world-building and graphic novel in-progress

Short stories – Five Moments

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One more bonus, dear readers, for Seven Years of Tock!

Here are five small moments, each crew member of the dear Bucket in their experience of the world – before they came together! These happen at varying times in their lives, and speak to the reasons they’ll end up where they are in the comic – which is yet to be seen, in full, but I hope you enjoy this glimpse in the meantime!

Thank you so much for your continuous support and enjoyment of this work. I’m so pleased to share Tock’s world with you and look forward to sharing even more adventures and stories of Faerie magic and Love

~~~

Onna

A roar tore through her throat as Onna lunged at her opponent again, the battle rush blissfully in her veins. They clashed, axe against club, force by force trying to push each other down. Their teacher shouted, they broke apart, swinging back around to try again.

Her foot swung out as she ducked under the boy’s attack, ankles locked together and both of them tumbled to the ground. He yelped and tried to get up but she was faster – she rolled on top of him and pressed down. Hard.

She could feel his bones almost give way, his panic, realizing she was stronger than he’d thought. But she couldn’t see him – instead, her reddened eyes showed her odd flashes of strange things. Those metal ‘birds,’ lifeless creatures that the Gnomes flew away in when they visited, which shouldn’t fly and couldn’t possibly be real, feeling things…. The badger-folk that had killed so many of her tribesfolk, but at peace, loving each other just like the best of Orckind did…. Her father, in his youth, before…. Her sister, inheriting the role she was being bred for even now….

A brown-red-haired woman, small, with braids. Not an Orc, but….

A sound punch to her nose brought her back to reality. She had paused, in the visions, and the boy was trying to get up. She doubled down on her pressure, but somehow what she had seen was still in her heart – she felt something move there, a great Love that touched everything, no matter what they were training to fight for.

Instead of beating him further, into unconsciousness as their training dictated, she reached down, twisted his wrist until he dropped his sword. She rolled off him and scooped it up in one deft movement.

He stood to face her again as she wiped the blood from her mouth, but the teacher stepped between them, swiftly grabbing both of her arms and pulling her down to knee her in the stomach. She howled, and tried to swing back up at him.

“Belligerent child!” he spat at her. “There is no place for KINDNESS in battle! We fight to kill. We train to disable! If you cannot do that, you should not BE here, no matter who you are!!!”

“Why?” she heard herself shout back. Her eyes widened just as his did, and he let her go. He looked… shaken, actually, as if he had seen something odd.

She took the opportunity to dash away, joining the other children waiting for their turn. Shoving in beside her best friend, who winced squeamish as usual at the blood rushing from her nostrils.

She locked eyes with the teacher again. Her people always expected different from her – that, at least, was nothing new. But she would not run.

Not now, anyway.

The teacher snorted at her, clearly wishing to deal her more punishment – make an example of her – but unable to do so. He turned from her and called another student out onto the field to face the boy she’d spared.

Quiet beside her, Ka’Thagg reached slowly to take the axe from her firm grip. She let them. Her hands were shaking.

“What was that about?” they asked.

She ran her forearm across her face, swiping the blood away. “What?”

Her friend stared at her, studying her face with brows kitted together in frustration. “You….you let up. Like you were going to let him go, even before you actually did.”

She stared back. “Oh.”

“And your eyes. They’re red – wait, no, that’s fading.” They reached up to touch the soft skin just below her lower eyelid.

“Oh.” She blinked, many times, looking down at her hands.

What had that been? What was that, that she saw?

She knew who would know.

“Elder Glott’s, after moonrise,” she whispered, quiet as possible, so only they could hear.

They nodded. “After moonrise.”

~

Bumble

It was raining outside the city, and Tock was surely somewhere out experiencing it.

Bumble grumbled, his long nose crumpling up as he turned his bicycle around – heavy cart in tow – to head home from the Boundary Market.

It had been a day of bartering materials needed for his family’s airship production. As usual, his father had sent his children out to handle it themselves, attending to meetings and planning and finances and whatnot.

While it was a bother to be sent out – especially if they did badly – Bumble was actually grateful on these days that he wasn’t responsible for the figures. His brain understood maps, the lay of lands that his elder brothers described, but numbers and sums and the polite manipulation, maneuverings….. they gave him headaches.

(In his heart, he just wanted to be up in the sky – free from all of this.)

The real bother was that his brothers always left him to cleanup and haul back the items himself.

And the real, real bother was that he was so bored, and so unwilling to return home, that his thoughts strayed to the adventures of his wild best friend.

He sighed, looking around hopelessly at the towering stalls around him. Metals gleamed and gemstones glimmered as if they knew something he did not. Everyone was starting to pack up for the night, but still, he felt boxed in within and without.

He huffed, and swung the bike and cart back around with some effort, heading in the opposite direction of the gleaming bronze city.  Maybe they would be around, after all…

