Saturday, November 8

The Stamm's Exile

Word Count: 1119 Average Read Time: 5:36 Time Finished: Evening of the 8th Day, before Supper, On Roll.

It had taken them all night to put out the blaze.

Crevai’s sister had been home, apparently. They had found her body, charred beyond all recognition, in the ashes after ensuring the fire was fully quelled beneath a steady stream of water and sand from the nearby river. Crevai had helped, as best as she could. But as soon as the danger was gone, everyone turned on her.

Crevai’s lack of attention was the cause most accepted by those who were nearby, including (after she had been told of her sister’s death) Crevai herself. She simply should not have left the fire unattended to run off. But she had known this, and had done it anyway… and there had been a death among the Stamm because of it.

There would be severe consequences.

Her hands were tied behind her back with the thorny vines of those brought before the council. She was to stand in front of the embers from the past nights fire, in wait for those who would decide her fate. There were two strong men, men whose faces Crevai had seen her entire life, positioned at her sides to ensure she did not break free, sit down, or escape.

This didn’t bother Crevai as much as it might have others who had been judged. She was guilty, and she felt the death of her sibling weighing down on her shoulders. Standing was the hardest for her, because all she wanted to do was cry. But she could do it, for she was Fuchs Stamm, and this was how she was supposed to face judgment.

It was not long, anyway, before the council appeared.

At the head of the council was her father, the man who had raised her. Normally, though he was important, the council would have tried Crevai without his aid because she was his daughter. But, as it was his other daughter who was the victim of this lethal negligence, he was to be heard all the louder.

He spoke.

“Crevai, You have been accused of causing the death of one of Your own: A member of Your own Den, no less!” He spoke with the strength of those who knew they had no choice, but beneath his voice there was the tiniest bit of unease. “Through Your own negligence, Refrana, Your sister, has met her end well before the moon set upon her life. Burned in the fires which You caused, released from Your charge when You left them unattended. “ The crowd around them began to murmur as he spoke.

But there was no unease or doubt in their voices.

They were staring and pointing and gesturing with all of the anger of those who might have died that night. Each scratch, each burn they carried on their bodies was fuel for their anger at this childish and near maliciously negligent woman who stood before them for judgment.

“I have been told that You readily accept this crime as Your own, and are willing to accept the consequences.” He was pacing back and forth in front of her, in between her and the council. His eyes were locked to hers, following in his own wake, never breaking their glance. They were different than those which stared at her from the crowd and the council. She wondered what it was that was different, as she spoke.

“Yes, father, I am. It was my fault, I caused all of this pain. I ask for whatever must be done to be done swiftly, that I might begin to make up for what has happened tonight.” The men beside her grabbed her arms as she finished, making the thorns bite into the soft skin of her wrists.

It was then that his eyes left hers.

“We will be spending the rest of the year rebuilding what You have wrought this night, Crevai. It will be hard for us, especially Your Den, to move on after this.” He looked back at her again, his voice going colder. “But the council has almost unanimously decided that You will not be helping us.”

Crevai could feel the blood drain from her face and chest as she worked out the implications.

“You are to be driven from the Fuchs Stamm, forcibly, as You have forcibly driven one of our own this night.” She began to struggle as he talked. He came up and grabbed her shoulder, pulling her away from the fire plot and over to the edge of the crowd. He never stopped speaking.

“You are to live, if You survive, amongst the Untied, until You atone in some way for the death of Your sister. I will add that Your own death would be atonement enough for most present here tonight. Once Your atonement has been made and accepted by the council, You may once again join the Stamm: Whether that is in life, or in death.”

They were at the far end of the circle, and she could hear him drawing his knife. As the head of the council, it was his duty to draw the first blood from her. She could not believe her father was actually going to go through with this.

He pushed her on the ground from behind, and continued to speak. “If You are seen in these lands again without having atoned, You are to be considered an enemy of the Stamm, and attacked on sight. To mark this, I now will draw the first blood, and cast You from these lands as an Untied Woman.” He raised his knife. “After which, You will be attacked like the outsider You now are.”

His knife came down, slicing at her defenseless back. As it traced its bloody line down her skin, it was stopped by the vines… but only for a moment, as he quickly sliced through them as well. He yanked her up, and hissed the words, “Be fleeter than the Fuchs, and run, little pup.”

She did not have time to be shocked, and began running as fast as she could. Stones and arrows and spears were thrown towards her, but none expected her to move quite so quickly, nor be on her feet as she started. She reached the river, paused only for a moment. She could not swim very well.

Then, an arrow made its mark, burying itself in her left arm. She fell forward, and into the water, to be carried down the current as she began to bleed from both her back and her arm. The riverbed dragged at the arrow she now bore, and it tore at her muscle, sending waves of pain across her body.

She felt the water surround her, and then, everything went black.

The Parting Stalac

Word Count: 1066 Average Read Time: 5:20 Time Finished: Evening of the Eighth day, pre-supper, after lots of deliberation

The birthing had been harder on Mhrnsh than he’d thought it would be.

Purposefully expelling himself at the triumphant end of the long ceremony had been a very troubling thing for him to do, but also something very necessary. He might have ruined the moment by staying: his utterly selfish feelings dominating his mind which would- and should- have been focused on the miracle which had just occurred for his friends, Shnndr and Kshtk.

Mhrnsh thought his friends would understand. Perhaps not immediately, but certainly as time would pass. But that was the last thing on his mind right now.

He rushed to his partner. They had something of great importance to discuss.

What he had just experienced helped him to make a decision he had been wrestling with for the last long while, since their last failed birth together. There was no denying, to Mhrnsh, that the troubles the Stalac had with the miracle of birthing were somehow related to the great quakes which had been happening for the last few years. Ever since the first one, which had happened shortly after Mhrnsh was finally considered to be of age, there had been difficulties… and with each passing quake, the difficulties seemed more apparent to him.

No one knew what was causing these disturbances. No one had cared to find out, because to do so would mean leaving the safety of the caves which the Stalac spent their entire lives in. No one had been damaged, or Crumbled, because of the quakes. It was a minor annoyance that most around him simply attributed to the ever-deeper tunnels they were digging. It was easier that way.

