House Sitting with Nestor, Part Two

When Nestor Pinkly woke up most mornings, there were a number of things he made sure to do.

First, of course, he would get out of bed, for the rest of these things were difficult or impossible to do while in bed. Besides, everyone knows all the best things in life are outside of one’s bed.

Second, he would say “good morning, Dovetail!” to Dovetail and make some kind of improvement or test her mental faculties, but because Dovetail was quite capable now and also several hundred miles from Skymoore, Nestor instead said “good morning, Regibald!” to Regibald and made improvements to the unicamelcorn body into which Regibald’s consciousness would be transferred any day now.

Thirdly, he would make breakfast with Regibald, ideally something with banana, like an omelet. He made enough for two even though Regibald could not eat.

This brought him to the fourth thing, which was to bring the extra food to the Church of Sol on the way to work so that they could feed their less fortunate visitors (he did this even when he did not work in the morning or at all, because Nestor just liked to make sure Odd & Ends was still there and not just a wonderful dream he had every day).

Fifth, and this actually usually took place somewhere between things one and four, he would say hello to the essence of the late Mrs. Grantham, and ask how she’s doing, and thank her for making Skymoore into the wonderful place that it is.

Continue reading “House Sitting with Nestor, Part Two”

Housesitting with Nestor, Prologue

Author’s Note: In the city of Skymoore, as you are likely aware, there is a neighborhood or perhaps a sub-city called The Mish Mash. In the neighborhood or perhaps the sub-city called The Mish Mash, as you likely are not aware, there is a sub-neighborhood or perhaps a regular neighborhood called Easel Street. As you are likely aware at least in part if not in entirety, there is a once-abandoned art museum in the sub-neighborhood or perhaps regular neighborhood called Easel Street. This once-abandoned museum is now occupied by Teyla Eastwind, and as you likely do not know, there is a secret basement in this museum which contains a portal to the Infinite Hells. Specifically the slice of those Infinite Hells reserved for Teyla.

This is all to say, when in the ensuing scene Teyla walks into the basement and something strange happens to the geometry of the museum, that the strange geometry is not the work of the museum’s builder or previous tenants, who are all perfectly fine people who have never created portals to the Infinite Hells. (Not that no perfectly fine person has ever made a portal to the Infinite Hells. Things happen, and life takes all of us to unexpected places.)

Continue reading “Housesitting with Nestor, Prologue”

The Cutthroat’s Promise, Part Two

Skymoore’s government district was a maze of false fronts, twisting corridors, and shady organizations. Navigating it and finding something as simple as the post office’s administration department could be a weeklong affair, unless you were willing to pay the price. A few scales here, a piece of your soul there.

The powers that be realized, of course that this could be a problem for public relations. So, they created the government subdistrict, a gated community in the fancy part of Skymoore, where the aristocrats hid from the poor and any signs of those who suffered for their comfort. Roland had never been an especially political soul, but he knew when something was unfair. That the aristocrats could live in mansions while the Mish Mash could exist in squalor, ignored by all, well that would be a crime if the perpetrators weren’t the ones making the rules.

And that is to say nothing of the Shelter for the Unusually Homed. “Unusually homed” is what the powers that be called those who slept on the street, under bridges, and in old warehouses where the leftover Majicite dust caused irreparable damage to eyesight and structural integrity of all your favorite body parts. It was a terrible misnomer. The Minitoa who lived under Roland’s desk while they searched for a way back to their homeworlds were “unusually homed.” The former categories were victims of a societal illness upon which the government was content to place a band-aid. Continue reading “The Cutthroat’s Promise, Part Two”

Heart’s Desire, Part Six

The first masked figure to reach them slashed at Donovan with a stained-glass claw, grazing the front of his tunic and leaving razor-thin tears. Donovan took a few steps back, and Hega barreled forward, slamming her shoulder into the figure’s knees and toppling them over. She smashed the glass claw beneath her foot, crushing the human hand beneath, and drew a heavy baton from her hip, daring the next attacker to come. And come they did.

Donovan hung back. He was certain now that everything going wrong with his day was the result of his curse interfering with his life yet again. He thought that by opposing the Cabal in this passive way, through the Heart’s Desire sale, he had found a loophole in the curse. But the rodom thieves and now this proved it; there was no loophole, there was only the curse.

