Fiction Friday: Of Wolf and Man (pt. 4)

Fire-Juggling
Fire Juggling by Ent-Reps

And we’re back to our regular scheduled story! If you have no idea what I’m talking about… I wanted to write a bit of a longer story, since most of my stories had been around 1000 to max. 2000 words, so I wanted to challenge myself. Which turned into this thing, currently 8435 words and counting! I kept wondering this week why it seemed to take so long, it felt like the scene kept stretching I wondered why. Well, because this week I wrote over 2700 words…. woops… So if you haven’t started reading yet, start here!

This week we’re visiting the magical nightclub called Unveiled and we’ll find out some things about our victim… {dun dun dunnnn} Mostly though, it was an excuse for me to write about fire performing and beautiful music {and I regret nothing!} So enjoy, and make sure to check out the notes below the story a little more in-depth knowledge on what inspired part 4!

 

The club was not a lot to look at from the outside. A concrete cube in the middle of the industrial district with ‘Unveiled’ above the door in a fancy cursive script with gold backlighting. Bolts of sheer fabric hung on both sides next to the entrance. If not for the warm light spilling out of the door and the huge looking guys standing next to it, you might have never known it was a club. And a pricey one at that.

Unveiled was one of those places that claimed to give you a glance of what life had been like beyond the veil. Decadent, exotic foods and sensual shows pulled in crowds of both humans and non-humans every night. The humans coming to see the magic and power of the supernatural, the non-humans coming to see what their ancestors may have lived like or, for those who lived beyond a hundred years, to reminisce on years gone by. I had the feeling that this was nothing like life used to be Beyond the Veil, unless you were nobility of course, but it didn’t seem to matter. Unveiled had a waiting list of two weeks.

Luckily a flash of a badge was enough for the bouncers to wave us through.

“Good evening and welcome to Unveiled, do you have a reservation?” A slim woman with soft pink hair greeted us from behind her hostess podium. The hair was a dead giveaway that she was a Fae of some kind. The floral colour usually meaning pixie. It made sense, having someone who could gauge the emotions of others and influence them if needed right at the entrance. No doubt it stopped a lot of trouble before it even started.

I held my badge up for her to see. I gestured to Violet standing next to me, badge also in hand. “Detectives Bluebell and Harper, SCPD. We need to speak to Pyra.”

The Maitre ‘D looked unruffled as she inspected our badges. “One moment please,” she said when she was satisfied. She touched an elegant looking brooch and turned away, speaking a few words too soft for me to hear. After a moment she turned back. “Pyra is about to take the stage, you will be able to talk to her after her performance. I am to show you a table, the manager will be with you in a moment. If you would follow me.” She gestured us further inside and showed us to a table in the middle of the club.

The interior was warm and inviting. The same sheer fabric that was outside lined the walls, the gold shimmering slightly in the candlelight. At the end of the club sat the stage, the sides lined with lush green climbing vines like curtains. Round tables and chairs of a light wood stood facing the stage, the crystal candleholders filled with moss green candles scattered rainbows on the floor. Water was tinkling somewhere to my right, a fountain in the middle of a nightclub.

A skylight covered most of the ceiling, the night sky shining through it tinged purple. There were constellations I recognized from reading about the Veil in high school. Unveiled apparently had a spelled ceiling that showed the sky on the other side of the Veil. It really as almost like stepping into another world with all its golds and greens and twisted woods. The entire scene was beautiful and now, standing here, I finally understood the appeal.

We sat down at our table and a moment later a waitress, wearing a dress that looked like it was made from real leaves, put down two pink and sparkly drinks.

“Oh we don’t –“ I started.

“It’s just lemonade, Detective. On the house,” A man in a gold suit said as he approached our table.

His smooth, coffee-coloured skin almost seemed to glow against the soft shimmer of the gold fabric. Long, red-blond hair fell over his shoulders, almost to his waist, his pointed ears sticking out of the thick strands. His smile was wide and warm, if a little bit smug. He was gorgeous and he knew it. “Good evening,” he greeted, offering a small bow, “my name is Setahl Dahirae, I am the owner of this establishment. How may I be of assistance?”

We both took out our badges again, holding them up for the Fae to see. Detectives Harper and Bluebell,” I repeated, “we need to speak to one of your performers, Pyra.”

“I see. And what is it that you think Bryni has done?”

“It is part of an ongoing investigation, I can’t comment on that,” I told him.

His smile grew. “You are both homicide detectives, are you not?” He gestured towards where our badges were a moment ago. “Surely I have a right to know if one of my employees committed such a crime?”

I got the feeling he wasn’t really an asshole, not like other hot-shot business owners trying to find out information about an open case. There was a hint of worry in his amber eyes. Whether that was because our suspect was his friend or because it endangered his club I didn’t know. There was something else too, a mischievous twinkle that made me think he was trying to get a rise out of me.

I gave him my sweetest smile. “No, you don’t.”

He clutched at his heart dramatically. “You wound me, my lady! I am only trying to protect my family and my livelihood.”

“I’m sure your livelihood will survive,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“If there is something we feel you should know, we will tell you, mister Dahirae,” Violet assured him, sending a glare my way. “You’re club is beautiful.”

He beamed at her words. “Thank you, thank you. Please, enjoy your stay and know that you are always welcome at Unveiled.” He gestured towards the drinks. “I hope you find them as appealing as this conversation has been. Have a good evening.” With a small bow, he backed away from our table and made his way back over to the bar.

Violet picked up her fizzy drink and took a sip. “It’s delicious.” She said happily.

I was a little more cautious, sniffing it first. It indeed did not smell like alcohol, it smelled fruity and sweet. “It’s pink,” I complained, it just made Violet grin wider.

