To Serve the String (I/I)

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Melanie walks into a bar.

THUNK!

[The Frog and the Thorn – PROLOGUE]

April 18, 1989

It’s in a rubbish bin in Jericho that she finds the grangler. He’s a spirit bound to a red, red cord. He’s a ghost from Rahab’s days.

“Poor thing,” she says. She’s kneeling down.

She’s picking up the cord.

And the grangler’s hands are claws, like this—like spears of withered bone—and they slice at her like a siggort’s knives, only, Melanie rolls away.

She’s fast.

She’s ripped a thread from the weave of the cord and still she had time to dodge his claws—that’s just how fast she is.

The grangler is faster.

She’s ripping a lock from the hair of her head, and she’s knitting it together with the thread from the grangler’s cord. She’s scrambling back, but the grangler is faster.

He’s as fast as falling.

He’s as fast as running out of air after your dying cough.

He’s fast like a puma’s jump.

She kicks out, hard, as the grangler comes. She shatters the grangler’s nose. He shakes his head. He snarls then. She skips back three times before he moves again.

It isn’t fast enough.

He seizes her. He’s got her leg. He’s pinned her down. He will rip her with his next blow.

“Guess what?” she says. She isn’t scared.

She isn’t scared, so the grangler blinks.

Just a blink! But it’s long enough.

While the grangler’s blinking, she’s pulled tight the knot—bound the thread to her bloody hair. While the grangler’s blinking, she’s bound him up, and to the grangler become the master.

[The Frog and the Thorn – PROLOGUE]

May 7, 1977

Her brother’s Billy but Billy’s bad.

Melanie walks into a bar.

THUNK!

[The Frog and the Thorn – PROLOGUE]

April 17, 1989

The grangler’s an old ghost. He’s a god of hanging on. But there isn’t much to hang on to, any more.

He’d been killed by the people of Israel.

They’d promised not to kill anyone living with his Auntie Rahab: anyone sheltering in her care; anyone hiding, in short, behind the crimson cord that she’d use to mark her home.

And they’d come into his city, and they’d knocked away his sword, and they’d killed him, and all because he wouldn’t stay at home with his Auntie Rahab, whom he’d despised.

For a very long time that had seemed like enough reason to live, as much as a ghost can be said to be living, all tangled up in his hate and the threads of the crimson cord.

But lately it’s felt a little awkward and pointless and unnecessary to be a god bound up in string.

He’d hung in a bar, or the cord had, anyway, like maybe one day the tribes of Israel were going to get confused and attack Jericho again, only, they’d see the red cord hanging from the bar, and stop.

“Wait!” the hardened Israeli commander would say. “We cannot attack this bar. That would break our covenant with Auntie Rahab!”

In the 50s and 60s this was a possibility.

In 1989, with the city firmly in Israeli hands, the scenario seems remote.

And maybe that’s why the barkeep eventually took down the cord, and trashed the grangler, like he was any other piece of string.

Or maybe he’d just killed too many customers.

Human reasoning is often opaque. The grangler doesn’t know.

[The Frog and the Thorn – PROLOGUE]

May 7, 1989

Melanie walks into a bar.

THUNK!

That’s the sound of the door that she’s just kicked open striking Connor on the head.

And Duncan growls, “What the Hell?”

Melanie is young. She’s not a legend yet.

Duncan reaches for her arm.

Her weight shifts. His grip is just a tool to her, to pull him off his feet. She’s turning, and her heel is on his foot, and her elbow is in his gut. It’s all very quick and painful then and Duncan follows Connor to the floor.

Melanie looks at Billy.

Her attention’s shifted a bit too fast. It’s a bit of a mistake. Duncan is outclassed against her skill, but he’s also a big strong man. He’s throwing his weight against her as he falls.

For a moment she’s off balance.

Billy’s growling. He’s closed the distance, bloody fast, and bloody fast he’s thrown a punch. She’s leaning right into it, on account of being off balance, and it looks to shatter Melanie’s face.

The grangler’s claws come through Billy’s eyes and they squeeze tight, instead. They short the circuits of his brain.

Melanie has caught her balance. She’s advancing through the bar. And Billy’s gang are already on their feet, but she moves through them like the wind.

She’s laughing.

She’s laughing, and it’s brilliant, and she yanks up Billy’s head and she tells her brother’s shattered, staring eyes, “Remember me?”

It’s 1989 and Melanie’s only 17, but she’s bright and burning with hubris. She’s wound a red cord in her hair. She’s learned the secrets of the gods.

And she whispers, sweet, to Billy’s head, “I’ll never live in fear again.”

But what about you?

Can you make it a week—a terrible, whole week—until Hitherby posts again? Can you endure without the darkness closing in?

Maybe you should pass the time by …

  • rereading the first storyline Hitherby had, which is named: At Gibbelins’ Tower
  • learning what we meant by the phrase “a siggort’s knives”
  • debating whether it’s that Duncan and that Connor
  • reading about the forthcoming 3rd edition of Nobilis, by Jenna Katerin Moran! (3, 2, 1!)
  • admiring this awesome news story about a shark charitably expiating a debt of karma owed from a former life
  • mourning my inability to watch literal music videos while in China
  • glancing over the Book of Joshua, so you can laugh at me when I mangle it? or even
  • reading the entire archives of Gunnerkrigg Court in a single sitting, and then falling over blind and legless for five days!

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Categories: Ghosts, Histories, Histories and Stories, Hitherby, Under Construction - Canon, Under Construction - The Frog and the Thorn