Title: Upon Your Forgiveness Deserving None
Pairing: Candy/Carrion (ish)
Summary: Candy will not stop falling until Carrion can stand. His strength will sustain her and his thoughts protect her from the otherworld. Up is down, the hero falls, and the villain must fight to save them all.
Warnings: Spoilers for book 3.
Dedication: This story is my Secret Santa Christmas gift for Cesaria. I hope that you will enjoy this little bit of fanfiction, and that it is what you wanted for Christmas! I can't tell you how much I loved writing this. Even though this is the season of good cheer, please don't be expecting to find good cheer here. We are going kind of dark-ish, because I appear to be addicted to angst-y fiction lately. (Part of the Abarat Secret Santa gift exchange). Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2012!
Carrion awoke with a gasping stuttering breath; blood coated the inside of his mouth, and dried upon his cracked lips. The pain that accompanied consciousness was for a moment blinding, until it faded, and his vision swam with a sickening lurch of colours. For a moment he laid unthinking until he became aware of more than just nerve endings firing, and blood seeping away from its vessels. The sound of heavy silence was deafening, leaving a ringing in his ears, high pitched and screaming. As pain drifted through him, awaking every cell in his body, Christopher Carrion could no deny, that he was still whole, he could still feel, and he was aware.
But there was too much to feel all at once, his surroundings as unfamiliar to him as the stuttering workings of his own heart. The battered and bruised organ within him clung to life, firing blood around his cold body, refusing to relinquish its task. It was as if his heart had only just remembered how to beat and was enthusiastically grasping at the oxygen being pulled into his lungs. Carrion felt as if he had been sleeping all of his life, only now awakening with an excruciating shuddering of exploding neurons, and nerves knitting themselves into being, before lessening into a dull ache, to remind him of its presence within him.
Christopher Carrion had never felt more alive than he did in this very moment, never had so many parts of his own life vying for his full attention. He couldn't breathe without concentrating, carefully taking air in and out of his lungs, feeling dust and smoke burn it's way through him. He couldn't blink without forcing his eyelids closed, before wrenching them open, grit scraping at his sensitive eyes. But for all the aches, which were growing familiar, there was something more foreign within him, something new, or something very old that had been forgotten long ago. He recognised it only because he had seen it around him year after year, following him like a haze, in the faces of so many, in the scent of the world. It travelled through him leaving his skin tingling, his heart beating wildly and his breathing fast. It was fear. It was uncontrollable.
He was lost, like a compass needle spinning wildly out of control, not knowing where it would stop and point. For the first time in his life, Christopher Carrion didn't know where to go, all roads appeared blocked, or out of reach. He couldn't see his way, there were too many people who held a claim over him, who had pulled him down to where he lay now, broken once more. Their hands felt heavy upon him, clawing at him, all believing that their path was the right one. Now all that Carrion could be sure of was that everything he had ever known had been destroyed, in more ways that he could even fathom. He didn't know who he was anymore. Was he still a Prince of Midnight, a Lord of an island, an hour as broken and abused as he? He couldn't be sure; his holdings had been destroyed under his grandmother's wizened hands. But one thing was certain, he was here, the sky above him once more full of bright stars and light, and he, unlike so many less fortunate, was still here to see them. He was alive.
Carrion pushed his mind out further, becoming aware of more than just his physical being, remembering that he was once more a part of the world. He could feel the ground beneath him, its unyielding hardness overpowering his startled body with sensations, until all he could feel was a cold numbness. The force of gravity holding him down had never felt so strong. Stronger than his will, stronger than his once more broken body, holding him down, holding him still within its tight grip. For all his mistreatment of the life he had been given, the Abarat was still supporting him, still bearing his weight without complaint. The Abarat was once more waiting for him to rise again, waiting for his footsteps upon its surface, his stride steady and unfaltering. Because it had always been his to take, its secrets waiting for someone as brave as he to discover them and bring to life things ancient and forgotten. However unlike his grandmother, these mysteries he had always treated with reverence. Unlike hollow Boa, who sought to fill her empty soul with power she was unworthy to hold, he had always respected the old ways.
