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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 😀

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 🙂

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:

https://england.shelter.org.uk/donate?reserved_appeal_code=20200401-DF-10&msclkid=371f226374f81208bc877d0718258329&gclid=CJC6s_Sh8usCFdQgGwodDAwF2A&gclsrc=ds

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.


“Never 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 “…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.


“I’m an idiot.” he mumbled, wiping his red-rimmed eyes. “I 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.


“You 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.


“Right, suck it up then and let’s do this.”


He shook his head.


“Look, 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.”’


“It’s me that’s the monster.”


“Yep. 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.


“It 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?”

Light In The Lantern: With Felicity Banks

Salutations, my fellow travellers: men, women, and wondrous creatures all!

As we face the long dark of this plague-infested season, it is time to brighten the glow of our lanterns, shining all the brighter against the black, and warming one another. My name is Felicity Banks and my lantern is my books.

Tonight is my shift, and I must brighten the watchtower lantern lest we be over-run. Even now, I see the unmasked hordes approaching across the hills, decrying all humanity and running roughshod over the authority of SCIENCE.

There is still hope to be had, and even joy. Because I might not be able to change the minds of the mindless, but I can write a mighty fine yarn. If you love steampunk adventures with bonus magic, you can read my entire steampunk trilogy on your device of choice, or buy signed copies directly from me at shootingthrough.net/store.

There are horrid apparitions gnawing on my extremities but I’m doing my best to kick them off, knowing that the sun will shine again one day. I hope you can do the same.

Although the pen is mightier than the sword, my books can only bring a certain amount of light (and my critics say they don’t burn especially well) so I’m wading into a larger battle—specifically, the battle to combat global injustice.

I’ve joined the crack soldiers of the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative, and gathered a squad around me in order to support refugees coming to my home city of Canberra. If all goes well, we can even venture forth into bringing newer, more desperate refugees over the seas as early as 2021.

If you’d like to buy my books, please do (shootingthrough.net/store).

If you’d like to send me alms in order to support this latest endeavour, I would be especially grateful, and my own hopeful lantern would blaze bright enough to light shores other than my own.

You can contact me, or PayPal any amount, at fellissimo@hotmail.com.

Silk and Steel

Happy Friday folks! 😀 I’m trying super hard to get back in the saddle with everything and the IVs are going well so all good this end after what seems like quite a long slog so thankyou so much everyone who’s still here and bearing with me through this spate of madness XD I hope you are all safe and well and happy and looking forward to a fabulous weekend 🙂

Here’s the next Silk and Steel instalment and Spyro with his plans for thwarting his nemesis Pan has hauled his arse out of the bath and down to the cross keys to enlist the help of some trusted friends… a-hem…. (if you’ve lost track, Bartczak was the barber-surgeon who was being beaten up by the dock workers earlier)

“How fares our friend Bartczak?” Spyro asked the doctor as he slid into his usual seat at the cross keys later that afternoon.


“He is not dead,” the doctor replied gruffly, “but then that is to be expected. I have made him as comfotable as can be, how much his body decides to heal itself and how quickly is anyone’s guess. And I am not one for guessing games,” he added, fixing the antiques dealer with a hard stare.

“Nor games of any kind, as is obvious to us all,” Spryo said with that unfathomable smile. “But if I were to put money on him returning to work within a fortnight I would likely lose it, yes?”

“If you lack the wit or the moral fibre to refrain from making such sport of another man’s suffering it is your own affair.” the doctor said dryly.

Spyro laughed to hide his frustration and drained his glass. He reached inside his waistcoat and pulled out a leather pouch, slid it open and checked the contents then handed it to the yag. “Take this to Bartczak.” he said, “Four weeks rent to tide him over and if he’s not back on his feet by then he’s to say so.”

Vraxi nodded and knocked back his drink, “Come on Xan, no rest for the wicked,” he grinned.

“Just you.” Spyro said. “And don’t get distracted.”

Vraxi looked surprised and dissapointed, but he said nothing and left.

“Now that he’s out of the way..?” Fey said from the depths of her hood, her feet resting on the opposite bench and her arms folded nonchalantly across her chest.

Spyro hesitated, and then smiled, “Nothing gets past you does it Fey?” he said.

“S’what you pay me for.” she said simply.

“Very well, yes, I do need to speak to the three of you about something. It is something unprecedented. Something discreet. Something nobody else can know of.”

“You are putting an enormous amount of trust in us all.” The doctor said, cocking an eye at Xander, who was by far the youngest and least experienced of the three.

Mendicci kept his twinkling black eyes on the dusk djinn, “is there any reason I shouldn’t?” he asked, pointedly.

The doctor smiled and said nothing.

Damn you to hell, Spyro thought furiously. He didn’t need this. This was the only plan he had. It had to work. He had no choice but to trust them all and there was a good chance they would all realise how vulnerable he was and how much he was relying on them to keep him alive.

He smiled back and spun his empty shot glass on the table. “I’m planning an ambush,” he said carefully, looking at each of them in turn. “I won’t know when until minutes before it needs to happen, so when I send you word you will need to come at once.”

“Don’t we always?” Fey asked.

“You do. It was not a slight. It was a statement of fact.”

