NaNoWriMo 2016: Day Eighteen

Word Count: 1,883

Daily Reward: Pecan pie 🙂

illustration by Azure Dragon

illustration by Azure Dragon

Verdict:

Re-introduced Tawny (Without a name), then had my character abused in the cafeteria. She’s now run hiding to her room.

Random stuff I’ve googled today (mostly entomology related):

  • How to determine gender of cockroaches (depends on species, can be quite difficult)
  • Can tarantula re-grow their limbs (yes)
  • How to cockroaches communicate (scent)

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day Seventeen

lemurish-AryWord Count: 1,175

Daily Reward: None achieved.

Verdict:

There usually comes a day during NaNo when the motivation wanes, when you (the author) realise that the story just isn’t work and that the characters are meandering around doing not much of anything and you’re just using their actions to help with your world building.

That day was today (or, to be precise, yesterday, since I’m updating my journal belatedly now).

The conflict has really established itself and the main intended antagonist is pretty much just playing-the-friend atm, leading me to wonder: what turns her into the enemy? Does she strive for friendship and have it flung back at her, and turn in an act of petty revenge? <– this is my preferred option. Or was she just a sly fiend all along?

I’m not sure how to fix it, and I’m totally okay with rewriting or deleting large portions of work (they still count towards my final goal, after all!) but… my brain is no longer in it. I’m tired of forcing the words out. Being a writer is not necessarily easy.

I’m working my way through Take your pants off at the moment (a different kind of writing book than I give you my body despite the possible connotations in the title) and plotting out Tail of Two Scions using their techniques. I think, ultimately, the plot I had previously, tentatively, planned out does fit the character-overcoming-flaw-scenario, and hopefully this will help me to tighten it. Possibly I will return to this story later in the month, but whether or not I can achieve my NaNo word count goal remains to be seen.

There’s always option #3, which is just to write random scenes that do fit into the Love in Tirra-Inle plot and see how it helps develop the world and the characters. Or further develop the “ghost story” I had started on (featuring Lilith), turning the other students against Kataryna and more or less pushing her into a dark, dark place. Keeping in mind the beginning of Book Two (Which is hardly a spoiler – it’s printed in this very blog!), Kataryna’s story must be a bittersweet one.

Today’s illustration is by Amanda Allan, drawn way baaaaack in the early days, when Kataryna was my online fursona and I went by a different moniker.

 

NaNoWRiMo 2016: Day Sixteen

Word Count: 1,638

Daily Reward: None (goal not achieved) – did sneak a few spoonfuls of Monday’s ice cream though!

Illustration by Moonfeather (also features her character)

Illustration by Moonfeather (also features her character)

Verdict:
Now Kataryna and Tawny have actually ventured out into the Deadlands, I’m just having some fun exploring the premise and building the background. I think I’ll view this story predominantly as creating the backbone of Furritasia, and developing the world in which my furrae live. Of course, aside from Scavengers, I doubt any of the stories will actually follow conventional enough plot lines to actually form a coherent book but ah well… Spent too much time looking up images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and getting distracted, which is one reason I fell slightly short of the word count goal, the other reason being that the story had bascically drawn to a logical conclusion and I had to go to bed early on account of being required to taxi my husband to the airport on the morrow at approximately 5am. He’s off to Wellington for a conference (work) that has not been hampered by earthquakes or wild weather, and is going ahead as planned. To distract myself too much from worrying about him, I intend to fill the next two days with work, socialising and writing, and focus on Saturday, when I will be collecting him from the airport.

Quote:

