Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Silk and Steel

Happy Friday folks! I hope that life is treating you all gently and that you have a restful weekend in the pipeline! I’ll be DMing our first foray into Icewind Dale all weekend so today is painting plasterboard scenery and such πŸ˜€

The above quote is from later on in the book but I love Tithi Luadthong’s artwork so much I thought I’d share it now πŸ™‚

Before I post the next bit of the story though, I thought I’d just take a moment to say that the theme it’s about to touch on – and in fact many other of the themes that run through it – is inspired by my time as a teenager sleeping on the streets and in squats. Young people – boys and girls – in that predicament are really like Xander and Vraxi and Edmund; they don’t have many choices, they seek protection from the adults who present themselves as ‘saviours’, they will do almost anything for a roof over their head or a meal or just to be held close for a moment and told they are worth something. This is a fantasy setting but the issues are real. Shelter are running an emergency appeal right now to raise money for their helpline which aims to prevent homelessness by supporting families and individuals at risk. If you’re interested in helping them their fundraising site is here:

So here we go, this next snippet of the story follows Xander outside as he runs off to spew his guts up at the realisation that the antiques dealer he had been viewing as a bit of a surrogate father figure is really a cold-hearted, manipulative bastard… (not that he doesn’t have a lovely side as well, of course, doesn’t everyone?)

Fey found Xander in the yard hunched beside a pool of his own vomit; hood up, and hugging is knees to his chest. The knuckles of his right hand were skinned and and there was blood on the brick wall behind him.

β€œNever helps, that,” she said, crouching down beside him and giving his injured hand a prod. Walls don’t hit back and there’s never any satisfaction in an unfair fight. Hey…” she flicked back his hood before he could stop her β€œβ€¦oh Kid, you’re not cryin?”

He was. He couldn’t help it. To say he had never felt so terrified and trapped in all his life would have been a lie, of course, but he had thought those days were behind him.

β€œI’m an idiot.” he mumbled, wiping his red-rimmed eyes. β€œI can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t, Fey, I can’t. And I don’t want to die. Not like that. Not hung. Not… any of it. And I’ve got nothing. No one. No choice. I’ve got no bloody choice!” He gritted his teeth against the suffocating feeling of spiralling out of control, fighting back as hard as he could against the sentient soul inside him that was pushing to get out and rip something apart.

He balled his fists and hammered them against his temples until Fey took his hands firmly and held them away.

β€œYou know what kid? You’re right. You said it. You’ve got no choice. Don’t wanna hang?”

He pulled his hands free, folding them defensively beneath his cloak, and shook his head.

β€œRight, suck it up then and let’s do this.”

He shook his head.

β€œLook, you think Mendicci’s some kind of monster because he lied to you? I’m tellin’ you, kid, everyone’s a monster round here – if you don’t answer to one, you’ll answer to another and if you hang on in there long enough, maybe someone some day will answer to you. But for now, this is life… or death or whatever you want to call it, this is the way it is, and you’ve just gotta stick out your chin and deal with it.”’

β€œIt’s me that’s the monster.”

β€œYep. You’re right. And me. Like I said, all of us. Wotcha gonna do about it? Sit there and cry? Or get up an’ try and figure out what kind of monster you’re gonna be?”

Xander frowned.

β€œIt might not seem like it, but some small things we do still have a choice in. Look at the Duke – he chooses to be the kind of monster that’d have a six year old’s hand cut off for stealin’ a loaf of bread… but not the kind of monster that’d take advantage of a high class lady who’d had one too many at a fancy ball. Look at me – kind of monster that’ll slit pretty much anyone’s throat if the pay is right – also the kind who gives half her pay packet to the Hogarths’ alms houses, where she was born. We don’t have much control down here at the bottom of the crap heap, kid, you’re right about that, but what choices we do have we need to make the most of, even if only so we can say, at the end of each day, ‘this is the kind of monster I am.’ Now, as for you; you can choose right now to man-up and accept the way things are, walk back in there with your chin up and tell them you’ll do the job, even though you don’t want to, and that will earn you back a bit of respect. Certainly from me. Or I can frog-march you back in there by the scruff and tell ’em you’ll do it anyway whether you like it or not. Which is it goin’ to be?”

6 responses

  1. π™π™π™š π™–π™—π™€π™«π™š 𝙦π™ͺπ™€π™©π™š π™žπ™¨ 𝙛𝙧𝙀𝙒 π™‘π™–π™©π™šπ™§ 𝙀𝙣 π™žπ™£ π™©π™π™š 𝙗𝙀𝙀𝙠 𝙗π™ͺ𝙩 𝙄 π™‘π™€π™«π™š π™π™žπ™©π™π™ž 𝙇π™ͺπ™–π™™π™©π™π™€π™£π™œβ€™π™¨ 𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙬𝙀𝙧𝙠 𝙨𝙀 𝙒π™ͺπ™˜π™ 𝙄 𝙩𝙝𝙀π™ͺπ™œπ™π™© 𝙄’𝙙 π™¨π™π™–π™§π™š π™žπ™© 𝙣𝙀𝙬 πŸ™‚

    Both are sublime. πŸ₯°Utterly worthy of one another…and the masterfully entwined themes of your story. ❀️ How brilliantly you’ve encapsulated their plight — victims of a system that prizes privilege over people — where the price of everything matters and the value of nothing does. You’ve paid your past and the young people who’ve been forced to follow in your footsteps a fine tribute. Your fledgling self should be soso proud of you, my precious one. 🌹 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 🌹

    Liked by 1 person

    September 20, 2020 at 7:07 am

    • Penny Blake

      Aw Thankyou so so very much my precious gem for all your lovely words… I’m so glad I found them! They utterly made my day my angel, like an anchor in a storm! I’m so glad you liked this snippet and that you think I’ve achieved what I’m trying to, that means more than I can say. Hugest love to you my gorgeous pancake topper xxxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      September 21, 2020 at 6:48 pm

      •’re so very welcome. (There’s another comment on the last chapter too)
        Oh I loved it, my precious pecan pie. πŸ₯°I absolutely do think you have…with fearsome finesse and utter aplomb t’boot.❀️ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

        September 21, 2020 at 9:38 pm

      • Penny Blake

        Aw thankyou so so much my gorgeous angel! I’m so so sorry my lovely, WordPress seems to be acting like a demon as it’s not showing me any other comments 😦 Can you check if it’s showing it from your end? I’m so mad they would merrily send me all that shit yeterday and yet not show me your lovely words – the gits! XD XD xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

        September 22, 2020 at 9:08 am

  2. It’s been more than a mite random at my end for a wee while now.πŸ˜• If I didn’t get e-mail notifications I’d have no idea — apart from the odd orange or pink dot — which declares ‘penny blake and 4 others liked your post’ or something such when I click on it.
    I’m so sorry you were forced to suffer the biggoted bastards. πŸ‘Ώ It’s a helluva lot rude that despite their remissness, the blighters somehow managed to dump a shedload of shite in your inbox, tosspots.😞xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    September 22, 2020 at 9:34 am

    • Penny Blake

      Aw I’m sorry they’ve been messing you about too sugar plumb 😦 – yeah sometimes I get the coloured dot, sometimes nothing and finding comments is like a happy accident! XD Sometimes they decide to email me – sometimes not. I’m just super glad all the new comments showed up as ‘approve this comment?’ so I just had to trwl through and unapprove them all XD … a labour of love! XD Hugest hugs though it is rudness of them to the max! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      September 22, 2020 at 12:21 pm

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