Category: Saranados

Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 32 (draft)

The next morning dawned grey and stormy, enough so that when Fest first awoke he was fairly certain that he’d somehow managed to wake himself up several hours before dawn. It was only when he overheard the sound of clattering crockery and footsteps on the floor below that he realised that it must be at least seven or eight in the morning, and that the complete lack of light was less to do with the time of year (though that was definitely a factor) and more to do with the thick blanket of clouds covering the sky from one tree-lined horizon to the other.

Judging by the noises he could hear coming from the next room, he wasn’t the only one to have slept in a little later than intended: from Avebury’s side of the wall, he could hear the kind of thuds and clatters that tended to result from someone trying to get dressed in a tearing hurry and managing to put half their gear on upside down and backwards as a result, accompanied by a litany of swearing which would have been impressive if it hadn’t been Avebury saying it (and therefore, by definition, incapable of being impressive in any way shape or form).

Ha! Not so bloody poised and proper when you think there’s nobody listening, are you?

He’d left his own clothes and boots relatively neatly folded by the bedroom door after his adventure last night and, by comparison to Avebury’s apparent struggles, his own attempt at getting dressed as fast as possible went about as smoothly as he could’ve wanted (barring a brief moment of confusion when he wound up trying to put his left boot on his right foot and wondering why it wasn’t going on properly).

See? I can play you at your own game, too. Now who’s the model student, huh?

Admittedly, he was having a silent argument with someone who almost certainly wasn’t even thinking about him at all, which wasn’t exactly a stunning testament to his ability to stay focused on his studies, but apprentices were allowed a little rivalry, and he was still going to beat Avebury downstairs to breakfast.


The Ecosystem of Sacaan

[Note: This was originally posted on my Patreon back in January]

So it’s been a while since there was a worldbuilding post on here, huh? With many apologies to Lizzie, since it’s taken me quite so long to get around to this question:

What is the ecosystem like in the sense of plants/animals/crops? Bonus question: What’s most likely to kill you / is the apex predator?

So some of this ties back into stuff I’ve already discussed with regards to food, inasmuch as a lot of crops and animals wind up on the tables in Sacaan – in terms of crops, we have root vegetables, cabbage, cauliflower, rhubarb, rye, barley, wheat, rice (though that’s a more common staple further south), and a whole passel of berries of various sweetnesses; in terms of food animals (as opposed to fish), we’re talking sheep, goats, yak, deer, reindeer, moose, boar, rabbits, chicken, geese, porpoises, smaller whales, and seals (not all of which are domesticated, obviously).


Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 31 (draft)

“So,” Mortimer said, once he’d finally managed to drag the conversation back around to Viola’s question, “let me double-check this. Someone came to the door with a letter for Viola, right?”

Amelia nodded. “He said he was a courier, but Seb said he wasn’t one he recognised, and he didn’t act like any courier he’d ever seen. Seb thought he might be Order, but he didn’t recognise the passphrase.”

“Sinnlenst, then,” said Viola. She shifted position, rubbing at her injured leg, and scowled. “Avebury did say something about wanting me to deliver some letter or other, now I come to think of it.”

“That’s the thing, though!” Amelia said. “It wasn’t a letter. Or rather, it wasn’t just a letter. It was a whole packet of papers.” She reached into the satchel beside her and pulled out what looked like one of the folders of legal documents he’d seen on his father’s desk in the past. “Here. I’ve already looked through it-“

“You’ve what?”

“It wasn’t sealed, Vi, and the person who delivered it was clearly up to no good. And besides, I didn’t know where you were or when you were coming back, so you can’t be too mad at me for opening your post.”

“That’s not the point!” Viola growled, exasperated. “The point is that if someone had hidden something in there – like, say, a contact poison or a powder or any number of curses – you could have been seriously hurt. Killed, even. You know better than that, I know you do.”

This is between the two of them, Mortimer told himself, sternly, and bit his tongue. He wanted to defend Amelia, of course he did – but then, he also shared Viola’s concern, and gods, but he could wish that she’d think before she acted sometimes, and… 

And that’s a conversation we can have in private when we’re both in the same place. Not right here, not right now, and not when we’re trying to work out what in the hells the Sinnlenst are up to, which is a damn sight more pressing a concern than my fiancée’s occasional tendency to leap before she looks. 


Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 30 (draft)

He still remembered the way to Verist’s study, even after all these years. Hard not to, the number of times he’d been by there when he’d stayed up at the Hall back when they’d both been studying at the University. Verist’s fathers had been alive then, as had his mother, and the Hall had been a damn sight more lively with all of them around – especially in the winter, when they’d had house parties which lasted for days and filled the whole place with light and laughter (and a fair amount of drink). 

Even in the year of the Revolution, with the price of bread rising and unrest in the city growing, there’d been gatherings out here. Though in that year there’d been a deal less laughter and a good deal less drink, and the billiards tables and dances had been replaced with war councils and weapons drills. Hard for the Usurper to realise there was insurrection growing under his very nose when so much of it was being planned outside the city, after all, and the Hall had more than enough space to stockpile weapons and ammunition against the coming storm. 

