Yes, my consistency on blog posts hasn’t been stellar lately…but! Can you think of a better way to ring in the new year than with a little fanfiction?
(Don’t answer that.)
In keeping with the theme earlier this month, I decided to share a Shovel Knight snippet. Let’s see how I do expressing mannerisms and movement!
Plague Knight edged onto the docks and peered cautiously into the water. A perfect reflection of his mask rippled back. Troupple Pond lie still and quiet but for a scattered few cicadas trilling in the bushes. Plague Knight looked up and around, into the trees, but saw nothing. No living creatures – fish, fruit, or otherwise.
So he took the chalice out and held it aloft.
There was a rumble; the pond began to churn. Plague Knight took two steps back as troupple fish sprang from the water. Just small ones with bare stems and a greenish hue to their bellies. They leapt higher, gaining altitude, until they hooked by their stems in the overhanging tree branches.
The water continued to swirl, a huge eddy right in its center. The Troupple King breached in regal form, with his eyes closed and whale-ish mouth pulled taut. His breast slammed into the pond and sprayed water for yards.
Plague Knight stood, chalice still held high, drenched through.
“Who has awakened me?” the Troupple King boomed. “Mortal! Hast thou come seeking – Wait a tic! …Alchemist!”
Plague Knight lowered the chalice and made a halting bow. “Uh, heh, my liege.”
“News of your wicked deeds has reached our ears,” the Troupple King said. “How dare you tarnish us with your presence? Begone from this sacred grotto.”
“Uh…but, Your Grace, you see, I actually came to learn how to…d-dance.” Plague Knight cleared his throat. “Right now, I can only sort of…twitch.”
“Is this so?” the Troupple King inquired. His hostility had vanished nearly instantly, and he’d begun to preen. “ ‘Tis true we possess keen rhythmic insight. But first, Alchemist, let us see what we have to work with. Demonstrate your ability to us now.”
Plague Knight fiddled. He stuck an arm out, then a foot, and jerked through what he hoped were the first few steps to a waltz. Or a tango. Or something.
“CEASE!” the Troupple King cried, and Plague Knight nearly toppled into the water. “What is this monstrosity? Where is the rhythm? Where is the passion? Alchemist, thou art in need of a miracle.”
“It…it really can’t be that, uh, bad,” said Plague Knight. “…Can it?”
He was met with the silent stares of every troupple fish present.
“It is fortunate for you,” the Troupple King continued, “that we are miracle workers. Behold, and take this lesson to heart, for there is only so much I can teach you. Let us begin!”
From up in the trees, the hanging troupples began to sing. The Troupple King closed his magnificent bulbous eyes and bobbed gracefully through the water. He went in perfect sync with the music, even as the smaller troupples dodged about him in a dance of their own.
Plague Knight tried to study, but the dance of a fish wasn’t quite similar to the dance of a person. Fins lifted, dorsals shimmied, and the Troupple King threw his great big mass all over the pond until everything was properly soaked. Perhaps, Plague Knight thought, it was time to go.
A small troupple fish bounded from the pond and nudged Plague Knight in the knee. Before he could regain balance, another fish leapt from the other side and bopped him in the shoulder. Plague Knight swayed and flailed.
“H-hey! What are you – Stop that!” As another caught him on his backside.
The assault continued until Plague Knight began to get the feel for dodging. He lifted his arms, spun, side-stepped, back-stepped, and dipped past each attack. After a while he noticed they came in an expected pattern, and – what with the musical accompaniment – he evaded with more flair. A troupple fish dove at him from behind, but he’d predicted the move and swept to the right just as the fish flew through.
“Ha HA!” Plague Knight exclaimed in triumph.
The troupple assault had finished. And so had the music. Plague Knight looked about him; the troupple fish had all gone back to their places in the pond and trees. The Troupple King himself rested magnificently in the middle of the water. He regarded Plague Knight with a knowing smirk.
“And that, Alchemist, is how it’s done.”
Plague Knight’s arms were still outstretched; his feet stood at angles in a sort of bow. You could have said the pose was almost…graceful.
“I…uh…hee hee…I danced?” he said.
“Well, more or less,” the Troupple King grimaced. “But do not become cocksure in your talents, oh wicked one. A true dancer must practice his art if he hopes to become a master. Remember what you have learned here.”
Even though I got rid of my “Grab-Bags”, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna forsake my fiction snippets. After all, they’re the easiest posts to do – since most of the time they’re already written. *grin*
Nope, I still don’t have original work for you. You wanted to enjoy more fanfiction anyway, right? (RIGHT?) Here’s a continuation of my last FWF.
*This is not a final draft, so all continuity errors in format should be disregarded.
— OUTSIDE THE PALACE several Nimbusans have gathered around boxes set by the palace entry. One Nimbus boy jumps up and tries to look inside. His mother peeks too.