“Where you planning to spring it?”

“The Flags.” Spyro said, referring to the small district east of the cinders where the city laundry houses were located. The narrow streets there formed two blocks of buildings with only one entrance and hundreds of lines of washing were always strung like bunting across each row from the lowest level, right up to the top.

“That’s a tight rat hole.” Fey observed.

“That’s rather the point. And the other is this – you two will need to let your demons handle this one. It’s one target but they have all kinds of tricks up their sleeve.”

“Problem, Xander?” the doctor asked.

Xander was looking wide eyed at Mendicci, “Our demons?”he asked, his voice shaking a little. “You promised I would never have to… the first day I joined you, you said…” He took a deep steadying breath, he could not afford to lose control and he was aware that he was making a fool of himself, whining like a small child in front of people who were much older and no doubt couldn’t care less, but he felt so betrayed. He shook his head, trying to make them understand, “I can’t do this.”

Spyro yawned and stretched his arms above his head. “Alright.” he said with a pleasant smile. “We’ll count you out of this one. No hard feelings.”

Xander breathed a sigh of releif, “Thankyou. It’s not that I don’t want to help, it’s like I said before, I can’t go through that again…”

Spyro held up his hand, “You do not have to explain Xander, I understand.” he flipped his hand palm upwards, “Key?”

Xander looked confused.

The Doctor rose and went to the bar.

Fey said nothing.

“Surely you don’t expect me to keep providing accommodation for someone who is no longer working for me?”

“But I am.”

“Ah, but you’re not.” Spyro waited patiently for the penny to drop – between this one and the yag it was obvious who was brains; for all his faults, it hadn’t taken Bane this long to remember which side his bread was buttered.

“Our agreement,” he said gently, “is based on you doing the jobs I tell you do, when I tell you to do them – not on you picking and choosing and doing what suits you better at the time. Now I am a reasonable man, I am not in the business of forcing anyone to do things they don’t want to do. But I am also a sensible man,and I am not going to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly unless I can rely on you to do what I say.”

“But we pay our rent…”

“With money earned from carrying out the jobs that I assign to you.” He spun his glass on the table again and, seeing that Xander was still looking to argue he added, “No jobs; no money; no room… and then of course there is the small matter of that long list of crimes you have committed over the past few years; murder, theft, arson…” ah, and there it is… he thought, as he saw Xander’s expression change to one of horror and incredulity; finally something has penetrated that thick skull of his.

“We did those jobs for you…”

“Xander, I pride myself on being a model citizen here,” Spyro interrupted, “the head of the city watch is a close personal friend and I would be betraying that very close, personal friendship if I didn’t inform her of the identity of any wanted felons who do not come under the umbrella of protection afforded to our organisation by said friendship, surely you can see that?”

Xander looked like he was going to be sick, “I’ll hang,” he whispered, his voice a hoarse gasp in his dry throat.

Spyro shrugged. “If you’re lucky. I’ve heard the duke is favouring drawing and quartering at present before the final execution with a soul blade… could be quite a show…”

That did it. Xander choked and, unable to prevent his insides from expelling the beer he had just put into them, he clapped a hand over his mouth and made a dash for the back yard of the Inn.

Fey sighed, swung her legs down from the bench and stood up. “I’ll go talk to him.”

Spyro nodded his thanks and spun his empty glass again on the table as The Doctor returned from the bar with a fresh round.

Light In The Lantern: With The Last Witch Of Pendle

Greetings! Welcome to to Steampunk’d Lancaster! My name is Mrs Albert Baker and… well yes, that’s right I am a witch, how very kind of you to notice! Perhaps it’s my magical aura… or the smell of freshly baked gingerbread that tipped you off? Officially I’m actually The Last Witch Of Pendle but, sadly, there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats. But I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running my little underground soup kitchen for the street urchins.

Strange times have struck here in the Scattered Isles of Ire – Lord Ashton’s Flesh Eating Liver Birds plague the skies above us and hoards of Mancunian Sugar-Zombies roam the cobbled streets spreading their curse like a plague…

So some of us have decided to re-kindle the old beacon in the city watchtower and keep its flame burning each night as a way of giving hope to those running for their lives and being hunted down by terrifying monsters, or evil scarecrow landlords…

Tonight is my shift and never fear, I am well armed to protect myself with a hot cauldron of soup, a fistful of hexes and of course my trusty rolling pin, which has seen off many an Annoying Wizard, Giant Crab or Night Potato, I can tell you!

Over the coming weeks, a marvellous host of writers, artists and creators will each be taking a turn to keep the light in this old lantern burning through the dark and share with you some of their wonderful books, stories, artwork and other fabulous creations.

Now then, since I’m here I thought I would share a little excerpt from some of my own adventures with you. This is taken from The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry when those two miscreant wizards had the cheek to break into my house in Pendle and frighten the wits out of myself and my husband in the middle of the night!

lastwitch

The two wizards scrambled to their feet but, on cursory inspection, Skarry realised they were trapped. This was not magic that they, as mere initiates, would have any hope of disabling.

