So, Patronage

September 26, 2014

I’ve set up a Patreon account. I haven’t launched my campaign yet, though I am considering it. I don’t expect it to make me any money, let alone enough money to really support me. But a boy can dream.

Mainly what’s going to come with this is a couple things.

One – if I do get support, I’m going to start updating more frequently. If I’m being paid for it, I’ll write. As it is, it’s very difficult for me to find the energy to write because I don’t strictly have to and no one seems to care outside of some phantom accounts on WordPress and a single friend who I can prattle on endlessly to about my writing ideas. This will give me a concrete reason to create more fiction. And game designs.

Two – I’m going to start interacting with those of you who do support me much more. For one, there’ll be a regular, weekly stream of me playing video games that Patreon subscribers of a certain amount would get to Skype into and influence heavily. Like having the option to decide what characters I make in Neverwinter Nights, what decisions to make in Deux Ex, or what army to play in Starcraft. There will be a separate weekly stream of me drafting in Magic the Gathering Online with subscribers being able to influence what queue I join and what kind of deck I draft.

Three – Game prototyping. Beyond beta-prototypes, which will be a subscriber only kind of thing, I’ll reserve my personal prototypes, such as handmade prototypes, for selling/giving away/prizes for my supporters.

Four – Roundtables. Two monthly roundtable discussions, one for my fiction with a writing circle of subscribers where participants will have the ability to come at me directly about choices in my fiction and what kind of fiction I should be working on next. I’ll also help people parse their own fiction and do structure support and other general writing circle kinds of things. The other monthly roundtable will be discussing game design, working on game prototyping, and working on beta rules. This group will definitely always get betas and prototypes of game designs and have influence over the design process.

I really hope I can find a way to make all of this work. If I get any support at all, it’ll be a wonder but maybe, just maybe, I’ll get that and more.

Thanks for listening. First up, a poll about what I should be streaming. If you’d like to see something else, please add it in the comments. I’ll let you know if I own it or not. I’d ask about the Magic stream too but, well, I can’t draft anymore this month without a patron and the beginning of next month is reserved for the KHANS OF TARKIR pre-release and release events.

I’m awake, I’m awake…

September 24, 2014

So, it’s been a while. I know.

Writing that book I was working on, conceptually, didn’t work out. Between my PC being down for two weeks and how hard it is for me to focus when it’s hot, I didn’t get any real work done on it. Now the story has mothballed in my mind. However, I do have another story brewing in the back of my mind. Work on that will be at the end of this post, even, if you want insight into what’s going on there.

In other news, my partner got my little laptop fixed so I once again have a simple, long-lasting portable writing machine. It’s super adorable. I’m updating my wardrobe slowly, but surely, and I’m feeling generally better. I’m waiting on the inevitable denial of the California Social Security Administration for my disability so that I can get the appeal started. This past week has been a little hard, though – my glasses broke (again) and the company that made them is unwilling to replace them. I’m going to fight them a bit and see if they’ll do it, since they broke the exact same way in the exact same place as the first pair. I’ve got a couple of (small) partial 2nd degree burns on my gut from meat-juices and molten cheese flying at me from making dinner two days ago. It also looks like the tabletop games I wanted to run won’t be working out, but it’s better to have no game than a bad game anyway.

One thing, above all else, has been really getting me out of bed and thinking, though. I’ve always had a love of Magic the Gathering but I recently started using Magic the Gathering Online (I’m Luarien, by the way, if you want to talk to me or whatever) and I freaking love drafting. It’s the best format ever. A friend bought me a Commander deck, and we’ve done a few games of that, but it’s kind of wacky and I don’t know if it’s really possible to make a consistent Commander deck. The high variability of games (and the disgusting way you can get shut out in Commander) isn’t always the most fun. It’s a fun format generally, though, and I’ve got most of a sliver deck put together as well. For those of you who, like me, came up in Magic during the golden age of slivers. Y’know, right around Ice Age.

I’ve also been playing through Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut. Which has been fun. I’ve considered streaming it but there’s not a lot of clamor for people wanting to watch me play video games. Or listen to me babble to myself about them. However, if suddenly there is interest then I could see myself streaming a lot. I’m considering going through Fallout New Vegas again, since I never finished it, and I’ve still got Baldur’s Gate to finish (and then import my file into Baldur’s Gate 2) now that I’ve got both updated versions. I might even consider streaming Battlefield 4, which I’ve been playing a bit, but I’m both not terribly good at it and my connection can be very, very spotty which makes it difficult to play well.

