(no subject)
black smoke
smokeandgranite
Alrighty, been a while since I posted anything here, but my good friend skidmo_fic has a "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" fic-a-thon going on. The premise is you grab a prompt (Mine was "At the Altar") and two existing fictional characters (in this case, Kali and Gabriel from Supernatural) and write a short original fiction about them. This is mine.Collapse )

Triumphal
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smokeandgranite
 BACK!
Married now, that craziness is over. Writing class is over so  should have more time to pop stuff up here. In the mean time here is my final piece for the class - it's a loooooong one so I'll be kind and cut. Any and all feedback is welcome.
The Watch CandleCollapse )

The Notebook (except for without the suck (hopefully))
black smoke
smokeandgranite
This is was the second piece I wrote for my first week of creative writing. The assignment was to be based on a specific location, so here is a short(-ish) bit about Trabant and a little boy who used to ride the 271 with his divorced dad. Liberties were taken with the people and places.



I think the only reason my parents decided on that particular coffee shop was that it was directly behind the first stop of the bus that carried me from dad's slick uptown condo to mom's ramshackle little apartment. Every week of the summer when custody was handed over it happened in this coffee shop – the sharp acrid smell of brewing coffee blending with my father's biting aftershave, the whistle of the milk steamer harmonizing with mother's idle humming. There was always tension between them – averted eye contact and stifled body language. They would make small talk as they waited for their drinks. I'm sure it was solely for my benefit. When not in the same room, my dad would often preface stories with, 'when I loved your mother...', and mom would refer to him as 'your brute of a father'. But they pretended to play nice in front of me as though I would suddenly forget the way they spoke of each other the rest of the week.
Mother's goodbye kiss tinged with green tea, my father holding my hand with espresso scented fingers. I knew they both loved me but I had difficulty ignoring the sense of relief from whichever parent I departed. Each week had the grim sense of a countdown until Sunday when I again would be juggled across town, resettled into a new set of parental idiosyncrasies. Lasagne with my dad was take out from a swank little bistro. Lasagne with mom was homemade, whole-wheat pasta, fake meat, fake cheese, slightly burned on top.
I could understand why each of my parents liked the place. There were elements that suited each. My dad surely appreciated the lovingly polished Italian espresso machine, it's lines clean and elegant, its form pure - dictated by its function. He would comment on the enormous plate glass windows at the front of the shop, what a beautiful view they had of the city and what a chore it must be to keep them so clean. Mom would never settle into line until she had made a full circuit around the shop inspecting each piece of local art hung on the wall. She relished the secondhand furniture, cups and silverware, offering inexpert appraisals of which were true antiques and which were mere thrift store trash. Mom never failed to nudge and smile the rocking tip jar and smile at the pun; my dad would always take a stab at the brain teaser of the day for ten cents off his coffee, and would get it more often than not.
It was like a tidal pool, a place I was caught between going out and coming in, populated with strangers each in their own transitions. We always sat for about 45 minutes, and rarely was there anyone who arrived before and left after us. Our visit must have coincided with a shift change, because even the baristas were different than when we entered. There were a few familiar faces week to week. There was the gaunt, stubbly man who sipped his coffee quietly, staring out the window until three o'clock when the bar across the street would open and he would disappear into its dark depths. The prim blonde mother who would smack her redheaded children on the top of the head for the smallest infraction – a sound that made me cringe clear across the room. The gray-haired red-faced gentleman who always had a joke and a booming laugh for the college girl making his coffee, but once he settled down with his paper he would slowly shrink in on himself, dismally reading current events and muttering darkly to himself.
The one stationary thing in this coffee shop was a community journal, tied to one of the small tables with a long red ribbon. It was a simple black and white mottled composition notebook, and anyone who had half a mind to do so could write any damned thing they pleased in it for the next passerby to read. While my parents pantomimed normalcy I would submerge myself in the journal, carefully memorizing naughty words for later deployment, or repeatedly rereading the same amateur poetry over and over again until the words dissolved in my mind, leaving only rhythm colored by emotion. I would imagine that I was the one who had a miserable day at his shithole job, or who would love KVD forever and ever and ever. No matter how much of the surrounding world was in flux, the thoughts and dreams of these strangers stayed rooted to this spot, ready to be relived whenever necessary.
I cloaked myself in others' thoughts and lives to disguise the abandonment, the hopelessness and the creeping fear of these hostage exchanges. Eventually I was no longer content with a passive role in this other world. I began to make sure I had a pencil in my pocket on Sundays, and I would write little notes to the other writers, little condolences and insults and praises and criticisms. If I was very upset with one or both of my parents I would even be so bold as to flip to the empty pages in the back and air my eleven-year-old grievances with the world. I told the journal of my first crush, my trip to the emergency room, and my anxiety about pop warner football.
I wish I'd stolen that journal at the end of the summer as it was filling up, just snapped it's little cord and walked out with it. It was a record of me becoming an individual for the first time instead of existing as a function of one of my parents, learning to think and to express. But as much as I would like to have it, I also like thinking of that little notebook in the hands of a stranger. Perhaps being read and doodled in and loved somewhere by another child (or adult, I suppose), perhaps my struggle to emerge inspires them to their own betterment. More likely I think, the book moulders in a storage unit somewhere – packed away with the kitschy silverware and the rest of the detritus left adrift when that coffee shop closed. And that, I think, is good and fitting too.

