aldersprig: (Aldersprig Leaves Raining)

It is written to a commissioned present for [ profile] rix_scaedu as a continuation of Insta-Cure and Soul Fire from my Summer Giraffe Call.

Betsy and Aspen looked at each other again, then looked back at Topher. They looked at each other, then at Topher. On the third look, they tackled him, Betsy with a pillow, Aspen aiming for the tickle offense.

Topher fell back, trying to fend off both of them without grabbing anything inappropriate. “What?”
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aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)

Written to [ profile] kelkyag's prompt here for my Summer Giraffe Call. Um... before the accidental marriage timeline, after the initial first-day timeline in Space Accountant

"You have have records on paper." Genique stared at the Moneykeeper with a look that was fifty percent horror and fifty percent dry amusement. She was still getting over the fact that this so-called pirate ship had a Moneykeeper, in addition to a Quartermaster and a full rank system.

As she looked around Moneykeeper Jeffer ReemMickey's office, Genique came to the slow realization that the ship didn't really have a Moneykeeper. They had... an old man who had probably been a brilliant pirate - maybe a hitter, maybe something like a tech expert - when he was younger. He hadn't died the way pirates were supposed to, early and violently, and they’d given him a sinecure position, something to keep him out of the way.
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aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)

Written to [ profile] sauergeek's commissioned continuation of "The Sun Comes Up from my Summer Giraffe Call.

Painting was not easy. The technical skill was relatively simple. Nina had been rendering elevations of potential buildings since she began working. She could display a leaf on the canvas. She could show you its veins and the way it curved.

That was not what Aspen did. Aspen made art. His paintings made feelings happen, deep in Nina’s gut. They showed movement and light and the way the air tasted, fresh by the reservoir, darker by the road.
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aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)
I have finished (much slower on the second round) the Giraffe Call stories, although I am still working on the tips-and-commissioned stories. You can find them all at this tag:

or on LJ:

Final numbers for the second round are:

$16 in donations, no new Patreon patrons, 2 new friends/followers/bloggites.... just $9, 2 patrons, or 2 new friends away from the goal.

All in all, I'd say it's a good run, and I'm that much closer to a new tablet (poor tablet met the road. Well, sidewalk).

P.S. I'm still really proud of the splash icon I got to use the first round:
aldersprig: (Aldersprig Leaves Raining)

Written to [ profile] book_worm5' prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call Round 2

Jorin found the new guy kneeling in a field, staring at the waste of his wheat, his face dry but the expression on his face as heartbroken as if he’d been sobbing. Jorin stifled a sigh; he could remember when he’d been the new guy. This place was hard, harder than any other place Jorin had ever lived, and it wore on you.

“Hey.” He kept his voice mellow. “Hard luck. The whole field?”

“It was just barely holding on. The weeds here are nuts. But I’d just gotten a crop really going…! And then that damn fire.” He looked down at the cold, damp ash; the hard rain had doused the fire, but too late for the wheat.

Jorin knelt down next to him. “This place is hard.”

“That’s what it says in the brochure.” The guy’s voice cracked — bad joke or the start of more tears, Jorin couldn’t tell. “It’s hard. But you get to try. They didn’t tell us it would all go up in smoke.”

“They don’t. They don’t know, not really. Company wonks, that’s all. The people who plan this stuff.” Jorin’s brochure had said this is your second chance and he’d believed it. “But it’s what they’re willing to give us.”

“So what now?” New-guy ran his fingers through the dirt. “That was all I could afford, and it’s all gone.”

“Now you learn about this place.” Jorin ran his fingers through the dirt until he found one, a seedling just starting to crack. “See? This place is hard and the wheat is harder. But after a fire… the seeds sprout. Give it a week, and your field will be green again.”

New-Guy swallowed. “You’re serious?”

“It’s kind of like us. We got hit with something — all of us, we really did.” It was stupid and poetic, not Jorin’s usual bag. He said it anyway. “But you stick us here, hard cases all of us… sometimes we sprout.”

aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)

Written to [ profile] rix_scaedu' commissioned continuation of Insta-Cure from my Summer Giraffe Call.

Aspen pulled the candles and fake logs from the fireplace and whispered a quick spell, unstoppering the chimney. “Fire,” she murmured, pleased with herself. “All right, Toph, Betsy, there are eight candles in there. Arrange them in a half-circle around the fireplace, and then we’re going to put you in the middle, Toph, and we’re going to focus on the problem.”

