Friday, July 25, 2014

The Great Weapons: Beyond These Walls 05

Miledha watched the rider descend from the dark eastern sky. Galloping, the horse had left a trail of fire behind it, like a comet; but it slowed and descended as it reached the keep, and now she could see the tiny puffs of flame where each hoof struck sparks from the empty air. She settled herself on top of the wall, with her back against the crenelations, as it touched down near the center of the courtyard.

It wasn't a natural animal of course; it was something created, or more likely conjured. Miledha knew almost nothing of those arts; she could almost hear Sister Naggia repeating her opinion of such things: Why would you want such a beast? A horse'd carry you there just as well, draw less attention to you, and be far less dangerous to manage. Miledha smiled to herself. Unless, she answered her teacher's imagined question, you needed to get from Boeringen to Langoish Keep in a single night. It was quite a sight, whatever it was and however the Order had come by it: horse-shaped, but flat black -- even to its eyes, which were only visible when it turned its head enough that she could see their shape at the edge of its silhouette. It looked like someone had carved a hole in the world where a horse should be... and by its nature it couldn't be entirely in the world, not if it could run across empty air.

The rider dismounted, pulling a set of saddlebags from his mount's back as he stepped away. The beast shimmered, folded in on itself, and was gone.

Miledha nudged the winds to carry words from the center of the courtyard to her place on the wall, and was gratified to hear the gasp of surprise from the assembled guards and council members. Then Brother Wend stepped forward and said, "Addis?"
She couldn't decipher everything in his tone, but she thought she heard surprise, pleasure, and maybe a touch of worry somewhere down underneath it all.

"Wend!" The other man sounded relieved. "I came as soon as I heard."

"You can't dream how glad I am to see you. It's been..." There was a pause, and then Brother Wend said, "This is Viscount Roberr, the lord of Langoish Keep."

There was a brief pause as Roberr stepped forward.

"Be you welcome, and at your ease," said Roberr. "The Shadir have already sent us one messenger this evening; I doubt they'll bother us again. Come into the keep with us. We have food and drink -- not fancy, but filling. If you've come representing the Order, we have a great many things to tell you."

Wend continued, "This is Brother Addis, master sorcerer of the Renowned Eastern Order of the Hidden Arts."

Brother Addis offered Roberr his hand. "I'm grateful, Viscount; that was a difficult ride. I'd appreciate a bit of refreshment before we move to matters of sorcery and war."

Miledha grumbled to herself. No doubt the entire privy council would want to meet this sorcerer Addis, and no doubt they would have plenty of questions for the adept. It would not be a short meal, and it would not be a short planning session. Even more annoying was that listening in on them would considerably harder with everyone inside the inner keep; out here, she could use the night breezes, but in there she would need a mouse or something similar. She could try to follow them unseen, of course, but with a new adept of unknown abilities that seemed a foolish risk: likely he wouldn't notice her, but if he did then it would be that much harder to get Roberr out of the keep later on. It wasn't worth it.

Instead, she rose and started for the barracks, trying to reconcile herself to the fact that they weren't leaving the keep tonight.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Great Weapons: Beyond These Walls 04

Roberr made a complete circuit of the outer wall, greeting the guards and checking on their placements. He didn't need to -- the Shift Captain, a veteran by the name of Tannis, had them well in hand -- but he wanted to give the rest of the privy council time to settle down. Then he turned his steps to the well-house, a small stone structure that guarded the keep's primary water supply. It was another pointless errand, since he knew that both the heavy wooden door and the iron gate in front of it were shut, but it was something he could plausibly inspect... and yet another way to use some time while twilight slowly faded into full night.

Finally, he turned back to the central keep, mounted the steps, and passed through the smaller gatehouse that defended its doors. The guards were quiet inside, the evening watch settling into the slow rhythms of their shift. He continued on, and saw that the doors to the great hall were open. They shouldn't have been; everything of interest in the hall had been removed and stored away.

He stepped through, and found Miledha a scant three paces ahead of him. Her head was tilted back, and her eyes were on the starry night sky that rose where the ceiling should be, overhead.

"It's beautiful," she said.