But Mhrnsh knew the answer was out there. And this past experience helped him resolve to find it himself.

His partner, Shhkt, had some reservations, of course. He was very much a Stalac, in very many ways. One which often came up in this conversation was “Staying in the Caves.” It was rumored that many bad things had happened to those who had left the caves, for whatever reason. Dusting Stones, the worst punishment that could befall one of their own was to be driven from the caves and forced to spend the rest of their years on the surface. Going out there was akin to asking to Crumble, to be unmade.

Mhrnsh was going to leave this place. But he first needed to convince Shhkt.

Opening the door they’d carved themselves out of a mightily large piece of Shale, Mhrnsh burst into their house. There was Shhkt, sitting in the living area, softly glowing in the soft glow of their Crystal. He noticed Mhrnsh almost immediately.

“Welcome back, Mhrnsh. Did Kshtk and Shnndr’s birthing end in tears, or in light?”

Shhkt’s voice was immediately soothing to the still very startled and emotional Mhrnsh. He lost all thought, and immediately went to join with Shhkt. Joining was faster than talking, after all. At least when it came to emotions.

They Joined quickly, touching heads and gazing deeply into each other’s eyes. In his mind, Mhrnsh could see exactly how Shhkt was feeling at that moment: The hopeful thoughts he had concerning their friends’ Birthing, the worries he had about their own, the concerns he felt when Mhrnsh walked in unlit. And, of course, Shhkt could see all of Mhrnsh’s feelings. Including his resolve to find what was preventing them from successfully having a child.

Their Joining broke as quickly as it had formed.

“Oh, my Opal, please say I might convince You to stay,” said the voice of the only Stalac who had always been there for him. “I do not want to lose You to Your travels.” Shhkt spoke with the tiniest hint of yellow glow showing from his chest… and and accompanying bit of fear tinting his voice.

Mhrnsh, however, was inconsolable. “To have to go through what we have gone through, when our bond is just as strong as the one which Shnndr and Kshkt share, is something which I cannot allow to befall us any longer.” His voice did not tremble, but it did waver… or perhaps falter, as he had been doing so much as of late. “I do not want to leave You, or the caves. And I certainly do not want to be lost to skies… But I cannot continue on like this. It is crumbling me with every passing day. And I know it has not been easy on You, either, Shhkt.”

Shhkt started to object, but caught himself. Taking a moment to think things through, he calmly said, “Yes, these years have been hard. Ever since the brittling quakes, things seem to have been getting worse. But losing You would be too much to bear.” Shhkt took a step back, and looked away. “I was so sure the last Birthing would work. We did everything right, cut every edge so perfectly. He would have been such a wonderful child, to carry on after we begin to crumble away.”

Looking back at Mhrnsh, he then said, “But having You there was what got me through that. I would have fallen apart if it weren’t for You. I couldn’t have borne that third failure if it were with anyone else.” Shhkt implored, “Is there no other way? Something else we could try, before casting You off to the damnable skies?”

Mhrnsh looked into the eyes of the one he cared so deeply for, and they both knew the answer. It only fell to him to say it.

“We’ve tried everything we could think of. This is all that is left, my Stone.”

That simple word of affection now felt as though it weighed two tons, dropped upon the feelings currently flowing through Shhkt. He flared Yellow, and the Deeply Translucent blue of sorrow, casting sea green light which both reflected and emanated from Mhrnsh as well. They both saw the sincerity of each other’s emotions, and then, Shhkt took his partner in a (very rare for the Stalac) embrace.

“Stay tonight, then. Leave after one more recess together. It will have to last us quite a long time.” That was very true, and they both knew it. It was common knowledge that few Stalac who left would ever return to the caves. It may well be their last evening together.

Mhrnsh would make sure it was one they would not soon forget.

Friday, November 7

The Present Ängsälvor

Word Count: 920 Average Read Time: 4:36 Time Finished: Supper of the Seventh Day.

Tylendore had been floating out over the lake for an hour or so, now.

His tears had long since run dry, unlike the rain which still fell through him. The incident had begun to percolate in his mind as the memories began to overtake his shock and indignation. He was as desperate now as he was 3 years ago to come up with some sort of solution… but they don’t exactly make gloves for Your cheeks.

At least not gloves You could wear every day.

For most Ängsälvor, being touched was something which only bothered them during puberty, as the sensation might send them into a gaseous form every once in a while. It was a minor inconvenience then, as there was no fear involved, and it was well understood that this was simply a thing which happened to young Ängsälvor.

But for Tylendore, being touched had bothered him since he was out of his mother’s arms. It felt like an invasion of privacy, a dirty little reaping of his personal space and security. He had never been comfortable when others had made physical contact with him, whether it was a shoulder pat or a hand shake… Or a touch on the cheek.

And puberty had only made his discomfort worse.

It took his panicked, frenzied reaction to those innocently guilty touches and turned it outward, forcing him to share that feeling with the world in a way that the world could never understand. The Ängsälvor could barely understand it, and when he left puberty they could understand it even less so, with claims that he was perhaps, “Still growing,” or, “Not quite there yet.”

It took two very painful years for Tylendore to decide for himself that they were wrong. And then, in a foolish and youthful haze, he had decided to cut all ties for a while. Perhaps the Solid would be more understanding.

They were not.

But now, he had to get home. He needed to wash himself, to wash away the lingering emotions clinging to him like the fog cloud he now was. Deciding this, he drifted towards the bank of the lake, towards the highway which had been the site of his most recent incident.

And then, he noticed something weird: There was a four-horse carraige on the road. It had not been there a few moments ago: If Tylendore hadn’t noticed himself, he would easily be able to tell by the portal which had opened about three feet off of the ground, and was still swirling slightly in the sunless sky. It had been teleported here by some kind of magic.

And there was a girl in the road, facing the opposite direction.

Making a loud noise in the form of the cloud is not easy. Far more easy was it to create a stiff wind, or a gust which could easily allow birds to drift off. Noises were nearly impossible: With no body to use as a noisemaker, what noise was there for the wind to carry?