“No, uh-unh.” He shook his head emphatically. “That’s how we end up with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.”

“No, no. That’s how we ended up with the nice shield over this block, remember? It’s not always like Ghostbusters, bub.”

Topher sighed loudly. “All right, all right. We can focus on the problem. Which is me, yeah? Me is the problem?”
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aldersprig: (Aldersprig Leaves Raining)

Written to [personal profile] clare_dragonfly' prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call Round 2.

Planet names from -

“Pereira! What in hell are you doing?” Captain Klerkx came around the corner of the tower, glaring at her 2-I-C. “This isn’t a farming planet, this is a military base.”

Sage Pereira straightened up. “And because it’s a long-term military position, Captain, I have two days of leave a week and an extra three days of leave a month. I’m not on the duty roster today.”
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aldersprig: (AylaSmile)

Written to [personal profile] chanter_greenie' prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call Round 2

The hallways had been loud and dark all morning. Circia had hidden in her room with her plants and her Biology homework and tried to ignore it. There’d been one time where someone pounded on her door, but she’d shouted “go away,” ignoring the pounding echoing in her head, and nobody else had bothered her.
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aldersprig: (City)

Written to [ profile] kelkyag' prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call Round 2. This plays off of and comes after The Fairy Road

The park in the middle of the city had always been creepy. In this city, that was hardly surprising, especially for the thousands of people who had no power of their own but enough of the blood to sense what was going on. The park had power, power by the boatload, and it had danger and ghosts twice on top of twice the power it had. For a small thing, a city block crossed by stone, it was fraught with history and with meaning, and it was so overgrown as to be more of a tangle than a park.
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aldersprig: (Science!)

Written to [ profile] sauergeek' prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call Round 2

Names from -

“All right, the last plant is ready for the colony ship.” Gioia macDowell stepped back and wiped the sweat from her brow while her boss waited — patiently of course; the Detzuborg were always patient — for her to continue. “It’s gluten-free, it’s vegan, it’s umami, it’s got a decent healthy fats content, low cholesterol, not too high in fructose, decent in fiber and with the best protein content I could manage.”
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aldersprig: (Science!)
This is a continuation to Some People Just Want To... commissioned by [personal profile] thnidu

The news channels tried to cover it up, but the people were clamouring for news, and what the media would not cover, gossip would take care of. Yolanda was surrounded by it: the mad scientist. The murderer, hoist by his own petard.

The mystery formula that could make war impossible, if only...

The potential scientific benefits of Dr. Fidelli’s formula, if only...

The ways it could be modified to make a better execution drug, if only the formula hadn’t vanished.

He had to have written it down. He had to have kept it somewhere.

Yolanda tried not to flinch, tried not to smile, tried not to shout. She spent a lot of time hiding in her favorite bar, thinking about anything but biological systems and acidic toxins.

“Yolanda Giana.” A well-dressed man — far too well-dressed for this bar — sat down next to her, his body shielding her from the rest of the barflies. “I have a proposition for you.”

all funds now going to repair or replace the tablet I use to write on the bus: just broke the glass today
aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)

Written to [ profile] rix_scaedu' prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call Round 2

The sun was up. It had been raining for a week, and the plants did not need any more water.

Patrice suited up in leather, long gloves and shit-kicker boots, and risked stepping out onto her front porch.

She could hear sirens in the distance. She wondered if they'd cleared Main Street yet. She wondered what had happened with their "controlled burn." She'd told them it was too wet for that. She was told them they needed to find the source, but the thing was too good at distracting them from the core.
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aldersprig: (Science!)
Written to [ profile] book_worm5's prompts here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“Sometimes a controlled burn is good, and sometimes a forest fire is what you need.” Ted Fidelli was not what you’d think of when you were picturing evil scientists — unless you’d read his papers and happened to be his assistant. Sometimes you need to clear the world of the deadwood and let everything burn.”
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aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)

Written to [ profile] siliconshaman' prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

My apologies for mangling any and all military terminology!

“Sir..” Uther Lafenne’s aide-de-camp stepped into the general’s tent with a worried frown creasing his forehead and twisting his lips.

