I couldn’t listen to Jelena planning to push for prosecution for long; it was too painful. “Please just let it lie.”
She skewered me with a look as if I had been the one who’d killed her brother. “Instincts or not, they are still bound by laws. He was murdered, and no-one’s interested!”
“Jelena, I’m sorry, but that’s how it is. Pushing will do no good. You know what’ll happen? They’ll point out he went drinking and stayed out too late. They’ll say he should have been at home that night, or at the very least gone by car, not on foot. They’ll say he must have been pulling tails or picking fights, call him a troublemaker.”
I’d talked myself into a rage, too, and bit my tongue on it, turning away from Jelena’s wide, scared, and still furious eyes.
She said, slowly, “He did not—”
“I know. I know. I’m sorry.” I knew how it hurt, and I didn’t want her to go through the same. “I hate it, too, but that’s how it works. What people who knew him say doesn’t matter to most officers, or attorneys, or judges—or reporters, for that matter. What those that count will say is, a monomorph going out on full moon nights is asking for trouble.” Maybe my words were swaying her, or maybe not. Considering that it was her life… “Just think carefully about what you would be going into before deciding, all right?”
Inspired by the prompt "What about the rights of people who *don't* change in a world were were-_____ people have been the majority for most of recorded history?" by LilFluff
When the doctor asked, “Where does it hurt?”, probably thinking it was funny, Alma swiped the air in front of her face, after a moment’s consideration indicating a spot the width of her hand from the tip of her nose.
After a too-long pause, the doctor launched into an explanation that Alma tuned out as soon as she caught the word “psychosomatic”. Unsurprised at having to add him to her collection of people who thought she was crazy, she feigned having to hurry to another appointment to speed things up to avoid breaking out in tears in front of the doctor. She had not slept through a whole night for a month, which left her exhausted and thin-skinned and frustrated.
On the way home familiar frustrations ran through her head. Whatever self-help gurus and the like thought, pain was real, not only in her head. The fact that it was outside her head was the problem. Questions of what was going on aside, something like teething pains in a jaw you didn’t have was hard to treat: there was no way to apply local anaesthetics. The general ones she had tried did not help, either. Instead, over time the pain grew worse.
The only thing that helped was heat, but bringing her face close enough to a radiator or fire that it relieved her from the phantom pain hurt the skin of her face and risked setting her hair on fire.
She did it, anyway, of course.
That evening she opened the door of the tile stove and nearly stuck her head inside, breathing the dry woodsmoke like a chamomile inhalation when she had a cold. When she exhaled in a sigh of relief, sparks flew from her nostrils and made the flames flare.
No. No, she must have been mistaken. Her breath had stirred the fuel, that was all.
Alma got up hoping to catch some sleep before the pain returned, noticing that her back hurt. She was too tired to worry about it. She could not bear thinking about the possibility that that new pain hovered behind her back, rather than digging into her muscles.
“Thank you for seeing me.” Oneida bowed to Talaeshin, knowing that elves shunned skin-to-skin contact.
The foremost expert on orc history being an elf was unsurprising. Their long lifespans had made elves lore-keepers long before there had been historians. This one answered in a tone of cool disinterest, “Yes. You were very persistent.”
“This is important. May I…?” She waved a folder into the room and after getting a nod of permission slid past a big box standing partly in the was to the nearly empty desk. On it she laid out notes and photos of old human bones taken on site of an archaeological dig.
While she worked, Talaeshin said, “Few people treat matters of an extinct species as urgent.”
“History is important,” she answered without thinking. “And I wonder if history is wrong. These photos—”
“And wherever did you get those?”
“The dig at Crane Mountain, where they wanted to build a new hotel,” Oneida evaded, “but the important thing is that that there were toothmarks on those bones much too narrow for orcs, no matter what the press spreads already. Someone else needs to review this, of course, but if it’s true, it’s a strong argument for examining remains from older sites.”
Nodding, Talaeshin said, “No respect for the rest of the dead.” He raised his hand to forestall Oneida’s protest and continued, “Do you have any speculations what creature left these toothmarks?”
Forcing herself to not shrink back, she said, “One set at least is definitely elven. It seems… interesting.”
“No? But don’t you see—”
“You fail to see, naturally, that this is not news.” Talaeshin’s tone grew sharper. “History is what we allow to be written down, and this we won’t.”
He made a sharp downwards gesture and Oneida found herself mute and rooted to the spot. She had never believed the stories about elves wielding magic. She thought she should panic, but her heartbeat was slowing down.
“You are right. Orcs were, in fact, mostly herbivorous.” He laid a hand on her shoulder and lowered his face to hers, smiling. “I, on the other hand, have inherited a recipe from my grandmother I would love to try on you.”
