Friday, September 18, 2015

Day Nine-Hundred-Fifteen: Brother


“It’s been a long time.”

“Not long enough, Eva. Not long enough.”

Driscol charged.

Pulling all of her magic to her aid, Evangelina created a huge, grassy barrier in front of herself. It was almost not enough, and Driscol’s spiked arms, writhing grotesquely, ripped the dirt to shreds in moments. Evangelina catapulted herself almost twenty feet away, riding on a carpet of grass and landing smoothly on top of a hill, cloak billowing.

Brother and sister faced each other.

“That’s an uncharitable way to greet your sibling, I’d say,” Evangelina commented, brushing a stray lock of hair out of her face. “Almost as though you don’t want to see me. I thought we had a better relationship than that.”

Stripped to the waist, covered in criss-crossing scars, ugly purple veins bulging into sickly, squirming arms that weren’t even close to resembling that of a human, Driscol shrugged. “What can I say. I’m slightly embarrassed. I belong in a grave, not on the battlefield.”

Evangelina brushed away a sudden tear. He was, of course, right. This encounter seemed more like a prolonged funeral than anything. “Maybe. I suppose you can’t help yourself?”

By way of response, Driscol charged again. The purple-grey flesh of his arms abruptly expanded, hurtling towards Evangelina at a breathtaking pace as a pair of deadly spikes. Evangelina called upon her magic again, batting both arms away with a pair of grassy spikes from the ground, but they seemed to snake around the obstructions, and one of the spikes cut through Evangelina’s left arm. She gasped and fell back - 

- but held on to enough presence of mind to trigger a column of dirt beneath Driscol. It sped upward, into his jaw, and sent him flying. His arms retracted so quickly that the air cracked.

Breathing hard, blood flowing freely from her wound, Evangelina rose to her feet. She clenched one hand to her arm to staunch the bleeding - My gods, it’s deep, it’s so deep, she thought - and gritted her teeth, watching as the mangled heap that was her brother shambled to his feet. Driscol looked like a nightmare from the neck down, but that face… that grim, dark, chiselled face…

Driscol grinned. “So what was the plan? Divide and conquer? We tried that ourselves. It didn’t work so well, as I recall.”

Evangelina winced. She caught the reference. “Well, this time we have Eve on our side rather than against, so I think it will turn out a little better. Besides, all I have to do now is stall for time.”

Driscol began to pace towards her, and Evangelina responded by back up the hill. She kept as much space between them as possible, but the cut in her shoulder was too deep, too painful, and she found herself staggering to maintain any sort of pace. Driscol’s face fell as he walked, his careful mask crumbling into deep, pained concern, but he couldn’t do anything to help it, not this time. Soon he was less than ten feet away, and his arms sharpened into lethal points again, prepared to kill.

“Stop stalling,” he insisted, gritting his dead teeth. “Finish me already. We know you can. You were always better at magic than I was. You don’t have much time left, so just get it over with.”

No,” Evangelina snapped back. 

“Twerp,” Driscol said, voice low. “You can’t save me.”

Evangelina drew upon the earth, summoning a huge clod of dirt up and around her as a shield, crafting as much armour as she could with as little time as she had. Driscol didn’t care, however, and with murderous zeal his body ripped into the dirt, bursting through as easily as a child pops a bubble. Evangelina tried to retreat into the ground itself, but she wasn’t quick enough, and her wound hurt too much, and soon her brother was pulling her bodily out of the soil, a third arm now growing out of his chest, holding Evangelina aloft by her throat.

Kill me,” he insisted, squeezing the life out of her, his face full of suffering. “Do it or you’re going to die.

Evangelina tried to swallow, but she couldn’t. Driscol’s grip was too tight, and by degrees it seemed to be getting tighter every second, the grotesque third arm crushing the air out of her lungs and drawing blood with its fetid fingernails. She clawed at Driscol’s chest, as though she could somehow disconnect the arm, but she wondered, dimly, if even that would be enough. The monstrosity of her brother’s body held no guarantees of letting up.