Lafenne sighed. The new aide had only been here a week. He’d hoped this one wouldn't spook off so quickly.
“One of the gunners?” he guessed. “Probably west flank position, so… Yorner.”

The aide’s eyes were wide. “Yessir. Gunner Yorner put down his gun and… sir, he refused to shoot. He started, um, drawing in the dust on the ground, sir. And that’s all.”
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aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)

Written to [ profile] rix_scaedu's prompt(s) here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“What was that? Up there in the bushes?”

“Damn it, Shane, get out of my line of fire!” Donna looked up as Shane darted up into the brush, crossing in front of her not once but twice. “You’d think you’d never had any training at all, the way you’ve been bouncing everywhere this morning!”

“Sorry, chief, it’s just…” Shane ducked down behind a thorny bush, “there’s all sorts of…”
Read more... )

aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)

Written to [personal profile] alatefeline's prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

The world had been very black and white for a very long time… mostly grey, if the truth was to be told. 973-25-025 was very good at engineering. She designed very good buildings, working fifty or 60 hour weeks, and then she came home and exercised for an hour before eating a sensible dinner and going to sleep.

She knew most of her co-workers, her former classmates, her neighbors in her building, lived similar lives. They had skill, and they exerted it. They had bodies, so they fed them and kept them working. THey needed sleep, so they slept.
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aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)

Written to [ profile] fullaquirkes' prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“I think I’ve got it.” Aspen hurried into the common room, three books under her arm and a basket full of miscellany in her other hand. “I figured it out. Now all we have to do is… try it.”

Betsy looked up. “Is this like the part where we ‘tried’ being a cat for half an hour?”

“I apologized for that.” Aspen wrinkled her nose. “I apologized, I made cookies, I even kowtowed. I had to look up kowtowing, but I did it.”

“Cut her a break, Bets.” Topher didn’t look up from his video game. “I mean…” somehow he still seemed able to see the glare Betsy shot in his direction. “If you want to? I mean, I spent that half an hour as a golden lab, remember?”
Read more... )


aldersprig: (Aldersprig Leaves Raining)
Written to [personal profile] wyste's prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

Content warning: Slavery, suggested violence against said slave. Fire is involved.

Read more... )

aldersprig: (Science!)
Written to [ profile] book_worm5's prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

The Landing Page for my Science! setting is here

“Well.” Cara frowned out the window. “This is interesting.” The city closest to their fortress-slash-research lab was over a third rubble. The shock waves from the bombs could be felt all the way to the tower, which had been built on a remote island to minimize interruptions from the curious or outraged. “I’d say it’s unexpected, but according to our charter…”

“Mmm.” Alex frowned. “I always thought our charter was a bunch of carefully-worded bullshit.” He was holding a hip flask; he took a long drink from it before offering it to Cara.
Read more... )
aldersprig: (unspoken)
Written to an anonymous prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“This is going to be a difficult case.”

Viola Candroon frowned at the case file. Her secretary’s tidy handwriting filled three pages, detailing every piece of the puzzle laid before them. For the most part, the text was devoid of expression. Maxwell was a very solid investigator in his own right and tended to keep the interviewer out of the interview, as the saying went.

“I dare say ‘difficult’ isn’t going to be the half of it, ma’am,” Maxwell offered. “If you’ll see…”
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aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)
Written to [ profile] rix_scaedu's prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

It was nearly dawn when they finally got to bed. Gabi was exhausted, and she was certain that her wife was, too. Still, they were both flopped across the blankets, awake, staring at the ceiling.

“It’s an infestation,” Alex finally said.

“It’s my family,” Gabi countered, without much heat behind the protest. “You agreed to this?” It was more an apology than it was a defense.
Read more... )

aldersprig: (AylaWorried)
Written to [personal profile] chanter_greenie's prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

It was not technically a prison. Even if it had been, Aodh did not think he’d mind. He had sunlight and fresh air, a stone house that did not catch fire, and copies of as many books as he wanted to read. He had teachers working with him patiently on his still-unreliable fire powers, and, more importantly, people helping him create Workings that protected his own body from the results of his flames.

He didn’t think he could leave, but Aodh did not mind all that much. He remembered too well what happened when his power got out of control.
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aldersprig: (Tairiekie)
Written to [personal profile] itsamellama's prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

Set in the same world as Edally Academy but centuries earlier. The Bitrani live far in the south; the Calenyena live in the North.

