Archive | October 29, 2014

Say What You Want, a ficlet of Clockwork Apoc for Thimbleful Thursday

to the Thimbleful Thursday prompt from 2 weeks back “For XYZ reasons;” 393 words

“So, she went right into the middle of a Blank zone. Just walked through it, like there weren’t Creatures still in the air and only the skies know what sort of trouble on the ground. Not to mention falling walls and all that standing water….” Grace shook her head. “Who knows what goes through the mind of someone like that?”

“We’re talking about Lisette, right?” Rose pursed her lips. “Who knows why she does anything? She’s the one that rode below an airship all the way across the Blank Plains. She’s the one that brought home an Other just to see what made it tick. She does what she wants, for x, y, and z reasons, and the rest of us just have to stay out of her way.”

“You just put up with here?” Grace had only been in the compound for a few months; she’d been a refuge from a lost town, Mortin, one of only three survivors. Rose tried to remember that when Grace got… difficult. Judgey. “It seems like she’s putting the whole compound at risk.”

Rose took a breath. Remember what happened to Mortin. Remember the bodies. Remember the Blanks. “The thing about Lisette is… yes, she does her own things, for her own reasons, reasons that are best not asked about and not worth speculating on. And when the compound was attacked by a wave of Blanks last year, it was Lisette – Lisette, on her own – that saved us.”

“But you let her just wander into Blank zones. What if she came back blanked out? What if she contracted some disease?” Grace leaned forward. “What if she let the Blanks in?”

“Lisette is not going to do something like that.” Although Rose was beginning to see a picture of how Mortin had fallen. “Lisette does what she does, for Lisette’s reasons – but she protects the compound. She’s never failed to protect the compound.”

“But what if she’s wrong? What if, worse, what if she’s doing something wrong? You can’t just let people wander around for mysterious reasons, and not expect them to turn on the compound! You can’t!” Grace’s voice was getting louder and louder, shriller and shriller.

Rose kept her voice low and quiet. “Lisette has her reasons for doing what she does. And we have our reasons for letting her.”

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How to End Worlds and Influence People, Part I

Do you want to end a world?

Not this world; that would be messy. Not to mention, if you end the world, you don’t have anywhere to sell your stories. Or to buy coffee.

So let’s end some other world, shall we?

When I started writing Monster Godmother, I didn’t need to end the world; I already had the Faerie Apocalypse rather well set up. I already had lots of apocalypse settings, actually.

But say you need a tailor-made apocalypse for a story idea. Where do you start?

That’s a good question: where are you going to start? When is your story going to take place?

Some stories start before the apocalypse – think disaster movies. Day After Tomorrow. War of the Worlds. Some start in media res. 28 Days Later is the only one that comes to mind quickly. Some start just-afterwards, while you’re still reeling from the disaster. The book for Postman was like that. And some are so long afterwards that you’ve gotten new cultures. Waterworld.

Where are you going to start?

Faerie apocalypse, by the way, starts either 2000 years before the apocalypse or even further back, and, as of now, goes approximately 50 years into the future. Past is easier, what can I say?

If you’re going to start before or in media res, you’re going to need to know more about the apocalypse. If you’re starting long afterwards, you can fudge as much as you need to. And if you’re starting just after it, you’re going to need to think about the scope of your story.

Does your story span the whole world? Several worlds? Is it two people in a cabin? Six people in what used to be a city? Each of these requires a different level of backstory – for two people in a cabin, you only need to know that civilization has fallen. For a world-spanning story, you’re going to need to know what cities fell, which survived, and how much destruction is still going on – at a very minimum.

Monster Godmother takes part in the middle of a battle. If I’d been building the apocalypse from scratch, I wouldn’t have needed much – a couple notes here and there about nearby destruction. If I continued her story further… then, I’d have needed to build more.

And you? Well, if you want to ruin a world, you’ve got to do a bit of homework. Where does your story start? How much of a span will it have?

Once you have that (next time) we can talk about how we’re going to end the world.

