Runeclock- New Sessions

[HA. Still writing more for Runeclock than Riddle Box. Bad writer. BAD.]

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Haunted House

The fire crackled and spit sparks into the air as the malformed log fell into the embers. Lucht had placed it with great care for maximum light and heat, but it required constant tending.

A rustle of leaves as the wind sidled through the trees of the Proust forest. It was late autumn and the winter chill slinked from tree to tree, occasionally sticking its head out to menace the children with its cool breath. Winter and the wind were old comrades and they hoped to hasten their time of celebration.

But for now the fire kept most of their plots at bay, and the evening dark also kept a respectful distance. Trigger considered howling at the sliver of moon he could spy through the canopy, but it hardly seemed worth the effort. A repast of over-cooked asparagus and sausage was digesting nicely in his stomach. The children sat around the fire, each preparing their marshmallow with the solemnity of a ritual. Mark jealously guarded the bag of white sweet fluff, but was easily overruled by the other’s requests and his sisters commands. Nora jammed another marshmallow into the coals to get the perfect obsidian-black crust she preferred. Jema sat nearby, a trifle jealous as Crim casually held his steel arm in the fire with a fistful of marshmallows.

 

To the Blackboard

The instructor’s voice droned on, a litany of suffering, torment, and bland history tumbling across his teeth like an ankle-deep brook. Mr. Tavis was a brilliant man, but he had a complete apathy towards the interest level or attention span of his audience. All he required was their silence.

The cadets did their best to remain focused with varying degrees of success. Exams were close, and the information they were wading in was pertinent and most definitely on the test, but the late afternoon sun made it all too easy to allow their minds to wander. The sun slanted across the far wall of the classroom and moved as all too slowly. The class would soon be over, but it was not quite yet.

“Now.” Mr. Tavis popped a brief pebble in the water. “That’s a brief review of the major events of the Blank Invasion that precipitated the War, does anyone have any questions before I go on?”

The short-statured man leaned against his desk, and scratched at the dry skin that plagued the back and sides of his neck. It had earned him an unfortunate nickname among the less-kind students of the Academy. Mr. Iguana. It didn’t help that he sometimes licked his dry lips, or allowed his wide eyes to move around the room like a desert lizard.

 

Runeclock – Under the Wheel

 

Drawn on by curiosity, by pride, by fear of being alone, the band of children slipped down below the Ferris Wheel, through the thick iron gate and through the tall iron door. The dog and the strange young woman accompanied them, hard on their heels like sentinels or comets. The children tucked their treasures away and went down into the groaning dark.

Where the Fairgrounds had been full of garish color and golden afternoon sun, the passageway was gray and dark green, lit only by intermittent globes of noxious orange. Their curiosity and pride was quickly shadowed, but the fear of being alone made them press close together — hands seeking hands as they chased the mysterious figure.

They passed through strange rooms and long halls. Old, cobwebbed dynamos and blinking boards beyond their knowledge. In the air was a flat smell that one day they would learn to recognize as gunpowder and the burnt ozone smell of rune-tech. They went on beyond sense or safety — above their breath they could hear the quiet footfalls of their quarry, leading them further and further underneath the Wheel.

At last they could go no farther, the passageway terminated in a wide bay filled with glass canisters and a few odd articulated automatons that seemed like they belonged somewhere above ground in the vast Fair — brightly colored paint and harlequin smiles flecked with rust and dust. But it was not these sights that made them all stumble to a halt.

In the center of the room was a massive square console bristling with light and humming with power. It seemed clear that this was the main power source and control for the Wheel — it was also obvious that this was not this device’s original purpose. Some vast heart of war that still beat here within the hidden interior of the Fair. But it was not this that made every eye grow wide and their hands tighten around their companions’ hands.

It was the man.

The man stood with his back to the them, one hand resting on the console, quite at ease. In later years the children would argue about the man’s height and the color of his wide-brimmed hat. Eight feet tall! The hat was blue, with a long blue feather! He was only six and some change, but the hat was black. Black as night.

But they would never argue about what he said then. Nor what happened then. In that they were all in awed, perfect agreement.

“An audience? I suppose it must be so. Great moments in history do require it, I suppose. The observers must be paid, must have their hire and salary, must validate the world with their silent affirmation.” the man turned and smiled at the children with a quiet, tender madness. “I suppose they will ask you what you saw, and who I was, and why this all happened. You will tell them this: I am one, my liege, whom the vile blows and buffets of the world have so incensed that I am reckless what I do to spite the world. And you will tell them that you were the witnesses of a grand event, a Beginning , a true beginning if the wash and wave of Time can truly be said to contain such things.”

The man pointed to an empty space just to his left with a long finger. “I have calculated this very carefully, exactly when it will be appear. How lucky or fated you are to be here to see this…the Greenglass Node!”

pop

And there it was, a node like the others they had seen in their lives — but also unlike. It was made of thick bottle-glass, and seemed a mistake — but still flared with green light as if it had a star in its belly.

