Three is Company

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The Dark Elf named Arya Silvaryn was enjoying a sunny day in Falkreath. Unlike many Dunmer, she did not move through the world with a chip on her shoulder. She was actually cheered by the golden rays glinting off the waters of Lake Illinalta. The buzzing sounds of a sawmill grew louder as she traveled west. She did not walk along the road, but closer to the shore. When a large cropping of rocks reared up in her way, however, she was forced to skirt over to the stony path.

An odd site met her eyes on the bridge. A Wood Elf was being led by three Thalmor, two soldiers and and a Justiciar by the looks of them. Even as she lept back off the road, Arya smiled furtively to herself. She never missed a chance to make trouble for Thalmor. After all, they were so easily bothered! Hunching behind a tree, she took aim at the first of the oncoming figure with her diamond bow.

FFFFTT!!

The fight erupted as he went down. The other two Thalmor drew weapons, glancing around at their assailant, even as the prisoner seized his chance at the distraction and wrenched his arm from the grip of his captor. He then shot flames at the Thalmor, who crumpled. Arya shot at the remaining one just as the prisoner stabbed him with his own dagger.

The Wood Elf dusted himself and stood up, beaming at Arya and introduced himself as a Bard named Daenlyn. He was also quick to admit to a vice of gambling, having lost his prized possession in such a manner.

After just the briefest consideration, Arya decided she liked his open, unabashed manner, or at the very least, found it refreshing after the festering secrets of Riften. She invited him to accompany her, and she would help retrieve his property.

One battle and party later (which involved a lot of drinking and an interesting debate over the concept of “fun” ) Arya handed Daenlyn his favored lute, with a warning not to be so careless with his things, or she might not be so willing to get them back for him again.

So their journey together began.  Arya was endeared by his open, matter-of-fact humor, his ocassional tongue-in-cheek slights on the Bosmeri Divine, and even by the snatches of conversation she caught between him and the tiny occupant of his lute, some kind of fairy.  Daenlyn, in turn, seemed to appreciate Arya’s adventurous, and sometimes mischievous, nature, quite unlike many other Dunmer, who prefer to commisurate and weep over the loss of Vvardenfell.  The duo — or perhaps a threesome — set forth on a mutual quest for adventure.

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The GIFs that Keep on Giving

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If you don’t mind, allow me to tell you a story.

One of my first jobs out of college was at a mutual fund company.  We worked on east coast time, so I’d slink into the office at 6AM, sleepwalk through most of the day and be done by the afternoon. Still, while the atmosphere felt laid back it was imperative we made some attempt to stay sharp. The department handled corporate accounts in excess of $10 million, so while the work was incredibly easy, we weren’t allowed to fuck up. Cash transactions equivalent to the GDP of small nations could end up ruined if I failed to correctly place a decimal point. So there were a few who found it incredibly nerve-wracking.

Then there was my co-worker Dennis, whose car reeked of weed and Sublime CDs yet somehow kept its owner completely odorless. Every morning I’d watch with envy and respect as he settled into his chair like an old man in his favorite recliner, preparing to watch the game. Then he’d squint at his spreadsheet with a confused look on his face, shrug his shoulders, hit play on his iPod and proceed to execute $100 million buys like he was selling Funyuns at a gas station. When I asked him how he managed to remain lucid while smoking bowls every day, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Not every day bro. Some days I just jerk off.”

I immediately pushed his hand away from my shoulder. Dennis didn’t seem to notice.

“What a time we live in,” he’d say, staring at a GIF of tussling cats, “this shit is mesmerizing. Can you believe this is the same machine that I watch my porn in?”

“Hopefully not at work.”

“And pretty soon computers are gonna be mobile. I’ll be able to call my dealer and call in sick while watching teens work out their daddy issues. Shit, ten years from now it’ll probably suck my dick too.”

Dennis was hardly an oracle. After all, it’s 2014 and cell phones still don’t have a BJ function. That and the shift toward mobile computing devices was mostly predictable. He also didn’t anticipate we’d all get laid off in six months when the company moved to the Midwest to save money. He was right about one thing though. Cat GIFs are mesmerizing.

Ghoul Teeth

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She showed him what passed for a smile. The kind of smile that would make brave men flinch. There were gaps wide enough to hold a cigar and chips sharp enough to slice them, but technically it was nothing more than that. A smile.

Now, one could be forgiven for confusing it with a set of piano keys, an awkward grimace, or even a display of malice, but given the context, the most scientifically accurate interpretation would be to label it ghoulo-sapien cum ridet, a smile.

Nevertheless, as smiles go, this one would not find its way into any dictionary definition, stock photo, or billboard selling high quality toothpaste. No, this was hardly what you would call the Platonic ideal of a smile.  It was, as its wearer was fond of saying, anatomically incorrect. A great big nest of teeth.

But it lit him up all the same.

Dark Light

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Heyo, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these literary sketches, so time to stretch out the old fingers and do some calisthenics. I might do this every Sunday or so just to help fill out more content since I’ve been so lazy as of late.

***

And so it was down in the belly of the cave, full of bile and stink and horror, that darkness became a welcome sight and light an age old villain.

