Friday, April 29, 2016

City of Curses: Sphinxes (Maralda's Notes)

#Crux, City of Curses, is a dark fantasy setting of intrigues, early industry and more than a little horror.  Here's a piece from Maralda on her first meeting a Sphinx, and some material on what Sphinxes are like in the setting overall.

Adopted By A Sphinx

I never stopped fleeing my father's estates in the Blood Quarter as a teen.  Sometimes it ended in horrible fashion for me.  But other times, I learned things.  Things I think my father would've never approved of.  Sphinxes always teach some sort of insight.

Embarrassing myself in front of three of them, though, I hadn't plan for.

"Omph!"  I tripped as I continued my climb up Mount Eidda.  At its peak was Ith's statue.  Sixteen, I thought I could get up there on my own.

Why?  Because I was a stupid kid who thought she could do whatever she wanted.  Even after a Feyborn Horse kidnapped me being, I'd never bothered to learn my lesson.  I still fled home looking for something else.  Something new to define me.  They say there is writing on Ith's statue atop Mount Eidda.  I wanted to read what it was.

I clung to the edge of the rock face.  Somewhere, at some point, I'd managed to get off the beaten path.  "C'mon.  There has to be a trail here somewhere..."

I slipped.  I fell.  Not far, but enough for pain to wringe up my arms.  Skin and blood dripped onto my dress.

"Ow."  I laid there for about ten minutes.  Nothing broken, just my pride.

"So, you plan to do that again, or have you learned your lesson, little one?"  A voice said.

I looked around me.  No one else was on the trail.  Well, it wasn't a trail, more of a series of bushes and rock piles.  Piles, I started realize, weren't easily climbed.

The voice sounded like a woman's voice.  But bigger.

"Up here."  She said.

I looked up about me.  Lying in a massive tree above, a pair of blue feline eyes studied me.  A woman's face, with red and black hair.  She had the body of a black panther.  A pair of massive, raven-black wings folded at her sides.  She lounged in the crook of the tree, like a housecat studying a little mouse.  Like a mouse, I hadn't seen her.  Eek.

"Uh..." I stumbled back.  "Sorry, I'm... I'm trying to get up the mountain."

"Mount Eidda?  Really?"  The Sphinx adjusted a necklace around her dark, black furred neck.  A purple amethyst that glittered in the light.

"Yes!"  I told her.  "I'm sorry if I disturbed you, but I'm trying to make it up there before sundown."

"Sundown?"  The black sphinx looked around.  "It's going to rain, dear.  You are aware of that, aren't you?"

"Oh."  I looked up.  The sky was full of dark clouds.

She licked her lips.  "Honestly, child.  You're bleeding too."

"It's just a little cut."

"A little cut?"  The Sphinx sighed.  "You are climbing up a trail once nicknamed Death's Walk.  Ancient Tomasi used to send unwanted children up here to die.  Landslides kill one quick."

"Oh."  I paused.  "Is... is there a better path?"

The Sphinx chuckled.  Four times my size, she kept looking at me with a look I didn't quite like.  It reminded me of what my own cats at home used to do.  No, I didn't like that at all.

I felt foolish.  A Sphinx was going to eat me.  My father would just laugh his head off about it too.  Yuck.

"Determined aren't you."  The Sphinx observed.  "Let me guess, you want to read what it says at the statue?"

I blinked.  Then I nodded.

"Curious too."  The Sphinx continued.  "I think I won't eat you, not yet."


"Want a ride?"  She asked me.  "Ride?"

"My sisters and I were curious how long you'd keep at it."  The Sphinx said.  "And as much fun as watching a girl like you die would be, I can't.  Not if you want to learn something."

"Why would you... I mean... Yes!  Please?"

The Sphinx landed next to me.  She studied my wounds.  Then she sang a song, in a tongue I could never hope to repeat.  That was the day I met a Sphinx for the first time.  It also was the day I decided I loved stories more than anything else.

She and her sisters were Bards.  Storytellers.  Despite what people say about mysteries, Sphinxes don't protect them.  They find them.

The Sphinxes

It's misleading to think of Sphinxes as lonely creatures.  If anything, the creatures rely more on mystery and misdirection than most.  Prides of Sphinxes always work around civilization.  Often seen as being malevolent, treacherous and merciless.  In truth, Sphinxes have an addiction to mysteries and stories.

It isn't a metaphor.  Sphinxes enjoy a high while learning a mystery.  New stories can cause grown Sphinxes to become drunk, as though it were alcohol.

Sphinxes do eat humans.  Often, though, they are selective in who or what they devour.  Sphinxes believe that truly unique or intelligent beings should be protected.  Some Sphinxes think of nearby humans as a herd they are helping to improve.

But even then, Sphinxes do not devour a human or other intelligent creature.  Not without giving them a chance to defend themselves on intellectual grounds.  Some even are part of the judicial system in Ith.  Ith regards execution by Sphinx to be one of the most merciful punishments it has.

Sphinxes also have a important symbolism to the people of Ith.  Long regarded as representing mysteries and knowledge, Ith's Great Seal displays a Sphinx.  Ith himself, the Archmage, was a adopted by Sphinxes as one of their own.  The Sphinx Prides of Ith continue that practice.  They adopt "pet" humans and mages they identify with.