Monster Godmother is available, along with several other fine apocalypse stories, in What Follows, available in e-book on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

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Dead Gods Bleeding, a continuation of Fae Apoc

This story is set in the late apoc of fae apoc, and follows
Mourning Lost Gods and
The Destruction of the Gods
and The Dead Gods Come Visiting
We’d gotten ourselves as settled as we were going to be, gotten ourselves a little more comfortable with the end of the world, and, most importantly, we’d gotten comfortable with the lack of godlets everywhere. Then a godlet walked into what served us as a house and fell down half-dead.

We were all looking at each other when Kingfisher pulled out his filleting knife. Then it went from a cautious twelve-pointed look to a panicked 11-pointed look. The question was half what is Kingfisher going to do and half what do we want him to do?

“She’s a human being…” Kingfisher looked at his knife, then at the stone-skinned girl lying on the floor. “Well, she’s a being, and one that isn’t trying to kill us. And someone was clearly trying to kill her. Makes her, if not an ally, then not our enemy right now.”

There was another look around the room. Finally, it ended up being me that had to speak up.

“It’s logic, I guess.” I looked down at the elf on the floor. She looked so harmless. Then again, they often did. “But when she wakes up, we’re gonna need promises of no-harm and no-brain-fuckery from her. First thing, no hedging.”

“I agree totally.” Kingfisher leaned over to speak to to her, although I’m not sure she could hear him. “I’m going to cut the arrow out, miss. This is going to hurt a lot.”

She didn’t answer, but, then again, when the knife went in, she didn’t moan, either. She didn’t make any sound at all, not when he cut around the arrow-head, not when he pulled it out.

“Did you kill her?” Jason leaned forward. Worried or relieved? I couldn’t tell.

“With this?” Kingfisher waved his steel knife around. “Hardly. They might have, though.”

“I..” The elf groaned. “You want… promises.”

Somehow, the elf levered herself onto an elbow. Her color was better, I think: how do you tell on someone made of marble? She looked less ashy, at least.

“Lay down, lay down. You’re injured.” Paramedic training won for Marie again.

The elf shook her head. “Had worse. A promise.” She looked around, her eyes settling on every one of us. She looked so young. Then again, their ancient ones sometimes did. “You twelve. I swear I mean you no harm, and will do you no intentional harm, save in active self-defense.” She fell back to the floor with a small thump.

Marie tugged a blanket up to the girl’s hips, and began bandaging the hole the arrow and Kingfisher had left. “It would have waited,” she muttered, but the girl was back beyond listening.

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Live-In, a story for the Dungeon Cave call

It had started out horribly.

Sara had allowed Adrian to move in with her out of something like compassion and something like building-good-karma: he’d ended up in a bad spot with his last roommate, so when he lost his job he had no place to stay, no savings, not even a futon. Sara was doing pretty well, so easy enough for her to let Adrian sleep on her futon.

And that was fine, but Sara wasn’t used to having other people in her space, and Adrian wasn’t used to not having something to do, so for the first three weeks all they did was yell at each other (mostly Sara yelled) and pester each other (mostly Adrian pestered).

It was a disaster, and all their friends knew it. Until Sara, absolutely done with everything, turned around and spat out, “if you’re that bored, do the dishes!”

And he did.

And then he came back to ask “what next?” and Sara gave him the laundry – and then dinner prep for the next day, and then, when he was still asking her for things to do, suggested he scrub the bathroom floor.

When he took even that without complaint, she took him out and bought him ice cream.

After a couple weeks of this, Adrian stopped asking Sara and just did the things that needed doing. After a couple more weeks, Sara found herself relying on it. If Adrian did the dishes, she could write for twenty more minutes. If he did the laundry, she could steal ten minutes at the coffee shop. If he cleaned the floor… it was clean for the first time since she’d bought the apartment.

And then Adrian got a job.

If you’d like to see more of this story, I bet there’s more to be written. Just drop a tip in the the tip handcuffs:

Written to [personal profile] perfectworry‘s prompt.


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Two Rocks and All The Pebbles, a continuation for the Dungeon Cave call (@rix_scaedu)

Rock, Hard, Now What?