I had thought for a bit about getting back into HEMA, but the local group here is antagonistic to anyone with a social conscious. I’d say that they’re antagonistic to anyone who isn’t a white, able-bodied guy but there’s women on their meetup so I can’t really say that completely honestly. I’ve been trying to do some light exercising in my room but, well, I can be bad about that. Especially on days where I’m not feeling terrible but I’m also not feeling fantastic. I might have to take up walking again, it forces me to do something.

So, worldbuilding. The story I’m revisiting is the Grey Paladin stuff I was working on before. It’s a fantasy setting that I’m designing to be a kind of pastiche of medieval and ancient Asia the way that most fantasy settings are a pastiche of medieval and ancient Europe. The main character is coming from a large Hindu Kingdoms-style nation and is dedicated to an ancient warrior order called the Daughters of Marisha. Their particular oath, the Precept of Marisha, states -

We fight so that others stay safe.

We march so that others stay at home.

We search so that others are found.

We stand so that others rest safe.

We are powerful.

We are steadfast.

We are persevering.

We are protectors.

Marisha is depicted as an 8-armed warrior goddess, and six of the arms wield weapons – the khanda, a straight sword with a blue gem set in the hilt and three blackened fullers that has been enchanted to deal with the undead as well as stay incredibly sharp; the ursha, a silvered short ‘sword’ that’s designed to pierce armor similar to a main gauche; the madura, an enameled 8-sided metal buckler that’s related to both the pa kua and the idea of ‘rising’ and ‘falling’ or ‘ascendant’ and ‘descendant’ elemental forces; the malappuram kathi, a broad-bladed dagger that’s also used as a utility knife; the vel, a javalin that’s usually carried in sets of three and is enchanted to resist destruction. Her last two hands are empty – one is a fist to represent the Daughter’s training in unarmed combat and the other is an open, upraised hand to represent their training in diplomacy and their standing offer to help any who might need them.

Some of those are real weapons, re-imagined for this world. Some of them are not. The Hindu Kingdoms inspired nations are going to be called the Sister Kingdoms, and there are five of them. Each focuses on a different part of their shared religious heritage and each descends from a single mother, Marisha, and her five daughters. They’re all matriarchal, with local democratic control sending representatives to the kingdom’s capital where the queens rule alongside a democratic legislative body. That legislative body writes laws and elects local law enforcement, with the national congress choosing the highest criminal and civil court. Reviewing the laws, and being the last court of appeal, is a council of elders, one from each of the great guilds in the kingdoms – merchants, military, magicians, doctors, and judges. Each guild elects their representative in their own way. Each of these kingdoms is host to a large community of foreign people, both people who have immigrated into the kingdoms and those people who pass through major kingdoms who trade along the sea and land routes that they control.

If you guys like this, maybe next time I update I’ll tell you about the other nations in this fantasy world I’m mulling over.

A great piece by my partner about labels. Activism and alliance is something you do, not something you are. Define and describe yourself, but don’t use other people’s identities to do it.

Why I Don’t Like Calling Myself an “Activist” or “Ally”.

A personal story

August 20, 2014

It was four AM again.

“I am…awake.” I don’t know who I was talking to. I knew I was awake. No one else was there. I stared at the ceiling fan, spinning lazily so as not to shake itself completely from its mooring in the ceiling. So it did not descend on me like a vicious dervish of dust and mechanical fury. I listened to the small insects outside, coordinating with each other to reproduce and eat before their short lives were swept into the sands of time. I marveled at the unique qualities of the air around me – it wasn’t hot but it was definitely too warm, the air felt dry but a peculiar kind of dry that made my skin prick and crawl slowly.

It was four AM again and I was spinning my limbs slowly against the strange, cooler pools on the sheet of my bed, hoping to find a momentary comfort while I talked to myself.

“Ugh.” Normally, I think, I’m pretty witty. But at four AM, while I’m in a kind of mild buzzing pain – not horrid compared to what I’m used to, to be sure, but bad enough to keep me awake – and in a distinctly uncomfortable state that is almost impossible to describe I lose almost all semblance of authority or majesty. “It’s too fucking hot.”

Granted, that assertion is not necessarily true. If it wasn’t so dry, or if I wasn’t always in pain, or if I were more high or more drunk or more something I probably wouldn’t notice. I would just sleep. Instead, like most nights, I was haunted by the shimmering, friendly specter of insomnia.

