Error 50

My first foray into a cyberpunk AU featuring Elias Dawn and their first encounter with a little assistant robot buddy.

The scrapyards at the bottom of the city, far below the walking levels and lower residences, formed a landscape of sharp hills and flickering lights. Without protective gear or a good map, one could get lost in the piles. Only so many work elevators came down this far, and even then only a scrapyard droid had the passcodes to operate them. On the occasion someone did wind up down there, flagging one of the scrapyard droids for rescue was one of the only hopes of getting back to the walking levels via the elevators.

If one wanted a rescue, anyway. A few lurkers could be seen slinking among the scraps most nights, for their own reasons. Some risked the yards for a chance at supplies. Some sought things to sell, things that should never have been thrown away. And some lurked because they knew it was a good place to hide until the drones stopped looking for them up above.

El found themself down in the piles most days for the latter reason. They didn’t mind taking the long way back up on the old service ladders, and the jump down, well … their uncanny abilities were the whole reason they needed to hide in the first place. Magic had not left the world in the wake of the machines, but anyone who had it had a knack for disappearing.

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Tiny Pixie Hands

A note for anyone confused after seeing previous snippets with Elias using he/him pronouns. Elias is genderfluid and a shapeshifter, so she’s presenting very femme in this story. Just a heads up to avoid confusion!

The chill in the air was sharp and solid, each breeze like sandpaper on Elias’ cheeks. She didn’t wander through the perpetually wintery regions so far north very often, and every visit reminded her of why. That cold found a way to seep into her bones and stay there, a slow takeover until the involuntary shivers came like clockwork.

At least she was better prepared for it since the last quest that took her into the tundra. She’d chosen a shape that stood shorter than her usual, stockier. She’d opted for plenty of natural padding – thick curves and plenty of tummy to protect her core. Her hair was longer and darker red than she usually kept it – something to help absorb whatever warmth from the sun she could.

She’d bought some hard-weather clothes from a group of traders that frequented the area, so she knew the gear would last and it would work. She was well insulated in hides lined with downy fur, and boots that had a hardy grip on the frozen ground. They’d even given her a pair of sungoggles for when she eventually reached the snowy areas. The coat had a lovely collar of soft rabbit down that occasionally tickled under her jaw, and similar tufts stuck out of the thick gloves she wore over her hands.

She was an adorable bundle, and it put a certain spring in her step.

Eral, by contrast, was not so cheerful for the climate they’d wandered into. It came as no surprise; he stood only six inches tall, and his little leafy wings were paper thin after all. They’d managed to get a few tiny scraps of hide for him to haphazardly tie to himself, but the traders had nothing to offer that was made for pixie size.

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NaNoWriMo Day 30

Today wasn’t really a writing day, since I actually finished my goal on the 28th. However, I wanted to make a post to celebrate completing another year of National Novel Writing Month! I was really unsure going into this one, as I’ve been very stressed about various things, not to mention I wasn’t writing very much daily before November arrived.

But here I am! Another 50k down! And in a new story with some new characters to explore! I had so much fun and I really appreciate those of you who peeked at the blog to see my progress throughout the month!

Bonus Excerpt:

“A visitor for me?” Was it a voice, or was it thunder? Blake clapped his hands over his ears, though some part of him knew it might be a sign of disrespect to try to block out that particular voice. He couldn’t help it. As the echoes rumbled around him, he looked up, his eyes wide and his body shaking.

He almost wished he hadn’t looked for the source of that voice, because he found it.

He was tucked up in the corner of the cavernous room overhead. The titan of air had pale grey skin marked here and there with darker grey, like the clouds on an overcast sky. Eyes the color of a clear day stared down at Blake, the pressure of that gaze like a physical weight. The corners upturned with some kind of amusement, and the slit pupils widened by degrees. Storm grey hair in a handsome swoop moved in an unseen breeze.

The titan didn’t have a humanoid lower half, but rather an unfathomably huge snake tail. Below his hips, grey coils that could stretch across what felt like a mile of sky bunched into the corner of the room. Blake couldn’t see where that tail ended.

The hands, each bigger than Blake’s whole body by several feet, pressed into the walls up there. The titan grinned, showing off fangs that matched the rest of his snakelike body. “A visitor indeed,” he all but purred. To Blake’s surprise, he spoke quieter than before. “It’s not easy to sneak your way into my humble house, not for you little folk below. I’m intrigued already.”

Blake really didn’t like the way that titan stared at him. There was a long pause in which he craned his neck back to stare up at him, coiled up in that high corner of the room, and he stared down at him, intrigued.