Sphinxes are long-lived as well.  But unlike other older beings, they practice an assumption of ignorance on their part.  Sphinxes will often find teenagers and other young beings.  They will talk with them, with  a reverence.  They speak with them, not just as mentors, but with a curiosity.

The Sphinx have a phrase that reflects on this.  "The young lack the ignorance of old age."

Key to know about Sphinxes is that they collect names.  They never give their actual names out, collecting them everyone else they interact with.  Even siblings among Sphinxes never know the names of their siblings.  Finding out what the names of their siblings is one of the earliest mysteries Sphinxes get high from.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

City of Curses: Maralda and Politics (Maralda's Notes)

A #Crux story/political background-y thing, from Maralda's POV.  This borrows heavily from Nat Turner, a critical slave rebellion in US history.  Crux, City of Curses, etc, are part of a fantasy setting I've been madness-ing with for about two years now... let me know if you enjoyed this.  Always glad for feedback!  :D

Ithic History: The Blue Rebellion (1780 AO)

"You continue to wear your hair up."  Father frowned.  "You still refuse to do your part in the City Watch?"

I resisted the urge to grit my teeth at that.  Always back to what he wanted me to be.

The mistreatment of the unsorcerous is more severe in Southern Ith.  I've visited those towns a few times.  Sorcerous neighborhoods glow.  The unsorcerous neighborhoods around them are these muck-filled places of gray and frowning faces.

People there never got the same choices as me.  They never could join the City Watch or some knighthood.  They were stuck at the bottom. My father always wanted to "protect" the Unsorcerous, he'd never thought they deserved more.  Never anything more than what they'd been born with.  Despite his good intentions, he remained the vampyre aristocrat he'd been sired to be.

"Father, you know I support Ochlocracy and nothing less than that."  I told him.  "Being a member of the same government that mistreats Unsorcerous, I can't do that.  That's giving an implicit approval of it.  The tyranny of it all."

"Tyranny.  Ach."  Father shook his head.  "Once every century, you young folk come around preaching about tyrannies or kings or freedom or whatnot.  You don't ever want to listen to your elders on it."

"You say that like change never can come."

"Change, yes..."  Father handed me a cup of wine.  "But never the kind you lot are looking for.  Chaos.  You always spawn such chaos."

"Father, you can't just point to the Blue Rebellion.  That was a tragedy from a mad prophet."  I sniffed at the wine.  Expensive as always.  I gave a tiny sip, even though it felt like I was giving my father a bit of approval.  He didn't deserve that.

"An Unsorcerous prophet riled up a cadre, no, wait, a mob that massacred an entire family of mages.  That bit of chaos speaks for their ability to govern doesn't?"

"Father... that's a unfair, biased view of them.  If you lack any power, or anyway to guide the power in your government, you fight."

Father ticked.  "So my daughter approves of violence then?"

"Violence... it isn't the right path either, Father.  But you can't just right it off as some temporary fancy."

Father waved a hand.  "I don't mind discussing politics with you dear, but to be honest... Ochlocrats or Magocrats or Whigs or whatever...  All that is just talk.  Democracy has its appeal in one age.  But always the echoing truth of all ages is that a few are to guide, to lead, to rule.  Today you elect them, but in another time, maybe blood will matter like it used to.  Things like the Blue Rebellion, they show the value of a strong hand. It keeps back the chaos that would damn us all."

I sipped at my wine.  Arguing would be useless with him.  The centuries-old fire-vampyre believed in a ancient code of honor.  One that ignored some plights in exchange for a self-righteousness.  He wasn't evil.  But on the other hand, he let some suffering happen he could help prevent.

Ochlocracy and Mundism are two sides of the same coin.  Neither of the two political parties of Ith are its proponent.  The Whigs do tend to side with the idea more often than the Party of Stonebridge does.  Ochlocracy is the idea that the Unsorcerous should have an equal say in government.  In Ith, they have no rights.  Ochlocracy is the fancy political term that says they should.

My father likes to point to Mundist riots as examples.  I can't... disagree with him in absolute terms on that.  In 1780, one of the most violent acts in Ithic history happened.  At the hands of a Unsorcerous and his raging mob.

It happened South of Athrid.  A small community of Unsorcerous who all worked on a Mage's plantation.  Blue had been one of those downtrodden folk enslaved by enchantments and illusions.  A plantation thrall.  Meant to work on the fields for half a wand a day.  The law didn't protect them, and too few people in the North of Ith are able to find it and stop it.

Maybe the decades of magic did it to him.  But I'd heard stories from those who passed through that area.  Blue had disappeared for over a month before coming back.  He came back preaching for freedom.  He came back with power he didn't have before.

I think it had to be the Revolution.  A new form of the Fervor that faith uses.  Blue's speeches and rants inspired crowds to follow him.  He took them to the Mage that own the plantation.  In the estate's grand home, Blue called down fire.  The mage burned.  But his young daughters and wife had fled.

Blue and his mob flayed them alive.

I'd like to think I could've talked him out of that.  That Rebellion scared many mages in Southern Ith.  They saw it as a problem that had to be contained.  Blue's Rebellion only gave them an example.   It gave them a raging beast.  Something that would confirm their stories of the Unsorcerous being animals could.