“How do we get through this? I’ll tell you how. Let me go. Then I can get out of this damn place, and I’ll be just fine.” He flexed against the chains, digging their edges into his skin. “You can fend for yourself.”

“Not going to happen. Letting you go is suicide for me – and the king’s soldiers will hunt you down.”

He growled. “Damnit, woman, I’m not going to bow and scrape for a year like some slave.”

It didn’t seem to bear pointing out that, technically, he was a slave. “Nobody’s asking you to.”

“Sure as blazes sounds like it.” He shifted his weight from one knee to the other.

“No.” The princess shook her head slowly. “I am asking you to agree to live in my suite for a year and to refrain from killing people – especially me – for that year.”

“While being your slave.”

“Well, that’s the part we can’t get around.” She shrugged. “But there’s nothing saying that a slave has to be slavish.”

“It’s sort of in the name.” He tilted his head at her, an expression far less daunting than any he’d shown previously. “Do you really think you could spend a year with someone like me, Princess, and not treat me like your slave?”

It was a good question. “As if my life depended on it.” She found herself smiling. “Do you think you could spend a year with someone like me, and not try to kill me?”

A heartbeat passed and then another. Had she pushed him too far? Another beat, another, and then a smile slowly grew across his face.
“As if my life depended on it.”

The princess allowed herself to relax fractionally. Her life was, of course, still in danger, but that was a fact of her existence. “Then do you think we might be able to have a deal?”

The prisoner shifted again. “I think we might be able to make a deal.”

She held up a hand. It was better to say it all before hand. “Two things you ought to know.”

He settled back against his heels, the frown growing again. “I’m listening.”

“One. There are still going to be people trying to kill me.”

“Clearly they’re not that good, since you’re still alive. I don’t think they’ll be able to hurt me. Two?”

Bravado had its place and purpose. “Two. I can say that I won’t treat you like a slave. I can’t say anything about the rest of the palace. And if you start a fight – the king’s men will get involved.”

He showed teeth in something she didn’t think was a smile. “I’m not going to start anything. But if they get involved, I know who’s going to come out on top.”

Perhaps that much bravado might be a little out of place. Then again, he’d been rational enough to make a deal with her. “Then we’ll try it. I’m going to unlock your bonds now.” She walked around behind him, placing herself directly at his back. “Please don’t wiggle.”

“Are you sure you’re a princess, Princess?”

“That…” She had a key. She had been a bit surprised that her father had given her a key. But it was easier than picking the lock. “That is the question that everyone keeps asking.”

“I guess the question is, does the King ask it?” She thought he was probably leering, but looking at his chained wrists and ankles lessened any effect his expression might have had.

“Well, even if my father wasn’t my father, the royal line came through my mother.” It wasn’t like it was the first time she’d heard the question. She pulled on the chains until he bent backwards a little bit. “Just a moment; I need slack to get these unlocked.”

He grunted. “He’d really kill you?”

She managed to get the key slotted into the first lock and turned it before she could change her mind. “He’s not the only one. But yes. He killed my sister. And my brother.” The shackle fell off of his left wrist.

“Big family?” He moved his arm tentatively, and then more certainly, pulling it in front of him. “Thinning the herd?”

“There were four of us. Now there’s two.” The second wrist was much easier to unlock, without the chain pulling and getting in the way. She moved on to the ankles. “I haven’t figured it out yet. Either he really hates us, or he wants to motivate us to be as strong as possible.”

“Could be both.” He rolled his shoulders and stretched, the movement making the bruises and cuts on his back twist and dance. “Sounds like a lovely family.”

“It’s the only one I have.” The ankles came unlocked much quicker, now that she was getting the hang of this. “There.”

“Thank you.” He waited just long enough for her to get off of his legs before rising to his feet, stretching and groaning every inch of the way. “Now, I’m going to need pants, a shirt, a belt, shoes, and a weapon of some sort.”

He was, the princess noted, rather tall as well as rather muscular. She also noted the way that he placed his feet, as if he was uncertain of his balance, and the way that he blinked when looking at her. Perhaps a head injury? With his hair in the way, she couldn’t tell if he had any obvious bruising or cuts.