His grandmother and Boa had run mad with the power they had brought down upon themselves. Greedy grasping hands reaching for more than they could hold and far more than they ever deserved. Boa had tried to convince him of her good intent, but there had always been something calculating in her eyes that he had tried not to see. But Carrion had held that same power too, but it had not mastered him nor controlled his actions, he was still assured of himself. However there was always a price to be paid for everything, Carrion used the powers he wielded, his gifts from the Abarat, they did not use him. The price to pay for this was that the strength behind it would be all his own, resting on his own limitations. Unlimited power came at price of freedom and a sold soul. Something Carrion had never been prepared to pay, not even to be stronger than those who sought to harm him.
But as he lay unmoving, tasting the metallic tang of blood between his teeth and on his tongue, he realised what his past actions now meant for the future. His grandmother would always be stronger than he was. He would not defeat her as he was now, because she allowed herself to be destroyed by what she touched, corrupted and ruined. There could be no more hiding now, Carrion had see the true and bared surface of her soul. The darkness there knew no depths and he had followed her blindly for so long. Through fear or from not knowing that there was another way of being, a life without pain and suffering, a life that wasn't dependent upon others. Now it was time to stride out on his own, in order to find his own destiny and think his own thoughts. It was time to find out what he wanted. It was time to find out what had made his painful heart beat again.
He was not a child of the forgotten, of the broken, of the doomed. He'd been loved. His life had begun in innocence and light. It would never now return. His soul was too damaged to ever be light, too torn to be saved, too broken to be loved. After all there was unfinished business in the Abarat that was waiting for him to complete. He did not deserve to be saved, he did not even bother to pray, there was no mercy waiting for him.
Candy felt her fall slowing. They had been falling for so long that it took a while to realise the sensation inside of her was changing, the sickening frightening feeling in her stomach was disappearing. The passing of time seemed to mean nothing here. Candy didn't know if she had been falling for seconds or for years, and neither seemed to matter. It was as if she had only just burst back into being, as if she had not even existed a second ago, and couldn't remember was being alive even meant. She felt apart from herself, aware of her body but in a completely different way. She knew she would never again know what it would feel like to hungry again, or what it was to walk. What was a headache? What was pain? There were so many questions that she couldn't remember the answer to. Her body seemed so completely pointless. And the feeling that it had once been very important, and had carried her so far remained with her.
Candy blinked. That was her name. Someone or something was calling to her. She was lying on cold dark ground, her head resting against its unforgiving surface. There was nothing around her, just a grey mist that drifted around her with the faint scent of sand and water. She imagined the seaside for a moment, and then thought she could hear the lapping of the sea against the shore, not far away from where she lay. Candy couldn't remember who she was, or how she had gotten here. She didn't know why she had come here to this dark place that was so very lonely and strange. All she knew was that with every passing second she seemed to be growing more solid, and yet her mind seemed to be slower in returning with answers. She knew there was something she should be trying to do, but there seemed to be little point to anything anymore.
Maybe if she closed her eyes? With the innocence of a child, she squeezed her eyes closed and pretended that nothing of this was real. That if she could not see it then it was not happening, it was a darkness of her own making, under her control. But it made no difference, there was something rushing towards her, turning its interest upon her.
It felt like millions of tiny pinpricks, covering her skin, reminding her that she still had a body of flesh and blood, still have nerves that would scream at pain. She tried to brush the sensation from her skin, but it was of no use, the feeling changed into the agony of pins and needles, nerve endings firing, coming back to life from where they had lay numb. But still it burned; the attention upon her wouldn't leave.
You cannot stay here. Something said from around her, and inside of her too. It filled her up and threatened to over flow. The pain in her pulsed at every word, as if the pain was a living thing, crawling within her. You do not belong here. The Abarat is waiting for you. The Abarat still needs you, and he will fall back into darkness without you. If he falls, he will pull the whole world down with him. Down… into the dark. Like you are now.
"Who?" Candy asked, her voice raspy and painful in her throat. Tears formed in her eyes, as her skin seemed to recoil from the strange voices and tighten around her. It seemed to sense her terror and relinquished its interest, merely running its fingers over her from time to time.
You know whom. He is with you even now. It is his thoughts of you that make you whole. It is his memories that shape you here. Without him you would simply fade away, and drift in the mist. Grey and nothing, you would belong to us. We could do with you as we wished. If he forgets you, you will forget yourself, and all that you came here to do.
