Bare Handed

Jason Arson walked through the streets, sliding leather gloves onto his fingers as he went. The reason Jason wore gloves was so that he could distance himself from any actions he made while wearing them. It was a single degree of separation, but for him it was enough.

He was twenty minutes behind his schedule, and it made him agitated. He was still ten minutes ahead, his schedules were very early, but it still put him out of his element. He had less time to hand anything unexpected or unwanted. He had considered breaking into a run or light jog, but either of these would make him stand out. Right now, he needed to blend.

Jason had grown his hair and beard specifically so that no one would recognise him. So far it was working because the townspeople didn’t, especially since he no longer wore the uniform of a guard. Those that knew him best and might see through the disguise were in the castle. He knew he should feel safe about remaining anonymous in the crowd, but he felt as if he had forgotten something.

He turned a corner and saw it at the end of the street. The building with the item he was looking for. He looked at the sundial in the centre of the intersection. He was still behind, but he still had some time. He would sneak into the front door of the building just as the back door was being locked, and then hide as the owner locked up the front and left. Then he would find the paper bag, and unlock one of the doors, and leave. When Jason left, he would have to leave the building unlocked, since he had no key. That wouldn’t be an issue depending on how valuable the item inside the bag was.

Jason walked down the street towards the building and then he noticed someone. He recognized one of the faces. Why, was it a castle guard he knew? But they should all be on duty right now. He looked at the person’s face. It was a younger woman. No, he knew her for a different reason. This was one of the construction workers who had helped renovate the castle when had worked there.

He imagined what she would say if she recognized him. She would ask him what happened, she would ask him why he left. She would say that she was going to tell everyone that he was still in town. That he had just grown a beard, and to look out for him on the streets. To say hi, or something. Jason shook his head. She would ruin everything. He swiftly turned around before anyone noticed him, and took a detour. This was why he liked to be early.

When he finally got  to the building, he figured that he had no more than a few minutes. Could couldn’t seen anyone inside, but the door was still open. He figured that they must have gone to lock up the back, so he rushed inside and looked around. Where was the paper bag? He looked around the cabinets of syrups. He was confused, syrups used to be considered medicine, until people found out that they weren’t very healthy, that they just made a person feel good. Sort of. Syrups were now just used for intoxication. Jason sighed, and then saw the paper bag on a side counter. He walked over and grabbed it, then immediately realized his mistake.

He had messed up the order and grabbed the bag before the owner had left.

A man rounded the corner of the shop, just as Jason guessed would happen. Jason didn’t freeze, his instincts knew that that would look more suspicious. Instead, he continued picking up the paper bag, and then looked at the man, as if he belonged here, as if this was normal behaviour. And, thanks to ingrained social cues, the man believed it.

“That’s a new drink. I haven’t made a place for it on the shelves yet.”

On the shelves? Jason looked inside the paper bag. It was a bottle of syrups. He assumed that he had grabbed the wrong bag. This couldn’t be what he had been sent to take. He looked around for another bag, but there were none. This was what he had been sent to steal? Of all things, a bottle of syrups?

“Yep, it’s not a very expensive one, but it is our newest product. You can buy it if you like.”

Jason considered putting the bag down, and saying no, then exiting and coming back later to take it. That wouldn’t work, he would immediately be assumed to be the thief! And what then, if the guard was looking for his description? They would know both his trimmed and full grown faces! He couldn’t grow more beard. Jason thought for a moment, and then he knew what to do.

He put the bottle and the bag on the table.

“How much?” He asked.

The owner said, “twelve Solune.”

Jason nodded. He took his gloves off, put them in his jacket pocket, and took his coin pouch out of it. With his bare hands, he paid the man and took the bag with the bottle of syrups and walked out of the shop. He headed back to where he started. As he walked, he considered having a smug conversation with the leader about how he ended up getting the bag, what was actually in it in the first place.