Continue reading “Heart’s Desire, Part Six”

Heart’s Desire, Part Five

The First Bank of Skymoore, Also Called the Last Bank of Seamoore, Formerly Called the Second Bank of Seamoore was easily Skymoore’s longest building, with a walkway as wide as its name and a garden fit for royalty of a particularly decadent nature, containing more unique flowers in its expansive lawn than the bank had customers (and as it was Skymoore’s only legal bank outside the Mish Mash…it had many, many customers).

By the time Donovan and Hega neared its illustrious walkway, half a dozen guards were frantically trying to place a number of flimsy-looking sandbags to obstruct it, lacking both the manpower and the bag quantity to sufficiently stop an excited toddler, let alone a rampaging rodom. Hega told them as much. Continue reading “Heart’s Desire, Part Five”

I Did an Interview!

Hey all,

The lovely people at Tuesday Serial interviewed me for their website! It was fun to do, and I talk about what draws me to serialized stories and what makes them challenging. Check it out if you find that kind of stuff interesting!

I also commissioned this adorable art of Linda, Docetail, and Nestor from @SemmyJArt on Twitter! Look how cute they are!

This was an unusual post. I just wanted to share!

Enjoy your weekend!


Heart’s Desire, Part One

On the morning of Odd & Ends’ Heart’s Desire sale, with just an hour until sunrise, Donovan Allman was wiping down the glass display for candles that flickered on and off in time with music. For the twelfth time. He was certain he saw a smudge, but he realized now it was only a bug crawling on the wall behind it.

He smashed the insect. Not even a steakfly was going to ruin this day. Continue reading “Heart’s Desire, Part One”

Come One, Come All, Part Four

To any stray observers, the Suntouched and his companion would have stood out like the stars in the night sky as they trekked exhaustedly through the Frostlands. The Suntouched’s ever-sunburned skin and the devil’s rust coloration were among the only drops of color in the seemingly endless void of snow surrounding them, giving them a fiery appearance. The devil’s orange coat lined with the fur of the Ogrit Yellow Fox (which granted its wearer immunity to the cold) only illuminated this effect.

But of course, there were no stray observers. Not this far out in the frost, where temperatures got so low at times that breath was known not only to become mist as it left your mouth, but freeze and fall to the snow. There were legends of stranded dying in a cocoon of ice as their own tears of pain froze around them.

And that, the Suntouched supposed, was the point. The Cylgin worshipped the moons in what some would call direct defiance of Sol’s will, so the more traditional members of the order tended to hide their temples in fairly dramatic places. Built into a natural stone column out among the snow was a door that was only visible in the light of the full Warm Moon. If you already knew where it was, however…

The devil stepped up the stone and traced a rune into the rock with her finger. She was bald and, like all devils, bore horns upon her head. There were three, positioned much like a scorpion’s tail and stinger. She stood taller than the Suntouched, but with a build even slighter than his slender frame. The Suntouched had only met a few devils in his time, each with the same generally intense presence and similar basic features, though they each resembled whatever species they were before their transformation. Asylum might have been a human, elf, or somewhere in between.

Soundlessly, stone receded and granted the pair passage into the column. Spiral stairs led the two to the open air at the very top, where the temple of the Cylgin awaited them. The temple was painted with Chromasque, a pigment that allowed a structure to blend in with the environment around it. Only an uncommon light source, such as the Warm Moon’s orange glow, could reveal the temple’s location. Again, however, if one knows what they are looking for, they can see through the pigment’s illusion. A wide translucent stair led up to a door marked by two crescent moons facing outward.

“You’re shivering,” the devil noted hoarsely as the pair approached the temple. “When you gave me your coat, you said you didn’t get cold.”

“What?” the Suntouched asked, cool as he could be through chattering teeth, “you’re the only one who’s allowed to lie?”

The devil had to smile at that.

As the two walked carefully up the translucent steps, something shifted just beside the door. There was a brief shimmer in the air, and then without any sound or showmanship, an androgynous purple-haired elf was standing at the top of the stairs. A moment later, a white-haired female elf appeared at the other side of the door.

“Halt,” the first elf said. They did not draw a weapon, or move at all, yet their voice still carried authority. “I know you, chosen of Sol, though not why you approach.”

