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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.

 

 

Silk and Steel

Hey hey! It’s Friday and I thought I wouldn’t make it in but I have – so calling that a win! XD (small things! 😉 XD ) We’re still at the dock-riots for this bit – with Spyro and co. whipping up the tension from both sides to pile the pressure on the duke who they hope to bring down and replace with their own puppet.

I’m going to try and schedule the next couple to go up in the week as they all follow on quickly and I don’t want things toooo disjointed (yes yes I know it’s sort of too late for that! XD ) Thankyou for hanging on in there!

 

 

Sure enough, a haphazard wall of pallets and barrels had been erected on top of a row of wooden carts, blocking off the access road to the sky-docks. A token smattering of city watch guards lounged against it, playing cards and drinking tankards of kvass and from the other side the sounds of the rioters could be heard and voices raised in the rebel chorus “Oprahno Prahli, Oprahno Frâţjana!”

 
“I’ll handle this,” Spyro said firmly, holding up his hand to the mob who now followed the antiques dealer closely like a pack of faithful hounds. “Kaili will bring this down for us or we will bring it down ourselves, but wait on my signal, make no move without it.”
They watched him stroll nonchalantly up to the largest group of guards – five hulking mountains of flesh who were stood around a barrel which they were using as a cards table.

 
The Doctor had already disappeared, taking his patient back to the barber’s shop to recover.

 
Xander cracked his knuckles and shifted his weight.

 
Fey scanned the wall, marking the number of guards, ladders, weak points and sheltered spots instinctively.

 
Ros watched Spyro like a hawk, her confident smile never leaving her lips.

 
Xander’s hand flexed on the the handle of his knife and he shifted his weight once more.

 
Such a pity he will always wear his hood up like that, Vraxi thought wistfully, for it hides his eyes which are the most curious shade of indigo… he had seen a shirt almost that exact shade, a rare shibori-dyed one from Khallimbad, hanging on a washing line last week…he wondered if it was worth stealing it and trying to persuade Xander that it would suit him. Probably not. He sighed deeply, looked up at the rooftop and began counting the crows gathered there – five, six, seven…ten…still the antiques dealer was talking amicably with the guards.

 

Xander licked his lips nervously and glanced back at his little companion for the third or fourth time. What the hell was he wearing that stolen Hunters’ shirt for? Those things were only issued to Hunter Captains; he stood out like a flaming red flag in a bull ring. Why Spyro had sent for both of them, he had no idea. These battle situations were in no way Vraxi’s forte and Xander was furious that he was going to have to lend more than an eye to making sure the idiot didn’t get himself seriously hurt, or even… he swallowed hard and tried not to think about it. They weren’t armed with soul-blades, Mendicci would only lend them those expensive weapons when he wanted someone’s throat slit ‘on the quiet.’ But the watch guards would be carrying several of the deadly blades that could splice a person’s soul clean from their flesh, and wouldn’t think twice about using them. He squinted hard at the antiques dealer, every muscle tense, his jaw locked tight, waiting for the signal he hoped would not actually come.

 
Fey watched Spyro plant his hands on his hips as one of the guards gestured towards the nearest ladder. A few more words were exchanged and then the antiques dealer set his foot to the first rung; in a few short seconds he was up and over the other side of the wall. The guards went back to their card game. Fey didn’t take her eyes from the spot where he’d dropped down to the other side.

 
…eleven, twelve… Vraxi lost interest in the crows and let his gaze drift idly over the assembled mob – or, more specifically, the pouches and purse strings of the assembled mob, noting which would be easy or challenging to lift or cut – but it was only a force of habit, these people had nothing of interest to him. Where had Spyro gone, he wondered? Remebering suddenly why he was here and that he was supposed to be waiting for some sort of signal or other. Had Spyro said what it was? He looked at Ros who was watching the wall; Ros would know what the signal was. So would Fey. So would Xander. He relaxed, decided to just follow their lead, and then set his mind to checking his shirt for creases and snags; it was a scarlet Hunters’ shirt – fleet issue only – and he was exceedingly proud of having found it carelessly lying around in a wardrobe during one of their house-breaks in The Groves. It wouldn’t do to get it ruined on its first day out.

