Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dead Man Walking

((This came about when, half-asleep, I started to wonder what sort of character Hadeon would be if he were not tied to the WoW universe. Then Captain Deon Smith walked up and slapped a mission report into my hands, metaphorically speaking. I've also echoed a friend's character as a main face here, with her permission. Yes, if Hadeon were human, he'd be played by Idris Elba, black armor from Pacific Rim and all.))

Written while listening to Dead Enough for Life by Icon of Coil.

Chicago, Downtown Elevated; UCAS – November 14th, 2072
. . . . . Bullets whizzed past and struck the wall three feet above and to the left of his head. Captain Deon “Hades” Smith squinted as the shower of sparks from said bullets striking the smooth metal of the wall momentarily overloaded the night vision on his goggles. What the hell were the bastards using - stick-n-shock rounds? Despite the black gloves on his hands, he had no trouble manipulating the tiny button controls on the side of the goggles and turning on the flare compensation; when the damn eff-comp decided to respond, however, was up to the finicky old piece of junk on his head.
. . . . . “Cap, we've been made!” came a voice in his headset.
. . . . . “No shit,” Deon muttered as another set of sparks set his eyes watering under the goggles. He moved his hand to the sub-vocal mic on his throat and activated transmission. “Copy that. Keep your heads low and fall back to the north stairwell as planned. No heroics.” There would be more cursing, but with the mic hot, he'd keep that to himself. His soldiers had long since learned to stop giving their captain a ribbing about his aversion to public profanity.
. . . . . Flare compensation finally kicked in on the ancient relic he was wearing and he carefully dropped to his belly behind the terminal stand he was using for cover. God bless paranoid corps that chained their worker drones to desks even though interface terminals could be wireless; they were even more of a relic than the decade-old goggles on his face. His team kept the chatter to a minimum while he peeked out at ground level towards the elevators which had seemingly brought half the twenty-two story building's security up at once. Deon hoped it was because they were busy concentrating on getting their asses out of the fire.  
. . . . . When he pulled his head back, the man crouched behind the terminal parallel with him raised one shoulder in something between a shrug and a question. The Cajun had always had a way with body language. “Eleven at the elevators, including a troll with what looks like a shoulder-mounted RPG,” Deon reported over the line. “And they're using electrics, so don't go trusting too heavily on those ballistic vests, aye?”
. . . . . Lieutenant Remy “Shark” LeChay chuckled, “Like we'd be testin' 'em 'gainst grenades otherwise?”
. . . . . Another voice cut in, suddenly loud in his ear through the headset, “North wall breached! We've got-” 
. . . . . A low rumble followed by a deafening bang, then static made Deon's heart stutter in his chest. “Tina? Tee, report! Tee!”
. . . . . “They're swarming, Cap,” came an unusually quiet, sober response from PFC Renner. “We're humped.”

Monday, September 23, 2013


Written while listening to The City Is At War by Cobra Starship.

((In an attempt to ensure I felt properly in-character for my upcoming table-top session with this character, I decided to write a short vignette from her perspective. This is Abigale Two Thunder - a.k.a. "Zata" - from the Shadowrun universe.))

. . . . . Abigale's hands shook as she lit the cigarette clamped between her lips. As she stabbed the match out on the scarred synth-wood of her coffee table and drew a pull of smoke in, images from her medical training flashed in her mind – shriveled, blackened lungs, the A-Z how-to of performing a tracheotomy, yellowed teeth, metastasized lumps of uninhibited cell reproduction. She tried to decide what was worse: knowing what she was doing to herself or knowing why she'd started doing it in the first place. A groan cut through the silence of her tiny flat as she put the just-lit cancer-stick out in a stale cup of soykaf. She couldn't do it. She was still too clean, too responsible, too safe to kill herself – even slowly.
 . . . . . “I have got to find a different outlet,” she muttered, letting herself fall backwards onto the futon which served as both couch and bed. Six-thousand nuyen more in her bank account and she still couldn't shake the nauseating feeling that she was clawing her way out of a million nuyen hole. And that hole was on fire. It had been ten months since bailing on Denver and she still spent every waking moment looking for Red Hands over her shoulder, waiting for the corp to cotton on and send a retrieval team, breaking into cold sweats like she had the DTs every time she heard the metallic click-clicks of an engine turning over.
 . . . . . Taking a deep breath that still tasted faintly of nicotine, Abigale started running through her nightly litany. “This is Seattle. You are not you in Seattle. You are Zata in Seattle. You will survive in Seattle.” Her breath hitched in a snort but she pushed herself onwards. “You make your own fortune here. You have no one to pay for. You know what end of the gun to point. You know how the fire flares.”
 . . . . . The ritual of reassurance was the only sound, if one didn't count the ordinary creak of pipes and thumps of heavy-footed occupants upstairs, in her flat. She didn't even rustle fabric as she pulled a sheet up over her still fully-armored body. In the last ten months, Abigale had gotten comfortable sleeping in her armored jumpsuit, comforted by the stiff prods and unyielding pseudo-ergonomic curves of the plating. A re-breather shared her pillow and a Colt L36 was her teddy bear.
 . . . . . “You know how to ghost,” she told the darkness as she turned off the light. “You know how to deal with Mr. Johnson. The shadows are feared. The shadows are respected.” As an image of the Awakened hobo huddling under the overpass and negotiating with another hobo for entry into the goddamn ACHE, a humorless laugh barked out of her, interrupting her catechisms of courage.
 . . . . . “I am in such deep drek.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Necessary Sacrifice, Part 2

((This is set some 20 years in the past in this universe.))

 . . . . . A crowd surrounded Master Vincenzo's residence well before I'd finished the mile-and-a-half sprint to reach it. Elua forbid that I should ever try such a stunt again. Bent over my own heaving bellows, I tried not to vomit my breakfast onto my shoes while I listened to the angry rabble around me. I recognized several students among them and was certain that many more I simply did not know were there as well.
 . . . . . “The Masters are exploiting us!” came one angry Caerdicci shout.
 . . . . . “It is the foreigners corrupting our virtuous women!”
 . . . . . “Oh, shut it, Andros, you're foreign!”
 . . . . . “Your mother is foreign!”
 . . . . . An elbow crunched down on my bowed spine and it was truly just instinctive reaction which led me to shove my shoulder sideways into my unwitting attacker's knees. With a yelp, he fell, flailing out to catch another man in the stomach with his fist. That man, enraged – once he stopped barking for lack of air – fell upon the first with fists. Cries of “Fight!” rang through the crowd and before anyone could quite put stop to it, the crowd gathered in front of the residence had devolved into fisticuffs.
 . . . . . I gained a few bruises for my troubles, but I managed to dodge the worst of it as I battled free of the riot and found myself at a wooden door set into the stucco-brushed stone walls protecting the Master's loggia. The door itself was painted a rich green. While I was busy considering how to scale the wall and gain access to the balcony above the loggia's arches, the door creaked open. A furtive face peered out, marked by the broad nose and curly hair of a Hellene.
 . . . . . He spied me and made to close the door, but I hissed “Wait!” as loudly as I dared. “Wait, please, I beg” I repeated in Hellenic.
 . . . . . That earned me a skeptical look, but the man glanced towards the corner I'd rounded which separated us from the rioting crowd at the front and nodded once. I was attired – and dirtied – as a gardener, not a University student, and my Hellenic was of the common man instead of the orator.
 . . . . . “What has occurred here?”
 . . . . . At the man's beckon, I pressed my back against the wall next to the door and listened to his quiet words. “Great tragedy has befallen my master's household,” he bemoaned. “Lady Basilia has been foully murdered for refusing the advances of one of my master's students. A sweet and innocent lady! I shall never see her warm smile and soft brown eyes again!” I heard the clack of komboloi as the servant fingered his worry beads. “Master Vincenzo has gone to the magistrate with the city guards to provide information so the student may be caught. He fled! Oh, the misfortune, he slipped right past me!”
 . . . . . “I am sure all will be righted in time,” I murmured to the servant as the beads clacked somewhere behind the door. “Dike throttles Adikia.” An old Hellenic saying, I assured him that moral justice prevailed over injustice.
 . . . . . An approving cluck of the tongue was the response, followed by, “You should leave before this gets worse, especially being Kriti.”
 . . . . . “Especially?”
 . . . . . “The student was Kriti. Actually, he looked a bit like you, with longer hair.” The servant peered out as if inspecting my shoulders for recently clipped strands.
 . . . . . “No, I've not had a haircut recently,” I demurred even as I strapped a bit of mental steel to my spine in preparation for another full-speed flight.
 . . . . . “Even so,” the servant warned.
 . . . . . I took him at his word and pushed off the wall, fleeing into the streets.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Necessary Sacrifice

