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Far-Gone From the West, a continuation of Far Weston for Finish It Bingo

After Far Weston, for my Third Finish It Bingo Card. I know this isn’t done yet, but it was a good place to post while I figure out what happens next..

Being a hunter was a dangerous occupation, more so in the edges of civilization, where the forest itself was likely to fight back if it didn’t like you, much less the animals, who were often bigger and stronger than those you’d get closer to Centon.

It was the sort of occupation that meant that Pyiata lived out in the woods for most of her life, stopping into the village that had raised her only when she had to – to sell meat and furs, to buy supplies, to see the annual service of the river, when her cousins and former neighbors would draw stones.

It was the sort of occupation that meant that she was more used to the company of small woodland creatures and the occasional wandering unicorn than she was other humans, and that she tended to notice when something went strange with the animals and missed things like a new Mayor or a new priest (she had once mistaken a new priest for the old for three years, assuming the old had simply put on a lot of weight at some point. Their village was prosperous, after all. Travelers from far away would stop there, because it was the last mark of civilization before the wilds and the hills. It was easier to get fat there than in many other places).

Pyiata had spent a good month hunting. She had smoked meats to sell and tanned hides to trade, a fresh gathering of wild ramps and some early apples that grew only in two particular clearings. It was time to go back to the village, to do her trading and make sure the mayor hadn’t gotten too fat.

There was a small problem, however. She stared at the wall, then took twenty paces back and looked around.

There was the forked tree where she’d hidden as a child. There was the very old wellhead, before the spring had moved. There was the foundation of the old granny’s house, the one that had burned down when Pyiata was just a child. She was in the right place.

But there was a city wall in the way.

Pyiata shifted her pack, rolled her shoulders, and made sure her weapons were both accessible and looking non-threatening. City people, she’d been told, could be weird about weapons. They could be weird about hunters, too, as if their meat didn’t come from things that’d had skin and hooves or paws at some point, too.

She paced the wall of the city. It was bigger than the village had been, but it would have to be. Cities were big things, huge, sometimes, encompassing people and Factories and – well, Pyiata’s idea of a city was fairly fuzzy, as she had never been to one, just seen the walls of Weston once or twice. But big; they were definitely big.

She reached the gate almost by accident. It was not where the old road through the village had been; that road was gone, covered over in rubble and plant-cuttings. The new road shot straight and silver towards Weston – too silver, so silver. Pyiata swallowed down bile. There weren’t that many unicorns, this far out. Where had they found them? How had they caught them?

But the new gate was guarded by strangers, two tall people in armor as shining as the road, with pikes. They looked askance at her. She looked right back at them.

“There was a village here,” she informed them.

“There is a city here,” the left-ward one replied, as if she were a bit slow. Pyiata was used to people speaking to her as if she were a little bit slow; she smiled widely at the guard the way she had at others who had annoyed her.

“There was a village here,” she repeated. “With a Mayor and a priest, grannies and granthers and young girls and young boys. There was a village here.” Something inside her kept her from saying it was my home “Where is the Mayor? Where are the priest and the granthers?”

“There’s a city here,” the rightmost guard told her. He was shifting backwards. He was unhappy. Even Pyiata could tell that. He was worried she was going to – what, yell? No, his eyes were on her weapon.

She held her hands out, empty, non-threatening. “I want to know where the village went, that’s all.”

“There isn’t a village here.” The leftmost guard spoke even more slowly. “This is Far Weston. It’s a city.”

She wasn’t going to get anywhere with this. Pyiata smacked her forehead, as if she had just remembered. “Right! A city, Far Weston! And I have things to sell. I have furs and smoked meat, I have sausages and hoof-cups, I have fine food and soft slippers. See?” She opened her bag and let the smells of the sausages waft out. “I have fine foods to sell in Far Weston.”

“Well, be out before sunset. They don’t like loiterers, vagabonds, in the city after dark. Market’s right through there.” The one that thought she was slow gestured inward. “Get on with you, then. Through there to the market.”

Pyiata knew markets, although this market was bigger and cleaner, shinier and flashier than the one in the Village had been. She set up next to a baker and chatted with the woman about the town and its priests, its factory and its shopkeeps.