Writing this one was actually a real struggle. I haven’t written anything outside of essays in the last ten days (I technically wrote four last week, although two were shorter philosophy essays for an exam). Sunchaser was written on the 23rd, and it’s the 3rd now, so it’s really been a while. (You should check Sunchaser out, it’s cool).

Anyway, my mind was blank. I thought about writing another chapter of the Solune Prince, but I’m really still not sure what to do about that series. So, I looked through the music on my computer for inspiration. I looked at a Calvin Harris album that I haven’t listened to in over a year, (his lyrics are kind of shallow), and found Slow Acid. It reminded me of the one preview I wrote with Jason Arson way back, and so here we are. (And Jason’s back story has been expanded upon since that one piece. Although the surround project has since been mostly abandoned.)

Anyway, hope you enjoyed it,

Daniel Triumph.

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Sword Training (The Solune Prince ActIII, Si)

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Chloe and Lillith sat at the breakfast table, eating in silence. They eyed each other, each wondering what the other was thinking.

Lillith wondered if Chloe would show up to the gymnasium for practice as she had promised, or if she would forget and wander into the city like she had the day before.

Chloe wondered if Lillith was doubting her, if Lillith believed her word, her promise at all. They had both come to the agreement that she was to train from morning until early afternoon.

And so they sat in anticipation. Chloe’s eyes darted to Lillith’s plate. She tried to pace herself so that Lillith finished first. Lillith didn’t notice at first, but eventually it was clear that Chloe was eating at an extremely leisured pace. And then Col re-entered the room. Having finished serving the meal, he sat down between them and, oblivious, began to speak.

“No, no, I told him, I don’t own the building, I just live here, and work here! I told him. And he looked at me suspiciously! I can’t tell if he was stopping me because I don’t look like the kind of person who would live here, or if it was my missing teeth, or what. How would he have seen my teeth from where he was? I wasn’t talking, my mouth was closed. So I guess wasn’t the teeth, huh. I just don’t understand. I tell you, the officers around here are getting more and more paranoid. It’s like they’re looking for something. Or maybe they’re just looking to pick a fight? I don’t know, I don’t know.” Col shook his head and then began to eat.

Distracted, Chloe had unconsciously finished her food. She gave a half frown, stood, said thank you, and then exited. She stopped in the hallway, looking left and right. She couldn’t remember where the gym was. She thought, maybe I should have stayed at the table and waited? That would have been polite too.

“Ah,” she exhaled. Too late now.

Chloe went to the ground floor to look for the room. She tried a few doors and eventually found the right one. She opened it and peered inside.

“Ah, so you found it,” Lillith rounded the corner, “well, don’t just stand there, go in, let’s get started.”

“Sure.”

They entered the gym, and Lillith headed to the left wall on which hung her sword collection. She took a couple of thin, edge-less swords off the wall.

“These are training swords. They have no edge, and weigh less so that cutting is safer. And they flex more and have this roundly folded tip, so that thrusting is safer. We’ll use them while you’re learning so that we don’t have to call for the Servant of Duels every time, but still don’t cause too much accidental injury.”

“Okay.”

“We’re going to start with some exercises, because I don’t think you’ve enough strength to wield a sword properly.”

“Well, I fought okay on my way here…” Chloe said.

“Was it a quick fight?” Lillith asked.

“Quick? I fought a whole horde of wild Riley people.”

Lillith tilted her head to the side, “consider how many cuts you actually threw.”

Chloe thought back and tried to form an estimate, “I guess around seven or eight.”

“Right, and you said they were wild, which I’m assuming means untrained. Should we have to retaliate against an army, or battalion, or whatever is thrown our way should the situation in the city turn dark, you’re going to need to be able to throw out more than seven or eight. And, since we’re expecting trained guards and officers, you’ll need the strength to pull your weapon back.”

“Pull it back?”

Lillith handed Chloe on of the training swords, and then stood beside her.

“Throw out a cut, and then pull it back. At the same time as me, ready?”