Written while listening to Prophecy by Remy Zero.

((An evolution, if you will, of something dated.))

 . . . . . “Hoi, brother.” A lanky shadow fell across me, blocking the warm shaft of afternoon sun I'd been basking in. I cracked an eye open and focused on my twin. We were not identical, but quite similar, sharing the same warm brown eyes, thin and broad builds, large hands, and wooly hair. Theo let his curls grow long, tying them back in a puffy mass which resembled the belly of an ewe – while I kept my own too short to be springy. One of his curls dangled near his left ear, and I knew that was the one he tugged on when he was paying attention to something else.
 . . . . . It was mid-afternoon. The grass beneath me was spry and the tree at my back sturdy and happy. I blinked a few times and looked to my right. While I'd been napping, the painter had packed up her easel and departed.
 . . . . . For several hours here in the park, I'd watched her practice her art, sketches of passersby turning into quick, colorful paintings. The last had been an exotic, dusky couple stopping at at sweets vendor along the walk. The petite, dark-haired woman bought a rosewater confection and the towering man behind her took it from her upraised hand, removing two bites which he appeared to relish before sharing the morsel with his lady. The artist had been halfway through something beautiful in deep reds and warm golds when I'd fallen asleep here in the sunshine.
 . . . . . Now here was Theo interrupting my basking.
 . . . . . “What,” I groused flatly, closing my eyes again and trying to wave him out of the warmth.
 . . . . . The leather of those damnable too-tight pants he insisted on wearing creaked as he crouched by my side – blessedly out of my sun now. “Get up,” he hissed, “I need you to take my bag home for me.”
 . . . . . “You take it home for you.”
 . . . . . “I can't.” He drew out the last vowel into at least four extra syllables.
 . . . . . “Why not?” I did the same.
 . . . . . I felt my hair ruffle and smelled cheese – a blown-out breath of exasperation. “Because I don't want to haul it to Master Vincenzo's.”
 . . . . . “Wouldn't you want to take your work to your master?”
 . . . . . His knuckles connected with my shoulder, jostling me from the tree. I felt momentarily bereft. “Because he invited me to dinner.”
 . . . . . That finally convinced me to stop lolling in the grass. “What.”
 . . . . . “Master Vincenzo,” my little brother said slowly as if speaking to a dim-witted child, “invited me to his home. For dinner.”
 . . . . . “Oh ho!” I cackled like a bold hen. Or was that old biddy? Eh, details. “Aren't you going to go home and change first?”
 . . . . . “Cha-... OH!” Theo threw his hands up in the air and rose so fast my head spun with the motion. “I should change!”
 . . . . . I scooped the skin of water next to me off the grass and wobbled my way upright. “Take your bag back home with...” He was already fifty yards away. “You.” I sighed and picked up his satchel.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Apropos of Absolutely Nothing

So my main role-playing hub these days decided to create an "anything goes" section for a few days, where we could post - according to the rules of the subforum - anything we damn well pleased. I pondered for a time what I wanted to write, when this scene leapt fully-formed from my brow and refused to get out of my way until it had been written. The setting belongs to my partner-in-crime, Eredis, and is roughly equivalent to modern day alternate history. Similarly, re-imaginings of characters once bound to a single setting reappear.

There is no point to this scene, no reason for its existence beyond the fact that it obstructed me until I let it free. I decided to share it because one line in it makes me giggle.


. . . . . Instead of looking out at the lonely expanse of polished wood that passed for a dance floor, Rosoe buried her face in her folded arms on the table next to a half-full glass of very expensive martini and groaned.
. . . . . Sitka! Hey, sitka! Look!”
. . . . . She quite pointedly did not look until his yelling became insistent enough to be more annoying than the erratic thumping beat of the song. Out on the dance floor, entirely without benefit of a crowd to conceal him – at all – was the minor Nordic landmass known as Ôzurr Bergmann. Two long, blond braids of beard swayed across a chest only barely contained in the XXL t-shirt he wore as he flailed his arms in perfect disharmony with the music. Years of chasing her up mountains and across sand wastes and down barely navigable rivers had returned his fighting form, but he was still built like a moose's love-child with a bear. As the lead singer (if one could call the erratic spoken form 'rapping' such) passed once more through the chorus of being sexy and he knew it and was not afraid to show it, Oozy – what she affectionately called the northern lug – wiggled his hips suggestively towards her. The lyrics continued to instruct such and she put her head down again.
. . . . . Behind the bar, a Moroccan barmaid polished a glass and giggled.
. . . . . “You see, sitka, Zoë knows what she sees!”
. . . . . Rosoe counted to ten before she raised her head, the thick tumble of dreadlocks falling back as she squinted her black eyes at the giant wheeling and wiggling alone on the dance floor. Mindful of his fragile ego, she called out over the music, “A bleached bear trying to catch honey-bees with his pinga?”
. . . . . Oozy didn't deflate in the slightest. “You think I am built strong like bear?” His voice held a note of preening.
. . . . . As the song blessedly transitioned to something just as thumpy but less embarrassing, Rosoe picked up her martini and stood up. Hips swaying, she walked over to the north-man and patted his chest soothingly. “Yes, mwen renmen,” she murmured, rising onto the tips of her toes to plant a kiss on his cheek. Oozy's pale cheeks turned beet red, and he didn't even flinch from the spark of static jumping from her lips. “You are strong like bear.”
. . . . . Leaving him to dance alone once more, she walked over to the bar and leaned forward over it, well-aware of the distraction her leather-clad derriere provided. “Zoë!” The barmaid – some little chica between fifteen and twenty-two, it was quite hard to tell – smiled her bright, sunny smile at Rosoe.
. . . . . “What are you needing, boss?” Her English still needed work, but Rosoe wouldn't be the one teaching her; Rosoe already had a terrible patois of English, old French, Haitian, and gutter Spanish. Thanks to Ôzurr, she was adding inexplicable moments of Russian and Norwegian to it.
. . . . . Nevertheless, she had to try. “It's just 'what do you need, boss.' And for you to remove that song from the playlist.”
. . . . . “But Mister Azure loves it!”
. . . . . Rosoe didn't bother correcting the nickname. “It is a terrible excuse for him to terrorize people. You want people coming in here for drinks, yes?”
. . . . . Zoë looked closer to fifteen than anything as she looked down and mumbled something vaguely affirmative while she dried a glass with a bar-rag.
. . . . . “No one will come in when word gets out that a white devil beats others with golden chains here.” So she was exaggerating. Morocco was not truly so insular; in fact, they were quite used to tourists and no one expected much from a run-down watering hole in a back alley. She just wanted an excuse to keep Ôzurr from humming that damned song in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