Silk and Steel

I promised you Scabs, I promised you beatings, and now I humbly deliver (although it’s the Scabs doing the beating I’m afraid!) … 😉 XD Wishing you all a wonderous weekend and thankyou so much for persevering with the long breaks and disjointed nature of this unruly beast! When I started it I was aiming for the cherry flavoured one in a box of black magic chocolates – kitschy-camp and retro-cute with a bitter dark chocolate bite… um… I think it is ended up like a tangle of red liquorice laces XD So if you are still making sense of it all, I salute you and shower you with thanks! x

 

Once outside, Spyro turned straight towards a ragged line of children sat on the curb in front of the shop. Most proprietors would have chased the urchins away but these were a permanent fixture outside Silk and Steel – and for good reason.

“Take this to The Doctor…” Spyro whispered, hunkering down beside the nearest child and pressing one of the ornately carved pebbles into her hand, “…Fey Wulf…”, he told the next one, again slipping a pebble into their palm, “…Xander Dumarrle… Vraxi Bane… And you take these to your mother with my compliments,” he added, handing over the crows with a wink to the last child in the row, as his brothers and sisters skittered off in different directions to find their quarries.

Then he tugged up his sleeves a little and hurried across the street, dodging easily around the Mul’ai-dji hackney cabs and demonrod motor vehicles, heading swiftly for the workers’ tenements in the district known as The Cinders.

By the time he’d reached Primrose Hill, he was flanked on his left by The Doctor and Fey and on his right by Ros, Vraxi and Xander.

“You look like the opening act of a travelling circus,” Xander complained, referring to Vraxi’s bright silk shirt and his leather belt holsters, vambraces and chest harness which boldly sported his entire collection of throwing knives.

The yag grinned broadly, “I look like ‘trouble for somebody’, is what I look like, Xander,” he said with a wink.

“Trouble for us, no doubt,” his companion muttered back.

As they swung onto Dockers’ Row they could see the commotion; a large angry mob of men, women and children shouting, jeering and throwing stones while in the centre of the tumult a small group were viciously kicking at something on the floor.

“Hoi!” Spyro seized two of the nearest onlookers and pulled them aside. “Hoi! Make way, what are you about here?” he forcefully made his way further forwards towards the central huddle, his entourage pushing through beside him.

Faces turned angrily towards them, but their expressions immediately changed to shock and then deference when they saw who it was and the crowd rapidly parted to let the companions through, particularly the Doctor.

Vraxi grinned hugely and tipped his forehead impishly in mock thanks.

“Halt at once and explain yourselves.” Spyro ordered, and the group of six brutish looking sky-dock workers reluctantly moved aside to show the bloodied and crumpled body of Bartczak the barber-surgeon.

Spyro looked at them in disgust. He knelt down beside the battered barber and smoothed his matted hair back from his bloodied face, smiling grimly when Bartczak’s eyelids fluttered at his touch. “Hang in there,” he whispered, “you will be alright, my friend; Tosca is safe and the cavalry has arrived.”

The Doctor knelt beside the injured man and Spyro rose and addressed the largest thug in the group – an enormous dock labourer by the name of Sulimadd. “What are you about?” he asked the man directly. “Has this man not healed your own injuries and those of your friends and family many times over? Why are you abusing him so?”

Sulimadd glared at Spyro and looked to his companions for assistance.One spat on the floor, the other accidentally caught the doctor’s eye and quickly looked at his shoes.

“He’s ‘Sztokrai.” Sulimadd muttered at last. “Th’watch have closed off the docks coz of the riots. Us honest folk cant get t’work.”

“Honest folk.” Spyro said incredulously, scratching his smooth chin. “And this is the way honest folk behave is it? When the person they are angry with is not available, they lash out at the next best thing, no matter how innocent that thing may be – a friend, an old woman, a six year old child…”

“They’re ‘Storkrai.” Sulimadd growled defiantly.

