Tag Archives: Drabbletober

Hilo Tamarand, Somewhere in the west

27 Oct

Was the sky stained this color red from the fires they had been forced to set or was it the just the sun setting? From inside her helm she couldn’t tell, the burning in her eyes from the noxious loads of smoking poison the Upsheer had dropped on the advancing lines of Boneblacked wasn’t helping.

Hilo Tamarand, squinted through the eye holes of the faceplate styled in the visage of a snarling, golden fox. It took a moment before it occurred to her that there was no call to wear it at the moment. She had lived, slept fitfully, fought for a five days in full armor, so many hours that she had forgotten this wasn’t her real skin.

She wrenched at the base of the helm until it finally gave way and she hurled it to the ground with what remained of her anger and strength. It hit the mud with a noise that gave only barest satisfaction before melting, congealing and rising in a thin ribbon of gold to wrap around her neck again as an ornate choker. The cuirass bled a little more easily back into the golden bands that wrapped around her upper arms. Hilo shook her hands absently and the gauntlets and arm guards slunk back to form the ten rings on her fingers and the thick heavy bracelets. The greaves confounded her a moment. She stamped her foot to reinforce her bitter thought. ‘Come on, damn it. Bloody work is done for now.’

It was always harder to shake off the full armor, golden but impossibly stronger than gold (Hilo hadn’t yet found out what this bellisfah damned shit was.) after so long in it but eventually the lower half obeyed her will and settled back into the bangles that ringed her ankles. Left finally in nothing but her thin, black undersuit, Hilo was annoyed but unsurprised to find the foul breeze of the battle field was scorching. She dropped to a exhausted crouch and looked out across the uneven ground.

She could see the hulking pieces of the ancient engine the Deep Wright has cloaked itself in collapsed some yards away. The flesh of the Wright oozed and dripped over the ancient steel, bleeding back into the rift it had crawled from to congeal back in the stinking well at the center of the earth. Somewhere near it would be Ahmia’s cold corpse, hands covered in the inky black tar from where she pulled it’s heart out, mouth twisted and likewise covered from eating it. Ahmia had managed to crawl from the monsters body only a little way before catching sight of Hilo and begging her to do what needed to be done. One kiss Hilo accepted but did not return before sliding the dagger, made by and named for Hilo’s lover, between Ahmia’s shuddering ribs. Her body a coffin for foulness.

Five years to come to this conclusion. Five years since she left Gosslet Ahn, mouth warm from Ellette’s kisses and heavy with promises that, ‘Big Girl, wait. Just wait until after this expedition. I’m going to come home with so many rare jewels to hang on your body you won’t be able to walk. You won’t be able to do anything except lay in the rich house I buy us -away from this piss soaked slum- on silk sheets from the Branchlands while I fuck you.’

Four years since she dug her way up to the surface again, starved, terrified and bound in these golden shackles that she was foolish enough to think were merely jewelry with no idea where on the map she was. A banner thrust into into her hands she’d never set eyes on before, declared one of a handful of prophesied hero’s for a war she never even knew was brewing.

Where were those heros now? The banner she could see, ragged but standing still on the calved rift lip. That image of two closed eyes had put a fire in Ahmia’s open ones but when Hilo looked at it she could feel nothing but abandoned. When Hilo turned from Ahmia’s body to move, just away, just somewhere away from where it had ended, she had passed the body of Boursen Ran. The burly Eidlemark lay crumpled, one powerful leg bent at a sick angle under his body. One of his sleek, sharp antlers broken off in the stomach of a twisted Couslet that had succumbed to Boneblack. As she passed, in her bewildered tiredness, Hilo  congratulated him on his excellent kill. Spoke to him like a still living comrade she had drunk with in the Kef sanctuary.

“Good on you, goat man.” Hilo said, then tripped over the broken body of one of the Upsheer. She recognized the markings on the crumpled wing. One of the brave, who had held the brutal poison that could waste the flesh of Boneblacked to the core in their long beaks. Hilo had watched the legion of crane men dive from the sky into the ravaging hordes and to their deaths. That first devastating strike at the cost of so many of their people.