“It’s not going to bite you. Just try it.”

I took a small sip. It tasted good but holy hydrangea that stuff was sweet.

Violet burst out laughing next to me, no doubt reading my face. “It reminds me of the soup my gran used to make.”

“You ate this stuff for soup?” I asked, incredulous, which just set Violet off again. I was suddenly glad we always ordered in when we ate together, I’m not sure I could stomach Pixie cuisine.

“So,” Violet said innocently when she stopped giggling, “the manager is pretty cute.”

“Last time I checked you only like women.” Maybe if I feigned ignorance, this conversation wouldn’t go where I was afraid it would go.

She nudged my shoulder. “Not for me, for you. He was totally flirting with you.”

Aaaaand here we go.

She gave me a disappointed look. “Did you really have to be so rude?”

“You know you sound like my mother when you say that.”

“Your mother is a wise woman.” She saluted me with her pink sugary monstrosity and took another sip. “You could do a whole lot worse you know.” She looked behind us towards the bar. “A lot worse.”

I rolled my eyes at her. “Not interested. How could a mage make herself smell like a ‘wolf?”

“You’re not subtle.” She scolded.

“I’m not trying to be subtle, now answer the question.”

“With magic?” she asked, looking towards the still empty stage.

I shook my head. “The ‘wolves would have smelled that. It would have to be some other way, like packbonds gone wrong, wearing each other’s clothes, dousing yourself in ‘wolf blood –.”

Violet looked up at that one. I held up my hands. “Just random ideas.” I defended.

“Your random ideas worry me sometimes. Although, it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing we’ve seen. Hell, not even the weirdest thing we’ve seen this year.”

I thought of Drayce Andvari’s mummified corpse. His wide open eyes and shock-white hair and tried not to shiver.

The lights dimmed, signalling that the show was about to begin. The evening crowd hushed as a man walked onto the stage. He was wearing a simple dark brown tank top and linen pants, a short fiery red vest stopping just short of his waist. Brown curly hair fell in loose waves to his shoulders, softening his sharp features.

As he sat down on the chair on the left side of the podium, he set an instrument that looked like something between a violin and a cello against his shoulder. First he plucked a few strings and tapped against the wood to set a simple beat, repeating it with a small machine at his feet. Then he set his bow to string. A beautiful and haunting melody started, the sound not something I’d heard from a cello before. I could see this being played around a fire, a pipe with wild dagga flower going from hand to hand. People slowly twirling and dancing in the clearing nearby, caravans standing in a loose circle around them.

A young woman walked slowly onto the stage. Her braided hair started with a deep black at the roots and went from red to a bright orange at the tip, it looked like fire, which was, I assumed, the entire point. She wore a jagged black skirt that reached just below her thigh, leaving her long legs and feet bare. Her short top was decorated with delicate embroidery and beading which shimmered in the candle light. A collection of thin gold and bronze chains wrapped around her like a harness, swaying gently as she moved.

Slowly she spread her arms wide, revealing fans made from metal wire. Without warning the tips burst into flame causing the crowd, me included, to gasp at the sudden flare of brightness. I’d never even seen her lips move.

Mages needed conduits for their magic for it to work. Usually, this was a combination of symbols, herbs and words all dedicated to the same purpose. For a Fire mage to work magic without speaking was, to put it lightly, impressive. It also raised my doubts if Pyra was the woman we were looking for. If she was attuned to her element, this capable with her magic, there was no way that she wouldn’t have just put Koppenhaver on fire if she wanted him dead. Unless of course not using fire at all was an attempt to put us on the wrong track, but I doubted it.

Her body curved and bowed to the music, the fire casting a warm light on her pale skin. The movements were sensual and mesmerizing, set off with a tiny rush of adrenaline every time her fire flared. Her hips and her fire seemed to sway in the same tempo, the ghostly melody of the cello falling and rising with the flames.

Nobody seemed unaffected and for the next half hour we watched as she danced, some sort of fusion between belly dance and ballet, and used her magic to make flames dance with her. Hoops, fans, a staff, all were used and all were set alight without a single word. At the height of the performance, two huge fiery wings spread out behind her, casting her slight frame in a stark silhouette against the golden light.

I’d seen mages perform before, but never had I seen someone use their talents like this before, like art. Pyra seemed to be made of fire, the flames an extension of herself, like the man’s music was an extension of himself. Harmony. No wonder they were one of the most popular acts at Unveiled, it was truly a sight to behold.

As the show drew to a close she spread her arms wide and bowed deep, the crowd, including us, standing up to give them a standing ovation. They stood next to each other for a moment, revelling in the applause before bowing one last time and making their way off stage.

Before we could decide whether to sit back down for a moment or to go to the dressing room immediately the waitress from before stood by our table.

“Detectives, if you would follow me?”

She led us through a series of hallways into a brightly lit room. Racks with clothes lined one wall, mirrors with lights lined the other. Both Bryni and what I now saw had to be her brother were both here, still in their performance outfits. They both looked up as we entered, seeming curious but annoyed that we interrupted their downtime. They looked alike, in the stark lights of the changing room. They had the same cheekbones, the same facial structure, but Bryni’s feminine curves softened the sharpness that seemed to run in this family.

Again, Violet and I pulled out our badges, flipping them open and holding them up. “Detectives Bluebell and Harper, SCPD Violent Crimes and Homicide division. Are you Bryni Hugh?” I asked her as she started pulling on a soft looking silk robe.

“I’m Bryni, this is my brother Fintan. What can we help you with, Detectives?” She seemed apprehensive, but in the way most people react when you have two homicide detectives wanting to ask you some questions.

