Drafts – Gwin, the Red Markison

The other wayfarers were eyeing Gwin, all of them shameless about it. Not just because he was the only Avian waiting in the mayor’s antechamber, but because he was a Red Markison.

There were over a hundred races of Avian across the world, with far more visual distinctions than human races. Dramatic differences in crests, wingspan, height, body composition, and–especially–color made it difficult for the average human to keep up, so many didn’t even try. Instead, they fell back on a handful of misconceptions. Ideas like dun-colored Avian being more intelligent than their bright-colored peers–possibly because of how common brown-feathered Dallings were. Or maybe because Dallings and other such birdpeople were closest to human skin colors.

Whatever the reason, there was a very real chance that, despite Gwin’s sharp eyes, and the Avian-altered armor he wore, the mayor of Riversend would only see his bright red feathers. Or the inhuman shape of his torso. The bare talons of his feet. The mayor might, like the worst of humanity, just see an animal. A pretty beast, trained to follow Elise around and repeat what she said on command. Gwin would absolutely despise that . . . even though he called himself a “pretty beast” every single time he found a mirror.

Elise knew he wouldn’t do anything violent, but Avian were naturally prideful, and they held a completely different, entirely personal view of society. Gwin, no doubt, wouldn’t have spared a second for the mayor of Greybrush–or even the king himself–if Elise hadn’t convinced him they should.

She took it as a good sign that they made it to the mayor’s chamber without incident. But then they were ushered in, and the mayor was an old white man. The kind who used to chase Elise away from their shops in Albrook for the crime of looking at his wares while also being a dark-skinned child.

He was on his feet immediately, saying “Welcome, welcome,” offering a hand and gesturing to his seats. Elise shook his hand . . . and then watched the old man offer it to Gwin.

“He doesn’t have hands,” she said.

And the mayor chuckled a bashful, “Of course,” as he sat down without apologizing.

Gwin looked at her, sidelong, saying nothing, but walking away from his spot in front of the mayor’s desk, considering a nearby bookshelf instead; if there had been any chance the mayor would earn a spot on Gwin’s pecking order, it was already lost.

“I want to thank you for what you did the other day,” the old man said, just to her. “I don’t think Greybrush would’ve survived that rhind attack if not for your help.”

“We did what needed to be done,” Elise said. “We wouldn’t be wayfarers if we just watched the trouble.”

The mayor chuckled again. “Your bird was particularly impressive.”

Ugh. Gwin didn’t turn around, but his feathers bristled–a shudder that rushed over him.

“Did you train it to hunt?”

“His master trained him–to be a wayfarer.”

The old man smiled like it was a joke. “So you bought it then?”

My . . . god. “He’s my–” she started to say.

But the floorboards were shaking in rhythm to a chuckle. Gwin shook his head. “You are trying . . . so hard with this genuinely idiotic man.”

The mayor was wide-eyed, mouth hanging open.

“He just doesn’t know better,” Elise said, still trying so hard to be patient, knowing that, somewhere in this meeting, there was a reward–or maybe a job offer. She could do with settling down in a small town for a few months.

But Red Markisons didn’t care about making homes, and Avian in general had zero tact for those they didn’t respect. That lack of care had also been too liberating for Elise.

So she just watched Gwin chuckle. “Of course not. He doesn’t know anything. One look at that stupid fucking face, and it’s obvious.”

There was a moment where she tried to hold in the laughter . . . but she just couldn’t. Such an absurd, terrible thing to say that would solve absolutely none of their problems.

And the mayor, all balk and sputter. “Are you–is he–it–talking about me?”

She laughed harder, and Gwin joined her, his head rocking back.

When they were done, Gwin shook his head. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

A part of Elise wanted to turn, bow, thank the mayor for his audience. A much smaller part of her thought that she should apologize for laughing at him.

