So, way back when, some rather good books were published a page at a time in newspapers. The Sherlock Holmes series, the Count of Monte Cristo, and the Three Musketeers are all tales that got their start in this fashion, and we’d like to follow suit. Every week, we’re going to post something new for you to devour and read, with original art as a header, and then a collected version for purchase from our store when the book is complete. Questions? Comments? The writers are right here, and they’ll respond as they’re able.
A storm was coming, the kiss of it cresting the horizon.
Lady Veskur Wyrd watched the gathering clouds for a time, trying to remember if the storm was something she had called. She did not remember and could not think of a reason why she might have, but then she had been very busy. Twitching, she pulled the blanket draped over her shoulders tighter and stood barefoot on the balcony of her lonely keep, her brown hair catching in the wind. She did not remember the last time she had been outside, did not remember the last time she had slept, did not remember the last time she had left her laboratory.
If she had been prone to look in mirrors her appearance would have surprised her, the light in her eyes a stark contrast to the lines of fatigue etched into her flesh, the pale sallowness of her skin. As it stood, however, none of it mattered. She was allowing herself this small break only because she had discovered a miracle that she knew no one else would understand. Her nation claimed to be one of rational intellectuals but not a one of them could have understood what it was she had wrought.
Oh, she had tried to explain it to them. She had taken her numbers and theories into the cities owned and operated by the Great Houses, sat before their councils and nobles and shared everything she had spent her lifetime unraveling. They had accused her of madness and dismissed her with winks and knowing smiles, eager to have her on her way. She knew they considered her a joke, good enough to call upon when they needed a laugh. She accepted this, as she cared nothing for their opinions.
There were times, uncounted by both her and the rest of her people, when they would come to her to fix their problems. She would come, solve their troubles, and leave. No one took note of these moments, least of all the lady herself. She cared nothing for debt, obligation, or tie. The only thing that mattered to her were the studies she had devoted everything that she was to; all else was empty distraction, noise without meaning, and the only reason she ever went in the first place was to fulfill her family’s obligations to the Vanir so that they would leave her alone.
It began to rain, sky-tears touching her face and spilling down her high cheekbones. She took note of it and enjoyed the sensation, taking a few more minutes to stand there until she was drenched and shivering. It was information, being cold and wet, and she accepted it for what it was before retreating back inside and fixing herself a hot cup of tea and an even hotter bath. Warmth within and without eased tensions that had been building in her for weeks, a gentle drowsiness seeping into her every pore. A simple application of her knowledge kept the water steaming. She drifted into oblivion, woke when the mood took her, dressed and went back to her one true joy.
She had been forced to take up weaving and metallurgy when none of her family wanted to help her with what they thought of as her wasteful efforts. They had moved her out into the wilds and forgotten about her, granting her the solitude she had needed from them almost by accident. She had shown anyone who so much as feigned interest on those rare visits the glove she had made. She tolerated their blank stares and hollow praises.
The glove had bits of wood woven on the outskirts of the fabric. She had found that only ash, yew, elm, alder, cedar, or rowan could shape the energies she had bound in the way she wished. Metal had been woven within the glove to channel those same energies, taking from flesh and moving it to the world outside the body. Gold, silver, or copper, exclusively – nothing else would accomplish the task.
The Earl of her House had seen her glove and asked her to explain why she had placed the Crest of High House Wyrd on the back of the palm. She had tried to explain it to him but he had just stared at her blankly, not understanding though willing enough to indulge her. She had a soft spot for the old man and felt a kinship to him she did not feel for any of the others; he had built their House from nothing and she, if they would just let her alone long enough, would change the world in his name.
She slipped the glove over her left hand and felt the energies coursing within and frowned. Her problem was one of proof – how could she explain that she had changed the world when the changes that she made had always been, particularly when considering something as subtle as the possibilities of greatness or failure within a lifetime? She had used the science she had invented to further her own understanding of things the rest of her nation could not even begin to fathom.
It was only a matter of time, she knew, before that understanding drove her irreversibly insane.
Her family had left her a single servant, a man of some passing handsomeness whose name she could never quite remember. She knew that her parents hoped that she would take an interest in him and for their sakes she had tried. He had ended up striking her as pointlessly dull and she had as little to do with him these days as possible, ignoring the sounds that came from his rooms when he brought yet another lover to her home and pretended to be some minor lordling. If they knew of his games the rest of her family would have had him killed; she politely ignored him and appreciated the same courtesy paid in kind.
But now that man was standing on the edge of her laboratory. He wouldn’t say anything until she acknowledged him, knowing how irate she could become when she was torn from her work, but his eyes weighed upon her. She was tempted to use her sciences on him in that moment but held back, knowing better than anyone else ever would the responsibility that came with knowing what she knew. She sighed and slipped the glove off her hand and looked up at him with polite impatience.
“There’s someone here to see you.”
“Who is it? Family?”
He seemed uncertain of what else to say so she sighed and followed him to the modest greeting room that was mostly used by him. There was a figure there that she had heard of but never met. Handsome, coal black hair and beautiful eyes, slender elegant features with just a hint of roughness around the edges. He wore clothing that was entirely out of place with the Vanir people but that nonetheless suited him, draping down and around his slim build. The most notable thing about him, however, were the dark and feathery wings that rose from his shoulders, stretching out like clouds to flick the water off.
“Lady Wyrd, greetings,” the man said. “Do you know who visits you?”