“Rietanneh, it’s not really that hot down here. It’s really not.”

Lukia hurried after her friend. She hadn’t been sure about inviting Rietanneh home for the holiday with her. After all, there was more than mountains between Lannamer and Tugia, as the saying went. The Calenyena were heathens, often barbaric, wild and unmannered, and the Bitrani, Lukia’s people, hadn’t really forgiven them for the way the war had been won, all those centuries ago. But the Lannamer girl didn’t really have family, not that would come get her, at least, and after all, the Three said “call those kin who would be to you as an extension of yourself.”
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aldersprig: (Ruan)
Written to [ profile] kelkyag's prompt(s) here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

Okay, this story references or is after several stories, so here goes:

This is where the divination deck originally showed up - 1st story in the whole series.
This story and then this one introduce Adam.

Wild Card comes immediately before the one below.

This is the Finish-It Bingo referencing Wild Card.

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aldersprig: (luke)
Written to [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith's prompt(s) here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“Come on.”

“I didn’t mean to…” Krešimir winced ruefully at the hallway. It was sopping wet, but only because Mirembe had summoned up a storm. Under the water, it was charred, the panelling falling off the walls where it wasn’t just gone. “I really didn’t.”

“Come on.” Luke’s hand was firm on Krešo’s shoulder and he had started to walk away. Krešo didn’t really have a lot of choice except to follow the gym teacher-slash-security officer — or lose his shoulder, which didn’t seem like a lot of fun.
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aldersprig: (GIRAFFE!)
Written to [ profile] sauergeek's prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“How long do you think it originally took mankind to discover fire?”

“Shut up, Danijel.”

“Because I’m thinking you’re looking at running longer than primitive men living in a cave.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, Danijel, we are living in a cave. Besides, the whole ‘cave man’ thing was a myth. Made for pretty cartoons, that’s all.”
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aldersprig: (unspoken)
Written to [personal profile] alatefeline's prompt here to my Summer Giraffe Call.

“Oh, look, Matilda, isn’t that lovely?”

Allan didn’t hate tourists, not the way his sister did, but he found many of them a little too blind to be believable.
Read more... )
aldersprig: an egyptian sandcat looking out of a terra-cotta pipe (Identity)
For [personal profile] alexseanchai's prompt.

Shut up shut up shut up.

It was one of those moments where you just have to grit your teeth and bear it. Her voice was high-pitched and whiny. Her sales pitch was self-centered and useless. Her clothes fit her badly. She kept looking straight at me whenever my attention wavered.

Shut up shut up Shut the fuck up! It was one of those times, where everything was just a little too clear. I looked her back in the eye and smiled. I could feel what She, not this miserable pitch bitch but the One Inside, what She wanted.

We all have a dark side. That's what my mother told us.
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aldersprig: (Gremlin)
To [personal profile] kelkyag's prompt

Content warning... fantasy bigotry

It's not something you can say 'no' to, Cathal.

So his mother had challenged him, at the tender age of eleven.

It's just something we are.

Cathal had shaken his head. "No." Her repudiated it. His mother wheedled.

That's like centaurs saying they aren't a four-legged hooved being, Cathal. It's ridiculous.

Cathal had been unmoved by his mother's ridicule, by her later logic, by her even-later yelling. his answer had been No, and that was that.

Nobody thought to ask him why - not his mother, not the others in the far-flung community. Let him pass, they advised his mother. It will be easier for everyone.
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aldersprig: an egyptian sandcat looking out of a terra-cotta pipe (Identity)
To @Dahob's prompt here - - written on the bus yesterday.

Farrah came home from work to find herself already there.

Under cover of an umbrella, she unlocked the door to her small cottage. She was humming So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish as she dropped her purse on the table and popped open a beer. The rain was till pounding as she turned around to find herself looking herself in the face.



Farah shook her head. “Okay, no, forget who. How?”

“That’s what I’d like to know! How’s you get into my house?” The doppelgänger’s voice sounded… squeaky? Strange, anyway.
Read more... )
aldersprig: (Evangaline)
To [personal profile] lemon_badgeress's prompt.
After Family Uncle, which is
after Visit (Footnotes), which is
after Genre, which is
after Sidekick, and so on.

Everything about her uncle's body language changed. He looked at Evangaline again, as if confirming that she'd actually spoken, and then turned to stare at Rosaria. "You brought her here because of a nephew?"

