Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike & Promo to the Left of me, Promo to the Right – by Free Range Oyster

*Sorry this is late.  I actually did have technical difficulties with WP.  Also, okay, I’m a little afraid of this week’s word for the vignette.  What were they thinking?  – SAH*

Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: leather

Promo to the Left of me, Promo to the Right – by Free Range Oyster

I’ve nothing witty to say, so rather than attempt and get only half way, let me say that you are a wonderful bunch of folks, and I hope you enjoy these books. All hail the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess! As always, future entries for the promo post can (and should!) be sent to the new email that I messed up last time! Happy reading!

Jason Dyck, AKA The Free Range Oyster

Muse Denier, Shenanigan Enabler, Totally Not a Vegetable

TL Knighton

Sabercat

Tommy Reilly Chronicles Book 1

Despite his rich-kid roots, Tommy Reilly is struggling to make it as a freighter captain. Despite a universe of possibilities, he finds himself running afoul of both pirates and corrupt bureaucrats who seem determined to get in his way at every point. It’s like karma for his bullying past is smacking him in the back of the head.

All of that changes when a figure from his past asks for his help.

Now he’s finding himself at odds with a greedy and overly ambitious business owner who has government backing who happens to be the same man who impounded the very load he needs on his ship. The fact that the load is only the first step in securing information that could bring down the status quo might have something to do with that, however.

Tommy and his crew of misfit rejects have to use skills most of them would rather forget to secure their load, all with eyes watching them everywhere.

Alma TC Boykin

Grasping for the Crowns

The Powers Book 2

Armies and peoples clash and the Powers stir.

The war that began in 1914 grinds through 1916, tearing apart countries and families. István Eszterházy struggles to keep his family fed and his House intact, as British, Italian, and now American treachery threatens to rip the Habsburg Empire asunder. The war is winnable, but the peace the Entente demands could undo centuries of work.

And the land itself stirs as the Powers, poisoned by hatred and fed by war, begin to move. Caught between Pannonia and Galicia, between his family and his liege, István must find a way through. Or the entire empire may collapse around him.

Francis Porretto

Innocents

A novel of the Onteora Canon, set in the very near future. Genetic engineering and zygotic microsurgery have produced both wonders and horrors. Wonders such as drugs tailored to attack a specific disease in a specific sufferer, or surgery to eliminate genetically borne handicaps before mitosis can begin. Horrors such as blindness or deafness deliberately inflicted upon unborn babies, or pitiable creatures whose bodies and minds are warped to satisfy the whims of wealthy perverts.

Security specialist Larry Sokoloff is on vacation far from home, straining to forget a woman he loves but cannot have, when Fountain, a teenaged escapee from a malevolent institution, comes under his protection. What he learns of her nature and origins lays bare the darker face of the Janus of biotechnology, and catapults him and his colleague Trish McAvoy into a mission of vengeance and cleansing. For adults only.

JD Beckwith

eConscience Beta

Peacekeeper Incorporated’s breakthrough nanotechnology could bring repeat offense crime to an end, freeing society from the need for criminal incarcerations. But first, they have to finish testing it. With funding on the line, and time to prove out the project getting short, the lead scientist must find a way speed things up. That’s unfortunate for his guinea pig, and anyone who would stand in his way.

Can the goal of ending most crime justify committing one… even a few?

And what happens when you conflate altruism with egotism?

Find out in eConscience Beta, where two lab techs and an uncouth petty criminal must outwit a brilliant but sociopathic scientist who’ll stop at nothing to establish his legacy as the man who ended crime.

 

72 responses to “Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike & Promo to the Left of me, Promo to the Right – by Free Range Oyster

  1. “Gimme some skin!”
    “Uh, I’d best not.”
    “Damn, you’re uncool.”
    “Think about it. I need my skin – more than anyone else does.”
    “Aww, come on…”
    Bill interrupted, “Give it up, Charlie. Consider species and all.”
    Charlie blinked, finally realizing what he’d been suggesting. “Uh, sorry. Forgot.”
    The minotaur sighed.

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “What happened to Fred? I thought that Dragon Leather Armor of his would protect him from any thing?”

    “Not from Dragons. Of course, Dragon Leather Armor makes the wearer into a Target.”

    “Let me guess, a target for Dragon attacks”.

    “Yep.”

  3. The whiff of smell coming from the building was enough to turn anyone’s stomach. Nick held his nose and walked up to the door and looked inside at the masses of tubs full of god knew what. Well, he did have an idea. After all leather tanning was thoroughly documented in history as a smelly business.