((In which someone new based - again - on someone old shows up. The actor-image representing Dionysos Iraphiotes is a picture of Liam Neeson. He is and at once is not at all familiar in my head canon.))

. . . . . Plip! I miss the sky...  
. . . . . Plip! You know, if I look at it just so, that rock looks a lot like Deora's tits.
. . . . . Plip! If I don't find the source of that drip in the next five minutes, I'm going to lose my mind.  
. . . . . Oh. Wait. That last one was me. Blinking my way out of sleep, I realized that I was lying face-down on the battered wood surface of a potting bench. The stool I was sitting on had managed to cut the blood flow to my legs off somewhere around mid-thigh, and the tingling pain was blood-starved toes and not frostbite setting in. The incessant drip was not rain-water on unyielding stone – which, truthfully, made more of a Flop! sound anyway – but condensation from the glass panes above me collecting and dripping into an empty metal tray on the top shelf of the bench.
. . . . . I had just begun to consider whether or not my legs would hold my weight steady if I slid off the stool when every piece of very expensive glass in the small greenhouse rattled in its frame. Steady thumps followed it and I was just bothering to lift my head off the bench when Zeno lumbered into view.  
. . . . . “You're worrying Mother,” he rumbled, crossing arms like twigs over a barrel chest – or is that arms like tree trunks over a keg chest? I never get metaphors right. At any rate, Zeno was big, the kind of big which came from being able to arm-wrestle bears and lift horse-drawn carts on his own. From the way he said it, you'd think worrying Mother was a crime on the same level as defaming the king.  
. . . . . You'd probably be right.  
. . . . . I reached over and swiped a wineskin off the potting bench and was just about to wet my mouth with its contents so I could respond when Zeno clamped a meaty hand on my wrist, took the wineskin from me, and tossed it casually into a tray of rye seedlings. As cheap fermented grape juice soaked into the loamy soil, I think I whimpered.  
. . . . . “And how can you stand to be around yourself? Have you taken a single bath in the last three months? Pshew!”
. . . . . “I had one on Friday.” Three Fridays ago, but who was counting? Me, I suppose. Perhaps Zeno too, since he caught my wrist again.
. . . . . “Bath. You stink.”  
. . . . . He turned and started to walk away, pulling me off the stool. As it turns out, my less than sanguine legs were, well, less than sanguine about the idea and my knees buckled. Zeno didn't notice until one of the tables covered in baby vines tied with twine to toothpicks rattled ominously because my right shoulder had just banged into it.  
. . . . . I looked up at my older brother from my comfortable sprawl on the dirt floor, my left arm well above my head and caught in his hold. I tried a winning smile. I didn't win anything. Zeno dropped my hand unceremoniously, then took two steps until he was standing next to my waist. I will admit, I was jealous of the way his knees didn't even creak a little as he crouched down, shoved a forearm under my back, rolled me over and lifted me onto his shoulder in one smooth motion.
. . . . . “I'd like to register my objection to your crotch, brother,” I mumbled, jouncing along with my head unpleasantly near his waist.  
. . . . . “And I object to your stench. And the way you've been treating Mother and Father. Theo is out telling bard's tales at the Split Peach. You're going to have a bath, drink several glasses of water, and go join him.”  
. . . . . “No?”
. . . . . Zeno grunted at me. It's strange how he could make a grunt sound suspiciously similar to 'Disobey me and I'll rip your arms from their sockets and beat you into bloody unconsciousness with the stumps.'
. . . . . Not yet entirely resigned to my ignominious fate, I tried wheedling, “Can I have a tankard of ale while I'm there?”
. . . . . This grunt was a span of degrees more violent.  
. . . . . “Fine. As long as my objections have been noted.” Unable to do anything about it while endeavoring not to stare at my older brother's pants' placket, I was carted out of my greenhouse quite against my will for a bath.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Challenge

((Zurine Haizea - my Guild Wars 2 character - has seen new life in a much more fitting setting in the new forum. She is represented by a somewhat altered image of the Egyptian actress Nelly Karim. Ironically, her original story has changed very little from its roots in GW2 and, indeed, the first draft of this piece was written in that world and needed only a perspective shift and a few name alterations to be reset.))

. . . . . The wattle and daub coating of the wall behind me pulled a few sable strands of hair free from their neat captivity every time I turned my head, but it was nothing that could be helped. There was quite simply far too much worth watching to stay still. A bracelet caught the afternoon sun with a gleam of silver. A flounce of lily pink silk swirled across the cobblestone street. A red ribbon, dark as freshly-spilled blood, fluttered from a man's back as he strode among the market stalls.
. . . . . That's the one, I decided. Never mind that it was trailing from the hilt of a broadsword strapped across his back; plucking that prize free would be child's play. I wanted that ribbon.
. . . . . Beneath my slight weight, the daubber's scaffolding did not shake or tremble as I crossed some ten feet above the street, flashing between drapes of canvas that protected the market-goers from falling clay as it dried. My belly rumbled a protest that my mark was no flatbread or juicy pear, but I paid it no heed – the demands of the body were a distant second to the rush of pursuit. The man was taller than many in the market by a third again, his wide shoulders cutting a track through the crowded streets as easily as a chef's knife through melon flesh. There went my stomach again...
. . . . . As the wooden supports below me ended, I had to take my eyes from the taunting ribbon long enough to pull myself to the roof and jump across to the next building. It was no more than a matter of sixty seconds, but in that time, the man vanished. A scowl twisted my lips as I scanned the market, looking for the behemoth among midgets. It was like trying to track a sand flea! But then a dark shape loomed some half a block beyond where he ought to have been, and I raced across the rooftop to catch up.
. . . . . It took two jumps and one precarious crossing involving a clothes-drying line, but I caught up to him, and then surpassed him. Planning carefully, I dropped down from the edge of the rooftop, heels catching on an awning covering a doorway below. Despite broad daylight, all eyes were occupied with market goods and I remained as invisible as if cloaked in night. He would have to pass by here – I need only wait; the linen merchant's stall across from the building I perched on along the narrow street would force him close enough.
. . . . . Indeed, circumstances were in my favor and a knot of women stopped to finger bolts of fine lawn, cooing over misty blue fabric the likes of which would never touch my own poor skin clad in rough-spun. The giant man had to step close to the building to avoid them, and that's when I leaned out as far as I dared, one hand bracing along the awning's support as the other stretched forward. Warmth radiated from the sun shining on his dark, clean-shaven head as he passed just under my hand and my fingers caught up the red ribbon to unravel its simple knot as he walked past.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nine-Letter Word for Shy

((Image chosen to represent character is a Canadian singer, Natasha St-Pier. This short short is meant as an introduction.))

