(reading time: 1 hour, 2 minutes)
A Beast Fights
The tables for the feast had buckets crafted into them because bergfolk celebrations often devolved into dancing right where you ate; this way they could not be kicked aside. The buckets were filled to the brim with all sorts of strange refreshments: spiced green cleansing water, warm red oystie sauce, pure blue toil water, and a foaming drink called scrub-throat that kept its bubbles for days. The bergfolk swished them about in their mouths and noses, sometimes holding one nostril closed so they could blast a fountain of it out the other. Alast watched as a woman gladly opened her mouth to accept a jet of cleansing water fired from a neighboring nostril. It might’ve been rude not to join, but Alast couldn’t bring himself to do it; he let any liquid that came his way splash across his shirt instead. Continue reading
(reading time: 34 minutes)
Cracking the Knuckles
Captain Rob moved through abandoned streets. The folk of Dhonshui had been evacuated from the part of town near the gates, a district called Quig, before the assault began. The closed mint was there and Rob made his move as soon as the last rows of soldiers came through. Luck was on his side, as Inguin had not done anything about the bronze disk Alast had hidden the piece of the Reflecting Path inside. The search Rob had endured for the supposedly swallowed piece was not his favorite thing, but it was far better than anything Yugo had planned. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 26 minutes)
Second Stone Door was now out of their reach, according to the information they received at the next ekapad station. Yugo’s only stated goal was the tiles, and he did not seem happy about one slipping from his clutches. His forces moved faster than ever, off the established roads and into any territory they saw fit. There were not enough aker shortcuts to keep them ahead of bonepickers indefinitely, so a change of course was required. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 45 minutes)
“Damr told you to what?” Roary hissed just as he hopped up and closed the door. The current and former cabin boys were in the school’s kitchen; Rob had ordered them to earn their keep by peeling and washing vegetables for Oobla’s cooks before they stepped in to prepare dinner. Alast stood behind the slate counter with an oddly-curved blade in his hand perfect for skinning squish-squashes. The pile of vegetables and their leafy tops was so towering that Alast and Roary had quickly turned to conversation to stave off boredom. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 21 minutes)
It was the boy’s first city, and it could have easily been his last if he hadn’t overpowered his awe and remembered to breathe. The ground before their party was an ancient split: a crevice of stunning depth and length that ate up the horizon just as well as any ocean.
“In the time before the Age of Building, four tiles met here,” Rob proclaimed. “Nature has eaten them away, turned them to soil and dust, but their convergence remains, hollowed by rain and river. Feast your eyes upon Crosstahl: the city of crossroads.” Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 11 minutes)
The Greasy Skull
Tunka tuhunk tunka tuhunk tunka tuhunk. Alast was woken by the sound of a hundred footsteps on deck while enjoying a brief half-drop nap between his chores. He’d been onboard long enough to know those weren’t the sounds of hauling in fishnets or the dancing that sometimes accompanied Herc’s melodies.
He dropped to the floor. The only other occupied hammocks had gravefolk in them, their thin arms slipped through the holes in the ropes, hanging down like broken branches. Quietly navigating between the rows, he saw Manathan’s face turn towards him, but couldn’t tell if the skeleton was asleep or not. Continue reading
(reading time: 41 minutes)
The Gross Truth
He spent his days with his nose to the deck, and he spent his nights with his nose to a desk. It was his job to scrub. To scrub the deck. To scrub the walls. Scrub the barrels. Scrub the water closets. Scrub the skulls of the gravefolk who didn’t have enough of a body left to do it themselves. It turned out there were nearly fifty of them aboard who were either missing some combination of limbs or everything below the jaw. Scrub the Captain’s laboratory equipment. Scrub the bottom of everyone’s boots. Get on that ladder and scrub the ceilings. Climb out on the beakhead and scrub the spots between the ropes. Don’t forget to scrub the backs of your scrubbing brushes so you don’t look a mess while you’re scrubbing. Continue reading
(reading time: 1 hour, 50 minutes)
The Cardinal Tile
Each and every plant along the trail was new to Alast. Their leaves were long, thin, and floppy like lengths of string. The tree bark was pale and divided into square scales instead of the familiar cracking of the bropato. When he touched the leaf of a bush it curled itself into a tight ball against the stem. He pressed his foot against the base of the plant and the entire thing shrank down and curled until it looked like a serving dish with a floral pattern.
Birds could not sustain flight in the mist, so the whistles and chirps of the small bug-hunters startled Alast; he kept turning around to see if someone was whistling to get his attention. Continue reading