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.