The jumble of rocks had tumbled together as though a great worm had borrowed through them. Tawny, taller than Kataryna by a full head, was forced to stoop almost double. Kataryna slouched, ever conscious of the wall of rock a mere finger’s breadth above her tufted ears. Her whiskers twitched with the air currents, even through the mesh, and her eyes kept drifting back to Tawny’s bracelet. Green — orange — orange — red — orange — green.”
“How bad is the red, really?” Kataryna ventured.
“One flash is fine,” Tawny called back. “Two, time to take precautions. Three or more, and … well … let’s say, we’ll have to hope you didn’t want children. If it stays red or you start throwing up, then, well, you’d better start notifying your heirs… You’re not feeling nauseous at all, are you?”
Kataryna shook her head, although, truth be told, her rushed breakfast was resting queasily in her belly. Probably just nerves though.
The passage dropped further, the walls turning to smoothed rock. “Look,” said Tawny, illuminating the wall with her blackemarr rod. It was a hand print. The palm not much larger than Kataryna’s own hand, the fingers long, with a well defined thumb, the fingertips tapering into rounded points. “Someone — probably a child — must have grabbed the wall here, and here,” — she lowered her light to illuminate another hand print — “maybe to catch their balance and then, BOOM! Vaporised instantly.”
Kataryna shuddered. “That’s powerful magick indeed.” She felt slightly uncomfortable. As fascinating as it was, a juvenile Ancient had perished here. But at least it had been quick, and the heat had purged the atmosphere clear. Kataryna could locate no residual presence, although a shiver still passed down her entire body.
“Not magick,” Tawny sounded almost gleeful. “Science!”
Further on, the smoothed rock turned back to a jumble of shattered pieces, then widened out, into what was quite clearly, a vestibule. The doorway beyond was still mostly intact, the stone weathered but solid, the stone bricks clearly defined, unmelted. Beyond it, Kataryna could catch the slightest glimpse of a chamber.
“Don’t be scared,” Tawny encouraged her, holding her wrist band high. Orange — orange — orange — green — green — orange. “It’s perfectly safe.”
Kataryna stepped forward. There was light here, a spectrum of colours, dancing across the mosaic floor, illuminating interconnecting circles, squares, the perfect geometry of the tiles. She entered the chamber.
And gasped.
Stone columns, thick, white and sturdy, beautifully sculpted, rose up, and up and up and up, curving inwards, like the ribs of an immense animal. Each connecting point featured a stone protrusion. Patterns decorated the smooth ceiling between them, faded almost into oblivion, the colour barely discernible.
“It’s magnificent. They must have been master Sculptors.”
“That’s the fascinating thing.” Tawny’s voice came so close to her ear, that Kataryna could not help a slight spasm of startlement. “It is highly unlikely that the Ancients had any Elemental Affinities at all. Their sculpting was done with tools, and their hands.”
The light came, dilute with dust, through windows taller than Kataryna. Coloured glass, individually set, into a framework, transformed it into a rainbow against the tiles. It wasn’t perfect — there were multiple pieces missing, panels lying broken on the floor, but it was beautiful — and to think that these had been created without the use of any magick at all…
“What was this place?” Kataryna’s voice sounded small in the immensity of it. It echoed back at her, ever so slightly.
The wristband still flashed: Orange — orange — red — orange — orange — red.
“We can’t stay for long,” Tawny cautioned. “Not unless you want to join them.” She motioned at the outskirts of the chamber, at what Kataryna had originally overlooked as broken branches, debris of the ages. What she realised now were bones. Hundreds and hundreds of bones. Her eyes flickered up, to a figure, carved of stone and set into an alcove in the wall, barely visible in the shadowed part of the nave. He was immense — perhaps some of the Ancients were giants? — arms spread, as though he wished to fly, strapped to his back an immense crosspiece, like the centre of kite. His face, so worn that his expression could no longer be read, his eyes no longer be seen.
“It was their place of worship,” Tawny replied. “The place they came, when their End of Days came, the place they came to beg their God,” she gestured at the statue, “to save them. But,” she shrugged, “he didn’t. They died here. Probably of starvation, or maybe of the poison that crept through their blood.”
Orange — red — orange — red — red — Kataryna held her breath — orange.
“We’ve got to go.” Tawny grabbed her by the arm, hauling her out, half pushing her along the passageway, out through the vestibule. They ran, gasping the Weave  of the hoods in and out, feeling it tangle against her muzzle, stifling against her nose. Shivers of anxiety raced down her spine, sweet beading against the fabric of her second skin. Clammy, uncomfortable. She wanted to rip it off, to feel the breeze against her flesh, but the breeze would bring with it the death of the poisons. Past the hand prints, over and through the rocks, out into the open air. Staggering to a halt, gasping, hands pressed on knees, chest heaving in the struggle for air, trying to hold back the nausea.
Tawny’s wrist, held close to her snout. Orange — green — green — orange — green — beautiful, wonderful, green!
“Their God wouldn’t save them,” Tawny said. “They put their faith above their instincts for survival. And now they’re extinct.” She rose her orange-gloved hands to the sky. “Their God couldn’t save them, and Elysia doesn’t give a damn about us. If you want to survive in this world, you’ve got to put your faith in one person, and one person only: yourself.”

