AiA: NaNoWriMo2019 sneak peek

(In which Sabbat finds a Mysterious And Definitely Not Plot-relevant Box. Also note: this is raw NaNo output, so expect typos, odd sentence structures, and general wtfery)

It wasn’t a book. Or a lover’s gift – or, if it was, it was a bloody strange one. It was a box. 

It was small and flat, about the size of a cigarette packet, and made of dark wood, with silver detailing etched into the lid, sides, and base in a looping interlocking pattern which seemed to move and change the moment Sabbat took his eyes off it (though, given the fact the snow under his feet didn’t seem entirely steady either, he wasn’t too sure that wasn’t his eyes blurring rather than anything to do with the damn box). And it was also, much to his irritation, locked. 

Normally, that wouldn’t have been too much of a challenge – he was a thief, after all, and his lockpicks were as much a part of his daily rig as his belt-knife or his razor. But right now even a simple lock would’ve required more concentration than he’d be able to give and still stay upright, and whatever lock this particular box was equipped with, it definitely wasn’t anywhere near simple. 

Can’t even find the sodding lock. Suppose it’s too much to hope it’s just a hidden spring-catch. 

He leant back against the wall, biting down hard on the corner of his lip until he tasted blood in an attempt to focus through the haze. 

Come on. No bloody use having half-inched the thing if we can’t open it. 

Carefully, keeping the box pressed tight against his chest with his forearm, he peeled the glove off his left hand, hissing in pain as the leather dragged against the improvised bandage wrapped around the palm. 

No sense losing my good hand if this thing’s trapped. 

It wasn’t a good plan. It wasn’t even a halfway sensible plan – and, if Archer was there, he’d almost certainly have said as much. But Archer wasn’t there, and, besides, Sabbat had a fairly good sense of what the vampire’s opinion on opening random boxes he’d half-inched from Sinnlenst was likely to be, no matter where the random box in question had come from. 

Namely, ‘Don’t.’ But then again, there’s a reason I’m a thief and he’s not. 

The looping lines of silver were almost uncannily smooth under his fingertips, still blood-warm from his bodyheat even in the freezing night air, and, as his fingers traced the design over and around the base and sides of the box, he found the pain in his hand, his spine, his head fading away into the snow and fog, subsumed by the slow, sinuous curves and shapes of the strange, repeating pattern.

I don’t- Something’s not-

It felt… good: warm, and comfortable, and oddly familiar, like the buzz from a half-flask of gin, or a good hit of Smoke on a day when the pain would’ve otherwise left him sick and sweating. Something he could lose himself in, if he wanted to. And fuck, but he wanted to right now. 

Just… let the whole fucking world go hang for a bit. Take the Smoke, knock yourself out, go watch the seaserpents swimming across the ceiling until Archer comes knocking on the door to ask where the hells you’ve been for the last-

Shit. Archer!

His hand slipped, the metal edging of the corner of the box biting into his wounded palm and sending a spike of pain shooting up his arm – he swore, dropped the box, and fell to his knees, cradling his hand against his chest as hot blood dripped down his wrist and splattered onto the snow. 


The strange Smoke-like fog had cleared from his mind the moment he let go of the box, washed away by a sudden tide of agony from every single bruise, cut and break that nearly threatened to send him spiralling back into unconsciousness again. His throat spasmed, ripped raw by the shout of pain, and he doubled over, coughing up a mixture of bile and gore onto the already-stained ground as he fought for breath. 

Shit shit shit shit shit-

Something sparked across his vision, lightning-bright in the dark. The ghostly fingers around his throat tightened. And his bare hand, scrabbling in the muck, landed squarely atop the lid of the discarded box.

A wave of warmth ran up his arm, as though he’d stuck his hand into a hot spring, and with a strange, unsettled shift of pressure, the tightness in his throat suddenly eased. 

I don’t- 


I can breathe. 

I can breathe. 

What the shitting fuck?

His hand had stopped hurting. His leg had stopped hurting. Hells, everything had stopped hurting, even his throat, and – given the taste of blood in his mouth and the stain soaking through the bandage on his left hand – he was fairly fucking certain none of ‘em had suddenly magically stopped being injured. And, more importantly, he wasn’t currently fucking choking to death. 

Which meant that whatever this box was, for the moment he and it were going to be very good friends. 

Provided it gets the sodding message about who’s in charge around here. I’m not being bossed around by a chunk of fucking hardwood. 

This time, at least, it didn’t seem to be trying to send him back into the Smoke dream. In fact, apart from the strange warmth radiating up his arm and the lack of pain, it wasn’t doing anything other than… sitting there, being a box. 

He picked it up, careful to keep at least one edge of the wood pressed against exposed skin and, with a grunt of effort, yanked open the lacing at the top of his shirt and dropped the box down inside the front of his collar. It settled flat against his belly, the warmth pooling there as though he’d just downed a glass of spirits and, when he tentatively moved to put his glove back on, the pain and tightness in his throat stayed gone – apparently whatever the box was doing, it was going to keep doing it as long as it was in contact with any bare skin.

Still ain’t sure I’m not hallucinating the half of this, but I’ll take it if it means not dying in a snowbank. And, as he dragged himself to his feet and looked warily down the alleyway towards the nearest lamppost, Just have to get back to the Daggers before whatever this is wears off.

Copyright © 2019 by Finn McLellan.  All rights reserved.

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