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Gideon Nav was making a lot of noise in the next room. Harrow sat up in bed. She had already been mostly awake, but it was still dark outside. Gideon made a point of never being awake this early. She loved to sleep. And after all that had happened yesterday, Gideon could have a little extra sleep. As a treat.
Harrow pulled a folded blanket off the bed and wrapped herself up in it against the early morning chill. The building was mostly quiet except for the occasional moaning and yelping from the next room. Distantly, surf roared against rocks; closer, water flowed through a pipe. Harrow approached the doorway.
She carefully poked her head around the corner. A lifetime of experience told her that Gideon didn't like Harrow in "her space," but recent days had started to break down that barrier. Gideon had touched her-a shiver passed over her at the memory- and been willing to be touched back. It felt a little dangerous to be here now, but Gideon was still in bed, still probably asleep.
Harrow paused at the door, surveying what she could see of the ginger giant. She was so… alive all of the time. Harrow didn't envy it. She was familiar with the concept of pity, but was used to turning its sallow light on herself; now she turned it on her cavalier. Nav was always wanting to sleep and eat. Who could blame her, Harrow supposed: she was only meat on a skeleton, blind to the energies in and around her. And her intellect - again, probably not her fault. The nerve gas that laid the foundation Harrow was built on hadn't killed her, but probably maimed her brain. At least, that was Harrow's best explanation for the other girl's bizarre manner of speech and love of pornography.
On the other hand, she'd make a beautiful, tall skeleton someday. In the same way one might hope to see the final form of an artist's life's work, Harrow hoped she'd get to see it someday. She wasn't about to kill Nav for her bones, of course, she had plenty to work with. Though osteoporosis did take its toll… No, of course not. Gideon was much more useful alive, despite the free will, feelings, sorry magazines, and ridiculous banter that was always escaping from her mouth. Skeletons were quiet and did as they were programmed, but they didn't have their own ideas. They weren't good to talk to. And they weren't coated in messy, thalergy-generating muscles. Harrow had to admit to herself that muscles could even be visually pleasing- definitely in a different way than bone was, but curving, slightly shiny, and taking care of business just the same as the skeleton underneath might someday be, when it was free of its meat.
Thalergy… Harrow had never siphoned anyone before Gideon, but she made such a battery. It was novel-nice! not to leak blood while doing her magic. And it cut her, but was everything she wanted, when Gideon offered herself willingly. She had phenomenal cosmic power, and was the entire ruling body of her House. All Ninth lives were hers to grow or harvest. The siphoning was a reminder that it had taken nearly an entire harvested generation of the Ninth house to make the Reverend Daughter in the first place. The nihilism said: you're not killing her; even if you did, what's one more anyway? The part of her that dreamed of the future, of renewing her house, of Lyctorhood, said: you and she are the final resources of your House, and the only ones you have here. Hoard her like the treasure she is. The tiny bit of her that occasionally thought about having normal emotions, the part of her she kept in a straitjacket, agreed with the dreamer.
Normally Harrow split the difference. Gideon was annoying but effective, and she was all Harrow had. It was pointless to hoard a resource she had to spend to get where she needed to be. She knew there must be a power source here. Once she could find it and harness it, like the trials were teaching her, Gideon would be free. The captain of her guard had guaranteed that, and Harrow had wanted that future so badly that she had taken the deal. Harrow wondered where Griddle would go. She wasn't sure she wanted it to be the other side of the galaxy anymore. Something in her chest felt heavy thinking about it. She hugged the blanket closer. Her chest felt naked without the extra ribcage, but Gideon had seen her more naked before. A shiver wracked her again despite the comforting wrap, and she shied away from that thought too. Quickly she brought herself back to the present.
As she lurked at the door, Harrow briefly imagined padding over on the ancient carpet, and sitting down next to the strange nest the other girl insisted on sleeping in. But that would put her within melee range, which seemed unwise. Even a sleepy, uncoordinated Gideon could do more damage to Harrow than she was willing to bear right now, so she called out softly instead. "Griddle?"
This caused no change in the noise levels, but at least confirmed that her cavalier was asleep. The other girl rolled over, as if to emphasize it.
Harrow walked a few steps closer, still staying out of range. "Griddle," she repeated, louder this time. That seemed to do it: Gideon stopped making meaningless vocalizations - a rare respite - and drew a deep breath. She kept breathing quietly for a moment, and Harrow was satisfied. "You're up early," she intoned. She started to turn around and go back to her journal, when Gideon said something that made no sense.
"Moon's haunted."
Obviously, this stopped Harrow in her tracks. Gideon said a lot of weird things in the course of the average day, but this was above average. Her brain scrambled for connections. Did the First House even have a moon? She didn't remember seeing one from the shuttle, and she had hardly been watching the night sky since their landing. Haunts were real, of course, but she had no idea if Gideon had ever encountered one. And she was fairly sure Gideon had never been to a moon anyway. She felt her eyebrows rise and separate; even they were looking for answers as she blinked hard. The world was still there when she opened them, in the dark grey tones of predawn light. She blinked a few more times in quick succession before her eyebrows came back down.
"What?" she asked.
"Moon's haunted," the other girl repeated. Under the covers, her hands might have made some kind of gesture. It was hard to tell. The rhythmic breathing began again, and the necromancer put the puzzle together: Gideon had been asleep the whole time. Well, at least she was quiet now. Harrow shook her head, blinked again, and headed back to bed.
From the next room, she heard her cavalier moan, "Don't sign me up for the skeleton war…" That was odd, since Griddle seemed to love fighting skeletons. Whatever. She hoped this dream was better than the old one.