Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Bazaar of Bokhara

I was planning on doing a bunch of writing these holidays, but so far I've been sidetracked but in a good way ;) I started on Chuck Wendig's Unicorn one last week, but didn't get it done. The one for this week is about shopping at a flea market. After rendering down the unfinished Unicorn one, I worked it into: The Bazaar of Bokhara. So it's sort of shoe-horned into a two for one combo deal, weighing in at 888 words.

Ulf Magnusen sighed with contentment when he finally caught a glimpse of the tents and awnings of the Bazaar of Bohkara. Tucking his russet beard into his belt, he drew his ermine fringed robe about him, contemptuous of the sweltering heat. Muttering in Old Eldritch, he thumped his gnarled staff of the cobblestones and threw some blue feathers into the air, spitting on them. A hazy figure coalesced in front of him, unnoticeable to an untrained eye. Bowing subserviently, it slowly led Ulf towards the marketplace.

The mage wended his way amidst the bedazzling throng, ignoring the raucous calls of hawkers and merchants. His nebulous guide hovered attentively, waiting for its master when the crowd separated them momentarily. They came to an ornately plumed tent, and the being dissipated in a puff of sweet smelling smoke.

The wizard Magnusen was unimpressed by the spaciousness of the tent's interior, nor by its eye-catching stock. Glancing about quickly he smiled to himself. Surely, if any could locate such a beast, Abdul Ibn Wazik would be the one. Upon his entry, a wizened and bent servant gave him a brief nod, and shuffled into to the one of the many rooms branching out from the entry hall. After a short period, an impassive man in a bright green turban entered, accompanied by another who was ostentatiously moustachioed and berringed. The latter bowed, and began speaking. It was an unintelligible mishmash of growls and vowels to Ulf - the incomprehension was obvious on his face. The man ceased speaking, and waited. Annoyed, Ulf reached into his pouch and brought out his babelstone. Although its powers were on the wane until the next neap tide, it should be able to handle the pleasantries.

The stranger stroked his moustache, then began again. “A thousand blessings upon you, O Traveller, and welcome to the humble stall of Abdul Ibn Wazik. My master wishes me to regretfully inform you he has pressing business in Damascus. But I, Akheem, his unworthy servant am authorised to act upon his behalf. If you will but return on the morrow, then I am sure we can come to a most felicitous agreement.” With a curt nod the wizard left wordlessly, smiling to himself. It had been a long journey from the fjords of his homeland but he was willing to wait another day for such a treasure.

Ulf’s good mod left him while he was trying to organise a room. With a flare of ochre light from his babelstone, the harsh and guttural local language once again abraded his ears. Communication became impossible but money speaks all languages. He was offered a less appealing room and simpler fare than was his wont, but he made do after summoning a succubus to take his mind away from such suffering.

The following day he returned to the bazaar, which was just as chaotic. Ulf paced a complex route that formed an intricate rune amongst the stalls, before arriving at the tent. The old bearded servant met him outside, and in Old Eldritch reminded him once again that infidels were not permitted to speak words of power within, on pain of permanently losing their sanity. Dispassionately, Ulf waited to be ushered inside.

Once again the man with flowing moustaches was waiting. When Ulf did not produce the babelstone, Akheem went to a wicker basket and withdrew a snake from within. The serpent coiled around his arm, and he dulled the iridescent scales with charcoal, barking short phrases in southern Magetongue. Its form shimmered, and changed into that of a Naga.

Looking around the tent lazily, the being licked its lips, and had an extended conversation with Akheem. Finally, it turned its attention to the wizard Magnusen and explained it would act as translator. Knowing Naga to be treacherous, Ulf went into great detail about the beast he sought, so as there could be no confusion. Echoing various phrases, the Naga nodded and smiled. “Noble, yesss,” “Virginsss, offf courssse,” “Rare, defffinitely,” “Yesss, pure, and ssserve the righteousss.”  When he had exhaustively described the creature, the conversation turned to price, but there was little room for haggling. On the finely woven rug, the wizard Magnusen completed the rune that he had walked that morning, and reached through the thus-completed portal. He handed over a fragment of unmelting ice from the heart of a glacier, the scrolls of Trin and a rope woven from the beard of a frost giant. The Naga smiled and informed him that what he sought would be provided to him in three days.

At the allotted time, Ulf impatiently returned to the stall of Abdul Ibn Wazik. The old servant invited him in Old Eldritch to take his comfort on a mound of cushions. Leaning his staff against a table covered in books, Ulf picked idly at sweetmeats until Akheem and the Naga came into the room with an effeminate, prancing dandy. The Naga watched the newcomer intently as he looked at the wares on display with mounting horror. With a bow towards his guest, Akheem snatched a jewel encrusted dagger from his belt, and lunged at the stranger’s waist. His hand’s came away bloody and the stranger began shrieking uncontrollably, writing on the floor. “Compliments of Abdul Ibn Wazik, one Eunuch’s Horn,” the Naga said with a sneer.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Steampunk Superheroes

Friday has rolled around again, that meant it's time to offer up my entry for Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction. This week, we had to pick two of:

Men’s Adventure.
And write something. Nice! But it meant that my usual slacking off of reading other people's entries at work can't be done, as I don't want to have something NSFW on-screen when a kid asks me how to stop spelling banananana.