She learned several important things, although she wasn’t sure what to make of any of them. People – the baker, the pie-maker on the other side, the weaver nearby – they would talk about any given part of the city being new – the priest had come in new. The factory was new and hiring new people. The mayor was newly-elected. But nobody would say that the city itself was new. Nobody would say anything about the village.

If Pyiata said something about the village, people would seem to ignore her, or look the other way, or suddenly be very interested in their produce or what the person across the street was doing. Nobody would speak to her directly about anything.

The houses where the village had been were new – and yet they looked very familiar. It was as if someone had taken Lothenna the carpenter’s house and redone it with new materials, a little bigger, a little shinier, with a bigger front porch. The same for Gello the tailor and Kvenner who took in washing: their houses were there, and, indeed, they were occupied by a carpenter, a tailor, and a washer, but they were bigger, brighter, the people inside a little cleaner, a little more respectable looking

Everyone looked through Pyiata if she didn’t speak directly to them. They looked at her wares – the tailor who was not Gello offered to buy the skins off of her, and, although she felt traitorous, she managed to make a good profit – and they noticed her passing, but they tried not to look her in the face.

She knew she smelled a bit; hunters usually did, although it wasn’t the sort of smell the animals minded. But people weren’t making the fine-people-smelling-a-working-person face; they weren’t making any face at all.

So the village was gone. It was gone, and yet people had noticed it enough to put new houses that looked like the old in its place. The people were gone — and the only clue Pyiata had that the new residents even knew that was the way they refused to talk about the old residents.

The old residents Her family. Her town.

Pyiata could track. She could follow a quarry for days if she had to. She could bring something down with one arrow from across a meadow or through a clearing in the forest.

She could not get answers from people, so she went looking for answers from the land.

The river had moved; she went looking there, first. She put out a line to give herself an excuse — and because smoked fish was a nice change from smoked meat, sometimes. And with her line tied, she wandered up and down the water, looking at the streambed.

They’d rerouted the river only about ten feet, into an old bed it had sat in, long ago. The new shift in the river, though, went right over where Old Unther’s cabin had been, old Unther who had taught Pyiata to hunt. There was no trace of the cabin itself, nothing but a cute little cabin-shaped gazebo perched on the edge of the river, nearby but not on the proper site, but in the shallows, Pyiata found Unther’s old knife and seven arrow-heads.

From that, she knew Unther had not had the chance to pack up. So she looked for signs of a struggle, because Unther’s place was too far from the village to have been covered up by the new city.

They had smoothed over the terrain. They had replaced Unther’s cabin with the ridiculous pretend-cabin gazebo, which looked as much like a real cabin as a child’s wooden sword looked like a soldier’s steel blade. But they had not replaced the old elm, the one which had stood in just the right place to shade Unther’s cabin without risking falling on it, nor the ivy that grew around its base.

There she found tracks, a peel of bark missing from the tree, and half of one of Unther’s arrows. Someone had fought not to be moved. Someone had struggled mightily, and, from the looks of it, lost.

But Unther had blazed the tree the way he’d taught her too — messily, of course, but he’d taken the fight to the tree. So she knew they’d headed west.

West. Interesting. There was nothing West but strange lands and strangers, as far as she knew. Nothing there but where-tinkers-came-from and where-traders-sometimes-went, and that’s where they’d dragged Unther.

It was enough to start with. Pyiata circled the strange new city and headed West.

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(Range) Ladies’ Bingo: Transformation – The Unicorn/Factory & Ursel

Written for my [community profile] ladiesbingo card after Change and with a nod to Strange

Short Summary: The unicorns keep the water clean for the villages, but the price they demand is maidens… and their children are born from those maidens.

Content Warning: The unicorns in these stories are heavy on the rape metaphor, and it’s very heavy in the below story. Also, violence, via unicorn horn, discussed in the past tense.

I think this has an ending but it wasn’t sure.

People, as a rule, were not very good at keeping secrets.

The more unusual the information, the worse they were at keeping them close.

There was a girl in Shepachdar’s tavern, and she was a unicorn-born who hadn’t changed, already an anomaly.

There was a foal in Lastowe that had changed early, and it had grown wings instead of a horn, strange beyond strange – and yet it seemed to be needed.