Eventually they caught Blue.  He had over fifty followers, including some Sorcerous folk he'd converted.  It took them less than two days to suppress it.  Blue eluded capture until a local farmer caught him.

Blue confessed his crimes.  They hung him.  Then, scared as they were, they had his body flayed, quartered and burned.  They called the local Necromancers.  They animated his corpse, to forever stand on the road to the capital.  A sign to the Unsorcerous that even dead they would refuse to respect you.

Even then, mobs of poor Sorcerous killed Unsorcerous.  Gripped by hysteria, they struck out against their neighbors.  They saw Blue in every Unsorcerous face, even when they had magic that could tell them otherwise.  Ever since, people wrote about the opposition to Ochlocracy as a "moral good."  Ochlocracy would only lead to chaos, or so they claimed.

People like my father.  They meant well, but they saw chaos as a bloody thing.  Something that would do more damage than good.

"It isn't chaos father."  I whispered to myself, more than him.  "It's freedom I think."

Friday, April 22, 2016

City of Curses: Fusion Ring(s)

Both rings clinked in my palm.  We both had tried them a few times.  They were a precaution.  Singular.

Well, plural.

Jhanna held onto my arm as we walked through the Grand Bazaar.  An alchemist tried to hack his potions.  Technological wonders, like cameras and pocket watches sat in shop windows.  Fruits and meats from exotic places line the shelves of the store to that.  One could buy anything here.  Anything in the world.

I could smell Jhanna's perfume.  Her cold skin.  Even in her dress, she still walked with the cool, trained steps of a proud Fighter.

I never have been much for combat.  Magic has always been my second love.  The first held me close.

Guns cocked from a nearby bar.  We both stopped.  A tall, drooling hyena-headed gnoll leveled a shotgun at us.  He spluttered something at us in his tongue.  I caught the drift.

Gh'tyrax the Blood-Drinker.  Maliphi Gangster.  He'd followed us, from the most southernmost parts of Maliph.  I frowned.

Jhanna shrugged.  "You, me or us?"

I looked the bounty hunter up and down.  More gnolls emerged from the streets.  They shared the same coloring as this one.  They all shared the same, drooling idiotic gaze too.  Six in total.

"Six of them.  Three to one."  I thought.

People around us started to run away.  Screams.  Panic.  Calls for the City Watch.  But knowing the Grand Bazaar of Crux, the Gnolls had already greased the Watch.  They didn't want us to have a crowd to hide in.  Almost clever.  No one was coming.  Not soon anyway.

Jhanna rolled her eyes.  She plucked one of the rings from my hand.

"Make it Six to One."  She put the ring on.

Jhanna and I confused the gnolls as we danced together.  It was a brief, beautiful little thing.  In tune, rings on both our hands.

One of the Gnolls growled again, firing a shot in the air as we continued dancing.  They wanted to know where the Blood-Drinker's treasure was.  They should've asked before we put the rings on.

Then we both glowed bright blue and fused into one.

Fusion Ring

A pair of golden rings, each studded with a turquoise carved into an arrow.  When worn, they feel as though they have their own rhythmic pulse.  They both share the same pulse.

When wore by two different wearers, each can feel the pulse of the other wearer.  They can, if able, match the rhythms.  Activating the rings requires the performance of a dance.  This attunes the rhythms of the wearers to one another.  Then both glow a bright blue for a instant.  Afterwards, they merge and fuse into a new individual.

The Fused being has the best properties of both wearers.  Because of their combined mass, the new being is often far larger than its origin wearers.  The rings merge together into a single ring with two turquoises.   The fused being remembers what both remembers, and can access what either knew.  It can combine features of classes together.

Physical features blend together.  Eye and hair color merge in some unique fashion to this new individual.  Even genitalia blend together into a medium between whatever the two wearers had.  Gear follows suit, changing and merging into a blend of what they first were.

They are a gestalt of class and other features.  They possess a new, much bigger size.  Often this means that new fused being is more powerful than their original counterparts.

Both wearers control the fused being.  With equal, shared minds.  If they come into disagreement or lose their rhythm with one another, the ring splits back into two.  They split apart.  The harsher the split, the harder it is to re-fuse with the rings again.

One could use many fusion rings to merge multiple people together.  Yet, the more people that attempt to keep in rhythm, the harder it is for the fused being to remain stable.  It is possible for a pair to remain fused for long periods of time, maybe even years or decades.  The new being comes in their own.    There are questions on whether the fused being is the same as its originals or not.  Often stable fused beings see no conflict or confusion at all.  They see themselves as both the fused and the originals at the same time.

Powerful magic, few fusion rings are known to exist.  They are believed to be some sort of faerie magic.  Some myths have fey giving fusion rings to lovers in peril.  Or star crossed lovers desperate for a means to escape to be together.  If true, it could be that the fey know the core method to the ring's manufacture.  Or maybe, there could be some sort of curse or bemusement the rings have.  Something the fey find entertaining.  Or maybe something the fey alone could undo.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Geeky Bellyaching: Miscasting Ghost in the Shell

A recent bit of Hollywood stupidity, casting a white woman in an Asian woman role.  I'm not going to touch on the systematic racism in Hollywood.  