Insomnia was like an old girlfriend to me. Insomnia is like an old girlfriend to me. We know each other really well and when she visits I feel compelled to catch up with her but, honestly, my life would be easier if I didn’t have to see her again. She has her own life, I have my own life, it doesn’t help either of us to keep meeting and “catching up” as if we’re comparing scores to see who got the better of the breakup in high school.

It was four AM, I couldn’t sleep, and I was uncomfortable. As if on cue, my body started to sing the sweet symphony of stinging and burning pain that reminded me, constantly, that I am both a broken human being and probably a liar. It starts in my toes and knuckles, accompanied by a deep, wrenching throbbing in my lumbar region. It crawls slowly up my arms with tiny, shuddering cramps that felt as if my bones were twisting and trying to dance. The pain in my back, meanwhile, began to be replicated in my legs with on-beat and perfectly off-beat pinching and grinding. I could forestall some of this when I cracked my joints but it was only a temporary measure.

Within moments, my body was a study in pain and discomfort.

I’m not sure, exactly, how I located my pot in the darkness without my glasses on. It doesn’t much matter, really. What does matter is that a deep inhale of the chemicals swirling out of the cannabis freed me. The pain dulled, my mind cleared, my skin stopped crawling.

Soon, it was six AM. It was six AM and I was falling asleep.

Tonight, I finally won. Maybe tomorrow I won’t even have to fight, if I’m lucky.

Luarien:

As someone with undiagnosed autism, all of this feels familiar and true.

Originally posted on purpleaspie:

Last night somebody shared an article on Facebook. The article was called “Things never to say to parents of a child with autism.” A comment on the article asked why there wasn’t one about things not to say to an autistic adult. I decided to write that article. It’s based on not only my experience, but also the experiences of my autistic friends.

1) “You don’t look autistic.”

My response to this would be something along the lines of what Gloria Steinem said when people told her she “looked good for 50.” She said, “This is what 50 looks like.” I say, “This is what autism looks like.” However, what I’d like to say is: “I don’t look autistic, and you don’t look ignorant. I guess we’re both wrong.”

I don’t know what people who say this mean when they say I don’t look autistic. What does autism look like?…

