Because of reasons that I am quite sure aren’t that interesting to anyone, Speak will not be continuing this week. I apologize for this, but things happened this week that just made it impossible for me to do anything…
Here is the story so far, and I hope to continue again next Monday…
Speak into the Air
Tera held the note between her fingers lightly, for the stuff of dreams, hopes, and wishes was so very fragile. She traced a finger over the handwriting: the words were simple, yet asked so much in what they said.
She had received many wishes and dreams in her life. Some were very obvious, such as a wish for her to perform some act or provide some kind of pleasure. But with those, the words didn’t show an understanding of what those in the Realm were, what they believed in.
Some saw them as much less than even that.
This note did not. The soul behind these words did not ask for herself or himself; no, that would have been too obvious. These words asked for something that was not for their author, for what the author wanted was not as important as giving to another.
That made this dream, this wish, one that Tera held and thought about.
It wasn’t asking for her to do something—not exactly—but what was asked for was something that she wanted to have happen, something she wanted to be true, something she wanted to be. But the question was whether she could ask for one of her own to do her a favor.
It wasn’t that Tera couldn’t ask, it was that she didn’t want to impose her will upon another. It wasn’t her way to use her role as the Queen to get what she wanted. It was … difficult for her when that had to be.
What made this wish more than all of the others was that it spoke of one specific individual in the Realm. It told of what she looked like, how she spoke, who she was, and, most of all …
… it told of her name.
Tera read the name once more before folding the note carefully and slipping it back into the envelope it came in. She touched the simple four words written on the envelope’s face of it and sighed.
“Breathe Into The Air”: Tera knew exactly which of her succubi this spoke of and that was her main concern. Tera didn’t have, to be honest, the best of relationships with her and that would make what was to come, she expected, harder than it had to be.
Finally, she walked out of her home and made her way across the Realm, note in hand and determination in her stride. She might even get to have a real conversation with the one of whom she needed to ask the favor of.
Lily, in the meantime, wouldn’t know what was coming her way.
Lily, known by Tera by her proper name Lillian, was an amber tail, and that meant that she had a problem that not many others in the Realm had: being amber, she had a mix of the powers of red, orange, and yellow tails. For ambers, the powers were slanted towards one of the three tails that were part of them, but they also had a smattering of the others within them as well. In Lily’s case, her powers were focused on vitality, endurance, and healing.
Which was rather unique in the Realm.
Tera understood, from reading the note, why Lillian might be requested, even if the one who wrote the words wouldn’t, couldn’t possibly know how apt they were. But Lillian had become somewhat isolated from the rest of the Realm, had been for some time now, and that concerned Tera most of all.
While Tera had her Castle in the Realm, she didn’t use it much, save for the moments when someone visited expecting to see the Queen of the Succubi in all of her glory. No, she was always happier to be in her small home in the midst of the Realm with her Eternal and be part of those around her, not above them.
It wasn’t quite the same for Lily. Lily’s home was a small—the word being relative of course—mansion on the southern edge of the Realm, facing the Plains of Dreams. Lily asked for permission to build her home there and it was, Tera thought, one of the most wonderful places in the Realm. But something happened on one of Lillian’s travels out of the Realm, and things had changed.
Tera, not wanting to pry but, in truth, knowing the reason—she was the Queen, after all—could not do more than watch Lillian draw herself within its walls and then just … vanish … from life in the Realm.
Until today: Tera arrived at the hedgerow that surrounded Lillian’s part of the Realm and, after drawing a long breath, stepped onto the cobblestone pathway that lead into her world. As she walked through the garden that lay around Lillian’s home, Tera couldn’t help but sigh a little as she regarded the space around her. Once, long ago, this home had been well looked after: the flowers, trees and more all just so. She had found pride in her home, in what it represented, in what she could do with it. But now the grass was long, the ground unkempt and it seemed as if Lillian didn’t care about anything from the looks of things.