Though this did not stop Tylendore from trying. He sent wind after wind after the girl, trying to help her notice what was about to befall her. He continued, as fast as a cloud conceivably could, anyway, to drift towards the shore. Almost there. Just a bit more.

But, then, so was the carriage.

To her credit, the little girl noticed what was going on. She spun around to face the horse which knocked her to the ground. And then, as the carraige passed, it drove over… a small bump in the road.

He was at the shore now, and quickly tried to change back. It took him a few minutes; changing from one form to another (except when propelled by something extremely life threatening or shocking, like his fear of being touched) was a process to be worked up to, not a simple choice. By the time he was solid again, the carriage was long gone, and the girl was crying loudly…

And holding something close to her chest…? Was it crushed in the accident? Perhaps it was special to her, or something she had been given by someone close to her. Wanting to find out if that was the only thing damaged in the accident, Tylendore stepped forward… but stopped short in a moment of pause.

This had been an obviously traumatic experience for the woman, and he did not want to force his way into the situation… Bothering her with his interest when she had already been through so much that day might be seen as offensive. Tylendore had certainly felt that way at times, particularly after being hit or touched. A stranger’s care could easily be almost as bad as the event itself… but he had seen the whole thing.

She was heading away, now. Presumably to her home. He had to make a decision, and quick, or it would be too late to help her at all. He resolved to inquire after her well being, and to do so as politely as he possibly could. She might want the details of the car that hit her, after all. And there was- oddly- no one else around at the time.

And so, Tylendore shortly found himself on the steps of Tale’s house. There was no knocker on the door… and no handle. Well, it’s still polite to request entry, even when not forced to do so.

And he knocked. Bang Bang Bang.

Thursday, November 6

The Broken Kaolin

Word Count: 1024 Average Read Time: 5:08 Time Finished: Early Morning on Sixth Day, Post Writer’s Block

A small benefit of the Kaolin being so fragile was how quickly physical pain passed.

Tale lay in the middle of the road, half embedded in the mud beneath her. There was no pain anymore, that had lasted until she’d passed out. When she woke, she felt fine… though she had not yet worked up the courage to actually move her body and inspect the damage. To do so, she would have acknowledge the extent to which she’d have to be fixed up.

What happened? Who did this to me?

These were the thoughts she let dominate her mind instead. All she knew for sure was a horse had knocked her on her back, and then there was a share pain in her upper arm, near her shoulder. She listened carefully, holding her breath, to check her surroundings.

There was no horse nearby. They must have left.

Enough, then, Tale told herself, as she reached back with her arms to push herself up out of the muddy road. If another cart comes, they might see me even less, lying in the road like this. She felt her left hand sink into the mud, but could not feel her right…

And she toppled over as she pushed with all of her strength. In front of her face, just a few feet away, was her right arm: Dainty fingers and all, but no longer hers, as she could not feel it. She could feel the joy drain from her face and chest as she realized her plight.

Full breaks happened, from time to time, among the Kaolin. They were certainly not common, though, and no one Tale knew had ever suffered through one. Her left hand shot to where her right shoulder… And felt the hard, gritty surface left by such an ordeal as a broken limb.

She began to sob.

Retrieving the arm now separated from its proper place, she pushed herself up with just her left side. With as much grace as she could manage, she held it to her in the truest of sorrows.

Fixing this kind of damage required money. Money to pay the Kaolin Forger to work on her, and even find one who could do so. Money to live off of without a second arm, as she could certainly not serve others now. And most of all, money to buy all of the expensive supplies she needed to use in her recovery process, lest the joint become brittle… and break again.

This accident, this beautiful raining morning, would serve to dictate the events for the rest of Tale’s year, perhaps even the rest of her life. After all, she was Kaolin, not a simple doll or statue: Kaolin were alive. And if her arm was further damaged, or lost… well, she mustn’t think about that. She simply needed to get it fixed.

Fantas was her home, but it held little hope for her now, unless she wanted to take to the streets and beg. She would have to find some way to gain the coin she needed. Perhaps she could plead with her Kilnmates, who lived 3 weeks South in the village of Caron.

She began to walk back to her house, to clean herself up and gather some things. They had not spoken in many years, but she felt as though she had no other choice but to ask for help. If she had an address… and an arm… she might have written them, to have expedited the process. But instead, she resigned herself to travel South, to regain that which had been taken from her.

She held her arm tight; it was the most important thing she owned, now.

Much more important than her collection of scarves, though that had also been damaged in the accident. She could easily see that her favorite one, the yellow one with the pattern on the end, could no longer be called a part of that illustrious group. Though… the stained and dirty length of fabric might still have a use, so long as she could make it home.

Which happened without much event. A small pleasure she was everlessly thankful for.

She modified her ruined scarf to hold her arm securly and tightly on her back. She tested it (with a large, heavy tuber in place of her arm) in various ways: Jumps, falls, lunges, and the like. After an hour of tweaking, she was satisfied that it was up to the task, and began to put together her effects.

Working with just one arm was extremely disorienting to Tale. The Kaolin’s carefully practiced and planned movement’s were a boon in most situations: They allowed grace and efficiency where there would otherwise simply be squalor and sloth. But take away a hand (let alone an entire limb!) and Tale’s practiced movements became as useless as a suit of Kaolin clothing.

Things which used to take seconds, such as folding a cloth, were now multiple minute marathons. And things which used to take minutes, like untying her nice leather messenger bag with the pretty petal stitching around its flap, were impossible until she resigned herself to using her teeth.

Fortunately, other than gold, a few bits of food, and (of course) her arm, she did not need to take too much with her. But it was vital that she not forget anything: Her time was short, as short as she could possibly make it, before she needed to be back to stay.

She was placing her lucky charm (A deck of Kaolin-style playing cards, which she had had since she was a very fresh child, with a yellow-sun back) into her leather shoulder bag when she heard an odd banging noise.

Bang Bang Bang.

She stopped in her tracks to look over her ruined shoulder.