But she still couldn’t do it. “Y… you… you’re… you… l… let… ach…”

Evangelina’s eyes blurred, and her vision went dark. The last thing she saw was her brother’s unweeping face, frowning so intensely that she wanted to cry on his behalf.


“Well aren’t you just a spoiled twat.”

Evangelina looked up. Her mother was staring down at her, her wrinkled face full of all the disappointment and loathing she’d expressed so often during life. “Oh. You. I guess this means I’m dead, then?”

June shook her head. “Not yet. Give it a few seconds, though, and it’s bound to happen. What are you waiting for?”

Evangelina bit her lip. “They said if they kill his master he might go back to normal. I’m waiting on that.”

The older witch snorted. “‘Might’ go back to normal? Ye little fool. ‘Might’ is a poor thing to wish on. Surely as shit, if you wait for ‘might’, he ‘will’ kill you. Hell, I’d say it’s almost too late, now. Even if ye break free right this second, he’s crushed your windpipe. There’s no one ‘round to save a pathetic dog like yourself.”

Evangelina covered her face. She brushed her fingers across her neck, feeling the tightness in the skin, the slight gush of blood as inhuman fingers dug into her throat. “I… but we saved that other one, so… maybe… maybe, if we… if we just stalled long enough…”

“deice fir”

“Evangelina the Diplomat!”

Evangelina’s head snapped up. Her mother was gone, replaced by the strict, wizened face of a much better person. Even if he was a slave owner. “Oh. Hello. I never got to say goodbye to you. Or to thank you properly.”

Pagan shook his head. “I’m not here. This is you, convincing yourself to do the right thing. When have you ever waited for anything? You’ve always taken what you wanted. You’re not a waiter. Do what needs to be done.”

“But… but he’s…”

“Yes. He is.” Pagan smiled thinly through his beard. “All the more reason to end it, little girl. You can’t really save him, and you know it. You’ve known it for a long time.”

Evangelina hiccuped. She tried to sputter refusals, to argue the point as eloquently as she’d argued so many treaties, laws, and state policies over the years, but she couldn’t. This was not a trade commission, or a bureaucratic snafu, or a will, or anything other than what it was: her brother’s life. Her brother was already dead, he’d been dead for a long time, and she needed to throw the final spadeful of dirt onto his grave.

“deice fir i us”

“I don’t want to,” she protested.

“Then you doom him,” Pagan replied, voice flinty.

He was right. Of course he was right. Evangelina knew it. She’d known it from the moment she’d decided to fight Driscol personally. Hell, she’d known it long ago, when he’d burst into her jail cell in Pubton, armless and horrifying, asking that she support a man they’d both considered an enemy for months upon months. She couldn’t save her brother, and she’d always known it, and she was just waiting so she could do the job herself, because she couldn’t trust anyone else to do it properly.

“All I wonder,” Pagan muttered, eyes not unkind, “is why you’ve killed yourself in the process. It didn’t have to happen this way.” 

“deice fir i us deuce if iris uric edifies”

And as he said that final line Pagan transformed, his old eyes replaced by sharper lines, far younger, his aged armour shifting and changing into a familiar, boxy face. Evangelina gasped, but was not surprised, as her brother stood before her, restored, fully human, his face as healthy as it had been in his prime. He was smiling at her, but he was also crying, and she could tell he’d waited a long time to enjoy that honour again.

Evangelina had many reasons. But there was only one that really mattered to her. “We’re twins, stupid. Born together, we ought to go out the same way.”

“… cr… cruised… fi… fie…” Evangelina muttered, her final, strangled words. They were just barely enough, and her eyes blazed - but for the first time in her life, they blazed blue, not orange.

Driscol smiled, and as the world around them erupted, his body was, finally, purified.

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