Conflicts
black smoke
smokeandgranite
Alright this is a reworking of a piece I posted earlier in a new setting. The assignment (which I wandered from a bit) was to write a scene driven by dialogue. Henjoy!



After a few moments spent sawing his key in and out of the lock attempting to catch all the teeth just so, Derek shouldered open the door to his cheap motel room. He flicked the switch on the wall which illuminated the room for a flash before it darkened again with a hollow pop. Bad bulb. He sure knew how to pick a rathole. He'd left the drapes partially open, and a lurid orange slash of sodium light bisected the roughly made bed, while the opposite wall trailed a thin ghostly blue pillar of moonlight. Derek shut the door behind him, and headed for the desk lamp on the far side of the bed, struggling with how he would communicate 'lightbulb' to the desk clerk in his broken Swahili.
He dropped his case on the bed, reached for the lamp. He spun the knob three clicks, still no light. His eyes widened and he began to turn just as he registered sharp pressure on his throat and felt a hand closing over his mouth. Two lean arms pinned his own against him. Fear welled up within him but it was drowned out by his anger at being so unaware, so stupid. He felt a slight nick on his adam's apple as though he'd shaved too close. Through the pain, shock, and bewilderment he became aware of two small breasts pressing into his back, just below his shoulder blades. Though he never considered himself sexist, it infuriated him further that it was a woman holding a blade to his neck. His mind raced, for an identity, a motive, or even a language to start in. He'd only been in the Congo for two days – who could he have angered to the point of homicide already? He decided to play the clueless American and hope for the best.
“Please! Please, don't hurt me. Just tell me what you want.” he blubbered through the hand.
He only received a low chuckle in return. She moved her hand so it was no longer covering his mouth entirely, and she instead pressed a single finger to his lips.
He lowered his voice but continued, “You want money? It's there in my bag, just please, don't hurt me. Please.”
“Doctor. I did not expect you to beg so easy.” The voice was soft but biting and carried a distinctive Portuguese accent. Angolan Portuguese. Who would've followed him from Angola - he thought things had tied up rather well there.
“Look, tell me what you want and we can work something out.” He feigned a quaver in his voice. “There's no need for the blade.”
He felt his assailant lean in close and her voice dropped to a whisper, “What do you think I'm here for, Doctor?”
Her breath was sweet with licorice, and the scent caused a cascade of memories – her accent, her hand, even her breasts suddenly familiar to him. “Mariana.” He fought for composure. Now that he knew who he was dealing with, the why loomed even larger. He dropped the scared tourist act. “So nice of you to drop in. If I'd had some notice I would have tidied up a bit.”
Mariana loosened her grip on him and gently pushed on his shoulder. He turned around to face her, she let the blade drop to rest on his collarbone, edge still inches from his neck. She was beautiful, even with only half her face illuminated and that by dirty yellow street light. Her large chocolate eyes were wide set, their edges covered by her hanging bangs. She was smiling, but without warmth or kindness. It was the cold smile of a predator. She said nothing.
“I must confess, I am a bit surprised to see you so soon. You were paid in full, and our contract completely fulfilled, yes?” His mind raced for cause for her presence, but she was as predictable as a sandstorm.
She allowed the silence to hang for another weighty moment before replying, “Oh yes. Completely fulfilled. And the bonus you left was...unexpected.”
“So you just missed me then,is that it? Well, you certainly have a funny way of showing it. Why don't you set that knife down and we can discuss whatever it was you came here to discuss.”
“And if I didn't come here for...discussion?” Her voice had dropped into a low sultry purr, but there was still steel in her eyes.
“It couldn't have been cheap to travel here, were you so desperate to share my bed again?” He could feel sweat at his temples, his back, but he forced calm into his face.
“Don't flatter yourself, Doctor.” She tapped the flat of the blade against his cheek. “Got what you wanted out of Angola, now you're off to plunder Big Congo, hmm?”
“Plunder is a nasty word, Mariana. Someone is going to buy those diamonds, it might as well be me. I heard no complaints in Canfunfo. I couldn't have brokered those deals without your help.”
“And where are you headed now?”
“Well, assuming I make it out of this motel room with my neck intact, I was planning on Goma.”
“I'm coming with you.”
“Is that what this is about? The strangest job application I've ever received. Look, Mariana, these are not your people. You were marvelous in Angola, but things will be much harder here.”
“Don't you worry about me.” There was a hard edge in her voice, the smile fading dangerously. “You won't do better. I speak French and Swahili and you know you can trust me.”
“Do I? Trust generally doesn't come at knife point.”
She spun her blade so close to his nose he felt the wind of it, but by the time he opened his eyes from flinching, it was in it's sheath at her side.
“Well. That's some better. Can I pour you a drink? I think I might have one myself.”
“No. Thank you. When do we leave in the morning?”
“Mariana we don't leave anywhere. This is the Congo. It has the highest rate of rape in the world, violence against women is a matter of course. You wouldn't be safe, and you'd be a detriment to my job.”
“I told you not to worry about me. You know I can take care of myself. Beside, I am carrying something you will want later.”
Derek mopped his head with a handkerchief and sipped from a bottle of bourbon. “And what could that possibly be?”
Mariana's face was a neutral mask. “Your child.”