View original 1,459 more words

The boat was a wide, flat barge for goods. A boat that one would see floating lazily down the river, sometimes assisted by canal teams when the river’s flow was timid and unconvinced of its own importance. This barge, however, did not move like that. The Boatmaster had a strange worksong he would hum and stomp out, sometimes joined in verse by Old Crow and, once she knew some of it, Cassie. This song was a Sacred Song, a song that propelled the ship quite quickly across the lake Moonfall, right into the gushing river and over the headwaters of the Moontear river.
Maria, however, was watching the horizon. She kept her eyes sharp for any of the black coats of the Hunters that had plagued her and Cassie since she first rescued the girl. By midday she was still watching while she ate a lunch prepared by Old Crow without prompting. The curious man sat next to her quietly and watched with her. After several minutes, his voice barely a whisper and in a conspiratorial, defensive tone, he asked, “What do we watch for, Defender of the People?”
Maria started to respond, but stopped with her mouth open. “Why the old title, Crow? There have not been Defenders upon the plains since before the Calamity.”
He shook his head slowly and made a soft clicking sound with his tongue. “Oh, the young. How quickly they forget. Do you know why they call me Old Crow?”
Cassie giggled, “It’s because you’re stooped and say silly things.”
He hissed at the child, not like a cat but like a disaffected raven chiding its hatchlings. “No, child, it is because I am old. So old that I remember a time before the herds, a time before the Scourge, a time before the Cull and before the Kingdoms became fiefdoms and the Kings became statues. A time when treachery was but a whispered fear and not a settled fact. I have watched the moon fall and the sun tower in puffy pride, I have seen the fears of those who battled with sharp steel and hallowed bone, I watched the sealing of the Damned, and I have watched the birth of the Blessed. I am old, child, older than bone and blood. Older than dirt and water.”
He turned back to Maria. “I use the title because it is true. You carry the Sigil, you carry the hallowed Bone, and you carry the mantle of Defender. Your mind and heart speak to you like a compass speaks to the traveler of what is right and what is just.”
Maria turned from vigil and narrowed her eyes. “Old Crow, I do think perhaps your memories, dreams, and sight cloud each other. No one carries the Bone and neither I nor my parents nor their parents have seen the Sigil. It has been lost forever to the fallen dirt of the Forgotten Places.”
Old Crow barked a short laugh. “Certainly, Marshal. Certainly. Yet one day you will be called upon to join your siblings in Bone and you shall know that I speak true. I always speak true, even when I am wrong.”
Maria shook her head slowly. “Yes, Old Crow. What I watch for are the dark riders that call themselves Hunters. They seek out the girl.”
He hissed again, this time through his teeth. In the way a man might when seeing that he miscounted those that had arrayed against him. “Ah, yes, yes. That makes sense. They would be following you. Well, her. They would be following the petulant one.”
Cassie kicked the deck. “Hey! I am not petulant. I am just trapped with those below my station!” With a huff she turned back to the Boatmaster and helped him again with the lyrics of his song. Maria, though, shifted so she could look upon Old Crow fully. “Would? What do you know of the Hunters, Old Crow?”
“Many things, child. Many things. I know that they do not ride of their own accord. I know that their eyes burn red and white without the color of free peoples and I know that they speak in shattered tones, like the drones and thralls of the Massani spirit stealers. And I know that they work for a very powerful one of the Damned who was not sealed in the ancient ways. They chase you because of it, that great dark spirit that seeks its final release.” He looked at Cassie and sighed. “Such an unwholesome creature to place such importance in, but these things never enjoyed a certain love of honesty and respect for those that would have to carry them through.”
Maria twisted her mouth around a few times, looking for the words to respond but being stymied by her confusion at every turn. “What do you mean, Crow?”
He laid back against the wood of the boat and stared at the sky. His hands above him, he traced some grand image, like unfurling a map. “Imagine with me, child, a time before the Calamity. Before the Scourge poured their fire over the Many Kingdoms and before time and claimed the Heroes of Legend. There are three castes of the Great Spirits, in the greatest of Lodges, the Lodge of the Gods.”
Maria nodded, “Yes, I know. The Blessed, the Cursed, and the Damned.”
He continued, as if she hadn’t said a thing. “Who filled what seats in the Great Feasthall of the Gods is never, was never, clear. Some seats were Damned and Cursed, or Blessed and Cursed. And one, one very hoary seat, Blessed and Damned.”
Maria grew skeptical. “None of the Damned sit in the Feasthall, Old Crow. Anyone who had grown in the gowns of the Speakers knows that, and you know that I did as I’m a Marshal.”