. . . . . It was nearly six in the afternoon and, in the short days of deep winter, that meant it was quite dark outside. The broad windows which let in light for us to use during the day were merely glassy walls now, occasionally reflecting back to me the glimmer of candlelight. Only the archivists were trusted with flame among the royal collection - and even then only in carefully crafted, closed lanterns which extinguished themselves immediately upon leaving the vertical axis. It was some clever design from Siovale, certainly.
. . . . . I hardly cared that it was dark. Evenings were the only time I could really get much done, since no one cared to wander the Royal Archives in the pitch of night. I had claimed for myself a broad oaken table on the upper floor of the archives, my notes set neatly before me as I cross-referenced the sections of Shepherd of Knowledge: Shemhazai's Founding with the handwritten notes - some hundreds of years old - about the companions of Elua. Oh, alright, so Shepherd of Knowledge: Shemhazai's Founding was still a working title. I hadn't actually completed it yet. That's why I was here, alone, nose-deep in ancient dust.
. . . . . There was a thud behind me. I shrieked and rocked back in my chair, pushing away from the table as I tried to find the source of the sound. Of course, working in lantern light had left me night-blind and I could barely see the bookshelf behind me, much less anything else. "Hello?" I called out. "It is after hours..." Only silence in reply.
. . . . . Then another sound, a scuff like a boot toe against the tile floor. I turned towards the noise, still blinking night-blind eyes as I tried to make it out. "Hello?"
. . . . . A figure materialized out of the shadows, limned golden by my lantern's fire. He was fair, blond, and gawky of limb despite surely being near my own age. "Oh, thank goodness you have some light. I...uh..." The young man trailed off and smiled wryly at me. "I fell asleep in the stacks and I can't find my way out."
. . . . . Oh for Elua's sake, I thought, twisting my hands at my waist as I tried to smile through the interruption to my work. "You're upstairs. Here, I can lead you out." I turned back to the table and picked up my archivists' lantern. It would take me fifteen minutes to lead him all the way to a portion of the royal grounds which was well-lit at night, but the last thing I wanted was further interruption. "Sh-shall we?" I grimaced at my stammer and tried to gesture for him to walk before me in the circle of light cast by my lantern.
. . . . . I still had time to work on my thesis. Morning wasn't for eleven more hours.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Third Charm

((The character of Zera-Marie - I told you there'd be similarities - is represented by a Roma child captured on film by "maksid" on Flickr, mildly altered in Photoshop by me.))

. . . . . At least, I thought as I hiked my skirts up so I could fish beneath them and produce my right slipper, I had the foresight to run off at a nice time of year. Truth be told, I could not fault the warm spring nights or the sunny, flower-filled days. Terre D'Ange is a beautiful land to be lost in, even in its poor sections. Dusk painted the stones and daub and wood shop walls of the street in pomegranate and wine as I turned my little leather slipper over and shook a pebble out of it. The stone stoop upon which I sat was still sun-warm even through the three thin skirts layered atop each other I wore. I'll just...enjoy this...a moment... I thought drowsily, leaning my left shoulder against the door post.
. . . . . "Oy!" came a gruff call followed rapidly by a bristly whack between my shoulder-blades. "Out of the doorway, Tsingani brat!" The mistress of the shop shook her broom threateningly at me as I tumbled forward with my slipper in hand.
. . . . . "A thousand apologies, good woman. May Blessed Elua smile upon your kindness," I murmured in fluent D'Angeline, hopping on one foot until I had my slipper back on, then sketching a curtsey of, if not impeccable grace, at least genuine humor at the scowling woman. She muttered grumpily at me and took to her stoop with a vengeance, as if to remove some trace of my dark skin left on her lily-white D'Angeline masonry. I was confident she would not sweep away the small blue bead I'd dropped in the crack at the edge of the door where it met the street - a little charm to cause the gaze to slide off of one, useful for sneaks...devastating for businesses.
. . . . . Missing the slow, seeping warmth of the stone stoop, I pulled my shawl tighter against my shoulders and continued up the paved street. It was my first night in the City proper and I'd been quite used to the warm breeze of spring across the meadows, which all these close little buildings blocked, their shadows too long in dusk and chilling the air before it was properly full dark. A delicious smell drew me ever uphill, a scent built of warm air, puffed flour, hot butter, and a hint of some herb I could not yet identify. While I puzzled through it and walked up the street, the steady warning ring of shod hooves on paving alerted me to listen harder. It was coming from behind and to the left. I was on the right side of the street, and therefore it would pass without concern. Indeed, in short order, a chestnut roan of middling quality and high pride - if the lift of her head was any indication - and a well-dressed lady sitting sidesaddle trotted up the street. I kept at least fifteen yards from the demon in horseflesh, pausing my walk to allow it full berth.
. . . . . Pausing put me in the unfortunate way of several jostling, loud young men whose wine-and-strong-cheese scent momentarily overwhelmed the complex, yeasty scent I'd been following. One young man raked his dark eyes down my young body and broke from his group. Smiling unctuously, he sidled up and dropped an arm down atop my shoulders. "A little kiss, youngling? For a man off of to war on the morrow?"
. . . . . I wanted to rush from under his arm and straight into a cold bath at his touch, but it would be deeply rude of me to wish him true ill if he was off to defend his fair city. I could not find it in me to begrudge him drunken revels, slimy or no, and so I smiled brightly, rose up on the tips of my toes, and kissed his cheek. "For luck, brave soldier," I said, ducking free of his arm with a deft turn. His companions laughed at how easily I'd eluded him and a shadow passed across his eyes.
. . . . . "You call that a kiss? Come give me a proper send-off, Tsingani wench!"
. . . . . It's a shame I wished him genuine luck, I thought as I caught my skirts up in my hands and took off running at a full sprint up the street. There were hoots and shouts behind me, as well as more laughter, but no sound of pursuit. Still, I did not slow until that delicious smell intensified so much that the mystery herb in it became apparent. Tarragon, for courage... I stopped in a darkened doorway to catch my breath, my right hand pressed against my charms to silence their rattle and heave.
. . . . . "Well," came a deep, slightly scratchy voice behind me, "come in then, and have a roll."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Winter Eyes

((I've gotten involved in yet another role-play universe, but this is one is a first for me. Rather than being based in a freeform world or a game world, it's set in the world created by Jacqueline Carey in her Kushiel's Legacy series. I feel conflicted about writing so derivative a piece of short fan-fiction, but it was Carey herself who promoted the group on her Facebook page and led me to find them, so I can't imagine that others writing inside her world bothers her too much. Besides, it got me fairly inspired to consider the "other" characters to inhabit such a world, so I'm giving it a shot.
Regular readers of my work will recognize similarities in the characters. Standard practice in this group is to use a picture of an actor or model to represent the character, so this one is represented by a picture of Tilda Swinton. I probably won't burden my story blog with much about this character as it's forum-based RP threads instead of the story format I use for WoW characters.))

