The Quieter Son

The adjoining temples of Glory and Dominion were full this morning. The past holy months had been trying ones and the well-attended services beneath fortress-like spires reflected this. Up before the standing crowd that packed the temple’s great floor and poured over the steep steps, a man wearing a ceremonial crown addressed the city’s faithful.

“In these trying times, we must trust there is a plan, trust that Dominion rules, and that Glory will bless us if we stand resolute. Immortal logic will always confuse mortal minds. And sometimes, there is no logic.” The priest swayed, opening his arms so the temples fires glinted off the crown. After the crowd rippled with nods, the priest continued. “A few important things have no reason behind them, yet, somehow, that will never alter their gravity.”

“Only a few?” muttered Cole. He’d come to the service with coworkers from the station, cajoled by them and guilted by his own religious upbringing. After an hour the overblown assurances were beginning to sound like political spin. Dominion and Glory were to be respected, but as an adherent of their quieter son, Law, there were times the grandstanding grated.

Nothing that had happened in the last months had any reason behind them. Deviant religious sects, unholy killings, and pervasive chaos shook the city to its core. Cole knew Law wasn’t pleased, he felt it.

Cole had no difficulty parting the crowd and getting down the steps. The crowd stepped aside for him, happy to take the space left by his wide shoulders. He met the disapproving looks of a priest with a deferential nod.  No disrespect to Dominion and Glory’s gilded clergy, but he, and the city, needed order.

Law, the middle son of the goddess Glory and the god Dominion, kept his temple close to the district square, adjacent to the solid edifice kept by his older brother, Justice. There were no crowds on the white stone steps and Cole entered Law’s temple in silence.

Cole performed the appropriate supplicant motions with rote ease. He didn’t remember learning the motions as a child, but assumed he had in some early forgotten lesson. Protocol complete, Cole looked up at Law’s alter only to close his eyes, waiting for some assurance that he was in the right place, that reason still ruled.

Minutes later, Cole opened his eyes. He looked around the temple, searching for something and found only a few bored priests. There was nothing, here in the temple and searching for law, Cole was left with his own thoughts.

This week we were given the line A few important things have no reason behind them, yet, somehow, that will never alter their gravity. And being the vile thieves we are, have turned it to our own purposes. It’s all part of the Legal Theft Project.  



For hours. All day. Just constantly.

“Why does even depressing 80s music sound so happy?” Em bobbled her head as keytar notes filled the antique shop. The ends of her blunt, jagged hair swayed around her cheeks. She dipped, flipping through the other cassettes in the cardboard box tops set near the front door.

“Probably all the cocaine.” Jayden muffled the words through his trimmed beard. He picked the next cassette and popped it into the stereo player. The cases were dull old plastic, but the tapes played flawlessly. It’d been hours and they’d yet to find the crackle of damaged tape.

From punk anthem to pop ballad, they tapped their feet and documented their progress on their feeds. They were well into a hair rock kick when the small tap of heeled boots interrupted the guitar chorus.

“Amazing selection you have here.” Jayden told the girl who manned the cash register as she approached. She’d been camped out at the front desk with a mountain of textbooks. Behind him, Em nodded emphatically.

“Yah, I know.  If you would–” The cashier girl stepped around them both, leaning away from their puffy jackets and unseasonable layers. She unplugged the stereo player and heaved it into her petite arms.

“Um, we were listening to that,” Em said, voice rising with politeness.

“I know. For hours. All day. Just constantly.” The girl ignored their wide eyes and tottered back to the front desk with the heavy stereo player. She placed it behind the counter and hoisted herself back into her chair.

Em and Jayden exchanged looks, huffed, and slunk out of the store. Behind her textbook mountain, in the fresh silence dusty silence of the store, the girl could breath loud with relief.

This was another weird music week but I did my best with Raw Ramble‘s challenge. This week, per the challenge, I wrote something to Jules Shear’s Whispering Your Name.  She wrote something too. 


