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GRAIL: The Lady of the Lake, (prologue), X2

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  • Minisinoo
    GRAIL: The Lady of the Lake Minisinoo http://www.themedicinewheel.net/grail/grail_prologue.html ... There is ever, only one phoenix. She s barren except in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 16, 2004
      GRAIL: The Lady of the Lake

      >> See notes section for introduction <<


      There is ever, only one phoenix.

      She's barren except in death, and she dies in excruciating agony, her
      flamelike plumage consumed by fire. Then and only then is she reborn
      from the ashes of herself -- without mother or father, without kith
      or kin, without mate. She is alone. Death and life and death -- she
      is the release of the spirit from earth's bondage, and she rises in
      glory. Percival's purity, guardian of the Grail, herald of the New
      Age. Her blood burns, her tears heal, yet she's always solitary in
      her splendor.

      Resurrection isn't all it's cracked up to be.


      Shivers of awareness flicker across her consciousness, and a filter
      of light streams in sheets of gold, scintillating but fuzzy, like the
      skin on a peach.


      "You paid a *drachma* for a peach?"

      "What's wrong with that? It's what? Fifty cents?"

      She held it up to show it off, perfect and golden, not a bruise or
      mar. "I saw it and couldn't resist." They stood beyond a market
      near the docks of Kavalla, where fishing boats of various sizes had
      been tied up at harbor. The boats were painted blue and white and
      red, looking small and old and sea-battered next to the one great
      cruise ship that sat off shore. Now and then, the ship's horn could
      be heard all through the town. On the horizon to the north, east,
      and west were pine-covered mountains enclosing this ancient town on
      the *Via Egnatia* -- the Roman road that had led from Italy through
      Greece into Constantinople . . . Istanbul, these days, but the Greeks
      refused to call it that. There was a sign not far from where they
      stood that read 'Constantinople,' followed by some number of
      kilometers. Scott had thought it funny, and had taken a picture
      while Warren had rattled off night spots and good restaurants to be
      found in Istanbul, and Hank had launched into an explanation of how
      'Istanbul' was probably a corruption of the Greek phrase "*eis ten
      polein*" (meaning "to the City"). "'The City' was never Athens,"
      he'd concluded.

      Jean had rolled her eyes at all of them. Never go sightseeing with
      men, she'd said.

      They'd split up not long after, Hank and Warren heading for the old
      Norman fort on the acropolis above, and Scott and Jean meandering
      through the lower town, buying bread and cheese for lunch. And a

      "I'll share," Jean said now, and took a bite, then held out the peach
      to him, bright and enticing in the Greek sun. Not quite Atalanta's

      Gripping her hand, he pulled it closer, but not to bite into peach
      flesh. Instead, his mouth came down on her soft wrist, licking a
      trail of juice that had slid over her skin.

      She sucked in breath, nearly choking on her bite, and he smiled while
      slapping her back. "You okay?" he asked. Butter wouldn't have
      melted in his mouth.

      "Bastard," she said when she could speak, tears sliding down her
      cheeks from her coughing fit. She wiped them away with her free
      hand, so she didn't have to look at him.

      "You offered to share."

      She looked up. He was watching her, wearing that sardonic smile he
      had down to an art, but there was something else behind it, rising
      like Olympus in the distance across the Thermiac gulf, half shrouded
      in cloud. Daring, testing, she held up the peach again, level with
      his mouth.

      Bending forward, he bit into it.


      The water rocks her, tremulous, caressing. There is a song somewhere
      in the voices of fishes.


      Hush little baby, don't say a word,
      Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird,
      and if that mockingbird don't sing,
      Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring,
      and if that diamond ring turns to glass,
      Mama's gonna buy you a looking glass,
      and if that looking glass gets broke ...


      Thousands of tons of water had shattered her. It had happened
      instantly, every bone in her body broken, her ribcage and pelvis and
      skull smashed like glass goblets, flattening her internal organs,
      puncturing and collapsing her lungs, and crushing her brain. Forget
      drowning. What had remained of Jean Grey had been human pulp, torn
      by the force of the water.

      It had been too fast for more than an instant of pain, but that had
      been a horrible, piercing agony like nothing she'd imagined could
      exist, far worse than the racking pain she'd shared with Annie at her
      moment of death, oh so long ago.


      *Don't die, don't die, don't die ...*

      *Hurts ...*

      *Don't die ...*

      *Can't breathe anymore. Hurts ...*

      *Don't die ...*

      *Too tired, Jeannie. Hurts ...*

      *Don't die. Please, don't die. Don't leave me all alone down here
      in this well.*


      *I can't find my way out, Annie! Don't leave me here!*



      Being dead is a relief. She's been floating here in the water, like
      one of those translucent glass fish, barely visible, for she doesn't
      know how long. But the sun's so lovely, breaking apart through the
      water, and she loses herself in it. What meaning does time have, for
      the dead?