  4. “I just don’t think it will work.”
    “Why not? It’s a hide, and you said you’ve got all the chemicals to tan a hide, right?”
    “That’s just it, I’m not sure a traditional tanning process will even work on this.”
    “But you won’t even try? Really?”
    “Okay, okay! I give up, Janet – Look, now that we’ve got a surplus of water from your ‘vaporators on the south ridge, I can rig up a tanning vat in a survival shelter away from the main hab. I’ll try. No promises.”
    “Oh, thank you Bill – I just can’t wait to comm those greenie idiots back home that not only does Mars have Sandworms, but I’m making a Sandworm Leather vest out of the one that tried to eat me.”

  5. “Why, that impertinent whelp,” exclaimed the Dean, looking at the article asserting “Getting spanked as a kid linked to dating violence as an adult.” He had no business publishing that research before review and approval, especially given the study’s weak correlation and small sample size.

    “I’ll tan his miserable hide.”

  6. “Dragon hide beats leather every time. It’s more durable, softer, and more fashionable. Bright emerald green with a beautiful pattern.”

    “Don’t the dragons take offense when you try to claim it?”

    “They molt, so it’s just a matter of buying their extra. Give them the cow you’d have used otherwise.”

  7. Samantha walked around Mason’s bike taking in the carbon fibre frame, aerodynamic spokes, low swept lines and curves of the drop down handle bars. It looked fast even leaning against the post. Her eye’s stopped when they got to the bike seat. She paused and looked at Mason with a quirked eyebrow.
    He smiled bashfully, “Yeah, suede leather. Does kind of stick out on it doesn’t it? More comfortable for me on those long distance rides.”

  8. Mirren looked around at his group of veterans. Their faces were leathery from years spent in the open air in all weathers, but that didn’t matter – so was his. What counted were the expressions on those faces, and each of them showed as confident and eager. ‘We can do this!’

  9. Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
    OMG, it’s happening again! BAD THOUGHTS!! Go AWAY, Bad Thoughts!!

    • Easy, easy. We all take some jobs that we don’t like, and polishing NBA-players dress shoes is more honorable than most. Even if Shaq still has that bounty on your head for getting brown polish on his custom bi-colored cordovan wingtips. He’ll forget after a few more years.

    • I had an innocent gag with the punch line “Who knew Santa was into leather?” but I think I’ll pass.

      • “Rudolph was lucky that he never played in the Reindeer Games- They play for keeps!”
        “But wouldn’t the experience have better socialized him, plus have given him experience in winning and losing?”
        “Not so’s you’d notice, no.”
        “But…”
        “Where do you think the leather for the sleigh harness comes from?”

  10. Olivia shrugged on her coat,told the room genie to wake itself up in a few hours and sauntered out the door with a spring in her step. Outside the cadet’s dorm and into the gathering dusk, a friendly voice. “Hey Harper, wait up! Nice jacket too, is it a replica?” “No way” replied Olivia, “Genuine twen-cen leather jacket. Belonged to my Granda.”

  11. This is mildly off-topic, and I hesitate to bring it up because writers (aspiring and otherwise) hardly need more reasons to do something other than write, but I thought this game soon-to-be-published would intrigue many here:

    http://ossgamescart.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=106

    The first paragraph of the description from the website:

    “Arc of the Kaiser’s Last Raider (Last Raider for short) puts you in the position of a writer of pulp fiction during the 1920s in which you are trying to complete an adventure fiction novel set some time during World War I on the high seas. You, the writer, are trying to construct a story arc in which the narrator of your novel, the commander of a German high seas raider in 1917, is trying to find a lost secret somewhere in the South Seas which, if he can return it to a port in Europe, will change the course of the World War raging in Europe. This objective is represented by an Objective card.”

  12. “Leather was thirty years old today.”

    No, no, no. His name is Lather, not Leather.

    What kind of a name is Lather?

    It’s this cokehead’s nickname, because he’s always foaming at the mouth.

    Um… ok… but… why are we writing about cokeheads?

    It’s a parable. You know… a teachable moment.

  13. Many thanks for the promo!

  14. It took me three weeks to find it, scouring the stores and shops of New York. It was, for all intents and purposes, the Perfect Leather Jacket. Flat and unadorned black leather with a chrome zipper, it was just a bit below my waistline and it fit perfectly. When zipped closed, it could cover my 36C breasts even wearing a sweater, with enough space for future growth. The collar fit just right that I could get away with a scarf when I had it zipped up, either under or over. I could stick my wallet, my cell phone, a note pad, a multi-tool, and pens in the pockets and not mess up the lines at all. And, the price when I found it in the vintage shop was not so much a steal as armed robbery in my favor.

    When looking at the label and checking it out, the label said that this jacket was made in the early 1980s, and I can believe it. Even after I had put leather moisturizer and polish on it, it had the battered look of a long-service soldier in the wars, and even when shined, it looked and felt like it had been long-worn and well cared for.

    A bit more examination suggested that I could actually weave magic circuits into the leather’s structure, which meant I could armor this jacket and have nobody be the wiser.