“With a devil of all things,” the other added. Her partner gave her a disapproving glance without moving their head.

“I am sure you are not fans of me here,” the Suntouched said, struggling to compose his words. “They say I am the chosen of Sol, yes, and I know the Cylgin have no love for the sun. But my companion is ill, and we seek shelter. We were given this location by the elf Emelthea Crimsonfir, who –”

The first elf gracefully lifted their hand, and the Suntouched fell quiet. “Come,” they said, “and be warm.” The Suntouched and the devil finished their ascent, and the pair of elves helped them into the temple. The first room was wide, and a glowing representation of the Warm Moon on the floor seemed to heat the air around them. The Suntouched sighed with pleasure as his body rippled with relief. A few hooded acolytes ceased their milling about to watch the newcomers with interest.

Only the first elf followed them within, and they addressed the pair once more. “Emelthea’s name would carry you in if your own reputation did not. You misunderstand our creed. We do not hate the sun, but we have been rejected by Him and His. Your deeds are no less admirable because He has supposedly chosen to anoint you.” They turned their attention to the devil specifically. “It is not often we see your kind here, devil. What are you called?”

The Suntouched eyed his companion uncertainly.

“Asylum,” they offered softly.

The elf smiled lightly. “Asylum is just what we offer.”

“Thank you,” the Suntouched said, inclining his head. “We were just on our way from –” Asylum cried out suddenly, buckling and leaning into the Suntouched. He wrapped his arms around her. “Do you have somewhere she can lie down?”

The acolytes escorted Asylum to the Garden of Rejuvenation, an indoor meadow that functioned as an infirmary of sorts, while the Suntouched was invited into the private chambers of the purple haired elf, who was named Pom del Ennington. He spoke to them a spell about his business in the region, and about the Cylgin. Eventually they left, only to return a few minutes later with news of Asylum.

“She will live,” Pom reported, “if she is tended to. One of our acolytes has seen this before, up north in the forest of the Dol elves. He called it Virtue Strain. In short, it is the result of a devil rejecting their fiendish nature for a long period of time. Her body is at odds with her soul.”

The Suntouched frowned. “How can that be treated without giving in?”

“There is a healer to the east, in a remote village among the O’grofkala Mountains. Trusted confidants tell me she cures all ailments of the spirit. You are welcome to stay here until she regains her strength – or as long as you’d like, as a matter of fact. But I’d recommend heading east as soon as possible.” She walked over to her bed and pulled a small jewelry box from beneath her pillow. A tiny mechanical doll dressed in silks danced to a somber tune when she opened it. Pom produced a ring with an impressively sized, crudely cut sapphire from within and gave it to the Suntouched. “The elves and dragonkin of O’grofkala are rarely open-minded where possible threats are concerned. With this ring, she can appear to others however she pleases.”

The Suntouched took the ring graciously. “Thank you, Pom. Whatever you need – however I can repay you, I will do it.”

“I only ask that you continue to increase the stock of peace and happiness in Solkin. And that you guide your friend to safety.” The Suntouched told her that so long as he drew breath, his life would be dedicated to these causes.

Some four decades later, Donovan Allman stood in his room in the back of Odd & Ends, and observed himself in the mirror as he placed the sapphire ring on his finger. His sunburned skin returned to that he was born with. It occurred to him now that he no longer looked like the Suntouched much at all. The Suntouched was angular and muscular, with flowing black hair and eyes that glimmered with determination. Nobody would mistake Donovan Allman for the legendary hero, with his short mop of hair, soft face, and weary eyes. This, he supposed, was the point. It still saddened him.

He had failed to keep Asylum safe. He’d killed her, in fact, in his last act as Suntouched, fighting her Army of Below. But he still fought to increase the stock of happiness and peace every day, however he could. This morning, he had gotten up long before the sun to do just that. So early that it made the sudden thunk at his window not only jarring, but unbelievably rude.

Outside, the moons’ lights were obscured by a cloudy morning, and Donovan couldn’t make out anything in the darkness. When his eyes adjusted, he saw an unmistakably dwarven silhouette with long, straightened hair. As she cleared up more and he could make out her dark eyepatch , Donovan realized who it was.

