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    version 22: awakening


    LILLIANA -- Year 206


    "There is still something of himself - something of the Wolfbane who would always love her - that rallies against the slime. It says, 'lie in the bed you’ve made'. So he gathers the covers and tucks himself in." -- Wolfbane, written by Calcifer

    catch my troubled head when you're away, adna
    i'll let you play the role. i'll be your animal.
    While Prayer was born sweet and gentle, her brother was born with sharp teeth and a hunger like his mother’s. Still, he doesn’t cradle the serpent’s curse in his heart and instead simply resembles his father. She’s proud of him, she has decided, and she’s eager to tell her sister the news of her youngest child. Perhaps Sabbath could even convince her to come see them along with their younger siblings. Mother and Father continue to grow their family and the serpent girl finds herself in awe of them all, so different from the eldest two girls and yet so similar.
    She thinks of all their green eyes smiling back at one another and picks up her speed as she crosses the border into Taiga. Her fangs do not detract from the smile that eases over her usually sharp face. Instead, her expression remains defiantly sunny as she kicks up snow with each stride across the pristine morning snow.
    That is, until she spots Adna just up ahead. Her own child is covered in the scales the girls share but the features of her face are too similar not to recognize. It is the face of her own daughter, Prayer, staring back at her. Her breath catches in her throat while fire erupts just beneath her skin. Before, she thought she knew the anger that their father battled with, but now it consumes her and lavishes her body the way it had done to him. There is some awful voice mumbling into her heart, “destroy. rend. slaughter.”
    She grits her teeth to keep from charging forward and instead remains still, a furious shade of red against the perfect snow. It wasn’t enough to be the first, the best at everything. Father had placed Adna on a pedestal and tried to show her the world while he frequently forgot Sabbath’s name or mere existence, it seemed. She gave them the first grandchildren and no one even looked for Sabbath when Eight took her. Tears swell along her lashes and spill down her cheeks, burning hot over her scales.
    Is this why you wouldn’t come home to us? You were too busy taking everything for yourself?” she says, her voice quaking around every word. “Did you even tell him my daughter exists or do neither of you care about her?
    She steps back, shakes her head.
    Don’t answer. It doesn’t matter. Prayer and Dacre have the rest of our - my family to love them.
    Sabbath bites the edge of her tongue until she tastes the copper of her own blood to keep from speaking any further. The viper takes another step back and watches her sister as a droplet of venom drips from her fang.

    I will commit my soul to your door tonight, and I'll last 'til the gas fumes float on higher

    This is the reckoning that she has been waiting for.

    The secrets that have boiled in her chest, simmered and spit and bit at the back of her mind. She thinks of it every time that she looks down to her beautiful daughter—so fierce and vicious and angry. She thinks of it when she looks at Beth’s solemn face and remembers how he had told her that he would never love her. The fear that he will leave her for Sabbath. The self-hatred she feels blossoming in her poisonous chest.

    All of it roils and bites and she can barely hold it back.

    And when she sees Sabbath stalking toward her, she knows.

    It’s time to meet it.

    There are tears in the corner of her sage-green eyes and she glances down to her daughter at her feet and wishes that her sister had found her alone. Wishes that her daughter did not have to be here for this.

    But that wish is nothing compared to the bruising of listening to her sister’s venom.

    She just shakes her head. “No,” she chokes out. “No. I didn’t know until it was already too late. I didn’t know that you,” her voice cracks painfully, “knew him too. I didn’t know what to do.”

    But it doesn’t matter. She knows that.

    It doesn’t matter because she knew and she didn’t say.

    She stayed hiding in Taiga and pretending that she could be happy.

    She was so terribly selfish and her heart clenches in her test and her teeth grit together. “I am so, so sorry, Sabbath. I was wrong. I made a mistake. I-I,” words no longer come, and she drops her head.

    in a dying love I'm nothing but a stone cold liar but, oh, I got an iron in that fire


    I can get there on my own. you can leave me here alone.