Four Days

Splintered wooden beams rose like blackened teeth from the shore. The morning rolled in crisp and clear from the sea and over the ruins, bringing new ships filled with soldiers and others.

One of those others was a sharp-waisted man dressed in dark green. He stood on the deck of a freshly arrived ship, staring at the blackened remains of the largest port on the Carabas Sea. The fabric around his shoulders fanned out nicely behind him and though styled as a travelling cloak, the garment was too thin and the man shivered in the early cold. Likewise, his boots were fine black leather, but they sank uselessly into the sand as he disembarked on the dockless shore. This caused him to stumble as he walked, throwing dark, previously coiffed, hair into his eyes.

By the time the man reached the street, his mouth stretched into a wide, thin line. He stalked past fire-hollowed shops and ashy homes towards the city square, where only days earlier a legendary bazaar and market had stretched, surpassing all others. Now the wide flagstones housed an army. Soldiers looked up when he passed, pausing their scavenging, drinking, and general bustle but no one stopped him.

Set at the head of the plaza, one impressive tent rose over the others. Banners depicting a sea serpent snapped at its pinnacled peaks. The guards at the entrance bowed as the sharp-waisted man wrestled open the canvas and flung himself inside.

Once within, the man jerked a finger at the floor. “This, this right here; this is why no one likes you.”

“Lark, you’re late.” Another man, this one tall and dressed plainly in a warriors tunic and wide breeches, turned at Lark’s entrance. The warlord frowned, concern and irritation not so much warring as mutually-constituted. “What happened?”

“I was four days late and you razed the entire city, Rashad. A city we needed.” Lark rolled his shoulders and walked past the warlord to the corner of the tent. He bent at the small cabinet and decanter there, selected a glass, and poured the dark wine.

“A city we now have,” Rashad said.

Lark sucked in air through his nose and pointed at Rashad with the rim of his glass. “That is not what I meant, and you know it. What happened to negotiations?”

“You weren’t here,” Rashad said, tone cool. “Four days gone with no word, those negotiations fell through.”

“How?” Lark stretched the single syllable into multiple.

Rashad’s eyes narrowed. Lark met the warning look with an expectant tilt of his head. When the other man didn’t explain, Lark waited a beat before opening his mouth. “Shane!” Lark called loudly.

Rashad rolled his eyes and turned to fetch his own drink.

The annoyed snap of a book came from the back section of the tent. Moments passed, Lark sniffed his drink and sipped, waiting. The curtains undulated and Shane leaned out, his spectacles flat with glare. “Hello Lark.”

“Hello Shane,” Lark said. Behind the lanky scientist and dividing fabric Lark could see a makeshift lab, complete with Shane’s meticulously set glassware and reference library. Lark sipped his drink, “They don’t have space at the university for you?”

“Rashad suggested I would be unwelcome there.” Shane stepped out from the curtains like a crane picking his way across shallows. He flicked his eyes between the two others. “What delayed you?”

“Routine incompetence and bad luck. Why would you be unwelcome at the University, Shane?” Though the question was directed at the scientist, Lark sent a bladed look sideways towards their leader. The warlord ignored him, attention pointedly back to the maps splayed over the center table.

“Several factors, but I suspect the feeling results from Rashad disembowelling the city’s sovereign prince in the magistrate’s symbolic peace garden. Its a shame, though their archives are not known to be well-stocked, so not so large a loss,” Shane reasoned while Lark’s knuckles became white around his glass.

“Disembowelled?” Lark worked his mouth around the word before the energy drained from him. With a gutted laugh Lark threw himself down on the nearest cushioned bench. “You eviscerated the man in a–” Lark stopped,  “What exactly did the prince call you?”

Rashad’s back was squared to them, but his shoulders stiffened visibly at the question. Lark stopped his smile from blooming and looked eagerly to Shane.

Shane’s mouth twitched with rare humor and Lark leaned forward.

“A rabid brine-soaked rat,” Shane said quickly, voice tight with constrained mirth.