[The mole, King, and Queen Nimbus exit the palace. Nimbusans disperse and bow to the royalty, but they still talk animatedly with each other. The mother of the peeking boy sheepishly smiles as she pulls her son away.]
(more comfortable now, like he’s in his element) Well! Haven’t had a fanfare like this any other place I’ve sold my wares. Y’all curious to see what’s inside?
[The crowd exclaims several things at once.]
Did you bring these boxes?
Ooh, what’s inside them?
We haven’t had anyone visit from Below in years!
Does everyone from Below look like you?
(child) Are you gonna show us what you brought?
I think it’s clothes. Or food. Ooh! Or dirt! I’ve heard about dirt!
[The mole pulls one box toward him and prepares to lift the lid.]
Y’know, back in my hometown we make most of our livin’ in the mines. But I always kinda hankered for a more intrepid career. And now here I find m’self, clear past the edge of the world!
(He turns back to the King and Queen, and resumes a little of his shyness.)
If, ehm, yer Majesties will permit me…
[The King and Queen motion for him to continue, and so the mole, with a bit of flair, whisks off the box’s top. Inside, there are mounds of fireworks. The Nimbusans crowd in excitedly.]
(pleased with himself) Heh, we use dynamite, see, for breakin’ the tougher rocks. But I thought to m’self, I says, “These boom sticks might work as entertainment, given the right adjustments.”
(He pauses modestly.)
So here I am, tryin’ to make a mark in the business world. If it pleases yer Majesties, I’d like to offer maybe…a few nights’ firework displays? First night’s free, ‘case you have yer doubts about my workmanship.
[The crowd buzzes and turns to their rulers.]
Yes, please, King Nimbus!
(child) Mama, we’ll get to see them, won’t we?
Too bad it’s not dirt…
[Everyone, Queen included, watches King Nimbus for his response. He strokes his mustache thoughtfully.]
(frowning) Hm, no. No, I don’t think that will do at all.
[The Nimbusans look shocked, and there’s a collective sigh. The mole’s hopeful smile droops.]
We simply must pay for the first night as well.
[The mood changes immediately. Nimbusans cheer. The children jump around the mole, who looks happily stunned.]
(aside to the King) You’re too clever, dear.
I do try. And honestly, it’s just proper etiquette. Why, when I was young, everyone knew how to treat a visitor, and I certainly learned…
(while the King rambles on) Yes, dear. Speaking of, shall we arrange for our visitor’s stay?
— Transition to NIGHTTIME in Nimbus Land, same scene. Nimbusans are gathered together, exclaiming at the fireworks the mole is setting off. Nimbus children run around with sparklers. Garro stands near the mole, and we faintly hear him apologizing for his failed escort earlier that day. Valentina exits the palace and approaches the King and Queen—mingling among their people.
(somewhat to herself) What is this ruckus for? It’s like a bunch of pillows exploded, and the fluff’s just flying everywhere.
(turning from the crowd) Ah! Valentina. I didn’t expect you’d join us, what with your tendency to loiter around the throne room while we’re away.
[King Nimbus mentions this with complete obliviousness, but Valentina puckers guiltily.]
KING NIMBUS [cont.]
At any rate, this mole fellow puts on an astonishing show, so I really recommend you stay for the rest of it.
[Garro, now holding a sparkler, is drawing detailed pictures with it in the air. The Nimbus children enjoy this immensely. Valentina wanders through the assembly of Nimbusans, turning a skeptical eye toward the fireworks display.]
(as she approaches the mole) So you’re the cause for all this fuss, hm? Ho ho… This land is so estranged from the ground, its people get excited over the craziest novelties.
(a little taken aback) Well, erm, I think these folks right kindly, an’ I don’t mind the enthusiasm. You…you look a smidge different from the folk here, yerself.
(in a brush-off manner) Oh, no no, I’m one hundred percent a resident of the kingdom. Head of the palace workers, in fact—VERY important position.
Oh! You work for the King and Queen? They seem like right nice individuals. Must treat their employees real kindly-like.
(with as false a smile as possible) Why, it’s ALMOST like being royalty yourself. Ah, ha ha…
[They watch King Nimbus play with a crowd of Nimbus children. Queen Nimbus is talking with an animated young girl who seems very pleased with the attention.]
Have to say I like this place. I’ll have to come back once I build more fireworks back home. Want to be able to support a family sometime soon, y’know. Settle down and raise a passel of mole pups. Looks like the King and Queen make fine parents, themselves. Which ones are theirs?
Theirs? Oh, the King and Queen don’t have any chil…dren…
[Valentina zones out as the thought settles in.]