  15. The thin round leather cords were smooth and pliant in her fingers as she began tying the next intricate knot. The pattern of two black with a bronze between gave a pleasing effect to the Celtic design. It was her favorite motif.

    Woodturning was her passion, but here in the desert the summers were too hot, the winters too chill to permit her aging body to dance with the lathe. So she had taught herself to create simple jewelry using wire, wood, and leather. Turning demanded agility and stamina. Wirework required precision. But leather needed only patience, to weave the strands over, under, and thru, adjusting the tension of each one so the completed band would lay flat and smooth and even.

    In the quiet room the braid lengthened steadily. Faintly thru the window she could hear quail squabbling over birdseed scattered in the gravel as she wove the soft leather. Loop around, then over, under, over. Pull the knot closed gently, then tweak each cord into place. It wasn’t woodturning, but it was still satisfying to her inner Maker.

  16. “Takeshi Mori’s panel will start in fifteen minutes, but the line’s been building for a while.” Yosh gestured at the ballroom doors as they came up the escalator.

    “I’ll say.” Tanner was staring down the hallway at the assorted cosplayers and fans lined up in various states of bored and excited. “Wonder how long the fanservice has been there?”

    “What?” Tanner followed his line of sight to a gal who’d turned a black leather trenchcoat into a sleeping bag, arms curled up and only a shock of deep green hair sticking out the top of the softly creased and worn leather. She must have shifted in her sleep, though, because two long and shapely legs were spilling out of the trenchcoat, barely saved from indecency by a twisted spill of turquoise silk clinging to her ass and showing the barest hint of bright red thong.

    Lined up along the beautiful curves were a variety of small gifts, from pocky to plushies to unopened cans of soda, left by admiring passerby as an impromptu shrine to exhausted fangirl.

    • I don’t know whether that’s endearing, provocative or a little disquieting, but a tremendously vivid scene.

      • As they neared the fanservice, headed for the end of the line, Yosh felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Looking past the sleeping woman, hidden in plain daylight between the wall and the incredibly distracting curves, the owner of the oversized black leather trenchcoat loomed with a mountain’s patience in a seated lotus, wooden kendo sword resting naked across broad, muscular thighs.

        Yoshi swallowed hard, and nodded to the gentleman, noting in passing that the man’s biceps were almost as big as Yoshi’s own decidedly flabby legs. Fanservice’s Guardian nodded back, dark eyes measuring him and dismissing him as not a threat. The hair on the back of his neck didn’t lie down until he was safely around the corner, and out of sight.

      • And I can totally see it happening at some ComicCons.

        Be interesting if the young lady turns out to be a low-rank kitsune who sort of OD’d on the fun.

  17. Tarl Cabot’s nightclub, Leather & Love, opened strongly but soon failed after an inexplicable lack of repeat customers…

  18. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Leather stretched as she bent over the railing. The petite reaper from Charlotte took a deep breath, and exhaled, calming her temper and nerves. She inhaled again, for volume. “Would you noisy gentlemen kindly be chivalrous enough to keep it down to where it won’t wake the dead? Thanks tremendously.”

  19. “That’s a mighty fine shooting iron you’re concealing in awfully plain leather,” observed a voice through an antique translation unit.

    Wyatt turned to face the speaker. It was a Squid, not an actual Terran cephalopod, but an alien race which looked like the Captain of the Flying Dutchman from those old Disney pirate movies. Or like something from a Lovecraft novel. They didn’t like the designation Squid, but since their actual species name was unpronounceable by ninety percent of the galaxy, it stuck.

    “What can I do you for?” Wyatt asked as politely as he could. A little bit of politeness could get you a long way in the greater galaxy. Most starfarin’ races thought the Terran ideal of chivalry was quaint and endearing and adhering to it was the current fad among the traders of the various groups.

    “I heard you were fast,” the Squid said.

    Wyatt hated that his parents thought naming him after some Old Western legendary figure was a good idea. It was going to get him killed one day.

    “Sir,” Wyatt responded, clearing the retention strap on his pistol, “This is not something you want to do. Either I’ll be dead, and you’ll be wanted for murder; or you’ll be dead.”

    The squid moved his head side to side in the environmental bubble he wore. “It’s not murder to terminate an unfinished mammal.”

    Wyatt was sure his body-cam recorded the obvious threat, and he cleared his pistol from the battered leather holster. The Ruger Vaquero Rail-Gun spat a 4mm frangible dart and the Squid before the alien’s fancy sidearm cleared it holster the Squid was down, his environmental suit spewing the noxious atmosphere the Squids needed to survive.

    Wyatt holstered his weapon with a sigh at the stupidity of it all.

  20. This shows a bit of Holm’s younger years. It’s a mostly complete story, unlike the rest.

    The Lady of Frogs

    The woman tied to the pole was slender, young, and not unpleasant to look at. Curly waves of inky black hair cascaded nearly to her narrow waist, her skin pale in the flickering torchlight, but her expression remained sternly disapproving. Exotic amber eyes took in every detail, and found them each and every one to be lacking.

    It made no difference to the red painted swamp men. They danced wildly to the thundering drums, leaping high and slamming down their broad feet with cracks that shook the platform. The trills and hoarse, croaking shouts of the onlookers urged them on, over and over, until they fell to the ground, writhing in savage ecstasy. Females of the painted tribe milled about as the drums muttered themselves to silence, and the gathering fell once more to feasting.

    It would be high irony, she thought, to die here. Sacrificed upon an altar of alien gods, eaten alive, or married to their fat, crazy eyed chieftan- death would follow that, soon enough. If not before. She suppressed a shudder. A barbaric people such as these was ill-suited to join with the kingdoms in alliance. They would be as like to eat the messenger as treat with them.

    Someday, a withered old historian would put pen to page, perhaps with a dry chuckle on his lips, on how Amitha, Lady of Frogs, was eaten by the Frog People.

    That wasn’t her official title, of course. It was only the one that stuck, hung on an awkard, skittish child adopted into Duke Thornblood’s household. Last in line to inherit she may be, but the adoption was legitimate. The Duchess’ last child had died before his fifth birthday. The Duke had brought her home and presented the little girl to his wife after picking her up by the side of the road. Amitha’s real parents were a mystery even to her.

    Growing up the odd one out hadn’t won her any friends, but even the tannery they’d locked her in hadn’t smelled quite as bad as this. Or perhaps it had, and her memory was protecting her. A slight shift in the breeze brought the smell of the cookpots her. She gagged, and tried to breathe through her mouth. It didn’t help much.

    She tried to shift around, but her bad leg wouldn’t suffer her weight. She pitched to the side, and her shoulders burned as she puller herself back up with a pained gasp. This drew attention to her, something she had been avoiding for most of the night.

    Like all of his race, the swamp man was short and fat, but with thick legs. She had seen them spring from the muck to great heights, pulling men from horseback wrestling them down to drown in the mud. None of the escort had survived. The giggling savages had only spared the women to carry them back to this wretched place. The tribesman peered up at her, picking his nose. She scowled back at him. He reached out to touch the material of her dress, and she attempted to kick his hand away.

    A larger version of the one before her walked by and slammed his club into the back of the first one’s head. It fell with a thud, and was dragged away by two of the females that followed the big one. Apparently it wasn’t time for whatever they were doing with her.

    Amitha could see the other girls from the caravan across the way. Nobles and serving girls, all with faces streaked with tears and exhausted by their emotion. They’d screamed the whole way. The serving girls at least had fought back with frenzied strength for all the good it had done them. Outnumbered and woefully ill-equipped to defend themselves on their own, they’d been tied up and hauled away just the same, over the shoulder of some sweaty savage who screamed his own triumph all the way back.

    Her own prison was a simple pole driven hard into a gap in the platform, and her own hands tied up tight over her head. It was effective enough for a cripple. They’d run out of pre-prepared prisons, it seemed, but weren’t willing to just butcher her and drop her in a pot. Small blessings.

    She smelled smoke now. The slight wind had shifted again, blowing from the west side of the camp. Not the stinking reek of whatever weak wood these primitives burned, this was different. It reminded her of oil lamps and chilly evenings in the study at home, bundled up against the winter cold. She wondered who would next find that tiny room in the north tower, with its old books and high windows. Perhaps another little girl would-

    Amitha suddenly found herself with her cheek against the rough boards of the swamp platform. A wash of heat penetrated the tent that had fallen on her, and she kicked and twisted to free herself from its clinging folds. As it her face came free, she twisted frantically away. The ruined tent was on fire. Everything was on fire.

    Her hands were still bound tight, but the pole was now broken, shorter than before. The sharp end at least gave her some sort of weapon, she thought. Little good it would do her, but she would not go meekly if the swamp men came for her again.

    Only her end of the platform was aflame, and she shuffled as best she could away from the worst bits. As wet as everything was, it surprised her how well it burned. Perhaps it was like those oily snapdragon flowers that the gholmen grew in the far east. Amitha leaned on her pole as a crutch as best she could, but it was hard going sometimes her bad leg supported her, sometimes it had no strength at all. It was maddening.

    Further down towards the water, a battle raged. Tall figures in bright mail were hacking and stabbing in a furious melee. She saw a painted tribesman leap high, undoubtedly attempting to bear down one of the armored figures, but was caught by an upraised pike and tossed aside. Another wielded a massive blade, cleaving a tribesman nigh in two before he could leap. More and more savages joined the attack, and she saw one knight get pulled down, only to rise again a brief moment later covered in blood and muddy water. Smaller than the rest, which was probably why he got knocked down in the first place, he stepped back into the line of battle immediately, unsheathing another blade. He and the man with the giant sword led the knights forward, inch by bloody inch.