Though, by that time, there’d been another agent of change at play in the house – a dream in hunting leathers and dancing boots who’d swirled into their lives and upended what had been until that point a fairly stable social circle. 

Vaudeline Tien. Gods, if there was ever a woman who should have lived to be a grandmother and tell tales of her exploits to her childrens’ adoring offspring… 

But Vaudeline had died young – too damn young – and Lucas had followed her to the pyre not two months later, and the boy who half the Order knew was Philip’s get (Lucas’ parents had opposed his having a three-way match, which meant it was never official, but it was an open secret that he’d not fathered the child he and Vaudeline were raising) had wound up being sent out here to his father, and-

And the rest is history. Up until the point when that same boy stood outside the door of my room and decided, in his infinite wisdom, to let slip something he likely did not intend for me to hear. 


Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 29 (draft)

Of all the strange things he’d had to do in his life, Mortimer thought, smuggling a naked werewolf up to his room so he could get her a change of clothes had to be somewhere in the top ten. 

She’d offered to shift back to wolf form for the trip upstairs, though he couldn’t tell whether that was more about her own comfort or stopping him from desperately trying not to look at her (he was well aware that werewolf norms around clothing were different, especially after the lecture she’d given him back in that alleyway, but it still felt wrong not to give her her privacy), which he’d have gratefully taken her up on – if it hadn’t been for the fact that, almost as soon as she’d suggested it, she’d pulled the kind of face which implied that doing so would likely be a very bad idea. 

So she’d stayed human-shaped (or, at least, two-legged – she was fairly insistent that even in that form she wasn’t a bloody human, thank you very much) and capable of operating doorknobs, which meant that the two of them had been able to make a fairly speedy journey through the servants’ quarters and up the back staircase which led almost directly to his room without encountering anyone in the process. 

And now she was sitting on his bed – still very much naked, he might add, which was still incredibly awkward – and trying to explain to him exactly what she’d overheard back in the city. 


Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 28 (draft)

Viola didn’t know where she was. 

Or, more accurately, she knew exactly where she was. She just didn’t know where that was in relation to anything else. 

The bottom of the ravine had been surprisingly easy to navigate, even in full panicked flight, and she’d managed to make it fairly far along before her brain had caught up with her body and suggested, surprisingly calmly, that running headlong into who-knows-what might not be the only possible avenue of escape – and, furthermore, that if Caine was anything like the other Turned she’d heard stories about then running away in pretty much as straight a line as possible was probably the worst option when it came to trying to get away from him. 

Which, in turn, had slowed her down enough that she’d been able to notice the crack in the rocks some twenty feet ahead of her, just wide and tall enough to allow a werewolf in fourlegged form to squeeze her way through, and quite definitely not big enough to allow anything the size and shape of Caine to follow.  

And, when she’d squeezed through the crack and found herself on the other side in what seemed to be a surprisingly passable tunnel (and, notably, one which was wide enough for her to turn around in), it’d only seemed sensible to keep following it deeper into the mountain. After all, if Caine couldn’t get in, and she couldn’t get out until he’d left, it was that or hunker down just inside the entrance and hope against hope that he didn’t decide to wait her out. 

Which meant that now she was a fair way down a tunnel she’d not known existed before about five minutes ago, with no idea of where it led and no clue whether, if she turned around and headed back towards the exit, she’d find a Turned lying in wait for her. 

Ancestors, if you’re listening, now would be a very good time for another sign. Show me I’m on the right trail, at least. 

Nothing, which was probably fair – she’d been asking them for a lot recently, and they were well within their rights to point out that she should be figuring these things out on her own. 

Alright then. Stop and think. 


Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 27 (draft)

The stable was warm, and dark, and blessedly free of any other people, which made it just about perfect as far as Mortimer was concerned. 

It was also very full – not as full as it’d been on the few times they’d had full hunts out here, of course, when all the stable blocks on the estate had been in use and the whole house’d been full of guests and servants – but full enough that doing the rounds and making sure that all the horses were fed and watered took him a fair bit longer than he’d been intending. 

He didn’t mind, though. He liked the stables, and reassuring himself that even Avebury’s horses had been well taken care of (though that’d likely be Thomas’ work rather than anything the Sinnlenst’d bothered to do) meant that he could at least say that he’d managed to do something of use with the day. 

“That’s not entirely fair, mind. Managed to move that damn cart, didn’t I? And get all the way up here in time to tell da what was going on – though most of that was you, wasn’t it?”

His mare bumped her nose inquisitively against his waistcoat, and he laughed and patted her, moving her head gently away. 

“I don’t have any treats for you, daft lass. And besides, if I gave you something, everyone else’d want some as well.”

He stroked his fingers down her nose, focusing on the warmth and texture of her hide under his gloved hand, and tried desperately to stop his brain turning over and over the events of the past twelve hours. He’d not done badly, all things considered, but the illogical part of his mind still couldn’t let go of the fact that he could have done more. 