It's just the visible part of a larger corporate racism.  An aged old ideal in the American Corporate media that whites should be at the center of everything.  No, the thing I'm going to bitch about Ghost in the Shell is this.

Why does it need a live action film?

Oh.  Right.  "Cartoons" don't could as film.  Even the best anime gets drawn into this.  Rather than change the nature or scope of film, let's spurn traditional animation.  in favor of live action adaptation.  Again.


I'm not talking about computer, 3D animation.  Which is fine.  Digital animation has its perks, and feels like new kind of artform to be explored.  But it feels like something is lacking at a larger level.

Let's Compare to Gaming.

Video games, as seems apt, have a interesting aesthetic divide that films don't seem to share.  As video games solidify as a medium, it'll be interesting to see how much the difference between indie and AAA will matter.  Compared to film though, the video game space seems fine with exploring aesthetics.

They don't discard the old looks of yesteryear.  Video Games, unlike film, can have a critically acclaimed game that is 8bit.  Or borrows from two or three old school mechanics.  Film, has abandoned the beauty of the old school, traditional, or "flat" animation.

Oh, animated films still exist in the US.  They are just relegated to the corner.  They aren't "correct."  Although the traditional aethestic exists online, it still feels like it's missed.

Not as childhood imagery.  Or some corner case adaptations of graphic novels.  Like indie video games, we need new animated, indie films.  Stories that explore that older aesthetic that larger studios have ignored.  I imagine costs separate them these days.  But I wonder.  Animation methods grow and technology improves.  How long until the flash animating generation can match the Disney animation of the 40s?

Last Note.

By the way, yes, there is systematic biases in place for film.  Certain films only will get made if X actor or actress is in a film.  Most often X has that "standard" of white skinned and pretty.

A side effect of a corporate media is that they tend to go for the easiest, lowest common denominator.   People like sugar?  Put more in.  People like skinny, pretty girls?  Put more in.  Shiny?  Put more shiny in.

Popular doesn't necessarily equate to wrong or evil.  But last year, geeky films got not one, but two powerful female characters.  It'd be nice to see more diverse actors shine in the limelight.

I don't disagree with the people upset over the casting of Ghost in the Shell.  I just have a deeper, more fundamental quibble.  I don't like live action adaptations of animated material.  I think animation deserves it's own elaboration and exploration.

There is a beauty in dreams rendered such ways.  Like comics or paintings, there is something to an animated image.  Something that the pure realism of live action can never match.

Monday, April 18, 2016

City of Curses: Advice For Horses In Crux

The City of Curses and the roads that service it are old.  Older than me.  Older than even my aged, fire-vampyre father.  

Even though he'd never admit it.  He always acts like he's less than a century old.

One of my first acts of rebellion as a young dhampir involved one of the dubious carriage companies of Crux.  I thought some coin would get me travel to whereever I'd want in the city of curses without my father knowing about where I went.  It was a mistake.  A horrible mistake.

A few of the companies are reputable.  But not most.  Most Cruxites will never share their horse, or will rather walk than use them.  Travelers and out-of-towners, they often are the target of the carriage companies.  When I say target, I do mean criminal activity.

Most of the companies are run by feyborn horses, whose scruples are frighteningly less than legal.  Unless one intimidates the driverless carriage, the horses pulling it might do anything to take advantage of a passenger.

Horses, even feyborn talking ones, can kill a human easily.  They can bite off knuckles.  They can break bones with a well placed kick.  Feyborn horses know best how to move and attack within a city.

As such, they often will threaten their passengers.  Or, in the case of young teenage girls, kidnap them.  Sell them if they are unsorcerous to the highest bidder.  Of course, they always will just taxi someone if they are willing to pay the right amount of compensation.

I spent four days being passed along by a drunk, wicked feyborn Mare.  The creature didn't do anything purely criminal to me.  She treated me like some new trinket.  It wasn't until one of my father's own Fighters killed her that I was free.

My father told me I should've learned to listen to him.

Instead, I remembered that even something as intriguing as a talking horse could torture you.  Paranoia can be an excellent shield when choosing how you travel the City of Curses.

-Maralda Inculti, Goldrose 13th 1784


Most horse-drawn carriage in Crux are independent ventures.  There are no singular monolithic companies.  Most offer their services on the spot.  Travel via wagon, stagecoach, carriage, omnibus or cart varies from driver to driver.

Most drivers aren't human.  They are feyborn horses.  Mares specifically.  Their stables and herds service Crux.  Humans or others rarely can compete with the horses.  They seem able to drive their normal, non-speaking horses even faster.

For out-of-towners, Crux's large feyborn horse populace seems wondrous.  Although some Ainesian cities have feyborn horse carriages.   Most of the Feyborn horses practice some sort of graft.  They are willing to cheat any sorcerous customers.

A unsorcerous mark might find themselves taken somewhere they don't want to go.  Many Maliph slavers collect fresh product from the feyborn horses.  Given that any horse can easily harm a human.
Perhaps one thinks that a revolver and a knife might get them out of such situations.  Crux being Crux, many alchemical devices have been crafted that enable even the thumbless feyborn Mares to have their own firearms.  Rein-operated, they can counter a gun threat by revealing a contraption most would-be escapees have never seen before.

The carriages sometimes are stopped by the Prince's City Watch.  That doesn't mean they stop the practices of such dark horses.  If anything, the Families that run the City Watch have their own bribes and protection rackets in tandem with the feyborn nefarious steeds.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In Transit Monsters 46 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?  

Previous | Start | Index

Foxtrot (H plus 26 Days)
Tossed a few more trophies atop the pile.  Uniform sighed at my hard earned work.  I'd spent the better part of the last day collecting the Sewer Spawn.

"It's been easier and easier."  I told her.  "Still, I imagine I've gotten the most so far."

"Hotel's gotten ten more than you."  Uniform said, not looking up.

"Well... mine are bigger."

"The mass ratios for sewer spawn tend to be the same."

I crossed my arms.  "Well, then I got mine in first today, didn't I?"

Uniform looked up.  "Sure, you won that."

I smiled.  "See?  We do make a great team."

"Right.  Team."  Kilo interjected from her quiet corner in the room.  "It's easier to catch them now then before Trash Heap, right?  So how amazing is bringing a big pile to Uniform?"

"And why do you all think I want them?"  Uniform asked.

"You need samples."  I replied.  Kilo nodded agreement with me.

Uniform growled.  "I swear... you guys never listen to me."

"You said you needed samples."  I provided.  "So we are-"

"You're dumping your catches on me like weird its some sort of weird sporting event."

"How else are you supposed to analyze them?"  Kilo asked.  "You're like our doc."

"My tech is Gnostic, not medical."  Uniform said.  "How many times do we have to go over this?"

"You never go over it."  I said.  "Well, you do, but you always end up growling at the end of it."

Uniform started to go over each of the Sewer Spawn I'd dragged in.  She went over each.  I didn't know what she was looking for.  But something she would nod at before going to the next one.

"It isn't fact-based."  Uniform said.  "Its... holistic.  Medicine is diagnostic.  What I do, it... I'm not practicing something.  Gnosticism just gives me an answer based on the information provided.  It's based on the model inherent in the data."

"You see things, and know how the thing works."  I replied.

"It isn't like that...  I don't do anything."  Uniform shook her head.  "I'm not an expert, Foxy.  Experts can suppose, they can make hypothesises.  Gnosticism just gives me an answer to the Whys of a thing."


"And whats, and hows, and whens."  Uniform continued.  "Holistically.  I don't get the context for it.  If you didn't tell me you had taken this spawn down, I'd have no solid guess on who done it, just how they died."

"You can't make guesses like that?"  Kilo asked.

"I can, but it has nothing to do... well, my expertise is just augmented by my gnosticism.  Even then, I'm limited.  I can only compute so accurate here on Mars.  Back home, I could rely on the entire Net for running scenarios."

"But the Enemy isn't known."  I said.  "We don't know, and we don't have the same brain power like Earth has."

"Yeah."  Uniform pointed at one of the Sewer Spawn.  "They've been getting easier to kill.  You've been finding them alone, acting in strange ways, haven't you?"

"Compared to before... Yeah.  None of them have ambushed me.  Some were just lying on their backs, like they were sleeping."

"Weird."  Kilo said.  "One day, they are all over us and dangerous, next they can't stop their naps to face us."

"Oh... Well, I'd kinda hoped they'd gotten scared of us."

The two of them stared at me incredulously.

"You have got to be kidding me."  Uniform shook her head.

"Are you really surprised by that?  I'm not."  Kilo said.

"Hey, I'm right here."  I glared at them both.  "Okay, fine.  If they aren't just scared of us, then what is it?"

"They aren't getting signals anymore, that's one thing."  Uniform said.  "And Trash Heap is no longer relying packets to them too."

"Uh..." Kilo and I looked at each other.

"How do you know that?"  Kilo asked Uniform.

The Gnostic Medic's head bobbed up.  Surprised, she tilted her head at us.  Then she saw we weren't messing with her.

"Oh.  You don't know."

I tapped my head.  "Y'know, gnostic stuff?  We don't got that."

"Uh..."  Uniform paused.  "I guess... okay.  It's in a report I sent Earth and Charlie, but... Sewer Spawn, Trash Heap, whatever they are, they all have some sort of wireless capacity.  Wifi, I guess.  Or radio.  I haven't figured that all out yet."

I blinked.  "They have the Net?"

"I'd think someone would've seen that."  Kilo said.  "Y'know what I mean.  Noticed or whatever."

"Well, they have."  Uniform pulled out a silvery organ from the sewer spawn under her.  It had been coated in orange-pink blood.  It looked like a seashell.  "But I don't think anyone's ever killed something like trash heap before.   Nor do I think they recorded the aftermath.  It's an awful like swarm robotics in a way.

"I mean, they all acted in coordination and moving together.  After we took out trash heap, the remaining parts of the swarm lost their coordination.  If I were guessing, we took out something important."

"Oh."  I paused.  "So trash heap was their brain?"

"For the whole of Mars?"  Uniform shrugged.

"It can't be that easy."  Kilo retorted.  "Or else they'd have done it before."

"I..."  I thought my words over a bit.  Sometimes I could say the stupidest thing.  But this stuck in my craw a bit.  "They dream too.  Charlie showed us that."

Uniform and Kilo paused.