Spyro put his hands on his hips and shook his head. “Yes.” he said at last. “Yes they are. If blood is all you care about. Bartczak’s parents were well-moneyed. He left their household to marry the woman he loved; a docker’s daughter who sadly passed away before the apocalypse began. After her death he cared for her elderly mother and his own child and he has served this community with generosity and kindness for more years than I can easily number. Is your measure of a man his ancestry or his own actions?” He looked sternly around the crowd of faces, catching every eye, making it clear that the question was being put to each of them.

“Who has wronged you here today?” He shouted. “Bartczack? Or the duke?”

The crowd began to chew that over, muttering amongst themselves. The mob-mentality which had spurred them to almost murder one of their own only moments before was dissipating and Spyro knew he had to time his words exactly to catch the tide and re-direct it to his advantage before it fizzled out entirely.

“The duke!” someone cried, at last, and a few more echoed the call.

“Who is preventing you from getting to your jobs?”

“The duke!” more voices, stronger, gaining confidence now in the new rally to arms.

“So who should we take the battle to?”

“The duke!”

“But they’ve put up a barricade,” Sulimadd mumbled sullenly.

“Where?” Spyro asked. “Show me.”

Silk and Steel

So sorry I missed a week – things here have been too crazy to begin to talk about it. Here is the first part of chapter 2 of part 2, lol, if that’s not confusing enough! XD And we’re back to Spyro and Ros… (also – bit of mythpunk trivia – the little rhyme in this snip is taken from an old Rom / Eastern-Euro folktale and proverb)

 

CHAPTER 2
*

A row of crows hung like so much grim washing from a line strung the length of the antiques shops’ back yard. The stone-weighted shots that had caught them still bound their wings close to their sides and they dangled by their silver-clawed feet, heads hanging limp, lifeless (or very nearly).

 

Ros crooked the large basket under her arm, resting it against her hip, and with her dextrous right hand, took the head and twisted it clean off. A slough of gore and dark blood oozed down and met the cobbles with a wet ‘fffllatth’ and the Jai’Yantra smiled and added the head to the basket, moving along the line to the next.

 

Behind her the backyard gate clicked open and closed.

 

“Heads for the workhouse, wings for the milliner, feet for the alchemist, the breast for our dinner,” she remarked, without turning round, knowing exactly who it was that had entered.

 

“Fine fayre as always,” Spyro said, coming up behind her and placing his hands on her hips, “but I have a better rhyme; the head for the duke, up high on his throne, the neck for his wife behind him alone, the feet for his enemies standing by, the wings for his allies away they will fly.”

 

“And the rest of the bird?” Ros asked, turning to arch an eyebrow at him.

 

“The spoils to the victors, of course.” he said, reaching up and taking down four of the decapitated birds. “But heroes must always be celebrated, not only for our victories, but for our generosity whether we have won or lost or the battle rages on.”

 

“You have been to the riots again.” she observed.

 

“They rage well. Soon the watch will be utterly overwhelmed. The duke is drafting patrols in from all other areas of the city but…” he patted his coat pocket in which a few coins jingled.

 

“They are proving ineffectual?” Ros smirked.

 

“Commander Kaili knows which side her bread is buttered.” he said cheerfully.

 

“Then our only consideration on that front,” Ros said, moving along the line and popping another head into her basket, “is whether the duke will draft in some of the militia.”

 

“Let him try. He will only move the game along swifter. CGS Draimunn will not waste troops bolstering an ineffectual watch effort. If the duke calls on the army he will be instigating a call for his resignation from that quarter – if he’s lucky.”

 

“You think Draimunn would force a coup?” Ros aksed, adding another head to the almost full basket. “That would not suit our plans…”

 

Spyro shrugged. “Lieutenant General Vrost thinks it’s possible, though not probable. But you’re right, it would not suit our plans at all. Contingency?”

 

Ros looked thoughtful for a moment, “I will speak to Agathri. She is poised to be our clarion, raising support for Beaufort to take the duke’s place, at the apropriate moment; if the army looks set to stage a coup then that moment will be sooner than we planned.” she smiled “But it doesn’t sound like it will come to that?”

 

Spyro shook his head. “I am not overly concerned. Things are going well, the duke is feeling the pinch, by all accounts.”

 

“By Beaufort’s account?”

 

“Just so. The pressures we have brought to bear upon him will have him on his knees soon enough and Beaufort is more than ready to take his place.”

 

Ros pulled off the last head and placed the basket down beside a second that was full of black feathered wings. “I will take these to town later, visit the market and see what the murmerings are on the street…”

 

She trailed off as a comotion from the house drew both their attentions that way and Žiga came trotting out into the back yard looking wide eyed. “A girl is come, a Sapanai, she is hurt.” she blurted, pointing back towards the shop.

 

“Well done, love,” Ros said, absently, already wiping her hands on her long grey apron and hurrying inside with Spyro at her heels.

 

They followed Žiga swiftly through the maze of accumulated artifacts and antiques to the front of the shop where a young girl, no more than six or seven, stood trembling and crying. The flesh on her right arm was slightly burned.

 

“There, there; Toska isn’t it?”

 

The girl nodded. “My Papa, they’re killing him, and grandmama too…the people in our building, the other tennants…they say we’re in with the duke…they called Papa a ‘Sztokrai bastard… ”

 

Spyro looked furious, “Your father is Bartczak? The barber-surgeon?” He already had his coat back on and puased only to grab a handfull of smooth coloured pebbles, each carved with the same intricate design, from a drawer behind the counter, before hurrying out of the door, still carrying the brace of crows.

 

“Ziga, go fetch my medicine bag will you?” Ros said, and then turning back to Tosca she smiled and brushed the child’s hair away from her tear-streaked face, “it will be alright, pet.” she said soothingly. “Mendicci will put it right, love. Your papa has done so much good work for the poor people of this city; it may be that they need reminding of that before they start confusing his bloodline with his behaviour, but they will rememeber, and then they will be ashamed of their actions, you wait and see.”

 

She took the large leather medical bag that Ziga was hefting across the shop floor, opened it and took out a brown glass tincture bottle and pipette.

 

Tosca winced as the foul smelling yellow liquid dribbled over her wounds but she didn’t cry out. “they threw bottles through the window,” she sniffed, “ when they broke the stuff inside them hurt.”

 

“I see.” Ros pursed her lips, returned the tincture to the bag and closed the clasp with a smart ‘click.’ “Ziggi, take Tosca through to the kitchen and find some pastēti and biscuits for you both,” she said, standing up and taking off her apron. She crossed to the counter, put the bag away behind it and strapped on a pair of arm-mounted dart throwers. “I won’t be long love,” she said, heading for the door “mummy has to go and teach some stupid people a little lesson.”
The door bell tinkled as she let it fall closed behind her.

Evil Eliza gets her Pride on…

So to combat the stress and anxiety and down right shittiness we’ve been experiencing this end we’ve been channelling our sinister scarecrow Montmorency in his/her/their ‘other’ form of Evil Eliza (If you haven’t seen that side of our wicked scarecrow landlord she appears in Jack and Marjory which I’ll start posting from again once Silk and Steel is finished). We’re making dark humour colouring pages for the plague and also for pride, (so if dark humour ain’t your thing then look away! XD ) So I just got a scanner I will try and share some more on here but here’s the first – just a photo as I’ve not figured how to open the scanner box yet…. ho-hum… XD ) – they are all licensed through creative commons ( © 2020 CC BY-SA)so you can print them colour them share them burn them throw darts at them use them any way you like 😉 x

Elizamonsterpride

Silk and Steel

OK, yay! We made it to Friday 😀 XD Things are rather like a pressure cooker here but we’re still alive and got a weekend full of small people birthday things – think anime and pizza – to look forward to :). Hope you guys are still safe and well and surviving the madness 😀 S here is the next bit – the duke has sent two letters to his nearest and dearest to ask for their support; we’ve met Captain Gabriel, and here’s the next recipient – someone we’ve met before… 😉 XD

 

The side of Colonel Hogarth’s mouth twitched upwards in a self satisfied smirk as he flipped over the envelope and cut through the Duke’s seal with quick flick of his letter knife.

 
Ha! He said to himself, before even reading it.

 
And then Ha! Again after quickly casting an eye over its general contents.

 
It was just as he had suspected – the young duke was feeling the tightening tug of the strands of web that had been weaving around him for quite some time now. Poor chap. He had seemed like such a good choice for duke at the time, but he had failed miserably to make good on all his philanthropic rhetoric – showing far too much deference to the ‘Sokrai and the church, and not enough to basic moral decency.

 
The union riots had almost brought the skydocks to a standstill and part of The Cinders were affected too, with factory workers beginning to see that if the dockers could demand better pay and working conditions then perhaps so could they.

 
The wrath of the ‘Stokrai was growing in the wake of the jewel robberies, which the watch seemed utterly incapable of putting a stop to, and the mutterings below the surface of The Groves were like the furious buzzings of an enraged hornet’s nest about to spew forth its venomous hosts.

 
Yes, he reflected as he pushed the letter aside and sipped his mushroom tea, Spyro and Ros had handled the thing well; as he knew they would or he never would have agreed to be involved; no matter how hard Agathri had pushed and cajoled, and clucked and fussed and thrown all her toys out of the pram – as was her wont.

 
He chuckled to himself and twisted his grey moustache thoughtfully. If Spyro Mendicci thought he could lay claim to the city of Ryzym so easily when Agathri already had everyone’s toes tapping to her own tune, the results of this little circus were going to prove most amusing!

 
His amber eyes sparkled with mischief then and his Rokani heritage was even more apparent than usual on his foxy features. Perhaps he would just add a pinch of his own spice to this simmering cauldron of calamity. Afterall, he had not yet decided if or how he was going to make Silk and Steel pay for the theft of his precious demonsong.

 
Not that he was short of demonsong, but it was HIS demonsong; the principle of the thing had to be respected. If Agathri and Ros’s little side-plans (His wicked grin widened hugely at the delicious thought that Mendicci was not a privy to those machinations!) saw fruition, then he would soon be Duke himself, and there would have to be a darn sight more respect from these young street hoodlums then!

 
He sipped his tea and chuckled to himself as he thought of how he would play the thing out. Something bold and spectacularly devastating he decided with a wicked grin; why should the girls have all the fun with their dastardly scheming eh? Oh, he’d probably let them redeem themselves somehow afterwards, but let them sweat and stew for a bit first! Ha!

 
“You’re laughing to yourself,” Agathri observed from the doorway before drifting to his side in soft clouds of flowing flame-like chiffon. “What dreadful things are you planning, darling and for whom?”

 
She draped herself around his broad shoulders and he took her hand, caressed it fondly and then pressed it to his mouth in an affectionate smack of lips and bristling moustache.

 
“Ha! Going to put the wind up some of your lot.” He chortled, drawing her round and onto his knee as if she were still the capricious chorus girl and he the dashing hunter captain of The Demon’s Demise.

 
“Now don’t you dare rock the boat, you diabolical beast!” she scolded, nestling her head against his strong chest and letting her inner flames swell in gentle warning that she could get angry if she really wanted to.

 
“Nonsense old girl! Nothing like a rocked boat to keep the crew on their toes! Exactly what they need at a time like this – something unexpected…”

 
“I have already attended to the unexpected element of the plan – and you are it, remember? Mendicci thinks he setting the duke up for a fall, Beaufort will take his place and Silk and Steel will co-partner him in their new ‘trading company’. In reality, by the time the poor duke falls, Beaufort will be safely locked in the asylum, Mendicci will be… dealt with… and you, my darling, will find the whole of Ryzym clamouring for you to take control. You’ll be duke and…”

 
“Yes. And you, my little vixen, will be queen, let’s not forget that.” He said, tickling her ribs so that she squealed and squirmed and slapped his chest to make him stop.

 
“It’s duchess, you silly man!” she laughed, suddenly plucking the letter from his desk and sitting up to read it.

 
“Oh it’s queen alright,” he insisted, “queen of hearts I call you. Always had us chaps wrapped round your little finger and always will I dare say.”

 
She turned from the letter and cupped his face in her delicate hand, “you don’t begrudge me my little bits of tiffin? Do you? You know I never give two hoots about yours…”

 
“No, no. You do as you please – seems only fair as I can do nothing but whatever takes my fancy.” He winked and she smiled indulgently at him and returned her attention to the letter.

 
“So, poor Bastion wishes to see you. Hardly surprising really, you are his godfather and the one who persuaded him to run for duke in the first place.” She giggled and clapped a hand to her mouth, her eyes dancing with mischievous sparks of flame. “Oh, my love! Aren’t we so very, very dreadfully naughty!?!”

 

 

 

Silk and Steel

Ahoi! So sorry I’ve been pretty much offline the last couple of weeks, things are pretty full-on family wise here and I think this is going to be the case for some time to come. I’m going to try and grab some time for online things each Friday but that may / maynot happen – I will do my best. Thankyou for being so patient and for hanging on in there and putting up with my spoaradicness and disorganisation, I hope you are coping and carrying on the best you can and I hope that these posts bring some cheer along the way 🙂

So, following on from the Duke and his troubles, another new character for you..

Captain Gabriel Beaufort pushed back his empty lunch plate, refilled his glass of tzujka and knocked it back, barely taking his eyes from the letter he was re-reading for the third time since he’d received it. He smiled and stretched his legs out under the desk, leaning far back in his chair and allowing his hands to rest behind his head. An invitation from his good friend The Duke. Everything was going beautifully to plan.

He poured himself another drink – a reward, he told himself, for having the wisdom to trust what Spyro Mendicci had told him; that those who truly held the reigns of the city had built a delicate house of cards beneath Duke Vassellin’s throne and that they waited only for the right ally to take his place when the cards fell.

A self satisfied grin spread across his weathered face, yes, he had been wise to trust Mendicci – many in his position would not have credited the words of a humble antiques dealer from The ‘Kādasa, but Beaufort had not inherited his fleet of Hunter Ships. He had earnt them. Started as deck-swabber. Fought his way up inch by inch, gaining respect and experience with every carefully chosen word and action until now he not only captained the most successful skyship that sailed out of the city port – he owned the fleet it belonged to as well.

He sensed that this Mendicci was cut from that same rare cloth; a man with the wit and the gumption to climb out of the hole he was born into. The only thing he could not understand about his plans was that Mendicci showed no interest in claiming the Duke’s position himself – although Beaufort had little doubt that when the man spoke of ‘the hand that holds the city’s strings’ he was referring to himself.

He could only suppose that Mendicci’s ultimate goal was a life of luxury rather than the responsibilities that came with power on the public stage. He was no wallflower to be sure, Beaufort had done his homework and found that in his own circles the man was well known and well loved for overt acts of social justice, but garnering public regard from a position of zero obligation was not the same as striving to satisfy the conflicting demands of an entire city when all look to you to solve their problems. Most men, he reasoned, as he poured himself another drink, would shirk from such a position. But Gabriel Beaufort had goverened skyships – a fleet of skyships – for too many years to begin to number them. He relished the challenges the position of Duke would place before him and he knew beyond doubt that he could rise to meet them.