Some deaths she knew and others were a mystery she wasn’t ready to solve yet. Where was old Vespertine, and her great sword? Where were the Coustlet twins, hulking Veeta and Zouk? She had seen them back to back, swinging their war clubs before an arrow whizzing by her shoulder set her about more important business.

Where was Yamhill?

Hilo rocked precariously on her heels. She ran a hand through her dark, damp hair and listened to the cawing screams of the remaining Upsheer as they found the bodies of their loved ones. So many. It would take a long time for the smaller birds to pick apart the departeds flesh on the burial platforms, Hilo thought absently.

Because she didn’t want to look at death anymore she looked at her scarred, red brown hands and the gold rings, thought of Ellettes own calloused from working the forge braiding her hair into a que. The thick fingers swept over the stubbled sides of Hilo’s skull as Hilo drained the last of her weak ale and rose to tell the tavern that she would be joining the expedition into Mornay’s Rift.

When the braid came loose Hilo had mourned.

It was only the soothing chitter from over her shoulder that unmoored her from her absent thoughts. A considerate habit Yamhill and Hilo had developed over their years together to keep from startling the other. Thank Mother Sky, Yamhill did live.

“I was looking for you, Little Egg.” Yamhill said in the guttural chirps and whistles of the Upsheer.

She replied in the approximation of Sky Tongue her own mouth could form. The Upsheer could understand Trade Tongue but their beaks would never be able to shape it. Hilo considered it a courtesy to use his own speech as often as possible.

“I only needed to breath, Father Tall Neck.”

Yamhill slid his smooth beak across her neck, winding his own long feathered one around her. A supportive embrace as he understood her people gave each other when life became too much.

“No good breaths to be had out here.” He said. Hilo’s shoulders slumped in agreement. Yamhill unwound himself from her neck and she looked over her shoulder at him, frowning at the bandage on his wing. The crane man’s snowy feathers were stained with soot, the sticky tar of Boneblack blood, the more mundane red of their fellows. The emerald plumes of his tail were dulled with thrown dust.

Yamhill saw the wrinkle around her mouth and soothed.

“Very small scratch, Little Egg. I will fly again in a half moon.”

Hilo rose wearily to her feet. She twisted one of the golden cuffs absently, feeling the cold burn against her skin.

“Vespertine? The twins? Alive?” She asked dully.

Yamhill flicked his good wing outward and bobbed his head. “Old woman, we will see. A hole in her side that is very deep. The woman twin is dead. The man twin has a gone eye. One of my Wings found him clutching the woman twin and could not be moved. Until he wept to sleeping. A small mercy that sleep. He will recover.”

Hilo nodded. She twisted the cuff again. In the first weeks of taking the golden fox armor wearing it had been agony. She could barely bring herself to bathe, but now the feeling grounded her. She looked at the hulk of the Deep Wright, unseeing.

Yamill’s low squawk brought her back.

“We must continue, Little Egg. There are more of The Childrens machines buried d-”

“We go to Gosslet Ahn first.” Hilo said with finality and twisted the bracelet harder against the bones of her wrist. She felt the burn and thought of Ellettes mouth again.

“Little Egg,”  Yamhill started.

Hilo had come a long way in her studies of Upsheer language but the dam in her heart broke at his quiet reproach and so the words she spat were in Trade.

“No! I’ve spent years sunk knee deep in blood for this! I am OWED, Yamhill!”

He opened his beak but Hilo wasn’t finished.

“I’ve burnt and buried more friends than ever in my life. I’ve been away from my woman for so long I’m praying she remembers my face let alone forgives it. I put my blade into Ahmia’s heart because none of the rest of you were around to do it! Do you know what that was like? I had to hold her while she died! I did that!”

Yamhill ducked his head under her words and stayed silent when she stepped forward, accusatory finger leveled at his shining black eye.

“So this organization will fucking wait for me while I go see what’s left of my life. I’ll keep my promises but I will have this one thing first.” Hilo shook. “If anyone understands this I would expect it to be you.”