He looked at her from beneath his glasses, letting her see his milky-black eyes for the first time. Swirling like the night sky changing the seasons every moment without hesitation. “No, child, they know what the Lodge has told them, under a great curse from this of the Damned. The one Damned who has kept its seat regardless of its crimes because the Way has not been made known yet. Not even the Ancients knew how to bind it here, in the Great Plain, and we were sealed forever until the Way was made known. I am one of a handful that may see the Time-Without and the Time-Within to know it. Just as you know not to stare too long into any shard of topaz lest it steal your mind because you are not meant to see the Time-Without.”
“The time-with…what? The topaz curse is from the Damned who live there, Aslain the Crystal-Shaper. She’s trapped there and wants a way out through us, through the Cloth.”
He shook his head again, gazing upon her like a student that refuses to believe the words she just read in the book she refuses to open. “All things are so much more complicated than that, child. So much more complicated. What matters is that this Damned has set his sights on sealing the Way. He has done so many times before. So many times before. His sealing of the Way brought the Calamity and brought the great evils before. The dragon raids, the stone-peoples, even Drakir the Lifedrinker and Foldis Who’s Crime Is Forgotten were his doing.”
Maria rolled her eyes. “Half of those are just stories, Old Crow, and I have seen Drakir the Lifedrinker. It’s something every student of the Spire does at some point. He gave me tea and let me play with one of his shamblers.”
Old Crow chuckled. “He would, he was always a gentle soul. Despite what He would have him do. No, even old Drakir wouldn’t stand up to Him in his full glory, though. It’s why Drakir became the Lifedrinker. A fool’s quest to find the Way before, a fool’s quest perverted by glory and by necessity. None of these are stories, Maria Defender of the People. Once again it has come that the Way seeks to bind Him, to banish forever the Curse of Topaz, but he seeks to thwart it. He can’t pervert you, since you’re too damn stubborn and you carry the Bone and Sigil. He doesn’t need to, though, since Cassandra of the Blood and Wind is needed to Bind Him. He just needs to kill her at the right place so that her power doesn’t flow to another before the time passed.”
“Of the…Old Crow, you’re using weird titles again. I know what Bone and Sigil are, from the histories, but what in the name of the Blessed is Blood and Wind?” Maria began her search again, fingering the longarm stashed against the side of the boat, waiting for a Hunter to use it against.
“Blood and Wind. There were six forms to the Ancient’s ways, the power of the Six that first made the Kingdoms. The Six who were its first protectors. Shadow and Steel, Bone and Sigil, Blood and Wind, Light and Thought, Leather and Thunder, Word and Earth. The only that is still known to the histories is Bone and Sigil, since the Youngest who was the strongest could only instil her power into those who wore her Cloth if they carried her signs so that all could see. Cassie is the waking keeper of the Blood and Wind, though. The Second who left beyond the Topaz and who brought back with him the strength of What Should Be over What Is.”
“What do you mean, Old Crow?” Maria had lost interest in her task then. The boat was moving into the rapids, descending into the receiving levees of Old Bardisholm. No Hunter dared go there, as the Wallkeepers would shoot any down who were not known to them.
“To fix the world, child, you have to find the Way. Each of the Damned could only be bound by two of the Six working together. Half of the Binding was laid already by the Second and the Youngest, who were the clearest and most powerful of the Six once the First went mad with grief. She carries the Blood of the explorer and the Wind of the oceans. While you carry the power to enforce what is Right, only she may grant or deny freedom. Liberty. The virtues of doing without needing to ask or seek right and just ways first. She is the Explorer, in flesh, just as you are the Enforcer, in flesh. Just as I am the Truth given flesh, at least that is what the Stormcrow tells me.”
Maria chuckled. “Well far be it for me to go telling the Lady of Ravens what is and is not true. And if this is true, Old Crow, where will we find the Way you speak of?”
Old Crow tilted his head upward, as if listening to something snatched by the wind and brought right to his ears. “That is for you to do, young one. This is your quest, not mine. You just needed to know what quest you were on first.” With that he stood and gave the traditional greeting to the Wallkeepers, leapt into the air, and became a large, graceful blackbird in a flash without light or sound. Soon he was careening into the sky, held aloft by something only he knew.
“Quest?” Maria hadn’t thought of it that way. “I don’t want no damn quest with this girl, she’s bad enough without making her any more important.”
The Boatmaster’s song slowly dwindled as the levees rose and fell around the boat then, and the Wallkeepers lifted the great iron gate into Old Bardisholm. Orders were being shouted down at them from above in Carril, the language of the Bardisholm peoples. Each time it came down, the Boatmaster turned the ship this way and that, slowly creeping up on the network of docks and houses that made up Bardhisholm, the city on the edge of the world. Deep in its swampy jungle, safe from fire but not from darkness or the other things that grow there.
Maria sighed. Her diversion to help some poor, kidnapped girl would be going on much longer than she thought. Or wanted.