    She tore her eyes away from the fight. The platform was still burning, and the other captives needed to be freed, lest they burn to death after all that had happened already. But the terrain had changed with the blast, and she could not see the others wherever she looked. They had been on the east side before. Opposite where the blast that freed her originated from. Grimly, Amitha hobbled slowly forward.

    The smoke now bore the smell of roasting meat. Corpses, most like. She tried to cover her nose and mouth with her sleeve, with partial success. It did not help much. The smell was everywhere, mingling with the musty, dank smell of the swamp.

    The debris of blown down tents and the bits and bobs that had been within them littered her path. The occasional body lay here and there, none moving, thank goodness. Armed she may be, but Amitha held no illusions where her ability to defend herself lay. The dropped clubs here and there would be no improvement.

    Here and there were some sort of structure. Ill-fitted trunks propped up sagging roofs, but they must be sturdy, for they stood when all else had fallen. She peeked into the first one, but the smell inside nearly overwhelmed the smoke. It was dark, besides. She ignored the next two, dark as the first. The smoke, as sickeningly like cook-fires as it was, stood as improvement.

    At last she saw the cages. Women and girls huddled low in them, some finding the strength for more tears but they were weary sobs, not the dramatic things of court. The doors were secured with simple crossbars. Their inhabitants had no way to reach them for themselves, and were constantly watched- save now. Amitha managed to get the first one loose through a combination of luck and her bad leg giving out on her. Between her own weight and the weight of the bar, it came loose and twisted out of her hands, falling to the platform with a muffled thud.

    “Hst. Come out, quickly. We’ve got to get the others before we all burn alive.” The maids gathered themselves first, and led Lady Gina and her sister out with them.

    “Thank you, thank you young lady. I don’t know how you escaped those brutes, and I shall not ask. Best we escape this place quickly, while we can.” Amitha’s expression blanked. The implication was an ugly one, but Lady Gina had always been ugly- on the inside. Her perfumed bosom had lured more than a few lord’s sons- briefly. It was once she opened her mouth that they usually ran away.

    “We will all be escaping shortly. There is a force of knights down by the water engaging the tribesman at the moment. Right now we need to rescue the rest of our party.” Lady Gina attempted to look down her nose at the younger woman. The effect was somewhat spoiled by having to first look up.

    “Nonsense! We-”

    “I am not entertaining debate, Lady Gina.” She turned to the maids. “Ali, Setty, Bianca, come with me. Your ladies are nearby, I believe.” Amitha turned and hobbled away as best she could. Ali and Setty stuck close to her, while Bianca’s broad back led the way. She didn’t know any of them very well, but Bianca’s lady had struck her as an earthy, pragmatic sort from the Border lands. That attitude seemed to be reflected in her lady’s maid.

    The second cage went much easier, with the three common women managing the locking mechanism without her help. What little help she could offer, she reflected bitterly. Nobody asked for help from a cripple. The ladies inside proved to be as she suspected, and then some. No less than five noble ladies and six maids were freed, and still there was a third cage to open. It proved to be no difficulty, and the last of the captives wept for joy as she was freed. Lady Saev was even younger than Amita, and much prettier, in an innocent, waif-like way. At least on the outside. One of the few noble ladies that would talk to her, at least in private, she’d proved to have the most amazing knowledge of dirty jokes, and a wicked sense of humor. For her own protection, she avoided the ‘Lady of Frogs’ in public, but Amita didn’t care. Much.

    A scream from behind them proved to be Lady Gina, scrambling back to the main group in a most un-ladylike sprint, holding her skirts up as she ran. Behind her, through a gap between two dilapidated shacks came more of the painted tribe. They slowed as they approached the escaped captives. One turned to his companions and grunted something in their crude language, gesturing at women. The others smiled appreciatively. Their sniggering laughter and lewd expressions left little to the imagination. There were five of them, but their hands were empty. They didn’t seem to think they’d need a weapon to handle what were, after all, merely women.

    She didn’t know where it came from, but all of a sudden she was heartily sick of this. Sick of bing the ‘Frog Lady.’ Sick of being slow and crippled. Sick of being looked down on. Sick of being captured. Sick of being helpless. Sick of Lady my-chamber-pot-doesn’t stink Gina. Sick to death of bullies.