Yamhill raised his graceful head at that, because he did. He understood coming home to his nest, finding the eggs shattered against the carefully woven branches. Small unfeathered bodies laying in a pool of wet and his mates neck broken. He had laid his head next to hers and keened as one of his older hatchlings twitched and took it’s last breath. The sticky tar handprints of Some Kef or Child corrupted by Boneblack all over the entryway his nestmate liked to perch at while waiting his return during laying moons.

Hilo turned her back on him in despair to leave. She paused at the noise he made, the closest he could come to her name.

“Heee-luck.”

She turned.

“We go. To your old nest. For a time I follow you.” He said. “But Little Egg, we cannot forget what is to be done.”

Hilo shrugged, hitched up the crossed belts that held her daggers, Lady’s Kiss and Veldmark against the small of her back.

“As if it was possible to forget.” She said.

10/17 Deep Engines: The cast

17 Oct

HILO TAMARAND is in the shit. Saddled with an ancient magic armor, being one of the few survivors of a catastrophic war and tasked with an almost impossible world saving mission that she can’t turn her back on she also has to contend with the icy wrath of her lover who she had been separated from for the past five years…and her new husband.

Personal problems are going to have to take a back seat to the more pressing matter of the strange beasts and sickness that are beginning to creep up from the depths of the earth however. The undying echo of an old civilization is calling for blood and that’s not going to wait for romance.


ELLETTE VELDMARK is a rock, a solid foundation. In addition to a formidable build she is steadfast and has an unwavering sense of duty and loyalty. For all of her life she lived and smithed in the scummy Rift City of Gosstlet Ahn until her lover, Hilo, vanished during what was supposed to be a routine deep rift expedition. Grief stricken, Ellette left her home and eventually settled in the sprawling multicultural Benga Loa, one of the largest of the Rift Cities. She spent some time as a mercenary and eventually found a place with the cities Watchmen.

She’s pretty raw when Hilo has the nerve to show up, not only not dead, but in the process of being arrested.

BISMUTH BEGORAH is a Snake Eater, a member of the secret police employed by the ruling patrician of Benga Loa. As a very young man he volunteered for service in their elite ranks and proved himself an unshakable recruit. His devotion to Benga Loa is  whole identity and after witnessing a bloody riot as a child that stretched from The Throat to the Shipping Quarter he understands the necessity of unsavory measures.

Bismuth is a brilliant marksman. His skills made him eligible for a rare procedure. His right hand is suffused with treated solanite granting him uncanny power.

He lives in the Watch Barracks in the upper district of Benga Loa with his wife, Ellette, a woman he wasn’t exactly expecting to fall in love with. While she is aware of his position as a Snake Eater due to the circumstances of their meeting back when she was a sad, wandering drunk his job necessitates a certain amount of secrecy. There are things he keeps close to his chest.

**`~*“ (YAMHILL) hails from the roosts of the heavily forested western rifts. Yamhill is his Trade name as no one other race can truly form the Sky Tongue of the Upsheer and the crane men prize their names to have it butchered by Thick Tongues.

After the slaughter of nestmate and hachlings by the ravening Boneblack monsters Yamhill found himself drawn into the world changing conflict at the borders of civilization. Despite their enormous differences in race and culture, Yamhill looks on Hilo as a daughter. After a devastating engagement in the West he accompanies her back to Gosstlet Ahn in search of her lover Ellette and then beyond to Benga Loa for the next piece in the puzzle of halting the Boneblack.

Yamhill has a difficult time in the cradles of civilization that are made up of the Thick Tongue races. It wasn’t too long ago that the Upsheer were thought dumb animals and hunted for their meat and feathers. However, anyone ignorant enough to pick a fight with Yamhill will have to contend with his sharp beak and lightning quick movements.