That thought seemed to be more true when Tera arrived at the main doors to Lillian’s mansion and found one door slightly ajar, the wood, once lovingly polished to a shine, dimmed and dingy. If this was how her home was, just how much worse was Lillian herself? The lights were out, the carpets thread worn, dust covered every surface, and, for a moment, Tera was concerned that Lillian wasn’t there, or something worse had happened. But then Tera heard the creak of a floorboard high above her and made her way up the wide spiral staircase towards a dim light that flickered from one of the rooms upstairs. As she came closer, she felt Lillian there and paused outside of the door, wondering if she should really see her.
“Come in, Tera. You’ve come this far, you should see me, shouldn’t you?”
Tera passed over the threshold and found herself in Lillian’s sitting room. She remembered how it once looked, the walls covered in books on life, health, the living world, the carpet a deep blue, a large window facing the gardens outside. But now, the walls were but empty shelves, the carpet threadbare like the others in the house, the window covered in dust, little sparkles of light only occasionally making their way through, and, against the far wall, by that window, Tera found Lillian sitting in a small worn leather chair, looking at the window blankly.
When Tera spoke her name, the look that Lily gave in return reminded Tera yet again just how much Lillian didn’t like to be called Lillian. The problem was, Tera found it incredibly difficult to use nicknames, and she really had to concentrate not to do so.
But seeing her now, compared to how she was, had diverted Tera’s focus. Once Lillian was passionate about life, about living, about the world around her. Now it seemed that all her passion had been drained from her life and she was just marking time.
Now sitting there in the chair was a tired, so very tired, Lillian, not caring about herself much. Tera remembered the stunning being Lillian once was, her short crimson hair in a bob, the shiny silver dresses that she loved to wear along with the strappy heels that once were her trademark in the Realm; how the sun, when it shone against her horns and tail, made them sparkle with joy in the life that was around them, her brown eyes so focused and yet contemplative, anxious to discover all that she could. This Lillian was barely wearing an oversized sweater and just didn’t have any of the life in her that Tera once knew.
But the old anger came through from Lily clearly when Tera used the name she truly disliked: “My name is Lily.”
Tera nodded, “Alright … Lily. I’m sorry.”
She answered with a snort of derision and then turned away, not interested in Tera any more. But Tera wasn’t going to leave, she wasn’t going to be brushed off, either. So Lily walked across the room and then paused beside her Sovereign.
Tera waved her right hand, gesturing at the room around them both, “Why this?”
Tera stood there, her tail swishing behind her, watching Lillian … er, Lily’s face, looking for a hint that she didn’t truly believe what she said. The problem was, she did. “It matters.”
Lily was suddenly standing in front of Tera, her finger poking against Tera’s chest, “NO, it doesn’t, not to anyone … No one cares, so I don’t either.”
Tera just looked at her and said nothing.
That, more than anything else, gave Lily pause, and she took a step back, but her words didn’t retreat: “No one cares, Tera. That’s the truth.”
Tera shook her head and then held the envelope she’d brought with her between the two of them. “This is the truth … Lily.”
The auburn-tail looked at the envelope, seeing the words written on it, but not understanding what Tera held or why it mattered. “I don’t do that any more.”
“No, you haven’t had the will to accept it. That’s the truth.”
“How can I?”
“Why can’t you? Why can’t you try, just one more time, to see?”
“It’s not worth it. I’ll just …”
“… make things worse? Make a mistake?”
Lily turned away and started walking, but Tera followed her through the mansion, always two steps behind, and constantly asking her questions as she did so …
“Think about all of the good you have done. Think about all of the good you can do. Have you considered that?
“You matter, can’t you understand that?
“Why don’t you come back and see that you are wanted?”
It was in the main hall where Tera finally stopped being kind and started pressing the one button that she knew would get Lily’s attention.
“No, your name is Lillian. That’s the name your mother and father gave you, that’s who you are.”
“My name is Lily!”
Tera caught Lily’s hand as it moved to strike her and held it tightly. Tera wasn’t mad, not even close to it. She was upset with herself more than anything else.
“If you want to be … Lily … then …” Again, Tera showed her the envelope, not saying another word.
When Lily tore the letter from Tera’s hand, the Queen feared that it would be ripped into pieces in the next moment for the frustration that she could see in Lily’s eyes.