Bang Bang Bang.

She wondered what it was, and what it could mean. And then she remembered a little Otherian oddity that fit with this situation. One she had nearly forgotten in the tragedy of this bittersweet day.

And she rushed, or as much as Kaolin ever do, to answer the knock at the door.

Wednesday, November 5

The Sidhe River

Word Count: 1089 Average Read Time: 5:27 Time Finished: 4th Day, before Dinner Sprints

Toibha could feel the currents beneath her, as they ebbed and flowed with passing moments time.

She was walking on the river: a pleasant evening for an Abha Sidhe, but certainly no miracle or even spectacle… at least not for those who had seen a Sidhe before.

Creatures born of magic and tied to a specific part of the world, Sidhe often considered that which the Untied might call, “Spectacular,” to be more along the lines of, “Mundanity.” There were the Aes Sidhe, who could speak to the wind and spray all of the colors of the Autumn forest out of their hands. There were the Cnocc Sidhe, who could ferment any beverage with a sip and take on the grassy earth as a suit.

And then, there were the Abha Sidhe, like Toibha: Able to Walk on Water (and breathe it) whenever the mood struck them. They were tied to the River or Lake they played upon, and so long as one was safe, so would be the other. To the Untied, such as the Fox Men who lived nearby, this meant that they should not be harmed, lest the water would run dry and the fish would all die.

Or so the stories Toibha preferred to remember went.

Toibha stood and stared at the moons above her, and felt with her mind deep into the rushing waters below her. This cleared her mind, as always. Becoming one with the constant flow of the river, and tracing it back to its root so far North, at the mouth of a great lake. She could feel each and every animal, plant, and stone which called this river their home. And it soothed her to know that her place, the place she was born from, was still so vibrantly alive.

Today had been hard. A group of the Fox-Men’s Children had spotted her on the bank, and had shouted to her to come see them. She had obliged them, and was delighted to find them so open minded as to entertain her for a time. She had been about to excuse herself when the truth had been revealed.

A net was thrown over her, and she was quickly tied up and strung from a tree. The Fox-People were so strong, and these children were already larger than she was, so it was not hard for them to do. And then, the ‘fun’ began for them… with throwing rocks and sticks and words.

She could not find it in her heart to hate them: After all, Sidhe were rare, and the only real stories people knew of them were the ones which stuck over time: The bad ones, the ones where Sidhe had sought revenge or solitude through trickery and force. This was taught to the children, and the children responded as they could: With violence when confronting the bogeyman they’d been raised to fear.

The parents (The tree choppers, by the look of their axes) eventually came across the scene, and immediately drew her tormentors away from her. After the children were long out of sight, an old man came and cut her down, telling her to be more careful lest this happen again… but to hurry and take her leave as well.

Once again, trusting those she did not know had caused her nothing but pain. But the river would continue to flow, and the children might continue to grow, and as long as she kept out of their sight, she might avoid that plight again.

Sighing the sigh of the evening wind, she could easily see the large smoke stack rising in the distance. She could taste it in her lungs, but it was not a bad taste: It was one distinct pleasure Toibha took from being so close to the Untied. Except, tonight, they seemed especially eager to burn their wood, as there were two smoke stacks in the sky.

Toibha decided it might be best to leave them to their burning, and continued walking up the river a ways, towards the place with the yellow flowers. She once again put her mind in the water, and felt her body’s aches begin to fade as she left it to walk on top of herself. Soothing currents filled her being, as she was home again.

But something was amiss. She felt as though her giant, flowing form was growing smaller. She waited for a moment, to make certain that she was feeling something real. Sometimes she felt the current shift, and it made her feel off, but not usually like this.

There it was again. Subtle, but certainly present: The water was slowing, taming, and growing smaller by the minute. What was going on?

She rushed her being through the slowing waves, and mentally slammed into a great metal wall about two weeks north of the Fox People. There was a small grate at the bottom, allowing a bit of water through, but this giant hunk of metal had definitely not been here before. It was sitting on the riverbed… No, in the riverbed, and extended out of the water, continuing on for some time.

Who would put that in the water, to block off something so precious as a river? Especially her river, the one which was the source of her life? And why would they do such a thing?

She rushed back into herself, and looked ahead, hoping to see it looming in the distance. But no, it was much too far away… Only now were the effects of the blockage beginning to be felt by the river, and in a few days time, it might be all dried up, a mere creek compared to the mightily flowing monster it was right now.

She resolved to resolve this issue, if it meant traveling North by herself. After all, if left unchecked, this could mean her death, and the death of all creatures in and around the river, both those with stones and those without. But first…

She looked around, to the neighboring woods, and spotted something in the distance. Leaving the river, she went off to retrieve it, taking care to inspect it for holes or cracks before placing her life within its integrity.

She dipped the hollow gourd shell in the water, and let a gallon of her river flow into it. She made sure it was as full as possible before sealing it with a leaf and tying it firmly onto her back.

Who knew how long it might have to last?

Tuesday, November 4

The Atenpla Ambassador

Word Count: 1125 Average Read Time: 5:38 Time Completed: 4th Day Evening Sprints

The soil seemed to rise to meet Flaffin’s feet, clinging to their soles with each passing step.

At first, Flaffin dismissed it. It had begun before, only to cease with the coming of thw next sunrise, or even the sunrise after. Part of the body’s preparation for blooming, their relatives all said. It happened to many young Atenpla as they neared the middle of their lives; it was no surprise to any of them that it should be happening now to Flaffin.

But this was the third day. Should it continue much longer, it would no longer be a simple sign of times to come: Those times might be here, and it might be time for Flaffin to seed. The thought terrified Flaffin as they brought water to their parent’s resting place.

The Atenpla had struggled some sense of normalcy and predictability in their lives, since the uplifting, when they rose from their humble beginnings as flowers and sprouts to stand amongst the “Soft Ones”. This resulted in them taking a great interest in a few very specific things, and rejecting that which did not make sense to them.