 

HAVEN ADALSON is the youngest daughter of a respectable Eidlemark family. Both beloved and black sheep, the hooved beauty turned her back on a prestigious career as a physician in the Wide Heart Academy of Medicine. Its rare for any of the Bengan Eidlemark to refuse acclaim by attending the school carved into the rift face, but Havens heart burns for the pursuit of truth. She works as a journalist for one of the many papers that circulate through Benga Loa. Something is going on in the city, something big and Haven is going to find out what it is even if it kills her.

And it very well might.

 

MARMONT SETLEBRANC:  Marmont is one of the descendants of the ancient underground kingdoms called the Engine Children. Centuries of intermarrying and cultural blending with the Kef have eroded much of the Engine Childrens cultural history, not to mention the ocean of time and the trauma of the cataclysm that split the earth apart. Very few of the Children could be called “pure blooded” and even less have the tattered knowledge of what their people were like before hand.

But the ones who are and do sometimes join the Buried Sons. Marmont Settlebranc is counted among their vaunted number.

The Buried Sons are one part sophisticated mining guild, one part religious order and one part keepers of history. They are experts at caving and the handling of volatile materials, some even claim they can smell the differences in seams of mineral deposits. They are exceptionally resilient and can survive long periods underground without going mad or succumbing to the terrifying new sickness, Boneblack.

Marmont is slightly less zealous about cultural purity than some of his other brothers and sisters in the Sons. Still he is devout, keeping his personal tools in perfect order and covered in the traditional miners tattoos that provide luck, protection, or homage to ancient gods of this dangerous trade. Marmont is a man with a deep sense of responsibility and once his word is given he will never go back on it. It’s only since contracting with the Tiro family that he has loosened up somewhat and come to understand the value of selective flexibility.

 

JUON TIRO: The Tiros are masters of balance. They hold wealth and power, much of which couldn’t possibly have been obtained legally. And that’s true- not that the city watch could ever prove it. The Tiro family have been working in Benga Loa so long they could be called a dynasty and have the purse strings of many highly regulated business such as mining, ore refinement and even prostitution. The eldest daughter, Carissi, runs the most successful brothel in the entire city, Raw House. They operate at every level of Bengan society, from the respectable to the shadowed.

Juon is the youngest son in the family. Charming and quick spoken he is the face of his family’s mercantile efforts. He maintains a personable and professional face to the city watch while maintaining the Tiro stranglehold on black market shipments of outlawed ores and dangerous artifacts. Almost nothing goes on in the rift cities without Juon Tiro knowing about it.

Juon may as well be smoke on the wind when it comes to catching him in the act of suspect dealings. He presents an attitude of a man unused to physical confrontation. This is only a half truth though. Juon is a brilliant and creative artificer and more than one business rival has come for a meeting only to meet their end at one of Juons cleverly designed traps.

Not that you could prove it was a trap though. Accidents can happen anywhere and people can be so careless sometimes.

10/13 The Deep Engines: Myth

13 Oct

We were more numbered than the people under the sky once. From what I’ve heard, anyway.

A hundred thousand kingdoms and empires in secret places. So many gems even the children of commoners were draped in them, played with little carved toys made from rubies. Caverns so vast they formed clouds of vapor and rained on buried gardens of moss and fungus. Sweet wide rivers and deep lakes full of food.

You see the things we build in the rift cities now? All that ingenuity? Imagine that a thousandfold. So much wealth and power. The Engine Children have been a shadow since the earth split and we spilled upwards like ants.  Now it’s just thieves and monsters and wrecked cities. Who knows what the gardens look like anymore?

No, I don’t know what happened, only that there is no going back. Besides, it was a very long time ago, child. You need not concern yourself with it now.

Now I told you your story. I’m very tired now. Let an old woman go back to her nap.

10/6 The Deep Engines: Light

6 Oct

Don’t panic.

That was the first rule. Every dungeoneer heard that before they even set foot underground. Never, ever panic. You might die in a cave in or cornered by slakers but death was certain if you broke and panicked.

“The leading cause of death on expeditions is losing your shit.” Hilo Tamarand was lectured by the senior caver on her first expedition into the caverns of the old kingdoms as a younger woman. “Keep a calm head on your shoulders and you’d be amazed what you can live through.”

