Thursday, August 15, 2013

Deadened Emotions - The Ghosts of Wings

Note: This segment of the story is on the same night, and in the same place as, but after, Heartsring Harper. While reading one is not necessary for the other, it may help you make sense of things.


All I wanted to do tonight was get a drink someplace I could go without having to watch my back or be bothered by ghosts. Night's Kiss seemed like a perfect place for both, given it's a club, has no tolerance whatsoever for fights - and the muscle to back it up -, and is well-warded (and I should know, seeing as I helped set the protections up) against ghosts, except in the levels that cater to them.

What I wasn't counting on was the normal entertainment, a girl known as Heartstring, being off, as I'd been looking forward to seeing her play (a weird mix of music and performance art, given that she plays her own body and has a knack for showmanship), even if that wasn't the main point. But such is life, and the band who was on instead was pretty good too...

Nor was I counting on some guy with a mane - Night's Kiss also has something set up that lets you see exactly what everyone is, despite the fact that most of us normally don't look any different, or at least not different in a way that can be pinpointed, to those who aren't the same 'type', though there are exceptions - coming up and asking for my story. 

But what the hell. Why not? Not like it's hard to talk about how you got back; our little groups do do that all the time, inside themselves. Even people who don't know a thing about each other share notes on the web, trying to figure out how people end up with the... spirits... they do. And maybe a fresh pair of eyes could lend some insight... It's not like I was breaking any rules or anything. I mean, sure, secrecy's a big deal, but he wasn't exactly a mortal himself, and it's not like how you come back is top-secret information...


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Introduction to the City of Bells

Look on the city now, newcomer. See the gilded towers of Godtown shining in the light of the moons, glowing with faesparks and ghostlight, purple and green. Or freezing into ash and gleaming shards of ice as the mage-lords duel with baelfire, for that's a fine sight too, watching men turned to silvered statues limned with white flames.

 Or if such things are not to your taste, turn your gaze to Nightgrove. Look through the streets and buildings as the Bell of Shadows tolls, watch the world twist into new forms, the night coming alive to prey on life, or take it as a counterpart. Pretty, isn't it, the way that the shadows rise like mist?

That's the core of this place, really. Finding the beauty in the pain and blood, if there is any. Much like alchemy, really. Purifying muck to get something better from it, and putting strange parts together to make wonders. Though in this case, as often the good ends up being the muck itself, with a change of perspective... At least, it is for me. Others have said far different things.

 But in any case, whatever it is to you, welcome to the City of Bells.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Flash Fearsday - Spirited Away

A post for Flash Fearsday, after a rather long absence. The whole thing is now being handled on Nine Worlds, Ten Thousand Things, after I dropped it for entirely too long.

----

A sharp feeling, pain in my neck. But with it, a kind of... Lethargy. Apathy. At least until I smell the blood, but by then it's a bit late.

---

The scent is oddly invigorating, letting me feel my blood flowing to the bite. But as I push the woman back, my sight darkens, and I fall...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ghosts in the Machine

Mortal. That is what I was, once. A human, even. Not even a mage, or one of the Tla'mxi, the Wolfrunners who have lived in the forests here since before the City began. My name was Vana, and, when the Keserathi invaded, I volunteered to be a soldier.

Strong as the City of Bells is, they had too many. They were a nation, and we were, while massive, for what we are, still nowhere near as large as they. And, too, they had mages at least as strong as ours, even a few using Hedgemagic, from what I have learned since, and that is something even the elves, corrupted fae as they are, have trouble controlling or countering.

So we adapted. That is not a thing most think of when listing our capabilities in war, but it is one of our strengths, just as our magic is, for those who cannot adapt in this place, melting pot and ever-changing, even the streets bearing no guarantee they will be the same from hour to hour, as it is, end up dead, or subsumed by those stronger and more flexible than they.

Mages and artificers - sometimes one and the same, as the two professions require similar skills and mindsets - worked together to craft huge constructs, armed with the best weaponry their imaginations and wills could produce - and the imagination of those in this place is not to be underestimated.

I was fighting beside one of those, when I died. But as I fell, we were caught in a burst of wild magic, and I returned as a ghost, possessing a cloud of steam that had escaped from a rent in the construct, though its freedom was short-lived, as I moved back inside, and took control of it, for my new body could manipulate its limbs with but a thought...

