Friday, June 14, 2013

Beyond the Leaning City Part 3

This one is longish and full of violence, drug use and maybe a laff or two.

Note- I deleted my G+ account because it is getting more and more like the forums every day and, you know, fuck that. Feel free to mail me if'n you want to talk, or say whatever (and I do mean whatever) in the comments of any post.

 

IV

Rise of the Fifth Moon

 

Kal selected a forest-green tunic and soft tan leggings; Unable to tolerate formal shoes, he passed over the soft, shiny toe-slippers and wore his scuffed trail boots instead. He found a flashy and wide bladed falchion at the rear of his armoire; the weapon was dull and poorly balanced, but it looked splendid, and with the sheath of supple, black hide and the matching sash of glossy charcoal, it seemed perfect for festival.

Thront wore a simple gray robe and a black ocular hood. He came down into the front hall and took a long look at Kal, who was posing before the glass with the falchion.

"You're looking rather warlike," he said.

"Its just for show." Kal tumbled across the carpet and slashed at the air with the falchion.

"Were going to the Festival of Five Moons, not the Rape of the Horn Coast."

Kal frowned. He sighed and dropped the falchion onto his dressing table.

They stashed the memory egg and Kal's static caster in a secret encystment under the courtyard floor and left the house.

An entire bottle of nhurr was taken from the world on their walk down to the ferry.

The ride across was pleasant enough. Revelers packed the decks, singing and laughing. Unexpectedly preoccupied with thoughts of Sursha, Kal remained silent; Thront planned the coming evening,

After they debarked, they joined the boisterous throng flowing along the quay, pausing only to acquire a fresh cask of nhurr at a stall near the mouth of the Boulevard of Happy Coincidence; Thront drove through the tap and secured the cask to his shoulder with a broad leather strap. So equipped the pair walked through the jammed streets, drinking, singing and laughing.

Vendors occupied every available space, and many unavailable ones as well; musicians played in the street; wealthy nort families, borne about en mass on palanquins, watched the jocular activity around them with aloof distance, veiled and tapered snouts bobbing above long-sectioned bodies.

Moving away from the pier and into the central, more constricted part of the city, Kal and Thront went from stall to stall, drinking retz, nhurr and Xurian fire brandy. Kal sampled several narcotics, and purchased a bunch of dreamfruit; he munched on one as the fifth moon glowed below the horizon.

Thront was nearby, they were on a terrace above the Thread, an especially narrow street in one of the leaning city's less reputable neighborhoods.

One bite, two.... Kal smacked his lips; they came together like two fat snakes.

Juice ran down his chin.

His mouth burned numb; below, above, the streetglows swayed.

He smiled, and reeled across the cafe to where Thront was engaged in an arm wrestling match with a large albino sauttyle. Kal paused, considered the match and contemplated the assailants; he leaned close and expelled a painfully loud wail of festive joy.

Someone splashed a drink in his face. Someone else shoved him. Kal laughed and stagger-danced away to the edge of the terrace. Below on the street, several figures hunched under the frame of a great paper Ux; they danced and shook the costume; its shredded wings trembled and swayed; nort in shaman's garb danced on the rooftops and in the streets; pipes trilled and drums rumbled; dark petals of the flower called 'Autumn Sadness' fell over the street like snow. Kal was caught in a swirling, and spiral blizzard of musical sky flecks.

Hooting, he scrambled up the steeply canted, ivy covered side of a wooden house; his feet hung out in space beneath him, pointing at the ground.

Nails pulled, wood creaked. Kal made the roof; below, Thront sang out in triumph- he'd won the arm wrestling match; above, the fifth moon was clearing the jagged western horizon and all five satellites occupied the sky simultaneously for the first time in five hundred years; fireworks: flares of crimson and blue and green and magenta and white traced across the night, exploding simultaneously- a thunderous announcement; The Festival of Five Moons commenced.

A tremendous cry went up; countless guns fired into the air; glass broke, young beings screamed, or laughed; people fell into the canal. Confused by the great clamor, leatherwings and vibrils blasted through the air above the city's alleys and narrow streets, frantic in the search for open sky.

Kal howled at the moons; flyers expelled shot up from the street below, the rustling, cooing flight surrounded him, and for a moment he felt that he flew with them, and then they were gone.

He was left with only the sky.