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day Fifteen

Word Count: 1,770

Daily Reward: Burgerfuel 🙂

illustration by Shi

illustration by Shi

Verdict:

Slept on and odd until noon, then managed to nut out a bit of writing. Still feeling a bit exhausted, both emotionally and physically, and the story is not exactly flowing. I’m now about halfway through (achieved the 25k mark), but not yet 100% certain of where the plot is going. Today just dealt with Tawny and Kataryna meeting again, and heading out into the Deadlands so that Kataryna can look at the giant cow roaches and Tawny can make Kataryna trust her. I’ve softened Tawny’s snark a lot, so that she now seems genuine. Thus the source of conflict in the book is kind of weak. I would say it’s technically Maeve, since she’s the force currently driving Daniel and Kataryna apart.

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day Fourteen

Word Count: 1,032

Reward: ice cream – consumed preemptively because whether I achieve the goal or not, today I feel deserve the reward (See below).

The Grimalkyn by Kit Foxfire

The Grimalkyn by Kit Foxfire

Verdict:

Just after I had drifted off, achieving maybe an hour worth of sleep. Why? Because at 12.30 am, our house turned into a boat.  It rocked, and it rolled, as if we were all at sea, for TWO WHOLE MINUTES. It left me shivering uncontrollably, even though I was not cold, which was either an adrenalin rush or quite possibly an anxiety attack. This was not an isolated event, this was an even experienced from pretty much Dunedin to Wellington and probably beyond and it was, of course, an earthquake. Now, we in Christchurch are sorta earthquake veterans, but you never, ever, get “used” to earthquakes. This one was really big (7.5) but also quite far away and quite deep. It decimated the seaside community of Kaikoura, and has now basically cut that township off from greater New Zealand, whilst also simultaneously destroying the major connecting highways between the north and central South Island cities. Wellington, our capital city, also suffered significant damage.

But that wasn’t all – because Civil Defence NZ then issued a tsunami warning. Christchurch Civil Defence were rather slower at following that up, and then did not give a clear evacuation range until a significant amount of time had passed. We live 6 km from the coast, and are pretty much not much higher than sea level, so I was a tad concerned.  Husband declared we were fine and went straight to sleep, while I lay in bed, pretty much just staring at Facebook and refreshing the CD page. Cars streamed past our house, as people from Brighton moved further inland, every so often one would head in the opposite direction. I moved my car onto the driveway, as a precautionary measure.

Finally, at around 4.30 am, sleep finally caught up with me. About an hour later I got up, showered and prepared for work.

I’d have had maybe 3 hours sleep and worked my longest workday. But you know what – everyone in Christchurch, and Nelson and Blenheim and Wellington and all the tiny townships and hamlets between, are tired. We ALL deserve ice cream.

Wibbly wobbly, there goes another one…

Well, if I wrote Aroha’s Grand Adventure through numerous (around 400) aftershocks, I can write this one too.

That sharper jolt was a bus.

Illustrated character above isn’t in the story, I just like him and I’ve almost run out of fanart of the actual characters.

Rewriting an earlier passage, as I believe the best way to shape the story is to have Kataryna and Tawny actually (apparently) become friends. Yesterday’s chapter has been moved into the “to be poached from later” folder.

 

NaNOWriMO 2016: Day Thirteen

Word Count: 1,671

Daily Reward: Sleep

illustration by Shi

illustration by Shi

 

Verdict:

Dear Kataryna, why did you just allow a fossa – the natural predator of a lemur – to appoint herself your bodyguard, and escort you out, via a magick portal, to a location 50 miles from the university? A location where a. the air is quite probably poisonous, b. there are giant carnivorous cockroaches that have a taste for Furrae flesh and c. there is no-one to rescue you should something happen. Except Tawny, and did I mention that Tawny is a fossa, and thus the natural predator of a lemur? How kraaking naive can you get?

We must also not forget that Tawny was appointed in her position as Kataryna’s bodyguard by Druid Maeve, Daniel’s older sister who totally does not approve of their (Kataryna and Daniel’s) liaison.

Crap, I think Kataryna is falling into the “too stupid to be a heroine” category. Good thing this is not a book I ever intend to publish!