I chose Steampunk and Superheroes - and depending on how you like your superheroes, possibly farce, too. If you like them all broody and deep, with hidden layers and tortured souls, then you ain't getting that. If, instead, you love the Adam West Batman Show (be warned that link is to TV Tropes) then this is for you.

“Good evening, all of ye meritorious members of the Mechanascience Association! As I take the podium for tonight’s meeting, to espouse to you the progress of my latest predilection - a flight of fancy based upon the works of that most eminent scientist, Mr. Charles Darwin.” With a flourish, The Technomancer gestured to Sprockette to draw aside the curtain. Sketching a chaste curtsey she did so, and he reveled in the startled gasps and the smattering of applause before continuing. “I humbly present to you: Monkey Wench! An estimable fusion of biology and technology she will no doubt be instrumental in our efforts to thwart those rapscallions in The Clockwerk Alliance!

as always the presentation was followed a more informal gathering in the smoking room. Feet up on an ottoman, The Technomancer puffed contentedly at his cigar. He listened with half an ear to Monkey Wench eloquently holding forth to an interested knot of listeners, including some of the Mechanascience Association’s inner coterie. The peace was short lived though. With a clattering bang, the door was thrown back and a breathless street urchin came in. “Parden me, sirs an’ ladies, but yer needed down at the wharfs! It’s them Coalstack Boyz!”

“They’re causin’ all sorts o’ trouble!” Instantly, the room sprang to attention, focusing on the impressive bulk of The Steamhammer, waiting for his lead. “Righto my lads and lasses, Forge and Foundry Division will field this one. Let’s see,” he rumbled, glancing about. “I’ll take The Wind-Up Kid with me, Mr. Lectric, and I would be honoured if you would grace us with your presence, ma’am” he finished, winking at Monkey Wench who blushed furiously. Pausing to throw a ha’penny to the boy, The Steamhammer led his team out of the building.

Slowly, the team spread out, but kept within hearing distance of each other. Regrettably, this meant they could all listen to The Wind-Up Kid complain. “The Coalstack Boyz! What a waste of time for all four of us! Why, I could take ‘em on me own! Come on, they don’t even have a catch-phrase, and barely have a costume! Not one in three has a cape!” He was right of course, The Coalstack Boyz were the lowest level in that insidious amalgam - The Clockwerk Alliance. Little more than henchmen and hired goons, The Coalstack Boyz ran the minor rackets and did all the grunt work... they had to prove themselves before being initiated into the higher levels of Evil. Our brave and plucky heroes come upon them, pilfering goods from one of the loading bays.

Shouted Mr. Lectric, striking an inspiring pose. “For the might of the Mechanascience Association is here to foil your foul deeds!” The incorrigible bounders that made up The Coalstack Boyz threw their ill-gotten cargo at Mr. Lectric’s head, and sprinted for the shadows. As luck would have it, most of the boxes were too heavy to make the distance, yet he still spectacularly dodged to the side to avoid them. The Steamhammer closed in on the miscreants and was about to come down on them hard, as only he could...

thick, ropey tendrils shot out of the blackness, and lashed round his bulky figure, holding him immobile. A sonorous clanking echoed repeatedly from the darkness, and the mechanical legs of Spinning Jenny appeared. Cackling manically to herself, she started to wind him in towards her massive mandibles.

Monkey Wench leapt into action with a lady-like (albeit slightly feral) grunt. Bringing her fore-paws to bear with their massive Stilsons, she attacked one of Spinning Jenny’s joints. With a
of rending metal, the leg dangled uselessly. Shrieking the spider-thing turned from her attack on The Steamhammer, and focused her attentions on Monkey Wench instead. Things looked grim indeed for our heroine, until her allies returned from routing The Coalstack Boyz. Mr. Lectric charged in, with shocking effectiveness. Battered and beaten into submission, Spinning Jenny ejected from her carapace of brass fulcrums and whirring cogs, and made off over the rooftops.

retired to the hallowed halls of the Mechanascience Association, where Monkey Wench was lauded for her fine showing on her first outing. Yet all is not well in our fine city. While the Clockwerk Alliance was stymied on this outing, they still imperil us all... Deep in her underground lair, Spinning Jenny raises the speaking tube to her mouth, and whispers throatily into it “Dr. Phlogiston? I will require your services once more...” In the darkness a whistle sounds and massive governor balls begin to spin once again with malicious intent...

Tune in next week for the next thrilling installment of: