So after today’s well spent day of writing (~4,800 words so far today), I thought I’d give you guys a freebie. Who want’s a quick look at an excerpt from one of the upcoming stories in Unusual Events?
You? Yeah, I thought you did.
But first, just a reminder to go vote for the July Patreon reward if you haven’t already! And then pledge on Patreon if you want to see it!
Now, that said, let’s give you guys a little preview. This is from the short story Ripper (working title), and, like most of the other stories in Unusual Events, it’s part of one of my existing universes. Except you’ve not actually seen this one yet.
That’s right. Ripper is in fact the first real taste many of you are going to get of Shadow of an Empire, a fantasy western that I’ve been dropping little hints about for a short time. It could be considered an introduction to that universe, but let me tell you, those who read Unusual Events and Shadow of an Empire both are going to get a nifty insight into Shadow. Nothing required to enjoy it, of course, but this is sort of like a precursor/side story to the story happening in Shadow.
Right, I’m sure you’re all getting tired of my rambling at this point. Here’s an early, pre-alpha look inside the mind of someone you definitely don’t want to meet in person. Or know.
The mist was thick that night. She could feel it crawling across her body, an almost physical presence weighing down on her. Wet and heavy, like a cloud that had strayed too far from its proper home.
Which was fine, as far as she was concerned. There was a quiet beauty to it, the way it muffled sight and sound beneath a soft, damp blanket that caressed the streets and alleyways of the city. The way it flowed from place to place, warm and embracing, like the breath of mother comforting her children—though in this case the city, as it were, was the mother, and the occupants her children.
It was a warm thought, and she let a soft smile move across her face. A mother. Now that was a proper figure to look up to. Not a man, some disgusting and vile male emperor. She took another look down the street, watching as the mists drifted across the cobbled streets, curling around street lamps and swirling in doorways. Yes, she thought as she let her eyes drift to the distant, golden glow of street lamps too far away to be seen through the endless steam. A mother. That’s what this city needs. What this Empire needs. Maybe someday, others would learn to see things as she had. Until then, however …
A loud bit of laughter broke her concentration, and she almost scowled before she caught herself. Control. Purpose. The twin thoughts ran through her head, and she clamped her emotions down as she turned her attention back to the doorway she’d been watching. Any minute now … She resisted the urge to reach up and wipe some of the moisture away from her forehead. She needed to stay as motionless as possible, silent and hidden in the narrow alley she’d ducked into. Motion could draw the eye, stir the mists. Not that there was much traffic this late at night—most were home in their beds, though the occasional individual was still wandering despite the current hour, probably on the way to a late-night or early-morning employment. Undoubtedly a few of them were boilers, the core of the Empire that kept the city functioning.
In the end, however, it didn’t matter who they were. Man or woman, boiler or glimmer, peacekeepers or servants; to be seen at the moment would certainly look suspicious. And so she stayed motionless, her body pressed up as close as she dared to the side of the alley without coming into contact with the sides of the buildings themselves. The mist was thick, and so the walls were thick with moisture. Pressing herself against them for even a short time would likely prove more than enough to overwhelm the moisture resistant treatment on her dress and leave an ugly, conspicuous mark that would stand out in people’s memories.
She couldn’t have that. She needed to be invisible—or as close to it as she could manage—in order to carry on her work.
A muted click echoed across the street, muffled by the thick mist but still recognizable to her gifted hearing, and her eyes darted upwards, locking on a single doorway a few dozen feet down the street.
False alarm. The door to the jewelers business remained closed. She let her eyes crawl up the street, searching for the sound that had called her attention, and saw another couple stepping out of a clothing store, a bundle clutched under the man’s arms. She watched as the woman offered her arm to the man, who took it, and then the pair proceeded down the side of the street, idle conversation passing back and forth between them.
Some other time, she thought as she watched the pair fade into the mists. I can only help so many. Besides, that pair had been older, probably the owners of the clothing shop itself. The older generation was already lost.
That, and her quarry was already chosen. Other lost souls that needed her help would have to wait until she’d done what she could to help her current charge.
Come on, she thought, frowning slightly as she brought her attention back to the jeweler’s doorway. You know you must get her home. Or perhaps she was too late, and the young man in question had already lost himself to his sex, destroying the young lady he’d been leading on without even bothering to do something as simple as wed her first.
No, she thought, almost shaking her head but then catching herself. He wouldn’t do it here. Not in a public, commercial quarter. Still, if the couple didn’t appear soon, she’d—
Another click echoed across the quiet street, this time from the direction of the jeweler’s shop, and she let out a silent sigh of relief as the door opened, warm, yellow light spilling out across the cobblestones and flickering as it mixed with the disturbed mists. Finally!
Her quarry stepped out, the man first, holding the door for his companion, and then the woman. She gave him a smile as she looked up at him, and then, the door swinging shut behind them, they made their way down the street arm in arm.
She reached out with her affinity, flexing her power and pulling inward. It was a bit like sucking in a breath, except that this was one she could continue to pull for hours. She waited a moment, feeling the faint trickle of energy that told her that her power was working, and then mentally shifted her power downward, towards her own feet.
It took skill to direct one’s own affinity in this manner, at least for those with her particular gift, but she’d had a great deal of practice. Straightening her back, she strode out into the street, squaring her shoulders as if she’d been making her way down the block all along. Beneath her, the sound of her footsteps was faint even to her own ears, and she could feel the faint spikes of power that rolled into her with every footstep.
Perfect. To the faint shapes of the couple ahead, already partially obscured by the mists, her footsteps would sound far weaker than they actually were, allowing her to follow them much more closely than she would otherwise be able to without drawing their attention to herself. All she had to do was keep her power pulling at the sound of her footsteps as she followed, even occasionally drop back until the couple were faint shadows and muffle her footsteps entirely as if she’d turned off, and then bring herself back with a different cadence to her step, or perhaps a slightly different walk.
It was easy, now. Following the first couple, that had been hard. She’d not even had a plan then, only a vague idea of what she wanted to do. Looking back, it was remarkable she’d managed to get as far as she had, much less succeed at what she’d set out to do.
And yet she had. No one had connected her to the event. No one had even suspected. And with each couple past that first, the hunt had only gotten easier. She’d learned to be patient, learned when to avoid and when to wait. When to choose a safer, less aware target. Men were horrible, violent creatures, but some of them were also quite smart. On two occasions she’d almost failed in her objective, saved only by the divine providence of the Creator and a little luck.
She followed the couple for over a mile, taking care to never be directly behind them for too long. The grey dress she was wearing would make her hard to see in the mists, but it was better that they never suspected what was going on. And while she followed, she observed.
Want to see the rest of it? Well, you’ll have to wait for Unusual Events, and following that, Shadow of an Empire (which, never fear, will follow someone a little more likeable than this short story).