I really didn’t think this was the pair we were looking for, but maybe they could tell us a little more about our victim. “Does the name Donald Koppenhaver mean anything to either of you?”

The siblings looked at each other, but no sign of recognition crossed their faces. “No.” They answered in unison. “Should it?” Bryni asked.

“You’ve had a run-in with him before,” Violet started as she pulled out a picture, “left him with quite a scar.”

Bryni took the picture from Violet’s hand, her face hardening as she recognized Koppenhaver’s face. “Look, I don’t know what he’s telling you, but the creep totally had it coming.” She waved the picture around in an irritated wave of her arm.

“He came on to you?” I asked.

“Came on to me? Is that what he said?” she let out a humourless laugh, “that asshole fucking assaulted me!”

Fintan took this moment to rip the photo from her hands and study it, letting out a low growl. “It’s true,” he started, “they guy was lucky I wasn’t here that day or I would have ripped his throat out.”

“Well, that’s exactly what happened to him last night,” I said, checking their faces for any kind of reaction. There was shock and a hint of relief, but no guilt and no pride. Emotions that you might expect from people capable of such a vicious murder.

“And you think we had anything to do with it?” Bryni paused for a moment. “Look, I’m not sad he’s no longer out there, the guy was a total douchebag. Three years ago he tried to force himself onto one of the other performers, a Siren named Claire Hidgins. She reported it, three days later he corners her by her car, next thing we know, she drops all charges. I swear, he did something to her. She left the state to be away from that guy. When he tried to do something to me a few weeks later, I fought him off.” There was a hint of pride in her eyes, but mostly she just looked young and vulnerable. “Setahl tossed him to the street and he’s never been back since.”

“Setahl and Claire can confirm this?” I asked, writing Claire’s name down so Kravitz could look into it later. I waited for her nod to continue. “And where were you both last night between midnight and two?”

“Look the guy may have deserved it, but we’re no killers,” Fintan spoke up, “Besides, we were here performing ‘til eleven and after that we stayed to work on our new act. We went home around three o’clock. Setahl stayed to listen, you can ask him.”

We were going to ask him about Koppenhaver anyway, but I didn’t think we needed to check the alibi. The siblings weren’t our killers. From the way Violet was looking at me she didn’t think so either. We just lost our two suspects but if Koppenhaver really was the kind of man Bryni and Fintan believed he was, a whole new pool of suspect just opened up.

So there you have it, part 4 of our monster story! I started watching Grimm recently {still haven’t decided if I like it or not…} and in the first season there is a character who is also a fire juggler. I absolutely loved the way she moved and the idea of a supernatural creature with an affinity to fire to be a performer like this. Thus Pyra was born.

I was listening to one of my favourite artists, Adam Hurst while writing part 3 of this story. While listening I thought, this would be perfect to do a slow belly dance/fire fan performance to. It just fit too well. I already knew I needed Fintan to be there, so congrats Finny, you get a cello! If you’re not familiar with Adam’s music I do suggest you check it out, he’s amazing. I reckoned the numbers Fintan played would be Ritual as his first song {since this is also the first song I ever heard of him, and instantly fell in love with the haunting melody}, and Hidden Door for Pyra’s first dance. I love it!

the Bonecaller’s Price (with NPC class!)

Bonecaller
Herbert the Crow by Bombusfelidae

I know, I know, you were expecting part 4 of ‘of Wolf and Man‘… It’s coming, but I caught a bad case of the flu this week so I wallowed in self-pity instead of writing {the fact that I couldn’t see straight might have had something to do with it as well… shh!} 

But of course I won’t leave you with nothing! A few weeks ago I talked about the writing contest I was entering. I didn’t win, but that’s okay. Two other lovely ladies got to win the fabulous honor of working for Green Ronin, a company that publishes books for tabletop RPG’s such as Dungeons and Dragons. {You know… the people that are bringing the Critical Role campaign guide into our lives!} I did however have a lovely time creating a story in a world that is darker than the ones I usually work in, and got to combine storytelling with the geekyness that is D&D. How cool is that?!

So, the setting from Green Ronin is going to be Redoubt, the last bastion of hope in a world ruled by undead. Which got me thinking, how would these citizens of Redoubt look upon someone who would use bones? In a city were the dead are definitely something to be feared, could someone overcome this fear and use the dead to their advantage. So I thought of an oracle/shaman type class that could use bones for divination. Originally I wanted it to be a player class, but that didn’t fit, so I made it an NPC class instead. So below you will first find the story of the Bonecaller’s Price, followed by the NPC class explained. I’m very curious to know what you guys think!

 

The Bonecaller’s price

The Bonecaller sits on a rickety stool in front of her shop. “Care to know your fortune, my dear?” she calls to a young woman walking past.

The woman stops, considers. She is about to leave this desolate city for an adventure outside the Walls. She would very much like to know if she will find what she is looking beyond the city’s protection. But the people here in Haven, they are taught to fear the dead and those who speak with them. She studies the old woman for a moment. She doesn’t seem all that dangerous, the young woman thinks. Dressed in dark reds and purples, gold-embroidered scarves wrap around her shoulders. Strange symbols are painted upon her face with white ink, the morning sun casting her wrinkles in a stark relief. There are bones, yes, necklaces and bracelets, some skulls in her gray, braided hair. But there are also coins, golden symbols on brown leather cords. She looks like an eccentric grandmother, not like someone who can command the dead. “I have no means to pay you.” She eventually tells the old woman, curiosity winning from concern.

“A promise will suffice,” the crone answers, “a promise that when your time has come, whenever that may be, I may pick a bone of my choosing.”

The woman looks ancient, the younger one thinks. When I will breathe my last she may very well be amongst the dead herself.