(embarrassed) Oh gosh, I wouldn’t’ve asked if I’da known…Blast a bomb in my face fer bein’ so rude. It’s not my business, is it, ‘specially when it’s royalty concerned. Ohhh, I bet I’ve made a blunder. You won’t tell ‘em I been nosin’ around about their personal lives, will ya?
(blinking out of her stupor) Hm? What’s that? Oh! (chuckles) Don’t worry your little head about that. Your secret is safe with ME. Now, um, if you’ll excuse me…I have to get to some of that…WORK I was talking about…
[Valentina walks away, trance-like. Scene fades.]
[Valentina’s Plan for the Throne]
— Open on the EDGE OF NIMBUS LAND. It’s been a couple of days, and the mole is preparing to leave. King and Queen Nimbus see him off ahead of many more Nimbusans waving goodbye. Before the Mole starts down the vines, King Nimbus arrests his attention and holds a notepad up to the Mole’s face. The Mole smiles bashfully and signs his name on the page—to the King’s immense delight.
It can’t be as simple as that; it can’t! And yet—
— Cut to Valentina pacing her QUARTERS. Dodo and two Birdies are in the back of the room, watching Valentina walk back and forth, back and forth…
(stops abruptly; Dodo and the Birdies get neck cricks) —I’d be a fool if I didn’t take advantage of it. It’s practically coronation on a silver plate.
(tentatively) I don’t get it, Valentina. Just because the King and Queen have no kids, you get to be in charge?
Try to think about this, dimwits; I know it’s hard. Look, it’s not just that they have no kids. They’ve had no kids for years. And they’re getting old. If they planned to sign things over to an heir, they’ve put themselves in a corner. A corner I can definitely FILL.
[The Birdies and Dodo exchange glances. Valentina’s bust coincidentally takes up a whole corner of the shot.]
So, you’re going to be the heir instead? But you’re not even related to them. Why would they give YOU the kingdom?
[Valentina clutches the Birdie’s beak and pushes down so he’s forced to stare up at her.]
(smiling cruelly) Because YOU all are about to make me a HERO to the royal family.
[Scene fades as Garro narrates.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR)
This seems like an appropriate time for me to explain the Nimbus Land “birds and the bees”.
(beat; the screen stays completely black)
Whoa, hey wait, where are you going? No, it’s not like THAT! Just relax and let me explain.
— In a Nimbus couple’s HOME a Nimbus man is saying goodbye to his wife as he heads to work.
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
We Nimbusans fall in love and marry like anyone would. But after this things go a bit differently for us.
[The Nimbus man enters the palace and begins his shift as a guard.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
See, I hear that for others there’s a point where you find out you’re having a baby, and then after you prepare for a bit, the baby arrives. For Nimbusans…there’s no time for preparation.
[The guard returns home, walks in the door, and stops in his tracks when he sees his wife standing there with an infant in her arms.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
The little one just shows up.
[The Nimbus man wanders over to marvel at the baby as his wife smiles with a “here we go” kind of look.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
We can’t control it; we can’t predict it. It’s just the way things go. Oh, but we adore our children. When they come, it’s like a surprise party you didn’t know your friends were planning.
[Cut to the Nimbus couple presenting their new child to King and Queen Nimbus, who smile in congratulations.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
Here’s another particular thing about our children: families usually only ever have one.
[Another family comes to the King and Queen on a different day, presenting their child. King and Queen smile again.]
[The first family returns; time has passed, and their first child is grown, with a second baby in Mom’s arms. King and Queen Nimbus look surprised, but still smile.]
…NEVER three, good lands, no. Something to do with keeping a short monsoon season, I think.
[The new infant begins to cry, and we see rain streak down outside the palace windows. The older child of the family shyly approaches Queen Nimbus and hands her a flower.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
Now, as a bachelor, maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about. But I think the surprise of having a child is one of the most anticipated events for families. Ours always wait excitedly for it.
[Focus on King and Queen Nimbus as the last family leaves. Queen Nimbus holds the flower, but her smile falls, and she looks to the side. King Nimbus notices and reaches for her arm. She turns, manages a half-hearted smile, and then looks away again. King Nimbus watches her, concerned. Scene fades.]
I had an idea to post some personal fiction that was appropriately “cozy” for this time of year, but searching through my work brought up…very little. In fact, it mostly resulted in me saying, “Whoa, that needs to be fixed. And that. And that… And I definitely don’t write that way anymore…”
So you know what that means: ALL ABOARD THE FAN FICTION TRAIN! I decided I might give a little peek at my year-long project after all. It’s the Christmas present you never always wanted!
No preamble for you. The only thing I’ll tell you is that, yes, this is in script format.
For Part I, in Alphabetical Order
Dodo: Valentina’s slow-witted and subservient henchbird. Looks like a giant black toucan with a metal helmet. Never speaks. He hates working for Valentina but is too dumb/lazy to quit.
