I’ve been mostly silent for the past month or so. Part of this was my trip to Japan, having been too busy to update. Part of this is due to some work issues (I work for a government contractor, and the shutdown messed up our entire project schedule this year.)
However, mostly it’s because I’m working on some project I won’t discuss.
Oh, I could discuss it. I’ve mentioned projects in-progress on this blog and on Twitter many times before. I’ve found, however, that the less I talk about something in public, the less guilt I feel when I have to change course. It happened with my failed Otherkin story, and when I almost decided to go to grad school. I’m being far more cautious lately.
Right now, I’ve got something really big, really close to my heart, that I’ve been putting words into. I can’t let my nasty habit of airing dirty laundry screw that up right now.
…However, because I really do disclose far more than I should, below is a snippet from my super sekrit project, in unedited form. Some might guess what it is from all those proper nouns, or a possible drunken disclosure on Twitter. Anyhow, enjoy!
The Outcast strolled through the marketplace, staring at the same goods that had been sold all week. Not that he had any money to buy them if he wanted – his shell purse was all empty – but he had another reason in mind for walking among the merchants.
Where has she gone?
He went back to the stables. The sentry at the entrance grunted at the Outcast as he passed. The stables were full, most of the stalls occupied by landstriders, meepmeeps, or stranger creatures. He reached Klik-Klik’s stall when he caught a glimpse of a gelfling girl crying, her face buried in her red-striped landstrider’s side. It was the Meadow Clan girl.
“You look upset,” he said.
She turned. Her face was dry, but her cheeks were red and puffy. She frowned at him. “This city is corrupt. If someone built a city of salt where I lived, the spring rains would wash it away in a day. Here, it’s so dry, such a fragile thing can last forever. Maybe that’s why you’re still here.”
The Outcast sighed under his mask. “I was looking for something. Now that I’ve found it, it is time to leave.”
“I wish I could.” Her voice went quiet.
“What do you mean?”
“Maybe a creature like you will hear me with clearer ears than others.”
“I can try,” he replied.
She told the Outcast about her prophecy, how she traveled so far to get here, how no one would listen because of the influence of that Skeksis. “If you were Gelfling, we could Dreamfast. It would save so much trouble.”
“It would, but I’m something else completely, ” he said. “This isn’t my face.” He tapped his clay mask. “You would hate me if I took this off.”
“You’re not Skeksis, are you?” She glanced at Klik-Klik, who stood still under her gaze.
He laughed. “I am no Skeksis. A shard mantis can be tamed by anyone, even the smallest Podling. And unlike those ancient lizards, you and I are of a similar age.”
“Not that I can tell,” she said, smiling. “I wear a mask too, you know. You cannot see it right away, but if I pointed to it you would wonder why you never saw it before.”
“What, are you Skeksis?” he asked.
They both laughed. She shook her head.
“I am Droba of the Meadow Clan.”
“I do not use my given name,” he said. “I’m called the Outcast.”
“A creature who is called The Outcast and wears a mask and cloak,” Droba said. “You seem very trustworthy.” Droba turned back to her landstrider. Watching her tend to a bandage on his leg, the Outcast noticed something odd about this Gelfling woman. The way she held herself was . . . wrong. Yet there was nothing out of the ordinary he could place.
“What shall you do,” the Outcast asked, “if the Council of Old Farts will not hear your prophecy?”
Droba sighed. “I have to keep trying. Maybe other Gelfling will listen. Maybe they will leave before it’s too late.” The clock chimed at the center of the city; Droba winced. “They divide the day into twenty-seven ‘hours.’ A day is either whole or not at all.”
“Maybe this city doesn’t deserve your attention,” the Outcast said.
Droba glared at him. “How could you say that? All Gelfling are my sisters and brothers. Maybe if you were one of us you would understand that. If a child is determined to walk off a cliff, a mother must keep trying to pull her back as long as she can.”
“Even if that mother falls off along with her child?”
She nodded, her eyes shut.
“There is . . . one part of the city which I have not bored of yet.” The Outcast felt uncomfortable, as if his mask had suddenly fallen off. “Have you yet seen the puppet masters of the Podling Ward?”
“I haven’t wandered there yet,” Droba said.
“I’m going there for the evening, if you would like to join me.”
“I must say, I do not travel well in the company of others,” Droba said. “My mouth speaks my heart before my mind can stop it. I think you’ve noticed.”
“Those I meet are never completely honest with me . . . except you.” He smiled under his mask. “I would not mind.”