The man flew into action, throwing switches and mashing buttons in a complex pattern. The waiting node seemed to respond in some way, become more solid or flare brighter. The console begin to emit sparks and a thin trickle of white smoke. A few of the nearby robots groaned with reflexive pain as the console activated them, desperately trying to offset the energy coursing through it.

The man doffed his wide-brimmed hat, and bowed with proud triumph. His face shone in the greenglass light as he reached out to activate the node. “Now truly I am the master of the Wave, I am the King of Time!”

The man and the node vanished together, leaving the room as empty as forgotten promises.

The children would not remember their panicked flight from underneath the Wheel, or the exact moment when they realized that the robots where fleeing alongside them, or the exact feeling of relief they experienced when the emerged into the Fair into the protective arms of the green-guards. Parents gave punishment, and more than a few nightmares were earned.

But they all would remember what the man said, and what he did. And the look on his face, the pure, terrible, awful joy.

Runeclock – Treasure

The green-guards Jak and Kanley lumbered onto the gazebo like a stork and a penguin. The two friends quickly scanned the Midway, but saw neither their young quarry or the danger that lurked between the garish-colored booths of steel and light.


The children regrouped and followed Crim’s lead faster and faster towards the great wheel. The golden sun was beginning to set and it’s fire showed the great bones of the Ferris Wheel stark-skeletal as they approached.

The steel-touched boy lead them to a tall booth right near the base of the Wheel. It was shuttered and dark. His rust-flecked hand sparkled in the late sun as he held it up in caution. The scatter-wag band of children, bandits, dogs, mysteries and wonders as one crouched behind a tall sign advertising the Wheel’s wonders as they watched.

With practised ease, Crim popped a latch with his metal hand, and slithered up inside the booth. A few breaths later and he emerged, triumphant with a battered cardboard box.

Crim came into the circle of the others with his treasure, and proudly displayed it all to see. There were more than a few toy ray guns, but also several action figures of various type painted in eye-scorchingly bright color. A gargoyle, a green knight, a tiny man riding a beetle, one ridiculous figure that carried a sword far too large for the plastic arms to bear the weight.

The steel-touched’s eyes sparkled. “Regular haul, ain’t it? Proper.”

Runeclock – Biggs and Wedge

[Just a little snatch from Runeclock that I wrote today and liked. Surprisingly, all this time playing hooky and writing this thing gave me a nice boost on The Riddle Box — I think I’m going to start viewing Runeclock as my ‘writing warm-up sketch’ every day, like I see a lot of illustrators do on the Tumbles. Nice five page burst on RB yesterday, plus incorporating a short story I wrote for something else put me at 82 pages in the draft! I know I have a lot of distractions coming up, but I still want to be at 100 pages by the 10th of August, the International Holiday of Arbitrary Deadlines.]

 

The odd group of children chattered and gamboled in the gazebo’s shadow. They began to make slow progress towards the Ferris Wheel, but the sugar-arguments made them lag and stall like a herd of dizzy turtles.


Jak and Kanley ran through the Fair, despair and anxiety nipping at their heels. Interestingly, the Sgt’s punishment of choice was to have his pet terriers, Despair and Anxiety, nip at the heels of soldiers that displeased him.

“We’re never going to find them,” the portly guard moaned, nearly caroming off a passing cotton candy stall.

“We will, we will.” Jak insisted. “We just have to figure out where kids would go. Where do kids go?”

The fat guard did not answer, but continued to pant as they ran. After a few moments, he worked up the breath to speak again. “Jak, I know we’re in trouble, but I’m about to split my sides. There’s a gazebo right around the corner. Can we please, please stop for a moment and catch my—-our breath?”

“I don’t know, Kanley.” the tall guard whined.

“It’s tall! It’s tall! We can get a better view of the Midway.” Kanley insisted.

Jak nodded his assent, and the two guards made their way in the direction of the gazebo.


pop

In the middle of the children, a red node appeared. A light on the top of it pulsed a bright sun-flare yellow.

Runeclock – The Ferris Wheel

[Hey, remember that book you’re working on — remember that?]

[Yeah.]

[You seem to be spending a fair amount of time on this side project. Shouldn’t you…?]

[SHUT YOUR FACE.]

The Ferris Wheel waits, a grand circle enclosing the horizon.Even the children who have never been to the Fair can recall the grand spectacle when it is operational. A thousand lights and the turn of the wonderful machine.

The Midway leads to the Wheel, a hundred blind alleys and elaborate devices of fun and excitement that could hide a furious overweight green-guard and his allies.

“Of course it still works,” Crim laughed. “It’s robot-steel, nothing can break robot-steel. And we’re going to get a bunch more closer. The toy cart with the unlocked door, where I found all my stuff. It’s right at the base of the Wheel.”

“Must. Get. Toys.” Mark’s hands clutched the air with desire.


The portly guard pounded through the streets of the Fair after the children, but soon lost them. He leaned against the side of a Funnel Cake stand and panted and wiped runnels of sweat off his brow. The silver name tag on his shoulder gleamed, the name “KANLEY” neatly etched.