    He doesn’t know who he is anymore.
    Still, he wants so desperately to wander.
    But there are anchors tethered to his ankles.
    And perhaps the heart has grown roots in Taiga.

    Instead of slipping through the murky darkness to plunge himself into the shadows of the forest or resuming his post at the edge of the river so that the roar of it might quiet all the noise in his head, he skirts the perimeter without any real purpose. He looks for nothing, pays no mind to the oddities he comes across along the way. He walks simply to walk. Because the joints ache when he is stagnant too long and there is a darkness that swells and bursts at the center of him, a bitterness that grits his teeth when he remains too still.

    It is this aimless wandering that delivers him to that clearing. Gospel has lifted her head and felt a gathering cloud of confusion as she studied the viper approaching them. It has made her heart hard, her inability to decipher exactly why the woman moving toward them like controlled chaos so strongly resembles her mother, her. Her nerves bristle at the tone of woman’s voice but she is crying and Gospel does not know why.

    He watches from a distance, warring against the swell of his own confusion. And then it dawns on him. Crashes over him. Drowns him in a dread so thick and heady that he struggles to breathe around it.

    Everything in him screams to turn tail and flee. To cast himself into the shadows and never come back. Because he isn’t fit for a family and he almost certainly does not deserve one.

    Why hadn’t he made the connection? The scales and the venom. All the things that moved just beneath the surface. Oh, how desperately he wants to be a coward. Alas, instead, he forces himself into their midst. The gravity that pulses around them.

    He swallows thickly, says, “Sabbath.” There are tears that cut rivers down the cheeks of both women but he does not know how to provide either of them any comfort.


    I'm just tryin' to do what's right. oh, a man ain't a man unless he's fought the fight.

    i'll let you play the role. i'll be your animal.
    Their father taught Adna how to navigate the world, how to hold it in her palm like a pearl and watch it fester. Sabbath used to dream of going on hunts with them but she was always too small, too weak. Instead, their father taught her how to build and empire built on the spines of everyone you’ve ever claimed to love. He taught her to use others and to hate them for being too weak to join them. He taught her wrath, and self-loathing, and everything in between. All the lessons come flooding up her throat when her sister apologizes and she can taste the venom dripping so carelessly across her tongue.

    You didn’t know how to speak?” she questions, steps closer with her head tilted a little too far so the sun glints off her many teeth. “You didn’t know how to tell the sister who always idolized you that you betrayed her?

    And then she laughs, but the sound is all hollow and sick when it leaves her lungs. When her precious sister, the biggest piece of her heart, apologizes, she bites down on her own tongue to keep from screaming.

    But what are you sorry for exactly, Adna? Are you sorry for the deceit or the way it crushes me? Are you sorry that my child grows up without her father?

    She turns her head and watches when he approaches. The voice of hunger no longer whispers softly in the hopes its words will hook her; it screams and demands with a frothing mouth now. Sabbath is moving faster than her thoughts can keep up, jaws open wide and venom dribbling from her fangs when she reaches for him. If there is anything Vulgaris has taught her, it is to bite until they go still.

    But she stops, eyes now watching Gospel. That sage green gaze locks on her and she imagines Prayer learning to kill like this, with her dull teeth and feather heart. Her girl is filled with love and light. Sabbath closes her mouth and takes a step back, tears still running freely down her cheeks. Her children deserve a mother who doesn’t shed blood in the name of some crumbling empire. They deserve a mother who comes home at night and never forgets their names in her search for power.

    I hate you. I hate you, Bethlehem,” she finally chokes out. “I hate you for giving me Prayer and not loving her. I hate you because she doesn’t even know your face.

    She turns and looks at him now, eyes burning and blurred with her rage as her body trembles. Sabbath will never speak his name to her, and she prays her daughter learns to love herself all the same.
    adna bethlehem

    I will commit my soul to your door tonight, and I'll last 'til the gas fumes float on higher

    Maybe this is what it means to be weak.

    Maybe this is the final breaking of her spine underneath her own foot. Because her sister rages at her and she has no defense. She has nothing that she can say to make this better. To make it right. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t actively try to steal a man away from her sister. That she had no idea of the connection until her child was growing in her belly—until her heart had flooded with thoughts of him.