But there wasn’t anyone left alive to see her panic now and so she indulged.

Hilo picked her way over the broken columns of what may have been a temple, greatful for the spires of light giving gemstones that grew throughout this particular cave system. Her strike stone was barely a pebble at this point. It was all she carried with her now, that and her daggers, a frayed length of rope and the even more frayed remains of her composure. She had been trapped in the underground before, but not like this and never for so long.

Weeks. Enough weeks that maybe it had turned into months? Hilo was no Buried Son. She couldn’t tell time for such a long period underground. Her blood was mostly of Engine Child stock but blood wasn’t a honed skill. She had traipsed the ruins of the underground often enough to know the distance between what her people were and what they are now. And since she was no Buried Son she would never be foolish enough to believe that distance could ever be bridged.

There were eight of them when the expidition started. Now just one in the swallowing dark. No supplies and very little hope.

There were things that stalked the cavernous tunnels and narrow crawl throughs. That hung upside down from carved ruined ceilings, damp and sightless and hungry. It wasn’t a good idea to make too much noise but she was so alone. Hilo carried on imaginary conversations with the people she had left up there in the light.

“This was stupid, Ellette. Really stupid. You were right.” He voice thin and echoing among the ruined stone. “I shouldn’t have taken this fucking job.” A tunnel was cut into one side of the cavern and she cut towards it. Even though she was starving a terrified she had at least begun to get something resembling her bearing again, heading towards what she knew to be at least vaguely ‘upwards’.

“I found this amazing crown. Emeralds all over the thing. You would have loved it. I’m sorry I had to drop it.” She muttered, “I was going to pry one out before I sold it and have it set into a necklace for you.”

One of the glowing crystals had grown on a toppled carving of some dead emperors face and Hilo snapped it off. She lept lightly over a sunken crack in the cave floor without much thought, stumbling slightly as she landed. She didn’t stop talking.

“I had handfuls of queens jewels. A solid gold dowser. We would have been set.” She plodded into the dark tunnel on raw feet. “What? I know, I know, Big Girl. Can’t spend if you’re dead. Like I said, this was stu-”

A dull clattering sounded far down the tunnel, stalling her babble. Hilo froze.

Silence for a moment then a low, questioning moan drifted from the gloom. Hilo panicked again, turned and fled beach the way she came, leaping, ducking, bare feet bleeding through her wrappings and in her fear lost her bead on what was ‘upwards’.

10/4 All Night: Shoes

4 Oct

The sole of boot had come off at the heel. Miles of traipsing through the dust and scrub out in the Dusk finally doing it it. Clarence had tolerated it for a while until he pulled in to gas up about a mile outside of the closest relocation camp. A group of children slouched around a defunct pump watched him owl eyed when he went in to pay and fill his canteen in silence. The stiff sole slapping loudly against his heel. When he walked out the children timed their claps with his steps and grinned gap-toothed.

Clarence stopped and the children stopped. He squinted at them from over his shoulder. Then he resumed trudging back to his car to the mocking applause. He peeled out and made a half hearted rude gesture through his open window.

It was only a little ways to the outcropping of red rock he had picked to bed down at for the sleep shift. The Teller on his wrist chimed just as he pulled into the flat landing. Clarence wrenched the beaters stick into park harder than strictly necessary. He twisted in the drivers seat and sifted through the detritus that filled his backseat for a minute before swearing and heaving himself out. Yanking open the back door Clarence threw himself across the junk and rooted around the floorboards, tounge tucked up into the gap where his bicuspid used to be, one eye screwed shut in concentration.

“Aha! Aha ha ha!” He crowed to himself when his hand closed on a leather bag that had gotten jammed under the passengers seat. Odd. Normally he kept it in the trunk… Or no, it was his mess kit he kept in the trunk. Clarence snatched the worn woolen blanket from where it was draped over the drivers seat as he withdrew from the cluttered back seats. He spread the blanket over a smooth rock and sat, dropping th bag at his feet and removed his boots. He set them tenderly to the side.