“I don’t promise anything, Tera.”
“Just read it? Please? I’m not asking you to do anything more than that.”
Lily finally opened the envelope and read the note it held. For some time, she didn’t know what to say. She did wish that she could take back what she said to Tera about calling her “Lillian” and the other stupid things she now regretted. Much like Tera did, she just read the words, then traced them with her fingers … and really thought about what it asked of her … of them.
“Tera, I’m sorry.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry about … Lily. I …”
She looked at Tera wistfully, “No, “Lillian” is fine, Tera. I should have understood that better … understood why you never said my name any other way.”
“I couldn’t explain …”
“I know. I’ve forgotten who I am. I’ve lost what I can do, Tera … I …”
Tera still wasn’t pleased with herself. She brushed a hand through her hair and asked, “What are you going to do?”
Lily folded the note and whispered, “I don’t know.”
Tera closed the distance between them, her right hand touching Lily on the shoulder … a touch Lily hadn’t felt in centuries: “Perhaps not knowing is where we start?”
Lily was confused, but listened to what Tera had to say. The two of them talked until the sun set on the Realm and, finally, they decided on what they would do. They hoped that it would be … somehow … what was meant to be. And that it would make two dreams—now three—come true.
Finally, Lily asked Tera a question. “Why me?”
Tera’s reply made them both smile …
… “Because. What other reason need there be?”
Speak into the Air
It had been, to tell the truth, longer than Tera realized for Lily. Once, long ago, Lily had loved to listen to the dreams of others … to taste them … to slip into them … to make them … real.
After reading the note, talking with Tera, and trying to decide on what she would do, Lily found herself in a part of her home that she hadn’t been in for ages. That in itself wasn’t the real problem; the problem was that she was trying to find who she once was and be, really, who she should be. Who she should be was the being that once gave inspiration to some, pleasure to others, but, most of all, the being who managed to make the impossible … possible.
To do that, one started with one’s presentation.
She had gone into the part of her home where she gathered herself together, focused her body, mind, and soul on what she wanted to do. But it was primarily the place where she looked into the mirror that every succubi and incubi had, the mirror in which the owner saw things that weren’t seen by anyone else but herself. She looked into that mirror and found that she didn’t like who she saw. She turned away from the mirror, disgusted with herself for thinking that she could be who she once was.
“Come back here.”
Lily stopped in her tracks and turned around, sighing, “I haven’t heard your voice in a while.”
Lily saw her other self in the mirror. She had expected that, but was taken aback when she saw a black minidress, strappy heels, a silver tail moving behind her almost hypnotically. Her other self, her Tail self, looked … alive … powerful …
… everything that Lily wasn’t.
“You’ve never taken the chance to come in here. Oh I know why … You couldn’t face me, could you?”
Lily shrugged in resignation, “I didn’t need you berating me. So why be here now?”
“Because you need a kick in the ass. Enough of the crap, Lily: get your head out of your ass, get yourself cleaned up, and get over yourself.”
Lily just stood there … Then she started to laugh, which, apparently, didn’t make her reflection very happy, given the way her tail was twisting behind her.
“He’s gone Lily. Face it.”
The laughter ended abruptly. For a long moment the two succubi just looked at each other.
“I can’t do this. I’ll call Tera and tell her to send someone else.”
“You were asked for.”
“Someone else can look like me and …”
“… and not be you.”
“The client won’t …”
“… the client most certainly will know.”
Lily threw up her hands and walked in a circle in front of the mirror. Her reflection, however, didn’t move, but just stood there, tapping a fingernail against the glass of the mirror and continuing to talk to her, “You think that losing him, losing all of them, doesn’t haunt me?”
“Doesn’t look like it. I’m sure you and the other Tails are having all kinds of fun at my expense.”
“Lily? Fuck you.”
“Wasn’t I clear? You can go and fuck yourself. It’s not like you haven’t been for a long time now, has it?”
Lily stopped pacing and then dropped to the floor, sitting there and just staring at her Tail in the mirror.