At length, the titan’s half-lidded eyes closed entirely. A tongue slipped out from between those lips, long and forked at the end. Blake shuddered at the brief sight, and the titan smirked as it disappeared once more.

“That’s fear all over you,” he noted playfully. “Why ever would a human, an accomplished mage in fact, be so afraid of big old me?”

NaNoWriMo Day 29

As I said last night, I actually already hit the 50k, but I’m still writing a bit today and tomorrow to finish things out. Today I wrote a little bit more of my villain for the story – he’s coming along nicely in all his lawful evil efficiency.

Word Count: 500


“The eighth king of Synka has been born. He is living destitute in a small town, barely more than a village, in the Timewilds. The people’s living hope is in squalor.”

Another thing about elves, Autumnus had noticed, was that they never minded letting a pause draw out. While his revelation sank in, the two of them watching his face closely for any tells he didn’t intend to give away, Autumnus relaxed into his chair. He could be damned patient himself; his only disadvantage against them was not having elven longevity. Whatever processing they needed to do, he could wait it out. That was part and parcel of dealing with their kind.

“The eighth king,” the second elf echoed delicately. His eyes were keen as a razor. “And you haven’t secured him yet?”

Autumnus tilted his head and let his expression shrug for him. “Your rumor-mongering is powerful indeed, my friend, but even you could not dress up news of the Order taking a child from his mother without there being some careful … massaging of the truth in place first. Even if he is the most important asset for us, we can’t move too hastily.”

“This will put pressure on the mother,” the elf woman surmised.

Autumnus smiled, the expression reaching his eyes this time. “Precisely. Who is Marina Fehrliss to argue with the will of the people?”

NaNoWriMo Day 28

I am coasting in on the buffer I made sure to build up at the beginning of the month, and today I actually passed 50k! I plan to keep working on the story to finish out the month and get that achievement for updating every day of November, but the big goal is behind me!

Word Count: 747


Autumnus didn’t have all the details, and he doubted he’d be able to put as much together as Veranus could even if he did. She was one of the best he had. If her hunch was right and someone was trying to keep her distracted, time was of the essence.

It was a unique opportunity, however. One he couldn’t deny. “I assume you’re already working to lock down the cape.”

Veranus nodded. “I am working with their council to the full extent. The suspect is also secure here, though I think many of the mages here are not convinced of his guilt at this time.”

Autumnus sat back slightly and sighed. “It pains me to say it, but I think Amata’s guilt or innocence is secondary to your primary mission, if there is indeed a risk that you’re being played. We may be able to revisit his case later on, but for now, I think it would be best if he took the fall here, if only to move the investigation along. You will be in their good graces for solving their little mystery with all swiftness, and then you can move on to the next steps.”

Veranus didn’t blink. She barely even paused. “If I jail him for this crime, his chance for appeal won’t come up for a very long time. The violent nature of the murder assures a minimum of ten years.”

Autumnus glanced at the clock he kept hanging on the opposite wall. “So be it. You have my approval, and my secrecy. Thank you, Cassandra.”

NaNoWriMo Day 27

It was another travel day today for me. I am back home and very glad to be among my things (and I even planned ahead and put new sheets on my bed before I left). I did today’s writing while sitting around the Minneapolis airport, so there’s not as many as there could be, but I have built up a lot of buffer in the early parts of this month.

Word Count: 784


He was ready to grab fresh clothes from his box when he paused, staring down at his side. A familiar old marking greeted him, a faint orange burst that crackled across his side and up under his arm, and partially down his thigh.

Scars from cast spells could look a lot of different ways. Blake’s was unique to him, a permanent discoloration and slight toughening of the skin it covered. He traced a finger absently over one of the branches of the scar that angled over his belly.

Ai’Teli had cast the spell that left him with that scar. They hadn’t meant for it to strike him so hard, nor to have this effect on him. They’d been attempting to mix known spells for new results, well before either of them had learned such things in classes. They didn’t know how to control the magnitude of such a volatile mixed spell.

He didn’t even remember the pain. He remembered writhing on the ground in the courtyard where he and Ai’Teli had been practicing their sparring. He remembered a class of new students rushing over with their instructor to see what had happened. He remembered Ai’Teli in near tears as they hovered over him, apologizing over and over. The spell had hurt – but Blake didn’t remember what it felt like anymore.

He remembered Ai’Teli staying by his side in the infirmary as often as they could. He didn’t let them skip classes – even in good health, if he caught them trying to skip out on lectures he didn’t let them get away with it. But they came by whenever they could, even doing some of their homework at the foot of his bed. They collected notes from Blake’s classes and brought them to him so he wouldn’t waste away from boredom.