. . . . . If there has ever been a season for me to be most fond of, it is winter. Though the sun is high and small, it seems to lend such a crisp-edged sparkle to the land in winter.
 . . . . . Of course, when your livelihood is grapes, this is not an acceptable fondness. There was no one to scold me for it, however, as Rienn and I hurried down the colonnade just as the bright eye of the sun was making the dawn sky blush with its studied gaze. I had taken great care in choosing warm woolens and in tucking my scarf ends into my sweater so they could not tangle in aught.  
. . . . . "There he is!" Rienn cried in as hushed a voice as an excited five-year-old could manage. Our steps hastened until we stood at the edge of the courtyard, awed to silence as we watched Father's new Cassiline bodyguard perform the steps of an intricate yet - obvious to even our young minds - deadly dance. Brave in our sojourn from the beds we were meant to be in, my brother and I stepped out as a piece, our little chins lifted with confidence.
. . . . . "We want to learn," I said, my voice breaking across the rime-touched stones of the courtyard.
. . . . . "Teach us, please!" Rienn followed, more entreaty to sweeten my haughtiness.
. . . . . The Cassiline did not even pause the flow of his steps, continuing on in what seemed to us to be interminable quietude until the form he had been in was completed. I could not even hear hastened breaths from him, though he had been in deadly earnest moments ago. While our presence seemed not to surprise him in the slightest, his brown eyes widened when they alighted upon me - and the way I had bound my shoulder-length hair up in a club in imitation of his own black locks. But he shook his head and fixed his attention upon Rienn, beckoning him over. "Only boys may, youngling. You should get back to bed before you are caught out."
 . . . . . Rienn looked at me, his grey eyes imploring. What could I do but nod? When I did, he darted from my side to stare up at the Cassiline in awe. I turned away.  
. . . . . And promptly ducked behind a column, down along the courtyard wall, over to a decorative shrub some ten feet from where we had entered, and crawled beneath it. From my boxwood shelter, I pressed my tiny hands between my thighs to warm them as the Cassiline began showing Rienn how to move his body. Quickly, my brother shed his coat and scarf, the activity warming him to a sweat - while I refused to give into the impulse to shiver for fear it would shake my hiding place and reveal me. Though more frozen than I imagined possible when I escaped my warm blankets that morning, I watched. The clear, sparkling air of winter was my magnifying glass and yet the window pane I pressed my face to. Separate I may have been, but I am nothing if not ever observant.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


A collaboration with the player and writer of Eredis Orill.
Written while listening to Pompeii and Arise by E.S. Posthumus.

((I just realized that my magnum opus, the longest piece I've written in a decade or more, isn't on this blog. Since it was co-written with Eredis, it's on his blog but I think it belongs on mine too. So here's the big one, and ironically posted on the fourth anniversary of the founding of the Knights of Menethil. We wrote this piece collaboratively over two years, e-mailing it back and forth. Coincidentally, this work formed the beginning of our relationship in person. And seriously, pop those music links open in sequence in another window or something and give them a listen; they really frame the pacing of this piece.))

. . . . . . Golden dawn light limned the sails and almost lent beauty to the war-torn, ice-battered boat docked at the harbor at Valiance Keep. The dawn light struggled in vain against the puffs of sooty steam from the ship’s main power source, the coal fires banked while the ship sat at anchor. On the wooden docks, activity bustled as quickly as if it were well after noon. Pairs of deckhands carried large wooden crates between them from the ship’s hold to the land end of the docks while a leather-skinned man with a flat nose which took up half his face and wearing a grimy quilted coat, screamed threats in a voice more suited to the penguins on the ice floes than the visage of a grizzled old bosun. 
. . . . . . The bosun hadn’t been up more than three hours and he was already in high dudgeon – stuck on the docks like a common longshoreman instead of up in the rigging where he belonged. “If’n ya go droppin’ those crates in ta th’ water, ya best be ready ta jump in afta ‘em, ‘cause those black-‘earted deaders are worse th’n th’ frigid sea!”
. . . . . . A low, raspy voice came from over his left shoulder and about two feet up, “My heart is more of a navy shade, vhat parts of it are not yet vorm-eaten.”
. . . . . . Leathery brown skin visible between a gray woolen cap and an equally bland scarf went slightly green-tinted. “Naga’s tits, ‘ow’d ya sneak up on me wit’ those ‘ooves?”  
. . . . . . “Practice,” the draenei female in heavy plate armor behind him said with a strained chuckle. A brisk wind off the seawater ruffled her short, tarnished white hair but did nothing so kind as to bring extra color to her stiff, ashen ebon-gray face. The glint of dawn off her bladed pauldrons showed the inordinate care she took for her armor. Not even the sea mist or the coal smoke marred the battle-pocked surface. Slung across her back rested a most curious large axe – the blade’s runed edges and the crossed nails hammered into the pommel seeming to hold a fresh-from-the-forge glow despite the winter’s chill.
. . . . . . “Vhen zis is done vith, I am goink somevhere tropical and green,” she muttered to herself, just loud enough for the bosun to overhear. “Perhaps I can convince zat damned dead elf to lose herself in Stranglezorn.” Frowning suddenly, she reached underneath her right pauldron, plated fingers scraping noisily between her breastplate and the shoulder armor as she pulled a small, stiff, blackish-navy worm from the gap allowed by shoulder articulation. “My blood vorms are all frozen over!” she grumbled. The small frozen worm was dropped into a black leather pouch strapped to her belt.  
. . . . . . The bosun turned greener still, harrumphed, and tried his level best to ignore the looming deader at his back and her gruesome parasites. “Watch it, ya addle-pated, bow-legged bilge rats! Tha’s expensive damn cargo!”
. . . . . . Shaking her head, Commander Valdiis left the bosun to scream imprecations at the crew and followed a pair of deckhands up to the land-side of the dock where Major Eredis Orill and the ship’s captain were deep in negotiations. Valdiis presumed it was about payment for shipping and unloading all these supplies for the unit, so she cocked a plate-covered hip against a tall crate and waited. The dockside smelled of stale fish, frigid sea, and coal steam – the mélange sharpened by the winter’s bite that almost made the air itself sparkle with frost. Floating almost innocently in the steely-gray waters were the tips of much larger floes of ice, interspersed with the occasional fin of something predatory and suited to frozen waters.
. . . . . . It wasn’t until one of the deckhands came over to Valdiis and sheepishly motioned for her to abandon the crate that she was leaning on that she stopped sniffing the air and daydreaming about warmer climates, and started paying attention to what the Major and the ship’s captain were saying to one another.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Safe Passage

Written while listening to Female of the Species by Space.