For instance, it was rare for an Atenpla to wear any kind of clothing. After all, they grew foliage on themselves to cover up their softer, most vital parts… and oftentimes, it was this very foliage that the Soft Ones would harvest from the plants they grew to cover themselves.

So, while they would (only sometimes) cover themselves with other’s dead foliage to walk amongst particularly particular communities, when they were amongst themselves there was never a notion of clothing being needed.

However, as for the cycles of their lives, each part of the cycle was well documented and well defined. From their parent’s Seeding, there would be a period where the child was along, and grew in the ground. During this time, it would need to have water, sunlight, and good, strong soil…

But for most parents, this was left to the ground upon which their seed fell. It was only on the Harvest, once the sprout was firm and strong, that parents would come to begin to care for the newborn. And, it was only then that it was considered to truly be alive.

Once Harvested, the child would grow fairly quickly: foliage would cover those parts once hidden from the light, height and width would come, and the roots on their hands and feet would shrink, allowing them to walk and grasp without setting down and staying. This period would last about one quarter of the young Atenpla’s life, and would be one filled with easy sun, easy water, and easy rules.

Then, adulthood would set in. This was the time when You helped the community, helped the young, and helped Your parents as they approached the soil once again.

After seeding a few times, the Atenpla would begin to wilt, and eventually would take root somewhere, to spend the rest of their days quietly observing the world around them. And, once taken to the soil again, elder Atenpla could sense things no other creature could: minor vibrations in the soil were weather changes and children growing; silent breezes carried stories from far off, telling of what was happening in the world neighboring the Field.

Flaffin had had both parents take the soil since the last great cold, and had been visiting them daily, to converse and water them, and see to anything they might need. It brought all involved much joy, and Flaffin much wisdom otherwise lost to the silent leaves.

Should Flaffin reach the end of Adulthood, however, it would mean other young Atenpla would take his place, and he would begin to Seed.

For the Atenpla, this was a momentous occasion… a once in a lifetime occurrence that was not to be taken lightly. There was usually a great celebration, and the chance to receive the pollen of many of those he knew, that the next generation might be strong and resilient upon their growth. For Flaffin to have that honor would be a great joy, but now it only brought nervous thoughts.

For, when the Atenpla had seeded for the very first time, they must “Take to the Wind”.

The Atenpla, uniquely, would only Seed a few times in their lives. The first was done as a celebration, where the community would strengthen its bonds by seeding amongst itself. This was fine for Flaffin, it meant staying for a bit longer.

Afterwards, Flaffin would be expected to leave the Field until their next Seeding, or longer.

“Taking to the Wind,” as they called it, was meant to serve three functions: First, it would bring diversity to the field upon Flaffin’s return. The idea was originally taken from the flowering plants they held as ancestors, with seeds carried upon the wind to new places, and thus crossing with new, differing species. This was a good thing, though it did frighten Flaffin, who had never really seen a Soft One before.

Second, it would let Flaffin see the world, and learn from the Soft Ones. This was the best part, to Flaffin, for it meant discovering new ideas, thoughts, concepts, and stories.

But the Third function was the issue: They were to give back to the Soft Ones in any way they could, as they would represent the Atenpla to the world. There were a great many creatures in the world, and many had bad reputations. If a Seeder was bad, they would be blocked from entering the Field upon return, until the damage had been repaired…

This meant life, possibly the rest of life, outside and away from those who knew Flaffin, or who could relate to them in any way.

And the only way to avoid it was to guess how best to help those with no roots, no leaves, no Seeding, no Sprouts, no Soil… And to do nothing was impermissable, as well, for that would always end in a bad word for a creature so radically noticeable to the Soft Ones as the Atenpla. Besides, missing all of the potential stories and lessons just to cheat themselves back into the Field was not something Flaffin was willing to do.

There they were: a beautiful set of Yellow Dandelions, as tall as a fence or a sapling, facing the rest of the field, and thus, Flaffin. Facing the other side, the river they’d chosen as their resting place, were the contented faces of the people who had cared for Flaffin since he was in the same soil they currently rested in. They looked at Flaffin, and spoke a single sentence which caused Flaffin’s petals to fill with electric shocks.

“So, it is finally time for You to Seed.”

The Stamm Cook

Word Count: 1411 Average Read Time: 7:03 Time Completed: Third Day’s Writing

The smell wafting up from the pot below Crevai was intoxicatingly hearty after a long day on the hunt.

Full of wild grains and tubers from the fields they tended on the far side of the hill, soaking with the broth they’d made from herbs traded for from the Pure, and then, nestled within and slowly soaking into the whole of the pot, their prize for the day: the meat from two birds, shot out of the sky by her older sister, Refrana.

Crevai was not the best at hunting, though she was of age, and therefore would join in that most important chore. She was much better preparing the animal, skinning it, cleaning it, cooking it.

And of course, her favorite part: eating it.

Of course, she was not allowed to merely focus on that. She was part of the Stamm: A race of people who, through word, deed, and magic, were devoted to a specific animal. So devoted, in fact, that as their numbers grew, they would begin to naturally (or magically) adopt the traits (both positive and negative) of the animal they would laud above all others.

Crevai was part of the Fuchs Stamm- Those Stamm devoted irrevocably to the Fox.

Part of being Fuchs Stamm was cooking and prepping and eating, yes. Especially for Your Den, the most important group. But there were no specialists amongst the Fuchs Stamm- just those with a talent for some things over others.

Today, Crevai had gotten to cook. Tomorrow, it would be Refrana’s turn, and Crevai was to do that which she hated most: Tending the fire. Making sure it was lit until the moon was well overhead took most of the night, and worked all of her body to near exhaustion. Wood was taken from the forest as it was needed: Trees were cut only under the setting sun, all night the fire was stoked with the tinder from the forest and those trees felled during twilight.

And no, the logs felled as the sun set were not to be chopped by anyone but the firekeepers from each Den.

But tonight was her night, the night she got to do that which she liked most: make and eat a delicious meal with those important to her. She would make the most of it, so that when she was alone beneath that blackened sky gathering wood to smoke the great fire, she would remember how that was possible: Her mother’s work tonight.