"That means something too, doesn't it?"  I asked.  "If they dream, if they coordinate, it they work together... that means they're civilized or something doesn't it?"

"I..."  Uniform didn't respond.

Kilo looked just as confused.  "Wow, Foxy, that's a bit much to swallow..."


Instead of processing it, I thought about Charlie.  She'd put this together too, hadn't she?  She had seen it.

My stomach lurched in sympathy.  She had seen a mind in there, right when we killed Trash Heap.  That stuck in my mind.  How do you talk to someone whose seen something die from inside it's own dreams?

Monday, April 11, 2016

City of Curses: Shana Fivecurse (Flash Fic)

Shana Fivecurse hurried.  Each glide hurt.  Rooftops blurred below the flying grandmother and witch. 


She had to hurry.  She needed to catch them.

"I'm coming."

She scanned the street below.  The witch glided through the air.  Magic held her aloft.  But her worry kept her focused.


Cobblestones.  Puddles from recent rain.  Dim light and dark shadows.

Shana huffed.  Too old.  She couldn't do this anymore.  The violence of youth.  Memories of things she did decades ago.  She thought she'd put them behind her.

"Zoe.  I see them."  Shana's eyes spotted the coach rushing through the night streets.

Shana reached up one of her liver-spotted hands.  The old woman whispered a dark prayer.  The darkness responded.  Ancient pacts and promises vibrated.  Pleased to serve her once again.

"Do it."  Shana commanded.  She didn't care about the cost anymore.  Zoe didn't deserve this.

Shadows whirled around the coach.  The coach driver panicked.  Shana noticed his confusion.  Panicking, the fool had started firing his revolver into the darkness around him.

Shana moved.  She landed atop the coach.  Despite her groaning muscles, her aged joints, the witch manage to land without a sound.

The coach moved out of the dark shadows of her spell.  Shana laid flat.  She waited to see what kind of fool this kidnapping driver was.

"They're after us!"  The driver screeched.  "I couldn't see any of them!  I-"

"That was just a spell, you idiot."  A deeper, feminine voice told him.  It sounded deeper.

"Feyborn."  Shana growled.  The two horses pulling the coach weren't just any dumb animals.  The driver wasn't acting alone.  If anything, he must be working for those two feyborn horses.

"We have a quota."  Another horse replied.  "We can outrun the spell, firing your piece like that draws more attention.  Sit down and shut up."

"Oh."  Shana saw the driver sit back down.  "Sorry, I just-"

Shana reached out.  Another spell.  A transmutation.

"Kneel and feel the bend of your bones."  Shana cried.  The curse struck the driver.  It wouldn't be lethal.  Well, not lethal if he avoided cats.

The driver screamed as his bones and flesh melted before her.  Creaks and snaps echoed in the night.  Shana watched as he shrank, his body cursed into that of a rat.  A stinking rat.

Shana stepped down onto the coachman's seat.  The coach continued to move at a fast pace.  The two feyborn horses galloped faster and faster.  Shana cursed.  She clutched tight.

"Damn it!"  The feyborn screamed.  "She won't come off!"

"We should detach!"  The other called back.

"No!"  The mare leaped up, forcing the coach to rattle.

Shana waved a hand.  She sliced the two loose from the coach.  It rolled away from them.

The two feyborn horses turned back to her.  Hissing, then whirled about.  Tack detached as the talking beasts moved.  Shana held up one of her arms.

The old witch's eyes glowed bright purple.  She pursed her lips.  Another curse escaped her lips.

"Speak not, your words will fail you."

Both horses stopped.  Their jaws opened, but no words came out.  Confused, they tried to speak.  They didn't move any closer to the coach.

Fear froze them in place.  Shana shook her head.

"Catching unsorcerous children."  She spat.  "Catching those without magick to sell?  So yes, I did take your voices.  I could do worse."

Shana picked up the coachman's rat form by the scruff.  Her grip shook a bit.  Shana hoped it didn't show.  Her cat emerged from her bag.  It meowed loud.  The rat started to panic.

"Leave, or try seeing how being cat food is, beasts.  Enjoy my mercy.  I'm too old for much more of it."

Friday, April 8, 2016

In Transit Monsters 45 (A Story of the Hecate Project)

#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah.  Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself.  Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?  

Previous | Start | Index | Next

Charlie (H plus 26 days)

It took us a few weeks, but we managed to liberate most of Fontana.  That wasn't the right word for it.  You don't liberate tombs.  Pacify.

The sewer spawn and other agents of the Enemy flushed out easier after Trash Heap had been gone.  I tried to reach Earth about investigating the corpse of Trash heap.  Still nothing directed at us.

If not worse, the traffic we did receive talked about riots.  Earth had fallen apart while we were gone.  Whatever we were fighting for might not be there when we were done.

All that depressed me.  It sunk in my stomach.  But it wasn't the worst of it.  The worst had to be the last moments of trash heap.  I felt it die.  What was worse, I saw it's dying dreams.

That made the next days fly by fast.  Very fast.

Whiskey recovered from her injuries.  I avoided her.  I didn't talk to anyone, not outside of making sure operations ran smooth.  The last thing I wanted to do what bothered everyone else with my own problems.

"I have to be imagining it."  I told myself each time.

