So, keep in mind I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit.
The Arcana, a Jenell Gilyard Project
When Badru gets to building 37, Disciples of Woe crowd the entrance, so he prepares for altercation. He tries to hide his excitement because he hasn’t had a good fight in months.
“Where you going?” One only a few inches shorter than Badru, stops him.
“Here for Malvolia.” He looks confused, so Badru sends him on an errand.
“Tell Ill Will, “Moon is here to see Malvolia.”
The stoop leader sends another Disciple to deliver the message. Badru waits because the message has to reach the 55th floor. Mal doesn’t do phones, and the only people with her landline are Feari and Hiero. She finally makes it to the stoop with two fire Elementals, her armed guards. “ISAM BADRU!” Her tone is cheerful, which is not like Mal. It’s usually annoyed, like Badru is the son who’s always getting in trouble at school, this feels oddly happy.
“Mal, we need to talk!”
“Bring ya ass then!” She turns, signaling Badru to follow her.
The Disciples move to the side. While Mal has run of the entire floor of the project building, 55I is where she stays. We step into the apartment, the Disciple waits outside.
“In here!” Which means wait to speak until we get to her greenhouse. Plants fill the space floor to ceiling, and she begins pruning and misting.
“How are you?” She smiles.
“Not good.” Badru doesn’t match her energy.
She looks over at him, over her big glasses. Her small black frame is aged, but not fragile or broken. She puts her plant mister down and holds her scissors like a shiv. Ready to make a move, Malvolia or Ill Will is old as hell, but she’s lethal. She runs the South Deck like a mean ass mom, but instead of getting your ass whooped, she’ll kill you.
“Go on.” She turns facing Badru. Her knee length grey locs form a long braid.
“A kid OD’ed on Black Tops.” Badru’s voice is light to calm Mal’s suspicion.
“Boy, why does everything you do lead back to Feari?” She shakes her head laughing and goes back to pruning.
“Cmon, Mal. This kid was close to Veau. I need some answers.”
She rolls her eyes and continues pruning and misting, “You know me better than that, Isam.”
“I didn’t say it was you, Mal.” He coddles her a bit more.
“So what you saying? Veau ain’t from around here.”
“I know, and I’m asking,” He corrects, “if you know who’s pushing Tops now that Feari is out of the game?”
There’s aggressive banging at her door, but she ignores it. Badru stands up hoping this is an opportunity for a fight, but she holds her hand up, holding his position.
“If anyone is still pushing BT outside of The Deck it’s someone you don’t want to fuck with. Things have been shifting for a while now, and there’s some shit fists can’t get you out of.”
He scoffs at her because they’ve always gotten him out of everything. She gives me an “I’m serious.” look.
“A kid died, Mal, give me something.”
The banging continues.
“Hold on!” She takes her time going to the door and Badru follows.
Speaking through the door, a voice responds in an ancient language Badru doesn’t know. When she opens the door a lanky black figure enters. His space black face is covered with a solid gold skull. The black velvet suit he wears blends in with his skin. Nodding in my direction he turns to look down at Mal and speaks the language again.
“It’s fine, Bone you can speak in front of him.” She instructs, before sitting at her dining room table.
“The Iyalawo are watching her.” He informs.
“Good, good.” She sounds relieved.
“Iyalawo? Mal, what are you up to?”
She looks at Bone and nods in his direction.
“It’s the Year of The Tower.”
“And? The Tower hasn’t burned for centuries.” Badru’s not buying it outright, but when he sits with the phrase a bit more and considers recent events, it starts to make sense.
“It’s already burning.” Mal reveals.
“Shit.” Badru responds. The last time the Tower burned oppressed people rose up and claimed what was rightfully theirs, a pouty facist was running the place spewing vile and lies, and fire and flying mucus almost wiped out the planet. The Tower is the make-up of existence. The Collective, the entire race of Carbon, Ori, Maji and creatures of light and dark fill the Tower, it only burns in order to rid The Collective of what no longer works, and is then rebuilt on new principals of light.
“Have you told the High Court?”
“They know.” Bone confesses. “That kid dying is only the beginning, and while I don’t know who’s selling outside of The Deck, you need to be careful because they aren’t just pushing Fear, they’re pushing something more dangerous.”
Bone holds up two vials with filled with black smoke. Bone continues, “They aren’t pushing Tops, this is something else. It doesn’t work on Carbons, only Ori.”
“What do you see, Isam?” Mal asks.
It’s filled with small spores that combust and multiply. “This isn’t Fear Essence, this is Darkness and Light Death harnessed into smoke.”