The Fireworks Mole: A humble fellow who’s traveled far to sell his fireworks. He’s the first visitor Nimbus Land has seen in many years. Wears green overalls and a green cap; keeps his clawed feet and hands exposed.
Garro: The royal sculptor of Nimbus Land. He sculpts and gilds statues for the King and Queen and is also their close friend. Has a green curl of hair on his forehead and wears typical Nimbus garb: a fez, work vest, and parachute pants. (Hammer time!) He narrates Part I.
King Nimbus: The kindly, if excitable, ruler of Nimbus Land. He enjoys collecting birds, autographs, and statues and is exuberantly playful – if sometimes long-winded. He wears a pyjama set in blue and purple stripes, and has a gold medallion around his neck. His hair curl and mustache are brown.
Queen Nimbus: The calmer monarch; she is sensible and generous and keeps the King in check if he rambles. Can be the more emotional one when grieved. She wears a white head cover with gold embroidery, a pink sari and green wrap that covers her arms and hands. Her hair curl is magenta.
Valentina: The palace castellan (in charge of the workers, though she doesn’t often do her job). She plots to overthrow the King and Queen and rule Nimbus Land. She is not a Nimbusan. Wears a white dress with a slit up one side, and her bust is…voluptuous. Her hair is a parrot. Don’t question it.
[Travel to Nimbus Land]
— Open with running shot of LAND’S END & BEAN VALLEY. It’s midday. The camera pans over the sea cove, beaches, cliffs, up into Bean Valley’s vines. A quarter through the shot, Garro as narrator begins to speak:
If you are any sort of traveler, chances are you have at one time or another determined to visit the end of the world. Perhaps you’ve already been. If so, you’ve likely seen the cliffs looking out to the sea, or the sleeping volcano near the cape, or Bean Valley with all its vines climbing into a blinding bright sky.
— The shot slows as it swivels through BEAN VALLEY. you can see the ocean off the cliffs glinting in the sun.
Yes, these are wondrous sights, it’s true. And I’m supposing you took in these sights, breathed the air of adventure, and then…
[Scene cuts to black]
…promptly turned yourself around and went back home. (pause) My friend, don’t you know that there’s more when you travel…up?
— Cut back to BEAN VALLEY. Camera soars upward, weaving through corkscrew vines of all colors. The running shot moves faster and faster until it bursts through thick, fluffy cumulous clouds.
(enthusiastic) THIS, my friend, is Nimbus Land! See what all those travelers have missed for years and years?
— Pan over NIMBUS LAND: shows homes made from the vines poking through the clouds. There is a palace at the east end of the kingdom. It’s a middle-east inspired building with rounded turrets, and the vines seem to grow all through it. The palace itself is a mix of white marble and pink stone.
[The citizens of Nimbus Land are cloud people, and everyone is nice and plump and smiling.]
We’ve been STARVING for guests. It’s not easy, you know, being so far out of sight and never getting a chance to really host someone.
— Enter the MARKET AREA of Nimbus Land, where shopkeepers and the hotel proprietor bustle about. The shops show off colorful garments, bright accessories, and art creations.
We’re a social people, us Nimbusans. It’s a shame no one can find us, since we’re famed for being extraordinarily hospitable. But I suppose I can understand: it’s a hard climb from Bean Valley, and we don’t have many ways of announcing ourselves to everyone living Below.
[Nimbusans busy themselves at the market]
Of course, there was that time the mole found us. We thought maybe that would open the way for more visitors, but after the baby Prince… Well. This certainly isn’t the time for me to talk tragedy with you.
What would you like to see first? The market? Maybe our five-star hotel and accommodations? Wait—of course you want a tour of the palace. King and Queen Nimbus still keep it open, after all, and despite the melancholy air it’s as beaut—
Hm? No tours, you say? Oh, you want to know what I mean about melancholy and tragedy.
— Transition to GARRO’S WORKSHOP. There are gold statues on display everywhere—on the floor, on shelves, half-made on a stage at the back of the room. Garro stands by his gold vat; he’s in the middle of gilding a statue.
(sighs and shakes his head) Well, it’s a long story, and it’ll only demoralize you before you’ve had a chance to enjoy our kingdom. Are you sure you want to begin that way?
(Garro looks deliberately into camera, then shrugs and looks away sadly.)
I guess I won’t change your mind. Ah, who knows? Maybe sharing the story will help us with the grief at the King and Queen’s loss.
[Scene gradually fades.]
Let’s see…I think maybe it’s best to start our story…
[Valentina Deserves Attention]
— Close up of Valentina’s face. Her wide mouth is pursed, and her eyes shift left to right. The parrot hangs glumly on her head.