    “With me, Ladies!” Amita shouted, and stabbed the first one in his protruding gut. She leaned on the pole, jerking it from side to side to get it back out. Then she stabbed him again. And one more time in the neck, just to be sure. Beside her, Bianca was beating one with the cage’s heavy locking bar. Lady Saeve had a burning brand in her hand, and was stabbing it forward at the faces of two others, while her maid pelted them with pots and bits of wood. Another was down on the ground, two women holding the makeshift garrote that was strangling him to death. The last had Lady Gina by the ankle, who was shrieking and kicking frantically at has head while two of the maids stabbed him in the back with thick splinters of wood. Apparently she hadn’t been the only one sick of being captured, she thought.

    More tribesman passed the little alleyway, headed away from the water. Amita leaned on her pole and gestured the others to pull the bodies out of view. They hid themselves as well, but it wasn’t long before more tribesman came their way. In ones and twos, tribesmen entered the little area by the cages. None left.

    They did not manage this unscathed. One girl had a large bite on her leg. They tried to stanch the bleeding, but only managed to slow it. The girl fainted, and was being tended as best they could manage, but if they didn’t get some help soon she would likely perish. All the women had some bruises and cuts by now. Even the noble ladies’ makeup was a hopeless mess, their dresses nearly rags. How thin this layer of civilization appears on us, she thought. Steeling herself for the next ambush, Amita peered out of their little corner. So far she’d been the only one brave enough to do so. The others hid deeper in.

    Twelve, this time. She sighed quietly. It had been good while it lasted. There was nowhere to go but the way they came in. Which was now blocked. She peeked out again. They were turning around, backing down the little space between the shacks. Why would they…?

    One tribesman’s head exploded in a shower of gore. Another pitched forward, trying to stuff his guts back in, as if that would help. The knights were here. As the first one backed even with her hiding place, Amita stabbed him in the throat. That seemed to be the best spot for her stick to go in, they went down and stayed down faster that way. Stab them in the gut, sometimes they kept going for what seemed like hours. Bianca with her trusty bar slammed it down on another’s head. She stabbed at another, and missed, but a flaming brand struck that one in the face. She stuck at a third one, but he ducked. Her pole went in this one’s eye, and wouldn’t come back out no matter how hard she pulled.

    She was still trying to get her pole back when she realized things had quieted down again. The lead knight cleared his throat. It echoed strangely in his helm.

    “Ah. Are you ladies the, ah, members of the caravan? The Lord Gint’s expedition, I mean?” For such a large man, he seemed strangely hesitant. Amita stood, putting her hand out to lean on the shack in case her bad leg chose this moment to betray her. Before she could respond, he spoke again.

    “Of, of course you are. My deepest apologies, my lady. Ah. I believe it is, I mean it should be, shouldn’t it Holm?” The smaller man reached up and clapped the larger on the shoulder. He and the rest of the men went back out, kicking the bodies to the side as they went. They didn’t need to hide anything, Amita thought with a sudden bit of mirth. A low whistle sounded from the platform outside.

    “Um. If you will, I mean it would be my honor to-” His words stumbled to a halt as Amita took his outstretched gauntlet. This would work. She could lean on a shoulder like an invalid with the best of them. Amita smiled.

    Outside on the platform, she saw piles upon piles of bodies. “Cannibals,” the large knight said. He seemed to be getting over his earlier awkwardness. “Or predators, at any rate. I don’t know if these qualify as a race of Man.” Amita scrunched her eyebrows together in thought.

    “A race of man, most likely. They have not the pointed ears of the Fey Folk, nor the tusks of the Unghols of the East. From what I’ve read, they could be a more primitive form of man that never gained civilization.” She paused, hesitant. “At least, if you believe Saint Cistercia’s text on the forms of Man over the Ages, that is.” He laughed, and it was not the booming, braying laugh she expected of him. It was a boyish laugh of pure enjoyment, and it made him seem much younger than she’d first suspected when she saw him hewing down foes like a lumberjack.

    “As a matter of fact… I have read Saint Cistercia, and I’d not have suspected more than ten others in the kingdoms had. Wherever did you find a text, if I may be so bold? Saint Michaels has one of the few remaining copies, and to the best of my knowledge there aren’t but a handful left today.” Amita stumbled, leaning hard on the man’s arm for a moment before she caught her balance. Damn leg again. Bloody annoyance is what it was.

    “In my father’s house, of course. Duke Thornblood, that is. We’ve quite a collection of books. It’s nowhere near the size of the royal library at Tynning of course.” She sighed. “Someday I’d like to see it. Well, not just see it mind you, I want to browse through their shelves for as long as they’ll let me. If not for my duties, I would apply to the royal librarian- but of course I can’t.” She smiled again. Amita couldn’t say why she was babbling her heart’s fondest desire just now. Perhaps it was the exhilaration of simply being alive. They continued walking slowly down to the water.

    She could see a barge out there, lit by torches and held fast against the slight current. A large vessel, it would have to back out into the main waterway. There appeared to be a mechanism for the rudder at both ends. She wondered if there was only one, and they carried it back and forth, or if both had its own.