...Aaaand we're back.
black smoke
smokeandgranite
Well. That was something of an unplanned holiday. I am in a writing class now, so I will be posting at least the shit I turn in for that, and I will try to get my warm ups and freewrites etc on here as well.
Standard disclaimers about first drafty-ness of the stuff and all that jazz.

(no subject)
black smoke
smokeandgranite
I don't know what it is about NaNo that straight kills any writing momentum I have. I think November is a poor month for it. And the beginning of December was largely consumed with writing papers and taking finals and stressing out about money, but now that that's all done with, I intend to return to SnG with a vengeance. See you around.

NaNo 1
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smokeandgranite
I had a little NaNoFail this week. I haven't written anything for a week due to life things, so I sat down this morning and wrapped out ~3000 words. Which means as of today I am only 4000 behind. I can totally come back from that right? Right. Anyway here is the unedited (and unreadover for that matter) version of my "week 1" of NaNo.

Apologies if it's painful - I don't even know.

holy shit blurgCollapse ) **edit** cleaned up the most glaring of errors. Rough but not awful for being written straight through. More next week. (hopefully much more)
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(no subject)
black smoke
smokeandgranite
We break from our regularly scheduled freewrite-y stuffs for NaNoWriMo. Rather than post daily I think I'm going to just do a weekly post under an lj cut.