— The shot zooms out and shows Valentina sitting in the Nimbus Palace THRONE ROOM. She’s stretched across the royal settee and has a martini glass dangling in her right hand. The throne room has rose walls. The floor is lapis lazuli. The tail ends of vines have crept through the room’s open windows, and birds are perched in them everywhere. Stairs lead from the settee down to the hallway door.
[Valentina languishes over the settee’s armrest.]
So much that needs to be changed! Where do I start? More curtains over those windows. Think of the awful sun rash I’d get on my flawless skin! All along those stairs…
(She waves toward the hall door)
…I’d put rows of statues that reflect my lustrous beauty. In fact, why just by the stairs? Let’s fill the palace with them. But most importantly—
[Valentina’s thin but heavily-glossed lips twitch as one of the birds in the room chirrups happily.]
(speaks through gritted teeth) MOST IMPORTANTLY I’ll throw out all these BEASTLY twittering noisemakers! It’s enough to give me a headache! Birds are meant to serve, not sing.
[Valentina holds her martini glass up for a drink, discovers it’s empty except for an olive rolling around the bottom. She reaches her other arm back and brings her knuckles down on Dodo, who is slumped behind the settee. Valentina hits his beak with a crunch, and Dodo stumbles back on impact.]
Lunking idiot! It’s your job to keep this full. Now…FILL IT!
[Dodo pours drink from a shaker into Valentina’s glass.]
It’s enough to drive an illustriously beautiful person mad, not receiving the attention one deserves. Or the riches. Or the authority. It’s almost as flummoxing as having a vapid feather-covered lard ball as your henchman.
[Dodo bristles, but knows better than to retaliate. He screws the cap back on the martini shaker.]
(sighs) I could just stage a coup. It’d be easy enough fooling these gullible cotton-heads. But I’d have to risk…angering them. (Her eyes widen.) And it’s not a good idea to anger them… GUH!
[Valentina flings her head dramatically against the settee. Her parrot hair squawks.]
If only take-overs were as simple as your marble-sized brain seems to be, Dodo.
[There’s a sound of footsteps approaching the throne room door. The guards outside greet someone.]
(panicking, downs her drink and shoves the glass toward Dodo) The King and Queen! I thought they wouldn’t be back for at least another hour! Dodo! You cranial cavity, get out of the room!
(Dodo scuttles down the stairs.)
No, not through the door, idiot; use the windows!
[Valentina shoves Dodo toward the closest window. She gives him four good heaves before his bulk finally squeezes through, and he flaps away clumsily.]
(whips around as the door opens, prepares to greet the King and Queen) Majesties, I took the liberty to prepare the hall for recei – Oh! Garro! My, how…relieving to see you standing there.
[Garro stands just inside the throne room door. He appears to be puzzled at finding Valentina here.]
Oh, Valentina. You weren’t who I expected to see. The King and Queen are out, I’m guessing? It’s not really receiving time yet, I suppose…
(sugary-sweet) Garro, pardon me if I’m speaking out of line, but with the…dazzling work you do for the King and Queen, shouldn’t they be more considerate and punctual when you come to deliver your statues?
(laughs) What a bizarre thing to say, Valentina! I have no deliveries today. I was looking for their Majesties so I could inform them – Oh! (suddenly VERY eager) I should tell YOU! Valentina! You won’t believe this: we have a VISITOR from Below! Isn’t that wonderful? It’s probably been decades since our last one! And he’s right here, ready to be introduced!
(looking over Garro’s shoulder) ‘Right here’…where?
Why, behind me where I just came…through…the door.
[Garro turns around and realizes he’s entered alone.]
Oh dear. I seem to have lost him.
[The Mole Meets Royalty]
— Panning through a hallway in NIMBUS PALACE. The scene design looks very much the same as it did in the throne room. The Mole appears as he turns into the hall. He wanders around and looks very lost.
GARRO (as NARRATOR)
Yes, It’s true what they say: a Nimbusan would forget his own face if it wasn’t stuck to his fluff. But I hope you don’t blame me. I promise you we pride ourselves on our hospitality. It’s just that…with so few guests to entertain, our hospitality can get a little rusty. And we might accidentally LOSE our guests.
[The mole approaches a couple tending to the birds in the hall. It’s the King and Queen, but the mole hasn’t realized this yet.]
(slightly exasperated) Beg pardon, are y’all workers in this palace? Call me lost as a carrot in a crowd of potatoes, but I just got no clue where I’ve gotten myself.
[King and Queen Nimbus turn to greet the mole. The King is holding a light blue bird.]
I say! You’re certainly an unfamiliar face. I don’t think I’ve seen you before. Need a bit of direction, do you?
(scratches under his cap) Well, see now, I come from a place where our mazes are all underground, so this cloud stuff’s got me all dizzy and confused…
[King Nimbus turns excitedly to the Queen]
Do you hear that? He’s someone from Below! I can’t think how long it’s been since we’ve had such a visit. (leans conspiratorially closer to the mole) Might I have your autograph?