After the war, I set to work learning to construct such bodies, and, eventually, made one for myself, hence why I look as human as I do, rather than being a thing designed solely for war - though I can defend myself, if I must, for everything here has to, often enough. It is simply that my weapons are less obvious, being inside my body until required, rather than out in the open for all to see like that sword on your hip.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Heartstring Harper - Chapter 3: Cold Comfort


"You seem like you were awfully docile there," the Beast mused quietly, more polite now than he'd been the whole evening; after what had nearly come about from the argument a few moments ago, he had no desire to risk losing her tale. "And not just docile, too. Incurious. Never even looked to see who picked you up. Why?"

Heartstring shrugged, idly twirling her glass - once more empty, in the few moments since the Elemental had brought their drinks - as she spoke.

"Who knows? I was in shock, perhaps. And, too, I'd been drugged. But I think that some of it was her using a Contract on me, or something of the sort... I did eventually find out who it was that picked me
up, though. But you'll find that out later, if we get that far."



I played for her - them, really, I suppose, for certainly there was nothing about my Keeper to make me think of them as one thing or another, but that's a hard habit to fall out of, and it seems to fit for some reason, though I don't know why - until my fingers bled, and I could barely hold my arms up. And then, at last, they seemed to smile, though how when they didn't have a face, I couldn't begin to say. It was just an air they gave off, more than anything.

After that, the girl who brought me there helped me up, showed me to a room - her room, actually; I didn't quite rate one of my own - and got my hands tended to, then got me settled into bed, though we talked a while before I fell asleep...



"I'm sorry," Lure said softly, sitting down next to Anarya, and reaching out to lay a cold hand, like that of their mutual Keeper, though hers was made of frozen metal, delicately tooled with a pattern of snowflakes, no one matching its neighbors, instead of pure ice, on her shoulder. "I wish I could have put your dreams right, not shattered them like a mirror -"

The new-taken mortal hissed a negation, shaking her head, and looking rather as though she would have slapped the Changeling, had it not been for the fact that her arms were too tired for her to lift them, now that they had rested, and her fingers still raw, though the ointment that Lure - who, for all that she had been the one responsible for this, had proven to be a gentle and attentive nurse - had put on them earlier had numbed the pain from the wounds.

"You could. If you hadn't taken me, I'd not be here, so quit trying to make yourself feel better about it. Maybe if you'd left me alone, I'd have made it, maybe not, but either way, it would have been on my head, and you could have rested easy."

"You truly think that?", Lure asked with a bitter laugh, shaking her head. "You'll learn, then. After you spend enough time here, there's little you wouldn't do to stay in favor, or at least not fall out of it. Coming back empty-handed would have left me chained up with the Pack for a month or more, little girl. And you'd best hope that you never find out what that's like, even for just a night."

There was a brief silence, crystalline, the kind of quiet one feels is simply waiting to break, shatter like a glass hitting the floor and stab into whoever is around when it does.

"Well?", Lure said after a few moments, sounding almost impatient, though also, in some ways, with a touch of relief coloring her tone. "Aren't you going to ask, then? Come on, I expected better of you, what with your quick retort earlier, when I tried to apologize for dragging you here..."

Anarya flinched, having heard the mocking pain in the other woman's voice, but nodded, shifting slightly so as to be deeper under the thick blanket as she did, scared of what might be revealed when she spoke, and hungry for the comfort to be found there, even if it was of an irrational sort.

"What are the Pack, then?", she whispered, shivering somewhat as a chill passed through her, though whether from nerves or the cold that seemed to pervade this place, even here, next to a roaring fire, she couldn't tell. "And what do you mean by 'chained up'?"

"The Pack used to be people like us," Lure explained quietly, sighing, and once more reaching out to touch the girl next to her, this time slipping an arm around her shoulders. "Now the Keeper uses them to hunt with. They've been turned to beasts and back so many times they're no longer entirely human, in some ways. For every successful hunt, four of the others here, one of each gender, are given to them for a night, on the condition that they return alive, and able to go back to work reasonably soon. And they still have the appetites of people, in some ways, with none of the restraints that would have stopped them from taking advantage of that before they were changed, in most cases.

Bad enough to suffer that perhaps every six weeks, as we all do, but can you blame me for being willing to do almost anything to not have that happening constantly, every day, for at least a month?"