They both swung forward. Lillith’s sword cut down faster, but she waited for Chloe to finish cutting. Then, she returned to her starting position. The gap between the two women’s return was noticeably larger than the gap between their cuts.

“Hey,” Chloe said, “that’s not fair, you have more training than me.”

Lillith nodded, “You’re absolutely right, but that’s not the kind of argument you can make against an enemy. And, I didn’t show you this to compete. I’m showing you that you need to build a kind of strength that most people haven’t.”

“What’s that?”

“Strength in your forearms. A lot of hand movements are controlled by the wrists.”

“And the wrists is controlled by tendons attached to muscles in the forearm. And swords are heavier than everyday objects, so those muscles need to have more strength, right?”

Lillith nodded, “Err, right. Yes. So, what you need to do is exercise those muscles. For today, that’s all we’ll work on. Then I’ll start adding more in training.”

So, under Lillith’s instruction, Chloe spent a few hours throwing her weapon out and pulling it back in. Lillith made her focus on the speed of her pull back.

“You want to have your sword in a position to defend or cut again as soon as possible. It’s easier to attack, both through your thought process and by how muscles work, so for today we won’t focus on that.”

As she made cuts with the weapon, Lillith added diagonal cuts, and made her alternate. The work seemed to be easy at first, but eventually it began to wear on Chloe. She began to sweat, and her arm started aching. Lillith allowed for some breaks, and gave her water, but they kept going until Chloe started to feel pain.

“Al right, we’ll pick up tomorrow.”

“I think I can keep going through the pain.” Chloe panted.

“That’s admirable of you, but if you damage yourself, then we have to wait for you to heal. You still need to come back tomorrow.”

“Right.”

“Well, we stopped early today, but that’s fine. I’ll get Col to prepare lunch. We can eat when it’s ready. And don’t forget, you’re going to feel this in the morning.”

“Ah…”

Daniel Triumph.
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First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefore subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, repetitiveness, weak character voice and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain.

If you want, you can help me out on Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/DanielTriumph)

The Djeb Guard

We are here, we watch the city.

We are the ones who respond.
If they come with hands open to take, or hands closed to hit.
If they come with words that are false, or words that are threats.
We are the ones who respond.

We are here, we watch the city.
We walk overnight, we walk overday.
We walk along paths, we walk overland.
If you need any help, call the guard of the Djeb.

They call to us, of a winged creature. I respond.
They come to me, they fear the unknown.
I stand for them, I am their safety.
I must remain calm.

The guard’s process.
Step one is discover. What is the conflict?
Step two is confirm. What is the nature?
Step three is intervene. Can it be done by reason?

Step one is discover. I speak to them, what is the conflict?
The creature entered the city, It isn’t too big.
The creature entered the city, it looks just like us.
She is smaller though.

I speak to them. What has it done?
Voices, murmurs, shrugs, suspicion.
Wings, a sword, teeth, suspicion.
I cannot act on suspicion.

Step two is confirm. I must speak to the creature.
She says she is Yaska, from the east.
She says she is passing through, to an inn.
She says— I interrupt her.

Yaska May Dawngale,
Yaska, one of the five Solune Legends.
Yaska, one of the heroes of the east.
Yaska, unbelievable might.
Yaska, of the Plainkind.

Step three is intervene. I must reason with the people.
The Plainkind has not caused any trouble.
The Plainkind should not be suspicious.
The Plainkind is a Solune hero.

The flames rise into the sky, and we respond.
How could this happen, here on the shore?

“Get the people out of the district.”

The flames cannot be stopped.

They spread along buildings and homes.

I watch.

What can we do?

“Hannah, focus on the people.”

I focus on the people.
I focus on the process.
The guard’s process.

Step one is discover.
The conflict is not the fire, it’s the people escaping it.
Step two is confirm.
The nature is not to rescue the homes, it’s to rescue the people.