. . . . . It seemed like only seconds had gone by before a loud banging on the door rousted Zurine Haizea from her nap. Startled awake, she leapt out of the swaying hammock set up in the corner of her temporary quarters, her lithe frame moving from prone to upright in an instant. By dint of willpower alone, she did not flail as she gained her balance on the gently rolling wooden floor; it would not do to flail about, even when no one could see her. A lady did not flail.
 . . . . . The banging on the heavy wooden door separating her quarters from everything else began again. “One moment, please,” she called out, taking care that her voice carried the appropriate unhurried, low pitch of a woman unconcerned with urgency. She raked her fingers through her hair, giving it an artful tousle around her face before she strode across the room and lifted the latch free. A short man in salt-stained linen stood before her, his fist still upraised as if to further abuse the already-beaten planking.
 . . . . . The expression on his face said it all, really. He had not been among those to see her get on the ship.
 . . . . . Zurine's smile was dazzling, white teeth framed by titian lips set into swarthy skin which was never-the-less as smooth as whipped caramel for all its sun-darkened color. Her sable hair formed gentle waves on either side of a face too strongly-featured to be called aught but handsome. All together, she knew what effect the features she had been graced with had on many men, and she was quite satisfied to use this set of tools as she would any other – ruthlessly. After a moment of the sailor's dumbstruck silence, she let her pleasure at startling the man subsume itself into a warm inner glow she kept to herself and a pleasantly expectant expression, the strong brows set above her citrine eyes coming together faintly. She almost regretted using the full measure of her looks against a man who likely did not see enough of women as it was. Almost. As the moment drew too long, impatience set in and she let subdued, melodious tones convey her displeasure at being woken from her nap: “What is it, mariner?”
 . . . . . That seemed to finally bring the man to some semblance of sense. His raised fist became a pitch-sticky hand to run through his sun-bleached hair – which only served to pull several strands of it out and spike the rest unattractively – and cleared his throat. “Beggin' y'r pardon, m'lady. Th' cap'n sent me...” He trailed off, his gaze dropping to her chest where a pale gold cambric blouse demurely covered all but a hint of cleavage. Not that his gaze had far to fall – he was nearly as short as she at five-foot-two. She cleared her throat delicately and his murky blue eyes snapped back up to her face. “Ah. That is... 'E wanted a word, 'e did. Sent me t' fetch y'r ladyship.”
 . . . . . “I will require a moment.” With that, she firmly shut the door in the sailor's face and turned back to her room. She needed something which carried just the right balance of femininity and expense while not looking precisely fragile... There. That was perfect. From the wooden armoire bolted to the wall of her temporary quarters, she removed a long black jacket, the dark gabardine wool embroidered with intricate gold thread at the cuffs and down the lapels. Two gold hoops from the locked box on her desk – similarly bolted to the wall – went into the tiny scarred openings on her earlobes, placed by tradition on her seventy-seventh day of life. A glimpse in the wavy silvered glass attached to the front of the armoire door showed her the effect she'd made, and she was satisfied.
 . . . . . The sailor had moved to the wall across from her door, propping up the polished planking of the hallway with his paltry shoulders. He had to be the lookout, to get so much sun like that and yet remain so scrawny. As she closed the door behind her gently, he snapped to attention and tugged on the bottom of his linen shirt.
 . . . . . “My moment,” Zurine said quietly, “is not quite up.” Aware of the curious eyes on her wool-covered back as she moved, she rapped her knuckles lightly against the door set some several feet down the hallway from her own. As if he'd been waiting for her – and knowing his hearing, he probably had – her companion opened his door before the echo of her last knock had even faded. No words were exchanged as he simply ducked his head a bit to clear the door lintel and stepped out of his temporary quarters, closing his door behind him as gently as Zurine had. With a gracious wave of her hand, Zurine indicated that the sailor should lead the way as Zigor Itzal fell in behind her, his capacious shoulders nearly brushing either side of the hallway and his dusky hairless head bowed slightly to keep from doing the same to the ceiling of the hallway. His presence was a familiar comfort, and the lightest of touches between her shoulder-blades – just below the fall of her hair – was all the communication necessary as they both followed the sailor to answer the captain's summons.

 . . . . . “As I'm sure you can see from the map, milady, our charted course has become more dangerous than originally plotted when you boarded and paid for passage. With the risks to my men, I'll be up front with you – I'm going to need more coin for this voyage.” The captain of the Lyssa's Tryst braced his weather-beaten hands on either side of the navigation map spread out on his desk and took a deep breath before trying to look the lady in the eye again. There was something deeply unsettling about her golden gaze, like she didn't blink quite often enough perhaps; he couldn't quite explain why it was so hard to meet her eyes. Years of similar post-boarding scams had taught him, though, that to own this fight, you had to look your mark in the eye with flinty resolve. The frozen citrine of her eyes knapped his flint, shoving his gaze away as easily as if the giant behind her had physically directed his ocular challenge elsewhere.
 . . . . . “It's the storms, milady. I'm sure you can understand...” Captain Garmon was proud of himself for keeping the tremor out of his voice even as his cheeks flushed in shame at being unable to hold her gaze.
 . . . . . With her slight frame, the rough-hewn chair across his desk dwarfed her, yet somehow seemed a primitive throne under the force of her presence. “What I understand, Captain,” she remarked quietly, “is that you are attempting to take advantage of me. Do you know why Mister Itzal travels with me, Captain Garmon?” Lazily, she lifted one hand and flicked her wrist so that two fingers caught his attention and bounced it up to the mountain standing behind her chair. Even though his neck was bent to avoid hitting his bald head on the planked ceiling above him, the colossus did not need to be able to stand tall to look intimidating; a narrowed look from eyes too ice-pale to be real was enough. Captain Garmon gulped as the petite woman settled her hand back on the chair's armrest and continued, “A lady alone is all too easy to victimize, her virtue and coin her only bargaining chips. With Mister Itzal at my side, I have rather improved my negotiating position. Don't you think?” The smile which graced her carmine lips held mirth, but there was nothing warm about it.
 . . . . . “The storms could drive us onto the ruins before we reach safe harbor, milady,” the Captain tried again, not looking at either of his passengers as he leaned over the map and pointed at the warning sketch of crumbling pillars just outside the Sanctum Harbor. “My men are taking a great risk to sail when such weather threatens.” A whisper of breeze was all the alert he got before the realization struck that he could not take his hand away from the map of Lion's Arch now. Quivering in the wood of his desk and piercing the stiff cuff of his broadcloth shirt was a finely-made dagger. From the way the light of the lanterns in his quarters gleamed off the blade, it was sharpened on each side and well-oiled.
 . . . . . “Then I would hope,” murmured the swarthy woman as she reclined in her chair, “that your helmsman is highly-skilled, yes? Don't jerk your hand about like that; you might accidentally get a bit of devourer venom on your skin. Now, we will be getting to Lion's Arch precisely in the condition – physically and monetarily – as agreed upon when we boarded, won't we?”
 . . . . . Captain Garmon froze – and not voluntarily – as the devourer venom which had brushed the inside of his wrist wormed its way into his bloodstream and took over his nervous system. A series of loud cracks had him looking up before his eyes froze too, gaze locked in terror at the leather-wrapped hands of the giant as he placed an open hand over a fist and cracked his knuckles, then switched hands and repeated the gesture.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


This series of short stories has been written in response to in-game occurrences. A new mercenary company with hot-shot spies has cropped up to threaten Division Eighty-Four as the sole intelligence arm of the Knights of Menethil.