“Alright,” she says. The old woman gets up from her stool, joints creaking, and opens the door towards her shop. Inside lay treasures of bone harvested from all manner of creatures; animal, elf, orc, halfling and human alike. Treasures and talismans filled with power for those brave enough to carry the dead around with them.

A chill crawls down the young woman’s spine as she enters the shop. Dark redwood shelves line the red walls of this cramped shop. Clay jars with unreadable labels stand row after row upon them. Whatever space there was is filled with cabinets made from the same warm wood. Some have glass doors, showing a hint of the mystery that lies within, others have doors of solid wood, painted with strange symbols, and locks that seem too big for such a small cabinet. Candlelight flickers a warm gold on the glass containers holding herbs and other curiosities. Dried flowers hang in bundles from the ceiling, their subtle scents filling the air. Tapestries in all colors cover the floor. A counter stands at the back of the shop, holding even more trinkets and baubles.

All together it would give the interior a warm, homey feel, she thinks, were it not for the skulls that stand seemingly everywhere. Some hold the candles, she notes, watching a droplet of black wax roll down bleached ivory. Other skulls just seem to watch her every move, their empty sockets holding shadows out of which the dead peer into the world. One human skull on the counter holds fresh pink roses, plum-colored dahlias and green aster, their colors stark against the white of the bone. Dried crows feet hang on leather strings next to the vase, stones in different colors clasped within their grasp. A small sign hangs from the ceiling, promising fortune to all those who carry them. On one wall hangs a string with bones in different sizes dangling from it, a macabre bunting celebrating the dead.

She turns and comes face to face with the dead, dried head of an orc. She can’t contain her shriek and stumbles away from it. Its eyes and mouth are crudely sewn shut with sinew. Its red hair still long and decorated with beads and feathers.

“Don’t worry, dear,” the Bonecaller speaks from where she stands by a beaded curtain behind the counter, “these dead don’t bite.” She pulls the curtain aside, setting off a wind chime made of ribs and vertebrae. “Come in, come in.”

The young woman follows her into a small side-chamber. Candles line the walls all around the room. A single table with two chairs stands in the center of it, an intricately embroidered cloth draped over the table’s surface. The rest of the room is bare, leaving it almost hollow in comparison to the front of the shop. She sits down in one of the chairs as the crone walks around and takes a seat across from her.

The Bonecaller takes a leather pouch from her belt that softly rattles as she moves it. “The dead are all around us, my child,” she starts, untying the string that holds the pouch closed, “they see our past, every choice we have ever made. They see our present, the paths in front of us unfolding and winding. They see our future, the golden threads that flow through time until the Raven Queen snaps them.” She lays the folded out pouch on the table. Black markings and symbols cover the inside of it. “The dead know our deepest desires. What we wish and what we want, but, more importantly, what we need.” With reverence, she picks up the scattered bones from the pouch. The old woman holds them to her chest for a moment, chanting words in a language the younger doesn’t recognize.

For a moment, the candles flicker, the shadows on the walls dance and writhe, their spectral claws reaching out towards her. The air chills, her breath now fogging in the air. Wind howling through the room, like a thousand voices calling out in despair. Her heart leaps in her throat, her form frozen in terror and she knows: the dead are here.

The Bonecaller rattles the bones in her hands for a moment before casting them upon the table. Some land within the circle, most scatter upon the delicate cloth. “Ah yes,” she starts, moving her hand over the objects for a moment. She picks up a knuckle-bone, “a new journey awaits you, one long hungered for.” She places the bone back and picks up a small cordate piece, “your heart has grown too large for this city.” She sets it back, gently grabs a tiny bird skull, “you wish, more than anything else, for freedom.” For a moment the ghostly whispers of beating wings sound through the room. The Bonecaller now holds a vertebra, “you will find what you seek, but you must remember: freedom always comes with a price.”

With every word, the young woman’s hope has grown. Finally she would get out of this dark place and into the wide world where adventure calls. She will finally be free of her bonds that hold her within this city. “I will pay any price needed,” She tells the Bonecaller eagerly.

The old woman nods, carefully returning the bones to her pouch. “Then be on your way, young one. And may you find the freedom you seek.”

 

Two weeks later the Bonecaller once again sits at the table, bones cast upon the cloth and an eager adventurer across from her. “You have found a new family in your companions,” she tells him, gesturing with the wolf bone towards the door, where the rest of his group is waiting. Her client smiles as she gently lays the bone down again. She picks up the last bone for this reading. A human rib, broken and with deep scars. It’s still white, new. The Bonecaller sees the ghost of the young woman appear next to her, clutching her bleeding stomach.

I wanted to get out of this city, she whimpers, I just wanted to be free.

“You wish to leave this city”, the Bonecaller echoes, “you wish to be free.” The young man nods eagerly. She gently places the rib back in the leather circle. “Freedom,” she tells her customer, “always comes with a price.”

 

NONPLAYER CHARACTER: BONECALLER

“The bones speak, if you are brave enough to listen…”

– Fehzar Haruspex

 

To most, the passing from life to death is something to fear

and avoid, but there are those who understand that death

unveils secrets and knowledge not attainable in life.

Bonecallers are the diviners that walk the line between life and

death. They cast their set of bones and commune with the dead

to gain divine insight into any question asked. Bonecallers are

renowned advisors to any brave enough to seek their guidance.

But beware: their knowledge always comes with a price.

 

Call of the Bones Most Bonecallers hear what they named

‘the Calling’ at a young age, discovering through play that touching

bones gives them a brief window through which the dead can

speak. These children are often seen as strange, talking to

‘friends’ that don’t seem to exist and knowing things they

shouldn’t. Once discovered that they are speaking with the

dead these children are shunned and looked upon with fear.

