A piece that may or may not be included in the main story, but does contain spoilers for concepts I plan to use at some point in either Four For Fire, or a story that follows up on that arc. Or both.
Visions of Family
AU: Children of FireWord Count: 1140Characters: Sam Carter, Jolinar of Malkshur, Pele
She is memories and dreams, trapped in a the back of a mind that doesn’t know how to listen for her, and cannot help but talk to her. Her shouts might be the barest whispers of instinct, almost never noticed, but sometimes when she listens to the ramble of Sam’s unconscious mind, she thinks perhaps it sometimes is.
Jolinar has no body, no neurons and synapses of her own, only those borrowed unwitting and unwilling - on both their parts - from Sam, and no more strength than a ghost. It gives her both a strange freedom and traps her in a cage she has no means of breaking.
When Sam’s dreams murmur of a David Rossi, of a plea to save his brother, to save Baal, Jolinar wishes she had enough strength to be more than an unconscious whisper, and to rattle her unintended cage. To shake Sam and add her own plea to that of her brother. She has such a small family, and she cannot bear the thought of even the spoiled baby being lost for his capture by those she had once been part of.
She had always been careful to keep him out of their sights, even if she couldn’t keep them from noticing his existance and the empire he would build.
All she can do is scream until she exhausts what strength she has, and shake the dreaming-self and plead her own dream-self horse for her brother’s life. Her mother’s youngest, the baby she had done so much to protect, because she couldn’t protect her other brother, and could only keep her mother secret.
It’s a surprise, then, when she sees the flash of crimson in the dreams that tell her of the world, to see the glowing gold of the queen who she had never thought to see again. To see the loose robes of her youngest brother, the great thrones of carven wood, the riot of jungle and the rich feast of welcome. To know her former host, her last host, has perhaps heard her screams and done what could be done to save Baal. Taken her home to her mother, though she cannot sit at Pele’s feet and lean her head against her knee as she wishes she could.
Cannot chose to leave her host to swim in the rivers of the great mountain, to give Sam release from her entirely, when she is so trapped that all mourn her death-final. It had been good for Sam, before, but now it makes this collection of synapses all the more a cage from which she cannot break free, and cannot bring herself to will into destruction.
“The ashrak killed her. I was there.”
“There is no trace of her body, perhaps, but that does not mean she is dead in finality.”
“I won’t let you destroy my mind just to find some memories of Jolinar.”
“It will not destroy your mind, and it is not memories I seek. Only my daughter.”
It is as if she walks into a garden both familiar and not, the crimson flowers that her mother loves perfuming the air around her. There are others who rest in the garden, Sam looking confused and awed, and Pele as regal as ever, though worry etches lines around gold-glowing eyes.
She doesn’t pay any attention to Sam, going to sit at her mother’s feet, leaning against her knee as she tries to hide a shudder of relief. A broken lock on an unknowing prison, a chance to escape and be given life renewed in a body that is entirely her own. A new host can be found, will be found, there are never a shortage on her mother’s world.
“How is it possible?” Sam is watching her, gaze incredulous. “How does this even work?”
“Like the harakesh, only somewhat less painful. My brother isn’t the only one who meddles with technology.” Jolinar turns her head to look at Sam now, a wry smile crossing her dream-face. “Both of them have their interests. I had mine, and mother had hers.”
“And your death?”
“Was intended. Life was… unexpected, and very annoying. You couldn’t even hear me when I screamed as loud as I could.” Jolinar shivers, and leans into the hand that comes to rest on the back of her neck. She will have to learn to dream herself in her true form again, not in the body of Sam, but for now, it is all she can summon up.
“You can be removed from my mind with this?”
“Yes and no.” Pele’s voice is rich with familiar reverberation, even here. “I can… copy Jolinar from here, and give her memories and a version of her conscious self to a new offspring. But it will not take her from your mind, unless the synapses that she has been are destroyed. Damage to your brain.”
Jolinar can see Sam wince, and can see her beginning to think it over. She does not like to think of herself split, but it is a risk.
“If that happens, and if I agreed to host Jolinar again, would she be able to reintegrate herself from my brain and herself in her new body, and take the other self from me without the same sort of damage?”
It’s a thought that Jolinar isn’t certain of, but intrigued by. Certainly she could repair a certain amount of brain damage in her host, and she could see overwhelming the weaker echo of herself, though which would truly be the weaker echo, she doesn’t know. But if she could do this, and could leave Sam after, it would allow her to know she has not left herself behind.
Pele’s fingers toy with the strands of her dream-self’s hair, silent for a long moment. “There may be another way to do this. This must be discussed with others.” She draws her hand from Jolinar’s neck. “Will you be content to wait for a chance to leave?”
It is a question addressed to Jolinar, and she shifts so she can stand, can pace and think, though the motion is no more physical than any other dream. If she can wait, trapped in neurons and synapses not her own, for a while, there may be a way out without leaving herself behind. But it means remaining in a cage without anyone to hear her for an unknown length of time, and that terrifies her almost beyond reason.
“Can you make it easier to be heard, while I wait?” She hates the momentary wobble in her voice, dislikes the idea of being utterly dependent on others to give her a window to sanity, but she has to. She cannot be trapped here alone again, even if it means having to find a way to destroy a second-self later.