Perhaps they need to bring someone else along too. Suggestions? Maybe the archeologist  shouldn’t be Tawny, maybe I should appoint some sort of neutral professor. Possibly Bjornston?

Also, hard to remain focused today as I decided to try and work out which continent Furritasia actually is. Toyed with the idea of America, but the problem is I would then have no justification for having a Scottish wolf and I’ve already spoken of the Highlands. Decided the United Kingdom would be better – but as it’s separated from Europe by water, that could likewise be inconvenient. So got into looking up continent drift. Found Doggerland again (learned about that in QI last week) and discovered that we’re heading towards (in like 250 million years) a super-continent, where all the continents have drifted together into a great amorphous blob. Am not sure when (if?) the UK is ever likely to reconnect with mainland Europe, and climate change is more likely to rise waters, not create new land bridges, but might take some creative liberties. About 2/3s of Furritasia is Deadlands, caused by the Great War of the Ancients. Daniel’s from the North, and Kataryna’s name is French, and she’s from “the rainforest district of Eriwyn” but that could be anywhere; her kin might originate from Madagascar, but the Furrae were genetically created and ring-tailed lemur are common enough in zoos all across the world.

Extract (or why we don’t regular travel from A to B using magick portals):

“Stand here.” Tawny grasped Kataryna by the arms and guided her into the centre of the chamber, placing her feet between two weaves on the floor. She stood opposite her, one hand still grabbing her shoulder. With the other, she rose her blackemarr rod, reached up and slashed a rune in the ceiling above them.
The runic-Weave moved, displacing themselves from the ceiling and the walls, moving closer, closer to surround the two girls. Circling spirals, faster and faster and faster. Kataryna felt her stomach clench and nausea swelled, rising up into her throat. She gagged. Closed her eyes. But eyelids did nothing to hide the Weave. Spinning faster and faster, it became a blur of light. Then the world dropped out from beneath her, and she was plummeting. Falling. She could not scream, could not move. Her feet hit the ground first, the impact jarring up through her so hard and fast that her knees turned to porridge and she collapsed, gagging, to the coarse, red sand beneath her.
Sand? She blinked, bleary, wiping vomit — mostly just liquid thankfully, since she’d not eaten breakfast —  to find herself staring across at a crumpled, broken metal, skeleton, arching over the gaping maw of a canyon. Nearby rose the domed shell of a jättemörtko, grinding its way across the coral-fungus that coated everything, glistening black-green. Everything, that was, except the immediate area, which had been cleared back, just outside the limits of a low circular stone wall. Every stone shimmered with runes.
“Welcome to the outskirts of Ef-I,”  Tawny declared. “One of the remnants of the Ancients civilisation.” She looked disappointingly unaffected by the sudden change of environment. She definitely hadn’t thrown up. Kataryna finally trusted her stomach enough for her to stand, although her legs still felt weak.
“So that’s a Displacement Portal,” she stated.

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day Twelve

Word Count: 1,832

Daily Reward: Once Upon a Time

illustration by Ruggy

illustration by Ruggy

Verdict:

Well, I was trying to make my characters have a nice conversation and get to know each other a wee bit better. But they weren’t having a bar of that, and tried to get a little bit too close.

So I threw a magickal storm at them.

Until it happened, I didn’t even know that the Deadlands produced random magic storms.

And now Daniel’s oldest sister has realised that they’re having a wee affair and she does not approve at all. Oh dear…

Extract:

