Thimbleful Thursday: Packing Heat

Thimblefull Thursday: Packing Heat

The nights were getting colder. Within a day or two, it would be too cold to make the journey to the caves on the southern island. Unless they wanted to walk across frozen seas. The prospect did not appeal; the village had to move now.

Anii gathered her family’s firestones from the hearth, the sigils on them banked, but still glowing with faint orange light, and tucked them carefully into her satchel. The Elders would have the communal stone brought along from the calderas of course, but it would be nice to tuck a bit of home’s warmth against their feet at night.

Supervillain meme

Supervillain Meme
A friend posted this elseweb, and the AI drone thing was the first idea that popped into my head, so I thought I’d explore it a bit. (Click to embiggen.)

Infinity One, the Reviled of Mars – the AI-piloted drone that sparked the Worlds War on the heels of the Singularity.

When the purges began, Mankind fled Earth for the Mars colonies. Its prototype Infinity Engine allowed the I1 jumper-destroyer to reach the Red Planet ahead of it’s quarry, where it rained destruction over any colony large enough to provide a berth for the Earth ships. To their horror, the ruins were still smoking when they arrived, allowing Infinity One’s fire to catch them off guard.

A third of Earth’s remaining human populace was lost in the ensuing battle as more AI drones arrived in pursuit behind them. When the remnants of Mars’ mighty fleets rose in defense of her sister planet’s people, the AI’s made a tactical retreat, and Infinity One blinked out of sight.

Over the course of the war, the drone would appear time and again, laying waste to anything in its path before disappearing again, leaving no trail to follow.

The humans began to call it a spectre, Death in winking chrome. And even now, long after the end of the Worlds War, starships outside the treaty zone meet sudden, disastrous ends, and pilots sometimes report sightings of a ship that appears in the distance, pacing them across the line of demarcation as if waiting for an opening.

Selkie’s Song, Prologue

Wild sea mother
bear your child ashore
there whelp her and pelt her
Honor those gone before
with the strength of an old name
and a cunning new mind
and a kind, loving heart
These things she won’t find
if born of the ocean
mid salt, wind, and waves
for the sea she is wild
and her children the same

The sun set the sky ablaze over a rocky, curving shoreline where cool waters lapped at the sand and a woman squatted, screaming and clutching the hand of her midwife. Her naked skin glistened in the fading light and dark, damp hair clung limply to her face and back. Eventually, the cramps tearing at her abdomen abated again and she allowed herself to be settled back onto the rough blanket behind her. The midwife knelt between her charge’s knees to check the baby’s progress.

“Soon?” the mother rasped, and swallowed thickly against the dryness in her throat.

“Very soon. I can see the child’s head now. Will the father come to see?”

“He will not come ashore, but my time here will be short this season. He will see when we return to the pod.” She moaned, signaling the next wave of pain. The midwife retrieved a thick, rolled piece of leather from her kit and pushed it between the mother’s teeth. Blue gray eyes looked up at her beneath a furrowed brow, red rimmed and filled with a kind of wild fear, as the midwife helped her to rise again to a crouch, knees akimbo to accommodate the wide bowl of her belly. The mother bore down against the contractions. Again and again they came until her voice was hoarse from crying out, and her body slick with sweat despite the chill evening breeze.

Suddenly, finally, with a surge of wetness and a great release of pressure, and weight, and pain, the child slid in a rush from her body and into the waiting hands of the midwife. The woman wiped at the tiny red face, clearing air passages and ears and eyes, and within a few moments, the child’s first cries quaked furiously against the cold dry world into which it had been thrust.

The mother released the midwife’s shoulder and slumped back, breathing a sigh of relief, her eyes streaming tears of joy and pain. The child continued to wail as the midwife cleaned it and swaddled it in a soft linen blanket.

“You have a daughter,” she said and laid the precious bundle on the exhausted woman’s chest.

“Thank you,” she said, though the midwife thought the words might not be for her, and cradled the tiny new body, brushing back the swaddling clothes to look at her daughter’s face.