[The mole blinks back, stupefied.]
(patiently) Perhaps we should try to help him first, dear. (She turns to the mole.) Where do you need to go?
Eh…well, I came fixin’ to speak with Their Majesties about an enterprise of mine, and that statue-makin’ fella said he’d right take me to the throne room. But I lost sight of ‘im ‘bout ten turns back, and I got not even the faintest where I should look nex—
[He takes in the crowns that rest on both King and Queen Nimbus’s heads. His mouth widens.]
(hushed) Cake my nails in dirt an’ call it a manicure. (He flattens himself to the floor in an exaggerated bow.) Your most illustrious…er … magnificent… SUPERLATIVE rulers. Thousand pardons; I had no idea this hall would lead me bargin’ in on your Worships all rude-like. Don’t take no offense at my manners, just an earthy mole like m’self—
(interrupting) Offense? I say, you’re being a tad excessive, don’t you think?
[The mole peeks up from his supine position.]
No need, dear. Nothing wrong with having a pleasant conversation, after all. Now, what’s this enterprise you wanted to show us?
With all the focus on villainy this month, you’d think my Fifth Week Fiction would follow suit. But, uh, to be honest…I don’t have any great antagonist material. It’s something I, too, need to work on.
Instead, I’ve been given the request to present a scene focused on building the setting and making it feel real to the reader. I’m not sure how well I do with all of that, either, but I’m willing to share what I’ve practiced.
In our previousFifth Week Fictions we got to know Tainock and Jazz (oh, whoops, gave away her name). In this snippet, I’m switching gears and looking at characters from another series in the works. Enjoy these darling little kiddos and all their mental illness quirks.
(I’m sorry, I have no picture this time. You’ll just have to use your imaaaaaginatiiiiiooooon…)
Past the harbor and into the town proper, covered by its grand trees: Xavier was gawking up to try to find their tops. The trees towered higher than Frenlang’s walls, higher than its clock. They shielded Manara like umbrellas, with branches fanning and interlocking. Their leaves almost completely obstructed moonlight, so paper lanterns guided the way—strung in rows between Manara’s buildings and splashing the streets in paint-like pink, orange, and purple.
The roads branched much like the trees did: abruptly and tangled. When several forks in the road had confused Jaitoph’s already feeble sense of direction, Rahrei and Lau stopped before a squat building with oblong windows boiling out candle glow. Rahrei reached into the pockets of her bag and retrieved the folded check. She tapped her nose twice with the paper.
“I won’t take long,” she said.
When the bank’s double doors had closed behind her, Lau reached into her bag and retrieved the book he’d stuffed in there earlier. He turned to a page marked by a ribbon and began to read under the lamplight.
Xavier hadn’t stopped staring at the trees, his head tilted at the most extreme angle to study them. “En’t none of ‘em fallen?” he gawped.
Lau looked up from his book. “Not in my lifetime,” he replied.
Xavier snapped his head forward. “You very old?”
“Thirty-two,” Lau said.
Xavier pondered the age a moment. “Guess ’at’s long enough.” When he saw the book in Lau’s hand, the trees no longer seemed to interest him. “You like those?” he asked.
Lau’s reply was bemused. “You mean books? Well, this one’s a little dry and self-absorbed. History can be touch and go.”
“History? En’t that for learnin’? We used to trade stories on the street an’ try to tell the toppest one. I heard some books’re made that way, too.”
“Yes, there are also those kinds of books,” Lau answered. He replaced his bookmark and tucked the book back in Rahrei’s bag. Then, reaching over to rub his horse’s neck, he said, in a sudden change,
“Are you making a friend?”
His eyes were on Wren; she had, due to an itching curiosity, crept out from behind Jaitoph to watch the horse. Lau gently tugged the reigns to bring the animal’s head down, but he made no other move. Wren shrank back at first, but the longer she studied the horse, the more she edged forward.
Jaitoph was surprised at her bravery. Maybe she liked the horse the same as she liked birds or the crippled goat on the road to Frenlang. The horse was colored pale as her, dappled in gray. It watched her approach with black eyes. Wren stretched out a hand and let her fingers wait just centimeters from the horse’s nose. The horse nudged her arm. Wren started back and clutched her hand to her chest.
“She’s inquisitive about you,” Lau said. “Her name is Pear, after her preferred treat.”
Wren reached again for the horse’s face and this time made contact. Tentatively she stroked the velvet muzzle. Pear answered with a satisfied huff.
“What…what happened to her leg?” Wren asked, staring anywhere but at Lau.
“Just a stumble. She’s old, and her muscles aren’t so strong anymore.”
“Did she break it?”
“No, it’s a sprain. Nothing serious,” Lau said. He nodded toward Jaitoph. “How did your friend break his arm?”
