Henry and the Malcontents, Chapter 10

Fiction By Annabel // 1/24/2012

 *Well. This may be the one of my mistiest chapters yet. It's very late, so I cannot do much better--con crit welcome, of course.*

“I have your coffee and the post. The coffee strong and with only a little milk. The post presorted according to importance.”
 
“Put them on the desk.”
 
“I checked your calendar. Your next appointment is at twelve o’clock. A meeting of all five Councilmembers, Ms. Oona Bloodborn presiding.”
 
“I know.”
 
“And now I’m going to sift through these documents looking for anything pertaining to the new Surveillance law, as you asked me to. Even though that has nothing to do with my position.”
 
Sighing, Jaasra put down her pen and looked up at the young man—or boy, as she thought him—who wore a half-amused, half-affronted expression.
 
“Wintra, you’re an intern. This is what interns do.”
 
“An intern for the Dragon Committee,” he corrected. “I’m supposed to work for and with dragons. And I was sent to the Capitol to negotiate the terms of the preservation bill, not to perform menial tasks.”
 
Jaasra shrugged. “Do both,” she said, and Wintra grimaced.
 
Cyril Wintra, at hardly more than twenty years old, was rather a pretty sort of person, in an effeminate way. He had fine, somewhat unusual features, very dark hair, and very light eyes, and the outlines of his skin always seemed faintly, silverly luminous. “He’s charming, naïve, ambitious and vain,” Jaasra had pronounced to her secretary, Elaine, after meeting Cyril a few months ago. “Nothing more.” The fairy had looked at her curiously with her unsettling orange eyes and said nothing.
 
Cyril picked a letter from the tray and waved it vaguely in Jaasra’s direction. “This is from the Surveillance Committee head, Peter Llewellyn. Shall I read it?”
 
“Go ahead,” Jaasra said, taking her mug in grateful hands.
 
Something happened when Cyril slit the envelope that Jaasra was never in later days able to describe—there was a new scent mingled with the ordinary ones of coffee and ink and sealing wax, and the scent was of—
 
She was very ill.
 
“There’s no letter,” Cyril said in a small, small voice. He turned the envelope over the table and a small quantity of grey dust fell out.
 
“Ashes,” said a voice Jaasra had never heard before. Cyril was blurring and shifting before her eyes, and then there was light all about him—
 
“Whose ashes are they?” he asked with no shade of expression on his glowing face.
 
“They belong to somebody we killed,” replied the voice.
 
Jaasra felt as if from a distance her body trembling uncontrollably and looked with detached curiosity at her arms as they shook and shifted, her skin toughening and changing shape.
 
Then pain, and things green and new and blood-tipped sprouting from her flesh like weeds breaking through cement, and Cyril—she thought it was Cyril—screaming. “I’m blooming,” said the voice, which she knew now was her own. She felt tears on her face that had nothing to do with the pain and realized that that scent was somebody else’s grief.
 
* * *
 
“I miss them,” Luna said idly, at the dinner table one day.
With a splash, Wryre dropped her spoon into her bowl of stew. She looked at the boys, whose expressions ranged from troubled to indignant, and then at Luna, and made a strange sort of squished face. “Luna—oh, sweetheart, we all—”
 
“I meant Zael and Immer!” cried Luna hastily, realizing her mistake. “Because they’re at Grausam most of the time.”
 
I’d rather not talk about it, Wryre had said when her parents did not come home from a mission one day (they had never told what it was and now their children would never know), and somehow, at ten, with her pointy chin held high and her green eyes dry, she had managed to bring an odd sort of dignity to the melodramatic words. Otis had said them when his father—Mr. Krieger, so collected and subtle and sardonic that the children thought he’d never be caught—was arrested. Gabe had repeated them a few months ago when he was cleaning through his mother’s things: some contraband books, a broken teacup, a half-used red lipstick. There was a fairy lucky stone, too, a large, lumpy, pale green pebble, which had never brought Tea any luck.
 
They did not even attempt to approach Mike when the last of his brothers was murdered. In this family—for in a sense they were a family, now—no one spoke of the dead.
 
There was a long, strained silence before Gabe surprised everyone by speaking.
 
“What do you think about the news?” he asked quietly, stretching his wings slightly.
 
“You mean that story about someone sending Councilwoman Pettel-Turvin poison?” asked Wryre, her expression animated again. She reached for a dinner roll, knocking over both her own glass and Otis’s in the process. “Sorry, Otis. Oh, well, I don’t know—it sounds kind of strange—I mean! Poisonous attacks from anonymous sources! It’s like a thriller novel. Not that I’ve ever read a thriller novel, but I bet if I did it would be just like that.” She frowned slightly. “I’m glad she’s okay, though. If she had died, it wouldn’t be very good for the public image of the resistance, would it?”
 
“The resistance doesn’t have a public image,” Otis muttered darkly. “Nobody knows or cares that we exist. Some nutcase won’t change that.”
 
“Who would target her, anyway?” Wryre laughed. “I mean, Pettel-Turvin’s so…boring…the other Councilmen are more disturbing than she…”
 
“I was actually more interested in the intern who was with her at the time,” Gabe said softly. “Cyril Wintra?”
 
“Any relation to Zael?” asked Luna. “And I heard he wasn’t affected by the poisonous dust as much—”
 
“It wasn’t poison,” Mike spat out suddenly.
 
Luna looked at her friend with a sudden misgiving. His jaw was clenched and his pale eyes unusually bright.
 
“The envelope was full of ashes.”
 
“Ashes lead to hallucination?” Otis scoffed.
 
“It wasn’t hallucination,” said Luna, knowing suddenly that it was true.
 
“Don’t be silly,” said Wryre sharply. “The woman thought she was turning into some kind of plant.”
 
“It was dryad-magic, wasn’t it?” said Gabe, and Wryre groaned, and Luna remembered an afternoon two weeks ago, when Asher Levhi had told her that he could take his pain and do anything he liked with it, even pass it on to somebody else.
 
Do you believe me, child? he had asked from his great height. And, with her eyes fixed on his shifting, scar-littered skin, on his warped hands, anywhere but on his eyes, she had said that she did.