So I moved on.  I kept sending signals that had no reply.  I kept receiving reports of more and more problems back on Earth.  I kept the others moving along.  I felt like I was drowning inside.

Each day I'd receive reports on buildings taken.  Monsters killed.  My BrainSys organized everything.  We swept throughout Fontana.  Foxtrot scouted ahead, then the others would secure more territory.  I didn't know what we were going to do with this city afterward.  But none of the sewer spawn or other things had the same sort of being I'd sensed in Trash Heap.

Each night I spent hours reconstructing Trash Heap.  I made dream after dream about it.  I wanted to know what it had been thinking.  Was it a monster?  An animal?  Did it have emotions?  It could dream.  Maybe it had lashed out in fear, after we attacked it.

Yes, that had been what we were created for.  But I felt like I had failed to do something.  Then there was the other thing.  That burning hot rage that I'd used.  I killed Trash Heap.  Not the others.  I pushed them into it.

I gave the orders.  I killed a sentient, sapient being.

I crafted dreams to try to find a way to speak with the darkness.  That darkness that had represented Trash Heap.  Darkness.  That wasn't quite it.  I just lacked the context for whatever it had been sent to me.

Standing in the dream, I tried to add light to the darkness.  I tried to find a mind in it.  I found static in it.  Garbled noises, but not anything I understood.  Shapes moving in the dark.  Foreign shapes, but each time I crafted new dreams from what I remembered from Trash Heap.   It was like trying to focus in on a image only to find abstract art instead of useful information.

"I don't understand you."  I told the recorded, recreated dreams.  "I want to.  Show me something."

But nothing.  No big revelation.  Maybe I should've shared it with the others.

Whiskey pinged me again.  Morning had come.  I'd need to come back to this.  Or start looking for more dreams in the minds of the Enemy.

It helped to have the distraction.  We were going to die here.  No one left on Earth to ask for us to come back.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

City of Curses: Maralda and Tengu (Maralda's notes)

On Tengu Culture and Cuisine.
Written Maralda Inculti Tyranus, Dated Newrose 1784

The Raven-headed Folk have strange ways.  Or at least different ones.  It's tempting to cast them as the "Other."  But despite the Tengu's own xenophobia, their is a exotic mystique to them.

Tengu seem to have no trouble blending into our culture.  Piercing theirs has been difficult for those of us curious about them.  Until recently.  Some recent event affected their Prophet.  She dispersed them throughout Crux.  There are clans of Tengu found throughout Crux.  Even though many of them still live in the Aerie-Towns over Havershill.

My most recent exposure to Tengu culture wasn't what I expected, however.  A pastry shop.  Not run by Tengu.  As far as I know, Tengu don't understand how to bake.  No, I found a cluster of Tengu in a pastry shop in the Rose Quarter.

It had to be one of those sights you can't quite imagine being in.  The Tengu, being foreign, exotic folk who rarely descend from above.  Street legends tell about mysterious Tengu shinobi warriors.  Night assassins who know shadowy arts they kill to preserve.

These three tengu clustered around a case full of cakes.

Not just looking.  They engaged in a fast-paced discussion over the various Othebean cakes.  Not just a discussion, but an argument.  I don't know a word of Tengu.  But still, I had to ask.

"What are you arguing over?"  I peered over the shoulder of one Tengu in blue.  He had this whiff of something to him, but I couldn't quite place it.

The three of them looked up at me in surprise.  The Tengu in blue eyed me for a moment.  Then he cocked an eyebrow.

"The cakes."

"Trying to pick the right one?"

The other two tengu drew back.  Something talking to me?  Who knows.  The Tengu in blue didn't seem to mind it.

"Trying to decide which brew will pair best with which.  My apprentices seem unwilling to believe I can craft the right brew to match them.  You gaijin are too barbarous with your cakes."  He tilted his beak at me.  "'None of these can be fit for such a brew.'"

The other tengu didn't respond.

"Brew?"  I asked.  "Don't you have some sort of dessert wine?  I mean, I'm sure the baker here might have something to recommend."

"Bah."  The Tengu looked up at me.  "I don't believe in letting others to do things for me.  Besides, I cannot let my legend as a brewer fail if I can't think of something on my own."

Brewer.  Tengu had their own kind of wine and ale then?  This thought intrigued me.  I'd never heard of Tengu drinking.

"You're a brewer?"

"Ueda Zora Burning-Storm, Toji to the Lady of my Clan."  Ueda bowed to me.  "My lady has come to love the pastries of this place, this Quarter of Roses.  I want to see if there is anything for me to learn here."

"Ah."  I resisted the urge to start writing notes down about this.  I offered a hand.  "Maralda Inculti.  I'm... well, I'm a Bard.  I'd come here to get a quick snack, but... I'm as curious as a cat.  I'd love to learn more about Tengu, sir."

"Sir?"  Ueda tilted his head.  Then Ueda winced a bit.  "I suspect you don't mean to offend.  But you are mistaken, ma'am."


"Apologies if you don't wish to be corrected."  Ueda told me.  "But I am a woman, not a man."


My face blushed a bright red.

Tengu Cuisine.

Preferring rotting and aged meat, Tengu often add flayworm eggs to meat.  This is a key part of the preparation of Tengu meals.  Mature flayworms add a distinct flavor, while raw flayworm eggs can be toxic to mammals.  Tengu refer to this kind of meal as Zusatta Yiku.