“Kataryna,” he half-growled. “Ye canna know how much I want ye.”
“Oh,” she replied, <edited for smut>. “I think I have some inkling.”
A rumble rolled across the sky. The sky suddenly flashed a vivid and startling white, illuminating the garden and the Shaped framework of the gazebo. Kataryna’s fur crackled with static electricity, tiny sparks dancing iridescent violet between their fur.
“Oh fer the love of Elysia,” Daniel groaned. He rolled over, snatched up the picnic blanket and dragged it over them. “It’s a kraakin’ magick storm. We’ve gotta get inside, behind the wards.”
The clouds, barely noticed earlier, but now clustered above like conspirators, suddenly split open, disgorging their contents, great torrents of water. Droplets pointed around her, transforming into tiny, translucent frogs that hopped about spasmodically, only to burst with a spray of water.
“What the hell?” Kataryna fumbled to draw her shirt back on, as water gushed down around her, plastering her pelt to her body. Together they scrambled to their feet, him holding the picnic blanket over them. Not that it prevented much of the water. Another low rumble. For a flicker of a heart beat, Kataryna thought she saw a giant bird spread its wings across the sky. A jagged shaft of lightning arced out to strike the rod atop one of the towers. Sparks, incandescent purple, blue and red, erupted outward, like petals unfurling from a fiery flower.
The two of them hurried across the flower garden, colourful sparks descending around them, whilst the bubble-frogs hopped or popped around their feet. The air smelt sharp and sweet, of ozone and vanilla. The key suddenly squirmed in her hand, its body twisted like a caterpillar and it drove its teeth into her finger. Kataryna squeaked in surprise and pain, fumbled amid it slipped from her fingers.
“I’ve dropped the key!” She fell to her knees, scrabbling in the pebbles, trying to grab it as it wriggled away from her flailing fingers.
Another lightning bolt scythed the sky, striking the gazebo. It flared a vibrant white and began to twist and stretch as though it were alive, a giant pale spider with far too many legs.
“Dinna fret,” Daniel shouted to be heard against the deluge. “It’s just an illusion. It canna hurt us.” Kataryna’s fingers grasped the silver key. It wriggled once, but she drove her nail into it, and it stilled. The living gazebo extended one of its support-beam legs and ripped up a rose bush, sending it tumbling across the garden. Kataryna screamed as it flew straight towards them. Daniel wrapped his long body protectively around her, took the key gently from her shaking fingers and inserted it smoothly into the lock. It turned with a click and the two of them tumbled through. Behind them, the rose bush vanished in an explosion of sparks. The rose bush may have been an illusion, but the sparks were real. She could feel their stinging touch as they rained down around her, even through her saturated fur.
“I thought you said I was immune to illusion!” she screamed. The ground beneath her suddenly turned liquid, and she lurched forward, falling on her hands.
“No-one’s immune to a magick storm!” Daniel howled. He leaped over the patch of molten ground, and scooped her up in his arms. “Are ye hurt?” his tone gentle, although she could sense the panic.
She shook her head, mutely, staring out at the transformed garden with wild eyes.
Wind whipped and howled around them, whirling leaves and petals, the tiny sparks of doomed fyreflits and lightning-ash. The rain hammered. Trees groaned, waving their branches as though trying to fend off the lightning that jumped and sparked around them. Thunder boomed and rumbled, the immense low intonations shaking the earth.
Daniel reached the nearest tower, lowered Kataryna to the ground beneath the shelter of the portico. Above and around them, the protective wards glowed faintly, holding back the worst of the storm’s cinematic pyrotechnics. Out over the garden two of the trees seemed to be fighting with the gazebo, trying to push it back into the boundaries of the rose garden. Daniel drew her close to him, pressed his muzzle against her cheek. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get ye inside and dried off.” She glanced at him, his fur sodden, plastered to his body and his braids framing his face like ragged string.

NaNoWrimo 2016: Day Eleven

Word Count: 1,803

Daily Reward: A movie, Arrival

illustration by Arquel

illustration by Arquel

Verdict:

Entry a day late because my friends turned up to go to the movie pretty much the moment I hit my daily word count, so I didn’t have time to make the post, but yep, achieved my goal! Again, a bit of a slow start and I probably got a little too evocative with the food … but, I had to try and work the picture above into the story somehow. So yeh, turned out that what Kataryna thought was going to be a romp in the rose bushes turned out to be a picnic in a gazebo. So, aside from getting a wee bit over-sensual with my food descriptions, a bit of conversation was worked in and yeh, that was my day.

The movie was Arrival and it was pretty good. One movie where the aliens truly were alien.

Also, I should note that I was also rather ill yesterday – I went home sick on Thursday – hence my short and somewhat depressing blog entry – spent the evening looking up morbid stuff on the internet (I hope no-one decides to look into my browser history and gets concerned), then finally, gratefully, fell asleep. Anyway, I’m much better now, although still not 100% health wise, I am feeling generally more positive in other ways.