How will he mate? some people muttered. But very quietly: they didn’t talk too loudly about what happened down at the river. They might know – almost everyone knew. The unicorns and the maidens, they made more unicorns, and there was blood, there was always blood, whether the result was a dying girl or a pregnant one.

What will come of the girl? some people asked. They were far less quiet about that; personal tragedy was interesting, it was personal, and it didn’t come tainted with the guilt of the Silver Road and the blood of all those young girls.

Eventually, the questions came back to the tavern in Shepachdar, and back to Ursel, the girl with the nubbin of horn on her forehead.

“So…” It was Fazenia who asked, Fazenia who had started this whole mess rolling. “If you haven’t changed…”

Ursel sat down and stared at Fazenia for a long time. The men looked away. The other bar-maids looked away. Fazenia did not.

“Every child a unicorn sires is a unicorn,” Ursel began. “This is the truth of things.”

Around her, people were muttering. Fazenia, who had gone down to the river in her own time, held Ursel’s gaze and waited.

“Common knowledge says it’s the horn, but that is only a an indicator of certain things.” She touched the nubbin on her forehead. Fazenia touched her own stomach, below the navel. “I know,” the woman who should be a unicorn continued, “that many children are born after the river trips, and more than half of those are born with no horn. Those births are easier. Those men live fine lives, and their daughters have an easier time of the river. Those women… they either have an easier time at the river, or everything goes horrible.” She ducked her head. “Unicorns, the ones who have four legs and who swim the river, they are not human, whatever they were born. They don’t think like humans, and they don’t communicate like humans. And unicorns either favor the two-legged of their kin, or they hate them unbearably.”

Fazenia’s fists clenched in her lap. Ursel, now, was the one to look away, but just for a moment.

“I digress. Every child conceived at the river is a unicorn. I know. So many babies you have all seen, maybe yourself, maybe the child you raised as your own. All unicorns.”

Somewhere, someone opened their mouth. One of the bar-maids shushed them before they cloud say a word.

Ursel nodded, although nobody had asked anything. “It’s not what we’re taught, any of us. Only the ones who transform – only the sons, and not all of the sons. I think many mothers tell themselves that the daughters, the sons who don’t change, that they all come from somewhere else. But the truth, as I have been told it, is that we are all, every child the unicorn-horn puts into you, unicorns.”

“Who told you?” Fazenia’s voice was very quiet. Nobody in the bar had trouble hearing it.

Ursel hesitated, swallowed, and nodded. It was a fair question.

“I didn’t change,” she said, which was obvious to everyone. “I was born with the shining spot on my forehead, but my mother ignored it, because I was born a girl. When I was a young child, the nub developed, the way it did for some boys. My mother styled my hair to cover it.” She brushed her hair out of the way. “We pretended it was a place I had hit my head, or a strawberry mark. When the boys in the town started, you know, their voices changed and then, if they had the nub, they changed, my mother sent me to live with my aunt and uncle, who lived far from the water. She was keeping me safe, she said. I didn’t question it. I was a good child.”

“But I got the black bean, when I came back home. That’s what my village does, draws a black bean to see which girl goes down to the river. And I went, because how could I not? I was a child of the village, the same as anyone else. We hadn’t told anyone, not even my mother’s husband, what I was. And I went down to the river.”

Fazenia reached out, dropped her hand, and reached out again. Ursel didn’t pull back, so Fazenia put her hand over the barmaid’s.

The men were silent. The other tavern girls were silent. This story ended badly so many times, even when it ended well in the long run.

“The biggest unicorn I had ever seen came up to me. She — it was a mare, and those are so rare, you know — she touched her horn to my forehead, and it was…” Ursel’s voice broke. “I didn’t belong there. Too human,” she told me, and I could feel her horn pressing… pressing into the nube where my horn should be growing. Too much, too full, too many words.” Ursel looked up. “I have been looking for an explanation since that day. I had to many words. I was too full of humanity. Why?”

“My daughter,” Fazenia spoke softly, her voice like water over gravel. “She went down to the water. No horn, no nothing, but she’d been born from the unicorn stab.”

The whole bar flinched. Nobody said stab connected to unicorns. Nobody but those who’d felt the horn.