“Oh! Burglars? Thieves? Oh no!” The woman standing in the doorway, dressed in a long cotton nightdress and curlers, trembled, sending the glaring yellow light from her lantern quivering over the moon-slicked floor, serving no purpose other than to irritate the eyes of every conscious person in the room. “Oh, this can’t be happening! I…I must get Albert, yes, he will know what to do!” and she quickly spun on her heel and disappeared again. They heard her stumble back along some hidden corridor, muttering in frenzied tones as she went: “Oh blessed mother! Oh Green Goddess, why is this happening? Why? Oh this is the end, I know it is! The end of Pendle, the end of everything! Oh Goddess, if it is true, if you have really not abandoned us to the mercy of Wiz, please, please grant me the strength to deal with this! But I cannot, how can I? I am the last! The very last!”

Her ravings slowly faded, swallowed into the belly of the house, and Skarry fired a look of utter bewilderment at his friend and tapped his forehead in silent questioning appraisal of the woman’s sanity. But, to his surprise and further confusion, Mercurio’s own features revealed that he was lost in some deep private reflection which was obviously beginning to amuse him.

Before long, the woman returned, now sporting an ill-fitting black toupee, which she had hastily balanced on top of her net of tightly curled hair, a false moustache and a quilted claret dressing gown. She held the lantern high again, swinging its luminescence into their squinting eyes.

“Now, see here!” she said, failing dismally at affecting a manly baritone. “Just who, may I ask, do you think you are? Bursting into my abode and frightening the wits out of my wife like this? Hmm?”

Skarry blinked. Surely, surely, this strange woman must realise the flagrant flimsiness of her charade. He opened his mouth to speak, but the woman pre-empted him.

“Don’t move! D-d-don’t move or I’ll…I’ll…well, you can’t move, can you? Hmm? If you try to, you won’t be able to so…so just stay there while I… er… go and call the Watchers… and The Good Folk. Yes, that’s it… now just you stay there! And don’t move!”’

Mercurio held up his gloved hands and chuckled with amusement. “My dear… Sir, we have no intention of going anywhere and, as you have pointed out, even if we wished to, we would be unable to penetrate this.” He gestured to the thin blue field of magical energy which now surrounded them, regarding it with the eye of a connoisseur. “But this is quite astounding!” He gave the moustachioed woman a look of respect, mingled with curiosity, which was not lost upon its subject.

She lowered the lantern an inch.

“Surely,” Mercurio continued carefully, “surely a spell like this could only have been set in place by… and please do not take offense, my good man… by a wizard? And an extremely powerful one at that. Perhaps, even, a witch?”

To Skarry’s amazement, the woman sank down into the leather armchair and began to sob, wringing the lantern chain between her fingers.

“My apologies,” Skarry said quickly, “if my friend has upset you, please… er… here, oh damn I can’t do that,” he returned the useless handkerchief to his pocket and glared furiously at Mercurio, who gave him a withering look and then hitched up a mask of sincere compassion and sympathy and turned it towards their host.

“Oh, you’re right!” the woman sobbed. “It’s true, it’s all true!” She pulled off the moustache and toupee and flung them angrily onto the floor. “Oh, this silly charade has been wearing me to pieces! But I have had no choice! There have always been six witches at Pendle, and there always must be at least one witch at Pendle – even Wiz himself says it – otherwise the whole town will crumble to the ground; the manor, the park, the houses, everything!”

“Wiz?” Skarry looked sharply at his friend, but Mercurio hadn’t flinched.

“Yes. It is only by his will that I haven’t been forced into the caves to be hunted, like game, across the marsh, like my poor sisters. He allowed just six of us witches to stay on here at Pendle because of the curse. There have always been six and we’ve always managed to fool the townsfolk into thinking we were ordinary citizens, but I am the last! And what will happen if I am found out? Oh it has worn me so thin you cannot imagine. Of course I cannot marry – who would marry a witch in this day and age? And yet I had to marry Albert or else people would become suspicious; a woman living all alone… people have such suspicious minds… you wouldn’t believe the things they say when my back is turned…” She was beginning to rave, the pitch of her voice crescendoing with the speed of the words. If she went on like this, she would be hysterical within the next 60 seconds and if she hyperventilated and fainted, even worse asphyxiated herself, they would be trapped. Possibly permanently.

“Why don’t you have a glass of brandy?” Mercurio suggested.

The woman shook her head “I don’t drink,” she sniffed. “It’s Albert who’s the drinker.”

“Albert?” Skarry mouthed silently.

Mercurio raised his eyebrows at him. “Well, perhaps Albert would care for a snifter then? Settle his nerves?”

Skarry closed his eyes so that he would not have to witness the woman reassembling her disguise so that she could nod and stumble unsteadily out of the room in search of alcohol.

 

 

 

If you’d like to read more about my adventures with those two Terrible Wizards, Scarlet Skarry and her marvellous Land Pirate crew and of course Eightcups Max and his fabulous octopus Collin, you can find The Curious Adventures Of Smith And Skarry here:

Well thankyou so much for joining me this evening as we keep the light in the lantern burning. I’m afraid that’s my shift over for the night, thank goodness it was a quiet one! Who knows, perhaps the smell of gingerbread was enough to keep wary monsters at bay?
Stay safe good friends, whatever assails you, and when times are dark, look for the light in the lanterns of others and treasure the light in your own….

