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The Last Spell 36.1

by SilverNight


Lycila Troy had been a singer.

A coloratura soprano, to be exact. One like no other. It was said you could still hear the reverberations of her final note if you stood alone in the main amphitheater of Storm City’s opera hall— a shattering in sound, a shiver of the air that could not contain the voice behind it. That was false, of course. She’d saved her last songs for the grim weeks in the west wing of her home, not the stage of her stardom, and her ghost had better things to do than go back there. She’d sung brazenly at first, in defiance of her fate— then softly but still optimistically, as her lungs weakened. Then she’d lost the optimism and could only sing softly. After that her music had turned into a hummed tune, faint enough that it couldn’t have been heard if not for the otherwise-silent surroundings. Finally, she’d fallen quiet entirely, and so had the wing. Mostly.

There were blurry conversations of where she and Cyrin should go, the memories just as hazy as the words from the phone speaker had been. The rationale on where they picked was clearer, though. The west wing had a piano. It locked from the outside. There were bathrooms, and it had its own kitchen they could eat from. The wide windows had idyllic views of the Prism, and there was a television and library for entertainment. As quarantines went, it wasn’t a bad place to make into a living grave. The lock had clicked shut on the two of them, and the blurry conversations with the outside stopped there too. Maybe no one wanted to talk to the doomed.

She’d talked to him, though, at least in the early days. His mother had held him on her lap in front of the fireplace, fussing over his hair as if he needed to look presentable for something. Maybe she’d thought so. As she’d Faded, her mind had become more of a broken record, replaying the old and past on loop. By the second week, she’d been rambling about needing to go to the same event that had exposed the family and gotten the two of them sick. Whenever that happened, Cyrin had always let her braid his hair— shorter then than it was now, but still wild and a little unruly— and tie his shoes for him, even though he’d been able to do that for a year by then. But every time, she’d always stopped herself before they “left”. Put a hand on the doorknob, froze silently. Then murmured a quiet of course before turning, taking him by the hand back to the armchair.

Someone else was holding his hand—

~ ~ ~

—but not really, just touching it. Palm against palm. The skin was cold, which felt so wrong when they were on fire. Words were spoken in a hush, and Cyrin didn’t think they were from them, because their tongue failed to translate the weak, guttural exhale their lungs made. Then the hand was gone, but they didn’t feel the dragging of fingers from it being pulled away. Just a sudden coldness colder than that skin. There was no fireplace here to make it otherwise.

This limbo of being conscious and then not was stealing away time that could have been spent being dead. Or being alive. He’d take either one at this point.

A breeze passed over him, cooling some of their feverish heat, and Cyrin stiffened, moving for what felt like the first time in centuries. The others hadn’t, had they? Opened a window…?

No, I want the door. The door.

Not dead yet, they strained to raise an arm, extending it to the arbitrary direction the door might be in. But they didn’t get to open their eyes and verify their guess before the layer under their eyelids turned a new shade of black.

~ ~ ~

They were sick. That had been certain. The restless energy that Cyrin remembered having in every cell of his young being was gone, and his mother’s head would fall wearily against the back of the armchair. But while the physical symptoms of the Fading kicked in early— the aspect of the disease the corrupted Salve caused— the mental symptoms from the Rationale took longer. And so they’d been able to hold conversations that were almost normal for a seven-year-old and his mother, besides the weight of death hanging over them, while sitting in front of the nature documentary on television. A wolf was weaving through snowy pines, its eyes bright and alert as it scanned the woods for prey.

“That wolf looks lonely,” Cyrin had commented quietly, snuggling closer to his mother as if the winter on the screen was chilling him.

His mother had hummed softly, stroking his hair and readjusting him on her lap. “It might just be away from its pack,” she suggested, tone gentle despite her exhaustion. “It probably has a bunch of friends there.”

“But what if it doesn’t have a pack?” Cyrin had worried. “It could have no friends to go back to.”

Again, his mother had hummed, but more sadly this time. Her gaze was pointed towards the wolf, but she seemed to stare straight through the TV screen.

“You know your story of the lone wolf and the raven, don’t you?” she’d said, suddenly switching to speaking in Ren with them.

Cyrin had nodded. Storm City’s Ren cultural center— the same place they’d been visiting when the two of them had gotten exposed— hosted weekly storytimes of Ren folklore and legends for children. Casper didn’t care for the event, but they and Allison were always begging to be sent down to it. This folktale in question was their favorite. “Yes,” they’d said, a little more eagerly.

Their mother kept absently stroking their hair, holding them closer for a few moments. “Well,” she said eventually, sounding like she was choosing her words carefully, “sometimes the beginning of the story happens in real life, where a wolf loses its pack and has to wander through the world alone. A lone wolf is not something to imitate, despite how some people will tell you that striking out on your own is what will make you strong. Strength doesn’t come from that.” She shook her head. “No, above all else, a lone wolf is a creature to be pitied. It’s lost its family and friends and doesn’t know what to do on its own.”

On the screen, a snow hare was up close to the camera, sniffing the air with its fluffy nose. It was standing still, but it was twitching, and its large black eyes made it look almost nervous.

“And when that happens in real life, does the lone wolf find a raven to be friends with?” Cyrin had asked curiously.

