The Grey City III

Wednesday May 12, 2004 @ 04:44 PM (UTC)

The Grey City I
The Grey City II

Carys scuttled along the slick cobblestones, towing her sister and awkwardly waltzing the oversized suitcase. The lights seemed brighter now, or perhaps there were more than before, as the natural half-light of the city began to sink into evening. The district to which they’d been directed must not have been popular, at least in the night hours, for as they walked towards it the press of people thinned, and the sound of footsteps dwindled and merged with the dripping of the subsiding rain. The sound of a river running sluggish and sullen grew, until the street they followed opened onto another, and the slow river was visible as a deeper bank of fog behind the spear-tipped railings.

Eirian looked at the railings and sniffed unhappily at the rising river mist. “Which way, Carys,” she said, in that dangerous tone that makes a question an accusation.

Carys looked up the river and down, and saw a clutch of jaundiced lights strung across the water. “That way,” she said, with careful certainty, and they made their way along the foul-smelling river to the foot of a great bridge, where they plopped down their luggage and rested a moment.

The bridge was made of iron, criss-crossing beams like faint letters written on the funk. Where it joined the cobbles, its paving was also metal, a grating with each interstix nearly large enough for Eirian’s little boot, and as dark as the growing night more sensed than seen above. The dark metal faded into the fetid haze as her eyes strained to find the other bank.

Carys was terrified. The size of the bridge, the holes in the grating that might drop her – so it seemed – into the dark stream of offal, the smell of metal rising acrid and unfamiliar in her cold nostrils, the sound of the water, the dripping, the rustling and murmuring and breathing of a thousand dark things that lurked in the shadow and mist and under the bridge, waiting to clutch her through the grating and pull her into the icy filth below.

She breathed deep, and closed her eyes, and remembered. She remembered her mother’s dark eyes, and the soft voice that said, “When I am gone, you will be the little mother Eirian has lost, I know. You will be strong and patient and kind. You will be brave and stalwart and honest. I know you better, my lovely Carys, than you know yourself, and I know you will make me proud.”

The Grey City IV


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