“Hega?” he asked, pushing his window open gently. The dwarf stepped forward, revealing that it was in fact, Hega Perdugal, Donovan’s one-eyed, one-armed dwarven friend whose hair was let down from its usual professional bun. She looked nice, dressed in a slim black dress. But Hega always looked nice. “What are you doing at my window? And so early?”

Hega pulled the window the rest of the way open and leaned forward, putting her face as close to Donovan’s as she could, given the height difference. “I wouldn’t be much of a midnight caller if I came through the front door during the day, would I?”

Donovan must have looked flushed because Hega looked quite pleased with herself. “Did you dress like this and wear your hair down just because you think it’s funny when I’m bothered?”

“Oh?” Hega asked softly. “Am I bothering you, Donovan?”

Donovan backed up and crossed his arms. “Hega, how many times do I have to tell you, I’m not interested in…that…right now.”

“Right now? Is this a rain check, then?” Hega cackled to herself a moment. “Oh, come on, Donovan, I’m messing with you. I know you’re boring. I was out drinking with friends – I do have other friends, you know – and I wanted to say hello.”

“And bother me?”

“Always. Now may I come in? Just because we’re not romantic, it doesn’t mean you can let a lady freeze in the cold.”

Donovan hurried to help the dwarf up and through his window, muttering excuses about how he’s used to hairier friends. She took a seat in his rocking chair. “Would you like some tea, Ms. Perdugal?”

“Using formalities to distance yourself and avoid intimacy, are we, Mr. Allman?”

“Only spending too much time with Nestor,” Donovan countered.

Hega smiled. “I would love tea.” When Donovan returned to her a minute later, she had tied her hair back into its usual bun. “So. You’ve got this big…Heart’s Desire sale tomorrow, right? Did I get that right?”

Donovan nodded and took a seat opposite her, on his bed. “Have you come to wish me luck?”

“Oh, now who’s flirting?” She smirked. “Frosty damnation, Donovan. It’s so easy to get a rise out of you.” Hega seemed to remember her purpose, then, because her face suddenly grew more serious. “Word’s gotten out that you’re inviting lords from all over Penscarop to come to your shop.”

“That’s not…quite true.” Donovan raised an eyebrow. “People are talking, are they? We’re advertising on the surface, yes, but nothing so grandiose as that. If it’s caught the attention of a lord or two, well, that’s better for us, I suppose.”

“And you haven’t notified the Dark Keepers of Tourism and External Commerce?” Donovan began to answer, but he faltered. “You’ve lived here long enough to know how the people here feel about outsiders.”

Donovan’s jaw set. “And I’ve lived long enough to know that such prejudices are folly.”

“Of course they’re a load of hogwash!” Hega agreed. “But is inviting – do you even know how many strangers are on their way here? Is inviting this many outsiders all at once going to mend bridges, or burn them down?”

“Back when Skymoore was Seamoore, it was built upon people immigrating from elsewhere.”

“Yes, Donovan, but that was three hundred years ago, and the world was ending and they were refugees. Don’t compare them to your shopping excursion. Our city doesn’t even have inns, Donovan! All you’re going to do is incite chaos.”

“I can handle a little chaos,” Donovan said. “I thought you’d be behind this plan.”

“You’re going to make enemies that you don’t want to make, Donovan. I just don’t want to watch you hurt yourself.”

“I can handle the Cabal.”

Hega winced. “I – Donovan, you know I don’t encourage caution and modesty lightly,” she said soberly. “Please, be careful. I know there is a lot about this city that needs fixing, and I’m trying to fix it, too, believe me. Skymoore is a delicate ecosystem, and a frenetic one. Some of the things that seem nonsensical, or unfair, there’s a rhyme and a reason to them. There are unintended consequences when you step outside the norms too much”

Donovan’s jaw clenched. “I appreciate you telling me all this, but I am set on this, Hega. I founded Odd & Ends so that I could help the people of Skymoore live happier and more peaceful lives. This defeatist thinking leads, at best, to pacifism in the face of evil and at worst to the kind of self-centered, backwards thinking that led to the Useless War.”

“How dare you.”