"It's considerably less interesting when it's cloudy outside." Roberr had been forced to sit through any number of social occasions in this hall, and bore the place no great love.

"It's still beautiful," said Miledha. She lowered her head and turned to face him.

He looked up, considered, and then nodded. "It is, at that. Are you ready?"

"Me?" Miledha looked surprised. "You're the one who keeps being interrupted."

"Viscount? Viscount Roberr?" The voice was soft, and still out in the gateway, but it had a certain... inescapability... to it. Roberr turned his head slowly, not quite believing what he was hearing. How hard can it possibly be to walk out a gate? He had the feeling he was still finding out.

The messenger spotted the open doors and looked inside. He was young, younger than Roberr, though old enough to fight. "M'lord? Viscount Langoish?"

Roberr nodded, resigned. "What is it?"

"There's a rider approaching."

Roberr frowned. "From the westerners?"

"No, m'lord. From the east. His horse... it gallops a trail of fire across the night air."

Roberr turned his head to look at Miledha, keeping his expression blank by an act of will.

Miledha was smiling. "Well," she said. "I always wanted to see a flying horse."

He closed his eyes for a moment, managed not to sigh, and then turned back to the messenger. "Show me."

Miledha followed him out of the great hall, and into the open air of the courtyard.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Music: Unforgiven

At one point, I went looking for songs with the title (or somehow incorporating the concept) of "Unforgiven". I think I was following a theme, but I don't really remember; I might have been looking for one particular song. If so, it was this one:


...But I also found some others, notably Michael Carlos' Unforgiven. I like it; give it a listen.

There are two types of people in the world..

...those who really believe that, and those who know that human beings come in far too much variety to be neatly divided into any two categories.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday Randomness

A conversation at work yesterday got me to thinking about The Young Ones, and in particular this clip:


("I've tried it hundreds of times. There's no way you can hammer in the last nail.")

In other news, if you're like most people, you've probably been looking for new and better ways to express yourself during those moments when the sheer absurdity and horror of the world around us robs you of the capacity for coherent speech. Should that be the case (as it so often is), allow me to recommend I Can't Even.

If you've never been introduced to H.P. Lovecraft and have no idea what a Cthulhu is, you're still in luck! Behold the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft in a wide variety of digital formats.

And that's what I've got for this morning. What about you lot? What've you got?

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Great Weapons - Beyond These Walls 03

"What happened?" demanded Steward Arkiber.

Roberr had sent the guards away, but the rest of the privy council had arrived on the top of the keep before the troopers had finished filing back down the narrow stone stairs. Miledha was nowhere to be seen, but then she wouldn't be -- not if she still hoped to take Roberr out of the keep tonight.

"It was a messenger," said Roberr. "Captain Dezarr had it sent to repeat the terms of his offer."

"It was a greater demon," pointed out Brother Wend, "one of the uppermost flight -- the dark world's equivalent of a duke or even an arch-duke. Did you feel its power? It could have torn down half the keep by itself."

"Well," said Roberr, "that was part of the message."

"That is... quite a message," said Brother Wend. "There are only a few conjurers in the Order who would deal with such as that. I don't know of any who would dare summon such a thing."

"Will they be able to protect us from it?" That was Sir Berrn, who managed to make the question sound like just another matter for consideration, rather than cause for screaming panic.

"Yes," answered Wend, "though we'll need a group of trained adepts. Battle is a very different matter from conjuration."

"It changes nothing," said Roberr. "We're safe until the truce expires. If we receive support before that, we have a chance. If not..." He shrugged. "We'll see. Now... can we get down off this roof, before anything else comes to visit us?"

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Great Weapons: Beyond These Walls 02 (revised)

Edited to improve (I think) the dialogue, and the description of the demon. I've left the original text crossed out at the bottom, if you want to compare.

It circled high over the keep, then descended in a slow, narrowing gyre. Looking up, Roberr had a brief impression of wide, dark wings and a lean form between them. He let his hand drop to his father's sword, though he couldn't bring himself to see this as a serious attack. Frightening as it might look, it was only a single beast -- and they were only reaching the end of the second day of the five that Captain Dezarr had promised them.

