Inktober 2022: Week 2

Oya everyone!

I am posting this at 11:30 PM, but it’s still Tuesday! I made it! Everything is fine!

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Day 5: Flame

Ash settled on everything like a fine layer of snow. On the grass, frosting individual blades. It settled on Bridget’s trembling feathers. Fiery red-gold dusted over with grey. It covered her skin as well. She was ashy and uncomfortable. That thought sort of floated over her consciousness as she stared at the smoking pile of rubble that used to be a house.

Something hissed loudly as one of the boys tossed another bucket of water over live embers. 

“Is it still spreading?” he yelled. His voice rasped. Bridget flinched. 

“Doesn’t look like it.” Phil pushed his sooty hair off his forehead, exhaling loudly. “Well. Oh boy.”

“I’m sorry,” Bridget whispered. 

“It’s alright,” Phil soothed her, but it was just instinct. It really wasn’t alright. The house was gone. It was gone. Down to nothing but ashes and twisted metal and lumps of charcoal. 

It had been an accident

Phil’s hand went on her back, right between the bases of her wings. It was cool and soft and she couldn’t stop herself from relaxing. Her feathers dulled to their normal hue. 

“It’s alright, Bridget. It wasn’t your fault,” he said softly. “We’re all safe. No one got hurt, we saved most of our things. It’s just the house. Just . . . just the house.” He puffed up his cheeks and exhaled again. “Oh boy.”

Alec ran up, panting. He too was covered in ash and soot, his ears pinned back and flicking every once in a while. He was breathing better than Ty, though, he was more used to heat and smoke and ashes. “So. We’re movin’?” He cracked a smile, showing off his tusks. “About time huh?”

Bridget started to cry. The tears left tracks on her sooty face, clean lines of dark skin under grey ash. Phil pulled her into a hug, rubbing his cool hands on her back. Alec blinked, unsure how to handle this new threat. Ty stumbled over as well and just draped himself over Alec’s shoulder to breathe. 

“I mean it’s not that bad,” he said between wheezes. “You go live with Aunt Krystal for a bit, we build a new house, it’ll be epic as well. And much more phoenix-proof than that old thing.” His hand flung out limply in the general direction of the remains of the cottage taken by her flames. 

Phil nodded. “Yep. Should have done more fireproofing when you got here, honestly. We did it for Alec and Ty.”

“Not fireproofing,” Bridget whimpered. Phil’s shirt smelled like smoke. Everything did. 

“Well, no,” he amended. “But Alec ripped off doors every time he went through them, and we had to make all the ladders into stairs because his hooves couldn’t deal with it.”

“I could have,” he mumbled, “if I wanted to.”

“And we had to make sure there was no iron in the house at all for Ty, and give him places for his gardens.”

“I burned down the house because I got scared. I burned. Down. The house.” Bridget’s chest hitched as she buried her face deeper in Phil’s shirt. 

“I forgive you.” Phil sighed, holding her a bit tighter. “Come on. Let’s go to Aunt Krystal’s. Everything will be okay.”

The boys looked at each other before following, helping their dad take their phoenix to safety. 

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Day 6: Bouquet

Allport shines in the morning sun, wooden tiers of a floating city appearing almost gold. The shops of the Golden Circle Market bring color and life to the second level. People of all kinds make their way along the creaking wooden paths, chatting and buying and showing off. Interspersed with them are the distinctive red-white-gold uniforms of Navy soldiers. They trickle down from the top level, the newly built R.A.F.T. HQ, in increasing numbers as the day goes on. Searching for something or someone.

One of the targets of their search ducks his head slightly, melting into the crowd. A cloak covers his shirtless torso, hiding the distinctive wave tattoos wrapping his body. Something else wraps his body; bandages covering festering claw wounds on his chest and back. They burn dully even now. 

He slips towards a particular shop. A flower shop. The halfling woman running it gives him a glance but quickly looks away as soon as eye contact is made. Chip is used to that, though. He isn’t worrying about the halfling woman, his attention has been drawn by the girl looking at the flowers.

Her fingers reach out and gently caress the petals of a rose. The flower is such a dark red that it’s almost black. Chip thinks this may be the most gentle he’s ever seen Captain Lizzie. He knows why, though. The ache in his chest, constant no matter what other injuries he sustains, he knows she feels it too.

“Hey, Lizzie,” he says. She doesn’t make eye contact either, but she does look up. Chip is surprised she doesn’t deck him. Maybe the nostalgia is dampening her typical aggression. 

“Chip. Why aren’t you on your ship, thought you were leaving this morning.”

“Thought you were too.”

She shrugs. “John and Caspian wanted to pick up some things before we left, they’re around here somewhere.” Lizzie turns back to the roses, curls falling back over her face so Chip can’t see the sadness welling up in her one eye. “You shouldn’t be here, you moron, you and your friends made quite the scene yesterday up there.”