“Now that you are at least looking at me, let me tell you something. And you don’t say a word or move an inch until I’m done, understand?”
When Lily didn’t answer, it was taken as being understood and her Tail started on her … “You’ve been sulking here for far too long. You’ve refused to do anything to overcome what happened. You won’t consider that you are needed or wanted. All you want to do is sit here and watch your home slowly crumble into dust and then bury yourself in it.”
Lily was hurt by those words. But she didn’t say anything.
“You have no idea how many here want you to be part of their lives, how many are willing to help you get better. I’m not talking about the incubi or succubi that would love to be with you; I’m talking about those out there who want you to heal in ways that just being with others can’t accomplish.”
She then showed Lily what looked to be the note that Tera had given her, and Lily looked shocked as she continued: “You have no concept what happens if you don’t answer this letter. But since you are focused on getting out of it now that you are facing the fact that you have to respond, maybe you should just let me take over and you can go and hide.”
The two looked at each other and then Lily finally answered, “You wouldn’t …” And then Lily found herself stumbling onto her heels as she said, “… dare.”
She wasn’t in the same place as she had been. The room was bright, not a speck of dust to be seen. She faced a mirror, again, not the same one she had been looking into a moment before and she saw …
… herself changed.
For a long time, all she could do was look in the mirror and see herself as she now was: her hair bright red once more, perfectly shaped; one of her once-favorite silver dresses—the one that started just above the straps over her heels—flowing like water over her form and covering her like a second skin right up to her neckline. It even covered her arms, leaving them shiny and smooth in the light. Behind, her feathered wings, perfectly white, fluttered as her tail seemed to peek out from behind her, as if checking to see that all was exactly right.
It wasn’t, not quite. Her tail moved up to one of her horns and pushed a lock of hair back into the exact place it should be: “There. You can thank me later.”
Lily was not pleased by what had happened, and moved to pull the dress off herself, but her tail poked her side in annoyance. “What are you doing?”
“Taking this off.”
“You actually can’t remember? This particular dress you can’t take off unless …”
Lily sighed, “… unless the one that summons me does so … Darn you!”
“So now you have to go.”
“I can’t! I’m not ready! I …”
“You are stalling. You know exactly what is being asked of you. You and Tera figured it out; all you have to do is believe in yourself and make it happen.”
Lily looked into the mirror as her tail wrapped itself around her waist and gave her a hug. “If I didn’t believe you could do this, I wouldn’t be pushing you.”
Lily just looked at herself and tried, really tried to smile, to be a little bit happy, to … to try. But the doubts about herself were deep and she didn’t feel like she was making any headway against it all. “I don’t believe in … me.”
Her tail moved behind her and then she found herself looking at the note that it held on its tip: “They do.”
Lily took the note and read it again, tracing the words once more to remind herself. To try and capture the hope that she needed to have before she saw them.
“What if I mess this up?”
“Do you honestly believe that you aren’t going to try to make this happen?”
“It’s gone wrong before.”
There was silence … but then an answer, “If you believe it will, then it will. So don’t.”
Lily managed to nod before she focused her thoughts and disappeared in a puff of orange smelling smoke …
Speak into the Air
She heard the voice in her thoughts as she moved from the Realm towards her destination. It was something new for Lily, and it troubled her just a bit. She had heard stories from others about how sometimes, just sometimes, when there was a soul that truly needed them to appear, that soul’s call would come clearly in a succubi’s own thoughts …
… she had never experienced that before: a soul that spoke to her and her alone; a voice that did not scream in passion or howl in demand, but just simply … called.
Lily thought that she would appear beside her caller or nearby and know who it was the moment she arrived. She had prepared herself to explain who she was, why she was there, all of the things that those of the Realm found they had to do for various reasons …
She thought that would happen.
Instead, she materialized between the world of mortals and the world of the Realm, in a strange place she had not seen before.
Grey mists surrounded her, hiding the world around her, and she was unsure what any of it meant. She wasn’t where she expected to be, and it wasn’t quite like anything she had experienced before. She looked behind her and saw clearly—which was odd for how thick the mists were around her—the Realm shining in the distance, her home waiting for her there. But, in front of her, in the way of her destination, the mists pushed against her as if to block her way.