    “Ah. This won’t do at all,” the knight said as they approached the water. As ruined as her dress was, soaked in blood and gore and soot, a little water would do it naught but good. But he swept her up into his arms and carried her out to the barge, where most of their party was already waiting. Only the smaller man called Holm and a small force of men stayed behind. Just in case. Probably a wise precaution, she thought, remembering the poor men who had guarded their caravan. How they had fought, and fought beyond the strength of what she thought mortal men could bear- but the numbers were too great.

    “Oh. Um. I am Kreigen. I should’ve, ah, said so before. But well. Ah.” She fought down a laugh. It wouldn’t do to discourage him at this point, he’d take forever to nerve himself back up to it. He lifted her up onto the deck. She sat, her eyes level with his. Standing, he was a good few inches taller- not many men were. For all the trouble her bad leg caused her, she didn’t lack in height when she could stand.

    “Amita, of Thornblood.” She stopped, then went on. Might as well pluck that thorn out rather than worrying at it. “ ‘Lady of Frogs,’ that’s what they used to call me,” she added softly. He snorted derisively as he clambered onto the barge. He took off his helm, and a bushy black beard flowed out. His high forehead showed a receding hairline, as if all the hair on his head were fleeing to his chin. Twinkling blue eyes smiled down at her, but it was a fragile sort of smile. I bet he thinks he’s not handsome at all, she thought.

    “If they say that, they are fools, m’lady. Someone who reads as widely, with as much native intelligence as yourself will always be looked at with some jealousy by those who find themselves lacking. Ah. If you don’t mind me saying so.”

    The warmth of those words stayed with her, as she washed, her clothes and herself, behind a screen on the barge with the other women. Lady Gina had taken herself straight to bed with all her stink. The rest of them had set to their own task with soap and a frenzied sort of will to be, well, normal again, she supposed. Clean skin and hair, clean clothes, if a bit damp. For a wonder, some of their luggage had survived.

    That night- she found out later that the ladies’ quarters were hastily requisitioned from the knights and men-at-arms, she laid her head down on the pillow, feeling warm and safe. She’d caught sight of the trunks her pallet rested on in the dim light. ‘K.’ His pillow. It smelled of soap and leather. Good smells, she thought. Like home.

  21. Into the valley of books, rode the bookshops.
    “Hot diggety” quote she!

  22. Lord Gart drew up a leather satchel and pulled from it sheets of paper. “Warrants for you to obtain what you need,” he said, handing them over.
    They had been written in the flamboyant calligraphy. They didn’t stint on ink. The letters were black, but the curlicues and flourishes came in scarlet, green, royal blue, gold.

  23. Please vote. Time is short and we only have a three-way tie thus far. I’m sure you can get it to four.

    https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/165250-which-work-about-king-arthur-should-we-read-in-january

  24. “So what particular era do you like time traveling to?” asked Jennifer.
    “I’m partial to the 1800s. Old west America.”
    “Ugh! What on earth for?”
    “It’s the cow towns. The saloons, and the Houses of Ill Repute. I have a thing for bad booze, bad music, old leather and lace.”

  25. Without meaningless words would most politicians be able to say a thing?

    The Politics of Meaningless Words
    By Sarah Hoyt
    Sometimes talking to leftists could better be accomplished with interpretive dance routines, or perhaps by miming our meaning.

    For weeks now, I’ve been stewing over a yard sign in one of the more virtue-signally parts of Denver Colorado. The sign was bi-colored and two-part, and the top said “We Believe in Science” while the bottom said, “No human being is illegal.”

    Understand, I didn’t oppose the meaning of those words on that sign, because those words were nonsensical. Or, to quote from one of my favorite books, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, “null program.”

    I mean, let’s take “we believe in science.” Uh. Does that mean that they believe in the scientific method? Or that they believe that in general science arrives at the right conclusion? And do they mean all science or a particular science? Is this an expression of support for the more abstruse and “artistic” of sciences, mathematics? My husband thanks you. Does it reveal their enthusiasm for quantum mechanics? Do the member of this family gather every Sunday morning for a ritual recitation of chemical formulas and physics equations?

    Expressing (or engaging in) any of those would be at best silly, even if incredibly funny.

    But of course, we know, given the times we hear people proclaim they believe in science, that what they are actually trying to say is that they believe the Earth is warming and that the cause of the warming is human. The first is questionable (we seem to be at best in a pause) and the second is… non-scientific, since the effect of humans on the climate is at best unproven, and the only “proof” of the very silly anthropogenic warming theory is computer modeling. That is it to say, the only proof is no proof at all, and has always caused computer professionals to laugh and mumble GIGO (Garbage in, Garbage out.)