She cleared her throat. “You’re also going to need a bath. Possibly two. And I’m going to need your word that you won’t leave this room without me and your assurance that you’re not going to go around stabbing the royal guards if I do give you a knife.”

His smirk darkened quickly to a frown. “I thought you said you weren’t going to treat me like a slave.”

“I’m not. But I’m not going to put up with you treating me like one, either.” She raised her chin and met his gaze steadily. “We’re going to be partners in this, or I’m going to treat you like a paroled nobleman.”

“Like a – I’m not some poncy noble!”

“Better than a slave, isn’t it?” She found herself smiling. “Look, we have an arrangement. The arrangement involves us looking as if we are getting along for long enough that nobody kills us. And that is not going to happen if you snap orders around.”

“Not gonna happen if you do, either.” He set his jaw.

The princess sighed. “Agreed. So: if you want a weapon, I need your parole. Your agreement that you aren’t going to go attacking people in the palace.”

“You’re seriously going to consider giving me a weapon?”

“I’m seriously considering giving you pants. The weapon depends a lot more on you.”

“Giving you my ‘parole.’” He sat down on the edge of her bed. “What if they stab me first?”

“Then you can feel free to stab them. But if you start a fist fight and they escalate… look, just please try not to get in a situation where the King will have a reason to kill us both, okay? Agree to that and I’ll get you a knife.”

“He’s already put us in a situation where he’s pretty much trying to make us get ourselves killed, isn’t he?”

She rolled her eyes at him. “Right. You know what I mean?”

“I’m just trying to make sure I get it right. Parole is a pretty important thing for nobles and other nobby sorts, isn’t it?”

“It is…”

“Grounds for oath-breaking if it’s broken. Someone told me that once.”

She had a feeling that was a story of its own. “Yeah. Yes, it can be.”

“So I want to get it right. So, pretty much, you don’t want me to rock the boat. We’re already down to one board and half an oar, and you don’t want me to dump us in the drink.”

The princess found a smile crossing her lips. Where had that come from? “Yes. That sums it up nicely. Can you agree to that?”

“If it gets me pants and a blade.”

“Then it will get you pants and a blade.” If the blade ended up between her shoulders, well, then it did so.

“Then I, uh. I give you my parole.”

She felt a weight lift off her shoulders: not the heaviest of the weights, nor the most urgent, but a weight nonetheless. She pressed her palms together, fingertips nearly at her throat, and bowed deeply. “I am Arisse. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

He snorted. “Is that how you do it in the castle?”

“How do you do it where you came from?” She rose from the bow, but kept her hands pressed together.

He dropped his palms to his thighs and leaned forward, knees bending but eyes still on her. It was quick, not quite cursory, and he was smiling through the whole thing. “I’m Chress. I can’t say it’s nice to meet you, Princess, but it’s nice to find out you’re not a complete bitch.”

“I’m pleased to discover that, too.” The princess suppressed something far too much like a giggle for her tastes. “Let’s get you some pants – although that’s going to require leaving my suite.”

“I’ve been dragged in front of the entire court naked. I think I can handle walking down the hall.” He had no problem with his own smiles, it seemed, fierce tiger-grins that they were. “I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”

The princess raked her eyes down his body. She might doubt some of his bravado – but he was right about this.

He was sculpted, head to toe, and while he was also bruised, bloody, and dirty, it made him look like a painting of a wild warrior.

He turned away from her. “So, am I getting pants or not, Princess?”

“Let’s get you a weapon. And something to wear.” Keeping him naked would not improve his mood, she was certain, and she’d given her word not to keep him like a slave. “This way.”

Arisse lived in comfortable exile in a far wing of the castle, one that had been abandoned for more than a decade as her father inadvertently drove away distant relatives, hangers-on, and ambassadors. The king had not complained; she assumed that nobody had told him. It wasn’t as if he was going to sneak into her room in the middle of the night and do the deed of killing her himself.

It meant that she was not generally bothered; it also meant it was a long walk to the laundry and longer to the armory. Chress bore it well, but she could tell he was limping. The closer they got, the more extreme it got.