The Bargemaster’s room wasn’t as uncomfortable as Laceron had made it seem. There were real mattresses of down and straw sewn up in flax and cotton bondings. Cassie had fallen asleep the second she laid down on one, still in her boots and riding dress. Maria, though, spent the night awake. At first she watched Cassie’s breathing slow and become regular. The travel had sapped the poor girl’s strength and left her ragged and listless. Once the city had moved from the daylight habits of drunken foolery and insistent commercial enterprise to drunken foolery and insistent debauchery, Maria left the small room and went out to the dock on the edge of Moonfall Lake. She watched the lake’s surface, the gentle undulations of the upward flow of Nassal’s Spring pushing toward the gentle flow of the river Moontear.
The ritual was the same every time. First she took off her boots and placed them together at her right. Then came her belt, laid next to her boots with her guns pointing toward her. Then her vest, folded at her left with her whitemetal dagger exposed. Then, finally, her gunroll opened in front of her with each of her tools carefully placed and composed just as they were the very first time she used them. Three iron-tine brushes, three screwdrivers, three wool brushes, three long screw-blades, a small brass hammer, a measuring funnel, and a small unfolded forgepress. The very same kit she used to painstakingly build her Iron years ago.
The ritual was a practiced art in her hands at this point. First the iron came out of its holster, the rounds removed all at once with the oiled iron lever. With a practiced flick of her wrist she removed the heavy iron cylinder. She looked through the eye of each of the seven chambers then set it on the soft cloth of the roll before turning to the rest of the weapon. A screwdriver to remove front grip, carefully removed so as not to dislodge the mechanics within. Careful precision with practiced fingers plucked the snake gear and the small gearbox from the grip so that their teeth did not bend. Then the trigger levers, carefully set apart for cleaning, along with the oil actuator beneath the hammer assembly. Finally, the trigger assembly slid out with its complicated stack of leavers and the wire pulley that pulls the actuator lock open. With that, the cleaning could begin.
The brushes took patience so that she didn’t ruin the boring by cleaning out the soot pressed into the barrel by the rounds she fired. Flecks of the Scourge burned onto the metal, along with the stripes of lead from the bullets sent through the gun. The Iron was hardened using alchemist’s treatments but it was still soft enough to deform under the terrible pressure of the Scourgefire. First the hard brush with the short tines took the largest and boldest darkness from inside the gun, brushing off the burned in flakes the size of her smallest finger nails. Then the round brush to scour the bulk out, to find the gun beneath the wear. Then, finally, the smallest brush. Softened tines polished the inside and refined the grooves carefully cut in the barrel to be more accurate. Once that was done, she snatched a small bottle from her belt and oiled the wool brushes as she used them, each in turn, to clear the barest of left over residue, reapply the alchemical oils that kept the Iron strong and accurate, as well as lubricated and clean.
She examined her Iron again as she reassembled in. Slower than she had pulled it apart, reliving the moments she had originally forged the gun. When she slid the Iron back in its larger holster on her left, she plucked the smaller Westington from the right holster and cleaned it as well, without the ceremony or nostalgia of the first. It was only coming on midnight when she had finished and cleaned her hands, both guns oiled and replaced in her belt. As she replaced her riding gloves, the moon moved perfectly over the lake that shared its shape, illuminating the water as if the two were a matched pair just finding each other.
Maria smiled at the night breeze and unfolded her forgepress and start humming the soft tune that stoked the fires. She counted her rounds out, then removed the brass from the small bag on her belt and counted them as well. She set out half of them on the roll in front of her and polished them as well with the oiled wool brushes. From the same bag the brass was in, she pulled out a block of lead, careful to keep it on her gloves, and set it on a melting pan above the forgepress’s flame and slid in a mold for her Iron. She still had plenty of rounds for the Westington left. As the metal heated, she took an alchemical flask from her pack and carefully filled the loading pan in the forgepress with enough firedust to load the rounds she needed.
The next several hours were spent with her humming and careful pressing of new rounds. As the molten lead dripped into the bullet mold, the alchemically sealed press poured a careful measure of firedust into the brass cartridges and sealed the container without the air needed to set them alight on their own. Each round took ten minutes on its own as care was needed not to destroy Maria and everything she owned by setting the powder alight all at once. The last round packed just as the sky began to open and the sun’s light threaded through the night’s darkness to bring the blue sky. Far before dawn, a morning that only the hunters and the hunted saw.
The hunters, the hunted, and apparently those who mastered the ferries and barges of the Moonfall and Moontear. Salusin the Boatmaster called out to her as she folded her forgepress again and rolled her gunroll together. She belted her pack together and put her belt back on as the boat tied off. “Aye, morning there Marshal. ‘Tis a fine day for our travel down the river.”
Maria smiled to the man. “It is. The morning smells sweet already and the sun has yet to show itself.”
“I hope you don’t mind my business, Marshal, but we’re to be takin’ another with us today. He’s a good man, a skindancer that is known to be a speaker of Those that Fly.”