"I brought her here." Rosaria had regained all her tartness. "Because she is an Aunt, because she deserves the mantle, unlike some, and because the family needs her understanding. She brought herself because of her nephew."

Eva wasn't sure if that was entirely true, but it made Willard smile. "Well. Pleased to meet you, niece. Aunt Evangaline, you said?"
Read more... )

Next: "The Powers That Be."
aldersprig: (Evangaline)
To [personal profile] lemon_badgeress's prompt.
After Visit (Footnotes), which is
after Genre, which is
after Sidekick, and so on.

Evangaline followed her aunt through the gate, and down the gravel driveway.

She did not ask Rosaria about the power vibrating through the fence, or the lines of power in the driveway's bushy borders. She was fairly certain her aunt could see them - Rosaria, too, vibrated with power in a way that the family did not acknowledge - and just as certain that she would tell Eva to figure it out on her own.

She did not ask, either, about the tall man with grey hair who was approaching them. The power in the road recognized him; it if hadn't his chin line and the set of his shoulders would have given him away.

The waver in Rosaria's step would have, before anything else. Rosaria did not waver, ever. And yet she hesitated. "Willard?"

"Aunt Rosaria. And...?" The man's approach was faster than it had any right to be. And he was tall, in a way their family wasn't inclined towards. Evangaline had to look up, almost craning her neck, to look him in his deep green eyes.

The eyes reminded her of something, although she couldn't put her finger on just what. "I'm Evangaline. I am very likely your niece, although I might be your cousin. I'm Ardella's daughter."

"Family, then. And are you the Aunt Apparent, or has Asta finally given up the ghost?"

There was no point in being surprised; if she could sense the power, of course he could as well. "Asta passed on a few months back. I reside in the Aunt House now."

"And Rosaria is showing you the ropes, because Asta wouldn't have known a rope from a snake. Well, come on in. I suppose I count as part of the ropes, these days."

"Especially with my nephew Stone coming into his own." Evangaline aimed her words carefully. She was tired of being spoken over like an errant child.

there will be more; it's been commissioned. Of course, you could always commission MORE.
aldersprig: (Evangaline)
For [personal profile] kelkyag's prompt. After Genre, most recently. Yes, there will be more:

Aunt Rosaria had declaimed her declamation, and then she had fallen silent. Not just quiet - silent. Eva had to check three times to be sure her elderly relative was still breathing.

She'd tried to ask questions a few times, but Rosaria stopped her with a raised hand each time. Finally, Eva fell silent as well, focusing on the road. "Drive straight" was an easy enough direction to follow, after all. So she drove straight, and worried at the feeling "archetypes" left in her mind.

"Left at the stop sign." Rosaria's voice broke the silence. Eva jerked the wheel but caught herself quickly. "And then the first left. Stop at the gate."

Left, left, stop. Eva didn't answer. It didn't seem the time for unnecessary words, and, besides, her heart was in her throat. Left, at a stop sign holding down three cornfields and a wheat field. Left, into a gravel driveway that went two car-lengths before stopping at a high iron gate.

Iron. Eva stopped the car, turned it off, and tilted her head to Rosaria. Now what?

"Use your words, Evangaline. Now we wait. Willard will either come get us, or he won't. If he doesn't, we leave him a message. If he does - well, then, you are educated further on what it means to be of this family. Something Asta sorely neglect-"

The gate swung open.

"Very good. We walk, of course. Don't bother locking the car." Rosaria swung out of her seat. "Well? Come on."
aldersprig: (Evangaline)
To [personal profile] kelkyag's commissioned continuation of Sidekick. For the complete story, see here.

The Aunt Family has a landing page here.

"Tragic." Eva was finding her voice, although it was taking effort. "Aunt Rosaria, what are you talking about? There's nothing tragic about Uncle Arges, unless you mean those horrid Hawaiian shirts. And who's Willard?" She flapped her hand. "I know that Willard is Aunt Ramona's son. And I think you've said that he's like Stone, or he was, but he left the family. I didn't know people could leave the family." She frowned. "Aunt Rosaria, I don't normally sound this silly."

Her aunt patted her leg. "I know, dear. Believe me, I really do. I remember when my aunts had this effect on me. It's as if you are feeling the whole weight of the family staring down at you from one old lady, isn't it?"