Thieves and monsters share this in common, and the girl was no exception. They say she wore the shadows like a scarf, but in the bowels of this dungeon they served as something else – a gas mask, a guardian, a friend. Fear may be the artwork of the blind, but so is courage. The imagination required to not think – to close your eyes in a room full of snarling wolves – was something few possessed and even fewer understood. Blindness quiets a mind drunk off adrenaline’s booze. Darkness can strip even the nastiest monsters of their fangs, claws, and face, and place them in the mirror.

Still, the demons lurking in the corners of light were merely echoes of the beast that surrounded her. And the deeper she delved the more it clenched its fangs, slowly choking the throat of the great black wind.

Its name was greed.

Like all sworn enemies of the dark, its light shone brightly, from its ruby eyes to its pearls of teeth to a coin purse full of Septims. And all it took was a single CLINK to impregnate her mind like so many bastard sperm, a single noise so full of lust and screams that it made Molag Bal cover his ears. It was an unseen form of domestic violence – married to the coin, the thrill, and the hunt, and all it took was the promise of more to keep her in this abusive relationship.

And so it was always at night, like the moth and the flame, werewolves and the moon, that the girl meets her demise; when the darkness can no longer save her, and a thief is honest with no one save herself.

 

Trailers and Teasers – Hope Lies

“Howdy stranger. Take a seat by the campfire, we got plenty of room.”

The girl tips her cap and smiles. Both the fire and the invitation are warm enough, but the man to her right doesn’t seem too happy about it. His stare stretches for thousands of miles, far enough to see the back of his own head. It’s bald and dirty, with a scar running across the middle like a zipper.

“Oh, don’t pay him no mind. He ain’t much for talkin’. But, if you make trouble, he’ll put two…”

The girl makes a peace sign with her fingers, before pointing them at her head like a gun.

“…in your skull.”

I tell her I’m not here to make trouble, waves, or even conversation. All I want to do is rest my aching feet. The girl sympathizes. She tells me her soles are so worn not even Jesus can save them.

Maybe it’s the pun that makes my shoulders relax, or maybe it’s her southern charm, but I drop my knapsack on the dirt with a great big thud. Guns, ammo, and whiskey spill onto the ground like a diary.

“You starting a war, sheriff?”

Maybe.

“Then you’re gonna need a good deputy.”

Maybe I will.

“The name’s Hope,” she says, breaking the silence. “Hope Lies. Funny name, I know. German, I think. The lying part, not the hope.”

I ask her the obvious. Well, does it? Does “hope lie?”

I don’t know,” she says, “You’ve been traveling these wastes. Why don’t you tell me?”

Word Sketch – Any Day Now

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Any day now.

There was something wrong about the way the words rolled off her tongue. They were pointy, bold, and crooked, but that was nothing new. What was new was the fact that Veralene noticed, that she was somewhat self-aware – as if she saw herself through a window and caught of glimpse of her own foolishness.

Normally the Breton had no problem being honest, but not with herself. You might say her mind was so narrow it could hide behind a straw. This was life providing another angle, turning her head ever so slightly to show her the crook of her nose. Yet not even that could sway her belief that her situation was temporary. All she had to do was place the amulet around her neck, and a horde of handsome barons would walk into the Skeever and fight to the death for the honor of making her rich. You’ll see, she’d say. Any day now.

In contrast, Fironet always knew. Every night a chorus of bards would amble in and out of the tavern, like a flock of noble seraphs on their way to the heavens. Jarls and Thanes had titles, but they seldom had presence. Bards were different. What good is owning a piece of land if you were born with wings? And she always believed her back was bare.

For her, those three words meant something else entirely. Any day now, she’ll have to say goodbye to Solitude. And every day after, she’ll find it hard to sing – because the memories of her failure will be stuck to every chord. Veralene worries her day will never come. Fironet prays to the Nine that she’s right.

Any Day Now

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Any day now.

There was something wrong about the way the words rolled off her tongue. They were pointy, bold, and crooked, but that was nothing new. What was new was the fact that Veralene noticed, that she was somewhat self-aware – as if she saw herself through a window and caught of glimpse of her own foolishness.

Normally the Breton had no problem being honest, but not with herself. You might say her mind was so narrow it could hide behind a straw. This was life providing another angle, turning her head ever so slightly to show her the crook of her nose. Yet not even that could sway her belief that her situation was temporary. All she had to do was place the amulet around her neck, and a horde of handsome barons would walk into the Skeever and fight to the death for the honor of making her rich. You’ll see, she’d say. Any day now.

In contrast, Fironet always knew. Every night a chorus of bards would amble in and out of the tavern, like a flock of noble seraphs on their way to the heavens. Jarls and Thanes had titles, but they seldom had presence. Bards were different. What good is owning a piece of land if you were born with wings? And she always believed her back was bare.

For her, those three words meant something else entirely. Any day now, she’ll have to say goodbye to Solitude. And every day after, she’ll find it hard to sing – because the memories of her failure will be stuck to every chord. Veralene worries her day will never come. Fironet prays to the Nine that she’s right.