She added a bit more water to the pot, and stirred it to prevent the grains from sticking to the bottom and blackening under the heat. Taking a spoon she kept nearby just for the purpose, she tasted the dish. And found that it needed something.

Something familiar, but importantly missing from this pot of food. What was it? She’d tasted it many times before, and could easily describe those dishes which had it: The cheesey bird mess folded between bread, the mixed herbs and crisp roots covered in sour wine and fat, the breads filled with tallow and green flakes of this herb.


That is what it was. Dahnya. And she was certain of where to find some, just over by the border of the forest, where her family had been chopping trees as the sun set. She could be there and back before the pot needed stirring again.

Stoking the fire with two small twigs her mother had brought her, she left her Den’s house, running off towards the forest.

The cold wind bothered Crevai more than most of her kind. That’s not to say it was intolerable, but she would definitely prefer to be inside than out, and then definitely nearer to something warm.

So when she left the comfort of her home to run into the night, she stole a stoal from the hook just outside the door. With a start, she recognized it as her sister’s, which was odd, considering the nights hunters should all have been around the great fire just now, commiserating over the events of the day.

Perhaps Refrana had been given a new pelt of some sort, she thought, and shrugged. Maybe Vix had finally worked up the courage (and the skills) to make her something. But that was a conversation for another time.

Wrapping it around herself, Crevai set out. She knew she mustn’t tarry, as the food might burn should she be away for too long. She hadn’t burned food in three years, since she had been a child of only 14 winters. To burn something now would be childish, and put a damper on everything the next run of chores would hold for her.

She ran quickly in the silent cacaphony that was the night wind. That was her second talent: Running. Should the need arise, she could outrun just about everyone she knew. Fairly useful in day-to-day activities, but useless enough that she had never really been praised for it.

At least, by anyone other than her father, who had taken an interest in her speed from an early age: on the hunt one day, shortly after she’d bled for the first time and began the journey into adulthood. She found herself cornered by a buck they’d been hunting in the forest, and her father was shouting to her from the sidelines to keep her wits about her.

She did as she’d been taught: felt along that string of attention all prey had, and waited for it to twinge with wild abandon, showing just a tiny drop in focus. There it was. She bolted out to the left, just as it charged forward, and got away- straight passed her father, in fact, who then had to deal with an angry and annoyed buck coming for him shortly thereafter.

Once he had safely dispatched the beast, he found her and remarked for the first of many, many times: “You’re fleeter than a Fox, little pup.”

There it was! The small bush of Dahnya she’d seen earlier that day. It was still here and still in one piece. Sliding to a halt in front of it, she picked a few sprigs from it, and dashed back towards the Den. With any luck, the food would not have begun to burn yet.

Finding her way back in the dark was never difficult, thanks to the great fire. She only ever needed to look to the sky, and spot to smoke stack rising in the distance. Heading towards the smoke would always lead her home, and there was never more than one smoke stack in the sky, for they lived far away from any other Stamm… Let alone the Pure. It was fool-proof and easy, and even in the pitch black of the absent moon, she could always spot such a large cloud. That was the way she’d always done it, only today, there was something amiss.

There were two large plumes of smoke in the distance, albeit right next to one another. Odd, she thought to herself. Who had made that second great fire? Were there more Stamm nearby? Or had the fire keepers made a mistake of some sort?

The former would be the bigger problem, of course. Such occasions were rare but memorable, when the Stamm would try to claim their neighbor’s lands. The resulting conflict was often long lived, and even more often very bloody, with generations on both sides being affected (and, in smaller parts, effected) by it.

If that were the case, though, usually they would show themselves by day. And if that had happened, Crevai would know about it by now.

It was possible that the fire keepers had decided to slowly move the great fire, as well. That was a lot of work, and would make tomorrow much harder on her, but always done for a good reason.

Though usually that reason was the receding line of the forest, or the ground being too moist to light a fire that night. Unlikely, again.

Troubled, she ran faster, until she saw her Den. She saw her Den, and she fell to her knees. She fell to her knees, and she began to wail. She knew now who had made the second great fire. She knew now how it happened, and why: Three sprigs of Dahnya, now cast to the ground before her.

Her Den, moreso than all of the other alit Dens nearby, was ablaze in the night.

Monday, November 3

The Untouchable Ängsälvor

Word Count: 948 Average Read Time: 4:45 Time Finished: Third Day Morning Sprints

Describing how it felt to become a cloud of mist was never easy.

A similar task might be describing a sneeze to someone who has never had one. Or an orgasm. It was something the body approached and achieved, not something one simply chose to do and then executed. To the Ängsalvor, it was something that came naturally, with time.

And (in much the same way as a orgasms and sneezes) they were something one could often enduce at will, but not something one could ever fully control.

That would not stop the Solid from asking constantly to see it, as though something so personal or embarrassing should be put on show for the entertainment of the public. But Tylendore would never react with the indignity he felt when being asked to perform, because he knew it was not so much a spectacle to those Solid as it was genuine interest.

At least, that was what he always told himself when asked, in order to be calm.

Today was no exception. Tylendore had come across a family: A mother and two children. The mother was explaining to the young ones exactly what he was, and what about him was different. In hushed tones, he heard her teach them how he was not to be trusted quite as much as any other stranger or Other that they might meet. Though, to her credit, she did not expound on why that was- at least not while she was standing three feet in front of him.

Apparently, whatever version of the story she knew wasn’t horrid enough to preclude asking for a free show for her and her two little angels.

Normally at this point Tylendore would hold up his gloved hands and make some excuse about not being able to do it again today. Being worn out. Willing, but not able. This was more understandable to them than explaining his real situation. Disappointment would rush across their faces, but never anger.

Being too blunt, he had learned over time, would spell disaster for him. Many of the Solid races were not used to being told, ‘No,’ by anyone, especially not one of a race as maligned in the public eye as the Ängsälvor. They would get violent, but first, only in words. Trying to lash out with lexicon to get their way. And sometimes, that was when they would leave.

Other times, they would get physical.