She heard the voice again, just barely there in her thoughts. Why was this happening now? It was stronger before, very much so, and yet … muffled, like there was gauze over the mouth of the one who called her, and it was becoming harder and harder to hear.
Lily moved forward slowly now; there was obviously something going on, and some caution was needed. There were beings that did not see the difference between those of the Realm and those of other places, and it could be one of those beings who was involved in this. The thought came to her that this all could be a trap, that the note wasn’t real, that the voice was a siren song meant to ensnare. As those thoughts intruded upon her, the voice became quiet, and Lily stopped.
She could never say how long she remained there listening … not exactly. Her fingers fidgeted with the note for a time before she finally opened it and traced her fingers again over the words …
When the voice returned—quite strongly now—Lily finally understood: someone or something was trying to stop her from going to the caller. One of the things about Lily was that she was almost as stubborn as Tera once she set her mind to doing something. It was both one of her strengths and also very much a weakness. It was that stubbornness that had pushed her into exiling herself from everyone in the Realm the way she had done. Now that same stubbornness made her push forwards into whatever was trying to block her path. The mists pulled at her wings, her tail, her form, like a web slowing her down, trying to give her a reason to turn back, to abandon her goal, to hide once more in her home and fade away …
… Why was she thinking like this? Someone had called her. Someone needed her. If nothing else, she was going to see who that person was.
When that thought came clearly into her mind, suddenly the mists vanished and, far ahead, so very far away, Lily saw two bright lights in front of her. She knew exactly what they were, and she was brought up short by that realization. She had not seen beings like them in ages, and now two of them appeared, slowly coalescing from light into physical form—or at least what passed for it in this strange in-between place where she found herself in.
“You shall not pass.” The first words spoken were by the female angel on her right. All golden, almost statue-like in appearance, in her right hand she held a short sword and in her left a shield, golden wings, and halo, robes as well.
“You are not wanted here.” Those words were from the male on her left. He, too, was armed, ready for battle, ready to stop Lily from continuing onwards.
They were gatekeepers, and this was a real problem.
Lily wasn’t a fighter, not like some of the Realm were. She nurtured. She lived for life. But with those thoughts also came the images of her home now, how she had turned away from all she once believed in.
As the conflicting thoughts passed through her, she understood exactly what was happening now. They were using her own doubts against her, to make her leave, to turn from her path and retreat.
Lily straightened up, shook out her wings and took a deep breath … “I have been invited. Let me pass.”
“You shall not pass.”
Her tail swished behind her in agitation now … “The calling is clear. They speak my name so I may be with them.”
“You are not wanted.”
Her wings fluttered and then spread broadly behind her … “I am wanted. I am asked for.”
“Tell me why I should.”
“They do not know what they ask for.”
Lily thought about this for a moment, but then held up the note, folded again, that Tera had brought to her. “They … Know.”
For a time none of the beings said or did anything. Lily was as much a statue as the two that blocked her path. After a time she realized that, while she had been asked for, the gatekeepers didn’t believe what she told them.
And the doubts returned to her thoughts once more. Was she right? Really right? No one had ever called for her before, not specifically for her. Then there was the fear, deep inside, about doing wrong, about making a mistake, about …
… about causing another disaster.
Her tail lowered, her wings withdrew, and Lily felt the fires that had begun to burn within her start to fade away once more into the ashes she had been living with for so long …
“You shall not pass.”
The note bent slightly between Lily’s fingers as she thought about turning away. One gatekeeper she might be able to get by … but two … Two would cost her if it came to it. She was turning away, to leave with her tail between her legs when she heard the voice again …
,.. and stopped. The doubts that swirled within Lily’s mind left her, and a serene smile appeared as she turned, straightened her back, and took a step towards the two angels.
Her tail was swishing once more. “Someone calls to me.”
Her wings were wide and strong again.
“That call gives me strength.”
And finally, at long last, the glow of life returned to her, surrounded her, and her own power, the power that was needed, came to encompass her once more. “And Iwill see them.”
