Cards arrived on the drifting green, the device of the sea,without knowing its name. It simply was the thing, and it wasn’t like she’d written down what it was on her tiny preselected library of communications. That was fine, though, because somewhere in her brain, the machinery that cared about what things were called, what weird things were and how very important they were to people.
Cards had, after all, spent years never even being referred to by her name. Those that knew it didn’t say it, and those that said it didn’t have the courage to say it a second time. To care much about the name of a vast, jade structure, the size of a manor seemed rather pointless. When she was done with this task, after all, she could return to her strange, one-woman war. A different story, a story about someone else’s life, about her goals, about the burning rage that sat in the pit of her stomach, about drugs and hate and revenge.
Cards was a very strange woman in a place whose name she did not know.
Enkudu and Innogen were the next to see it on the horizon. Squatting over the foamy waves like an enormous grey-green frog, Innogen broached the question that one human on the planet had a possible chance of answering.
“What is it called, anyway?”
“I dunno,” Enk said, ruining everything.
Getting to the cruise ship, convincing his mother to come with them, then to not come with them, then convincing her to just stay on the cruise ship as their ‘back up’ swayed in Enk’s brain like little beads on a long string. Weeks – weeks! – of time had slithered past him, but that aching, twitching sense of urgency pushed against his insides every time he went to sleep in his own bed, every time a day finished in which he did nothing but practice magic with Innogen, every time he didn’t get closer to here.
That unflappable confidence, that ironshod spine that defined Innogen had simply accepted the time. Weeks? She planned it. She mapped it out. Then she set herself goals. There were rules during this period, there were orders that she set herself. Through those days, Enk had watched Innogen, fuelled by magic and by a need to not waste her time, shifting slowly and steadily into something that even his mother had never imagined when the word uttered was witch.
Innogen didn’t seem taller, but she sure seemed more. She’d taken to wearing beads around her wrists, slightly profane symbols of religiosity in which she didn’t believe. Her snow-tan had grown uniform, her magic fine, her expression grim. Her parents had been just as twisted as Enk’s about the whole affair, wringing their hands and quietly wondering about what this magical influx meant.
Not one of them had been able to do a twentieth of what Innogen could do. When Enk had explained to the family the risks of the device in the ocean, the great, vast relic of a bygone civilisation, the family meetings had been awkward but also with a certain pained embarassment as they acknowledged that none of them knew a damn thing. They’d been witches the way most of Enk’s friends had been Christians. It was one thing to go to church to get married, it was entirely another, far more terrifying thing for the heavens to part and God to start turning water into wine in semi-random ways. Then with the thunderbolts and all of the smiting and – basically, nobody had any clue what to do.
It’d been hard on Innogen, when she realised that her parents and her aunt and her cousin really existed in a world that prayed for rain but owned no umbrellas. People who wanted magic to be real but had been incredibly unprepared for the idea of it. Seeing her own parents looking to her for advice, for guidance – for a lead – in all this mess had been very hard.
Innogen for all of her struggles, though had no idea how hard it’d been on Enk.
Innogen had been toning her body, practicing her magic, and reshaping her mind. Patterns that had been so hard to recreate perfectly now had such a margin of error that she seemed less like a cauldron-turning witch and more like something out of a fantasy cartoon, throwing bright, sparkling blasts from her fists, throwing things without touching them, and repairing harm to herself with chants and words. When he’d walked into the kitchen to find Innogen with a cleaver stuck in her forearm he’d fainted, which meant the experience did more harm to him than it did to her.
Enk had not been experiencing that. If magic was a flow, as a river, Innogen had constructed dams, let the energy well up within her, and drew that power out in controlled bursts that created energy. Enk was adrift, on a raft, pulled along by whorls and eddies. Inside his mind there were the borrowed dreams of at least four names; four people who dwelled in deserts, who rebelled against their lives.
One of those people were not what Enkudu considered people. That thought kept bothering him. Waking up and wondering where his exoskeleton had been, or why he wasn’t due a moult yet. Enk had only ever spoken one language, but the girls at school who spoke French – there may have been boys that spoke French, but for some reason, Enk never remembered them – had told him once that thinking in a second language could be confusing. Enk woke up some mornings thinking in Aramaic, in Hebrew, and in that… that strange language that didn’t even have human words.
Reaching into the wells of his memory, Enk swallowed the nausea that came with it, the feeling of air on his shell and the softness of his form. That reach was done with mental hands, but the grasping was done with mental chelicera. The information came to him while he blinked in the painful brightness of a cruise ship day, parties and bars and laughter down on the shuffleboard deck echoing even unto him where he stood, seeming alien and strange despite its boring simplicity.
Words they’d used had involved two different types of language, in parallel. Bubbles of air forced in the water as well as a keening sound that travelled far; words had a ‘large’ reference, a ‘small’ reference. It was a language in which had worked engineers, architects, poets, alchemists, magicians, madmen, and kings. Sometimes, all at once. But how best to explain how it sounded? To simply… say the words, as they sat in Enk’s mind?
“They called it Great-Silence-of-Forever-Under-Sea.” He swallowed slightly, and pulled his coat around himself, as Innogen began to weave the dweomer that would render them invisible while they began their plan to steal a boat. “Or just Forever.”