Rashad growled and threw a crumpled missive at Shane, who darted back into the safety of his curtained lab. Lark spent the next minute attempting to breathe through his own laughter and the wine Rashad poured on him.

Took me a bit, but thievery is an art. This week I stole from the dialogue “This, this right here; this is why no one likes you.” as part of the Legal Theft Project. 


Aching Bones and Helpful Directions

The familiar itch dug between his shoulder blades. Sparrow grunted, feeling his vertebrae swell against the skin of his back and his blood rush hot. He swore he could feel every one of his veins. Sparrow breathed through his still human nose and tried to ignore the rifle levelled at his head.

“Could you put that down.” Sparrow opened an eye, squinting at the woman holding the gun. “Please, it’s making me upset.”

“You were upset before.” The scout stated and kept her rifle in place. Her arms didn’t shake and if not for the hawkish attention in her pale eyes, Sparrow might have thought she was bored by his struggle to maintain shape and mind.

“More upset. It’s making me more upset.” Sparrow corrected, closing his eyes and pushing himself to breathe more evenly. Not being able to see the weapon helped, even if he could smell its acidic powder. His bones slowly stopped aching for the change.

He opened his eyes, the scout cocked her head at him and slowly lowered the end of the gun. “Are you done?” She asked.

Sparrow stared, struck by the indifference of her composure, but envious of it too “Yes?”

“Okay. Good. You turning into a giant monster isn’t as helpful as it should be.” The scout shifted the gun to her back and pivoted, looking off down the road and the dense black forest that surrounded it. She never turned her back entirely to Sparrow.

“It’s not about helpful.” Sparrow huffed out of his nose as they started walking. “I’m upset, this is upsetting. Cymble is gone, your brother too, and the team is in danger–do you even care?”

“Yes.” The scout didn’t look at him, pale green eyes on the road ahead of them. Sparrow could still feel her attention on him, like a mouse beneath a winged shadow. “Stop talking, you are still not being helpful.”

With conversation out of the question, Sparrow followed the scout and tried to ignore the itch running down his spine.

Quick Legal Theft this week, and it went in a random and hypothetical direction. Still, my first line may have been stolen, check back in and I will tally the thieves. One Thief- The Choice


A Find in the Forest

Zakai left the mountain city at dawn. His mount’s delicate hooves kicked up pebbles that rolled down the foothills after him. He looked back at every bend. The twisting way was hazardous, more boulder than path.

No sound followed him beside the gentle clink of bridle, rock, and hoof rumbling down the mountainside. Zakai leaned forward, pushing them towards the forest’s edge and the never-fading mist that marked it. He panted in the warm air, feeling it weigh down his breath. Jash complained the forest tried to suffocate you before it got around to killing you. The other prince preferred the shimmering horizon, bandits, and endless open dunes off the Eastern slope. Zakai loved the west with its emerald-tinged darkness and moss-encrusted secrets.

The trees thickened and Zakai slowed, content to find and use the local hunting trails. None of them would venture near enough the crumbling temples for Zakai’s purposes, but they suited him fine for the time being.

Zakai spent the first half of his day on the trails, pushing deep enough into the forest and shedding clothing layer by layer. Only when the hunting paths stopped did he tie his mount, hoping she wouldn’t make an easy meal for one of the many forest predators, and continued on foot.

He was about to check his map, safely rolled in oilskin at his back, when his foot struck something with the sharp clunk.  Zakai bent, hoping for old stone. He gently brushed away the ferns and twitched his fingers back when they did not touch rough stonework, but smooth wet metal. Zakai picked the thing up, it was a knife. The steel smooth and black, the handle a strange light material that caught nor threw light.

Zakai stared at the odd knife, turning it over as he squatted on the dirt and tangled tree roots. A merchant prince knew a find when he came upon it, and this was a find. Zakai stood slowly and looked around, just usually, he knew where it was coming from.

This week I challenged Raw Rambles with Nightwish’s Amaranth. Both she and I wrote something to, or inspired by, the song. Above is what I came up with, check out her’s here. 


