or another. "I'm big and bad and glorious and you should be afeard of me!" teehee

    Thanks! I'm work'n on it. I've got a few teen chapters coming up back to back after this one too.

  14. AAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! With or without rufie?

    Okay, first? That was beautiful. Not only because of your shots, but that was such an unexpected look at Kvornan in full Sheut form. And for him to have such a... natural interaction with Ermangarde in a phenomenally unnatural setting (which you knocked out of the park, description wise) is so fitting. And being of unnatrual sort themselves... it just says so much.

    And THAT BOY. I see something about his eyes... he's killing me. Scary man, I feel like I would know him without the mustache, but at the same time... Cliffhangers of death.

    You know I would totally make you an effing roof to revive you.

  15. beautiful and wonderful! I particularly like the way Kvornan shut off the annoying music in the restaurant!

    reminded me in a sort of horrible way of the things kids do when they mock you by repeating everything you do, right down to the gestures.

    I'm not going to hazard a guess about who the man is since you've already said here that he's not Kiernan

  16. Veron:

    Without the rufie! I need to stay awake long enough to do the next chapter. I'll have an effing, no roof. HAHahahaAha! Is that even a cocktail anymore??? Maybe add some Bailey's for good measure. I'll have a creamy eff. HahHAHaha! Try ordering THAT from a hot guy in gaucho pants!

    Thanks, home skillet! Kvornan appeared in Sheut form very intentionally. He wanted to show that he meant bid-ness. I wonder what sort of thoughts about Jack he'll have after this. He'll definitely be keeping a closer eye on that one from now on.

    THE BOY! Won't leave you hanging too long there. Well... Yes and no. :p

  17. SB:

    Hahahaha! Kvornan has a personal vendetta with that song. And I don't know how Orion knew it. But he did.

    Hehe, it's not a big secret! I linked to the chapter! It's Orion Specter! I really need to keep in mind that it's been a long time between updates and you guys might not always recognize characters that you've seen before when they pop-up later on. Kiernan couldn't do something like this. No magic doth he have.

    I thought about that childish mimicking thing too. It didn't seem to perturb Kvornan though. He was too taken aback. And then he noticed the eyes.

    Thanks, Beth!

  18. Sweeeeeet, Orion was my guess. I feel smart now, for once in my life. Yay.

  19. ...and I see now that I could have clarified that earlier. I didn't notice your link to Chapter 50 there *bangs head against wall*

  20. Aww,this is nice.... Love the shots, the sets and oh well the magnificent beauty of Kvornan in his sheut form and that guy with the moustache looks creepy(somehow reminded me of some pedo).Nice work!!!

  21. Ok, when I first read this, I totally LOLed. And then I remembered that he is kind of a pedo.

    Thanks, Karen!

  22. Sneaking on the internet really quick!!

    This was brilliant Pen! I went through the pics I don't know how many times. Whatever you did to them was amazing!

    I confess I'm confused about the boy but I know that I'm supposed to be! LOL! This was absolutely awesome! *shakes head*

    That last part was just so freakin cute! Seriously! I chuckled! The wait was well worth it!

  23. Phoenix!!! Is your sis still visiting? I was starting worry that you were sick!

    Thanks, girl! It was nothing too fancy. Paintbrush and blur tool. Image 11 was actually the most painful one to deal with. The kid's hair mesh broke so I had to draw his hair back in.

    That's ok- Kvornan is confused too. And so long as he's confused, then so are we.

    *hehe* Thanks, Phoenix! I'm glad you liked it!

  24. No, I'm good! The sis, the baby and her fiance are still here. I'm going to put some pics up on the LJ sometime soon!:P

    Ugh! You have more patience then me! I just usually brighten(if needed) and call it a day! Hahaha!! The mesh broke? Good Lord!

    I did! I did!! I was blown away! Great stuff Pen! Great stuff!

  25. That's groovy! :) I'll be looking for those baby pics.

    Heh, I don't normally touch my photos at all but this was a special case.

  26. Penelope! Your story is friggin awesome! I have been so totally into it that I didn't want to stop to make any comments along the way. I wanted to comment on pretty much everything but I couldn't wait that long. But don't worry, I want to reread because I think I missed a lot of important clues along the way so there will be comments. But I wanted to be up here with people waiting for the next chapter. It is such a great story... I love it how everything is so interwoven with this mythology that we can only guess a the true significance of.

    And seriously, you write the best metaphors! So many timesa long the way I have just been like, now that is an excellent way to describe that thing. I will have to point them out on the way back. Anyway, so I am here and caught up and now waiting for the next chapter :)

  27. VERITY! You have arrived! *confetti burst* Wow, I never thought you would make it all the way to the end this time around since you're always working and traveling. I'm so glad that you liked it. :D And don't worry, I've left a lot of bread crumbs throughout but I'll be dropping quite a few veils between chapters 60-80. (Eep! It all seems so far away.)

    Thank you so much, Verity! And the next chapter will pop up sometime today. It's almost finished, I just keep getting sidetracked because, well, I suspect that I have Attention Deficit Disorder. :p

  28. I knew it was Orion! That picture of him was very well done, he looked so creepy and inhuman, it was chilling.

    I'm glad Ermengarde is okay, but the fact that a lot of entities are possessing her can't be good news. They could come back :/

    Was that Kvornan's son there? What's his connection to Ermengarde?

    And I wonder if she'll remember anything when she wakes up...

  29. You're absolutely right-- They could come back. And I don't know how many times Kvornan would risk going in there to drive them away.


    That's all I'm going to say for now. You have to read on, Maruutsu!

    I can tell you that Ermengarde will not remember this. Not exactly. But she will always feel a sense of security with Kvornan.