Ruby Red and Gentilberry Green: A Fantastical Romance - Part XXVIII

in #fiction6 years ago (edited)

This is the twenty-eighth part of an ongoing serial. Here are Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six and Twenty-Seven. Updates every two days, barring minor mishaps.

Blown through the wind on the back of a bedsheet, tumbling and twisting in the soot-filled darkness like a mangled doll, Matilda Gentilberry hit the ground, bounced, and rolled to a groaning halt. She pushed herself to her knees with aching hands, bit back a curse, and stood shakily.

Necristo's sky hung above her like a blanket of black snow. There were streaks in the clouds, sparkling scars like the marks of a scourge. In them the stars were dying, one by one, giving last gasps and falling in long, graceful arcs. There was a long gray furrow in the ground where she had tumbled. The grass had crumbled to ash. It smelt wrong on her arm and back, like shriveled burning fish.

She was far from the house, almost too far to see it. It stood in the distance, a smouldering frozen wreck. The entirety of the second floor had collapsed, leaving the framework bare for all to see.

She had done it at last. She had avenged Anne. By stabbing Necristo with Soulstealer, she had taken away his heart's desire. Anne's Gentilberry blood meant nothing to him now. His lust for power was dead at the roots.

"You hear that, Lizzie?" she laughed, loudly and hopelessly. "I just saved your daughter. Me, Mattie. The witch!"

Not her Lizzie, not her Anne. But it didn't matter after all, did it?

"That's not true! I deserve something!"

The other Mattie was dead in a ditch with the cows.

"No. Damn your soul, that's not..."

The thoughts coalesced, suddenly, into a smiling voice.

"I must say, Matilda, you did a remarkable job."

"You!"

It was Yhaga, Necristo's mother. She was floating in the air like the apparition she was, the ash collecting in her wrinkles and folds. Her long yellow nails were pressed into her knuckles, and her gaunt face was twisted in a ghastly leer.

"But of course it's me, dearie - who else would it be? Now that you've removed Necristo's heart, I can finally do what I've wanted all these years."

Matilda stiffened. Her hood suddenly felt like that of a criminal, condemned at the headsman’s block.

"That's... that's impossible. Soulstealer doesn't do that. It makes you forget your heart's desire..."

Yhaga gave a delighted hiss. It sounded like raw corn being shucked from a cob.

"And if your heart’s desire has your heart already," she cackled, “what does that mean but losing it? Shouldn’t these tricks should be second nature? I thought you were a wizardess!"

The bedsheet was flopping forwards two meters in front of her, rolling along the ashen grass like a gigantic tumbleweed. Matilda stepped back, as white and streaked as the sheet itself. Her fists were clenched and her jaw was set, but she felt that if she let herself go for even one second, she would be on the ground with the bedsheet, rolling with the wind. It was maddening.

“You lied to me," she breathed. “You said you wanted justice."

"No," smirked Yhaga. "That’s what you said, darling, and you didn’t even mean it. Trust me, I’ve stewed here long enough to tell. You want vengeance, not justice. Always have. And look, you got it."

She spread her arms and uncurled her claws, like some haggard mockery of a goddess. As if she were presenting the world to the only two people left in it. The stars fell through the frozen sky, in splendor.

“This isn’t what I wanted!" shouted Matilda. Her throat felt like someone had scrubbed it with a brush. Her head was pounding, the aches in her body flaring like needles. “He… he killed the other me, but I didn’t…"

Yhaga threw back her head and howled.

"Oh, you stupid girl! You stupid, stupid girl! The other you killed herself! She tried to take Necri’s sorcery like all the others, and when that failed, she seduced him to steal his heart! She wanted to escape, see her family again, and so she died like a dog in another world’s ditch! She didn’t even have the gift!"

“You’re… you’re lying. That’s not…"

She could only whisper the words. Her eyes were so wide, she could feel them bulging in their sockets. She felt that if she heard anymore, thought anymore, her mind would snap like so much string. Wildly, madly, she placed her arm to her mouth and bit it, tearing the wrapping off with her teeth. She glared at Yhaga with a mask of utter hatred.

"Yes," cooed Yhaga. "Think about it. You know you’d do exactly that. And because of you, I can finally take the power that was mine from the very start."

“It’s not yours," hissed Matilda. “It belongs to Necristo."

"Oh, that old argument," laughed Yhaga. "I don’t think you understand, dearie. Necri is mine. He’s never been anything but a bed-wetting, crying, sniveling lump."

“More worthy than you, at least," sneered Matilda.

Yhaga’s mouth tore in a rictus of pure rage. She thrust out her arms and screamed hideously. Something stronger than the wind struck Matilda straight on the temple, and when she hit the ground, almost swooning, a crude swell of soil pushed her to her feet. It was elemental sorcery, barely above witchcraft, banal as a child’s first words. If Matilda wasn’t struggling not to vomit, she might have laughed in Yhaga’s face.

"You shriveled whore! I’m the one who put up with his father! I’m the one who worked day and night to feed him, when everyone else in the village spurned him for the bastard he was! I’ve always owned his heart, and now it’s mine again, like it deserves to be!"

Spittle flew from her chapped lips. She was gesticulating wildly, obscenely, clutching at the air like she was trying to tug its bowels out.

"Do you really think I wouldn’t be able to see right through you, Matilda? It wasn’t so hard to fool your younger self! Who do you think made her fear for her life? Who told her about sorcery? Who do you think told her that she could escape in the first place?"

Matilda refused to speak. She couldn’t. Her jaw was locked. It was like her teeth were about to burst bloodily from their roots and leap down her throat, dissolve in her spasming stomach.

"It’s over now!" screamed Yhaga. "I can make myself real! I can come back to life, and take this world, and get my son back like he never left! And you, Matilda, you dried-out slut, you…"

The crone grasped at the air. Matilda screamed and bucked as her shoulders followed suit, popping straight from their sockets. She fell to the ground and moaned, fighting the tears, sobbing.

"Oh, don’t be like that," smirked Yhaga. "We haven’t even started."

Matilda tried, desperately, to bite her own tongue off, but her gums smacked uselessly together.

Her teeth had vanished entirely.

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comics are nice and fast, easy to understand, before looking at other series.

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