“Here.” They’d passed only a couple people and there was nobody in the hall with them at the moment; it seemed safe enough. “You can lean on my shoulder.”

“I’m fine.” He pushed away from her.

“You’ve been injured.”

“They did a lot more than injure me. But I’m fine.”

“It’s no shame to accept a crutch for a battle-wound…”

He shoved her away. “What would you know about shame, Princess…“ His voice caught mid-word, and, much to her surprise, he dropped to his knees.


He talked over her. “I’m sorry, Princess, I didn’t mean to run into you.” He dropped his head to his knee, the way that the palace help would.

“You can’t have trained him already. Was this some joke of your father’s?”

The voice was shrill, piercing, and far too familiar. Arisse dropped her head for the two seconds required by politeness, then met Dame Sessaly’s gaze. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, madame.”

The woman was not old so much as she was a fixture in the court. “He’s behaving himself. Like a proper body-slave.”

Arisse counted to five in her head. While her eyes were on Dame Sessaly, she strained every other sense towards Chress. Was he going to pounce? How far could he be pushed?

“He was a gift from my father. You don’t think the king would give his daughter an improper gift, do you?” The princess knew she sounded vaguely amused. She had a lot of practice sounding vaguely amused or slightly bored, dealing with the court.

“He was delivered to you wrapped in chains.”

“Well, he is a warrior. It’s not common to deliver warriors wrapped in flowers, is it?”

“A warrior who is bent-knee like a slave?”

“Well, does he look like a slave to you?” Let this end soon, please. Before Chress could take no more.

“He’s on his knees at a lady’s feet.”

“He’s on his knees at a princess’ feet.” Chress’ rumble of an answer spoke of violence. “As ought be everyone.”

“He speaks!” Dame Sessaly looked down at Chress. “And you think I ought to be bowing to your princess, boy?”

“I think everyone ought to show her the respect due her position.” He was snapping off his words now.

“And what about the respect due my position?”

This was going to end poorly. This was going to end very poorly indeed.

Chress looked Dame Sessally up and down, more assessing than scorning. “You fucking the king?”

“What? How dare you!” She took a step backwards, glaring at Chress. The princess noted that, despite the outrage, she didn’t deny the question. Interesting.

“Not married to him, not unless you people mark marriage way differently than mine – stupid hairdos or something. So that makes you… not outranking the Princess. Princess?”

“You’re not wrong.” He wasn’t. Not that Dame Sessally was going to enjoy hearing that. Arisse was going to be hearing about this for months.

On the other hand, she was enjoying it.

“So, you don’t outrank her, she owns me, so I can say whatever I want to you.” Chress nodded. “Dame.”

“Your father will hear about this!” The Dame was looking more and more flustered.

“I’m sure he will. Now, if you’ll excuse me…?”

“There is absolutely no excuse for a hoyden like you!” Happily offended and having gotten in the last word, Dame Sessally flounced off.

“Thought she’d never leave.” Chress cleared his throat. “Ah, Princess, could I get a hand up?”

Written to [personal profile] rix_scaedu‘s commissioned continuation.

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Discoveries about Doomsday, a continuation of AG/Doomsday (@inventrix)

First: Visiting Doomsday
Previous: Classrooms of Doomsday

Kheper nodded at Luke. Luke nodded back at Kheper. Nobody needed to be a succubus to sense the tension in the air.

The students weren’t, Luke assumed, all in the room yet – there were three there, one in just-grey-white-and-black, one with the same red accessories and accents that Nehara was wearing, and one wearing light green and pink. All three of them, almost in unison, looked at their professor, looked at each other, and turned to look at Luke.

He flared his wings and, feeling immensely self-conscious under the gaze of three teenagers and one boy he still thought of as a teenager, bowed again. He cleared his throat. “Ah, hello. Professor – Agislaw. Jae’Law-Shield.”

The boy in pink and green gasped. Luke schooled his face and waited for Kheper’s response.

