Alone in a hammock in a smoky tavern in Winterspring, Pook swung gently back and forth, staring at the wall. Back...and forth...one side...or the other...
Never in between.
Things were not going well. Cromwell's minions were beginning to return to normal one by one - first Corvissa, and then Jinx herself. She had managed to recruit Erunamo and Dalin to the cause single-handedly, but finding others to persuade to give up their souls for the true freedom of absolute destruction and obedience was proving difficult. She truly only had one tool at her disposal that really worked, and now...
Pook sighed. Erunamo had followed her today, looking as though she was driving a dagger in his heart every time she would tease and toy with other men. Cromwell's terrible ritual had not worked on him in the same way as it had on her and the others. "Why arrre you still herre then? Why do you stay with Crrromwell!?" She had shouted at him.
She had forced a vow out of him before, and although she had released him of his obligation still he pressed on. Becoming Cromwell's creature and lackey, he still watched over her and tried to protect her, nearly getting killed in the process at least once.
But how did SHE feel?
Feelings were so new to her. She'd had them, of course, but they themselves had frightened and confused her. She'd had no names for them, no rhyme or reason for their existence. Now she had the words to describe emotion, but how did they match up to what she actually felt? Was this feeling in the pit of her stomach love? Friendship? Gratefulness? In the hammock, she gently swung one way.
And there was another problem.
"If he did care for you, if he did choose you, what would you do?" Erunamo asked her as they sat on the shore of the hot springs. Pook had looked down at her hands, unable to answer.
From the day she'd met him she'd been drawn to him, this other man. Alone of all the patrons and staff of the Wisps and Spirits he'd never condescended to her, patted her, given her fish, told her what to do and what not to do. He spoke to her plainly and directly, as if she was any other person, expressing wonder and admiration at her freedom. He had a terrible sadness in his eyes, a wearyness to his soul, and she'd been instantly fascinated by him.
But he'd also terrified her. The other staff skirted around him, their fear plain. He smelled of pain and death and blood, almost never his own. Now that she better understood the kinds of bonds he had been held to herself she had tried to approach him in the only way she knew how, but he had almost effortlessly rebuffed her, only wanting to think of someone he couldn't have himself.
She had approached this other man who was his competitor for the heart of their chosen woman. "I offerrr you an opporrtunity," she'd said. They could work together, because they had the same goal. She wanted one, he wanted the other. But because of her new life, her transformation, he had refused to cooperate.
She didn't know what this feeling she felt was either, the way her heart fluttered every time he was near. Fascination? Sympathy? Fear? Adoration? In the hammock, she swung gently the other way.
And in both cases it might be a moot point. There was most likely no future with a creature such as herself. As she was now she craved darkness and destruction, played with others and reveled in their pain, like a cat toying with a mouse. That would not change. She was obedient to Cromwell, and his bidding was dark and sinister. She would not, could not wish a thing like herself on someone she truly cared about. The hammock swayed towards the wall.
But when the others had somehow defeated their transformations from Cromwell's ritual, they had simply gone back to being the way they were before. And before now she was a dumb creature, eager for any scrap of affection or fish deigned to be tossed her way, staring at the world with simple, naieve eyes. Everything was a terrifying rush of sights and sounds and smells, and none of them made sense. She could imagine a man loving a thing like that like she could imagine a man loving a pet, perhaps even as a child, but not as a woman. The hammock swung out into the open space of the room.
The thought of losing this new-found ability to think her thoughts in words, to reason things out, to grasp simple concepts and catch them with language terrified her. And yet at the same time before she'd had this ability her life was an uncomplicated thing, free of worry and self-doubt, free of regret and obligation.
She wanted to find a way to be in between. She didn't want to have to choose. But that wasn't how things worked. Like taking a gryphon's flight you went one way or you went the other, you couldn't stop in the middle and get off no matter how badly it was exactly where you wanted to be. Choosing one precluded choosing the other.
Sighing again, she shifted and the swinging continued. She almost grinned at the thought of how in her former life, she probably would have jumped on this thing and nearly swung herself sick, or until the Goblins running the tavern had demanded that she leave off disturbing the other patrons. All she wanted it to do now was stop in the middle so she could rest.
But there was no way to stay in between.