It was always difficult to convince anyone that an Ängsälvor was the victim in a situation. They were not immediately considered Evil by most, but they were usually marked as the troublemaker between any conflict they might be involved in.

“Why didn’t You just show them?”

“Why did You wear Ängsälvor clothes if You didn’t want people asking that?”

“Why did Yoy fight back? It would have been better if You just let it happen, and left.”

Unfair. Unjust. But this mother had just asked him a question.

But as he began to eloquently tell them, ‘No,’ the mother walked up to him and cupped his cheek in her palm as she began to ask ever-so-nicely.

Panic raced through Tylendore’s mind as he felt the warmth of her hand on his cheek. It burned like fire, it froze like ice. He reeled back and started to breathe heavily, eyes wide and face on fire. His entire face and neck was beginning to feel numb. And then, it began.

He felt the tingle of the Mist flow through his skin, and then explode out into a cloud around him, along with his body and mind. His entire being was thrust into the act, and he could not stop it. In other circumstances, it might have been enjoyable.

Here, it made him sick to his stomach.

He had yelled, as the trasformation had begun. This was now a wailing noise, carried on the wind from within himself, out towards the group of sickening Solid people still standing before him. They got what they wanted, even when he did not willingly give it to them. He had been forced into the Mist by their touch, once again.

A sense of doom washed through him, through the cloud that was now his body. Though they could not see the change, his form shifted to reflect it in a way that other Ängsälvor would have been able to see. The Others, well, they could just see a cloud.

And he could see all around him, or rather, he could without moving. He still needed to focus and change his perception. Seeing all around him at once was something only very special Ängsälvor could do, and he was not special. He was not even normal, or worth the dust being kicked up as the two children ran off, being followed by their sickeningly applauding mother.

Good Riddance, he thought, turning his attention to the pond beside him, floating out over it to try to calm this dreadful feeling he had. His heart would still be beating a mile a minute, if it were in one piece.

As it was, his body was spread out evenly amongst the folds of the mist. If he were to breath, the entire cloud would softly create a breath around him. If he were to relieve himself or sweat, the drops of liquid would fall from him slowly, as though the were condensation or rain.

At least there was that, he said to himself, as he settled softly on the bank of the pond, just overtop the water, so no one would notice him cry.

The Fall of the Kaolin

Words: 897 Average Reading Time: 4:30 Time Completed: Second Day of Normal Writing

The sounds of the rain were what woke her.

She sat up with a start, never one to be able to slowly rouse herself from a slumber. Her painted sapphire eyes fell upon the open window, which sat just a bit to the left of the foot of her bed: Enough that, should she want to, she could look through it. But she could also completely block it out, if the mood struck her,

Today was a perfect rainy day: Enough of a storm that rain fell in steady streams from her roof in addition to the normal unobstructed droplets, but not so much that the sky was completely darkened. The clouds, just South of a perfectly porcelain white, loomed heavy and dripping above her. It was the kind of day that she savored.

Gingerly, she inched to the side of her bed. Some of the Kaolin would take 10 minutes for the next part, just to ensure that there would be no mishaps so early in the morning. After all, with skin as hard and as fragile as porcelain, fixing a chip or a scuff was not a simple task, requiring time— and money. Taleandory had been told that by her mother many a morning, as she was learning what it meant to be a Kaolin. But "Tale," as she called herself, was never one to take such caution.

Especially on a day so perfectly rainy.

She pushed herself out of bed in one fluid motion, hearing her feet hit the ground with a loud clink. No pain. And she was standing, nearly ready for the day.

Tale was not a woman so enamoured with fashion that she'd take a lot of time to dress herself up. But, she wished she were, some days. And on those days, she had a small assortment of sashes and scarves which she liked to choose from. The most basic form of Kaolin cosmetics, a simple bolt of cloth tied here or there could lend that hint of care and prettiness she yearned for.

She sifted through her collection quickly. Today was definitely a yellow day, Tale thought to herself. And there was the one she wanted: Bright yellow with a small pattern on the edge.

Her small, dainty fingers tied it in a soft knot around her neck, letting it hang down behind her. She looked in her mirror. She looked good. Time to set out for the day.

Tale went to her door- unhandled, as all Kaolin doors were, and double hinged to open out both ways. When Others would ask them about that, often with concerns for safety or practicality, the Kaolin response was elegant and simple: "Why would You make something that had the chance to hurt You more complicated than it needed to be?" A door's presence already conveyed the desire of privacy. If the Others (or another Kaolin even, at times) were not respectful of that desire, then what good would a lock or a handle do?

Tale went to her door and softly pushed it open, stepping through. She felt the first few drops of rain land on her face, the first cool breeze caress the delicate curves of her body, the first footprint of soft earth give beneath her feet as she walked. She sighed a contented sigh, and began to hum an Ängsalvor tune, one of her favorites. Closing her eyes, she continued to trace the carefully measured steps to the edge of her household, as she did each morning before heading to the square.

She worked in a restaurant, serving people drinks and food just a hair slower than the others, but with much more grace and poise. It came naturally to a Kaolin to be so; Any undue haste could spell disaster quickly when Your body was so fragile. The Others could practice making calculated and precise movements, but a Kaolin had to live it.

In the distance, a small clap of thunder rumbled. Though she loved it, she hurried her steps just a small amount. It would be difficult to work if she got herself too wet, for drying herself off was very difficult.

She rounded the bend which led from her little one floor cottage to the main road of Fantas, the town it which she lived. Each step sounded with a smack of grasping mud now, the road slick with rain which had been falling for hours. To Tale, this reminded her of porridge, which she liked to play with before eating.

Smack, Smack, Smack.

Her footsteps were as regular as the ticking of a clock.

Smack, Smack, Smack.

Smack. Smack. Smack.

Smack, Clop Clop, Smack, Clop Clop.

Just as she noticed something else was on the road, a runaway team of horses led a caravan wagon directly overtop of her. As she fell, she felt a brief but glorious surge of energy, as if for once she might be alright even though this was against all she had ever learned about herself.

