Janus at the Tree of Wretches
Hainishtymion casts blue eyes against the ceiling of Pasmodius’ room.
His fatalist bent is getting the better of his breathing, he decides, so he opens his lungs more, to taste the air more thoroughly, forcing open alveoles more suited to the abrading ache of sweet white powder than the toxic, filtered, sterilized poison of the Citadel.
From his darkened door, as he sprawls back upon his stolen bed, there crawls a crease of light.
The door slides toward him.
Then it shoves shut again, swiftly.
He prefers real doors, too.
“I knew you’d come,” he murmurs, reaching out to the new occupant of the room with a long and disheveled arm. He hasn’t bathed since he washed the wall outside with a guard’s blood; the man’s crust is still under his fingernails.
The Tiger woman smiles, her white fur-like scales flashing in little waves of pearl.
“I saw your beautiful artwork outside, my lovely,” that jeweled body seems to say, swaying toward the bed and draping several claws against his forehead, molding her paw to his face.
“I knew you waited for me.” Her white voice shimmers in the dark. “Hainish.”
She grabs his blonde hair in a fist, raising him up.
He does not resist.
“Let me see how you’ve grown!” she rumble-purrs in the back of her young throat, her bright black eyes beating like drums, keeping time with his breathing. With his hearts.
“So you approve of my plans?” he says, his eyes welling nearly shut with heavy, salted tears.
Her laugh is not a pretty one.
A hard-shooting spring of sharp gravel, it screws her lips upward in a rictus, revealing sharp fangs.
Her silvery head tilts like a considering bird. She repeats herself.
“Your plans…yours? You thought all that was you? All of this, you?”
Hainish revels then, in the bells.
So many bells that chime from her glorious throat.
It is ecstasy.
And yet, a small shade of doubt asks from somewhere…
-Who is she laughing at?-
Suddenly she raises the claw holding Hainish, lifting him from the bed, a snarl gathering across her muscles.
She draws him back, dangling him like a bruised toy.
Back, and back, and back.
Soon he is flying.
Soon he is against the wall.
Two broken teeth spill from his mouth, and some blood.
The shimmer he’s been using fizzles and pops behind his ear. The small ornament he fashioned, an earring, falls away, crumbling.
The laugh. That smirk. Her face.
“Heal yourself, you dense little troll,” she says flatly, shaking out her fur, shedding silver scales in a brilliant rain until sterling and smooth are no longer her color, “…these children need reassurance. You’ll be my pet.”
She is wrinkled now. Wrapped in a yellow salwar. Dark olive skin. A greasy strand of grey hair trembles from her balding pate, tumbling down.
“You are not my Mother…” he says softly, staring limply at the floor.
Her gaze, upon him for only a fraction of time, looms black and shiny, like a stone formed of organ blood. She raises her claw again, but in that breath of space… there bumps across those eyes leaking death a solitary golden mote that cries, “Look here!”
The Doctor’s gift to him.
She blinks, backing away as though something has entered her eye. It has, of course.
Then she is outside, walking away down the corridor, stalking away from the tall new guard.
Hainish’s eyes widen.
He must warn the Valeyard.
But the Mines…
Oh Rassilon, the Mines…
“Ahem.” A familiar voice springs forth, from the hallway. The timbre of it seems more even than before…
It is the guard, isn’t it?
His useless Kenny’s pet name for him.
Gutarriezknindracastorblyledgespillioth’s soft melodious tenor bubbles from the lips of the silver and red body-suited insect.
He’s not even whispering.
Hainish watches as green hair falls like silk from the red helmet, cascading. A flash of blue paper gleams from the inside, for a second… the fingers cling to a zipper, and soon the whole suit is slipping to the floor, undressing the ivory-slipped bones, naked and beautiful, of an androgynous waif he recognizes every well-turned corner of.
Kenny’s lavender eyes gleam across Hainish’s face.
Knindra. Hainish toys with the syllables of his old lover’s name, wistful and remembering.
Kenny says nothing, but opens his long bony hand and blows on his white white fingers, opening a loosely-wrapped packet with just the force of his breath.
A fine pale dust settles through the room, flying around Hainish. A cloud of dust.
The room needs a cleaning, Hainish decides…
Then he is gone, bones and all.
The Namaste Nerada have done what the Doctor asked of them.
“Go back to your books now, all right?” Kenny says softly, dropping the helmet on the ground with a hollow clack, “I’m going to fetch the Doctor. He’s promised to fix it one more time for us, and then we’re on our own. Go- the debt must be recorded. Do not let her find you. And she must not find him before he finds Hainish.”
The silver sleek lines of a powering blaster percolating in his hand, he thinks of the hidden storage room where the TARDIS was parked. There should still be travel clothes there, waiting for him, as per the Doctor’s instructions.
As he considers his route through the Citadel, the white dust swirls once around him, then flies away, up through the tiny seams in the ceiling.
Soon Knindracastorblyledgespillioth is running through the white halls, down through the levels, beating the corner-skirting guards over the head with candy-colored chairs and vaulting over scurrying Time Lords.
The egress the woman Flamina used before is only a few more levels down...
He must reach the Shrine of the Pythia before –she- does.
He must reach the Doctor.