Step three is intervene. Can it be done by reason?
I say, “take them to the eastern district.”
I say, “take them across the canal.”
I say, “take them, lead them there.”

Guards discover people in homes, so they don’t get trapped.
Guards create checkpoints, to confirm their path, and their safety.
Guards intervene with inns, to find places for them.

The people are safe, but the fires still burn.
It moves towards the east.
It moves towards the canal.

It’s too big for a line of buckets.
But we try nonetheless.

I take an empty bucket,
I fill it with seawater,
I pass it down the line,
I take an empty bucket…

The rhythm of buckets,
has become automatic.

And I stare out into the sea.
The islands of mountains.
The dim of the sky.
The winged shadow.
Rising from the east.

It shot from the city, into the air.
It shot from the air, over the sea.
It shot from the sea, onto an island.

Suddenly, the tip of the mountaintop breaks off.
A feat of strength, it’s lifted from its perch.
I watch as it’s launched into the air.
I watch as it falls into the sea, just off the shore.
I watch the waves, they echo off the island.
They head towards our shoreline.

I point, I shout, “tidal wave”

The guards follow the path of the people.
We exit to the eastern district.
And the waves come to the flames.

Water hits the shore and rises,
Momentum cracks against the beaches.
The waves hit the buildings,
And the flames drown.

“Do you think my wave did more damage than the fire might have?”

Hannah shrugged, “a drenched and damaged structure is better than a pile of ash.”

Daniel Triumph.

You can follow me:
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P.S.

Somewhat inspired by a couple of songs from Falling Up’s second album, Dawn Escapes: Searchlights and Marathons. This is a situation in the Djeb that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Never thought it would come out as a sort of long poem though.

A Choice Part 2 (The Solune Prince ActII, Sxiv)

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Chloe re-entered Lillith’s room, this time with Elliott.

Lillith sat back at her desk, “come to change your mind?” She smiled, “or perhaps you’re just here to interrupt my work?”

“I’m here to say that I don’t want to work all the time.” Chloe paused, nervous that she had  implied the wrong thing, and then added, “I don’t mean that I don’t want to work, I mean that, ah…”

“Yes?” Lillith said.

“Ah,” Chloe had run out of steam. She had many arguments for how doing the same thing every day could put you in a rut, but she hadn’t bridged that argument into how a break might help solve that issue.

Lillith said, “what would you do outside of working and training with me?”

Elliott spoke up, “I’d like her to come out and help me with some projects. We could use more hands.”

Chloe nodded, “I don’t want to have to spend all of my time here. But… I still want to work with you enough that I’m not… neglecting my duty to the Lussa royalty.”

Lillith exhaled, “It seems what you really want is time to do the things you want to do.”

“Y–yes.”

Lillith said, “Consider my situation. I work with Prince Riley, and with the rest of the Lussa royalty. Then I also have this building to maintain. I don’t think I told you this, but you’re not the only person living here, this is a government-owned apartment complex; although that’s a story for another time. On top of all that, I have to train you in fencing, and probably also certain Lussa customs and culture, what little I know of all that.”

“What?”

“I don’t know what you were expecting, but I can’t be with you every hour of the day. Possibly, I’ll have time for a few hours every morning and into noon, for most of the week. We can practice sword fighting and battles, then we can talk during a late lunch, but after that I’ll have to go back to my own business.”

“Wait wait,” Elliott said, “So what you’re saying is that we have the whole afternoon? That’s great, isn’t it Chloe?”

“Yes…” Chloe said slowly, “I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before.”

Chloe cleared her head and added, “So, you have from morning into noon, and then in the afternoon I have my own time, and I can go out with Elliott, or explore independently.”

Lillith smiled, “if that’s what you want. But please remember to be well rested in the mornings.”

“Which means not to return too late,” Chloe said.

Lillith gave a tilted nod.

“Well, thank you for helping me come up with a more clear schedule.”

“Of course. I think I said this the first time you came in here, but I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Chloe and Elliott sat on a bench outside the building eating a dinner, and watching the city get dark.