Silk and Steel

Ahoi! I know it’s not Friday but I’m going away to visit family for a few days and then after that I’m in hospital again having another top up so I thought I had better leave you with something from Spyro and co. as the last IV knocked me for a pretty six so it may be more than a week before I post the next one XD Hope you are all keeping safe and well and wishing you all a most fabulous weekend 🙂

In September I’ll keep posting these extracts but I’m also hosting a new promo called Light In The Lantern which I hope will give writers and artists a chance to spread some light through the darkness with their beautiful and inspiring work 🙂 If you’d like me to feature your work drop me an email at ladywiththewyvern@gmail.com 🙂

For now, I’ll leave you with Spyro in the bath…

 

Spyro emptied the jug of warm water over his head, dowsing his tight black curls, letting it drench down its liquid comfort over his neck and shoulders and back.

The Doctor was right when he named Arden a genius – an annoying, entitled, maverick little cock to be sure, but still a genius. He had rigged a demonsong-powered water heating system for the bathroom the night he had moved in, requiring nothing but what he found lying about in the cellar and the back yard. He could certainly be forgiven a great many faults for that one gift alone, Spyro thought idly as he steepled his fingers above the steaming surface of the bathwater and shut his eyes.

Twardowski, he murmured, repeating the name of his nemesis as he turned the mental image of the great magician over and over in his mind; remembering the man’s faults, his strengths, calculating what might know, and what he did not, of this strange new world he had come down to.

He has magic. And I do not. At least not enough, not anymore. He has the goddess of death on his side. And I do not.  I have…

He paused, what did he have exactly? In reality, not half as much as he lead people to believe.

In reality, the reason that Silk and Steel had risen to apparent underground omnipotence so quickly was that they did not have a vast network of powerful and influential people directly under their control. That kind of monopoly would have taken years to cultivate.

What they had instead, Spyro thought ruefully – although he acknowledged the fact that it had served them better this way – was a few strategically placed powerful allies, a rag-tag band of pick pockets, cut-throats and confidence tricksters, and a vast network of street urchins who pervaded every inch of the city of Ryzym and who saw, heard and fed back to him everything of interest that went on whether it be on a street corner in the cinders or behind a locked door in The Groves.

He frowned and tapped his fingers together thoughtfully. Perhaps part of the reason this ludicrously simple system had actually worked was that no one honestly thought anyone would dare to play such an ambitious game when they had so little.

He smiled, that had always been his strength now he came to reflect upon it. He had stood up to slave masters and thugs, landlords and law enforcers, he had stirred common folk to uprisings and rebellions which had changed the face of history altogether… all because he dared.

He had learnt magic,because he dared. Had cheated demons, because he dared. Had trusted his fate to the gods, because he dared.

And then he had defied them all, betrayed those who saved his life and come back down here to do it all over again. All because he dared to do it.

And now I will put an end to you Twardowski,with nothing more than a handful of street urchins, the advice of a good doctor and two good friends at my back.

He smiled his most sinister smile to himself as he sank back into the soothing arms of the luxuriously warm water.

Two very particular friends, of course…

Silk and Steel

Happy Friday folks! I made it in after all –  I hope you have had an absolutely fabulous week and that the weekend brings treasures and joys un-looked for! 😀

We’re leaving Spyro to have his bath and sober up now and following Ros to The Groves…

*

 

“I brought a present for you.” Ros held her hands behind her back and her eyes danced with almost child-like excitement as she entered the little solarium at 16 Holles Street, The Groves.
Betithna threw down the poetry book she was reading and ran to her at once, “Oh what is it? Don’t tease me, let me have it at once!”

 

“Close your eyes then and hold out your hands.”

 

“Hands? Both of them? So it is something big…” Betithna did as instructed, bouncing excitedly on the balls of her feet as she did so, her enthusiastic grin lighting her face like the sun which streamed through the tall glass windows.

 

Ros smiled and gently pressed the cool orb of the large, red skinned fruit into her hands, closing her fingers over its smooth dome.

 

Betithna opened her eyes and looked at it in awe, “is… is this a fruit? Fruit doesn’t grow here in Ryzym…”

 

“This didn’t come from Ryzym!”

 

Ros’s grin was as wide as Betithna’s “it’s a pomegranate, all the way from Pav’shmah Beti! And not only these but they can grow figs there as well! Imagine liqueur made with fig and not mu’lai sap!”

 

Betithna caressed the tender rise of the pomegranate’s curvaceous form, cradled reverently in her palms. “How?” she whispered, her voice suddenly softening with repressed emotion, “How, when everything else is dead?”

 

“Not everything is dead,” Ros’s voice was the rich fire of tzujka as their eyes met and she took the fruit, penetrating its blushing flesh with her thumb nail, letting its myriad of seeds bloom scarlet between her fingers as it opened. “When we have completed the trade deals, when Beufort and Mendicci are nothing more than a bad memory, you and I and Elaina and Ziga will board one of your beautiful skyships and we’ll remember what it was to live again.”

 

She pressed half the fruit into Beti’s palm. “Things will be different in Pav’shma, and we will have the money and the freedom, the independence to be who we truly want to be, not what circumstance and survival dictate.”