Less tenderly he dumped the leather bag into his lap, plucking out the tube of ‘Maxwells sup-ER sticky’ and tucking it under his arm so he could sweep the rest of the the bric a brac into the bag again. He picked up the damaged boot and flipped it upside down to inspect the sole. There was a cobbler he knew of about seven miles away, in Claxon, but Clarence had earned his first handful of hedgebacks trapping a flitterwing that had been making nests in an old ladies squash garden and damned if he’d spend it on something that wasn’t whiskey or fuel.

The instructions on the tube said to use a penny sized amount but Clarence used four times that. He pressed the hard sole back up against the leather. Glue oozed out the side and over his fingers and he wiped them absently against his pants as he set the boot aside to dry. Clarence folded his hands in his lap, stiff with drying glue, and squinted into the deep dark of the Nightside. He thought of nothing in particular until a hollow shriek sounded from overhead.

Glancing up he could see the dim eddy of a wisp cutting through the sky. Big one it looked like. Maybe some work would come of it.

Somewhere he could hear the buzz of mud wasps at work in the crags of the outcropping he sheltered in. A few succulents had started to bloom around him, sighing a subtle sweet breath into the air. Beautiful, peaceful, lonely.

For a moment Clarence missed the camps. Only a moment though.

He took the Teller off his wrist and swept the blanket over one arm to spread over the dusty ground. Before he laid down and tucked his arms under his head he switched on a channel from the Dayside he knew played hours of radio dramas. It was a habit he had gotten into in the past few months of traveling by himself. The chatter made him feel like he was a child again, falling asleep to the sound of adults talking outside while he dozed with his sister on their shared bed in the one room of their shanty.

Even interspersed with news from the radio, Clarence could hear voices that made him feel like he had some company here in the liminal space between the constant day and night where he slept on the hard ground.

(Read B. Sabo’s All Night comic at www.allnightcomic.com to see what this piece was inspired by.)

10/2 Ridden: Threads

2 Oct

The little boy sat on the weathered cypress porch playing with a little stuffed lizard Misca had stitched together for him. He cradled it gently, occasionally made it wiggle in front of him in a parody of walking before hugging it to his chest again. The boy rocked gently and peered with wide dark eyes into the dim evening light that filtered through the moss that hung from the swamp trees.

“All saints, he looks like he hasn’t ever had a toy before.” Miscas wife, Thierry, remarked.

Misca murmured in agreement and wound the extra thread back on to the spool, tucking it into her side pocket again. She licked the end of the needle and slid it into the lapel of her jacket with the others, a descending line of sewing needles, silver, steel, brass and copper. They gazed across the still surface of the swamp together in their easy silence for awhile. Across the water in front of the cooking lodge two younger witches dumped mussels into a large copper pot. One of them stood, caught sight of the two older women and waved a greeting before wiping her raw hands on her apron and stepping back inside. A dragonfly buzzed past the boy and he rolled away, squealing and clutching his new toy.

Thierry laughed. “Luken, come here, child.” She reached out her large hands to him and he scuttled a zigzag path to her. She lifted him under his arms to set him in her lap. “They look big and scary, but they’re harmless.”

Luken looked up at her with his huge watery eyes. His mouth hung open.

“See,” Thierry pointed. “Look at it out there playing with its friends.”

Luken buried his face in her chest.

“Oh, sweetheart. It’s alright.” She rocked and hummed. The boy put his fingers in his mouth and shut his eyes. Thierry heard Misca draw a weary breath from beside her.

“What are you thinking there, old woman?”

Frustrated, Misca ran a hand over her short grey hair. “Skin Magic is a hard discipline for anyone. It’ll be traumatic for him with all he’s been through already. Not to mention he’s the youngest I’ve ever heard of to start learning it and he has no inherent knack I can suss…”

Thierry hushed her wife. ” Don’t break your head thinking of things we can’t change, ey. We convened with the others when Greeta sent him to us. It’s the only way to show him how to control it.”

