With love and respect to the ArchAndroid.

The purple-skinned trombonist eyes the coin with distrust, then shrugs. He calls off stage in a thick tongue that Quick doesn’t recognize. The dance floor buzzes with excitement as a slender figure steps into view. She is wearing a sharply pressed white shirt with a black string tie, long black tail coat, pinstripe pants and blazing white spats on her shoes. Her skin is dark, and her elaborately coiffed bouffant is darker — but the devilkin spots the cunning rivets and seams along her jawline, and the slight purple glow behind her wide, brown eyes. She is a construct of some sort, but one of greater complexity and craft then Quick has ever encountered before.

She kicks her legs high in the air, and cradles the steel microphone and pulls it to her lips.

Whoaaa
Another day I take your pain away
Some people talk about ya
Like they know all about ya
When you get down they doubt ya
And when you tippin on the scene
Yeah they talkin’ bout it
Cause they can’t tip all on the scene with ya
Talk about it T-t-t-talk bout it
When you get elevated,
They love it or they hate it
You dance up on them haters
Keep getting funky on the scene
While they jumpin’ round ya
They trying to take all your dreams
But you can’t allow it
Cause baby whether you’re high or low
Whether you’re high or low
You gotta tip on the tightrope
T-t-t-tip on the tightrope

The band thumps and jams behind her and the Funky Winkerbean quakes and jives. The devilkin faintly remembers that in the outside world, it’s only an hour or two past breakfast.

The spider bartender waves its free arms in time to the beat, and serves drinks faster and faster. The two half-elves squeal and dash towards the dance floor. The drunken dwarf burps.

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An old friend appears

There is no immediate response at the door, but the sound of a window quickly opening around the side of the large building. Mara and Quintus move to the corner of the house to investigate — spotting a lanky blonde man slithering out of a window. He is completely nude, except for a pink pillow covering his genitals. A flushed looking young redheaded girl is closing the window behind him, closing the curtains in desperation.

“Afternoon.” the naked man waves at the two travelers in a friendly manner, and moves crab-sideways towards the nearest line of bushes beyond the Pennytown Square.

Mara and Quintus turn as the front door of the house opens. A portly half-orc with a thick black mustache appears, wearing an immaculate brown tunic. He cranes his head around looking for who knocked, then spots the gunslinger and duelist.

“Can I help you folks?” platinum teeth shine in the sun, matching the buttons on his coat and his belt buckle.

Mara haggles briefly with the fat trader, and holds out a purse.

“Fine, fine.” the Master Trader took the gold, and yelled through the open door. “Beulah! Beulah, bring my strong box, dammit.”

Moments later a wide-hipped red-haired girl appears, her face still flushed, bearing an iron box. Master Drover slips the coins through a slot in the top, then pushes the box back into her hands. “Run along with you.”

The half-orc points idly down the road to his right. “My cleric is also my blacksmith — the forge is a a dozen houses down that way — you can’t miss it.”

Quintus and Mara move through the dirt streets of Pennytown. The townsfolk seem to be mainly returning from the lunch hour, wiping crumbs from their chins or taking one last pull at a wineskin before heading towards one of the many warehouses or stockyards. They follow the scent of coal and steel to a low, dark-beamed barn. The forge is quiet, but the smell of the bellows is strong.

Hung on a post next to the entrance is a polished piece of red steel. Etched into it with care and precision is a blue square.

The forge is neatly layed out, a dozen fresh horseshoes are cooling on a wooden table, next to a tub of linseed oil. The blacksmith is nowhere to be seen, so Mara avails herself of an elaborate set of bells hanging next to the doorway. They clang and chime, and a door at the back of the forge flies open.

The tall blonde man they had glimpsed earlier – still shirtless, and desperately trying to tug on a pair of cotton pants. He topples forward, landing awkwardly on his shoulder. He looks up at Quintus and Mara, and his long-jawed face bursts into a grin.

“Well, hello again.” he said, continuing to button his pants.

Star Prophet

Star Prophet lay in the dirt. Underneath the drain pipe by the abandoned Bojangles he lay in mud and water, the blue jacket he always wore, a black cord wrapped around each wrist. After school I would bring the lunch I had saved and sit with him on the broken concrete and talk and watch him eat — pushing each wrapper into his mouth and chewing the plastic. Not a crumb escaped and he would talk about planets.

“Jupiter now, that’s a giant musical note — a hum in the cosmos, a perfect counterpoint to the static coming off Mercury during the winter months.” a clean slide of plastic pulled from his mouth.

analoglove00b by jean fhilippe

He always wore the hood of his coat up, even in June-heat. Somewhere in his orbit of town he had found some white tape, and carefully lined out a star on the front peak of his hood.

“People gotta know. People gotta know.” Star Prophet said, right hand clutching the zipper tab of his coat.

“Yeah?” I said. “They gotta?”

“Gotta-gotta.” completing our joke.

He stank, sweat and plastic and wet earth. His hands were brown like mine.

“The chance, the promise — the song that the rings of Saturn sing. It belongs –we belong!” he yelled, a stray fleck of yellow bread falling from his lips.

They chased him away from everywhere. The stores, the streets, the fronts of churches. Star Prophet would run and point, sliding down railings and stairs. His long brown finger to the heavens, spraying spit and star charts into empty faces. Late nights he would grab rich drunk white boys by the lapels and shake them into his words about Orion and Sagittarius and the shapes of memory in the stars.

They beat him and broke him and chased him into the wilderness like a dog.

So we sat and talked, and the house waited.

“It’s in us -It’s in us the stars and the sky and the light of the sun and the dance of the moons, and I can feel it — I can feel it in my heart, lifting me up while I sleep, and I can’t sleep only dream the stars in my water, and in my earth the moon.”

Sometimes Star Prophet would cry. Sometimes Star Prophet would hold my hand, and that was okay.

“Tell ’em. You gotta tell ’em when I can’t. Won’t you?” he whispered.

“I will. I promise.” The stars were out and I was late.

“And Cheetos — maybe, tomorrow?” his star-marked hood bobbled.

“Yeah, okay.”

I walked home in the stars, to the dark house where my uncle waited.

[I finished this piece, and realized I was writing about Doctor Who.]

Teardrop.

Sam Bosma - Self Portrait -- sbosma.tumblr.com

The devil-kin emerged carrying the emaciated form of an old human man. His bones showed through wasted skin — silver hair, and a long scraggly beard. His tunic was rotting, and food spilled down his chin, crusted up in his beard. His eyes were tightly bound, with a surprisingly clean strip of white cloth. The man worked his mouth feebly, trying to come to grips with the sudden flood of light and abrupt jostling.

Amidst the wrinkles on his left arm, a faded tattoo could be seen. A white spiral, shaped like a teardrop.