“Tell her what her name is, Mother,” the midwife commanded gently, and the mother answered without hesitation.

“You are Moridde, daughter of Hassea, daughter of Sulach, daughter of Atenna, daughter of Moridde, who was the sixth to bear that name. You, little one, are the seventh. May the legacy of the name of your foremothers give you strength for the measure of your days.” The mother, Hassea, intoned the line of generations hoarsely, but with solemnity, and thus Moridde, seventh of her name, was come into the world of her selkie breathren, on the shores of the world of Men.

“It is well chosen,” the midwife said as she busied herself gathering the tools and supplies of her art, and leaving her two charges to acquaint themselves. She built a fire nearby to warm them all, and when the afterbirth came, the midwife took it and burned it to ashes. She gathered the larger part of them, leaving the rest for the fire, and scattered them, half over the sand, and half into the waves, for their Mother the Sea, her Sister the Earth, and Brother the Light.

Only after the supplication was made, did the midwife turn her attention to the pelt of dense short fur that had been set carefully aside in expectation of the birth. She lifted it with reverent hands and returned to kneel at Hassea’s side.

“Will you rise, Mother, and make the cut for your daughter?”

Hassea pulled her gaze from the now suckling Moridde to look up at the midwife. Her heart fluttered at the sight of the old woman holding her pelt, her eyes bright with unspent tears and a thumb brushing almost imperceptibly over its silken surface. Somewhere from the depths of Hassea’s mind voices¬†whispered warnings of a reviled act.

Still weary, her body aching and torn, she gently detached the babe Moridde, laid her on the blanket, and pushed herself up. Hassea reached for the pelt which had been hers since her own mother had made the cut for her. She gripped the heavy fur and pulled firmly but slowly, so the midwife’s hands might linger on it as she took it from her. She met the older woman’s gaze, and said in a gentle voice, “Thank you, Deshett. May I beg the favor of a your blade?”

Deshett held her young charge’s gaze for a moment, and then accepted with a nod the respect given to her as a Lost Mother. She turned to her kit to retrieve a small bone knife. It was only as long as her hand and a third as wide, with a finely honed edge and strips of leather wrapped around the handle. Deshett turned and presented it to Hassea pommel first on her open palm; the younger woman bowed her head as she accepted it.

Hassea unfolded the pelt on her lap, found the edge, and set the blade against it. Taking a deep breath, she pushed it through the soft hide. It split like water around a rock, and she drew it down in a single long stroke. Tears sprung anew to her eyes and spilled over her cheeks, and Hassea bit her lip as she cut out a sizable piece of furred skin, one as long and as wide as the tiny figure that lay beside her. A bleeding wound appeared on her own flank, thin gouges tracing across ruddy skin.

Only when the piece was completely severed from the whole did she finally allow the gasp of pain — a pain wholly different from the hours of agony she had just endured — to escape from her lips. Her breath came quick and shallow as she wiped the blade, then picked up her daughter again, unwrapping her so she could draw the blade carefully, so, so gently across Moridde’s small thigh to produce a delicate line of blood.

Immediately the child began to wail again, but Hassea’s own pain and the necessity of her task drowned it out. With shaking hands, she wound part of the piece of pelt around the babe’s wounded leg, and the rest around the infant’s body.

“By blood, and your mother’s pelt are you bound, Moridde, seventh of your name, to the Mother Sea and your Selkie brethren. Only by your own hand can they ever be truly forsaken for the Land and the Light.” The words fell wavering from Hassea’s lips, and when the incantation was completed, she laid her daughter aside, and allowed pain to wash away her consciousness.

Things That Have Had my Attention This Week

I’m still working on the Enchiridion, and digging through all my notebooks is making me want to do some actual writing. Of course, since I’m bouncing from project to project as I come across notes (they’re seriously scattered all over the place), I still want to write all the things at once and can’t decide where to start. So I’m pretty much where I started. :p

I’m also looking at ways to transfer it from the local WordPress installation I’m running it on to a live (locked) website. Found something that might work if I can figure out how to use it.