As death touches all life and every creature, Bonecallers can be

from any race and any walk of life. While most Bonecallers

are female, it is not unheard of for males to hear and heed

the Calling.

 

Prolonged life A Bonecaller’s intimate knowledge of the line

between life and death allows them to extend their life, but not

their youth, significantly. Indeed, there are those who think

Bonecallers are born old and wrinkly.

Although most Bonecallers learn their skills through intuition

and communing with the dead, some seek out an apprentice

to pass on their vast knowledge when they feel the end of their

long life finally approaching.

 

Sortilege set This divination set consists of a variety of bones

– sometimes combined with other curios such as shells, nuts,

small keys and metal charms – which, when cast, give the

Bonecaller divine insight into her client’s query. The Bonecaller

builds her sortilege set over time, adding bones and objects that

have meaning to her. Therefore the sortilege set is considered

personal and sacred, much like a holy symbol.

 

Casting the Bones Up to five short insights may be given to one

question a player character may have, or as a general reading of the

player’s character or situation. The insights should be brief and

cryptic, leaving some things open to the player’s interpretation.

 

Bonecaller

Medium humanoid (any race), any neutral alignment

—————————————————————————————-
Armor Class 10

Hit Points 27 (5d8+5)

Speed 30 ft.
——————————————————————————————-

STR ——— DEX ——- CON ——- INT ——- WIS ——- CHA

10 (+0) 10 (+0) 12 (+1) 13 (+1) 16 (+3) 14 (+2)
——————————————————————————————

Skills Insight +7, Performance +5, Religion +4

Senses Passive Perception 13

Languages any two languages

Challenge 2 (450 XP)
——————————————————————————————

Brave. The Bonecaller has advantage on saving throws against

being frightened.

Spellcasting. The Bonecaller is a 5th-level spellcaster. It’s

spellcasting ability is Wisdom (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with

spell attacks). The Bonecaller has the following spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): light, spare the dying, thaumaturgy

1st level (4 slots): inflict wounds, sanctuary, unseen servant

2nd level (3 slots): augury, detect thoughts, gentle repose

3rd level (3 slots): magic circle, speak with dead

 

ACTIONS
——————————————————————————————

Bone dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft. or

range 20/60 ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage

Fiction Friday: Salvation

 

Pieterskerk
Pieterskerk in Leiden, the Netherlands

 Hi and welcome to another Fiction Friday! Phew I had a hard time writing this one. I’d been without inspiration the entire week and when I finally knew what I wanted to write about, the words ran away from me at Mach 5 speed. Seriously, it took me almost five hours to get these little-over-1000 words on paper. I bow in shame and defeat. But, I’m also proud of myself because I eventually did do it {yay for discipline!} and after some serious tweaking {so much tweaking} it’s something I’m actually proud of.

So I really had no idea what to write this week, so I took a page out of my friend Chantal‘s book {who took it out of Chuck Wendig’s book, but shh} and went to Flickr to browse through the recently added photos. I found one of a beautiful church in Barcelona, which reminded me that I had a character somewhere for my big worldbuiding project who has a close bond with churches and could use a little backstory. I looked up a church a little closer to home, and wrote the story of my vampire priest! So are you ready? Here we go!

 