    Frankly, even if anthropogenic global warming were true and proven (two different things, by the way) there would be a whole range of solutions which those who loudly proclaim their belief in “science” a priori exclude. …

    • My question is why those two statements have any bearing on each other whatsoever, such that they belong on the same sign.

    • I refer you to H. Beam Piper’s prophetic work, NAUDSONCE. I wonder if he was thinking about anyone in particular…

    • Sunday morning for a ritual recitation of chemical formulas and physics equations?

      Now that’s a religion I might endorse. Or at least enjoy.

    • Ah, but while it is indeed GIGO, the problem is far *worse* than mere “Garbage Out.” It is that, for AGW (pardon, “Climate Change) [Have you changed your climate today? Did it wet, er, warm?] it’s the far worse thing: Garbage In – Gospel Out.

    • Until they decide to join the human race — known for its use of language, among other things — it leaves us in the odd position of shouting across the political chasm “Second word, rhymes with “huff it”” and “Stomp your foot once for yes, twice for no.”

      Hang on. Stop. Just wait a freaking minute here.
      What. The. Photon?!

      By this, *I* am more human than they are.
      Whiskey. Tango. Photon-torpedo?!!

      (And no, I will NOT be offended if you suggest hoof-stomp YES/NO or other binary-choice communication in person.)

      Ox head hurt again.

      Whole column reminds me of the Moore-whoever race in Alabama. Moore has some… issues, shall we say? And a capable opponent could exploit those to advantage. But instead, Moore’s opposition (and that might not include the obvious political opponent – I am NOT well-verse in that race/campaign) having found “racist” now means “we’re losing the argument” even to their opponents and “Nazi!” has been debunk by their idea of Nazi-prime recognizing the capitol of Israel is Jerusalem, is now trying the “pedophile” or such claim (Gee, the penicillin doesn’t work, the amoxicillin doesn’t work, let’s see if the vancomycin works…oh crud…it might not)… and the resistance THEY THEMSELVES CAUSED is utterly shocking them. I don’t know who will win that race. I do know this: It’s damned hard to be sympathetic to obviously self-inflicted wounds.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Love science, love this program of non-consensual lethal experimentation on undocumented subjects.

    • “We Believe in Science” while the bottom said, “No human being is illegal.”

      This would be a bad, bad time for me to suggest sticking another sign in their front yard for maximum cognitive dissonance, with a fetus and the caption “Maybe if I identified as a puppy, they’d let me live?”

      • No, it wouldn’t be a bad time. My problem is that I was seeing red to such an extent, I couldn’t actually have seen to put the sign on, except perhaps on their forehead.

    • One in my neighborhood says “Science is real”. I’m so tempted to put one up next to it: “Science is imaginary and irrational: e^i(pi)”

  26. Danuto had worked delivery in Maroa, back before Gorlath took over and started turning it into a nightmare of dark magic and tyranny. So Danuto had thought delivery would be an easy job to pick up here in Codytown.

    He pulled his team to a halt at the back of the store. Yes, there was the freight elevator, or rather the two steel doors that covered its opening in the sidewalk. As Danuto looked around to make sure he hadn’t made a mistake, the dogs began to sniff and paw at it.

    What he’d give for a good cart horse right now, but here in Codyland only cattlemen used horses, out on the ranches on the Lambeth Plain. Within their cities, all “station to store” deliveries were done by dog cart. Dog sleds, in local parlance, even though they had wheels under them, because the design and harness were derived from those of the arctic in a world they’d left behind.

    One of the basement windows opened and an angry voice shouted up, “We’re working as fast as we can. It’ll be about five minutes.”

    Flushing with embarrassment, Danuto mumbled some words of thanks. Better get the dogs back from those doors. He did not want to have to explain injured noses and paws to the boss.

    Get out the bowls and pour them some water, much easier than trying to pull curious sled dogs back from whatever scent had grabbed their attention. Might as well use the wait to check their gear. All the harness looked to be in order, so he examined the boots which protected the dogs’ paw pads from rough surfaces.

    As usual, Toby had managed to pull two of them loose again. Danuto carefully tightened the laces, cut from the same blue leather as the boots themselves. Once again he wondered whether it was from some native creature, or just cowhide colored with Codyland’s famous analline dyes.

  27. “This is quite an elegant wallet,” said Nigel Slim-Howland. “Authentic leather?”

    “Indeed sir,” said Jenkins, with pride. “A by-product of hamburger, I’m told.”

    “But why would you need a wallet? Everything you need to be a butler is built into you.”

    “One does try to fit in amongst humanity, sir.”

  28. The drunken leather-clad hooligan lunged at Nigel Slim-Howland, only to be met by Jenkins’ right arm, catching him under the chin in a perfect clothesline.

    “Whatha hell, old man?” gasped the biker, trying to stand.

    “I may appear old,” said Jenkins, ”but rest assured I was overhauled only last year.”