Heartstring Harper - Chapter 2: The Instrumentality of Faekind

When I came to in Arcadia, I was hanging from a wall; apparently, someone had decided that, even if I didn't know the way home, it was a good idea to make sure I couldn't try to run anyway. Surprisingly enough, though, that wasn't the first thing I noticed – that was my new Keeper, an androgyne made
of ice, without even a set of eyes or a single strand of hair on her head, whether real or not…



"So, then. You're awake," the ice-person commented quietly, her voice sending a chill down Anriella's spine that was every bit as real as the one caused by the frigid wind, and the snow that it was blowing onto her. "Lure says you can play. I don't know if I believe her, though… She's been getting rather desperate for someone new to talk to, and I wouldn't put it past her to have brought you here just because she's lonely."

The strange – impossible, really, or at least that's what everything the musician knew was telling her – person turned away, snapping their fingers as they did, at which the manacles binding Anriella clicked open, dumping her in an undignified (and uncomfortable, for that matter) heap on the cold marble floor.
As the androgyne walked off, a massive hand settled on her shoulder, lifting her effortlessly, and with surprising gentleness, then began to guide her after them, eventually, after more twisting corridors than she could count, and, once, a room filled with people on pedestals, ice forming on their clothes and skin, though, somehow, they were still alive, to a small chamber with instruments hung on the walls, and a few – harps, and others that were too large, or otherwise unsuitable – on the floor, in recesses just large enough to hold them and their player.

"Well? Choose what you would perform on, mortal," the Shaper of the Ice said, voice soft, but with a clear tone of command in it, as she turned to face the human woman. "If it proves you do not play as well as I hope, it is Lure who will be punished, not you."

Hands trembling, both from the chill and her nerves, she stepped forward, and pulled a strange guitar, nine-stringed, from its hook, and took a seat on the only seat in the room proper, a stool at the center, then began to play, a haunting melody, composed on the spot...



As the waitress, a tall woman with ashen skin, and fiery red hair, which shifted to true flame at the tips, set Heartstring's glass down, the musician paused for a moment, carefully examining the Hunterheart she was talking to.

"Clearer memories than I'd have expected from a Spring," he said dryly, a faint, resentful, snarl in his voice. "I was under the impression that your court was primarily for dilettantes."

"And I thought Summer was for those too worried about keeping themselves safe to think about what kind of life they're protecting," she shot back, glaring venomously at him for a moment, before looking away, and taking a long pull from her drink. "Now do you want to hear the rest of my story, or would you prefer to trade insults until one of us leaves?"

Heartstring Harper - Chapter 1: Yeah, I got played

I was human, once. Normal, too, not the kind of person you'd notice on the street. At least, not unless you hung around the weirder clubs; if you did, you might have known me as the girl who played guitar, strange, experimental pieces. And if you were deep enough into that scene, maybe you'd have been aware that I wanted to get a sponsor, or if you knew music, you might have guessed that just from who I was and what I did.

 I got one. Just not the kind I was looking for; the girl I talked to was normal enough, albeit startlingly pretty for where we were, and better at talking than the people I'd seen recruiting new talent before, but it turned out that didn't mean much - she put something in the soda she gave me that put me out for a while, though I couldn't say exactly how long.

 Why not? Because the next thing I remember is waking up in Arcadia, and time is much less linear there. But that's a story for another time... 

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 "Another time is not an option," the tall man sitting across the table from the Harper growled, shaking his black-maned head fiercely, and gesturing at a small knot of people on the other side of the dark bar. "My group is only in the city for one night; I hear your tale now, or not at all."

 Heartstring leaned back in her chair, the long coat she wore to hide the most obvious signs of her Durance - not because she was ashamed of them, but because some found the inhuman nature of her beauty unsettling, at best – falling open to reveal the taut strings of muscle stretched between the exposed bones of her torso. She waved for another drink, giving a musical laugh as she did.

"Fine. But you're paying for all of my drinks tonight. Tale-teller's privilege, been around longer than either of us," she answered, letting her chair drop to the ground once again, and staring into the Summer Courtier's eyes. "Deal?"

 He simply nodded, not even making a brief sound of contemplation, or, in fact, taking the time to think about it at all, before accepting, which was all the cue Heartstring needed to pick up where she'd left off…