Saturday, April 7, 2012

C is for Comprehengeon

Comprehengeon crouches on the rooftop, carefully laying the first book. As it does, it pauses a moment, gently stroking the soft leather cover with the seven fingers of its right hand. Two of those end in claws; one is little more than a lump of flesh, with nearly a hundred tiny bones jointed inside it; another, unnaturally long, arches back, joined to its wrist by a pair of thin membranes, like those of a bat's wing, and tapers to a vicious point, capable of snapping forward with the speed of a snake to blind an unwary foe, or, if it gets lucky, strike one of the arteries close to the surface. The remaining three are more dog-like than human, with odd joints, and a thin covering of white fur.

I, looking through the eyes of an owl, am almost perfectly positioned to see it work. And, to be more truthful about just why I'm here, to have a clear shot; the shadowed alcove - a story above, and across the street from, it - hides me well, the dark, irregularly stained, and somewhat patched, leather armor I usually wear blending with the shadows, and breaking up my outline, while the Cobble-born laying the stolen books in its intricate designs is wonderfully illumined by the twin moons.

Normally, I would bear no thought of harming it. Unlike most, I don't despise its kind, or necessarily find them repulsive; some, in their way, are even beautiful, at least to my eyes, though even I have to admit that the strange, androgynous form Comprehengeon has is, at best, malformed. And I surely have no grounds to harm him for his theft, not when I've taken far more valuable things. But usually, I'm not as desperate as I am now, and the bounty the Librarian's Guild has offered is too much for me to not try, even if I would ignore jobs as an assassin were it not for the fact that I've been sleeping - and poorly, at that - on the stinking paving stones in the Web for the past three days, and had nothing but a few scraps of bread and a pair of scrawny rats, viciously fought for, in the same time.

Meanwhile, below me, it slowly lays down the hundredth book in the structure it's building, using its left hand - a bizarre combination of a crab's claw and the arms of a praying mantis - to cautiously place it, taking pains to avoid displacing any of the others. To my altered vision, the mass of books is beginning to glow softly, a sign that it's most likely magical. That, or his Cobble-born body is secreting something that reacts with them, which is hardly impossible. It's one of the most extensively altered I've ever seen, and few but the gods - maybe not even its creators - have any way to know what went into its new form; some kind of secretion that glows when it touches paper may not be the sort of thing that most would intentionally put in a Cobble-born, but it certainly wouldn't be the first time that one has ended up with some side-effects.

In any case, whatever the cause, there's something about the design, especially when it's lit up like that, that's managed to pique my curiosity; I want to see what it looks like when it's finished. Especially since the glow is unmistakably magical now; I can see the distinctive currents flowing around and through it - greed from it, in the theft; lust for knowledge from the same source; hatred, coming in from the direction of the Librarian's Guildhall; even the faintest touch of need and hunger from me, along with other, more subtle, threads, that my untrained vision lacks the skill to decipher, or track to their sources. And it's well known that it sticks around for a while after completing the things, so there'll be plenty of time to kill it afterward.

Of course, now my shot is obscured; the thing's moved behind its construction - now, with the addition of the latest tome, glowing like a beacon to every mage in the district, and leaving me with no clue how Comprehengeon expects to not have a horde of people pouring down on it to see what in Sharva's name is going on -, and I can't see anything but an occasional finger, meaning I'd have needed to get poison before I came to do anything (which, given that I'm quite capable of making it, was admittedly a stupid precaution not to take), if I could hit him at all. But he'll have to come out sometime, right? Especially since he's on his last few books. His final one, in fact, if it's possible to judge by the strength of the magical field...

And, as it seems to suddenly be being put to use, it looks like it is possible to judge by that. Though the use is odd; it's hard to tell what it's doing, exactly, though it does seem to be masking the other magical effects. Or clouding my vision, maybe?


Looking around confusedly, I can't, for a moment, remember what's going on. Everything's changed... Then I actually come fully awake, hearing the sleepy owl roosting next to me hoot softly in annoyance at my movement, and realize that, while the surroundings have changed, it's only because it's now the middle of the day instead of a few hours before dawn. Apparently, Comprehengeon was a better mage than I am; he put me to sleep without my even realizing what was happening. And I'm willing to bet the contract with the Librarian's Guild is terminated, considering that I wasted a perfectly good opportunity to kill him and decided to satisfy my curiosity instead, which is what led to his escape... They're not terribly tolerant of failure, especially if it's easily avoidable. Though I suppose I should be grateful for the small things, like the fact that that contract contains a non-retaliation clause if I fail unintentionally, instead of worrying about things like that; if it didn't, I'd be lucky to end up as a Cobble-born with a heavy debt to pay off.


  1. Are you still participating in the Challenge. Your posts stop at D and there is nowhere to comment on that one.

    A Few Words
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  2. Wait, The Dreamer is borked? Ergh... There should be a comment box on it.

    Anyway, yes, I am still in the Challenge, I've just been stuck on writing all of the ideas I've had.