Based on the prompt "What if elves were actually horrible, and orcs were decent, but the elves have better PR so they've just managed to convince people of the opposite? " by Elizabeth Barette aka ysabetwordsmith
Sonant is a modern fantasy novel self-published by A. Sparrow, available for free at Smashwords. I needed a bit to get into it, but after a while it became a pageturner I couldn't put down (despite editing flaws). The general atmosphere reminded me a bit of Stephen King books, but a bit less dark.
The official blurb:
Something strange lurks in a bell jar in the music room of wealthy eccentric, Aaron Levine, feeding on the sounds his mercenaries create. Bassist Aerie Walker, lured back into performance after a failed odyssey in professional jazz, finds herself involved with this band of musical alchemists as a Deliverance Ministry attempts to exorcize the demons perceived to dwell in Aaron's abode.
The viewpoint characters are Aerie, above-mentioned bassist, who is struggling with depression and finding a paying job; John, stay-at-home stepdad and neighbour of that bands usual "stage", who has some trouble understanding why his wife considers bad music "devil's work"; and Donnie, the priest that ends up, at John's wife's insistence, trying to get rid of the demons that must be behind that unholy noise from the house across the street.
The book keeps the question which side is right - has Aerie been drawn into Bad Things, or is the religious faction hysteric? - open for a long time, and in my opinion even at the resolution doesn't reduce either to cardboard-cutouts. Things that I found really fun to read were the pragmatic attitudes of most of the "exorcists" to their holy-magical job, and the interaction between Aerie and her bandmates; generally there's a neat cast of secondary characters with personality in this book.
I had the feeling it let up a bit towards the end; mostly a romantic subplot I'm not sure was supposed to be absurd and funny, or taken seriously. Anyway, romance doesn't take up much of the book.
Suspense and mystery, mundane problems, and the occasional scene of comic relief made for a very nice mix.
On the not-so-good front: The book should have had someone else proofreading. I noticed missing quotation marks, comma mistakes, dropped words, or the kind of mistakes you get when you have two possible versions of a sentence in your mind and write down a combination of both. However, this wasn't so common and bad that the "I want to know what happens next!" factor didn't pull me through.
Formatting was neat for the most part; one page or so towards the end had a slightly bigger fontsize, and there was an empty page before each chapter heading.
Being not a music buff myself I have no idea if the parts of the book talking about music and instruments sound well done to someone who is familiar with the subject. Apart from the very start, I did not find them distracting or in the way of the story despite my unfamiliarity.
I'm pretty sure I'm going to re-read this, and would pick up a sequel if it happened.
The chants rose slowly, shaping sounds not part of any human language. The acrid smoke of incense swirled as the air in the closed chamber started to move. Only when the candle flames changed from their natural colour to a dim midnight blue the glow of the diagram drawn on the floor with unsavoury substances became apparent. It brightened, spitting sparks as the chants crescendoed. A flash of light and a thunder strike, then silence, broken by genteel coughing.
A strange figure stood in the summoning circle, short, and with a fringe of hair framing its properly bald head.
"William Aloysius Coltrane."
"You have been summoned and bound to our service."
"What?" The man in the circle straightened his glasses and peered up at the speaker. His opposite was about nine foot tall. The horns and goat's legs and all seemed to be way too realistic for a mask used in a prank.
"You will serve as our accountant for a year and a day."
A glance at the even more disturbing other figures around the cavernous room decided William against protesting.
"What does the job entail?"
It had to be a dream. He blamed the cheese sandwich.
Marie tried to write despite Ron reading over her shoulder, looming just at the edge of her vision. That would have been distracting enough even without the stench of the vile thin cigars he smoked, and of course—
"You know you've got three adverbs in that paragraph already? Are you even trying?"
"I'll worry about phrasing later."
A fingernail clicked against the F key without pushing while she tried to jump back onto her train of thought. Duller clicks as she typed a few words, a few lines...
After overhearing a fierce, if undervoiced, argument of her parents', Cari lay awake well past midnight. Her father had left for a business trip, her mother had in all likelihood fallen asleep long ago thanks to the miracles of chemistry, and she had enough of her thoughts circling ceaselessly. She needed answers, but were could she get them - from a source she did not have to doubt?
In Katie's garden everything grew. She first put this to a test planting jelly beans, being rewarded with a miniature tree bearing sweets. Post-it bookmarks grew into a plant with rectangular leaves in neon colours. An USB stick buried sprouted small chips covering the ground, moss-like. A pin was a seed for a silvery bristling cactus.
Everything grew, bigger every day, until there was hardly any room to move left. The plants were starting to spread beyond the boundary.
Katie planted a coal. It brought forth fire, blooming brilliantly.