    It didn’t matter because she had known and she had stayed silent.

    She had known and she hadn’t been brave enough to tell them both.

    So she accepts her sister’s vitriol and swallows it down. Takes the venom inside of her and lets it light her up like a torch. “I should have told you the second I realize,” she finally manages, her voice quiet, the tears silent and steady on her cheeks. “I should have tried to make it right. I should have done anything.”

    But before she can continue, before she can say anything further, she sees the shape of him moving through the trees. She hates her heart for the way it swells and then clenches in her chest. Hates her heart for loving him, even now, even with all she knows. Even though she knows he does not and cannot love her. Even though she knows that he was her sister’s before she even knew his name.

    Her heart does not care.

    And it is this that sends her flying forward, teeth bared as she flings herself between her sister and Beth. Her eyes are wide with panic, pulse thumping wildly in her neck, but before she has to do anything, her sister pulls up short. Adna stands there, angled between them, breathing heavily, feeling her heart cracking in her chest as she listens to her sister pour out her hate toward him.

    For a second, her sage green eyes slide to her daughter and there is an apology writ on her face, but she knows that Gospel is safe and her attention cannot stay there for long.

    Instead, she just remains quiet and shaken, unsure of what to do or what to say.

    in a dying love I'm nothing but a stone cold liar but, oh, I got an iron in that fire


    I can get there on my own. you can leave me here alone.

    He does not cower.
    Because he knows, now even more than that night in the forest, that he deserves this.
    Because he had touched them both without ever having the right to touch either of them.
    And he should have known.
    Though he has never been particularly intelligent, he should have made the connection.

    And oh, how the child delights in the bared teeth. Her own mouth waters as she leans into it, eyes wide as the viper moves to strike. To kill him. How her heart sings!

    But Adna wedges herself between them just as Sabbath stops short and he can do nothing but blink his surprise. Perhaps he wishes just as desperately as his daughter had that she’d killed him.

    She speaks, spits her vitriol in the same way her sister had. He should have known.

    She says that she hates him and he supposes he deserves it. Prayer, she says and the word pulses in the air between them and in the cavern of his chest. It throbs in the emptiness in his head. “Prayer?” he echoes, breathless.

    He touches Adna’s shoulder as he moves around her. Thrusts himself back into the reach of Sabbath’s agony. The brow furrows as he studies her. So much like her sister. He should have known.

    Sabbath,” he says, quiet. “How could I have known?” he asks. He does not look away from her, though there is no challenge in his gaze. There is no accusation in his tone. “How could I have known about her?” He swallows thickly. And, though she had wanted to kill him and perhaps still does and maybe there’s some part of him that wants her to kill him, too, the tone is soft. “Why didn’t you tell me about her?


    I'm just tryin' to do what's right. oh, a man ain't a man unless he's fought the fight.

    i'll let you play the role. i'll be your animal.
    She hates the way Adna offers up her belly like an obedient bird dog, holding her own bruised heart in that soft mouth and just ready to give it up to Sabbath. She hates the way she buckles beneath the monstrous weight of the broken girl’s rage instead of fighting it and screaming back. Why is she not a monster like her? Why doesn’t the hunger drive her to snap her teeth back? Is she really so much better after all? Should have, should have, should have. All the pieces that were supposed to fall into place suddenly come up now and the girl finds herself only screaming in response.

    You should have been the sister I fucking needed and you never were. None of you ever looked for me when I was missing. Not one of you even asked where I had been,” she snaps, teeth clacking together as she bites her own words. She had been so alone there, trailing Eight and hoping that was what love was supposed to feel like. But he was all cold and dead to the touch. He never even kissed her and she tried to say that it was everything she wanted. Her hatred swallows her from the feet up and plunges her further into darkness.

    But even now, she would not harm her sister. She pulls back when Adna dives in front of her and hides her teeth behind frowning, pouty lips. Why would she die for someone who had torn them apart? Would she ever do the same for Sabbath?