“Well!” Donovan threw up his hands. “You’re right, Hega, this isn’t the same as Seamoore of old, but it could be. The Suntouched is gone but the world is still full of villainy and hate. This is a strange, insular city, but it’s a kind one; why not be a welcoming one? Somewhere people can lay their head when they’re weary.”

“And the fact that your big plan to create this utopian Skymoore just so happens to be centered around your store and stands to make you wealthy is just a coincidence?”

“It’s all the influence I have, Hega.”

“It is, I know. I’m not here to stop you, I’m only looking out for you. You know I’m fond of you, and I admire your instincts” Hega looked down at her lap a moment, then back up at Donovan. “I think what I really wanted to say is that we both want the same things for Skymoore, I just wish you hadn’t been so reckless. Next time you hatch a plan to save the city from itself, maybe run it by someone who’s lived her whole life here.”

The sincerity of her words dampened Donovan’s anger. “I see the wisdom there,” he admitted. “I’m sorry, I – I admire you, too, Hega. I only have trouble opening up to you, because…because…”

Hega held up a hand. “It’s okay, Donovan, you don’t need to explain yourself. I’m just asking you to reach out to me, we don’t even have to cuddle while you do it.” Just outside the room, the tea kettle began to whistle. “I should take that to go. You’ve got a sale to get back to, and I’ve got a bed calling me halfway across the city.”

Donovan dipped his head. “Thank you for stopping by. I haven’t had a midnight caller in quite some time.”

Hega grinned. “If you play your cards, right, you won’t even have to recklessly oppose a shadowy organization the next time.”

“I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.”

Donovan poured Hega her tea and walked her to the door. Afterward, he stood alone on Odd & Ends’ patio, wondering if he was doing the right thing. He twisted the sapphire ring on his finger thoughtfully and decided that he was. One never knew what tomorrow held, after all, and there was no plan too reckless in the name of finding peace and happiness wherever one could.

At least, that was how the Suntouched kept himself going. And that was how Donovan Allman kept himself going.

Come One, Come All, Part Two

Nestor Pinkly loved Odd & Ends almost as much as he loved Dovetail and Regibald (his automaton companions), watermelon pie (his favorite desert), and giving to others who need it (a thing kind people do because it’s the right thing, rich people do because it looks good, and other people do when they’re feeling existential guilt). So of course, with the Heart’s Desire sale on the horizon, Nestor was pouring all of his energy into ensuring it was the greatest shopping event anyone in Skymoore had ever seen.

To that end, he was working tirelessly on acquiring materials and mundane objects for crafting and enchanting for the sale. He had to make sure his magic, self-setting alarm clocks was made from just the right clock, so his customers were getting products that looked great and worked great. He’d been meeting with merchants, flipping through catalogues from the surface, tinkering at home, and refurbishing things he found at one of Skymoore’s many Unwanted Item Storage Basins (colloquially referred to as “dumpsters”). Nestor was in the home stretch for preparations just a few days before the sale, but there was one major acquisition he needed to ensure things went according to plan: Majicite. Continue reading “Come One, Come All, Part Two”

New Project: Slice and Dice!

So, this is a weird post. I never actually confirmed the fate of Odd & Ends, mostly because it was very hard to come to terms with. I fell out of love with a very difficult project I wrote for free, so I laid it to rest. And yet, I still think of Donovan, Karessa, and Nestor quite often, and have high hopes that it will one day return.

If you’re a new reader and find this post discouraging, I would still encourage you to read Odd & Ends if you’re interested. It was often more episodic than serialized, and I wrote a ton of stuff that I am proud of.

For now, I have a new project, and if you enjoy the strange humor and pleasant world of Solkin, I think there is a good chance you will like this, too.SD Banner

Slice and Dice is a podcast where my friends and I play Dungeons and Dragons. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, think of it like this: it’s an interactive fiction podcast where my friends play the protagonists and I make up the world around them and occasionally try to kill them. It’s funny, it’s cute, and it’s about delivering pizza.

Much like how Odd & Ends is about the life of a hero after he’s done heroing, Slice and Dice is about a world of adventurers but we focus not on them, but on the two cats and a gnome who deliver them pizza while they’re off on quests.

If you’re interested, the website is here and you can find all the ways to listen here.

I hope you like it, and I hope we all go back to Skymoore someday. As always, thank you for reading, and for listening!