"I wouldn't have put it quite that way..."
Read more... )
aldersprig: (Evangaline)
This is [personal profile] rix_scaedu's commissioned continuation of:
Intimately Involved (LJ) and
Precedent (LJ)

"Oh?" The other women turned as one towards Hessa. Hessa, in her own turn, had shaded towards a sickly pale green color.

Deborah found both of her hands going over her stomach protectively. "What is it, Hessa?"

"I think I found something out. I think I found another time it happened." She smoothed the pages with both hands. "I think it happened to great-great-great-Aunt Pearl."

"Great-great-great..." Deborah counted on her fingers. "That was the one who... vanished, isn't it? Her diaries went missing with her."
Read more... )
aldersprig: (Shahin)
To [personal profile] thnidu's prompt
There was a monster to fight.

There was always a monster to fight. it seemed as if they had been fighting monsters forever. Maybe they had.

Shahin closed her eyes, shutting out the world of the now. She reached for the vision, pulling it from the vague, taunting recesses of her mind. When? Where? What? She demanded her power answer her and, cowed, it did so.

The monster was a troll, one of those fae that had given up any pretense of humanity. It was coming to them; it had a plan. An ugly plan, and she could see the timelines in which it succeeded.

They had been there before. She would not let them end up there again.

It would be here in half an hour. Shahin stood up, and spat out the orders that would change here into the battlefield of her choosing.
Read more... )

M for Mimosas; after Why Swords
aldersprig: A Roman Gladius, with the words "Keep Sharp, Live Long" against a leather background. (Sharp)
For [personal profile] inventrix's prompt.

Mikary had heard the calling so loudly she had thought, for a moment, she was going deaf.

She had taken that calling and hitched her wagon to it, packed her whole life into two packs and gone questing.

"Why now?" her mother moaned. "The lovely boy down the street was just beginning to look at you properly."

"Why there?" her father frowned. "There's dangers on the road you can't imagine, and monsters in the woods."

"Why Andrung?" Everyone wanted to know that. "Why the Missing god, the lost god, the failed god?"
Read more... )
aldersprig: A Roman Gladius, with the words "Keep Sharp, Live Long" against a leather background. (Sharp)
To Rix's prompt:

"Why are we doing this?" Drakur tugged at the thin veils and whispy pants. "You'd look better in this than I would."

"We both know that's a lie." Dortha was a stout woman, an earth-witch and a tree-wife, the strongest Drakur had ever met. She was handsome, but not lovely, not in the way that people at the auction would drool over.
Read more... )
aldersprig: (Alexa)
Afer Thick, after Deep in the Autumn Air, after Cloaked. To [personal profile] lilfluff's prompt

"Change us." Xenia hid a twitch in an adjustment of her absurd cloak. How anyone could shoot in this, she didn't know. (How Aerich knew she had a title she really, really didn't know. She'd pry that out of him later. In private.) "I do not wish to be changed."

"Sometimes such things happen despite our will." If she didn't know better, she'd have thought that he sounded sympathetic.

"Would you say that's something changing us?" Cole was pointing along the road with his staff.

What they'd thought was a small village around the base of the castle was, well, a small village around the base of the castle. But now that they were closer, they could see that the town didn't suit the genre of the world they'd stepped into.

"Is that a saloon?"

"Complete with saloon girls."

"Is that a knight?"

"Complete with shining armour."

The team shared a glance. "There's a wild west town." Cole sounded tired. Xenia didn't blame him.

"Surrounding a medieval-style castle." Josie sounded worried. Xenia didn't blame her, either.

"Are we on a movie set?" Alexa stepped forward. "This doesn't seem thin enough for a movie set."

"Most worlds with movies don't have this much magic." Aerich always had to contradict Alexa. Xenia wished they'd get back to fucking and stop all the arguing.

"So." Peter stepped forward. Good, solid, boring, reliable Peter. "So what we have is either a very strange world, or a slip between worlds. Perhaps a Door that someone else opened?"

"I'd say it bears investigating." Xenia stepped up next to him. "Come on, Cole. Lead on, Fearless Leader."

"You guys are nuts." Still, Cole stepped back to the front of the group.

"That's why you hired us." It felt good to be nuts. It felt good to be actually exploring.

The air might be thick with magic, but Xenia was full with adventure.


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