Extract:

“Aye,” he laughed. “I agree. And that’s why I prepared us a wee picnic.” He drew his heat away from her, gesturing at the interior of the gazebo. A picnic rug — the same tartan as his kilt — covered the stone floor, and beside it, rested a straw basket, a very large straw basket. “I dinna know what ye might like to eat, so I may have got a wee bit carried away.” He added.
A wee bit carried away indeed! Kataryna took her seat upon the rug, and watched, somewhat in awe as he unpacked enough food to feed a small hoard: a loaf of crusty bread, tiny sausages, cheese, and dozens of tiny tubs containing sundried tomatoes, olives, pickled mushrooms, boiled eggs and more. She could not imagine that so much food could fit into the basket — and it was a very large basket. “Did you leave anything in the kitchen?”
“Possibly some potatoes,” he said with a rueful smile. “I canna say I’m fond of potatoes.”
“What are you fond of then?” she asked, plucking a grape from one of the many tubs and popping it into her mouth, relishing in the rough tension of the skin, before the wet POP filled her mouth with sweet juice.
“Och well, I am something of a carnivore,” he replied. He sat down, cross-legged — giving her a nice glimpse of his well-toned legs, but, perhaps thankfully, no higher — opposite her. Then proceeded to slice a chunk of bread and balance a strip of streaky bacon upon it. “So I suppose ye could say, I’m fond of meat.” He added one of the tiny sausages, then a chunk of cheese, creating a rather unstable tower. “But I wouldna say ‘no’ to a plump ripe cherry either.” He purred the words, and licked his lips, eyeing her as if it were she he would like to see on the platter.
“The big bad wolf, eh,” she teased him.
“Well, I could gobble ye right up.” He laughed, and proceeded to peel his construction apart, layer by layer, with his teeth, swallowing each as he went. “But seriously,” he continued, “I do really want to know more about ye.”
“Wait,” she said. “I believe you owe me an answer first.”

NaNOWriMo 2016: Day Ten

Word Count: 1,163

Daily Reward: None, I don’t deserve it

Illustration by Dreamaria.

Illustration by Dreamaria.

Verdict:

Today, like most of the world, I am in shock and bearing great trepidation for the future.

I’m also sick. So not up to writing much, and this chapter sort of faltered out well below the daily word goal.

My back hurts and I’m very tired. Maybe things will look better in the morning.

NaNoWriMo 2016: Day Nine

Word Count: 1,675

Daily Reward: Maybe Chai and a Belgian biscuit for morning tea?

 

KatCrash

illustration by Crash (Fox?), depicted with plushie of Dark the Nidoran (from an entirely unrelated story).

Verdict:

Introducing the other plot: including some supernatural-style encounters and a non-supernatural cat.

Have a feeling my pacing is off, but don’t really care. It’s not like I’m writing this story for anything except my own gratuitous pleasure. I’m not going to sell it (probably). I’m not going to rewrite it. It’s just for fun. And half the fun of this passage is to reveal some of the finer intricities of the inner workings of Tirra-Inle. Note that I’m not going into huge detail here about the magic – magic is fairly common place to all Furrae involved and not worthy of being remarked on in any manner different from how we’d say “turned on the lights” or whatever. Likewise, Kataryna has some special traits that, whilst relatively unique to her – or rather stronger in her than other people – don’t feel unusual to her, since the story is written from her POV and she’s lived with them all her life.

Daniel isn’t in this chapter, although he is alluded to a couple of times.

Lilith was one of my Nocturne created for “Reborne”. She never made it into that story before I ran out of steam, and thus is very easily manouevered into this plot. Of course, she’s dead (allegedly).

Ursula is supposed to be a bear, but part of me feels I should transform her into a wombat.

Also, there are so many Pokemon in everyone’s neighbourhood right now (special event thing until the 11th)! I’ve achieved my word count, its just past 10 am and I start work at 11.30. I’m going hunting 🙂 I’m seeing Pokemon spawning INSIDE other Pokemon (weird Staryu/Nidoran hybrid, a Poliwag with Goldeen fins). It’s freakish!