“She went down to the water, and this stallion, he… he savaged her. I wasn’t supposed to be there, you know, it’s the thing between the girl — the young woman and the river. The unicorns. But I hear her scream.

“So I ran down, what mother wouldn’t?” The dryness in her voice spoke of mothers who hadn’t, all the mothers who listened and bit their lip and did nothing while their daughters screamed. “I ran down, and there’s this giant stallion. standing over her, his horn red with her blood, and still shining, still looking pure, ridiculous, I remember thinking, how can he be pure, with her blood all over him? but he was still pure like the snow, white, even the black-red of her blood shining. And,” she pounded her fists on the table. “And he spoke to me. That creature, that monster, he spoke to me.

“‘Too human,’ it said.” She spat the words out. “‘Tainted. She tastes of the clear water where it meets the factory’s spew. It sickens me,’ he said. Sickens him, my beautiful daughter, bleeding out on his shore.” She slammed her fists into the table. “And his delicate stupid horsey taste-buds nearly killed my perfect daughter…” She looked up at Ursel. “And you’re telling me it’s because he made her? His kind made her, slammed their horn into me and put her in there, and, and, and that thing that the unicorns made, that perfect daughter,” she repeated with an angry sob, “that’s too much for them?”

“They don’t like making girls,” Ursel admitted very quietly. “I think. They don’t like talking, you know, and they do it so rarely. But something about the seed of theirs turning to a girl… we taste too much of humanity.”

“But,” an unwise barmaid offered, “wouldn’t we all, then? We’re all human. And yet, she said..”

Fazenia grimaced. “‘Where the river meets the factory water. Those bastards. They piss in our stream and call it pure and clean.”

“The factories?” one of the men asked, more cautiously than the barmaid.

“No.” Ursel touched her forehead. “The Unicorns. We’ll never be enough for them… because we made them.”

It wasn’t quite a sob she made, and not quite a whimper, but Fazenia made the noise for both of them, sob and wail and whimper in one long noise. Mother and foal and yet never kin, they sat together in the center of the bar with their tears and their scars.

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Landing Page: Unicorn/Factory

A new setting, Unicorn/Factory colors an early industrial world, where the ravages of rampant production are being held off by unicorns.

This story has some dark themes – not just pollution, corruption, and the clash of industrialization & farming, but also the very real costs paid by the farming towns. It also encompasses, in some stories, rape and forced pregnancy, maiming, and murder.


Best Places to Start
Down the River
The Silver Road (LJ)
Preconceptions


Down the River
Talking it to Death (LJ)

Duty after she’s gone to the river…

Chased/t
Unicorn Chase (LJ)
Unicorn-Chased (LJ)
Unicorn-Chaste (LJ)

The Silver Road (LJ)
Pure as… (LJ)
Making Harvest Wreathes (LJ)
Red Roses and White [No X post, Donor Perk]
Preconceptions
The Grey Line (and on LJ)
Observed (no x-post, Donor Perk)
Productive (LJ)
The Governors (LJ)
Right and Wrong (LJ)
Cleaning House (LJ)
Observing (LJ)

Other Bits
Take Me (LJ) Depression & the unicorns
Far Weston (LJ) A new City
Unicorn Hair (LJ)

The Rebellion
The Problem (LJ)
Unicorn Bride Rebellion, Part I (LJ)

Strange Unicorns
The Black Unicorns of Cardenborn (LJ)
The Unicorn’s Gift After The Black Unicorns
Change (LJ)
Strange (LJ)

Stroked
Stroke the Unicorn (LJ)
Unicorn Strokes (LJ)
Unicorn Truths (LJ)

The Black Bean (LJ)

5 Things You’ll Never Meet, by cluudle

No Unicorn, by rix_scaedu

February World-Building Q9
February World-Building Q24
February World-Building Q27
Three Weeks for Worldbuilding – The Governors in Unicorn/Factory (no xpost)

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/143643.html. You can comment here or there. comment count unavailable

Unicorn Truths – a story of Unicorn/Factory for Finish It! Bingo

After Stroke the Unicorn and Unicorn Strokes, for the Finish It! Bingo

Blanket content warning for Unicorn/Factory: This setting involves unicorns using their horns for both violence and sexual violence, although none of that is directly described in this story.