    But before she can ask, he’s speaking and their child bristles at the idea of her father surviving. The gray girl bites her tongue as he repeats their daughter’s name, cursing herself for ever telling him at all. Prayer’s name alone is sacred to her, a locket where she stores every good thing that has ever touched her lips. She hisses when he repeats it back to her.

    Because she is mine and mine alone. I carried her and I gave birth to her and I chose her name,” she says, stepping back when he tries to draw near. “She’s beautiful and perfect. I don’t want anything ruining her, especially a father who can’t love her like she deserves. And she deserves the world, Beth. She deserves every god damn bit of it.
    adna bethlehem

    I will commit my soul to your door tonight, and I'll last 'til the gas fumes float on higher

    She knows exactly where all of her weaknesses lie.

    She knows exactly where she is a monster—where her heart feeds on the things that matter the most to her. She knows exactly the way she would devour the world fo her own selfish reasons.

    So she folds because it’s the only thing to do.

    She folds because how could she possibly stand up to the words her sister says?

    She’s right. She’s right.

    Her breath doesn’t come and her vision begins to swim. All she knows is that Bethlehem moves around her. Touches her shoulder and moves to her sister. She sees it happen in slow motion and doesn’t even hear the words that they say. Doesn’t hear anything except the screaming in her head.

    Because she had feared that she would come apart if they came together.

    He couldn’t love her.

    But maybe he could love her sister.

    “I’m sorry,” she says and her voice doesn’t feel like her own. It feels alien in her mouth, echoing and strange and she shakes her head as if they would help. “I should leave you two,” her breath catches and her throat burns with the word, “alone.” She takes a step back. “I need to go.”

    And then, the lead that has been anchoring her feet suddenly disappears.

    She feels alive with an incredible agony.

    She moves to Gospel and pushes her with her nose. “We are leaving,” she says, and her voice is not unkind, but it is stern. “We have to go.” She does not take no for an answer. Does not care that her strange and violent daughter thirsts and hungers for the sight of her father on the ground. Doesn’t care about anything except that buzzing in her head, the scream that remains in her throat.

    And without a glance back to the two, she picks up her daughter and leaves.

    in a dying love I'm nothing but a stone cold liar but, oh, I got an iron in that fire


    I can get there on my own. you can leave me here alone.

    This is deeper than him.
    But he is prepared to take responsibility.

    He should have known and he should have gone and he never should have let any of this happen in the first place. But Sabbath is screaming at Adna about things that have nothing to do with him. This is not about his betrayal but he wants to shoulder the blame. Because he has never done anything good or kind or even halfway decent in his miserable life and he thinks maybe if he takes the blame they can form some kind of united front against him.

    Because if there is anyone here worth hating, it is him.

    But his head is pulsing with this new knowledge and there is a terrible tightness in his chest. And he wants to breathe but he can’t, so when he speaks the words come out breathless. The edges of his vision strobe as he looks at her, this viper who hisses in disdain when he says their – her – daughter’s name. A vise closes around his throat and he shakes his head.

    How do you know I wouldn’t have given her that?” he asks, his voice strained. “You never gave me a chance.” He feels no anger, though he wishes he could. Just the enormous gravity of some great sadness. Because she hadn’t given him the chance.

    There is a stirring behind him then, Adna speaking. Apologizing. Turning to Gospel and insisting that they go. His brow furrows and he takes half a step toward them.

    Gospel watches her mother and feels her hate for her father deepen. Endless. Because he has upset her mother again. Because he has betrayed her in some way. And she wants to stay and she wants to make him pay. She wants to plunge her teeth into his skin and inject him with a new, stronger venom. She wants to take him to his knees for hurting her mother. But it is evident in her mother’s voice that it is not up for negotiation.

    So, she goes. She skirts past the pair of them and hisses at this strange, familiar woman, “kill him.

    And Bethlehem watches them go because he doesn’t know how to make them stay.


    I'm just tryin' to do what's right. oh, a man ain't a man unless he's fought the fight.


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