Jaitoph reflexively cradled his splint.
“I-in the ship wreck,” Wren replied, still caressing the horse’s lowered head.
“I see,” the man said. “He looks pretty tough. Does he look after you?”
Wren glanced at Jaitoph and seemed to realize she wasn’t as close by her friend as she’d thought. When she turned back toward Lau, her answer was a bashful shrug.
“That’s all right,” Lau said. “Not everything has to be my business. Jaitoph…is it?”
Jaitoph startled at hearing his name and momentarily forgot his surly attitude.
“Ah. Not to surprise you. Rahrei let me know your names at the dock. But you aren’t the one whose ribs were injured, I think.”
“That was me!” Xavier offered, for once relieving Jaitoph for cutting in. “Xavier. That’s my name. I got bit by the Murkie. Did Rahrei say it was me?”
“She did,” Lau said. He might have been smirking, except his scar made it look more like a wince. “It’s…unusual for anyone to survive a Murkie attack.”
“Well, I did ‘cause…” Xavier’s boast diminished as he looked at Wren. He ended with, “I’m just that good.”
“Mhm, really,” the man said. “Someone as puissant as you shouldn’t have even worried about the trees falling.”
While Xavier mumbled and mangled the word “puissant,” Lau continued, “So we have Jaitoph, Xavier…” He peered down. “And Pear’s friend.”
Wren blushed madly and stared hard at the horse. Then, to Jaitoph’s great surprise, she squeaked out, “Wren.”
Lau nodded and spoke solemnly: “Be sure to remember her name, Pear; she’s trusted you with it.”
Pear tossed her mane and kept her face right where Wren could reach.
(Kinda dropped you into the middle there, didn’t I?)
As you may have noticed, we’ve got another fifth Friday this month. Which means…it’s time for our second installment of “Fifth Week Fiction”!
Since we’re spending the summer studying dynamic introductions, I thought I’d show some of my own practice in the art. I typically feel confident with character development, but I seem to lack the skill for punchy scenes.
So here’s me having a little fun while (hopefully) practicing what I preach. For this exercise, I present these two characters:
Tainock looked up from his book. There was no one on the walkway near enough to speak with him, but Amadeus had also lifted his head and perked his ears like he’d heard something.
Tainock warily lowered his eyes back to the book. He read an intro concerning the establishment of tachs, the law force instigated by Guardian Bemdin when –
“Important Person, if I could please have a word with you.”
Tainock heard Amadeus rumble. There was still no one around.
“Ye-es?” he mumbled.
The short tree next to him shivered, and Tainock caught a glint of shiny green between the waxy leaves. He heard a branch snap, and whatever was in the tree tumbled into the bushes underneath. Amadeus leaped up and snarled, which began to draw the attention of people nearby.
Tainock put a hand on Amadeus’s neck, hoping to subdue him before too many started staring. He peered into the brush and watched, amazed, as a metallic reptile wriggled on its back, swinging stubby claw feet to right itself. As soon as it had rolled over and turned to face Tainock it continued as though nothing had happened:
“Important Person, I wish to make you aware of a pressing matter – ”
“You’re an iguana,” Tainock interrupted.
“Correct. That is my build. Now, if you give me a moment – ”
“But you’re mechanical,” Tainock said.
“Please, Important Person, focus on the matter at hand. I must caution you on the interaction you will have with a cohort of mine.”
“Matter at hand?” Tainock said. “Cohort?”
Passers-by were definitely gawking now, none being close enough to see the little robot iguana.
“You will meet her shortly. She has a question to ask that is of great importance to her. But I want to clarify matters on two points. One: her question has no validity whatsoever. Two: she has poor social skills.”
“Poor social skills,” Tainock repeated. “What, do you mean she’s shy?”
“Shy?” said the iguana. “I wish that was her problem.”
Tainock heard something like metal striking metal up above, but didn’t have a chance to look up before torrential water gushed over him, knocking him onto the walkway. Water flooded everywhere, even pushing Amadeus back.
Tainock was aware of a cut on his cheek and the sting in his palms and wrists when he’d tried to break his fall. The passers-by who had been gawking he now heard shrieking as they fled the disaster.
Over where he’d been sitting the water had slowed to a spray as emergency shut-off valves began to kick in. And in the mess of flood-flattened and uprooted plants there crouched a girl – dark-skinned with darker freckles, orange hair shaved close on one side and braided down to her waist on the other. She steadied herself by clutching the bench with an odd, bright metal hand.
She grinned at Tainock.
“You have to be the Guardian, with that star pinned to your chest. But I didn’t expect you to look so much like a Dawnian.”
The robotic iguana sidled up onto the girl’s shoulder and studied Tainock from that perch.
“I apologize, Important Person,” he said. “The warning never comes soon enough.”