Joseph paused in front of the huge Gothic church. The high arched windows cast a warm glow onto the cobblestone streets. Heavy red doors stood open and inviting. He should just walk in. Finally find the courage to walk into the warm interior and let the wrath of God burn him to cinders. At least, that’s what they said happened to monsters who tried to enter His house. And that’s what he was now, wasn’t he?
A monster.
He was so tired. Tired of roaming, standing in front of another church and trying to convince himself to just end it. Tired of the heartache of leaving his wife and family behind, even though he knew he was protecting them. He could never go home. Not like this.
When he returned from the War to End All Wars, changed, he knew that he would be a danger to his own family. He hadn’t even said goodbye, it was better if they thought he died on that cursed battlefield. In a way he had, bleeding out in the muddied trenches after that thing had torn out his throat and fed him the life from its veins. Only he hadn’t stayed dead.
He’d stowed away on the first boat to the Americas, hoping an ocean between them would keep them safe from the monster he’d become. For weeks he had wandered the land, shying away from the sun when it started to burn. Praying for salvation to a God he knew would no longer hear him.
Every morning when dawn broke, he stood in the shadows, watching God’s light fill the streets but knowing he would never feel its warmth again. He wondered if the stories were true, that if he stepped out of the shadows he would burn away, his ashes travelling up to Heaven as his soul would descend to Hell. At night he would walk through towns and cities, always finding himself in front of a church, remembering the Sundays spent with his family in the wooden benches, heads bowed in prayer. And every night wondering if this was the night where he would finally step inside. Through it all the hunger pulsed within him, a beat that was impossible to ignore.
“Hello,” a voice sounded beside him. He turned to see a man in priest robes standing next to him. “You’ve been standing here a while now, would you like to come in?”
“I don’t think that would be such a good idea, Father.”
“You’re from Britain?” the priest asked, “You’ve fought in the war?”
He could only nod in answer. The priest gestured to a small bench facing the cathedral and they both sat in silence for a moment.
“We have a lot of folk here who fought for their country,” the priest began. “Folk who had some trouble getting back on their feet after. War changes people, yes, but -”
“War made me a monster,” Joseph interrupted.
The priest waited for a moment, but the man said nothing more. “What’s your name, son?”
“Joseph Brennan, Father.” The hunger clawed at him now. This was the first time in weeks that somebody had been this close to him. He could almost smell it, the coppery warmth that could be his if only he tore open the priest. Like he had been torn open. He felt his new fangs lengthen at the thought alone. He knew his eyes must be burning red now, like his maker’s had been.
“Joseph,” the priest started, completely unaware of the struggle happening next to him, “there are things war forces men to do that might make it seem like God has abandoned them. But He’s still here, and He’s still listening. What you have gone through hasn’t made you a monster, it-”
“Hasn’t it?” Joseph demanded, baring his fangs at the man sitting next to him. “All I can think about now is how your blood would taste on my tongue. The thrill it would give to see the life leave your eyes as I drain you dry. Tell me, Father, how am I not a monster?”
The priest regarded him for a moment, seemingly unfazed. “I see. Why did you come here, Joseph? What is it that you’re looking for?”
“Peace,” he answered, a burning tear rolling down his cheek, “for this pain to finally end.”
The priest lay a hand on his arm, squeezing gently. “God has heard your prayers and send you here. You are not the first Night’s Child we have had here. Tell me, Joseph, have you given in to the hunger? Have you drunk blood?” The priest stood and started towards the doors, guiding Joseph along.
“Not yet, but I don’t know how much longer I can fight it,” he admitted.
“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well,” the priest quoted, “Your soul is not yet darkened, my son, you must fight temptation each and every day. You will have to become an instrument of God. It will not be easy, but God knows you have the strength, for He has sent you to us.”
They stood in front of the heavy wooden doors now, the interior of the church lit by warm candlelight. White pillars lined the path towards the ornate choir screen at the back of the church. A spiral staircase wrapped around one of the pillars on the right, leading to a wooden pulpit that looked antique. A huge bronze chandelier hung from the ceiling, the candles upon it casting golden light upon the wooden pews. “We will all help you, Joseph. But above all, you must wish to be saved. It is not too late to save your soul, and perhaps along the way, save the souls of others,” The priest gestured inside. “Will you come in?”
Joseph stood for a moment, frozen in indecision. He regarded the man next to him, who wasn’t afraid of what he had become, of what he could be. Who instead told him that there was hope, that there was a way to save himself. He had to put his trust in this man, and in God, but could he do that, when he couldn’t even trust himself?
Closing his eyes he called up images of his wife, singing while she cooked, of his brothers laughing in the pub, of his mother hanging up the laundry. He owed it to them to try. He squared his shoulders and opened his eyes, looking inside this beautiful house of God, and with apprehension, but without fear, he stepped over the threshold.

So that’s it for this week! Next week will be a bit lighter again, I promise. After this one the writing came a bit more naturally as well, which is good! As a final gift: look at this beautiful choir screen in the same Pieterskerk (Peterschurch)!

Choir screen in the Pieterskerk, the Netherlands

Fiction Friday: the Fairy Ring

Fairy Ring
Compass by Coyhand on Flickr

It’s Friday and you know what this means: time for another story! I’ve been diving into Dark Fantasy for the last couple of weeks, as you might have noticed in Siren Song… But, I have good reason, I swear, I’m entering another writing competition! {Gasp! So excited!} The where and what I want to keep to myself a little while longer, but I can share this with you guys: this is the story that didn’t make the cut.

Like last time I entered a story competition, I wrote two stories {Noor and Death’s Diner, which won!} to see what would work best. This time I did the same. I really like this one but it didn’t quite get the feel I wanted… So, I get to share this one with you guys! {yay!} Enjoy and let me know what you think!

“Malia?” Tami called as she ran through the rain-slick streets of Haven, “Come on, sweetie, this isn’t funny anymore.” If Mother found out she had lost her little sister she was done for. “Malia!” She called again, rounding another corner. She passed a few people but they paid her no heed; in Haven people only cared about their own troubles.
Rain was still pouring down, turning the drab grey stones of the streets and homes even darker. A spot of colour caught her eye on the end of a dark alleyway. Heart in her throat, she walked towards it. There, between the filth, resting against the Wall that kept the city safe, lay Ophelia, her sister’s doll. Gently, Tami picked her up and cradled the doll in her hands. Mother had made that doll, stealing scraps of fancy fabric whenever she made dresses for the rich women in the White District. She ran her thumb over the intricate embroidery on the doll’s wings. Something must have happened. Malia would never go anywhere without Ophelia.
Terror caught her by the throat and Tami clutched the small rag doll to her chest. “Malia!” she called out frantically, “please just come out, I promise I’m not mad. Malia, please!”
“I’m right here, silly,” a voice sounded right behind her, making her jump. When she turned Malia was standing there, soaking wet and covered in mud. A big smile on her round face.
Tami picked her up and held her tight. “Oh, sweetie, thank Abeona, you’re okay. I’ve been looking all over, you had me so worried!” She set her little sister down and looked her over. Other than a few small scrapes she seemed to be fine. “Are you hurt?” she couldn’t help but ask, “did anyone hurt you?”
Malia shook her head no. “I’m fine,” the small girl answered, still smiling.
“Where have you been? You’ve been gone for five hours.”
“I was in the forest,” she said like it was nothing, pointing towards the thick Wall.
Tami’s heart pounded in her chest. There was a reason Haven was surrounded by walls of stone. The world outside the Wall was no longer safe for anyone to travel, especially not a child. “The forest, but how?” she grabbed Malia by the shoulders, “You mustn’t go there, the forest is dangerous.”
“No it’s not,” the younger stated with absolute certainty, “it’s pretty and I made new friends. They want to meet you, Tami, you have to come!” She pulled away from her sister and ran towards one of the nearby buildings. “Come on!”
“What friends?”
“The pixies. I found them, real pixies,” Malia bounced on her feet, her voice filled with excitement, “they’re sparkly and bright and can do real magic. You have to come and see, Tami, please, please, please.”
Before Tami could answer, her sister wedged herself between the building and the Wall and disappeared from sight. Tami hurried after her, it was a tight fit, but she managed to get to where her sister had found a hole in the wall. She’d actually been outside, Tami realised, believing before that her sister was spinning tales out of boredom. Malia had been to the forest and back again, safe. They had heard so many tales of the outside that everyone believed life within the Wall was the only way to survive. Could it be that the forest was not as dangerous as they thought? If what Malia was saying is true, they could finally leave this rat-infested city and test their luck elsewhere.
A head appeared through the whole in the wall. “Come on, I promise the woods are not scary,” her sister beckoned.
Tami stayed where she was for a moment, undecided, until an annoyed sounding “Tami,” floated through the hole. She took a fortifying breath and ducked through the hole towards the outside world.