“Your name is Lloykiel,” Wyrd said, staring at the figure, grimacing as she stumbled over the complexities of his first syllable. He nodded. There were tales of him, fables that her family had shared regarding some long ago war. He was said to have been involved in that war, somehow, and it was said that he had taken an interest in the war that her people were now enmeshed in with their uncivilized neighbors, the Coeecian people. No one she had spoken to knew what that interest was, only that he was out there and a part of it.
“So I am known here,” Lloykiel sang. That was another thing she’d heard, that he sang instead of spoke. There was beauty in the sound and she did not begrudge him this even if she did find it passing strange.
“What do you want?”
“I have a question.” He paused and stretched his wings out, accepting some steaming liquid that her servant brought to him. “It is about your studies.”
“What do you know of them?
“Only what you claim.” He paused, mulling over the cup in his hand. “There is use for you, a call that will credit you, give you acceptance.”
“Really.” Even she could hear the disinterest in her voice.
“I tell you the truth,” Lloykiel smiled. “To the south of here, battle. Use what you have learned.”
He finished his beverage and left, toasting her briefly before going. She considered his words at length and finally decided that while he had been interesting, his message was not. She returned to her laboratory and her work, noting equations that would aid her in her quest for discovery. She lost track of time, ignoring the world around her completely until her servant ran into her room, ignoring all sense of decorum.
“Yes, what is it?” she demanded. He merely stared at her.
“The C-Coeecians,” stammered the man. “Jesam. They’ve broken past the southern border, a surprise raid. They’re nearly here. They aren’t far from here, you can see them in the distance without strain.”
Cursing under her breath, Wyrd slipped on her glove and went to the top of her tower, throwing a blanket around her shoulders. There was wind and the storm she had enjoyed before and just as her servant had told her there was an army of Coeecians chasing down a small group of her people. She studied the Coeecians with some passing interest, having never seen one before.
Where her people were orderly and stringent, the Coeecians were dirty and chaotic, a mess of lines and flesh. Not one of them was dressed like another and they charged forward with less sense than beasts, much of their flesh exposed, their weapons poorly made and rusted and dented. She had heard they had a religion andthat they believed in some sort of higher power, but she had scoffed that any human people could believe in something so infantile – but looking at them now, she would have believed them capable of any sort of idiocy.
She scowled as she noticed her people running towards her tower. They would expect her to shelter them, distracting her from her studies while the animals on their heels battered at her walls. Her own people would attempt some sort of defence and would try and fail to engage her in conversation. They would go through her things looks for weapons. They would go through her things. It was all too much of a bother for her to want to deal with.
Though the glove she had made had been meant for quiet weavings, there were other more blunt uses that she could put it to. She had used a base bit of knowledge to keep herself warm in the bath, but what she crafted allowed for her to magnify that power a hundredfold with a quickness that everyone else had told her was impossible. When she had tried to prove her discoveries they had called her a liar and accused her of trickery. Unsure how to deal with their accusations, she’d retreated to the home they had given her and locked herself in her laboratory, gotten back to work.
It was her fault. She should have known better.
But now, looking out and over the plains below her and the two ravening hordes that were charging her home, she sighed and realized that she would have to put her theories to pragmatic use. Destructive power had always been the preferred sign of the Vanir’s strength and she called on that power now, forcing the unseen forces that coursed through every living body into the wires in her glove, into the wood and the etchings she had carved into them. Silver and elm, that was her preference. The sigil attached to the glove began to spin, light and lightning spilling forth and carving a place in the storm.
– a web woven of her will reaching far beyond the skies and into the black sea that the world itself swam through – debris floated there, drawn by a power called gravity by some and love by others, a circle around the world of endless yearning – Veskur Wyrd took one of those bits of rock and ice, pulling upon it with her will, bringing it closer to the earth, pulling it to where those that wished to disturb her were coming – this is what was meant to be, had always been, and none could dispute the claim –
She heard their screams over the wind when the gift her will had summoned came into view. Some among the Coeecians, she assumed, would know that someone among the Vanir had to be calling upon such power. She saw some of them falter and look for some sign of whoever it was that had brought forth the approaching cataclysm, hoping to destroy the primitive techniques they would have employed instead of the more civilized approach she had created.
One of them realized what was happening. She saw him stare at her and point, he still too far distant for her to see anything else before the end claimed them all. Her chosen weapon smothered them, the impact knocking her from her own feet even at this distance. She rose and looked towards the point of impact, but the cloud of dust and snow following the wake of devastation knocked her down again. She hissed in irritation, both from the growing bruise on her thigh and knowing that her laboratory would have suffered from the blast and been torn into disarray. She managed to stand again eventually, her leg protesting as she looked out and over what had once been a fertile plain and was now a blasted valley.
The people of her nation had survived, caught on the edge of the blast. They had been knocked to the ground and looked battered, but none the worse for wear. They were all looking at her and she could see the awe on their faces and knew that they would gather their courage and one of their number would be chosen to come and speak with her.
More time would be lost as she ran through the same explanations and the same condescending idiocy. Growling, she stormed into her tower and screamed for her servant, his trembling presence finally coming clear to her.
“Go out to those imbeciles and tell them I am not accepting company at this time,” she hissed. “Give them whatever supplies they need and then send them on their way. If you have dire need me, I’ll be in my laboratory.”
He may have stumbled over a response; she was not certain, did not care and did not stay to listen. She howled when she entered the only room in her keep that was important and saw the mess she had made of things. Taking a deep breath, she considered the clutter. As bad as the mess was, it did not appear as if anything had been damaged and the time spent cleaning would still be less than the time it would have taken to deal with the siege that would have happened otherwise.
Muttering under her breath, she took the glove from her hand and started re-stacking every last detail that had fallen.
You can read the next chapter by clicking this sentence. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.