He knocked back his drink and filled the glass again, revelling in the adrenaline rush that coursed through him at the thrill of this impending adventure. He would miss the skies; had never envisioned a scenario where he would leave his beloved ships behind, but this was too good a chance to pass up and Mendicci’s credentials and connections had left him in no doubt that his fleet would be well cared for under the Silk and Steel Trading Co-orperation. Demon Hunting was generally lucrative but carried risks and losses that were sometimes difficult to counterbalance with profit. The trade agreements Mendicci had spoken of with Lycandrus and Pav’shamah could be the answer that – a stabilising stream of income to underpin the flux, especially in the summer when solar storms could take out an entire skyship.
Yes, it was all coming into place. And now Bastion wanted to see him! He chuckled at that; the Duke was evidently feeling the pinch that Mendicci and his assosiates were orchestrating. The two sky captains had been friends for what seemed like eternity. An unlikely pairing perhaps – the son of a famous sky captain and a humble deck swabbing Rokani but neither of them had much cared for the barriers of class or race back then.

Bastion had even dared his mother’s disproval and attended Gabriel’s wedding. Betithna was another Rokani; one of the many twin-souled skin changers created by shamanic cultists as they sought to transend their own reality. Who knew that twining their souls with creatures inherent of the earth would bind them here forever?

Not that Gabriel or Betithna, their parents or their daughter Elaina had had anything to do with cult activities, but their genetic lines were altered irrepreably by their ancestors. And of course the church, and therefore the state, would never accept that; Beaufort smirked at the irony that an organisation that bound peoples souls to demons should baulk at the idea of those whose souls were entwined with animals or plants.

A noise in the hall, the front door opening, voices, whispers caught his attention and his golden eyes narrowed suddenly. He got up and crossed to the study window, just in time to catch sight of the Vesperai boy straddling his Demonrod scooter and kicking it into life, filling the street with clouds of foul smelling smog and the roar of its engine as he sped away.

Beaufort shook his head, returned to his desk and poured himself another drink. He had no problem with Arden McKade courting Elaina. In many respects it was a fine match – Vesperai and Rokani would both benefit from a stronger alliance and once the city was in his hands there would be no more of these witch hunts by the church. Both races could relax a little without the fear of persecution.

Yes, everything was going marvellously well. He would meet the Duke for lunch and arrange to see Mendicci again in the next day or two. He glanced at the bottle, decided the drips in the bottom of it were not worth bothering with, and left the room.

Strange. He had thought himself at home. But here was the deck of his skyship. The sting of sand on the whipping wind that tugged at his long hair, the blaze of solar flares – a storm was rising, he could feel the deck tilting beneath his feet. “All hands!” he bellowed. “All hands to the sails!” but even as the words left his lips he saw the demon rise above the starboard rail; thrashing tail set to capsize the vessel and send it plumeting to its doom.

He thought of his wife, his children, Arden McKade, The Duke, he must make it home, this was not going to be the end of Captain Gabriel Beaufort.

“Courage!” he screamed, seizing his harpoon gun and charging to meet the beast head on, and he was heartened to see most of his well trained crew responding to his instructions and rising to meet the beast in force… except one… what was this? Some cowardly cove crouching behind a tar barrel, his hands pressed tight over his ears, blubbering? He would be the death of himself, and everytone else, morale was sapped by fools like this with their mewling and mithering.

“Get up!” he thundered, hauling the wretch up by the shirt collar and thrusting him in front of him, but the pitiful pup merely covered his face with his hands and began sobbing, “Pull yourself together!” Beafort roared, striking the whelp across the face – a blow which sent him crumpling to the deck once more. “I said, get up!”

“Gabriel! Stop!”

What? What was that? “Betithna?” What was his wife doing on board? It didn’t make any sense and yet there she was, running down the stairs towards him, her gold-green eyes wide with alarm. Stairs? He thoght vaguely. When did the skyship gain a flight of stairs? But the fantasy didn’t evaporate completely; the two worlds overlayed eachother and he couldn’t pull the threads apart to focus on which was the reality and which the waking dream. Where am I? He thought, his heart racing in panic.

“Gabriel!”