The boy – man, he probably deserved that much – bowed back in response. “Sa’Hunting Hawk. Luke. Principal Doomsday told me you were visiting, but I didn’t know you’d be taking in my humble class.”

There had never, ever, been anything remotely humble about Kheper. Still. Luke smiled, and tilted his head in Nehara’s direction. “My tour guide thought it would be a good idea.”

“Aah. Nehara. How kind of you.” Kheper’s attention slid seamlessly to his students. “Since the three of you were so kind as to be on time, allow me to introduce you to the head of Security at Addergoole and my former PE teacher, Luca Hunting-Hawk. Sir, this is Nur, Ihab, and Antigone.”

He remembered when Antigone’s father had named her. He’d come back to Addergoole to ask Luke about the naming visions, pale and sick-looking.

“…and the best combat instructor, best warrior I’ve ever met.” Kheper’s eyes met Luke’s again. He was smiling, not a common expression for Law-Shield.

He would have to trust that Doomsday had Antigone well in hand. He nodded back to Kheper. He wasn’t sure what the game was here, but it felt like mark-the-territory. He could respect that.

“Better than Professor Inazuma?” They probably weren’t supposed to hear that whisper, but Ihab, the boy in green and pink, was not all that quiet.


Kheper fielded the question smoothly. “Far better than Professor Inazuma. As a matter of fact, Sa’Hawk taught Inazuma, back when I was in school.”

Oh! Yes, that would suit Leo’s sense of – whatever it was. Luke smiled at the students. Another two were trickling in, and he could see one more behind them. He was going to have to make this good.

“He was one of my best students,” he allowed. “Certainly one of my most eager.”

The students giggled. Good to know that that still struck a note. Luke was finding Boom-et-al being so very… non-explosive was leaving him on uncertain footing.

“Luke is also,” Kheper took back the conversation smoothly. Luke glanced at him; the boy – professor – nodded again, almost apologetically. “He’s also one of the only full-blooded Mara I have ever met, and the only one I know to still be alive.”

Ah. Well, he was invading a classroom. Luke spread his wings wide, so that the students could study them. “I remember.” He had never had a good “teaching voice;” Mike always referred to his grunt-or-shout tactic. The room was small, though, so he resorted to the tone he used with scared first-year mentorees. “When I was a child, it was rare to see a ha – an Ellehemaei that was not full-blooded. And now, we’re all but extinct.”

He flapped his wings once, just enough to prove they were real. “The Mara are – were, I guess – the protectors. We were stronger, tougher, faster. Warriors.”

“Hunters.” The girl’s voice was very quiet, but it still took all of Luke’s self-control not to flap at her. Instead, he turned to look at her, very mindfully folding his wings until they were at rest.

“The Shenera Oseraei had very similar fae. They called them Hunters – and many people think the two bloodlines are related. Yeah. But the Mara are not Hunters.”

She was not a big girl; she looked younger than her peers, and, still dressed in grey-white-and-black, Luke guessed she probably didn’t have a Mentor yet. “That’s just -” She turned to Kheper.

He shot Luke a quick warning glance over her head. When he answered, Luke noticed his voice was careful and very gentle. “It’s all right. Sa’Hawk knows you didn’t mean any offense, Mara.”

Luke struggled to control a wing-flap. Mara?

Kheper’s cleared throat brought his attention back. “Her name is Mara, Luke, מָרָא. Not māra.”

Luke settled down. He could tell the unfortunately-named girl was getting very upset. “My mistake. Pleased to meet you, Mara. Maybe after class, we could talk more about Those Who Protect?”

“I…” She shrugged her shoulders up to her ears. “If Miss Ascha says it’s okay?”

“I’m sure she will.” Kheper took control of the conversation with a smoothness Luke found himself envying. “And perhaps sa’Hawk could tell the rest of the class a little bit about the Laws of Belonging? We’re studying the first Law of Belonging today.”

Luke cleared his throat. “Aah. Well,” he chuckled nervously. “That would be the one I’ve had the least experience with. It’s been a few years since I’ve been a Child.”

“You have children, don’t you?” Nur tilted her head at him. “I thought all of the Addergoole teachers did.”