And then, with her face in the mud, she felt the sharply intense pain of her left arm being crushed beneath the wagon's wheels. She could feel a scream building in her chest, but then stars were all around her, and everything went black.

Saturday, November 1

The Birth of a Stalac

Word Count: 1271 Average Read Time: 6:22 Time Completed: First Day's Sprints

The room was lit a holy shade of blue.

It would be unusual, on any other day. Laughable, even, for someone to expend enough of their energy in such a show of intense emotion. But on a day like today, the day when there would finally be a child brought into this world, all around would gladly show their support.

The couple in question had been trying for the last 5 years to conceive such a bonding testament to their union. I had grown up with them, a constant friend and companion through troubling times. But without such a friend, they had told me, they could not had gotten through this.

To see them now, enacting that union they had so deeply and truly wanted, made me falter.

Falter is indeed the right word, though it left an odd color as it left my mind. Faltering in three ways, as their heads began to glow over the child they wished to create.

First, in the utter beauty of it all. I had only ever been witness to three conceptions, and one of which I was interested more in the technical side of things than in the spectacular moment.

It was surreal: Others of importance in both of their lives gathered around, lending the soft blue glow of their emotions to the room which would otherwise be black as obsidian or coal. The couple, enamoured more than ever with one another, stood at the center of it all arms stretched over their past weeks' labor- a collection of precious stone cut just right, and assembled overtop of an inscribed circle.

To reproduce, it was said, there needed to be both an intense fire and a deep determination between those involved. Constructing Your child by hand, or overseeing a very close friend's hand if You lack the skill, was indicative of the latter. And if You lacked the former, well...

Shhndr's light faltered just a hair, and only for a split moment. Should it go out, or dim too long, it would spell disaster for their unborn child. Deep fire, deeper than anything else in life, was needed to be successful.

Especially in recent years.

Shutting that thought deep from my mind, I focused my emotions on the task at hand. Our role was secondary, of course, but our light would help mask any faltering of their own, lest their partner notice and begin to doubt themselves as well. The avalanche of pain would claim many a child from parents with too few friends and too many faltering thoughts.

Which brought me back to my own, and reminded me of the second reason I falter as I stand here in support. The reason which shook me and my close ones whenever we thought of children. The reason that I could not stand by my friends 100% as they moved on to the next stage of their lives.

I was not unpopular.

Three Births, including the one which taught me what it was. Two births by friends. And though I was far from crumbling, I could not claim youth as my excuse anymore. There should be more, and would be more, were it not for all of the failing births I had seen over the years.

Why were people no longer able to do that which was once so normal a part of Stalac life? Why did one in every 10 or 15 ceremonies end with meeting a newborn, and the rest end with crushing despair and bitter, bitter darkness? Why were we not able to conceive, though we wanted no more than to be with one another?

Why couldn't we?

My light went out as my mind began to reel uncontrollably in response to that question. I focused on the stone walls, old and strong and firm in resolve. I tried to push that angst from my mind, on this very important day. That third reason to falter, the real reason behind it all, was not important right now. I must be here for Shhndr and Kshtk.

I took just the smallest step back, and then one step forward to make up for it. Looking straight ahead, I imagined myself as I was, without light: My perfectly polished edges shining only the reflection of those around me, the only light present my two yellow-green eyes.

And then, I imagined the light once again falling from my body, and gushing into the room around me. I imagined those around me reflecting my own light back instead. And I thought of my friends, and how hope has helped heal heinously hardened hearts in the past.

And hope sprung from me again, along with my light, blue as the fabled 'sky' from the stories the wanderers would regale the children with. Those same stories which would soon be told to the child lying there in the middle of the room, beneath Kshtk and Shhndr.

They were both emanating streams of that same color. Was that..? No. I urged myself not to revise what I saw with what I only wished to see. Casting my gaze to those around me for a second, and then back to them, I saw it again: A tint of red in the otherwise holy blue. It was faint, but definitely present, and in both of them.

I heard a surprised gasp from across the room as someone else noticed it too. "When hope springs eternal, eternal springs life." That was the mnemonic my parents had taught me when I first was to see the miracle of a birth. Hope was blue, and life was red.

Shhndr and Kshtk, however, were both rapidly glowing purple. A deep purple. Deeper and deeper, until they could go no further. Their light outweighed and overpowered ours, though we were not to stop our labor until they had stopped theirs. This, I had seen, was a very wise bit of advice, for what comes next can easily be ruined by a lack of constant and consistent support.

The bright purple glow was snuffed suddenly, and all that remained were the faint blue glows bordering the room. The center, both couple and child, were unlit, as unlit as those without life might be.

This was the dangerous part of a birth, and the one which had always been so. It was not unheard of for life to be taken instead of given here; A fate which forced the lone survivor to live alone for the rest of their lives in remorse for their crumbled partner, and their child who would never get the chance to crumble.

I could not think in that one moment. All I could do was glow.

No reaction.


No change.


And then, miraculous release! Both Shhndr and Kshtk sprang back to life, with their purple union draining softly into the body beneath them. Though they would fade to normal, if satisfied, shades of greenish blue, it was the child which drew one's eye. Bright red, brighter than ever shown by those born even only a few lessons ago, shone from their body.

And slowly, they began to move.

First, a leg. Then an arm, and then the head— and there were the eyes, bright and yellow amidst the newborn red. They pushed themselves up, to sit on the ground, as their eyes fell upon the sated and sighing couple beside them.

This was too much for me. Too beautiful, too perfect... Too close to home.

I left the room, my inner light snuffed by thoughts of despair and frustration, as they spoke their first words.

"What will You call me, parents?"

Friday, October 31

Statement of Intent

My Statement of Intent

Translation of the Above

Hello there, my name is Christopher Rodriguez. I have decided that I will be trying to do NaNoWriMo again this year. I will be writing a fantasy novel set in a world I have constructed over the last 2 years, featuring 5 or 6 strong characters brought together by adversity. As I write, I will post my progress online. I would like for You to join me as the story evolves.

As the world currently carries the name, "Esoterica," the book is called, "Esoterica I". See You here, November 1st!