Being the Monster

For rix_scaedu‘s Commissioned continuation.

Addergoole has a landing pagehere.

After Cursed.

Barypos ended. Ended, in a way he had never imagined possible, Ended, Name and name and soul and memories. He ended in a twist of pain and a gut-punch, air lost, while the world burned around him.

He dreamt of death, of spears, of the lamentations and screams of women following him through the years. He dreamt of blood and pain, and of fire, and more fire, and more.

When he awoke, Barypos was gone. He woke to consciousness of a sort, remembering nothing but pain and fire.

Slowly, he stood, and brushed the sand off of his skin. White skin, skin like a dead thing, rippled with muscle and lined with scars that were, as he watched, vanishing into the whiteness. He looked around; sand, and the long-gone remains of buildings. To the north, sand, to the east, sand. To the south, sand, and to the west, sand and the sun.

That was a direction, at least. Not knowing what else to do, he walked into the sun.

A caravan found him, some endless time later, coated in dust and parched. “Where do you come from?” they asked, and he could not tell them. They gave him water, and asked his name.

“Buh-” was all he could remember, so Buh he became, for the few moments before the women brushed the sand off of him, before the men saw what he was.

“Monster,” the youngest woman screamed. “Beast, corpse-eater!”

Those who had welcomed and rescued him drove him off again, screaming monster, beast, creature! and, confused, Buh ran off into the dessert.

Baram woke sweating and swearing and reached across the bed for the girl. There was a girl there. That was the deal; there was always a girl there.

The girl pressed against him in her sleep, stroking his back, her hands firm. Viatrix. Vi’s hands were the strongest. Like Etheldreda. Like Joan.

The memories were beginning to sneak back in, around the edges, when he was sleeping or nearly so, when one of the girls was holding him, and, sometimes and most painfully, when he was holding one of the children. Ethldreda, who had been able to stand him the longest of anyone before these girls, who had stayed with him when the torches lit, stayed with him until the very end. Joan… Joan who had gritted her teeth and tried.

That wasn’t him. That was some other guy, some monster in his nightmares.

He looked down at his body, at the slabs of muscle, at the pale, corpse-like skin. This didn’t change. He died and was born again, died and died and died again, and this returned, white and death-looking. Monstrous.

“I’m here,” Via whispered in his ear, and he clutched her closer. He had never understood what had brought them to show up on his doorstep, Jaelie and then Via and Alkyone, nor what, aside from his protection, drove them to stay, but he knew their warmth and their – he wouldn’t call it love. Nobody could love him. He’d never Kept anyone, that he could recall, to not force the imitation of affection – their friendship seemed to push back the dark.

He knew he would die again. But until that death came, he could be their monster.

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