The forest was beautiful, Tami had to admit as they walked through the darkening woods. There were colourful flowers and vines everywhere and a little while back she’d even seen a deer. She’d never known how much cleaner the world could smell. The sweet scent of flowers and the fresh scent of wet leaves filled her nose. Walking here amongst all this life she couldn’t imagine ever going back to the gloomy and drab city. She laughed as her sister skipped ahead, humming along a happy tune with the birds’ songs. This, she thought, this is what freedom feels like.
As they walked deeper into the forest, their surroundings seemed to be getting darker. No, she thought, everything was darker. Even the sky, but that couldn’t be right, could it? When they left it hadn’t even been close to supper. A sudden night had fallen over the woods and leached them of their vibrancy. All around was black and green, the bright colours from before engulfed in darkness.
Tami looked behind her, only to see the path obscured by a low-hanging mist. Fear started creeping up her spine. She had no idea where she was, no idea how to get home from here. Malia was still skipping ahead, her humming now eerie in the sudden silence. “Malia, sweetie,” she tried, “it’s getting dark, we have to turn back.”
“Don’t be silly,” her sister called back, skipping backwards for a moment, “we’re almost there. Besides, the pixies make their own light.” She smiled brightly for a moment before turning back towards the path and continuing on, still humming.
The air was getting colder, the mist now up to Tami’s knees. There were lights in the trees, mushrooms glowing an uncanny green. She’d never seen anything like it and wanted to be amazed, she truly did, but all the lights did was cast ghastly shadows upon the trees. The hairs on her neck stood straight up. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched, the lights on the trees creating faces of shadow, following her every move. Tami itched to grab Malia and run far from this dark and desolate place, but where would she go? There was no more path to follow. She had no choice but to trail her young sister, who didn’t seem fazed by her darkened surroundings and seemed to know exactly where she was going.
There was a light further ahead. Pale blue and shining brighter than the mushrooms that dotted the trees. Perhaps a lantern, Tami hoped, belonging to a traveller that could show them the way out of this cursed forest.
Malia giggled and started running towards it, “It’s them, come on!”
“Malia wait!” Tami called but it was no use. She hurried after the child finding herself suddenly at the edge of a clearing between the trees. The lights were pixies, she saw, actual, real pixies dancing and giggling above a ring of toadstools.
They were beautiful.
Their gossamer wings shone a light blue in the dark sky, tufts of dust trailing behind them. Dresses made of flower petals twirled round and round as they danced to a song only they could hear. Wide eyes and rosy cheeks greeted her as one of the pixies beckoned her forward. Malia was already dancing with them, Tami noticed, spinning within the fairy ring. Tami couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of such wonder. They had found light and hope within these cimmerian woods.
“Dance with me, sister!” Malia called from out of the ring.
Tami took her hand and gently stepped over the circle of toadstools. Music started, slowly at first, the soft tunes of harp and fiddle filling the circle. As soon as the sisters started moving it picked up speed, going faster and faster as they spun about the ring. The pixies flashed by Tami, still giggling. For a moment they seemed spindly and rotten, their wings tattered and torn, their black eyes piercing through her, but when she blinked it was gone.
She was getting dizzy. A feeling of dread crept up her spine as the pixies came ever closer, flashing from rosy to rotten and back again.
“I told you I would get her here,” her sister called out, bringing their spinning to a sudden stop.
Tami stumbled for a moment before regaining her balance. The pixies, if they even were pixies, were surrounding her now there was nowhere she could go. Their black eyes studied her, seemingly amused at her unease. “Malia, we need to go,” she told her sister calmly, not wanting to cause her any fright, “now.”
“Yes, I can get more people for you,” the younger answered an unspoken question and cold settled within Tami’s heart, “Mother will be ever so worried when Tami doesn’t come back.”
Tami’s breathing picked up as her sister turned towards her. Where her eyes were normally a soft brown they were now full black, like the eyes of the creatures around them. Malia smiled brightly, looking a little unhinged. Tami took a step towards her, intending to grab Malia and run, not caring where they ended up, but tiny hands latched on to her, piercing her skin. Panicked, she tried to swat at them but there were too many. One opened its mouth and Tami screamed at the sight of the rows of fangs.
“Malia, please,” she pleaded as it bit down on her shoulder, a cold sensation filling her body. The ground under her feet swayed as her vision swam.
“They only want to play,” Malia told her, her voice reassuring.
“No,” Tami could only whisper as more pixies latched onto her skin.
“Don’t worry, sister,” her sister told her, smile too wide and eyes still pitch black, “they won’t bite.”

So that’s it for this week! I’m so excited {and terrified} for this competition, really guys and gals, this could be life-changing… So, I’ll keep you posted and tune in next week for a new fiction friday!