Jakob took the woman to his home for the night. She deserved better than an anonymous inn bed, after the story she had given them, and, what was more, Jakob found he wanted the rest of the story.

His wife and second-oldest daughters put her to bed. They were not rich, but every home had some small corner that could be made up for guests. In the town, they whispered that the Administrators might come to visit. In the Villages, it was said that you never knew when a guest would turn out to be a unicorn in disguise.

She wore his wife’s second-best nightgown and was wrapped in a quilt Jakob’s mother had sewn for them. She seemed to fall asleep quickly, but Jakob himself lay staring at the ceiling for a very long time before dreams took him.

She ate breakfast with them the next morning, polite as a gentrywoman, appetite as small as her capacity for whisky had been large the night before. She helped Jakob’s wife Elin wash up after, and then, and only then, she asked Elin politely “May I?”

What Elin thought of this woman, Jakob might never know. She looked at this stranger, dressed in widow’s weeds and carrying such pain, and she knew what she’d wanted before Jakob did.

“Of course,” she said. There was a tone in her voice that Jakob had never heard, and it occurred to him that he was intruding on matters most often private to woman.

The woman tilted her head at Jakob. “Let us walk,” she offered, “down by the green.”

“As you wish.” She had gone to the river. She was a Village girl. What had changed in her that she carried herself so nobly? Or was it Jakob, that he wanted her to be noble, because of what she had done?

She said nothing until they were meandering the town green, sidestepping the sheep that grazed there. “You want to know what the unicorn’s answer was.”

“Lady, only if…” She cut him off with a hand.

“You were kind to me when I was being unkind. You brought me into your home when all you know of me is that a unicorn rejected me. For your kindness, I am going to repay you with harsh truths that are too much for me to bear alone. And yet, I can tell that you want me to do so.”

Jakob swallowed. “I want to know what the unicorn’s answer was,” he admitted.

“Unicorns are a mystery to men. That it was it is. They are a mystery to everyone, but the women walk to the river, and so the men think we know something they do not.”

Jakob nodded his politely, but forced the words out. “Women see the unicorns,” he offered, “and they… touch them.”

She raised an arch eyebrow at him. He thought she looked nearly amused. “Does touching someone tell you about them?”

Jakob coughed, thinking of a misspent youth. “Ah. No.”

“Indeed.” She leaned against a tree and looked pensive. “But… Sometimes, the unicorn will answer a question. Sometimes he will answer two. I asked two.”

She was leading him into the story, he knew, but he couldn’t bring himself to resent it. She had been wounded, he thought. She may be lucky to be alive. Few of those who were so wounded ever married, ever bore children.

He cleared his throat yet again. “You said you asked what you’d done wrong.”

“..I did.” She sighed. “And the unicorn told me a secret. But, you see, it’s a secret nobody wants to believe.”

Nobody, Jakob thought, meant no-one where she came from. He thought she might be challenging him, and then he thought of the days in the tavern and amended his opinion. She was challenging him.

“And the unicorn said?” he offered. He did not want to know. He did not want to hear. It was the only thing he could do, to hear.

She eyed him. “You will not want to believe.”

“Lady,” he answered, naked in sincerity and in terror, “I cannot do anything but believe, not after what you have survived.”

She bowed her head for a moment. Jakob thought, perhaps, she’d wanted him to refute.

“He said,” she whispered, so softly he had to step forward to hear him. “He said ‘sometimes the river needs the blood.’ He said,” she continued, while Jakob struggled not to rear back, “that they insisted on purity because then, then there was someone to bleed when the river needed blood. He said,” she was no longer whispering, but Jakob did not move away. “He said that he was sorry, but the unpure ones no longer came down to the river. He said,” and now she was shouting, sobbing, “he said I had done nothing wrong! And he would try to not kill me, but the river…”

Her voice broke. Jakob held her, not knowing if she wanting it, knowing only that he needed to do something. “…the river,” she whispered. “It demanded the blood. I’ve stroked a unicorn.” Her eyes went to Jakob’s. Even now he had to fight not to flinch away. He held her shoulders, feeling like he was holding so much more. “They made a bargain.” Her voice was cracking, growing weaker. “We only thought it was the one we made.”