“Well. You know quite a bit about the Addergoole staff.” He shifted, trying to find a comfortable position. “Yes. I have a few children, and some grandkids. But I’m their father.”

“Professor Inazuma has maternal rights – well, I mean, she’s grown…” Ihab seemed to be infatuated with Leo. Well, he certainly wasn’t the first. Luke wondered if Leofric knew. Or Cynara, for that matter.

“Yeah, but Sigruko was a special case.” Luke looked around the gathering class. “Well. I’ve had enough kids that I know what the First Law of Belonging looks like from a father’s end. I can talk about that. If that’s all right, Professor Aegislaw?”

“Of course.” Kheper bowed to him.

Enough time had passed that Luke could talk about Aleron without pain and anger; by this time, Aleron’s grandchildren, his disreputable grandson Makatza among them, had come and gone from Addergoole. Doug was harder, not because there was pain, but because there was guilt. And Chavva and Icarus – well, those were stories he could tell while feeling his wings show every emotion, and he let them.

When he was done, he bowed to the students, bowed to Kheper, and took his leave, feeling wrung out and, at the same time, happy. He caught Nehara watching him and tucked his wings against his back.

He cleared his throat. “Ah. So, what’s next our our tour?”

“I was thinking about visiting Professor Lily’s class. Aah… Dáirine?”

Luke’s wings twitched. “Dáirine.” He remembered the too-pretty girl: daughter of two troublemakers, raised by a completely different sort of trouble. Ciara’s adopted child. “Ah. Cya would know her through Yoshi.”

“Principal Doomsday knows everyone.” Nehara smiled placidly, but Luke still couldn’t shake the feeling that she was laughing at him. “Would you rather skip her class?”

“No. No, I’d like to see her take on history.”

Nehara paused for a heartbeat. Studying him? Reading him? Luke was an open book and knew it. “This hour is my class – Eighth-Year – and she’s covering the history of the collapse and subsequent rebuilding.”

It sounded like a warning. Luke couldn’t blame the girl for thinking some heads-up was necessary. Dáirine had been a child when the world had ended. What historical perspective…

Humans did it all the time, he reminded himself. “I’d love to see it.”

“Same building, so we don’t have to go far.” She led him out of the classroom and into a narrow-looking hall that was crowded with students. Narrow-seeming, and yet Luke noticed he could probably spread his wings almost to their full width. The floor was wood with throw rugs; the walls were covered in artwork. “It’s…” He searched for a word, and picked one after a while, more Mike’s word than his own. “Cozy.”

“These kids – me, too, when I was that age – this is the first time they’ve ever been away from home. Some of them grew up in enclaves, but some of them were barely holding on to survive. They want to be sure that everyone feels as comfortable as possible, this far away from home.”

“Maybe we should think about that more at Addergoole.” Cozy was never a word he’d heard used to describe that place, at least not without tongue firmly in cheek. “Do you like it? Did it help you be comfortable?”

“I was homesick, of course.” She shrugged elegantly. Mike would love this girl. Luke swallowed the thought and the irrational jealous that it brought forward. “But the kidlings, first, second, third years, most of the fourth and fifths, they’re all in one big house, so you’re never really alone unless you want to be. Cy’Ascha, unofficially.”

That was the second time the name Ascha had come up. “Aceline? sh’Magnolia?”

Nehara raised her eyebrows at him. “I wouldn’t presume to call a teacher by their mother’s name.”

Luke glowered at her, uncowed by her implicit scolding. “I was there when her mother was born.”

“You were there when she was Named, too, weren’t you? Aceline, sa’Water Under the Bridge, is that who you mean?”

There was tartness in her voice that hadn’t been there before. Luke liked it. But his wings still flapped irritably. “Yes,” he grumbled. “Ascha.”

Her voice gentled minutely. “Doomsday is a kid away from home, sa’Hunting Hawk. And you’re the uncle set to check up on the kid. But please remember that while they are wayward children to you, they’re honored mentors and instructors to us.”

Luke’s wings stilled. “How are you so wise, so young?” Are you another Manira, another cuckoo’s egg in the nest? Are you a danger?