Fiction Friday: Siren’s Song

submerge_by_charlie_bowater-d8063sy

Friday night: story time! I’m having some trouble thinking up concepts and characters on my own at the moment, but, luckily we have the internet! This time it’s from another beautiful prompt from Tumblr {yes again!} The premise was cool and it had mermaids in them, so I couldn’t resist. It’s a bit darker than you might be used to, but I’m trying new things! Hope you enjoy and tell me what you think!

“Commodore, please, you don’t have to do this!” I begged the stoic man standing on deck, his hands clasped tightly behind his back.
“I’m sorry, miss Courtenay, I’m afraid I must.” His voice sounded truly apologetic, and I might have felt sorry for him and the misfortune that had befallen him and his crew, if not for the fact that he was going to kill me.
“It’s an old wives’ tale,” I tried to argue, “tossing me off your ship won’t actually bring you luck. You’re a man raised in civility, surely you must know this?” I was getting desperate now, standing on the rickety plank, arms bound behind my back and legs tied together. A heavy stone resting next to me.
Commodore Harrison was already shaking his head. “If we wish to reach Fort Orange without more dead we must make this sacrifice to Her, to the sea. I truly wish there was another way, Lucia, I truly am sorry.” He looked at me for a moment, eyes cold and unyielding. “Do it.” He ordered.
I screamed as the plank underneath my feet was suddenly pulled away. Pain slashed through me as my head cracked against the wood. I managed to gasp in a breath just before I was dragged under the waves.
It was so cold.
I tried frantically to free my arms or her legs, anything so I could swim back to the surface and breathe. It was no use, the knots were too tight. I stopped thrashing for a moment to look around me, to try and find anything I could use to get myself free. Blood curled lazily up through the water, both from the wound on my head and from my wrists chafing against the coarse rope. Were there sharks in these parts? I wondered absent-mindedly, would I live long enough for it to matter?
The stone dragged me deeper and deeper, the surface above now impossibly far away. I am going to die here, I realized, sudden and unbidden, this was where I would meet my end. The frantic struggling became less as my strength died away. Where first there was the peaceful silence of the sea there was now a rushing in my ears. Like the roaring of the waves. The burning in my lungs overshadowed the pain from my head as I tried with all I had to keep this thread of air within my body. Not ready to give up yet. Not yet.
The ship was now moving away. They had made their sacrifice and thought themselves safe. Fools. I wished so badly that I could reach up, clench my hand around the hull and crush it. That I could drag those who have killed me down with me to their own watery graves.
Goddess grant me my dying wish, I prayed, let those bastards die as I will, with Your blood filling their lungs and Your vast darkness surrounding them.

Movement then, something coming towards me at impossible speed. The fading light catching the glimmer of scales and pale hair. But they are a myth, I thought as three mermaids surrounded me. One had a tail the colour of peridot, her eyes sparkling with mirth. A flash of pale purple filled her vision as the second mermaid circled her slowly. The third had scales of burnished gold, shining even in the dark.
Sister, I heard the last mermaid speak, her voice within my own head, She has heard your prayers. We’ve come to your aid. Yet they weren’t moving to free me.
Why weren’t they helping me? Couldn’t they see I was dying?
We are helping, sweet sister. But She needs you to die first. The mermaid reached out a webbed hand and gently caressed my bleeding face. Let go. Let go of who you were before and become who She wills you to be.
Maybe the mermaids were a vision, sent by the Goddess. If I were to give up, if I were to die here, now, would the Goddess grant me my dying wish?
And so much more. The mermaid confirmed.
Let go. Three voices echoing in my head now.
So I let go. I ceased my weak struggling and released my final breath, watching as the bubbles rose towards the surface.
Another moved forward, her scales and hair a pale lavender. Webbed hands reached out and cupped my face, pulling me in.
The mermaid is kissing me, I thought, no, not kissing, breathing. Air filled my aching lungs once again, but oh, how this burned. A tendril of glittering magic left me on the exhale, and the mermaid breathed for me again, twice, three times before the pain struck, sudden and blinding. Bones crunched and shifted, scales poured out what was once skin. I screamed, the tortured sound changing in the water, becoming a melody, a Song.
For a single moment, my heart stopped.
It started anew, the rhythm and cadence different, tranquil like the sea. I was reborn. My legs were no longer bound together, but then, they were no longer legs, were they? My tail easily slipped out of the ropes. I admired it for a moment, the blue-black scales almost invisible in the darkness. I looked upon the three mermaids again, my sisters now. I could feel them on the edge of my mind, and there were more, I knew, further away. Waiting for their newest sister. I opened my mouth to speak but only the Song came out.
Like this, the one with the lavender scales said, her voice a caress in my mind. She felt amused and excited.
Hello, I tried.
They smiled at me. Hello, the three voices echoed.
Such rage still within her, the one with green scales said, I like her.
She is beautiful, whispered the second as she twirled a lock of my blue-black hair between her fingers.
Yes, agreed the third, her golden hair like fire beneath the waves, vengeance and rage and beauty. We shall call you Tempest.
Tempest, I tried. Yes, I liked that name very much.
The ship of my murderers was getting smaller in the distance and I longed to go after it, to drag it down to the sea floor.
Don’t worry, little sister, their voices, Coralia, Briny and Halcyon I knew now, echoed, we will easily catch the ship.
Dark glee filled me as we started the hunt. The thrill of it ran through us all as more sisters joined our chase. It would be easy now, I thought, now that I had found my Voice and my family. Together we would lure my murderers to us, break their bones on the rocks and drag them down into the deep. We would hold them to us until the life left their eyes and they breathed their last breath. We would raise our Voices together, a single note that had but one meaning: revenge.

So that’s it for this week’s tale! Join me next week for another adventure!