 

“Together.” Betithna nodded and tried to brush away the tears that slipped silently down her cheeks. “It is becoming so I can barely stand another day of it. I know it is for the best, but the effects of the drug are so powerful on him… I’m scared Ros, I am scared that if we have to wait much longer we may push him too far…”

 
“I understand, I truly do, but this is the only way for us to achieve what we’ve dreamed of for so long. The drug only exacerbates what was already there both in his mind and his behaviour- the paranoia, the violence…” She clasped Beti’s arm, “you deserve so much better than this. We both do, our children do. It is only for a few more days, a week perhaps at the most, then the contracts will be signed and you can give him the final dose.”

 
“But I am terrified, the effect it has on him is already so extreme, I am afraid for Elaina… for myself…he becomes like an animal, deranged…”

 
“Then give it to him and get out. Get straight out of here do not wait to see the effects, Beti, go straight to Agathri and she will have the Colonel call the asylum as we planned. Suggest to Elaina that she go out with Arden, she will not even be in the house then and you will have nothing to worry about.”

 
Beti smiled and blinked away her tears, still cradling the precious fruit in her hand. “You make it sound so simple, I wish I had your courage and resolve,”

 
“It is simple. And soon we won’t need either of those things anymore. Once Beufort is locked up and out of the way the shipping company will automatically revert to your ownership. I will take care of Mendicci once everything is in place and then all we need do is delegate the business side of things to trustworthy employees here in Ryzym, and the world will be at our feet!”

 
“Pav’shma!” Beti’s eyes shone once more with excitement.

 
“If we like! Or Lycandrus or Khallimbadd or anywhere the wind will take us!” she laughed.

 
Beti laughed too. “And we’ll eat pomegranates all day long!” She poked at the profusion of seeds – each an uncut jewel promising the unknown. “How do you eat it? Do you take the seeds out first?”

 
Ros stared at her for a second and then laughed out loud and shook her head, “I have absolutely no idea!” she confessed, “I suppose that is part of the adventure!”

Silk and Steel

Ahoi! I’m posting today because I have no idea what tomorrow will bring but if all goes well I’ll try and post tomorrow too to speed things along. The book is pretty much finished as a first draft now I’m just reading back through and ‘doing the grouting’ if you know what I mean  – filling in the bits that don’t run smoothly together and jigging things about XD

Sorry it took so long to get through the riots, we’re out the other side now with Ros as she returns to the antiques shop…

*

 

If Ros was surprised to find the shop bolted and shuttered mid-morning when she returned, she was even more suspicious when she saw the state her partner had got himself into – although of course she did nothing to show it.
He was drunk, leaning against the study door frame with an empty bottle of tzujka in one hand and not a glass in sight.
He looked at her, puzzled for a moment as if she were some apparition that made no sense in the grand scheme of things… but then his eyes focused and suddenly widened and he lurched towards her. “He’s here!” he whispered, clutching at her arms, letting the bottle fall as he sank to his knees, “he’s here, Pan, The Man In The Moon came down like a crow, the children are singing about it, people have seen him, he’s here! Twardowski is here, in Ryzym! He’s looking for me, what am I going to do?”
Ros thought quickly. Either Mendicci’s mind was coming undone or, just maybe, he was right and the ancient magician he once betrayed had caught up with him at last. Either way it mattered little, she could not afford to lose him at this point, she needed him just a little longer, just until all her plans had come together. Another week or less, and then Pan or the mad house can have him she thought, but not yet, not just yet.
“Listen to me, Mendicci,” she said; her voice the solid comfort of firm ground after sliding long through sand. “It matters not, understand me love? It matters not. Not at all. Remember who you are, love, who you were before you met me and Ziga, who you were even before you met Twardowski. Tadejs Blinda…”
“Don’t speak it here!” Spyro begged, glancing round wide-eyed and frantic as if the crow man would flutter in through the window at any moment.
“Why should we not?” Ros soothed, “Tadejs Blinda; such a name of strength could never be an omen of defeat, love. The man who stood up for his own gain, the man who stood up to those who called themselves ‘master’ over him, the man who stirred the flames of revolution and wooed the world into thinking he was a hero… you did it once, under that name, you have almost done it again now, it is who you are – a leader, a rebel, a survivor, a hero… you are not a man who runs away from the fight, love, you are the man who picks the battleground and lures his enemies to sweet death upon it.”
She fixed him with her deep, dark eyes and could hardly describe the relief when she saw the light of shrewd calculation return to his own.
“You’re right.” he said quickly, and then laughed, “what am I doing? Ha! I am falling to pieces over what? Folk fables and nursery rhymes?”

He got up and wiped his hands across his face. “Twardowski is here, I know it, but you’re right. I will call him out somehow, I will engineer the manner of our meeting and then,” he turned and pointed a finger at her, “I will make an end of him once and for all. No more sleepless nights, Ros, no more Man In The Moon for us!”

He caught her up in his arms and swung her round, clutching her uncomfortably close around the waist so that she longed to pull away and arch her neck from the stench of his stale, fumy breath.