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The Black Bean, the beginning of something Unicorn/Factory

In Shandel’s village, the girls – the ones who were not yet old enough, the ones who had not been chosen – they spoke of going down to the river in nervous giggles, the way they would sometimes speak of a future husband, or a woman they thought particularly clever or pretty. The grandmothers, the old women, the ones that chose, spoke of it in slow tones, like an honor, or in brusque ones, like a chore. The women who had gone down and survived did not speak about it at all.

It was a surprise to many when the black bean came to Shandel at the harvest fair. She was quiet, so quiet some thought her simple. She was strange-looking, such that people would sometimes look at her mother sidelong, for while nobody questioned a first child who looked a bit strange, pointed ears or glowing foreheads, Shandel was her mother’s third child, though the first to live past infancy, and furthermore, her mother had never gotten the black bean in her dish. She had a gentle touch, and followed the village doctor around like a shadow. If she was not simple, perhaps she would be the next doctor. None of these things were normal in the one who would go to the river.

But the bean was passed by chance. Chance, even if the old ladies were very good at putting the bean where it needed to be. And because the village held true to that, they did not look very closely at the old ladies, who were as confused as the rest of the village. Only Shandel was not surprised, and those that noticed that assumed once more that she was a little simple, a little slow. Especially if they noticed her smile.

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Observing, a side story of the Unicorn/Factory

Per [personal profile] kelkyag‘s request, this comes after The Grey Line (lj), Productive, The Governors (LJ), Right & Wrong, and Cleaning House.

Unicorn Factory has a landing page here on DW and here on LJ

They were moving the river.

Ansel stood, a hand on the unicorn foal nobody else could see, and watched them. They were shifting their water-catchers and moving in rock, lots and lots of rock.

“It’s all right,” Ansel assured the foal that was also his sister. “See? They’re going to clean the water.”

She headbutted his hip, using her jowl and nose to avoid poking him with her tiny-but-deadly horn. Ansel chuckled. “It’s going to be okay.” He pointed at the rock they were bringing in. “Someone decided to learn. And once they decide to learn, things begin moving.”

She made a noise somewhere between a whicker and a whinny. Ansel, in return, petted her mane. She didn’t speak, not the way humans did. But she knew more clearly than any of them what was good and right and what was wrong.

“It’ll be fine.” And because she believed him, Ansel found he, too, believed it.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/885447.html. You can comment here or there.

Cleaning House, a continuation of Unicorn/Factory

After The Grey Line (lj), Productive, The Governors (LJ), and Right & Wrong

Unicorn Factory has a landing page here on DW and here on LJ

The Guilian story may contain references to “going down to the river” but no direct unicorn-on-human violence.

Santha had been sorting through Antheri’s papers for a week already, and, from the looks of her careful notes, she had at least two weeks to go. From the looks of things, even if Antheri had been completely right about everything, he had also been a) completely insane, and b) willing to do whatever it took to appease the monsters he believed the Governors to be, up to and including murder.

Guilian had not been idle while his new assistant – that was, Santha, and to the sewers with anyone who felt that was inappropriate – worked on Antheri’s paperwork. The Factory and the Town and thus the areas around the Factory and the Town had been under Antheri’s care for far too long; there were more tangles to straighten out than there were hours in Guilian’s days.

Today, he was staring at the output from the Factory, and working on a way to build in what should have been there from the beginning – some sort of filter on the waste. He had already worked out where the coriander everywhere was coming from, and, after a series of long and heated arguments, allowed cilantro plants to be set in pots around the perimeter of the town wall only. It would slow down the unicorn incursions without hurting either the unicorn-pregnant or the beasts (if they were indeed beasts) themselves.

But the coriander was not the only output, and the factory waste currently spewed directly into the river. Thus, the Administrator was standing in hip boots with the foreman of the plant, staring at the grey-black water.

“We need an engineer.”

“An engineer, sir?” The foreman was a steady man, but slow. “What for? We just need to get a bit of space here for a filter set-up.”

Guilian counted to ten silently. “And where are we going to get the space?”

The foreman looked at him as if he were the slow one. “I figured we’d just divert the river three feet that way.” He pointed away from the Factory. “We’ve already got the races in upstream, for power. We can just change their aim a bit, and drop rock here above the river level.”