. . . . . "Do you know how loud a heartbeat is in a place that never has one?"
. . . . . Grinning impudently, the petite woman in scuffed grey leathers dropped down off the stone ledge running about nine feet above the floor of the hallway in Acherus. Both her hands were clasped in front of her as she rocked back on her heels and bent at the waist like a schoolgirl with a secret. "Fiiiiine. I know I ent sneakin' up on you f'r nothin' anyway, boss." As inconspicuously as possible, she melted back into an alcove.
. . . . . The death knight whose walk she interrupted paused to press a shoulder to the wall as he adjusted the fit of his pauldron. "There's a reason I have you use the crows."
. . . . . "Aye, aye. But I didn't wanna be tellin' Norm this 'un an' he'd have t' write it up an' everything."
. . . . . "Out with it."
. . . . . "One o' y'r wolves came sniffin' about me earlier today. Saw me send that crow-gram this afternoon."
. . . . . "Did he now?" A gauntleted hand came up as the death knight inspected his armor for - and brushed free - a bit of dark explosive powder.
. . . . . "Knew my name, boss. My description. Now how'd a man o' th' grave be findin' that? You ent sellin' me out, are you, boss?" Instead of sounding threatening, she sounded scared. Small, fragile, and scared.
. . . . . The gauntlet produced a cupcake through some mystical feat of prestidigitation, and just as miraculously, a small hand covered in a fingerless grey leather glove made the cupcake disappear once more. "I assure you, if you cross me to that point, you will be aware of it." The chill in the response brought an audible gulp from the shadows which had nothing to do with the consumption of baked goods. "Have you considered that you gave your name and a description was taken when you signed on at SI:7, and that SI:7 was raided some months back? By now, those files are on the open circuit." Another fearful gulp. Unfazed, the death knight checked the hang of the spines writhing on his belt. "As a strictly undercover operative, your cover is getting thin."
. . . . . "I c'n change th' look up!" came a swift protest.
. . . . . "That is not the issue. I know you are more than capable of that." There was a pause as one of the hapless mooks stuck on foot patrol marched by, his expression speaking of tedium unshaken by the Brigadier standing in the hallway while he adjusted one of the straps on his chestplate. "Who was it that approached you?"
. . . . . Between bites of cupcake, she answered, "Looked li' -mmmf- you a bit, 'e did. Wot with th' -nomm- spines on 'is belt. Ebon -mmfle- tabard, hood up. Right 'bout six tall. -mmwah- Tips of 'is fingers were pale, an' he said 'is spines came from Northrend. Seemed t' imply he an' I shared a home, if you catch my meanin', but he ended up tellin' th' gal - roundaboutly, mind - that 'e was concerned with th' Knights 'Ebon or Menethil' which makes me think 'e's yours. A right wolf though - said it 'imself a few times. In th' business with a brother. I ent knowin' you had brother pairs."
. . . . . "What 'gal'?"
. . . . . She took a breath of still, fetid, chilly air and continued, "He was approached by a gal with a hood, gave a name of 'Esleca Desarc' an' claimed 'Crusade' an' 'Verdict.' She wanted unfettered access to Acherus from him in turn f'r givin' up info on some 'fel friend.' Mentioned problems with someone wot you lot ran into in th' Enclave. Had a fancy paper she said was from th' Highlord wot she gave 'im." There was another breath in the shadows.
. . . . . "Th' dead fella said he'd have an associate send a letter." Her tone was almost despondent, not a far cry from the earlier fear in her voice.
. . . . . "Send up a crow when it arrives."
. . . . . There was a sigh. "Can I 'ave another cuppy-cake?"
. . . . . As if by magic, a second one appeared. "Consider this report paid for."
. . . . . "Of course, boss!"


. . . . . Twilight painted the newly-reinforced walls of Light's Hope in pomegranate and wine, the red haze from the plagued lands to the west deepening the strained sunlight as it slouched on the horizon. Bone-tired and rattled, Ilva finally crawled into the small traveling tent nestled at the base of the southern wall.
. . . . . "Oy, budge over. I need room too, y'know," she groused at her companion, already in the tent. She crawled on hands and knees into the peak-roofed tent, her slim shoulders brushing one of the heavily slanted fabric sides as she tried to find space on the wool-packed sleeping mat she shared with Norm. For his part, he lay on his stomach, ignoring her in favor of some complex wiring diagram. She took care to put an elbow just above his kidneys as she flipped over onto her behind; he grunted and scooted over two inches.
. . . . . "What'cha readin'?" Wiggling and twisting, she began unwinding the mottled gray cloth and leather she used for shadow-work.
. . . . . "High-yield, shaped seaforium charge," Norm muttered absently.
. . . . . "Ooo, talk dirty to me, Badge," she joked, flopping onto her back and lifting her hips so she could peel her tight leather pants off. Something in her left pocket made a crunchy sound. There shouldn't be anything to make a sound like that... She stilled, a frown pulling her brows together as she worked a hand into her pocket and pulled out a crumpled note. "Wot...?" Propping herself on one elbow, she stared blankly at the squiggly lines. There were less of them than in the report she'd sent up by crowgram earlier in the day, and she knew she'd sent that paper up. What, then, was this? She smoothed it out on her thigh, then thrust the paper under Norm's nose, between his eyes and the wiring diagram. "Nooorm! Wot's this say?"
. . . . . With a gusty sigh which spoke tomes upon tomes about annoyance, Norm pulled the note out of her hand and held it farther from his eyes so he could read it. "'Don't take it personally, but I didn't have time to chat.' Chat? 'Meet me for a drink sometime, and I'll explain the particulars that my "knightly" brother hinted at.' A drink?! Signed, 'The Black Wolf.' Wot the-...?" A feral growl resonated from Norm's throat and Ilva stilled on instinct. "You been sniffin' around other men, Ginny?" Her back hit the wool sleeping pad as self-preservation took over and she exposed her belly and throat in submission. A heavy thigh slid over her legs, pinning her down, and a sword-calloused hand spanned her neck. Norm's breath was hot with rage as he bent his head and snarled in her ear, "You smell like cupcakes an' death, li'l Rabbit..."
. . . . . Swallowing hard pushed her throat against his hand, but she couldn't help gulping for air before trying to explain. "It weren't like that, Norm. Honest! There was this stiff - one o' bossman's men - asked a moment o' time. I just put my back to a tree an' heard 'im out." Twelve years of strict training over her body's responses was the only thing which kept her from stiffening in alarm as she realized that someone must have slipped that note into her pocket after she sent the crowgram. She'd not been bumped, felt a brush, or even a breeze. The tree didn't even rustle. No one was that light-fingered! "The stiff must've magicked it into my pocket, Norm. I swear I didn't do nuthin'. I ent into bangin' coffins. I swear it."
. . . . . The hand on her throat didn't move. "You been a doxie before."
. . . . . "I ent been one f'r years an' you know it, Norm." She whined pathetically as he set his teeth on her ear and tightened his hand just shy of enough to make her dizzy. "I wouldn't be givin' you lover's notes t' read me," she reasoned, "I ent stupid."
. . . . . There was more of the wolf in Norm's voice than the man as he growled in her ear, "You gonna meet this man for a drink?"
. . . . . "Ent particularly keen on it, no."
. . . . . "You said this stiff's one o' th' Baker's?"
. . . . . She tried to nod, but stopped when her chin bumped his hand.
. . . . . "I got a plan..." Norm mused.
. . . . . Ilva breathed a deep sigh of relief as the angry wolfish man released her and went back to his wiring diagram.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Stables

((Saving a piece from forum creep. The prompt was to write about our mounts.))