Misca glanced over at Lukens slight back, frowning at the fresh cut across his shoulder blade. The village Skin Witch, Green Sally hadn’t wanted to do it and Misca hadn’t wanted to see it happen. Not that they had a choice when the fearful child started to burn. Sally’s hand shook when she pressed her palm to the wound she had made and concentrated. It took a great deal to turn a Skin Witch’s stomach Misca knew from experience.

“This will be hard, is all I’m saying. And the Ostermen will not stop hunting for him. You know that.”

“So we protect him. We protect our own.” Thierry shrugged. “What was that beautiful thing you told me when I first came here?” Thierry swept her arm in a grand gesture. “‘We are all threads woven into a dense and beautiful tapestry. We will hold together.‘”

Misca groaned and made a face.

“I was drunk when I said that. I was just trying to impress you.”

“I married you though, so I must have been very impressed.”

The two of them watched the fireflies rising up into the gloom in silence for a moment.  Misca spied a small dark head peering around the corner of their shanty.

“Who is that there? Bryony, is that you? Come here, girl.” Misca beckoned to the shy girl creeping out from her hiding place.

Thierry gently pulled Luken away.

“Luken, would you like to make a friend?” She asked kindly.

Luken shook his head fiercely.

“Bryony, maybe if you showed Luken your trick? Luken, look.” Misca pointed at Bryony who had reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny seed. The little girl looked at him from under her dark bangs and smiled a slow proud smile.

“Hi. Look what I can do.” She held the seed in front of Lukens face. “I just learned.”

Bryony tucked her tongue into the gap of missing milk tooth and concentrated. The shell of the seed split. A thin green vine twisted up from it, sprouted a heavy bud which burst open into a bright red blossom. Luken held on to his stuffed lizard and leaned over to look. Bryony offered it to him.

“You can have it. I can do lots of different ones now!”

Luken took it but buried his face back into Thierry’s neck. Misca sighed.

“I’m Bryony…” The little girl tried.

Luken didn’t show his whole face but still, one dark eye opened and muffled against Thierry’s skin he said quietly,

“Luken.”

And that was a small thing, but it was something.

10/1 The Deep Engines: Dying

1 Oct

“What do you think, goat man? We all die here today?”

 

“You can’t think like that. Ignore death until you see it’s shape in the corner of your eye.” Boursen Ran told Hilo when they stood on the wall of the ruined fortress with the others. Over their heads the tattered banner of the Unseen flapped in the wind sweeping up from the gorge, the shut eyes painted on the yellow silk looking like a sad send off.

 

Hilo Tamarand fidgeted in her golden armor, scratched under the gorget absently with the edge of her dagger. From their vantage point they all looked down into the darker rift at the bottom of the gorge as a black shape armored in steel was beginning to rise. Before it the terrible corrupt army was starting to claw upwards.

 

“So optimistic.” She said dryly.

 

Boursen Ran tossed his head, the sharpened silver tips of his antlers glinting. “Not optimism.” He said. “No time for that and no time for thought.”

 

On his left the Upsheer, Yamhill took to the sky with a flap and screech, summoning the rest of his bird men to the first assault. On his right he saw old Vespertine test her grip on her great sword. Ahmia raised up her fist and from the high granite outcropping he knew without looking hundreds of arrows were knocked and held. The Coustlet twins, Zouk and Veeta licked their teeth and crouched. The gibbering roar from below grew louder.

 

Boursen Ran glanced over at Hilo as the terrible noise crested. He took the time to give her a wide white grin before raising his heavy short sword. “Only time for a slaughter.”

 

He didn’t think when he charged forward. He didn’t think when he cleaved through the bodies of open mouthed slakers or when one of the towering monsters knocked away his sword. He also didn’t think when he headbutted the beast in the stomach, felt one of his antlers snap and give way or when he felt the thing claw his stomach to ribbons.

 

Now laying on his back in the mud, twisted and crumpled next to the huge body of a Coustlet oily slick and stinking with Boneblack corruption with his guts spilling from the hole in his middle Bousen Ran had nothing but time to think.