Tainock, stunned speechless, had the sense to command a hackled Amadeus down and check to see if anyone else would be in harm’s way should this girl be volatile. A hundred lessons on crisis mitigation scrambled through his head.
What had Uncle taught him? Find the reason before taking action (not that they’d ever applied it in their own interactions). The iguana had said the girl had a question. Maybe in answering it he’d get a chance to hold her in custody –
“You’re quiet,” the girl said. “You think I’m strange. I know. But I hear it’s hard to get your attention, so I had to be drastic.”
Tainock ventured, “The…uh…robot on your shoulder said you had a question.” Oh, yes, THAT sounded authoritative. He tried again: “I’ll give you permission to ask, but then you must come with me for the damage you’ve caused here.”
The girl let free a catastrophic laugh.
“No, that’s not the way it works. If you answer my question, you have to come with me.”
Tainock fumbled. “I…what?” he said. This discussion wasn’t going like the lessons said it should.
“Where’s my family?” the girl asked.
“Family?” Tainock could hear how stupid he sounded. “That’s it? That’s your question?”
“Yes. Where’s my family?” the girl repeated, like suddenly Tainock would understand.
“Wh – Look, I don’t even know who you are.” Tainock’s eyes went from her face to her metal arm. Both arms were metal, he realized. And her feet and legs. “I can’t be expected to tell you where your family is.”
The girl tilted her head, as though resigned. “Huh. Yeah, I was told you wouldn’t let me know. But that’s not going to work on me!”
And then she sprang and threw Tainock to the ground.
What, oh what to do with an extra week in the month? Well, I WAS going to post about a trip I’d planned to take to Bruneau Sand Dunes last weekend, but Idaho weather saw fit to rain us out. And I wasn’t all that interested in exploring Bruneau “Mud” Dunes.
Then I figured – Hey, a fifth week doesn’t come around all that often. I should do something completely different! So now, I present to you: “Fifth Week Fiction” (I totally just made up that title, like, right this second), during which I’ll share a short snippet from some of my personal story writing.
I’ll post material from my original fiction and maybe even occasionally a bit of fan fiction. (Hey, writing practice is writing practice, right?) And if it turns out my writing bores you…well…I guess you can be thankful there’s only 4 fifth Fridays this year.
(But I really hope my writing doesn’t bore you. That kind of defeats the point.)
And now, without further ado – an excerpt from an original story, taken wildly out of context:
Tainock saw the bright neon tape first, the dead body second.
It appeared to be another homeless person. A man, Tainock thought. He was wearing a garbage bag, but it had been torn down the back, and the man’s buttocks stuck straight up due to his prone position.
“Couldn’t you…cover him up?” Tainock asked, troubled by the scene.
“Master Guardian,” The tach who answered was either being respectful, or he’d perfected the flat response when asked a stupid question. “We would, except his wound is on his back. You can look for yourself.”
He retracted the tape and ushered Tainock through. Other hobos lingered as close as possible to the crime scene, craning to catch a glimpse of their dead compatriot. They didn’t even have the modesty to look away when Tainock caught them rubber-necking.
Tainock circled around the dead body. He saw only the profile of the man’s face, smushed against the pavement. Other than the grotesque expression, it had typical – if haggard – features. No signs of physical trauma. As the tach had said, the killing blows had been dealt to the man’s back.
There were deep, bloody gashes across the shoulder blades and down around the abdomen. They were oddly jagged, like something blunter than a knife had torn them open. They also seemed to form a strange sort of pattern. Tainock walked to the back of the corpse and read the cuts.
They said “Al-Fāȧn”: Dawn script. “He doesn’t know.” Tainock thought sleep deprivation had finally started to take its toll. Writing in a man’s back? He tilted his head; maybe a different angle would show he’d only imagined the word.
“Al-Fāȧn”, the gashes said, clear as Tainock had ever studied the language.
“He doesn’t know” what?
Tainock met back with the tachs at the edge of the crime scene.
“Sir” one of them greeted.
“The wounds on that hobo are a word. I mean, they spell something in – in…Dawnian.”
Tainock immediately regretted sharing the information. Now the crime might be considered a racial murder, and with things being what they were between Dawn and Dusk…
“Master Guardian, with the girl roaming free, I think it’s our priority to find and hold her for interrogation,” said one of the tachs. “She’s likely behind the killing.”
Tainock couldn’t picture her as a murderer. At least, not a calculated one who cut obscure phrases into someone’s skin.
“We’ll continue searching,” Tainock said. “But, uh, if you find her, don’t do anything until I get to talk to her.”
The tachs looked at him like he’d said to give her more human backs to scrawl on. “Of course, you’ll be contacted right away,” said one.
There was the “stupidity tolerance” voice again. Tainock assumed it’d be a constant for the rest of this career.