Two more guards pounded into view. A tall, lanky man who was a friend — and a broad, bearded man who was not.

“Kanley, you alright?” his friend asked with diffident concern, trying to avoid the anger-fueled gaze of the bearded man.

“I’m….fine….Jak.” Kanley panted.

gal-oktoberfest10-jpg“Fine. I’ll show you fine.” the bearded man, who was his superior officer, slammed a hand into Kanley’s shoulder. “A Rune-discharge? Here?!? At a bunch of ragamuffin children?”

“I’m sorry sir. There was a cat, and the running, and I thought…”the fat guard began.

“You thought nothing. Like you always do. Private Jak. Pull up your fat friend, Private Kanley, by the buttons if you have to, but get moving. Find those children. They have no idea the danger they are in. We must find them, and find them now and remove them from harm’s way. If they encounter the Target…” the bearded man pulled the communicator from his right breast and barked into it. “All units, scramble. 5-8 minors have been spotted in the Fairgrounds, must be detained and removed to safe distance. Priority One. Keep an eye peeled for the Target, and don’t take any risks – but we have to get those damn kids out of here on the double.”

The anger-gaze turned back to Jak and Kanley, the latter weakly tried to snap to attention. “You’ve put those children in danger with your incompetence, Private. We’ll speak more of this at the barracks. But remember, nothing will save you from me if anything happens to those children. Dismissed.”

“Yes, Sgt. Towerlock!” the two guards cried in unison.


The green-guards moved quickly, eyes darting as they searched the Fair. Hands checking their runes at every dark alley, at every can that rattled in the wind. They did their best to cover the vast area of the Fair, but they were stretched too thin.

They feared to find their quarry, and they feared that they would not find the group of children that had wandered into the fair at the most inopportune of times.


“Hey, look!” Nora pointed. “A node!”

A blue Observer Node appeared, a few short steps away from the gazebo.

See? See?

Today on Riddle Box: Two paragraphs.Los-Angeles-Dock-Ferris-Wheel-Beach-Sunset

 

Today on Runeclock [collaborative writing experiment]:

The children turned to consider the thin girl with the skinned knees. Mark looked skeptical, but was so eager to be off that he made little opposition. Crim shrugged, and the others made warm welcome to their new companion in ‘banditry’.

The steel-touched boy yelled one last time to the moody boy watching from the boardwalk. “So are you coming, Seven? Huh, Seven? SEVEN. Well, we’re going to that place, catch up if you want.”

An apparently older girl that was painting nearby crinkled her nose in …frustration, delight? It was difficult to discern.

The six children and one dubious dog departed en masse, attitudes of vast stealth were adopted and executed. To Hibba’s relief the group made their way under the boardwalk, well out of the gaze of the two guards that still lingered there.

Crim lead them along the shore until they reached the grand wall of tall green planks that surrounded the Fair. He pulled his toy ray gun and held it up in preposterous vigilance, looking north and south, east and west. At last he laid his rusted hand on a plank marred by a single slash of red paint, that appeared to have been dribbled by a careless workman sometime in the past.


The Fair, as it is known, is the realm of lights and machines, the excited whirring of summer and life and memory. The roller coaster jostles, but stays on the track — the smell of popcorn and fried sugar waft.

To the children whose parents could afford the nominal fee, it was a bastion of games and running, of music and tiny teddy bears won by skill and craft. The calliope moan of its vast midway, the shadow-heart of the funhouse, the songs of the travelling bands that did their best to fill the thousand-seat bandshell that even in the height of the busy season only ever saw a few dozen guests.

Above it all presided the Ferris Wheel. A circle of light that spun like the hands of a clock, perfect and real. To ride to the top of its globe was to catch a glimpse of the entire island, to peek beyond the edge of the known world.

The children had no inkling that the Fair was a second-guest, a second layer. During the War, this place had served as the main harbor and command center for the fleet, battleships and rune-lords hurling themselves into the sea and the air. At War’s end, the aching metal had come here to rest, and in a brace of years had been sold to an enterprising soul. The Fair’s master beat the swords into roller-rails and corn-dog stalls, into benches and organs.

The children also had no inkling that at this moment, unexpected men were moving their way through the empty Fair. They wore the green tunics of guards and seemed to be searching for something or someone.


Crim pulled back the board, revealing a gap and a medium-sized pipe that had once served as some sort of drainage.

“Up the chute, geemos. Right into the splash-fountain. Come on then, come on then.”

He rested his silver weapon against his cheek and struck a pirate smile.

It was at that moment that a red Observer Node popped into view directly in front of the pipe.

The Danger of the New Shiny

So, instead of focusing on the rough draft of The Riddle Box this week, or drilling down on the lines I have to memorize for Hamlet, or just conserving my energy for the crazy roadtrip we have this weekend or the move I should be packing and planning for — I decided I needed a further distraction. Like a new collaborative writing project with my friends.

YEAH!

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