. . . . . As the cursed thing he was, the mysterious adjunct weaponsmith for the Light's Blade remained so far removed from his own people that he did not even know they had stables - and even if he had known, he had long since sworn off most visits to the Aldor tier after High Priestess Ishanah had declared him unworthy of even a simple traveler's blessing. Hadeon did not want what stained his soul to touch those exiles who remained in the Light, so he kept to himself until the loneliness and solitude grew so overbearing that he terrified himself by seeking a few hours among the Light's Blade. Given the images which regularly assailed his mind whenever he was in the shining city, he tended to avoid Shattrath altogether most of the time. No, his mount - like his rider - lived alone and isolated.
. . . . . Zangarmarsh lacked the memories and images many other places on Draenor held for Hadeon, and so it was a smallish cave in the southern mountains of Zangarmarsh where he and Thubaab kept some semblance of residence when he was not in Stormwind or Ironforge, picking the brains of the dwarves for alloy research. Hadeon was a latecomer to metalworking, but the lack of a need for sleep and the need to bide his time until he could fulfill what he remained in this tainted shell to do meant he had gotten quite good at it over a short span of years. What had been a hobby in life was an all-consuming mission now. Scattered around the cave were linen and wool sacks of different ores and powdered minerals. A stack of books - some bound up in leather, some in linen, and some truly more hastily-bound paper than anything else - sat next to an extinguished lantern on the cave's dirt floor. A broken shard of mirror rested as a paperweight atop an intricate chart of the material properties of the various phases of elementium and obsidium at temperatures above ambient.
. . . . . In the farthest corner of the cave, dried rushes from the marsh had been scattered to make a comfortable place for the immense greenish-brown elekk to rest. A stand wrought of artless scrap adamantite held a feed sack high enough for the elekk to eat comfortably. Several thick blankets (which smelled of an elekk) were neatly folded near a large shovel (which smelled like the other end of an elekk). Thubaab was clean, his food fresh, and he was free to wander out of the cave and into the marsh as much as he liked - which wasn't terribly often, since he never could get himself proper purchase on the swampy land which started about a quarter-mile from the cave.
. . . . . At this very moment, Hadeon has planted a backside covered in thick, protective metalworker's leathers on the cave floor next to his settled elekk. He leans back to rest against the beast's broad ribs. The adamantite fused to the back of his left shoulder is chilly - as always - but Thubaab has long since learned to tolerate it as the price to be paid for pats and hand-fed glowcaps. Thubaab is exceptionally fond of the glowcaps. "Looks like a lot more'n I thought made it," Hadeon muses aloud in the sort of Common one expects to hear from lowly soldiers. "I think the shock of it made 'em looney, though." Thubaab snorts a response which could mean anything from 'By Velen, you must be right, old chap' to 'Shut up and give me another glowcap.' It's probably the latter. Hadeon rolls his eyes skyward for a moment and mutters, "It's already been 'stablished that I'm crazy, so don't even start that conversation again." Thubaab gets another glowcap. It is late afternoon and, except for the dead man talking to himself in the cave and the occasional excited wuffle of the elekk seeking treats, quiet. Rather typical, really, for any given snapshot in the life of this exile among exiles.

((In my forum RP post about our mounts, I wrote about some of the metallurgy journals Hadeon keeps. Inspired by Vitaska and powered by a whole lot of tracing, cool fonts, and awesome brushes from DeviantArt, I decided to try my hand at reproducing one page of his journal. Huge props to anyone who knows where I found that diagram from (hint: my materials science class inspired it), and even more bonus points if you know why the point Hadeon circled is important.))

A Strange Voice in Shattrath

((Archiving a written IC reaction to an in-game RP to save it from forum creep.))

. . . . . Driven to the extremity of loneliness, the decayed, angry adjunct smith for the Light's Blade left his elekk Thubaab with a bucket of glowcaps to keep him happy and braved a forty-minute walk to Shattrath City. He hated it there - all those memories and ghosts haunting the place - but he needed the company in ways he had not comprehended when he was living. Never again would he be the gregarious, social creature of his last twenty-seven thousand years... Yet he found his grip on himself faltered if he spent more than a few months in isolation.
. . . . . A rock jamming into the crevice of a permanently-cracked left hoof forced him to stop just shy of the northern bridge into the city. He cursed as he bent to dig it out, and that's when he heard the whisper: "Death is so vivid in my mind now that I fear it has drowned out the memory of anything else. When will we be free? Is anyone coming?"
. . . . . Hadeon glanced skyward and - well out of earshot of the bridge guards - muttered a response in flawless Orcish which was both vocal and a mental sending, "Retz? Quit messing with me. I thought we agreed you would shut up." There was no reply.
. . . . . The stone cleared from his hoof, he set out across the bridge, stopping halfway to peer down at the Lower City below. A ghost bloodied in vivid, glistening navy was milling in the throng of living traders and refugees, and made his stomach - or what was left of the icy, decayed mass where it would have been - roil. "Damned cesspool city," he muttered in Draenei, ducking away from the edge of the bridge before the ghost could look up and notice him. Once across the bridge, he headed around to the nearest entrance to the Terrace of Light. The walking dead man had stood before A'dal twice; it was agony, sheer skin-flaying agony. Standing in the entryway with part of the wall to shield him, he grit what remained of his rotting teeth together against a burn like lying face-down on the coals of a forge and tried to remember what it felt like to bask in the Light.
. . . . . Then it came again, several voices whispering at once: "To find the stalker, you must ask the earth she walks upon. Beg the wind she is carried by. Bargain with the water she bathes in. And beseech the fire of her heart. The answers shall come in the land of the ancestors..."
. . . . . Hadeon looked skyward again and backed away from the entry to the Terrace, his large, gnarled hands coming up to press the linen wrappings around his biceps into his cracked skin. Wasn't me, goat. Angrily, he hissed and backed away farther, heading towards the Scryers' Tier as he thought fiercely in Draenei towards the unknown source, Nether-blasted ghosts! Get back to the Lower City cesspool where you belong!
. . . . . And then the tenuous mental connection he held to the Light's Blade erupted into activity, assailing him with more voices - all of which had heard the same speech about this stalker. It almost felt like the days of sharing cramped spaces on the vessel with his vindicator detail. Before he could stop it, a sob tore from his parched throat. The noise itself was enough for him to clamp down on his control, strap some mental steel to his backbone, reassert the chill of death on the soul trapped inside. Still, the terrible maw of solitude gaped behind him, ready to shred his control again. Tentatively from behind the thick mental wall he kept between himself and his comrades, he reached out for the first time in...ever: "Would you like aid?"