~

Tock

The maiden spun around, her green and gold colored skirts swirling around her short legs. The bustle felt reassuring, fastened solidly at the small of her back. The corset like armor around her middle.

She could fight dragons in this dress, rule any ball and win the day in ANY legend she had ever read. Even the pointed hat felt perfect atop her braided head – none of the usual awkwardness she felt wearing her own dress clothes.

As infrequently as that happened. And as fun as it was to steal into other peoples’ parties.

The clerk behind her cleared his throat, and she smiled back at him in the mirror, sheepish but nearly insulted. It bothered her to no end that her people found it unacceptable that she, at her level of income (admittedly low), would dare to try on such clothes. Never mind that she always left them in good condition, never mind that she and her parents worked very hard for their simple life. It wasn’t enough for the nobles and the royals – the wealthy – that frequented these shops and got to leave with these dresses in hand.

He cleared his throat again, arms crossed sternly and gaze darting between her and the dressing rooms. She nodded, her brows crinkling together as she hoisted the skirts and moved into privacy to take them off again.

At the very least, her kin could give in to her obvious natural charm and be nicer to her while she played at this. By Carwen’s Grace.

~

Actia

She pulled herself up higher, trusting in the silks that clung tight around her arms, her legs, her ankles, and the strength of her own body. As the music swelled, she rolled and twisted to drop several feet toward the ground. The crowd below her gasped and clapped – she heard them, of course, but she didn’t pay them any heed. This was her freedom, the only quiet space in the noisy life of her family and the routine that was their survival. Their Path.

She saw them too – her siblings and cousins, aunt and uncles moving deftly through the unassuming, naïve crowd, taking what they knew wouldn’t be missed – at least not for long.

They were always unassuming and naïve, weren’t they? And that was part of it – their Path. Holding the balance, positive to negative. She appreciated that, of course, as she had been taught to do and grown to understand.

But why couldn’t she just do this for the love of it, for the doing? Without worrying about her family’s needs, pleasing the crowd to satisfy both them and the survival of her kin.

And the routine of it…. arrive in a new town. Meet the “Locals.” Don’t get close – just shine, and dazzle. Distract, so those not performing can take what’s needed.

Move on.

Repeat.

She was bored.

Another round of applause as she did another dizzying, dangerous free fall broke her out of her frustrations. She was brought back, quickly and forcefully, to her moments in the air. The danger didn’t bother her. This was her home, this floating space of creation. She would enjoy it as long as she could.

However long that will be, she thought, as she begrudgingly let the silks lower her back onto the predictable, dull earth all around them. The crowd was still clapping. She smiled and preened as usual, but inside she sighed like mountains.

Tomorrow it was her turn to fleece the crowd, and on they would move again, without even the chance to visit the Market and see that friend of hers. She might not even get back there before her Pilgrimage began – and though she worried for him, at least THAT would afford her a longer break.

She stretched and yawned and sank onto some cushions in the back of the tent as her mother bent, kissed the top of her head, and stepped out to perform the cloud swing. She watched her father watch her leave, obviously still in love and well-settled in this life.

Her sigh turned into a grumble. Never mind what might be waiting for her when she returned from her Pilgrimage, too.

“Father,” she called. “Can’t I perform again tomorrow? Please?”

~

Eunan

The day was over. Arms heavy with scrolls, his robes trailing behind him, Eunan the elder mage trudged down the tunnel to the set he shared with his beloved Aodh.

They had both quite out of sorts since their daughter’s departure. They understood, of course – she was a wild thing, a force of nature if ever he’d seen one. No one like her had ever come by their tribe, even peacefully. Her loyal heart was only one of the many things they had adored from the beginning – even if that loyalty lay elsewhere, sometimes. Somehow. But it was hard, having had their family grow, and then shrink as if a limb was cut away.

He sighed, pushing open their door with resolution – he would not dwell on this. His husband would return from the smithy soon, they would make dinner and get some much-needed rest. They would focus on their love and get through this. And until he was home, he would dive into his studies with all his focus, just as he had been these few weeks.

His sigh turned into a growl as he set the scrolls down, their thin paper tumbling out of his furred hands onto his study’s table.

It was futile. But he would try anyway. What else could he do?

Hours later, nestled together in their cozy burrow, Aodh turned to him and wondered, “….Is it possible, love, that they’ll reject her and she’ll come back?”

“Of course,” he answered quietly. “But we can’t hope for that, can we? This is what she wants.”

Aodh sighed, his long brown-black hair falling over Eunan’s short white beard as they kissed. “I know. But we can dream, yes?”

Eunan sighed again and tried to sleep, wishing for a night without dreamings.

~~~

(Thanks again, dear readers!

And for new readers, to start from the beginning of the comic, click here!)

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