"I did not come here with a mission. I came here by accident," Candy protested. Glimpses of a memory returned to her, slowly she began to see the world she had known within her cloudy mind. She saw faces, and remembered names. She remembered her own name and how she had come to be here. She had fallen here.
The Abarat is in your blood now Candy Quackenbush, which is why we can touch you. You returned to defend I, you can feel its calling. But many will die if you do not return once more, up to the surface, because if you do not return to the fire and the shadows, he will perish, alone in nothingness. It is only through you that the light will reach his soul, and only through him can those who seek to destroy the islands of hours, will perish.
"I will save the Abarat by saving another?" Candy asked confused. Her head hurt, and something didn't feel right. This was not what she had been led to believe. Had they all lied?
Oh, you were hoping for something more dramatic? More heroic? Has the taste of fame become sweet to you?
"No. I just. It seems unfair. That my actions will affect another."
Many things are unfair Candy. But you can feel your purpose deep inside of you. So, look deeper.
"This is all very vague. If I am to do this right, I can't you be more specific?" Candy asked. She would not shy away from helping her friends, but so little guidance, how could she trust what this voice told her? Why should she?
We have meddled enough. But we will say this; you have been pretending that he isn't there. Deep inside of your heart you will have to look in order to find him, where you never expected to see him looking back at you. Your veins will run cold with fear at the thought of him, yet even now your heart is aching to be near him. You are two halves of a whole, two broken halves of a whole soul. You must save him from the dark and save him from those who would seek to push him under and play him false. His weakness is his own heart.
"You mean Christopher Carrion," Candy said, feeling his name flowing through her like a shiver. It was powerful, like a secret, which only she knew. The voice was right, she had known for a long time how her fate was tangled with his, how her journey would always walk on step behind his. Perhaps now it was time to walk the same path, only this time, it would be together.
Only you know the answer.
"I must keep him safe from Boa. He holds the secrets for protecting or destroying the Abarat. He mustn't share them with her. He has to keep them. Magic has made all the others run mad, he is the only one who has remained standing and strong. I have to help him."
Only you know your path.
"But you are wrong. This does not frighten me. He does not frighten me. Not anymore. I have faced him without fear before. He will not hurt me."
The path you before you will not be easy. You will be alone. Enemies will rise from unexpected places.
"You mean people will not understand. You think my friends will not come with me," Candy paused and placed a hand on her chest, feeling her heart hammering behind her ribs. "I don't know if I can do this alone. I might be wrong. What if I am wrong, and choosing the wrong path? I took another down here with me, who has a place in my heart. Perhaps I should choose him?"
Why would your heart lie to you?
"I do not know my own heart. I was shared with another for too long."
Then that is indeed an obstacle to your peace of mind. There is no cure.
"Then I will never be ready. I will never know if I am taking the right path. But I cannot stay here. I came to help the Abarat and fight those who would destroy it. I found my place here; I will not turn my back on my friends. Whether I am right or wrong, I must chose a direction and move towards it. I'm ready to go back."
Yes, go back Candy. Return to the Abarat.
By paying the price. We demand a part of your heart. You will agree, even though you know it will taint you. Your first step into darkness.
Candy couldn't think straight. She didn't understand. All she knew was that she needed to return to the surface, and to those who were waiting for her. Nothing seemed as important as that, and she couldn't imagine ever regretting a decision that placed her back on solid ground. But as she ascended, rising through the dry earth, the dirt clogging in her nose, in her mouth, covering her eyes, the consequences of her decision flooded back to her.
Blinking the dust from her eyes, and rubbing the soil away from her skin, spitting it back to where it belonged, Candy stared up at the weak sunlight above. She listened to the exotic birds chirping and calling to one another in the trees. Her head was pounding, and as the world stopped spinning, a sickening feeling overcame her and she rolled herself over, retching into the short grass. Her empty stomach gave her no relief and tears began to well in her eyes. She had left them behind, without a second thought she had forgotten them in her rush to return to the Abarat. Had her carelessness destroyed them? Was it too late to try to save them? She thought hard, trying to imagine Gazza's face, but it was just a blank. Her memories of him were warped; all she could recall was a feeling of belonging, as if she had found a missing piece of herself. Now he was lost and she was all alone once more.