This time, when Guilian counted to ten, it was to keep himself from sounding stupid again. “Brilliant. Get some workers on that, then.” One more problem solved. If he didn’t get any new problems by dusk, he’d actually be ahead.

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Unicorn/Factory Landing Page Updated

I have updated the Unicorn/Factory Landing Page here: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/143643.html

In honor of that, I am now taking 2 Unicorn/factory prompts.

This entry was originally posted at http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/870177.html. You can comment here or there.

Take Me, a ficlet of Unicorn/Factory for the giraffe call

I asked for prompts regarding Variants here for The MicroPrompt Giraffe Call. This is written to Ysabet’s Prompt here.

It doesn’t properly have an ending, because I could not make it come to an end.

Content warning – suicidal/depressed thoughts and intentions.


She went down to the river on what her gran called a bad day, a grey-clouds-in-the-sun day. She made herself get dressed because she would have to answer questions if she walked down the path in her shift, and she smiled at the villagers she passed, because they knew, by now, that if she could not smile, that she might need to be stopped, to be coddled, to be chivied back to her room.

Smiling felt like pasting a bright paper flower on funeral greys, but she did it anyway. She had learned how to step through life without touching too much, how to slide through the crowd and not really be seen.

If her Gran had seen her, her Gran might have known. But her Gran had found solace in her own way, and, today at least, did not see.

Kayla was supposed to go down to the river; she had drawn the lot, and her family had four daughter still living, including her. But they had lost Lize to the river the year past, and Kayla, Kayla was bright and smiled like the sunlight, like flowers all over and your name-day dress, and Kayla loved Tobert, with eyes like the sky.

So she went down instead, Jiranne with eyes like a storm and a smile that was never real. She took the back path, moving as fast as she could make her plodding feet go, and she knelt in the mud, staying clear of the altar. You could see the altar from the town square, if you knew where you were looking. They had built it that way, to remind them all of the price.

The unicorn surged from the river like he lived there, like he had been born from its current. He glared at Jiranne, and huffed out air and water droplets.

The ones they didn’t like, they savaged. It would be slow – but it would pay the price whether they liked her or not. “Take me.” One thing she could do right, because even failing would do it. “I am the price for the river, the price for the air. Take me.” She had heard the words every year, every cousin and sister and friend. “Take me, as the price for your works.”

The horn glinted wickedly in the sunlight. The stallion dropped to its knees. Was it supposed to do that? Was it supposed to… “Take me,” she cried. “I am giving myself to you freely. Please…”

The stallion rested its head in her lap, its wicked horn just barely missing her. It whickered, softly, and because there was nothing else to do, she petted its mane.

“Take me?” she whispered. The stallion huffed breath at her in reply.

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Far Weston, a continuation of sorts, of the Unicorn/Factory

My random pick chose Productive, which has already been continued a bit – The Grey Line (lj), Productive, and The Governors (LJ), Right and Wrong.) So I picked up another story in the same theme.

They were building a new city.

They was the unknown, the unclear, the mysterious They from Centon City, the Administrators, the Governors. They was unclear, was over there, was amorphous.

But They were definitely building a new city, and everyone – everyone being the people that were nearby, in Weston, in the Villages, in the tiny settlements along the Silver Road – everyone was a little bit confused. There were five cities, one for the center and one for each compass point. What was this Far Weston? Why were they going further out?

There was grumbling as the land was cleared, grumbling even as the Supervisors – and very few people were old enough to remember the last time there had been Supervisors, when they broke the ground for Norton so many years ago – passed out the pay, dressed in their expensive suits and their silk ties and never getting dirty.

There was grumbling as the road – the road, the Silver Road – was gated at two ends to make the edges of the city walls. There was grumbling as the river was very, very carefully moved ten feet to the North, so that it would not flood on the land of the new Far Weston. There was grumbling as the Factory went up, and as fields were replanted with crops to feed Weston.

There were no grumbles heard from the former villagers, for the new city was being built on the site of a former village. They did not work the fields, they did not clear the land, and they did not line up for jobs at the Factory. They simply vanished… and there were no grumbles about that, either.

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