“I’m pretty happy that this while thing was settled,” Elliott said, “it all ended up working out fine.”

“Yes, it did.”

“Are you okay? You don’t seem that happy” Elliott said.

“Well, we didn’t specifically solve anything, right? We just found out that my worries didn’t exist in the first place.”

“I mean, I guess.”

“No, it’s true. I assumed that I was going to be working with Lillith all day. I didn’t consider that she would have her own responsibilities outside of me.”

Elliott frowned, “so what are you saying?”

“I’m saying that I was only thinking about myself.” Chloe said.

“I don’t know what to say. To be honest, I didn’t think about her side of it either,” Elliott said, “I guess it’s just easier not to worry about other people.”

Chloe sighed, “yeah. But, despite that, I think I’ll try to be a little more considerate.”

They picked at the food in silence for a bit. Chloe wasn’t sure what she was eating, but it looked like rice.

“Hey,” Elliott said, “I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon then. We can meet up at the building we’re painting, if you remember where that is.”

“Yeah, I remember.” She looked at the darkening sky, “Is that the sun getting brighter?”

“Hmm? No that’s not the sun. That’s Opsto.”

“What?”

“It’s like the Lussa moon… It’s not the same as the normal moon, it’s a second planetary object that kind of just stays in one place in our sky. Honestly when I went to your side of the planet I was a little surprised that you didn’t have one.”

“So you just have a stationary planet in your sky?” Chloe said.

“Pretty much. That’s why it’s dimmer for most of the day. Partial eclipse. Opsto literally means hinder. Didn’t you notice it?”

“I couldn’t see it past the clouds. I also assumed that’s why it was so dim.”

Elliott nodded, “that’s one reason, but it’s actually dim for most of the day every day. It’s only evenings and mornings when Opsto isn’t in the way when it gets bright. And it can get really bright. The break of dawn is actually blinding.”

Chloe tried to process this. She said, “Is it brighter because when that planet… er, when Opsto is off-center, it also starts to reflect light to the surface?”

Elliott said, “that would make sense, although I’m not particularly sure.”

They finished their dinner and, as Elliott said, the city did start to get brighter. Light began reflecting off the metal buildings, and eventually they headed inside to escape it. Other people started to trickle in too, Chloe assumed these were the other residents Lillith spoke of.

The two stood in the hall near the entrance of the apartment and waited.

“Now I understand why the halls are on the outside of this building,” Chloe said, “that way the morning light doesn’t hit the room.”

“Yeah, the rest of us have to use heavy curtains. It is not cool to wake up to blinding lights, let me tell you.”

“Huh, I would have thought that your buildings would be built with this in mind.” Chloe said.

“Well,” said Elliott, “not everyone can afford a house with exterior hallways, or special windows or whatever. But heavy curtains? Now that’s something anyone can go out and buy.”

“Oh. That makes sense.”

Sunlight came in through the front door window, and Chloe and Elliott watched as it got brighter and brighter, and eventually, suddenly faded out. Afterwards, Elliott said goodbye, and went home in the dark, where his eyes were safe.

Daniel Triumph.
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for art: DeviantArt and Instagram.

First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefore subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, repetitiveness, weak character voice and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain.

If you want, you can help me out on Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/DanielTriumph)

P.S.

Wow, this one turned kind of weird. To be honest, I’m a little unsure of the whole day-night cycle in the Lussa City and the Underside.

The original setup was that the sun got really hot during the day due to a thinner atmosphere, and the moon reflected a lot of light, so most creatures flipped the clock. Night time was safer, and bright enough to see, so people went out then. Day time was treacherous, so people decided to stay in caves, settlements, and so forth.

Then I decided I wanted things to happen at night, so I changed the treacherous only to apply at sunrise and sunset, like it does here. That’s when the planet (which is bowl shaped) gets sunlight at the edges. The theory was that the atmosphere acted like a lens an amplified the suns rays like a magnifying glass.