 

He thought of the Hanging City. The daughter he had fawned with a textile trader who wasn’t interested in a Setmate but had wanted a child. He thought about the way the sun looked when it slanted through the kitchen window that faced out onto the open air of Durthan Rift as he wrapped gold wire around his daughter’s budding horns.

 

He thought about what her mother had said.

 

“It’s so far away though. You don’t actually think there is anything to worry about do you?”

For his entire adult life Bousen Ran carried a sword to guard the Hanging City. He kept the Traders from Benga Loa and Sekmets Climb in line, forged outside of it when need be to protect the seat of Eidlemark culture and prosperity. When the rumors came from the west that some unheard of threat was crawling it’s way up from the buried kingdoms he listened, even when the Set Council did not.

 

Boursen Ran saw the shape death in the corner of his eye grow closer.

 

“I don’t know. I hope not.” He had told the mother of his fawn. “I just want to be sure. It’s close enough to the city to make me concerned.” He kissed his daughter between her horns and bounced her on his strong red furred knee.  “I’ll be away for a while in any case.”

 

“Ah? So you’ll be back then?”

 

“The Hanging City is my home. If I don’t return…” He handed the little girl back to her mother. “If I don’t return you know something is wrong.”

 

It had been three years.

 

Boursen Ran coughed and gagged on his own blood. He hoped the mother of his child had taken him at his word.

 

From somewhere over his head he heard a clacking noise. The sky tongue of the Upsheer. He had never really gotten the hang of it. A long orange beak dipped into his dim field of vision, one golden eye fixed on his midsection in consternation.

 

“Hello, beaky.” He said weakly.

 

The Upsheer made a concerned noise and dipped her white wing in front to his face so he could see the red paint across the feathers. One of the healers. The Upsheer began pulling dried moss from the pouches tied around her long legs. He gurgled a wet laugh when she tucked it into the gashes in his flesh.

 

“Leave it, beaky. It’s done.”

 

The Upsheer trilled, a high distressed noise. A young noise from someone who hadn’t yet seen so much dying.

 

Bousen Ran thought about the arboretum’s planted into the cliffs, the swinging rope bridges, his first boyhood fight where he had broken a Set Brothers nose. The scolding he had gotten afterwards. Unflitered sunlight. The rooms he had in the center of the city. Most Eidlemark lived in the cliffside dwellings but Boursen Ran had liked the constant breeze.

 

He thought about his strange unwanted companions and hoped some of them had lived. Verpertine, Hilo, Yamhill, the twins. The sounds of fighting had dulled. Maybe it was just because his heart was so slow and loud though, maybe he imagined that.

 

He tried to tell the Upsheer still peering down at him, Stay with me for just a little while. It’s not going to be long now and I’m far from home and I’m afraid… But all that came out was another gurgle of blood.

 

“Pl-” Boursen Ran’s fingers twitched.


The shape of death became clearer as the Upsheer laid her warm, long neck across his throat to try to still his shuddering and Bousen Ran thought of how his daughters horns would look fully grown and wrapped with gold and gems. He thought of the swaying tenements in the Foreigners Quarter, the bouquets in the springtime market, drinking during new moon fairs and the last warning he gave the mother of his child.

Drabbletober

1 Oct

For artists it’s Inktober, a time to flex their skills at the drawing board with brush, quill and pen.

I wanted to try something a little similar with prose.

So for the month of October, every weekday I’ll be posting short pieces of writing at my blog ahappygoluckyscamp.com featuring world building and character studies from projects I’m working on. This is an experiment to combine freeform writing with actual planning for scripts and to sharpen my prose. Every day my collaborator Brittney Sabo will give me a word and I will write at least one paragraph concerning that word.

The schedule is as follows:
MONDAY: The Deep Engines

TUESDAY: The Legend of Bold Riley

WEDNESDAY: The Deep Engines

THURSDAY: Ridden (a collaboration with B. Sabo)

FRIDAY: All Night (B. Sabo’s excellent comic which I’m allowed to play with a little bit for the month)

Welcome to Drabbletober, hope you enjoy the word vomit.