NaNoWriMo Day 25

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends who celebrate it! I don’t really observe it anymore, though I did get to hang out with family today all the same! And even then, I managed some writing while hanging out. Who knows how good this writing is? I don’t, but I had fun with it.

WordCount: 1036


“The Timewilds are different from the wilds everywhere else, I’ve heard. But I haven’t seen anywhere else to know.”

Erio’s mouth twisted into a frown. “I hadn’t heard much about it myself, until I met Arie. The Timewilds have a way of tricking you into mistaking how far you’ve gone or how long you’ve been moving in a direction, if you don’t pay attention. It’s like time has more ripples here than anywhere else.”

NaNoWriMo Day 23

I spent the later half of today traveling – so it’s a wonder I managed to get some words! But words were indeed gotten. I couldn’t help making a small reference to a certain demigod of mischief, though he is not the focus of this story by any means.

Word Count: 1699


Autumnus had read accounts of known halfgods in other corners of Muunfel. They were not easy.

There was the child of the Oracle in Meraev. Even at only a few years old, a number of records had already reached beyond the Moondrop Sea of his penchant for mischief. The Oracle could handle such a child, of course, and he was far outside of any Synkan bloodline anyway.

There were the twin maidens born to an elf village not too far north of the Dragonrest mountains, decades ago. No one had heard of them in years, but during their formative years, lengthened by their elven blood, they vexed and confused an entire region.

Children of the elements had been recorded throughout history here and there. They often quietly disappeared from the records eventually, but in the meantime they were exemplary as the forces of nature they were.

NaNoWriMo Day 22

I actually wrote all my words in one go today! That doesn’t always happen; sometimes I skip around in scenes as the whim takes me. Today I guess it was all about Blake and Ai’Teli again, I guess.

Word Count: 2123


Blake had opted for robes as his primary mage’s garb. A standard, for certain, he’d always opted for the classic look. Ai’Teli had always teased him for taking the easy way out. Blake usually countered that their choice, a wraparound skirt in bright colors with a shawl over their shoulders, came directly from the traditions on the islands they called home. They had taken their own easy way out. It always earned a laugh in their warm, firm voice.

Blake could swear he heard that laugh, like a distant echo, as he glanced past the garments hanging in the armoire for the shelves down at waist level instead. That was where his and Ai’Teli’s magical foci rested, waiting for when they’d be needed.

Blake took his wand first, a straight length of beech with one small offshoot near the end making it look like a Y. He also kept a pendant with a simple river stone wrapped up in wires, and a half glove made of miniscule chainmail. He tossed the foci onto his box of personal effects.

Before he closed the armoire, his gaze alighted on Ai’Teli’s side of the shelf.

Their foci were only two. A tuning fork and a takakata. The takakata was a length of string, only a few inches long, connected at both ends to a pair of small, dark brown gourds filled with sand and sealed off. It was an instrument used often on their home island, they’d always said. Even before the two of them had begun their work using a magical focus to make their spellcasting more efficient, they’d often shown Blake how the instrument worked: holding one of the small gourds in their hand while swinging the other around it back and forth. The sharp clacks combined with the rustling of the sand created a rhythmic sound that evoked motion. It was the perfect focus for the energetic Ai’Teli Norua.

NaNoWriMo Day 21

Words words words! I actually started early today, which I rarely do. I almost don’t know what to do with all this free evening time I have now. Also whoops I keep not wanting to excerpt the more Exciting parts because I need to make sure they make sense to me so. Fantasy slice of life it is!

Word Count: 2226


Marina couldn’t man her stall for the entire day nonstop like she used to do. During the midday hour or so break, she had to take her leave from the market, packing up her things safely and bringing Vantage out of the brightest part of the day.

She found herself in the scraggly shade of a tree in one of Arelvo’s only maintained green spaces. It was a small park near the southern end of town, beyond which were rolling hills of grass and the occasional boulder. Long, smoothed-over scars from the last time great ice mountains had carved their way across the timewilds, leaving behind remnants of the Dragonrest mountains and whatever else they’d dragged along.

Vantage never really cared to look out at the scenery with her, but then again Marina wasn’t quite sure if he could see that far yet. She hadn’t asked many questions of the midwife that helped her with his birth, when could she expect certain milestones, things like that. For all anyone knew, a halfgod child could have an entirely different timetable than a fully mortal baby.

At least he’d grown consistently. Marina didn’t know what she’d do if she had to deal with an infant that didn’t grow up at the rate he should. The thought of being this sleepless a year or more down the line, all of it owed to waking up to feed the little scamp every few hours, made her shudder.