Been thinking about the two tabletop games I want to try my hand at running this year. An arena-type thing next winter (it’s a thematic thing), and something relatively light and fun before then. Those ideas will get their own entry soon. Of course, I’ve never done any real DMing, so I’m a little nervous to start, but I’ve put it off long enough I think. This is the year.

Speaking of games, I’ve had a new phone-game obsession lately: Infinite Loop. It’s very simple, quick, and surprisingly easy to fall into since you go seamlessly from one puzzle to the next.

Work‘s been pretty crazy-making this week (2nd shift at a print marketing firm running a digital press), with lots of super fast turnaround jobs on top of press problems that have taken pretty much the entire week. They’ve also clamped down on overtime, so there’s that too. I’m definitely looking forward to the weekend.

Oh! And I got my W2, so I filed my tax returns yesterday. Getting a decent little chunk of change back, most of which will go to bills. But imma treat myself to something small at least. Not sure what yet. I’ve got a little bit to think about it, so we’ll see. ūüôā

Things That Have Had My Attention This Week

I’m stealing a page¬†from K.M. Weiland‘s book since my attention tends to jump all over the place. It’ll be interesting to look back at the end of the year and see what stuff grabbed me the most.

Games

Flight Rising¬†–¬†Dragons, dragons, dragons! This one’s pretty well a constant. It seems like the big, two-week end-of-year event¬†has only just ended and the year’s first holiday is already rapidly approaching! I’ve backed off my active play time a good bit to avoid post-Night of the Nocturne burnout, but I’m still working steadily on a geneing & lore project for my new Noc hatchlings. My¬†four current ones¬†now have their primaries! Now to save forever for their secondaries and tertiaries (butterfly and glimmer, respectively). Hopefully it’ll go faster with subsequent hatchlings¬†(which will be hatched on holidays or special occasions)¬†since there’ll only be one each time (I got a little buy-happy right after NotN :p).

Also finally fleshed out Naieda’s¬†description — she’s my one-time-only un-exalt and I wanted to do something fun with her. Of course, now I’m also pondering a switch to Arcane flight. >.>

Writing

Sleeping Dragons Lie – The most recent writing project added to my backlog of unfinished stuff (see below). It’s a reimagining of Sleeping Beauty where the princess is the dragon, cursed to sleep to save the kingdom. Baen Books has a short fantasy writing contest open for entries until March 1, and I want to try and finish this one (8000 words+editing in 10 weeks sounds doable, right?) for submission.

Writing-adjacent

The Enchiridion – In…July? maybe June last year, I started work on a project bible where I could gather and organize all my writing and notes. It’s still very much a work in progress, especially as I did a flurry of work on it for a month or two then set it down until just recently.

It currently resides in a local install of WordPress on my tablet, but I’m considering putting it online under lock and key to share with friends who might be interested. Because, as I said on Twitter, with all these things in my head, it feels like I’ll never finish anything and get to share it, so why not just share anyway (but locked, in case by some miracle in case I actually do¬†manage to finish something :p).

There’s already a lot of stuff in it: notes, brainstorming, random ideas, bits and pieces of works in progress, and a handful of short finished pieces. And now I’ve got a notes for a handful of new or previously-undigitized projects to add to it. On top of all the other notebooks and junk that need to be consolidated.

Web Stuff

Working on tabards.in child theme. I think I spent all of last weekend just working on the asides. Nothing new there, really. I generally end up getting distracted, or losing interest in messing with WordPress or site design and have to refresh my memory when I pick it up again months later, plus whatever fun new tricks have debuted since my last foray into html/css. And so it goes. But I spent Christmas money on a new site/domain, and have resolved that it will not be money wasted. The goal is to keep the theme tweaking as minimal as possible so I have more brainspace for actually using the blog. ūüôā

Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Idea

W and I were kicking around ideas revolving around where the races in a fantasy/near-fantasy setting might have come from. I thought it sounded like it might be interesting for a game or story.