 

V

Death on the Street of Faces

 

Well after midnight, tired of the press of crowds, Kal and Thront took themselves, a fresh cask of nhurr, several plugs of drogo, some fruit, and a loaf of black bread to a concealed ledge along the Street of Faces.

"See the way that dancer was looking at me?" Kal said, he spoke of a rungian girl they'd seen perform in a cafe earlier.

"No." Thront manhandled the jug out of his companions grasp.

"She was." Kal got up and walked the edge of the scaffold heal to toe. "Looking right at me. Me. As in not at you."

Long practice allowed Thront to ignore Kal with ease; instead, he examined the near most sarcophagus. A rock fragment carved in accordance to the forms of the Delvoniat Hierarchy of Balance rested on the adjacent klutr shelf. An expensive piece, especially for a corpse, how could a dead being experience the true joy of such an item? Thront suppressed the desire to steal the sculpture, and looked below.

It was bad luck to fraternize with the dead during times of joy, therefore, The Street of Faces was closed by mandate of the Arch Beurophant during festival, but Thront could see a number other trespassers along the length of the tomb way. In fact, one group of several figures moved up the street with surprising boldness.

Thront turned to his companion. Kal was about to eat another dreamfruit. "Don't you think you've had enough of those?"

Kal made a rude motion with his tail, and bit into the fruit. His world constricted. Black shapes moved across the moon, and a flash of yellow. He took another bite. The shapes solidified; burning cold, fruit sap dribbled down his chin.

"This shouldn't be too difficult," said an unfamiliar voice.

"Keep your distance," Thront said. Kal watched the moons dance; he thought about leaping into space, but he had the vague notion that there was social activity transpiring around him. He tried to focus.

...

Yellowface talking.

"Just pass it over and we'll leave you be," Yellowface said.

Kal stepped back from the roof's edge and faced towards the interior. Several shapes crowded in a crescent around Thront and himself.

Meafles. Lots of them, too: maybe ten? Dressed in black toopas and carrying blaze-poles of gleaming, amber metal. Kal stumbled back a step, almost to the edge. Someone was retching among the tombs in the street directly below.

"-" Thront opened and closed his mouth.

What was this 'it' that they were after? Kal wondered. His vision wavered and liquefied around the edges. The time had come to get tough, and let these fellows know exactly where they stood.

"Forget it. Move along before you receive the beating of your life," Kal said.

Someone laughed. Kal thought of the fruit in his pouch. He thought of the shapes clouds make on blustery spring days, how sometimes if you look really hard you could see a face, or a bar of soap, or a vhane's head, or some other shape, or something...

One of the meafles took a step forward; his blaze-pole activated and he pointed the flickering, buzzing head at Kal's chest.

"Shut-" He flinched. Kal ducked under the pole tip, and tumbled forward; he rolled onto his hands, placed a precise toe-kick into the soft fur of the meafles throat, and followed up with a less elegant, but more forceful kick to the gut.

The meafle folded up into a gasping heap.

A bellow shook the rooftop- Thront charged, plowing into four of the meafles and sweeping them off the roof. Unfortunately, his shoulder-mounted cask was still quite full, and the sloshing weight of it pulled him over as well. Five shapes hurtled towards the pavement.

Kal found himself alone on the rooftop with six, possibly seven, but maybe four assailants, one of who was almost certainly unconscious, perhaps. He looked down; he was holding a blaze-pole in his grasp. Someone made an angry noise and reached for him; Kal jumped high and to his rear, performed a full aerial inversion, and fell head first towards the tiny ribbon of white marble below.

He thrust butt of the blaze pole at a klutr shelf, and used the force from the impact to vault onto the scaffolding on the other side of the street, one level down.

Upon landing, Kal deactivated the weapon and crouched in the darkness for an instant. His head swam. He remembered something about a fruit. He heard a commotion below. Thront was down there.

-But according to the marks on its stone lid the sarcophagus beside him had been interred during the Second Thidart Theocracy; Kal owned a vase from the same period; the nort of that time had been extremely competent artificers. The disturbance in the street beneath him continued. In fact, it seemed to be escalating; Kal leaned over the edge of the scaffold to see what it was all about; to his surprise he saw Thront in the street. He seemed to be involved in a row. With a bemused shake of the head Kal returned to his thoughts.

The most interesting thing about the Second Thidart Period was not the carving, however-

Meafles: a lot of them too; he counted ten. Why in the world was Thront beating them so?