“This is none of your concern.” he snapped, trying to anchor himself to something tangible. He put out a hand and felt solid wall beneath his fingers, shuffling his feet forwards he managed to steer around several obsacles until he reached the stairs.

“What have you…”

“I said, it’s none of your concern!” he screamed. Why would she not just go away. This was his ship. Wasn’t it? Not hers. What did Betithna know about any of it. He clasped the ship’s rail and found the stairs rising before him. Good. He would just go to his cabin and take a nap, then answer the Duke’s call. Then tomorrow or the next day, he would meet with Mendicci and his partner, Miss Noir, to finalise everything.
He grinned as he climbed the staircase with some difficulty. Everything was coming up roses.

Silk and Steel

Ahoi! We’ve reached part 2 of the book, which is called Stone The Crows so to celebrate here’s another bit of quote-ish-ness and some fabulous artwork by Tithi Luadthong 🙂

themaninthemoon
Duke Bastion Vandellin paced his hall with slow, pensive steps, drinking in the portraits installed along its length as he passed each Grand Duke who had gone before him. It was not a hereditary line. He could take no comfort in the familiarity of blood lineage which had placed him here. No. The only thing he had in common with these other men and women was the strength to stand up and claim, above all other pretenders, the right and the might to rule.

It was disconcerting. In the past week skyships had docked from Lyccandrus and Pav’shma that were not the usual trading vessels – though they had the right credentials, the Duke’s spies at the sky-dock had been certain enough that something was amiss to alert him to the fact.

The Vesperai Host were getting bolder too he noted; no longer on the back foot they seemed to have gained some new sense of unity and confidence as the latest assaults against their numbers had been thwarted. Some new form of protection? He guessed. Or some new ally? Was this why the church leaders hurried to his door this morning?

He paced on slowly, not caring to quicken his steps and bring himself before those vistors more hastily than he had to. Fears plagued his every consideration. Only yesterday he had been hard-pressed by demands to put a stop to the spate of jewel robberies that were sweeping through The Groves. And it wasn’t just the upper classes who were pressuring him to take action. The general workforce of the city was restless; union heads were whipping the factory workers and dock workers alike into a frenzy over unfair pay and working conditions and many of the guilds saw opportunity in supporting the rising rebellion.

The guilds had too much power. He had always said as much. Had thought, when he first came to rule, that he would chisel and chip away at their strongholds and erode the grips they had over various parts of the city and its economy. But he had been naive to the network of connections each Bharro had built up; threads which ran right through to the city council and even, he suspected, some of his own advisers and administrators.

Sweat began to bead upon his brow. There had been whispers of late. Some of his enemies – men and women who publicly declared their allegiance to him, but whom his spies informed him were known to be disloyal – had been seen meeting together. New alliances were being formed and with whom? That was the question. The attack he feared seemed to be poised to come from both without and within. He felt pinched. Assailed from all sides.

Vandellin paused before his own portrait at the end of the hall and took a deep and steadying breath. The young man who looked back at him from the frame, dressed in his Hunter uniform with his medals bright and plentiful against his scarlet shirt, was not so different from the reflection he saw in the mirror each day. He laughed at that; it meant nothing of course in a city caught fast between heaven and hell, where no one was ever born, no one ever died and nobody aged so much as a day. He had thought to leave his mark upon the city he had served all his working life, but a few short years in office and it seemed he was not going to get that chance.

He looked to the door then, beyond which the church leaders were waiting to give him their news. Were they also against him? He wondered. He shook his head. Paranoia was eating at him, he no longer knew who he could trust and he had the sudden overwhelming urge to be back in the company of his friends; the people he had grown up with, studied with, drunk with, sailed the skies with… he had been isolating himself from them the last few months, not meaning to of course, but the pressures that were growing around him seemed to demand more and more of his time. That had to change he told himself as he finally reached towards the door handle and prepared to face the music. If he truly was about to come under attack, then he needed to surround himself quickly with people who genuinely cared about him, the people who had helped him stake his claim here in the first place, the only people in all the world who he felt he could trust.

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