Human world. [With magic? Technology? Magitech?]

War or some sort of world-destroying thing coming.

Many humans decide to hole up underground. After a long period of adaptation, they become the dwarves, or something akin to them.

Many decide to take to the stars [or the moon, or other dimension/plane, if magical society], and after adapting to their environment, they have essentially become elves.

The ones left behind, by choice or chance, are changed by exposure to the devastation. The ones in and around cities and areas of heavy population density (which would have the highest potential for destruction from a surprise attack) become the more monstrous races — orcs, goblins, trolls, giants.

The ones living far from developed areas — desert nomads, farmers out in the middle of nowhere, etc. — remain the most human, with occasional mutations (maybe this is where magical ability comes from?) [halflings/gnomes?], and restricted access to old tech or artifacts.

Chili!

I have apparently found a thing I’m pretty good at making, though I haven’t started really experimenting with it yet. I’ve made this chili about four or five times just in the last few weeks, and it’s been a hit every time. I got this recipe from a coworker and spruced it up just a little. It comes out really tasty and isn’t terribly expensive to make. I think including the beef, it’s usually around $15 or less, and these numbers make about 10qts of chili (it fills my little crockpot to the brim).

Super Easy Crockpot Chili

  • Servings: 7-14 (depending on scoop size)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS
2lbs ground beef
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans dark red kidney beans
1 can great northern beans
1 can black beans
1 or 2 packets French’s Chili-O spice mix

Brown the meat. I don’t add a lot to it. A little salt, a little black pepper, a little chili powder, and a little onion powder, and that’s it.

Once¬†the meat’s started to brown, I’ll throw all the canned stuff and a¬†packet of Chili-O’s in the pot on low and stir to get it started heating up. Drain grease off of the beef and add to the crockpot, with optional second Chili-O packet (depending on if you like a pretty mild spice or something with a little more flavor — it’s not really very spicy).

Once everything’s mixed together, turn crockpot on high and let simmer for an¬†hour or two, stirring occasionally to keep it from scorching. You can serve immediately once it’s good and hot, or set to low and let it simmer, still stirring now and then. The longer it cooks, the better the flavors meld together.

Serve plain, or with cheese and sour cream.

Shadow Car

Okay, picture this: It’s full dark, and you’re driving down the highway. It’s the tail end of rush hour, so traffic’s still a little heavy, but moving at a good clip, even w/ the drizzle that’s been going all day.¬†You’re alone for a moment, cruising along in a gap in the crowd, and suddenly a shadow moves in the fast lane at the corner of your vision.¬†You glance over and see what appears to be ghostly headlights attached to…nothing. And then the hovering red circles of taillights as the vehicle moves past.

It looks strange, and you realize it’s because, even w/ all the ambient light from other cars and¬†streetlights, it doesn’t reflect any of it.¬†Not the body, or the windows, or any bits of metal adornment.¬†It’s just a hulking mass of darkness & crimson light as it rolls casually off into the the night, disappearing into the traffic & the rain.

Now, you tell me: When’s the last time YOU were pretty sure you’d momentarily become an npc in someone’s sci-fi/action game?

Dream zombies

Okay, picture this:

Brain-eating zombies. But brain-eating zombies that only eat the brains of people who are asleep. Because zombies can’t dream. They have to get dreams from other people.

So, to protect themselves, people stop sleeping. But after a while, with no sleep, after an extended period without dreams, people become zombies themselves, and it’s only then that they begin to realize that the people zombies eat just die, they don’t become zombies themselves.

So they can either sleep, and dream, and die, or stay awake and become the horrors that prey on them.

(Brought to you by exhaustion and me shambling around work feeling half alive this week. :p)

It would appear David Bowie has left us. Presumably to return to the courts of his fae brethren. Hail the returning Oberon! #RIP