Hats, Coats, and Swords

Across the muddy stable yard, the young military officer stripped down his uniform to shirt, breeches, and boots.

Bell kept any overindulgent looks to herself, grateful for the shadow cast by her brother’s hat. It wouldn’t be seemly for the Lord’s son to be ogling the man he was about to duel. She rolled her arms, loosening her cold muscles and cursing the extra fabric in the coat’s shoulders.

Around them, the small contingent of soldiers and the house staff watched the preparation in tight silence. The officer’s hands jerked off buckles and straps.  He threw his saber’s sheath to the ground before spinning the blade to bear a foot from her nose.  “Master Aurell, you’ll regret this. The boy’s got a civic duty. The’s coming with us and for the trouble here I’ll make sure he finds his way to the front. ”

Bell didn’t know what this man was talking about, but assumed her brother did. She also assumed her brother did not want these soldiers hauling off her family’s stable boy to the trenches and probable death. But he wasn’t here to trounce the brash, if well-built, officer.

She drew her sword. If the house staff made note of brutal, pommel-less blade the Lord’s son was using, none made comment. Bell would suffer ill-fitting coats and impractical heavy hats, but not the basket-hilted overgrown needles her brother favored.

The duel began with the captain’s charge. Bell met it with a step to the side, blade sliding on blade. She rolled her sword arm’s shoulder as she pivoted back, noting the way the limb rang. The officer was even stronger than he looked.

The man loomed, slashing his saber down. Bell swivelled, stepping back as she slid her sword against his again, pushing the strike’s momentum to the side. She leaned, trying to drive her blade around his. He parried it away, forcing Bell to hop backwards.

“Oh, don’t tell me you’re just going to prance about.” The officer growled, trying to stalk around Bell’s defense. She moved again with smooth sweeping steps, keeping low like a coiled snake. The officer followed, still talking. “If I’d come here to dance, I would’ve found your sister. She’d probably give me a good whirl.”

Bell disliked chatter in a fight, and in general. Taunts and jibes muddied the rush of the steel and it gave your enemy another reason to want you dead. But her brother, if feeling bold, or annoyed, had been known to goad his opponent. Sometimes it worked. Bell dropped her shoulder and flipped her off hand in invitation. “Well then, let’s dance.”

The captain’s lewd grin turned to affront and he hesitated. He wasn’t quite sure what was being proposed. Bell stepped forward, swordpoint leading.

Crime everywhere! This week I stole the line “Well then, let’s dance.” from The Gate in the Wood as part of the Legal Theft Project, they stole my character.  I also stole a hat from More Than 1/2 Mad. 


A Real Drink

She walked out and didn’t look back. The glass door swung behind her with a gentle chime and time returned to the cafe. The Barista, a hoop through her nose, frowned through a customer’s order. Two grad students poured over undergraduate papers with red pens awhirl. Next to Simon’s table, old friends compared new lives, becoming louder with each recounted event.

Simon remained frozen, staring at the glass door as it glided into frame. The young resolute woman on the other side of it walked away. She didn’t glance to the side with lost eyes, or sigh, or tense her jaw against regretful tears. She took the stairs down to the parking lot, her iced coffee in hand and her car keys in the other. The sun glinted off them and the buckles on her purse before she disappeared from his view.

If she’d left the coffee on the table Simon could have grabbed it and ran to catch her. Maybe that small gesture would have reminded her of when they met, in a coffee shop like this one. Maybe she would smile and tuck her hair behind her ear. Maybe she would burst into tears and fall into his arms. Maybe when they ran into each other at a mutual friend’s party a month from now she’d remember the gesture and ask how he’d been, if he was seeing anyone. Simon would say no, and she’d try to hide how pleased that made her.

But she and her coffee were gone and time moved around Simon. The Barista frowned, the grad students sighed, and the old friends conversed. Simon stood and threw his own coffee away. He took out his phone and texted his friends, he needed a real drink.

This is most likely part of the Legal Theft Project, as I have taken More than 1/2 Mad‘s first line and written my own piece with it.