As she cried, she turned her mind to Malingo. The friend who had been with her through it all, and would never have left her side for anything. Malingo, who had died for her, and who she had abandoned to that place of nothing. He was lost to a place that no hour had claimed or controlled, forgotten and alone. It was a time outside of time, like the twenty fifth hour, and yet, it was something else. Not even monsters would survive it. It was nothing, a place where things went to be destroyed.
Carrion climbed tentatively to his feet, looking down at the tall figure he cut against the bleak surroundings. Life had chewed him. He had fought against the world. Killed. And the Abarat would not let him go. As he tried to escape, fade into nothingness, he was dragged back time and time. The Abarat needed him, and he would never find rest until he had fulfilled his destiny. A fate that seemed to be connected to another, Candy Quackenbush was no a part of his life, as necessary to him as the air he breathed.
But what Carrion had never considered was that Candy Quackenbush would become a player in the control of the Abarat. She would disagree of course, it had not been her aim or her desire, but by fighting and stepping out of the crowd, she was making herself the enemy of those seeking to control the world. Candy had already amassed a following, she called them her friends, but eventually her innocent view would shatter and she would realised she had control over the direction of their lives. They would follow her now whether she might take them, whether they agreed with her or not.
Carrion had never considered the possibility that he might be the one that had to save Candy. That she had not come to the Abarat to save him after all, but to walk on his dangerous path. The Abarat had other plans for them both, breaking and reshaping their souls like molten glass. Carrion knew that all he needed to do was wait. Candy would eventually come back to him, looking for his guidance. She had tasted magic now and Carrion had never known anyone who could turn their back on that temptation.
Candy would come looking for him, bringing her lost and frightened followers along in her wake. The responsibilities on her shoulders might knock her down, and threaten to lose her sanity. She would want his help because the magic would eat at her, always hungering for more, for control over the madness.
Power would flow through her like an electrical current, touching even the smallest part of her being. It would make her, create her anew. Her skin would start to glow with its ethereal brightness. She would come to him, just like Boa, and the world would start again.
"Lady, why are you crying?" a voice asked, full of concern and kindness. After the pain she had put her heart through, it was like a soothing hand.
Candy opened her stinging eyes. A blurred orange shape fluttered above her, casting a shadow over her face. Her heart leapt out of its dull rhythm and into life as she recognised Malingo. She didn't deserve him to be returned to her, she deserved to be alone. But here he was, smiling down on her, at her side like he had promised to be forever.
"Yes?" he asked, smiling, large ears flapping smoothly through the air.
"There is something I must do..." Candy said, feeling a calm fall over her, like her life had suddenly decided upon its direction. It was a comforting feeling not to be so very lost anymore. "But I do not know how to tell you... I can only say that I will need your friendship more than ever before, when the Abarat turns against me and calls me the enemy."
Took a hesitant step forward on uncertain legs. Malingo watched her carefully, she knew he was worried; whatever had happened to her in that strange place had not been over heard by him. She wondered whether any strange voices had been talking to her friends too. Had they told Gazza that she had abandoned him? For surely he was the price that they been talking about, the piece of her heart that she had left behind. In its place only guilt and disgust at herself. But surely it would have been a greater punishment to keep Malingo too? Why had they allowed her any happiness when she deserved none?
"You can tell me Lady, whatever it is that you must do. You know that I will always be your friend," Malingo promised sincerely. He watched Candy bow her head.
"I have to find Christopher Carrion, and I am going to need you to help me."
Malingo was silent.
"When they returned me here, they said I had a choice. I could stay with them and find out all the mysteries of the otherworld, or I could travel your path with you. They could not hold me, because I was only half a soul, still mending. I knew that being your friend would mean danger, but I also knew I would never let you face that danger alone."
Candy felt tears in her eyes as she looked up at her friend. She wished she could put her arms around him, but there was nothing there to hug.
"You are afraid of him?" Malingo asked.
Candy shook her head, she hadn't been afraid of Carrion for a long time.
"Then I will help you Candy," Malingo agreed. "But I do not think he will be difficult to find. The Abarat brings you to him time and time again, whether you wish it or not."
"The Abarat will fear me for this."
"No Candy, it is too late for those regrets. The Abarat feared you the very day you arrived."