- As stated, the primary feature of said era, from an archeological viewpoint that is, was the emergence of the nortish wind-harvesting technology. Somehow, between all the pogroms and inquisitions, the Thidartists had managed to build an awful lot of windmills- the noise from below was dreadful. Kal had tolerated it as long as could be expected, longer even; he found it impossible to think under such conditions or even to keep facts clear, much less extrapolate and draw conclusions.

Kal sprang from the scaffold and plummeted to the street below; he landed with a rolling somersault and came up behind the meafles.

Cornered, Thront held a stone bench over his head; his eye was narrow and mean, a trickle of blood ran down the exterior of his ocular node, but otherwise, he appeared to be uninjured.

The street itself, at least in Thront's immediate vicinity, was a shambles; several of the caskets were torn out of their moorings- former occupants, mummified and unconcerned, relaxed in the gutter; nhurr dribbled down the walls, and pooled on the uneven cobbles; fragments of the broken keg were everywhere; three dead meafles stretched across the pavement.

Thront raised the stone bench high. A red flush colored his chitin; he bellowed and rushed forward.

Meafles flinched and dodged, several stepped backward towards Kal, who activated his blaze-pole and charged; purple energy hissed as it passed through the air.

Kal became distracted at the last instant, and his first strike went completely wide; the buzzing head of the blaze-pole impacted full on with an ebony sarcophagus, smashing the chiseled snout at its base. A terrible noise- like a cross between the emasculation lament of a north plain forest zpracht, and the surfacing warble of ten thousands rack-faced thurms- filled the street. Sparks jumped; razor sharp crystalline shards skipped across the air; huge, stone nostrils were knocked asunder; separate, but largely intact, they skittered and hard-bounced across the marble.

The tumultuous spectacle afforded Thront a chance to brain two more of his assailants. Another fell, knocked senseless by a fast moving, fist-sized tomb fragment.

Kal charged on. Four meafles remained standing. He somersaulted over them, howled and struck down with the blaze-pole.

He came to ground behind them, and launched into a bizarre, taunting, manic dance. Drool trailed from his mouth, and his hair stood out at strange, unsettling angles; his tail lashed in a jerking, crazy fashion. He waved the blaze-pole around over his head, creating glowing magenta loops of crackling energy while beating his chest with one fist; he thrust his pelvis at the meafles, blew his nose in their direction, growled like feral vermin, and gave voice to a lot of screaming, incoherent, drunken, drug induced nonsense.

Next, he exploded up into the air, bouncing from scaffold to scaffold. Whirling and twisting in an impossibly complex pattern, he struck at the crystal lanterns that hung above the boulevard.

He smashed each and every one of the lamps and, upon the shattering of the last, dropped to the street like a thrown harpoon; his garments rustled and snapped in the wind of his passage; unraveled, his sash trailed behind him, like a second tail. He came down amidst a hail of fire and the harsh chime of breaking glass; taking the impact on his left knee, he rang the butt of the blaze pole against the cobbles.

His face smeared with blood and ashes, he crouched motionless under the eyes of the dead; burning debris rained down around him.

Of the surviving meafles, only the fading sounds of their flight remained.

Thront dropped the bench and leaned against a wall. He was breathing heavy; he looked down at his companion, who remained motionless.

An alarm gong sounded. And again.

"We'd better go," Thront said.

"Sure." Kal stood. "Who were they, and why were they so mad?"

"We never really got that far," Thront said. He started back up the scaffolding, dragging Kal along behind him.

Dawn's light was on the waves by the time they got to the ferry. Kal went through his pockets en route, and was surprised to find that he still possessed a dreamfruit.

Thront snatched it away and hurled it over the side.

7 comments:

  1. Thront is my favorite, still.

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  2. he's a reasonable fellow who has made some questionable choices in terms of friends.

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  3. Interesting sort of approach in the last bit there. Modern (i.e. not like most science fantasy) in presentation, which I think is a good thing.

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  4. Thanks. I really have no idea what I'm doing.

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  5. I've really enjoyed reading this. To me, the historical tidbits are as amusing as the action and dialogue.

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  6. Thank you. I'll post the next section on friday.

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  7. Nice read, I agree with Trey's point and enjoy your writing style. The most recent passage were Kal's impressions of the 5th moon's ascension were described was lush and poetic. It's shaping up to be a nice yarn. Keep 'em coming.

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