“The Groves for us! The high life when the last papers are signed and sealed and the Duke is brought down and Beufont takes his place…”
“And we take over his shipping company…” she finished, forcing herself to laugh along with him. She’d found him so attractive, once upon a time; dangerously attractive, before she knew him well…
“Yes indeed! Have you yet thought who will take over here for us?”
“I have a few people in mind.”
“So do I. Perhaps we should go upstairs and discuss the matter?”
“Perhaps you are forgetting I have business with Betithna Beufort this morning and your little stunt at the docks has put me behind?”
He relaxed his hold on her, moving his hands to rest lightly on her hips. “With Betithna?”
“She has a lot of sway with the comapny as I told you, afterall it was her father’s originally.”
“Yes, I’d not forgotten.” He looked thoughtful, as if something wasn’t quite adding up…
“You need to have a bath and sober up, love.” Ros said in an overtly maternal manner which invited no protest. “It is Blondell’s party tomorrow night and we have a horrendous amount of loose ends to tie up before then.”
He groaned and rubbed the back of his neck, “Mm, don’t remind me, who’d have thought a life of delictum would involve so much damned paper work?”
She laughed and massaged his shoulders for him, “I have explained it to you too many times to count – the paperwork is what protects us; it is the legitimate trail of legally traded items which obscures the actual goods we are purveying.”
“Smoke and glamour, I know, I know. I’m still going to moan about it though.”
“Well you’ll have to moan alone to the bathroom walls, love, I must get changed and take a cab to The Groves at once.”
He smiled and nodded and watched her head up the stairs then brought his hands together in a decisive clap. Right then Twardowski, how am I going to deal with you?

Silk and Steel

Egad I’m so sorry I missed the last 2 weeks – so many crazy things are happening this end and I’m struggling to keep on top of it all. Righty, here’s the next slice – still at the riots with Spyro and co. I’ll give you Fey’s perspective and then Ros and Vraxi’s as they are quite short and I’ve missed 2 posts 🙂

( I have my two eldest boys to thank for teaching me about the Eastern-European knife throwing techniques which feature in this extract XD XD )

 

*

When Spyro gave the command, Fey ran forwards; not with the main throng but slipping and ducking along the right flank of the mob so that she easily reached the wall before the front runners. Inside, she could feel her demon roiling to be let out but she ignored the urge to sink into a battle frenzy, for now.

 

Instead she channelled the demon’s strength deep into her muscles, crouched low, tucking her legs tight beneath her for maximum power, and then sprang right up onto the top of the barricade.

 

Two watch soldiers were already there to meet her. The first raised his baton above his head and Fey easily ducked the clumsy attack, dodging low so that the man overbalanced forwards, coming down on thin air with Fey now behind him.

 

As he toppled, she spun her left arm out behind her, whipping her long cloak like a sail to flip the teetering man back over the edge. He crashed onto an open cart full of tar barrels.

 

The second soldier gritted his teeth, pulled a knife from his belt and came at her in a crouching stance.

 

Fey smirked at the venomous scowl, “So serious?” she quipped, “Is the game not to your liking?” That said, she leapt right over the crouching man’s head, drawing her own daggers from her boots in mid-air and planting them in his back as she landed behind him.

 

She immediately tugged them free, pitching the soldier forwards, and another swipe of her cloak sent him spinning to join his friend below.

 

More ladders began to appear along the wall as the soldiers below climbed up to face the angry mob.

 

“Looks like I’ll be dancing this number for a while yet,” Fey muttered, returning her knives and drawing two pāhdrasai rods from the scabbards that crossed her back.

 

She swiped the first across the front of her body to slash the chest of one oncoming soldier while the other arced behind, crashing into the face of another assailant. The rods shattered on impact, showering the two men in a corrosive alchemical explosion and shards of broken glass.

 

Fey put a boot on the first man’s back as he screamed and clawed at his face and chest, and kicked him easily off the wall, but before she could turn to give the second man the same treatment, she felt a thick arm suddenly close around her windpipe, crushing the air from her lungs, she could feel the demon inside her, fighting to seize control of her consciousness.

 

“Not yet, my friend,” she thought, trying unsuccessfully to find a handhold on her assailant, “not yet…”

 

*

Before Spyro had even given the command to storm the wall, Ros nudged the yag in the ribs and motioned for him to follow her into one of the houses which immediately adjoined the barricade. Together they slipped past the close packed rows of filthy bunks, up the many wooden staircases of the tenement building until they came to the little ladder which led into the crawl-space below the eves. Even here four damp, mildewed-looking pallet beds were crammed close together and they climbed through the skylight onto the slate roof.

 

“Front row seats,” Vraxi observed.

 

Ros looked him up and down, “By the seem of things, the stage is up here with us,” she said dryly.

 

“Well, you know me, Ros, dress for every eventuality, that’s my motto.”

 

“Even cabaret?”

 

He gave a little bow and settled himself in a stable position,scanning the scene unfolding below.

 

Ros crouched beside him, training a dart on the lip of the barricade, her middle finger resting a hair’s breadth away from the trigger mechanism nestled against her palm.
“He does so love to show off,” she smirked, as Spyro began the final leg of his speech.
But Vraxi knew a test when he met one and decided to pretend he hadn’t heard her.
Ros gave a satisfied little smile and didn’t press the issue.