Now I’ve added Opsto, the giant planet that sort of acts like a binary to the “diskworld” or rather “bowl-world” of Dawngale. I came up with this because I couldn’t explain how the moon would get light when the sun is on the other side of the world. And I ended up making things way more confusing than they have to be. Maybe I’ll cut this part out in a later draft.

A Choice (The Solune Prince ActII, Sxiii)

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Chloe shut the door behind her, then closed her eyes and let the outside world pull back into the quiet of her mind.

She thought; what will I do? Will I spend all my time here receiving training? This physical education? Is that all I came here for? But, I can’t think like that. I am a kin of the royal people of the Lussa city. Albeit distant kin, but still, I came here on their request, and I must hold up my promise to help them. Like Lillith said, I need to be reliable. I need to be capable for whenever they decide to move to action.

But, she thought, I don’t know if I can stand doing only one thing all day every day. I don’t know how the militaristic people of the East do it, but I didn’t come from that kind of culture. To raise myself to such a high energy state overnight, what will I do?

“I just don’t know.”

A voice responded to her spoken conclusion, “what don’t you know?”

Chloe, startled, opened her eyes noticed Elliott was still in the hall, waiting.

“Oh, did I leave the door open when I was taking to Lillith?” Chloe asked.

Elliot waved his hand dismissively, “Yeah. I heard most of it. So you’re not coming out any more, huh.”

Chloe guessed that he was disappointed.

“Ah, did you want me to help you with your painting project?” Chloe asked.

“I was hoping to get you involved. Although, I never asked, would you even be interested?”

“Painting with a spray can? I’ve never done anything like this.”

“Ah, well,” Elliot said, “it doesn’t really matter as much as helping Riley, right?”

“Yes…” Chloe nodded with deliberation, and then, “no.”

“No?”

“No.” Chloe said, “no. That’s not right at all.”

“What isn’t right? Are you saying that you’re not going to help the city?”

“That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is this: I don’t think you can just work all the time. I don’t just mean you or me, but everyone. People need time to rest, or they get burned out.”

“I mean, that makes sense, but I know someone who just works non-stop and they seem fine.”

Chloe shook her head. She wasn’t going to let this idea go unless Elliott was going to apply arguments justified with reasons.

“No, no, I think, and when I say I think, I really mean that. I don’t actually know, I think. I’m building this argument on a reasonable assumption.”

“Okay,” Elliott smiled, “breaking out the fancy words! The fancy… fancy diction? Yeah. Breaking out the fancy diction! Let’s do this, I think I can keep up. Tell me why someone shouldn’t work every single day.”

“Right! Ah, okay.” Chloe returned his smile, and then her mind began to whirr. “If you’re doing the same thing every single day, then it becomes very easy to start going through the motions, to become caught in a groove. I think that what’s going on with these people who claim to work all the time is that they really are working, but it’s not… deliberate. It’s not… ah…” Chloe rubbed her face.

“Not?”

“Look, you can get by okay in a groove. Grooves are comfortable, easy, and there’s nothing really bad about them. But if you want any real improvement, you have to step outside your comfort zone. You can’t learn anything if you never have new experiences!”

“New experiences! I like it. Maybe you’re right, then, about taking breaks.” Elliot stopped, “wait, weren’t we talking about taking breaks? I think you started arguing for something different partway through.”

“Oh, ah,” Chloe said, “right. Okay, I do have a thing or two to say about breaks, but why don’t we, you and I, go to Lillith and see if we can reason with her. She did say it was my choice, right?”

“Uhh, yeah, that’s what I heard from out here.”

“Well, let’s go then.”

Daniel Triumph.
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First draft disclaimer: This narrative is a first draft, and is therefore subject to grammar errors, repetitiveness, lack of clarity, repetitiveness, weak character voice and other issues. Later drafts will smooth such things over, but for now they remain.

If you want, you can help me out on Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/DanielTriumph)