Zusatta is one of the main dishes others think of when they think of Tengu food.  Zusatta Yiku isn't the only thing they eat, but it holds a dear place among the Tengu.  Tengu themselves are able to eat almost anything Humans or Ursyklon eat.  They find human disgust at Zusatta amusing.  Also, Tengu misunderstand what "cooking" means, in human cuisine.  Tengu don't mind cooked food, but their traditional foods deal more with aging and decay of food.  Flayworms are just one of a variety Tengu find the human use of grains particularly strange.

Although rice plays a part in Tengu food, they have nothing like cakes, breads or pies.  For some Tengu the desserts humans create are sensational surprises.  Some Tengu Ninja and Alchemists study human confections.  They are certain that they must be some sort of poisoning technique unknown to them.


Tengu Toji (Brewers) are a sacred position among the Tengu.  Rice wine serves a sacred purpose in Kazist Ceremonies.  The Toji of each Tengu clan have almost the same clout as priests of any of the five winds do.

Tengu esteem Toji like painters or musicians.  Their brews vary.  Tengu Toji do not fear to experiment with their brews too.  Alchemy being born of the Toji's arts, they also add some magic in.  Sometimes the Toji provide blessings, other times curses.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Reading Materials: Mistborn Series (Part 1)

I don't mind reading books recommended to me.  But I do try to
have a list.  Sometimes things get on my list.  Other times I manage to skip along into reading something unexpected not on my list.  Mistborn: the Final Empire is one of those recommended addictive reads.

A friend recommended it to me.  I didn't hesitate out of fear about the series.  But rather out of intimidation of its author, Brandon Sanderson.  Sanderson has a reputation for epic fantasy and complex magic systems.  I'd always heard people praise him.

My hesitation came from intimidation on Sanderson's Rep.  Not negative.  I just worried about getting sucked into a new series, hook line and sinker.  I'm not sure about that.  But Mistborn: the Final Empire and the next books in its series, were excellent reads.  Rather than try to cover the entire series, I'm going to try to cover my opinions and thoughts on the first book.

Mistborn itself is a trilogy that follows the character of Vin.  The classic ragged orphan who ascends to be the hero of the piece.  That isn't a spoiler.  If you didn't see that coming in the first book, you need to bone up on your understanding of hero stories.

Apocalyptic Heist Fantasy.

The worldbuilding in the first book, the Final Empire, drives me to focus on each book.  Rather than cover the whole trilogy, I feel like I need to touch on each one in separate doses.  It is a world already in motion when we get to Vin.  Even Vin's mentor, Kelsier, is kind of at the apex or climax of his own story.  The term apocalyptic heist fantasy fits, because that's what the story is about.

The world of the Final Empire is a dark, ash-ridden place.  Half-way through the novel, I realized that even the plant life in the Final Empire is depressing.  Brown, not green plants.  No flowers.  And the mist is omnipresent every night.

The book itself seems to revolve around a phrase spoken by the character of Kelsier early on.  "There's always another secret."  That sums a good deal of the meta of the story.  Always some deeper twist laid in store.

The heist part of the story feels like a different take for fantasy then I'd presumed.  Maybe I need to expand my list of fantasy reads, but the Final Empire felt as much a crime novel as it did a fantasy one.  It's neater when a story doesn't stay constrained to the preconceived tropes of a genre.

Magic System.

The other part that I'd been certain about seeing had to be the magic systems at play in Mistborn.  There are three, and I'm not going to spoil them here.  Part of the point of reading the novel is learning how the magic works.  Spoiling that kind of ruins the point of reading.

The key thing I noticed about the magic in Mistborn is the precision of the rules for it.  Each specific power in Mistborn isn't radical or powerful.  But they follow rules.  If applied in the proper way, they can alter things in dramatic sense.

It has more in line with super powers than the mysterious.  In other settings, magic tends to be vague and shadowy.  Tolkien's Lord of the Rings has magic, but its cloaked in mystery.  There are rules at play.  Mythology also tends to approach magic that way too.  Mysterious, magic serves as a flexible way to get a story past certain obstacles.

This is an interesting difference.  I don't think Sanderson began it.  There is a more dramatic complexity with magic that is more fractal and emergent.  There is more to magic just being a plot device used to save the eponymous hero of a tale in Mistborn.


I enjoyed the Final Empire.  The main character of Vin put me off a bit, but her arc makes the story worth it by the end.  The worldbuilding is more key to this book than the others in the series.

The heist angle helped a bit.  Vin being a thief, and having to learn how to trust others, makes for a brilliant subtheme to her experiences with the rest of the crew.  The Crew.  That too, makes The Final Empire work.   It's a heist tale.  Heists have crews, specialists who you learn about and identify with.

Vin isn't the main focus of the book, but the Final Empire is about her coming of age.  Her learning to trust while part of a plan to kill and overthrow a god-king, made her journey worth reading.  Kelsier hands things over to her through the story.  He too, is interesting in how even he doesn't know what his real motivations are.

Good start to the story.  Mistborn continues past the Final Empire, starting with a rebellion to overthrow a god.  Maybe I can revisit back to this about the other books in the series when I get a chance.