 

When Spyro leapt down from the wall, they watched Fey leap up to take his place and soon afterwards wooden ladders appeared along the barricade’s length as the dockside watch soldiers began climbing up to help their comrades on the other side.

 

Vraxi slipped an osetr into his hand and held it delicately but firmly, point facing his palm, forefinger pressed against the blunt edge of the knife.

 

“She won’t thank you if you miss,” Ros teased, as they watched Fey send the first two soldiers spinning over the edge onto the open cart.

 

A third stuck his fur-helmed head over the wall and Vraxi rose to a side-standing position and brought his elbow back smooth and wide, angling the blade at the man’s neck. When his shoulder reached its limit he let his forearm snake backwards in a rolling motion so that his forefinger flowed wave-like, bringing the blade with it. When it reached the zenith of its arc, he snapped his elbow like lightening, leaning into the hurl and throwing the full force of his chest muscles behind the motion, flicking the now vertical knife free just as it passed his ear, as if he were cracking a cattle-whip.

 

The osetr sailed, handle forwards, true to aim and made a neat little three quarter flip at the last minute before burying itself comfortably in the man’s jugular.

 

Ros smiled appreciatively, reached inside her pocket and placed a single fleshcoin on the roof slate beside her. “Match it and whoever takes down the next one wins them both,” she said without taking her eyes from the wall.

 

“See you and raise you another?” he dared, placing two beside her one and not taking his own eyes off the fighting.

 

She reached inside her pocket again and matched his bet then fired two darts in quick succession into the necks of two guards who were still on the ground, wrestling with the dock workers.

 

“Another says I get the next as well, and no raising,” she said.

 

Vraxi grinned and laid down his fleshcoin, just as a huge hulking guardsman hauled himself up behind Fey and hooked a meaty arm around the demon-bound woman’s neck. “She’ll thank me for this I’ll wager…” he muttered, unsheathing a vjatich this time and cracking it out in the same smooth double-wave motion.

 

Again the knife did it’s fancy little flip at the last moment and the man fell sideways off the wall, clutching his neck and releasing Fey who didn’t miss a beat but spun straight into her next attack.

 

Ros shook her head, “is that actually necessary or are you just showing off?” she asked, stopping Vraxi’s hand as he went to take his winnings.

 

“Will you allow for a little of both?” he ventured, and then added quickly, just in case, “reducing the rotations it makes mid-air improves the accuracy, my lady.”

 

Ros smiled and laid another fleshcoin on the roof. “Let’s keep going,” she said, turning back to the fight.

 

Within a few short minutes, they were both, apparently, out of ammo and several rows of fleshcoins sparkled in the sunshine.

 

“Is that really all you’ve got, love?” she asked, feigning a disappointed pout.

 

Vraxi spread his arms apologetically, “would you like like to search me? As you can see, my knives are all gone but there may be more to me than meets the eye…”

 

Ros narrowed her eyes at him. “There is always more to you than meets the eye,” she said dryly, scooping up the pile of coins and handing it to him. “Come, let’s see how things fare on the ground…”

 

Vraxi looked alarmed, “Far, far better without any interference from me I should think!” he said quickly. “For Xander is always saying how dreadfully I get under his feet in these close-ranged situations and certainly, you must concede, I am built for better things than one-on-one combat with these muscle-mountains the city watch favours!”

 

“I said nothing of joining the fight,” Ros said, arching an eyebrow at him, “although I note your enthusiasm for it.”

 

“Can you blame me?” he asked earnestly.

 

“For a great many things, dear. Although perhaps not that,” she conceded, hoisting open the roof hatch and waiting for him to follow her down.

 

As they excited the building, they met with Fey and Xander who had managed to quietly disengage themselves from the rabble. The dock workers had now broken down a significant portion of the wall and were piling through into the skydocks with wild bellows of victory.

 

“Looks like our work here is done.” Fey said, clapping her hands together, “if there’s nothing else I’ll be heading off for a well earned pint.” She didn’t wait for an answer but tipped two fingers to her forehead and strolled off in the direction of the Cross Keys.

 

“Try and stay out of trouble, boys,” Ros said over her shoulder as she headed back towards The ‘Kādasa.

 

Xander glared at the yag, who was watching Ros’s exit with a mesmerised expression, ‘chance would be a fine thing’, he thought angrily.

Silk and Steel… and half-demon chibi-cuteness XD

Ahoi! I hope you’ve had an utterly splendiferous week! 🙂 Ours has been a mixed bag of liquorice allsorts XD I honestly don’t understand how lock-down can have caused so much calamity XD But there has been mostly good amongst the sporadic weird – the car got fixed which was unexpected and fabulous and lots of art has happened which is always a good thing! I even got to do some arting myself so I’ve started making chibies of the Silk and Steel characters thinking that for Inktober I will paint them in tea XD

So here’s my cutesy lil half-demon librarian Edmund for you… just a basic one as I was figuring him out, I want to do one of him puffing his heart-shaped smoke rings at some point too XD … (and as with all my pics you can print and colour him in if you want 🙂 )

Edmundpic

 

And here’s the next bit of Silk and Steel… still at the docks and from Xander’s perspective… I hope you all have an utterly fabulous weekend and are starting to feel a bit more ‘normal’ lol, whatever that is! XD

 

When Spyro gave the signal, Xander immediately looked around for Vraxi but he was nowhere to be found. Cursing, he pushed through the tide of bodies all surging to engage with the few remaining guards. He elbowed, shoved and butted people aside, not caring which side they were on, his mind filled only with horrific visions of what trouble the idiot could have managed to get himself into now.