Nehara smiled sadly. “I’m cy’Red. It’s quite an education.”

And, he could tell, not the whole answer. That was fine. He nodded his head to her. “So, Aceline is a teacher here?”

“She teaches the younger students, up through their third year. And she lives in the dorm with them. She’s very good at being soothing.”

“She’s always been a good girl.”

Nehara smiled. “Not like her sister, right? I’ve heard the stories. Professor Sweetflower – Magnolia – tells some of the stories.”

Luke bit back a comment. Magnolia shouldn’t have surprised him, not after Aceline. She’d been in love with Howard since she’d Kept him, and Howard was inseparable from Cynara. Dáirine, Ascha, Kheper, Magnolia – how far did Cya’s reach extend?

“And after Professor Lily’s class, maybe I can show you some of the other areas.” Nehara kept talking as if they’d never segued into the conversation on Aceline. “The dojo-and-dance-studio, of course. Then there’s the kid’s hall, some of the cy’ree dormitories -”

“You dorm by cy’ree?” That was so traditional it had dust and leather bindings. Luke was surprised Cynara had come up with it – or had she?

“In the middle years, yes. And then the last year or two, we dorm with our crew. I could show you my apartment, too.”

He had to be imagining the suggestion there. She sounded so innocent, so calm. There was no way she was… Luke coughed.

“I’d like that. Seeing around the place. It all seems so… tidy.”

“Well.” Now she just sounded amused. Luke found he could live with her being amused at him. “sa’Red Doomsday did plan it. And if there’s one thing everyone knows about Red Doomsday…”

Luke cleared his throat. He found that he didn’t know the end of that sentence, and that made him uncomfortable. Nehara clearly expected him to fill in the end, like an in-joke he had never been part of.

“Lozenge?” She opened a small wooden box filled with what he hoped were cough drops of some sort. “The air here does that to some people.”

“Thanks.” Luke took a cough drop and the excuse. “You were saying…?”

“Oh. If there’s one thing everyone knows about Red Doomsday, it’s that she’s prepared for everything.” Nehara shrugged dismissively. “I guess the joke works better if you know her.”


“Doomsday prepper.” Luke coughed it out around the cough drop, which turned out to have hot pepper flakes in it. “Prepper.

“Well, yes.” Nehara’s innocent look was so studied, it had to be fake. “Everyone knows that… don’t they?”

Written to @Inventrix’s commissioned continuation.

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Paying Attention…

I’ve been trying to pay more attention lately.

I’m noticing when I stop playing an online game, why I do so (too much grinding; they were mean to a friend of mine), and if I go back, why I do so (new genes, friends talking about it & linking to it).

I’m noticing when I buy a book or read a book, why I do so:

I bought a John Scalzi book because he stood up for Micah during the Space Marine Problem.

I read a book @dahob lent me on, and then found another similar book by “similar books” and bought that (haven’t read it yet).

I stopped (years ago) reading an author I enjoyed, in part because she hit a wall of squick for me in the last book I read – and in part because she got politically vitriolic on her LJ.

And yet, despite the fact that another author disagrees with me on every political point I’ve read her blogging about – but she’s never hateful, and I’ve bought her books, wishlisted her books, driven 4 hours to go to a reading of her, and told her I wanted to be her when I grew up.

Pay attention to your own buying habits. They tell you something about other people’s habits – and they tell you something about marketing.

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Giraffe Dungeon Cave Donation Incentives: Character art. Whatcha want?

While the Dungeon & Cave call didn’t reach $100 ($94!), it did reach and far exceed the $40 character art level.

So: Which character or pair of characters do you want to see art of? Going by donations to continue, the most popular were Daxton and his mercenary, the princess and her angry captive, Ivor and Valeta, and Edora and Prince Rodegard – but it’s a lot more spread out than it was in August (Catboy Samurai all the time!).

So who do you want to see?

Need a refresher? All the stories can be found in The Giraffecall tag (and on LJ).

Any character from this Giraffe Call is fair game, not just those I’ve mentioned above.

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