Nimana pt III
black smoke
smokeandgranite
Belton awoke suddenly and without movement. It had taken him years to learn the trick of that, He could hear the light breeze through the eaves of the inn, smell the salty brine smell of the bay that permeated everything in the town. It would be nearing dawn. The bed was cold all around him. He slowly opened his eyes to an empty pillow. Preia had left out the window last night, presumably the same way she'd come in. Belton hadn't been coarse about it, but he had made it clear that she was welcome to stay the night if she wished. She hadn't. She was whipped by winds he would never comprehend, of that he had no doubt. He hated that he missed her, he was excellent at putting the past out of mind, but it was hard to ignore the fact that the room still smelt of her - oiled leather and those pungent herbs that she rubbed into her hair. And she was going to be around for the duration of the expedition. Even lying still on the bed, he could feel the headache that was coming his way.
He sat up very slowly, but still the pain washed in inexorable as the tide, rising from the base of his skull and cresting into a breaker just behind his eyes. Damn her straight to hell.
Belton washed his face and hands in the basin and dressed. He pulled down a rucksack he'd hung from the wall and pulled out a staling heel of bread and the apple that looked like it was going to go bad first. He briefly considered taking his breakfast down to sup before the hearth in the common room, but there was sure to be some early riser who would trouble him with idle chatter. Even considering that possibility focused the pain in his head to a tight beam. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply for a moment. He opened them again, and stared out the window at the graying sky, listening to seabirds call each to each. Without any clear intention Belton wrapped his cloak around him and slid the large window window open. Preia's window. The roof of the second story sloped gently away a few feet below the sill. Belton climbed out the window and sat on the wooden shingles, his back to the wall of his room. Behind him the sun crawled into the sky, picking out details of the city in greater and greater relief. From his vantage point he could see the marketplace rustling to life for another day of commerce, goods from all over the world, exotic and rare, appeared as shapeless, hueless piles of dross. Belton could just make out the stationary rows of slaves for sale and the early shoppers, moving between them with unconscious ease. Further on massive trade vessels, and smaller fishing skiffs jostled about the bay, an incomprehensible mesh of rigging and masts and decks. Nimana was awakening all around, faint voices rising and blending, punctuated by the staccato of hooves and the grind of cart on cobblestone.
Belton took his time over the meal breathing in the sour but not unpleasant city. After he had finished, he gingerly walked down to the edge of the roof to discover how that minx had scurried up to his room. The eaves were wide and he could not make out any convenient way she could've climbed up. She must have used a rope and a hook. She was certainly equal to such a climb, but why? She could've come in the inn through the front entrance and knocked on his door, or caught him on the street. Her sudden appearance had made sense when he had believed that she actually meant to kill him, but if she was merely wanting to talk business, there were certainly other, less aggressive ways to go about it. Maybe she had wanted to see if he'd bring someone else to his room with him. Maybe she had been prepared to gut him if things had gone differently. Maybe it was a lark and she'd had no ulterior motive at all. Might as well guess at the weather. A bell rang out in the market signalling the beginning of the days bidding. Belton returned to his window and clamored inside. Last night had set him on edge more than he wanted to admit. Best to just stick to the plan and deal with things as they came, he supposed. At least he had one less person to hire out.
___

