The Grey City XIV

Saturday February 24, 2007 @ 11:42 PM (UTC)

The Grey City I
The Grey City II
The Grey City III
The Grey City IV
The Grey City V
The Grey City VI
The Grey City VII
The Grey City VIII
The Grey City IX
The Grey City X
The Grey City XI
The Grey City XII
The Grey City XIII

“Carys!” Eirian shouted, and heard her sister’s voice nearby, frantic and muffled. A dirty white hand emerged from the dark shapes around Eirian, and scrabbled at her shoulder. The little girl grabbed onto it and pulled, feeling dry grasping ropes slip by her on either side. Carys’s other hand appeared too, then her face, and the two girls clung to each other in a world of questing, whispering tendrils.

“What’s happening?” said Eirian with a sniff, and when Carys didn’t reply, she answered herself. “We’re in the roots, aren’t we? How did it happen? Carys? Carys, what will we do?” Her only answer was the rasp of root on root as the arms wrapped about them, shoved them on, caught them up, moving them ever onward.

“Carys!” Eirian whined, and her sister blinked and looked up. She could tell which way it was, from the way they lay in their hammock of arms, and from the occasional glints of light that showed her Eirian’s face.

“I suppose we climb,” she said, quiet as if the roots might hear her plan.

“Climb?” Eirian said in disbelief, but Carys pushed her up, and her white fingers curled around a tendril.

“It’s just like climbing a tree.”

“My legs are too short,” Eirian grumbled, but kicked out with them, finding purchase in the reaching limbs. Carys followed.

The roots tried to envelop them anew, but they reached through the new shrouds and pushed them aside. They pulled on the ones that tried to flee upwards, as Eirian had once pulled cat’s tails. The light grew closer, and the little girl called back, “I think my hand is out!”

The rest of her followed, and she clung to the base of a tree like a sloth, even as it sent its roots up to feel about her bootless ankle. She turned to look for Carys, and saw her pulling her way out of the dark.

There was no time to catch their breath or to embrace. Hand in hand, they flew across the hungry ground. At every step, it fell out from beneath them and tried to trip them. Eirian was tired to tears, but she could not spare the breath to cry. She fell, and the roots began to swallow her. One twisted around her left wrist as Carys pulled at her right, and she flopped awkwardly for a moment before she broke free.

“Carys! The branches aren’t reaching for us!” Carys looked up involuntarily, and almost stumbled herself. “They can’t move their branches!” Eirian pulled her hand free and dodged a root. “Come on! You’re taller, I can’t reach!”

The older girl swerved to reach a tree trunk, and fell against it heavily. She jumped for the lowest branch. She pulled herself up, confidence returning as her legs recalled less urgent climbs, kinder trees.

“Carys!” Eirian yelped, jumping from foot to foot to confuse the roots. She strained upwards, and Carys’s hands were in hers. Her feet scrabbled against the trunk as her sister pulled. They fell back into a fork of the tree together, and held each other close.

“Are you hurt?” Carys said, trying to judge through the dirt and twigs.

“I’m not,” Eirian said, and pointed to Carys’s forehead, marked with a long scratch. “You are, though.”

Carys felt at the cut and winced. “I’ll be all right.” She looked down at the ground. In the dim light, she could see it moving, seething like water about to boil. Eirian untucked the end of a wool scarf from her own neck, and tried to gently smudge the dirt away from her sister’s wound. Carys smiled reassuringly. “Really, it’s nothing.” She looked down at the scarf, a long lilac one of their mother’s. “I lost the trunk, Eirian.”

“I’m no fool,” Eirian said with a scowl, and continued to scrub. “You couldn’t have helped it.”

“I know. But we’ve nothing of home now.”

“We’ve got us.”

Carys smiled. “Yes. And I promised Mam I’d take care of us both.” She pulled away with a reassuring pat and stood carefully on a big bough, holding another with both hands. Eirian clung more closely to the tree.

“I can see the fence! It’s quite the other way from how we were heading.”

Carefully, they jumped from tree to tree, Carys coaxing Eirian after her. The trees were large and untended, and their branches grew together. Their skirts caught on the branches, and the roots rasped unpleasantly below. At last, they reached the last tree. They shimmied down and jumped away from the lashings of the frustrated trees.

“Your mark!” said Eirian. They rushed with heady relief to the dark trench in the leaves that marked the exit. They laughed high, silly laughs of relief as they fell on all fours and crawled through the opening, out of the rustling malice of that place.

They were still feebly smiling as they stood, filthy and ragged, and looked up two dark uniforms into the faces of the Runners, shining solemn and white under the midnight lamps.

Grey City XV


Yeah for Carys & Eirian!

I love this serial.

Oh good! That makes two folks I know favor it. Before that, I had one vote for every serial I’ve ever negle—I mean, STARTED. Which meant I felt guilty working on only the one I was excited about at that moment!

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