She stood now inches from the two beings and held the note to them, the note itself now beginning to glow … “Try to stop me.”
Speak into the Air
They didn’t stop Lily.
It wasn’t a question of how powerful they were, or how determined Lily was. It wasn’t that their weapons weren’t strong enough. It wasn’t that Lily was able to resist them. It had nothing to do with force at all.
The power wasn’t in Lily herself; the means to pass was the note she held and the need that came from it. In that need, in that wish, she could pass, could overcome, and they could do nothing but bluster and threaten and belittle her.
It wasn’t enough. Lily left them behind her. She did hold a question in her thoughts that she could not take away: Was she really, after so long, really prepared for what was coming next?
She paused at the edge of entering the place where she had been called to. She wanted to appear dramatically, powerfully, desirably … but it didn’t turn out that way. The shift didn’t feel right. Something was different, but she wasn’t exactly sure what it was. She could sense her clients nearby, felt them: their emotions, their needs, their desires, their … fantasies … She also felt her own fears, her worries, the overwhelming sadness that surrounded her. It was, Lily realized, so very familiar because it was the same feeling that she had been living with for so many years herself. The light was gone, and in its place was … emptiness.
She drew a shuddering breath and tried to wipe away the tears that were pooling in her eyes. Blinking them clear, she noticed that the darkness that hid the space around her was, ever so slightly, pushed back by the wish she now held like a lifeline. The despair was returning, pushing against her, but the wish had formed a halo around her that the gloom couldn’t quite get through. Lily hoped that it would be kept at bay …
Her eyes could see now, and it was clear that she was standing in a house of some kind; more accurately, she was in what looked to be a sparsely furnished family room … but there was no family: no sounds of laughter, of joy, of anything that said that there was life here.
She worried now, the ache within her deep and mournful as she feared that she was too late, that her own worries, uncertainties, and more had delayed her far too long. Her stupidity must have cost her subjects … everything.
Lily dropped to her knees, hands covering her eyes, and she was overwhelmed by the realization of what her own selfishness had cost her. It had been everything. It was all happening again … “I’m sorry… It’s all my fault …” Lily spoke to both the one who summoned her and the one she had lost so long ago.
“I don’t deserve to be. There’s nothing for me anymore …” The images of her own loss, her own folly, came to her now, each and every moment—and, most of all, the instant when she knew, fully, that there was nothing for her anymore …
But Lily snapped back to the here and now as she heard the voice again … “Lily …” not in her thoughts now. No, it was … here?
She scrambled to her feet and called out in reply, “I’m here!”
The answer, after a short time, was, “Lily …”
She moved now, guided by the small glimmer of hope in her that it wasn’t too late, that she could make a difference. The house wasn’t large, but it felt to Lily like it took ages for her to pass from room to room, look inside, and then move onwards. The call of her name came from everywhere and nowhere. She thought the voice was in one place, but then it wasn’t. Lily’s searching became more and more frantic the longer it went on, until she tripped on a rug and fell once more.
And then she noticed something. The wish! It … pulled her ever so slightly in one particular direction. If she had been paying attention, if she hadn’t lost herself to despair she would have felt it tugging as if wanting to return … home.
Lily stood up, took a deep breath to calm herself, and moved in the direction that the wish desired. She soon found her destination …
Lily called out to her summoners when she entered the room, but she wasn’t heard. The darkness, the loss, the despair around the three of them swallowed up her words completely. She tried to embrace them, but her hands passed through them like she was a ghost. She couldn’t understand why that was. It had never happened like this before.
She looked at the wish she held and unfolded it, traced her fingers over the words, and tried to make sense of what had happened to her. Was it that they didn’t believe that she would appear? Was that why she couldn’t comfort them?
She tried to touch them, comfort them, but she was mist, etherial, without solid form. All she could do was call out into the air, sobbing softly with the words in reply as she listened to their voices in the darkness …
“I’m here …”
“I’m here …”
The wish dropped from her fingers and fluttered towards the carpet below …
“Please … I’m here …”
Then a flash of both light and darkness came …