      Divested of anything so cumbersome as a body, she rolls in the little
      lake waves, flitting about beneath the spring-cold water and awaiting
      the sun each morning. And each morning, it gets a little warmer, the
      light a little more green. All around her, life wakes from
      hibernation and reproduces itself. In her gossamer state, she
      reaches out to touch the infant flickers, brilliant, fleeting . . .
      beautiful like the sun. Life is beautiful because it will end. She
      understands that now. Who wants to live forever and taste joy grown
      cold on the tongue, enervated and senile? That isn't living. Better
      to die suddenly, burn richly, and end as ash.


      "You're a pyro, Warren. What *is* it about men and fire?"

      "What do you mean?" He was playing with a lighter for no apparent
      reason beyond seeing the tiny burst of flame and hearing the click of
      the lid as he snuffed it out.

      "Every guy I know has to play with fire. You. Hank and his Bunsen
      burners. The professor and the little fires in his suite fireplace.
      Scott running fingers through a candle flame. It's nuts."

      Warren glanced up at that. "I think fire's fascinating -- beautiful.
      But Scott's playing with fire for a whole different reason."

      "And what reason's that?"

      Warren looked back at the copper lighter in his hand, engraved with
      the Worthington crest. He snapped it shut. "Scott wants to get
      burned so he knows he's alive."


      She's not alive. Or at least, she died -- she knows that much. But
      why she's still hanging about here, she can't say. Shouldn't she
      have passed on somewhere else by now? Or was this the fate of all
      human spirits when they'd shuffled off their mortal coil, to flit
      about unseen but still anchored to this earth? Yet if so, where were
      the others? Surely she wasn't the only person to have died here in
      the hundreds of thousands of years of human existence? It's a

      She isn't sure just when rolling in the waves and following the lake
      creatures isn't enough, but she becomes fitful. The water is languid
      and cool, a pleasant place to rest, recover -- and to forget. For
      instance, she had a name once, but she's not too sure now what it
      was. She had a physical body, as well, but it's gone, eaten away and
      rotted by water. The bones remain fetched up against submerged
      concrete, clothed still in bits of leather and metal fasteners. She
      doesn't go to that part of the lake. She can barely remember what
      her body even looked like.

      But she remembers him. She remembers the awful surge of terror and
      desperation that had rolled off him when he'd realized what she was
      up to, and what it would cost. And she remembers telling him
      goodbye. Feelings are easier for her to revive than details and
      events; they lie closer to the heart. She'd made a choice, but what
      the choice was, or why, she couldn't say. She knew only that, for a
      few minutes, she'd felt impossibly *powerful*. And she'd felt
      powerful regret, too, because she was leaving him. Leaving them.

      She missed them.

      It grew slowly, the missing � like her discontent -- and by the time
      the full warmth of summer had hit the valley and her lake, the
      missing had become a fire that couldn't survive drowning any longer.
      She had to return, and she began to circle the place where she'd been
      standing when she'd died, rarely venturing far from that spot. She
      was gravid with something she couldn't quite diagnose.

      Once, a stray camper told the locals in the Alkali Lake Store that
      he'd seen a red glow, like will-o'-the-wisps or fox lights, some way
      out in the lake, reflecting beneath the water. The surface there had
      seemed to boil. The owner told him he must have seen a big fish and
      phosphorescence. It had, the camper said, been mighty bright for
      phosphorescence. A few days later, a hiker said he'd seen a woman
      walking on the water. Laughing, the store owner had suggested
      mermaids, and the man had departed, disgruntled. There were more
      reports, as summer ground on, and the white locals took to calling
      the phenomenon the Lady of the Lake, while the Esketemc Nation said
      someone must have died there, and they left offerings of tobacco ties
      on the cedars around the new shore's edge, and little carvings of
      birds, hoping her spirit would get the message and fly away.

      In a manner of speaking, her spirit did. On July fifteenth, the Lady
      of the Lake rose fully from the waters, exactly thirty-four years
      from the day she'd emerged from her mother's womb. She drew up the
      mists around herself in a swirling, pulsing robe, lit red from
      within, and then she walked across the water to the shore, setting
      one ephemeral foot on summer grass.

      Mnemosyne sought to remember.


      Notes: The Lady of the Lake is often believed to be the Celtic water
      goddess Coventina, whom the Romans equated with Mnemosyne, or Memory,
      the mother of the Muses. There is, in fact, a little native reserve
      called the Alkali Lake Band, in British Columbia. Amusingly, one can
      read about the Esketemc via the 'Phoenix' engine.

      The Medicine Wheel: X-Men Fanfic

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