 
He glanced up at the wall and saw Fey take out one guard while another jumped her from behind and locked a meaty arm around her throat, but before he could think of a way to help, an osetra sailed neatly through the air, did a fancy little flip and buried itself in the man’s neck.

 
Looking in the direction the knife had come, he saw Vraxi up on a nearby rooftop beside Ros and breathed a sigh of relief, before remembering he was furious with the wretch and would definitely have to murder him when they got home.

 
A blow to the side of his head suddenly sent him reeling, black stars danced in front of his eyes and he felt the demon surge and thrash inside him as waves of panic, adrenaline and fury pulsed through his brain.

 
He turned, his vision clearing in clouds of dissipating claret, seized the guard who had struck him by the hair and slammed his knee into his face, breaking his nose and dropping him to the floor where the mob trampled him blindly into the mud.

 
The noise and mayhem drenched his senses, like a wet curtain that he struggled to fight free of to no avail, and he lashed out blindly for a few seconds, terrified and unable to discern who was attacking him and from where.

 
Breathe. He told himself. Stop flailing and take control.

 

He forced himself to stand still, open his eyes and focus on what was happening around him.

 

Fey was doing well again on the wall, on the roof top Ros and Vraxi seemed to be picking off guards on the other side of the barricade.

 

On the ground the mob were making some headway dismantling the cart planks and lower placed pallets. There were four guards left on this side. Xander pulled his knives from his belt and went for the nearest.

Silk and Steel

I’m so so sorry I didn’t get a chance to post through the week as I’d hoped 😦 All hell broke loose with our new car getting smashed up (no one hurt luckily) and the dryer breaking down and various other calamities! XD XD But I’ve five mins left of the morning before lessons start so lets see what we can squeeze in… so, still at the docks with Spyro and co… I am seriously clueless about writing action scenes so these next few snips are even more rough and ready than usual and I’m open to criticism / suggestion if you think I can do better 🙂

 

Spyro shinned easily up the ladder, swung himself over the top of the barricade and dropped lightly down on the other side.
Kaili watched him with amusement as she chewed a mouthful of Roccanna. For all that he looked like a fop who would never deign to get his cuffs dirty, his athletic prowess belied his true nature, she thought, as she watched him swagger towards her, grinning and brushing the dust off his backside.
She returned the smirk and raised her eyebrows. “And what can I do you for?”
“For anything you like, as you well know,” he whispered, as he stepped up close beside her. “But for now, what’s all this about?” He gestured to the wall, his eyes twinkling. “Are the innocent hardworking poor not to be allowed to do an honest days work because of the duke’s inability to control their wayward peers?”
Kaili laughed. “Depends.” She said, looking him up and down. “Mayhap that there’s a sudden urgent need for me to take half my troop here over to The Spires and investigate reports of a Rocchana den there at the university?”
“Ha! No. I was thinking The Groves. A little bird tells me there is a another jewel grab about to take place there in about ten minutes – a rough gang from The Cinders, by all accounts, twelve strong at least.”
“I see. And would this be the same li’l bird whose tipoffs never amount to anythin’?”
“That’s the one.”
Kaili chewed her Roccahna and spat it onto the ground. “How big an egg is it gonna lay, this bird o’yours?”
Spyro slipped a hand inside his waistcoat, brought out a black velvet pouch and handed it to the watch captain.
She narrowed her eyes at him as she took it and emptied out the contents into her palm; three bloodcoins and fifty fleshcoins. She weighed them in her hand, smiled and returned them to the purse which she slipped inside her tunic. “Fair ’nuff.” She stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled, reeling off the names of twenty five of her troop as each hurried over to join her. “Party in The groves.” She said simply, “Go ahead, I’ll be there at a pace.” She turned back to Spyro as the guards jogged away without question.
“I am ever envious of your technique ; you have them well trained.”
She shook her head and laughed. “Your coin has them well trained. They know they’ll get a good cut of it in The Nag’s Head tonight.”
“And afterwards?”
“Are you free?”
“For you, always.”
She smiled and brushed away an imaginary strand of hair from her face. “Then come by mine after ten.”
He smiled and gave a little bow, “until tonight then.” And with that he climbed back up the ladder and onto the top of the wall.

 

“Friends!” He bellowed from the top of the baracade. “It seems the duke will not stand by his honest, hard working citizens but prefers to lump us all together with those unionists and rebels who seek to rock the boat for all. It is time to show the duke that we will not stand for this, let us tare down the barriers he has placed here to confine us! Let us bring down the wall!”
A rabid, feral cheer rose up from the mob as the swell of desperate bodies surged forwards, seizing the planks of the barracade and attempting to tare them down with enthusiasm, if little effect. The watch soldiers on that side of the stockade immediately engaged with the onward charging mass and cheers, shrieks and curses soon filled the morning air.

 

 

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