Extract:

Turning right, her path led into an unfamiliar corridor, and she shivered a little at the chill in the atmosphere. Was it her imagination, or was it colder than it should be in here? Then again, the walls were stone and untouched by direct sunlight, dimly let only by the jagged incandescence of runic weave. So it made sense, didn’t it? She pressed her hand against the soot-stained wall, and snatched it away as the heat seemed to drain from her palm. She shuddered, remember Daniel’s words: “Her name was Lilith. She did terrible things…” What kind of terrible things? Her pace quickened, inhaling the faintest scent of smoke, residual from the fire? Then why did it seem to be growing stronger. A throbbing started in the back of her head, a slight, incessant pounding. That would be the stresses of the day, her own exhaustion. The sooner she got a warm shower and some sleep, the better. A slight stinging pain in her hand, and she glanced down to find that the cut, which she’d sealed with saliva — hadn’t she? — now dripped a trail of tiny red droplets to the stone floor behind her. She stuck it in her mouth, tasting the coppery, musty sweetness.
Her footsteps echoed hollowly in the empty hallways and the magickal lighting flickered, creating dark patches of looming shadow. She tried to focus on the logic of it: the age of the runic weave; the lack of maintenance; the levels of cobweb and likely smoke-damage. But it was easy to see figures amongst the shadows. Kataryna knew that the Furrae brain — like that of the Ancients — was designed to perceive faces, even when faces did not exist, but this felt like it was taking it a step too far.
She passed a multitude of doors and doorways, some boarded over, others grinned like missing teeth, nothing beyond them but gaping pits of darkness. Noises, rustling and sibilant whispers, seemed to issue from within. Vermin and wind, she told herself. Vermin and wind.
“.. She committed terrible crimes,” Daniel had said. Murder? Torture?
Something screamed, a thin, reedy screech beyond one of the boarded-up doors. Kataryna’s heart fluttered into her throat and she feet took flight. She ran down the corridor, turned several corners, barrelled out into a brightly lit main thoroughfare and almost charged directly into a broad-shouldered, bear of a woman. She was clad in the blue and gold uniform of the Tirra-Inle staff. Her name badge read “Ursula”.
“There’s someone… a scream… I heard it… someone in trouble?” Kataryna’s words fell out of her in a mad jumble, each one racing to fight the other but beaten into submission by her gasping breath. She gestured back down the poorly lit corridor.
“Deep breath,” Ursula said, patting Kataryna on the shoulder. “Slow down. Someone is in trouble, you say?”
Kataryna nodded. “A scream.”
“What were you doing down there? Did you not see the barrier ribbon?”
Kataryna suddenly realised that she had somehow acquired a long banner wrapped around her waist. She must have run through it in her haste. She plucked at it. “I came from the other end.”
“You’re in the tower?” The woman’s eyes widened. “I didn’t know they had opened that up to the students again.”
“I’m not a student,” Kataryna began, then faltered. “Someone’s in trouble. Please, can you help them?”
“Of course.” Ursula drew her telekommunicator from her belt, activated the runes and barked a few short words into it. “In case we need back-up,” she comforted Kataryna. “But I’m sure we’ll find there’s nothing much amiss. Students have been reporting things from that hallway for years — that’s one of the reasons we’ve cordoned it off — but we’ve never found any evidence of real foul play. Unless you believe in ghosts?”
“I’m a scientist,” Kataryna assured her. “I’ll believe in things with tangible evidence.”
“Ah, that’s good then. Let’s go and investigate, shall we? Care to lead the way?”
With the powerful ward matron behind her, Kataryna felt a great deal more confident. Ursula paused to knock the wall at several points, encouraging the magical weave to flare more brightly, banishing all but the most persistent shadows. She found the door from behind which she’d heard the scream without too much trouble — the boards held it shut, but a hole the size of a large foot had been kicked into the corner.
“This one?” Ursula queried, casting a glance at Kataryna.
“Yes,” she said with a nod.
“Right then.” The powerful woman charged it with her shoulder, wood splintered, tore with a terrible groan, and the door swung open, to hang from one hinge. Ursula took her blackemarr rod from her belt, held it aloft and ran her fingers along its length, causing blue-tinged light to radiate forth. Kataryna made a mental note that she must acquire one of those.
The light illuminated a bunk room. Four free-standing beds, plus two alcove beds. The mattresses were grimed with dust and more floated in the air, glowing faintly green with the light’s radiation. All smelt of must and stagnant air, tinted with the sharper, acrid stink of animal piss. The animal itself soon became obvious, a small grey and black tabby cat, back arched and tail fluffed. It stared at them though golden eyes slitted in accusing at their invasion of its territory.
Ursula laughed, a deep booming that seemed to issue from deep in her belly. “There’s your someone,” she gasped, between the guffaws. “One of the tower cats. Probably in heat.”