Miledha took a step forward as it circled in, but Roberr touched her shoulder and she stopped. It lit on the far side of the small upper tower from them, wings extended and cupped to slow its descent: man-shaped, black-skinned, broad-winged, and taloned at both hands and feet. Its wings extended from its shoulders, and showed the same lean, featherless impression as a bat's. It clutched at the top of a crenelation, sinking talons into the stone, and leered at the two of them. "Be at ease," it said. "I bring greetings from my master, and from his Captain."

Roberr found his voice. "If your masters wanted us to be easy, they wouldn't have sent something like you."

"Then be afraid," it said, "but I come under the same truce you were offered yester'morn."

"What is it you want?" asked Roberr.

"Oh, many things: blood, chaos, destruction." Aside from the wings, it was roughly the shape of a man, though its skin was entirely black and it bore fearsome talons rather than hands or feet. Its voice should have strange and terrible; instead, it was disconcertingly human, a rich baritone. "Still, it's not my wants that should concern you... At least, not yet. My master only sent me to repeat his captain's message: surrender the Gauntlet. Surrender the Gauntlet, and as they promised they will pass you by. Surrender the Gauntlet, and your lands will remain yours, in service to the High Lord of the Shadir."

He stood alone, facing the winged thing, and realized a moment later that Miledha was still there: she'd only faded out of notice, as she frequently did. He felt himself relax, though a healthy dose of fear remained in him: however powerful the demon might be, he was safe from it for as long as Captain Dezarr held to the truce. "Your master and Captain Dezarr may consider us reminded," he said drily, "but I cannot surrender what I do not hold."

The thing regarded him for a long moment: white eyes with burning red centers against hairless black skin. Then its wings spread wide, and clapped together as it fell back off the inner keep. It rose, flapping, into the gathering night.

That, finally, was when the guards arrived. For the life of him, Roberr couldn't decide if that was a good thing, or bad.

It circled high over the keep, then descended in a slow, narrowing gyre. Looking up, Roberr had a brief impression of wide, dark wings and a lean form between them. He let his hand drop to his father's sword, though he couldn't bring himself to see this as a serious attack. Frightening as it might look, it was only a single beast -- and they were only reaching the end of the second day of the five that Captain Dezarr had promised them.

Miledha took a step forward as it circled in, but Roberr touched her shoulder and she stopped. It lit on the far side of the small upper tower from them, wings extended and cupped to slow its descent: man-shaped, black-skinned, broad-winged, and taloned at both hands and feet. Its wings extended from its shoulders, and showed the same lean, featherless impression as a bat's. It clutched at the top of a crenelation, sinking talons into the stone, and leered at the two of them. "Be at ease," it said. "I bring greetings from my master, and from his Captain."

Roberr found his voice. "If your masters wanted us to be easy, they wouldn't have sent something like you."

"Then be afraid," it said, "but I come under the same truce you were offered yester'morn."

"What is it you want?" asked Roberr.

"For myself, I want only freedom -- but I've come to tell you of my master's wants. Surrender the Gauntlet, and as they promised they will pass you by. Surrender the Gauntlet, and your lands remain yours, in service to the High Lord of the Shadir."

"My answer hasn't changed." Roberr regarded the thing in front of him. Its torso was at least as large as his, heavy with muscle, and it wore neither clothes nor armor. With those wings behind its shoulders, he had no doubt it could cross the distance between them in the blink of an eye... or that it could have him up and away a heartbeat after that. Still, this wasn't simply a matter of power. Captain Dezarr had pledged his honor under flag of truce. "I don't have it. I don't know where it is. And if I did, I wouldn't surrender it to your captain; I'd be fighting him with it."

He stood alone, facing the winged thing, and realized a moment later that Miledha was still there: she'd only faded out of notice, as she frequently did. If the demon broke the truce, it would be in for a nasty surprise.

The thing regarded him for a long moment: white eyes with burning red centers against hairless black skin. Then its wings spread wide, and clapped together as it fell back off the inner keep. It rose, flapping, into the gathering night.

That, finally, was when the guards arrived. For the life of him, Roberr couldn't decide if that was a good thing, or bad.