Maria paused, her knife in its scabbard and her face relaxed into confusion. “A skindancer? Here? In the city of He That Lies With His Face? I thought they weren’t welcome on account of their affection for truth beyond fact and finance.”
“Aye, ’tis true they’re not commonly welcome but no one tells Old Crow where he may and may not go. So least as long as they don’t wish to upset his consort. The Black Wing doesn’t take kindly to those who even look askance at her wanderin’ truth teller. Let alone those that harass him.”
“Old Crow? As dangerous as The Lady of Ravens is I doubt she’s needed to protect him from what stories were told around the campfire when I was…instructed.”
The old boatsman chortled in a dark way as he came up the small dock, hand reaching out to the Marshal. “Aye, he’s a fair bit of a worry himself should you press him. Luckily all he does most times is speak in confounding riddles and procure good food and drink from that cloak he calls his wings.”
He came inside with Maria. The pair quietly made breakfast for everyone with the quiet precision of those who traveled often, and who valued the kitchen that comes with a room that does not constantly move and require everything inside to be packed and stored between meals. While the bacon and eggs were frying, while the Boatmaster flipped kettle cakes, Cassie rolled quietly out of bed and arranged herself. While Maria waited for the inevitable stream of complaints from the girl, Cassie responded instead with the one sound Maria had not heard from her – a subtle, small groan interspirsed with soft moans of oncoming fulfillment. “Is that breakfast? A real breakfast?”
Clearly the young lady was both impressed with her morning already and disappointed in how she had been fed thusfar.
“Si, miss. It is. Now get your dress on and get over here.” Maria returned to tending the bacon, expertly flipping it with just her travel knife while retrieving the thin metal plates left in the cupboards for just such an occasion.
“There will be another on our trip down the river, Cassie. Do not stare at him, and respect him even if he sounds mad. He is touched by his Host, and speaks in a confusing way.” She started to serve up the food onto the three plates, leaving some in the pan for the Boatsman to package. He knew how Old Crow liked his breakfast.
The girl sat with a thud onto one of the crude stools facing the open kitchen. “Who would want to travel with you, gunslinger?” The note of contempt for her, for anyone who spent as long in the dirt as she did, wasn’t hidden even with the Boatmaster there. Before Maria could snap at her again, though, the Boatmaster turned and dropped a small stack of kettle cakes on the girl’s plate. “Old Crow. And keep that tone to yourself unless you’d like a full inventory of how you’re failing the People of the Many Kingdoms with your inability to operate as a full human being and not a meager collection of urges, impulses, greed, and avarice.”
His tone, while strong, was not as powerful as the glare he gave the girl. He rudely dropped a ceramic decanter, obviously full of cassel syrup, on the preparation table. “Old Crow speaks a truth that cuts through to skin and bone much more readily than flame-licked iron or tempered whitemetal.”
Cassie turned her head to one side as she poured the syrup over everything on the plate, the rich smell of the sugars already filling the air. Much to Maria’s personal disgust – she couldn’t stand the sickly sweet tastes that city folk seemed to revel in. “Old Crow? He doesn’t sound like anyone dangerous, probably just one of the raindancers or the wind-speakers from the Wanderers.”
Maria wheeled then, taking her own place at the table. Her knife struck the wooden table point first and she glared at the girl, “I might kill you yet, Cassandra Hal Valistar, but Old Crow? He’ll make you shrink in yourself. He’ll make you doubt yourself and everything you ever thought. He’ll tell you that the wind blows to foil you and the earth will split open to swallow you and the sky turns its eyes away from you so not to look at you. Then he will laugh, a laugh without malice or frustration. A laugh that says that he finds joy in truth and fact, a laugh that says he is honestly amused because you, you are beneath his notice or anger. A laugh of pure and unadulterated focus on what matters and shows you how, given what he just told you, does not include you. Do not disrespect Old Crow.”
The Boatmaster chortled at this and sat with less drama next to the frayed Marshal. “She speaks the water’s truth and the fire’s fact, child. Best pay heed to-”
The door to the boathouse clattered loudly as a stooped man, a hand or two shorter than Maria, came in with aplomb but no ceremony. Perched on his head was a wide, flat black hat. The kind of hat that the Wanderers and the Herdmasters favored. Drapped around his shoulders, reaching all the way to the floor, was a cloak made of black, shining feathers. They still held their luster, as if still stuck to the crows and ravens they were from, rather than the hollow blackness of discarded feathers in flight. His face was hidden behind some kind of fine set of goggles, silvery arms twining around his ears to hold aloft two glittering black lenses. His smile was crooked, his teeth clean but arranged poorly. Like standing stones upon a field long since abandoned by those who set them. He moved with a clarity of movement that would be recognized by dancers as grace, and by fighters as caution and preperation. “Sorry to take from you the moment of your speech, dear master of the waterways, but I smelled upon the wind that a meal that was made with me in mind, and I am not one to be skipping promises made to me even when I am not around to hear them. Good people, it is a fine day for our travel, and my lover does whisper to me oh beautiful words to say that you are good people indeed. Where can I find that which shall silence my fast and greet the morning?”
Both the Boatmster and Maria nodded to the man as he came in. “Welcome, Old Crow.”
He grinned again, snatching the rolled up cakes offered by the Boatmaster. “A fine, fine welcome it is.”

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