A Song for the Solstice

[Author’s note: This takes place pretty much exactly a year before the start of Blood on the Snow]

There were plenty of things Sabbat could’ve been doing with his solstice. 

Drinking, for one, since that was part and parcel of the way Sacaan celebrated the longest night, and booze was a damn sight cheaper than the kind of slap-up meal the toffs’d likely be sitting down to (though most of the places he could get halfway decent liquor would also serve him a decent enough meal to go along with it). Taking advantage of the fact that half the rest of the city would be getting drunk to lighten a few purses, for another – plenty of rich idiots who fancied touristing down in the slums, and fully half of them so plastered even the most cack-handed pickpocket’d be able to lighten them of everything they were carrying and then some. Hells, if he was feeling particularly inclined to violence, he could always roll one of the silver-spoon swaggerers who thought coming down Steepside every festival and kicking in a few beggars made them proper street thugs – though, unless there was a whole pack of them on the prowl, an honest barfight’d scratch that itch significantly better and with less chance for the Watch to get involved. 

Point was, there were any number of things he could’ve chosen to do with his evening. Which was, of course, why he was currently hanging one-handed off a gutter four storeys above the ground in one of the richest districts in the city, trying desperately to get a toe-hold on the icy stonework and swearing a mental blue streak at the owners of the house, the concept of solstice presents, and whatever bastard had decided that what the world really needed in the way of instruments was a godsdamn wooden fife with delusions of grandeur. 

He hadn’t had to steal the flute, of course. But Archer’d mentioned that he wanted one, back in a conversation during the heatwave, when there’d been nothing to do but talk, and apparently nobody in the city made anything near as good as the ones you could get back in Efir. And since he couldn’t go to Efir, and he’d be damned if he’d get Archer some shonky splintered piece of shit from one of the pawnshops down the way, the only logical course of action had been to work out who in the city had a flute which’d match the specifications that they’d not immediately miss, and then go and take it. 


Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 26 (draft)

The pine forests smelt like home, and freedom. 

She’d ditched her clothes in an Order bolt-hole outside the gate – there were enough werewolves in the ranks of the Order that a set of spare gear showing up there wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary, and the fact that she’d stashed it neatly away in one of the specific places set aside for that would go a long way towards reassuring Amelia that she hadn’t been abducted or murdered – and the wind felt good as it streaked past her ears and ruffled the fur along her back. 

She was made for this, after all. All werewolves were, when you got right down to it – there were advantages to walking two-legged and having opposable thumbs, and nobody’d deny that fact, but there was nothing that beat the sheer joy and exaltation of running through a moonlit night with the wind in your fur and the snow under your paws and the pine branches latticing the sky above you. 

And I’m faster than that bastard’ll ever be like this. Not to mention the fact that he’s a Turned – they can’t even do that halfway-shift the vampires can, which means he’s limited to two legs. And in this snow, that’s going to slow him down even more than normal. 

She could smell the storm now, the air tight and fizzing with ozone. If she’d been two-legged, she’d have been looking for shelter – even werewolves avoided being caught on the mountain in twolegs form in this kind of weather if they could – but with four paws under her and a thick coat of fur to shield her from the worst of the wind and snow, she was more than happy to press on into the teeth of whatever awaited her further up the mountainside. 


Silver in the Ashes: Chapter 25 (draft)

“What d’you mean y’can’t fuckin’ see?” Sabbat growled. It was a stupid question and he knew as much, but if Archer had just said what he was pretty fucking sure he’d just said, then they were both in a fuck of a lot more trouble than they’d been a few minutes ago. 

“Exactly what I said,” Archer replied, infuriatingly calmly. He raised one hand in front of his face, spreading his fingers in front of his eye. “I’m not exactly certain what happened, but I appear to be lacking rather more of my vision than I normally do. Which is to say that I can’t see. At all.” He took a deep breath, which sounded more than a little shaky around the edges, and went on, in that same infuriatingly detached tone. “You’re not affected in the same way, then?”

“Already told you I wasn’t.” Mostly because whatever’d knocked Archer flat on his arse seemed to have been solely targeting him. Or, worse, had left Sabbat alone because he was the one bonded to it. “Reckon whatever it was happened when I touched the fuckin’ box, so stands t’reason I din’t get got by it.”

Archer nodded, wiping his bleeding nose on his shirtsleeve with a casualness that made the hairs on the back of Sabbat’s neck stand on end. “I think it was a backlash of some kind, though I’ve not encountered anything quite that strong coming off a ritual which was supposed to be concluded.”

Sabbat’s nose was bleeding as well, though he’d given up trying to staunch it. Wasn’t as if his kit wasn’t consistently getting covered in blood at the moment anyhow. “That much blood says you’re right. Any idea what caused it, other’n the obvious?” And if I keep you talking, your eyesight’ll come back. Any second now.