In the end, she just sighed. “Yeah, fuck it,” she said, and followed Gwin out of the chamber without looking back.

~~~

A few weeks back, on a snowy day here in New York, I took a walk with coworkers who are both bird enthusiasts. Idle chat about bird behaviors stoked the nerd fire in my fat soul, and I decided I wanted to try my hand at a fantasy bird race–if only because I’ve never seen a story that made them unapologetically inhuman.

In my experience, animal people in Fantasy are often just humanoid with animal heads. Worse, they’re very, very often presented as a replacement for existing human races and the social issues they face (i.e. the Khajiit and Argonians from Elder Scrolls standing in for human minorities, thus animalizing those minorities and devaluing their struggles).

Naturally, I fucking hate that. However, I thought it would be really interesting if a Fantasy animal-person race didn’t replace an existing race or shoulder their issues, but, instead, complimented them. Thus, this scene, which proposes a Fantasy race of bird people who were wildly, intentionally different from all human races, paired with a dark-skinned character who wasn’t.

If you enjoyed this experiment, and want to see more posts like this, or the other strange, manic writings of an adult man trying to get his life in order and get published at the same time, well, fuck, go ahead and hit that subscribe button on the sidebar to the left of this page. Or feel free to follow me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor.

Either way, thanks for reading, and, as always, write well.

Muse Tuesday – Some Kind of Bow | Rainwater Archaic

Hi there, and welcome to my first Muse Tuesday, a series of practice scenes from my WIP’s, and my favorite canons, just for practice.

Now, I know Workshop Wednesdays would technically be a better fit for these scenes, but I want a dedicated place to explore characters and dialogue, separate from Wednesday, where I focus on descriptions.

To be clear, Muse Tuesday scenes might be a little rough, but I still invite comments. If you notice that I rely too heavily on certain descriptors, if you feel characters are just completely unlikable, or if you just want to say you enjoyed the scene, please feel free to comment.

Now, let’s get right into this scene, set in the world of my next project Rainwater Archaic.

~~~

Musa Dajen lifted an eyebrow. “What the hell’s it?”

“Whelp,” Zircon started, smacking his lips in that way everyone hated, holding the ‘it’ in question up to his eye. “Looks like some kind of bow.”

“A bow?” Musa grumbled, all attitude and skepticism. It was a long contraption of pitch-dark metal, alive with odd, sparkling patterns where the light hit it. Attached to it were smaller limbs of the same metal, fanning down its back, and a flat, wooden handle, oddly placed.

Musa had tried swinging it like a sword, but its flat handle was unwieldy.

Rook had given it a long, half-lidded stare, the tattoos on her arms coming alive with blue light as she burned from the inside with magic. When the light faded, she’d handed it back with a terse, “Not a catalyst.”

Otar had refused to touch it altogether, rubbing his giant hands together nervously. “It would be best if we . . . just took it back to Rainwater, perhaps?” he said, with a hopeful shrug.

And naturally, Zircon nodded in agreement . . . before pulling the thing up to one eye again anyway, shouting, “Crossbow!”

Everyone sighed.

“Just, put the damn thing down, Zircon,” Rook groaned, knowing he wouldn’t. And then quickly adding, “And don’t point it at us.”

As if that was a reminder, Zircon immediately started pointing it at everyone. “Really though! A crossbow, innit? Gotta be!”

“I’ll cross your goddamn bow if you point it at me again,” Musa said. When he noticed Rook staring, he shrugged. “I’m tired.”

She kept staring.

“The threats’ll be better tomorrow, I promise.”

The staring intensified. By merit of not changing at all.

“Bloody hell, woman. I’ll carve you a new tattoo if you don’t stop staring.”

And Rook, knowing Musa too well to be intimidated, nodded. “That’s bett–”

The room shook with voiceless godsong. Everything turned purple in a glaring flash as wings flared out, two whipping to each side of the contraption in Zircon’s hand as it fired–a single, crackling bolt of violet energy. All of their heads turned, watching the bolt arch up, hitting a wall.

And passing through it, completely silent, leaving no trace of its passing.

Musa, closest to a window, ran over and threw it open. The purple bolt was a dot on the horizon, slow to disappear.

When he turned around, everyone was cursing at Zircon, who cradled the crossbow to his chest. “Well, I was right, weren’t I!? I said it was a crossbow and it was!” he was shouting over them.

Musa, seeing the distraction, managed to sidle close to Zircon . . . and snatch the crossbow the moment it was held in only one hand. The motion, the quickness of it, shut everyone up, making it easy for Musa to command their attention.

“Only thing this is–right?–is mine.”

~~~

Again, this was a practice scene from Rainwater Archaic, a WIP. If you enjoyed it, let me know with a like, because I loved writing it. I’m finding myself super familiar with these characters immediately and I’m looking forward to the point when I can devote myself to making them bicker about whether things are crossbows.

But, even if you don’t like or comment, thank you for passing by.

And, as always, write well.