The Sulien library managed to look grim and brooding even in the full of noon, and it only looked more foreboding first thing in the morning. Belton nodded perfunctorily to the clerk at the front desk and strode through into the stacks. He had already paid for unrestricted access to the library through the rest of the week and rented out one of the private study rooms as well. He unlocked the small room and entered exhaling a happy sigh at the cluttered desk and stacks of tomes and scrolls. He draped his cloak over the back of the chair and settled in, returning to the leatherbound journal he'd left open on the desk the night before.
Before long there was a slight tap at the door, Belton marked his place in the book and called, "Come in." The door opened softly and a dour elf entered, a large tablet tucked into the crook of his arm. "Ah, Ashran. I was wondering if you'd be by today. I think that I might have an interesting avenue to explore but it may merely be a mistranslation. I was hoping you would have a look? I'll get some tea if you'd like to have a seat." Jahn stood with a flourish and selected a small sheaf of papers from one of the stacks crowding his desk. Ashran sighed heavily, "Professor Jahn, you know as well I do that I can't offer that service. The library staff may not comment directly on any text, nor offer translation. If you like, I can either aid you in selecting an appropriate language aid, or should you see fit, hire an independent translator for you, but you well know that I can't simply give you my interpretation."
Belton nodded seriously. "Yes of course. Quite right. Well, I'm going to pop off for a cup of tea for myself in any event. I don't suppose you'd mind keeping an eye on the room for a moment so I don't have to go through the whole snuffing and relighting the lantern business, would you? Thank you most kindly. Be back in a few." Jahn donned his cloak once again and left Ashran to his sighing.
When he returned from the cafe with two steaming earthenware mugs of tea, he tapped the door with his foot. Ashran answered, a keen look in his eyes, though the rest of his visage was unaltered from his standard grimace. He cleared his throat, "If I may be so bold, Professor, I believe I may have a text relevant to your inquiry."
"Of course, please bring it down. I should be glad of any insight the library's resources might offer. Care for a tea?" Jahn extended one of the mugs to Ashran, supporting it from the bottom. Ashran accepted it with two hands, his eyes widening slightly as he felt the cool metal pressed in the indention on the bottom of the mug.
"I shall return forthwith."
"And I shall be waiting."
Belton settled back into his desk with a small smile. Within an hour, Ashran wordlessly appeared with a book on the dialects commonly spoken by Ogre kind. Jahn accepted it with a smile and waited until Ashran had taken his leave to open the book. Folded in the center, neatly lettered in Ashran's hand was an analysis of the passage that Belton had been reading along with several well thought out opinions on the translational discrepancies. It all confirmed what Jahn had believed but would have taken him another three days at least to research and verify. And that librarian's assistant had managed it in the time it took Belton's tea to cool.
Jahn slid the books on his desk to the side and began to ponder what the best means of luring Ashran away from the library and into the field.
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Nimana pt II
black smoke
smokeandgranite
"Sounds like quite the ambitious score." Preia stated leaning back lazily in the gaudy scarlet armchair. "You know, if you were as competent as you were ambitious, I'd be pretty damned impressed. As it stands..." She trailed off into her tumbler, her eyes mocking Jahn overtop the rim.
Belton was unaffected. He'd borne the load of Preia's scorn since he'd met her. He met her gaze and likewise took a sip of the brandy. They'd finish the bottle if they had another drink each. He wondered idly if he ought to attempt to catch Helan for another bottle before they closed down the bar for the night. Preia could hold alcohol like a man twice her weight, and the only time Belton had managed to stay with her drink for drink he was nigh incapacitated for the entire next day. He raised the remains of the bottle to her, his eyebrow raised.
"Don't mind if I do. So when do you plan on bumbling off on this foolhardy doomed expedition?"
"I will finish my research at the Sulien library here in town tomorrow or the next day, and then I will begin hiring out a team." Belton poured the las measure of the amber liquid into his glass and judged that he still had to be functional tomorrow so, call it a night after this would be advisable. Against his will a voice in the back of his mind also whispered that it would be best to be...capable if Preia was feeling amorous after all. Her coming here worried him, and not just because she'd been holding the odd of a blade on him a bare hour ago. Belton strongly preferred a life without attachments, he traveled light and maintained relationships through correspondence, if at all. To have a woman whom he had previously both employed and shared a bed with in close proximity was a breach of one of his personal credos. The fact that he still found her quite attractive only furthered his unease. "I expect to shake the dust of Nimana from my boots in no less than five days."
"Perfect. You're hiring me on, with a raise." Her face bore no smile now, merely intensity and an undercurrent of hostility again. Belton's eyes unintentionally flicked to the sword strapped to Preia's hip. It was still for the time being but he knew better than most anyone with what alacrity that could change.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me. I'm coming. With an ten percent of the take on top for my trouble." A smile was creeping back into her eyes but it was the chill wild unaccountable smile - not at all a welcome sight.
"I don't see how that's possible being as I haven't yet extended an offer of employment to you." Belton ticked through different possibilities mentally but there was simply no telling with Preia. You were just forced to adapt from moment to moment.
Preia crossed her legs and leaned in resting elbow on knee, "You can't find better than me on that kind of notice, and you know it. I'm worth every bit of copper, and I can hire out a team that has a chance of getting you out of this with your skin intact."
"I've managed to mind my own skin prior to meeting you, and I shall have no difficulty doing so after. Nimana is full of veteran cutthroats and I could have four of them for that price. And at this rate I should feel safer in their company than in yours, my dear. Forget I said anything about the journey." Belton made an effort to relax visibly, but his chest felt bound in steel hoops. In his left hand he clutched his protective amulet, and he offered a silent prayer that it would turn aside the blow if one came.
Preia clicked her tongue and leaned further forward. "Belton. I will be travelling the same path as you out of this town, either in your company or in the shadows, and mark my words, anyone who you hire to do my job, will die by my blade." She paused to let those words sink in for a moment, as she demurely sipped the brandy. "I can either be your greatest ally, or your greatest obstacle, Jahn. Consider your choice carefully."
Belton clinched his jaw, then raised his hands in mock defeat. "You do have a impeccably convincing sort of rhetoric when you apply yourself. Very well. You have the job. I will once again place my well being in your finely wrought murderous hands, and your terrifyingly unstable little mind. But at a five percent bonus, not ten. And swear by your father's blade and mother's heart that you'll let me pretend this was my idea tomorrow."
Preia's teeth and eyes flashed as she raised her hand. "Done. If I can managed to keep your delicate ego from harm, the just of you should be a snap."
Belton took it, already knowing that he would regret this in the morning, but for the moment as entranced as ever by the warrior woman in front of him, "Pleasure to have you back, Miss Kettare."
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