“Sometimes it does, yes. Wolves and ravens in nature have what’s called a sym-bi-o-tic relationship,” his mother explained, sounding out the word he didn’t yet know, “which means the two depend on and do better with each other. The wolves get to play with the ravens, and the ravens get a share of the wolves’ food.”

The wolf reappeared on the screen, stalking the hare from behind the trees. The hare didn’t move, unaware of the predator’s presence. It just kept sniffing. Cyrin felt a sense of dread sinking over him.

“What if this wolf is alone, and it can’t find a raven?” he asked quietly.

Like she knew what would happen next, his mother drew an arm protectively around him.

“Then it may be fine for now,” she said gently. “But without loved ones, whether it’s those it was born with or those it found along the way, it will soon begin to feel the weight of its loneliness.”

The wolf caught the hare in one tremendous, violent leap and sinking of teeth, and Cyrin had cried while they still could. But they hadn’t known which of the two they were crying for.


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Tue Jun 25, 2024 9:38 pm
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Did I like this automatically before reading it? Yes. Am I concerned by the chapter description? Also yes. Uh oh.

I’m in two minds about suddenly having a new character at the beginning of this chapter. From a pacing perspective it makes sense to take us out of the action for a moment but as the reader I’m desperate to get back to what Dawn means by calling Mireya her date xD

I feel the need to preface this by telling you I’m full of a summer cold so that may explain things, but I got seriously confused to begin with. I wasn’t sure who we were talking about. I assume Lycila is/was Cyrin’s mother but I confused her with Autumn as the nature of the caring relationship seemed kind of similar?


There were also a lot of different ideas in this section that I struggled to follow:

By the second week, she’d been rambling about needing to go to the same event that had exposed the family and gotten the two of them sick. Whenever that happened, Cyrin had always let her braid his hair— shorter then than it was now, but still wild and a little unruly— and tie his shoes for him, even though he’d been able to do that for a year by then. But every time, she’d always stopped herself before they “left”. Put a hand on the doorknob, froze silently. Then murmured a quiet of course before turning, taking him by the hand back to the armchair

I think it’s the ‘but’ for me. Is Cyril trying to let her get them ready to go out as a a means to distract her or are they eager to go? I’m not sure I was clear on that.

The rest clearly conveyed the delirium that Cyrin is going through, and is quite apt given how muddled my brain feels too. You do a good job of showing how he’s slipping, but I’m not sure I’m clear on whether the others have a chance of saving him so I don’t know if I should be rooting for them to hurry up for that or just so that they can be with Cyrin at the end… *sobs*

Ok, I’m going to lie down xD hopefully I’ll be in a better state for the next part!

Icy




SilverNight says...


Hey Icy, thank you!! I worried/kind of knew this chapter would have some confusing parts, so it's always so helpful to hear what raises questions for readers! Yes, Lycila is Cyrin's mom (whoops) and as for that paragraph it's more like the former-- Cyrin's willing to go along with the charade and let her think they can head out normally before she realizes that's not an option. ;-;



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Tue Jun 25, 2024 8:47 pm
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Cyrin!! Very glad we get to spend some time with them, even if it is through flashbacks; at least they still seem to be living, which I consider a net positive. I enjoyed getting to delve deeper into his family life, though, since that's always been a bit of a tense subject for his character.

I think you did an excellent job with parallels in this chapter; I like how you went back to Cyrin being sick with his mother, and then the bit about the wolf and the raven was also superb. There were points that I will say it felt a bit heavy handed as a metaphor, but you nailed the fable-feeling of it. It also had a very sweet message; love to see their mom pushing found family and togetherness.

Specifics

Lycila Troy had been a singer.


Just double checking that this is the same person as Cyrin's mom, right? There was a point where you just switched to calling her Cyrin's mother and so I connected the dots but it wasn't officially confirmed. I think understating it works, though, since it is a sort of vague flashback, but if you wanted to throw in a little "Lycila said" later on just to make it clear, I don't think it would hurt.

But while the physical symptoms of the Fading kicked in early— the aspect of the disease the corrupted Salve caused— the mental symptoms from the Rationale took longer. And so they’d been able to hold conversations that were almost normal for a seven-year-old and his mother, besides the weight of death hanging over them, while sitting in front of the nature documentary on television.


Has Cyrin been sick with magic poisoning before?! Also is it contagious? I feel like I don't remember this being a concern with whatever was used on Shane and then transferred to Cyrin, so is it something else? I'm also not sure if this is a part I'm supposed to be confused at.

The wolf caught the hare in one tremendous, violent leap and sinking of teeth, and Cyrin had cried while they still could. But they hadn’t known which of the two they were crying for.


Ow.

Overall: nice work! Very scared the next part is going to break me but this one, I could handle (and also very much enjoyed <3) Until next time!




SilverNight says...


Hey Plume!! To confirm yes, Lycila is Cyrin's mom, and while the magic poisoning that makes up the Fading is contagious, the normal kind they got from Shane is not-- I didn't mean for this to be confusing, so if it wasn't familiar/straightforward this is good to know!! Thank you <3

Also, you and me both on the "ow" :')



Plume says...


Ahhh gotcha gotcha! I think honestly most of my confusion came from not reading for a while; the Fading is the thing Mireya started accidentally, right?



SilverNight says...


Yep that's it! I don't blame you at all, that was a long time ago at this point since I've been so slow :')




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