ambyr: pebbles arranged in a spiral on sand (nature sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy) (Pebbles)
From: [personal profile] ambyr
Two wrinkle-lined faces stared down at Iroh when he opened his eyes. It was often like this after time spent wandering the spirit world--the world of the body blurred, lacked depth--but this time the doubling did not resolve itself when he blinked.

"You cannot keep doing this," said Lo.

"You will exhaust yourself," said Li.

"Your nation needs you." Lo extended a closed hand.

Li matched her sister's gesture. "Your son calls."

As one, they upturned their fists, opened their fingers. Lo's held a single white lotus tile; Li's were empty.

"Which will you choose?" they asked together.

* * *

Lu Ten still cries in Iroh's dreams. The thin, childish voice winds through his sleep, now whispering, now so loud Iroh wonders it does not wake the palace.

Once he would have followed the threads of sound down, down, down. Dreams are a border between matter and spirit. Once he would have passed through.

Now, when the cries come, he forces himself upward. He rises. He brews tea. The ritual actions are calming. The liquid's surface is a mirror, but a prosaic one; it shows no ghosts, only Iroh's own tired eyes.

He drinks, and it holds sleep at bay.
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