The Many of One
The Brass Automaton Saga Part XI
This saga was started by Mark Gardner over at Article 94. He explains the origins of this Snow White / Terminator mashup as a preface to Part I, “The Brass Automaton.” I would recommend starting there of course. Below are links to the rest of the stories to date for your convenience before our current tale begins.
|| “My Queen?” Sky asked stammering, turning back from Willow and Daisy’s trotting departure.
“Yes, Sky?” Snow answered, facing her sister with a smile, “You wonder at my mood?”
“I smile because what was lost in battle may yet win us the war.”
“I don’t understand, your Majesty. We were late, and that Brass Man saved Ceridwen the death she’s earned.”
“Brass, yes. Not a man, though, but a woman.”
“A woman? Are you sure?”
“Yes, a Man’s body, to be sure, but a woman none the less. It is her heart, her very blood, that powers the shell.”
Snow stepped away from Sky with the clouded shard towards the far window. Rubble from the roof littered the room, as did the bodies of those fallen. She felt grief at Men and Tenyks alike, for what was a Tenyks but a man whose free will Ceridwen had stolen? For her daughters though, for them the hurt was a wave of cold emptiness trying to drown her. She knew them all. Sisters more than in name, but in eternal bonds of love and honor.
She knew all of them by sight, even when the bodies were no longer whole. She walked around the room in its entirety, taking a circular, zig-zagging path to the window. For each of her Sisters she thought of their name as their memory flooded her mind. Often smiling, sometimes merely profound; each flashed image was a defining moment between her and Snow.
At the window she summoned Sky over to help her take off her breast-plate. As the two undid the leather straps binding front and back together, Snow felt the first, slow trickle of a tear down her cheek. “Please,” she said, quietly imploring Sky, “Help me lift this over my head before I lose another.” Sky lifted the armor over Snow’s head, setting it below the ledge.
Free of the armor, Snow retrieved an opaque bottle secured between her breasts by a simple silk cord around her neck. She looked outside at the bleak, desolation of the land, her land, surrounding the Castle, and another knife of inconsolable grief stabbed through her gut. She sunk to her knees in the shattered remains of the room, and let herself cry without restraint.
Through blurred eyes she undid the bottle’s stopper and collected as many of her tears as she could, hating herself for having to harvest her own sorrow. Finally, mercifully, the tears and her shudders ebbed into quiet pain. She looked up at Sky’s red eyes.
“This is the first I’ve known you to cry, Sky,” she said, reaching out a hand to her dearest Sister.
“It’s just the dust in the room from the collapse, I’m sure,” Sky replied, letting go of Snow’s hand. (Though not without a quick squeeze first.)
Snow stood again, taking her Sister by the shoulders and staring her in the eye. “I need you to take this bottle and this shard to the edge of Rennoc Woods. You will find Kind Odc there, and you are to give him both. Whatever he may then ask of you, however wrong it may feel, you need to do. For me.”
“But, my Queen? I don’t know-”
“Yes, dear Sky, you do. You are the only one I trust. I think I know what Odc will need of you, but I imagine it will feel like something beyond your ability. I ask you, to trust that I know more of this than I can share. And, that King Odc knows even more than I.
“Remember, Sky, Dwarves were birthed by Magick itself to keep balance in this world. There are things they can do, things they can see, things they can know; that we cannot.”
“I understand Your Higness. But I have never left your side before. Not when there was still a fight to be had.”
“And I think, Sky, that you will soon enough be at my side again,” Snow answered with a small smile. “Will you promise me you will do this? I do not trust any other Sister as I do you, nor is there any other Sister as capable.”
“I will your Majesty,” Sky answered, taking a knee and solemnly bowing before Snow.
“I am no longer ‘Your Majesty’ to you, Sky, but Snow.”
Sky left Snow’s side trying to hide her sudden grin. She paused at the hole in the roof, a ragged sunbeam illuminating her as she stopped and looked up. She turned back to Snow, hesitating with a decision. “Your Majesty, Snow,” she interjected deliberately, as though tasting the word in her mouth as she spoke it, “How do you know that the Brass- Automaton? – had the heart of a woman. I saw it not.”
“Magick touches time differently,” Snow answered, “It is not easily understood, but think of yourself. Now you can not only call me by name freely, but I encourage you to do so. Before, mere minutes ago!, to do such would be unthinkable to you. Yet, both of these Sky’s are the same, even as they are different. The same woman, separated only by Time. To Magick they exist together, even as Time demands their distance.”
“But-” Sky started, scowling in confusion.
“Her Magick has, and shall, become so dark it mocks the prohibitions of Time itself, Sky, letting the Past, Present, and Future Brass Automatons exist simultaneously. Ceridwen’s brass legs betrayed her as being the one, and only, Brass Automaton. It was Ceridwen’s sad Past which saved her present horror.”
Continue on to Part XII, The Solitude of Duty