Chip’s gaze flicks up to the white stone of the top layer, grinning lopsidedly. His wounds seem to flare with a burning pain. “Yeah, we sure did. It’s fine though. I’m too good a pirate to get caught.”

Lizzie snorts. “Yeah. Sure.” She says nothing more scathing, though. After a second more of silence Chip taps on the table to get the attention of the flower seller.

“How much?” He gestures to the bouquet of midnight roses. 

“What are you, crazy? Why would you–” Lizzie starts. He shoves his hand in her face to shush her.

“Ah, those are pretty rare,” the tiny woman says thoughtfully. “Two gold.”

Chip grimaces a bit, then hands over the two coins. “Thanks.” He scoops up the bouquet and begins walking back to the harbor of Allport. 

Lizzie takes a second to gather herself enough to follow him. “Chip. You just paid two gold for flowers. Are you drunk? What is wrong with you?”

Chip shrugs. “Jay’s got me. Besides . . .” He holds up his free hand. One of the coins rests between his fingers. “It was worth only one gold anyway.” 

“You . . . you’re an awful pirate you know.”

“I know.” He presses the bundle of roses into her arms. 

“You’re such a bad pirate,” she mumbles, clutching them as tight as she can without crushing them. 

“I know.” 

“It’s a waste of money. They’ll die within a few days.”

“I know.” 

For just a moment, they do make eye contact. And for that moment they’re nine years old again. Back with the Black Rose Pirates, off on an adventure with the best captain a crew could have hoped for, with Arlin and Shae telling them to settle down and stop bickering, pranking Finn and laughing when he interrupted his Undersea research to chase them around, hearing stories from Drey about the infamous Ferin family and their exploits, tussling with Rufus, falling asleep under the stars with the waves rocking them to sleep. 

Neither of them say another word. They know each others’ thoughts. 

Chip plucks one of the flowers from her arms, winks, and makes his way back to the Albatross to get his crew ready to set out to sea again.

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Day 7: Trip

Mae slid in front of Ben’s counter, stopping with one elbow resting on it, a frankly terrifying expression on her face that was likely meant to be mischievous. 

“Hey there, Ben,” she said, lifting her eyebrows and pushing her glasses up, still smiling dangerously.

“Hi Mae,” he said without looking up. His foot tapped as he waited in his little cashier spot. 

“So like I was in my department and I was thinking.”

“Mmhm?” 

“Yeah I was thinking. I have love advice for you, Ben.” 

Ben blinked, turning slowly to face her. “I’m . . . sorry?”

“Love advice,” she repeated. 

Ben rubbed his eyes. “Okay. What is your love advice?” The store was essentially empty, it’s not like he had much else to do right now. 

Mae adjusted her position, leaning both elbows on the counter and tapping her hands together. “So. As an expert on romance and relationships myself, I can tell you exactly how to get a girl.”

“Mae I am already in a relationship.”

“That is besides the point, you must continue to woo her, Ben. So what you gotta do, right.” The hands splayed out, setting the scene. “What you must do is walk with her in the nighttime. You’re doing Halloween together, right? You must do it then. You wait for under a streetlamp, this is very important.”

“Uh huh.”

“And when you are under the streetlamp, you take her hand,” She leaned back, acting it out. “You take her hand and then you sweep her ankle out from under her so she falls and then you catch her. And it’s so incredibly romantic.” She draped herself over the counter again dramatically.

Ben couldn’t help but smile, but he covered it by rubbing his face. “Mae, I’m not going to trip my girlfriend.”

“Mae that’s ASSAULT!” yelled one of the other coworkers from an aisle or two over.

“Wasn’t talking to you, DAVE!” she yelled back. 

Ben shook his head as a customer came through the sliding doors and Mae scrambled back to her department.

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Day 8: Match

I’m up on a rooftop again. You’d think after the last time, I would have known better. Nope. I’m not the smartest fella out there. 

I breathe in, reveling in the unhindered inhale as my mask hangs around my neck instead of over my face. I’m pretty sure no one is coming up here for the moment. It’s dead of night on a Tuesday in the higher-end business district. No heroes or villains should be doing anything now. And if they are, I’ll be upset. Interrupting my alone time. Rude.

“Oh, um. Hey.”

So it appears someone is being rude. I hurriedly pull my mask up and look around.

“Are you Theseus?” 

I finally clock the voice as coming from above me. There’s a kid. Hanging from their hands and feet from the big boxy structure I’m leaning against. They’re wearing a hero suit of some variety, looks like a tight layer of black with what honestly looks like a regular hoodie and sweatpants over it, but with an obvious insignia and tactical looking pockets all over them. Their mask is one of those that’s like a round plate held on with straps. It’s got a digital display on the front that makes emoticon-type facial expressions. Right now, it looks kind of sheepish. The suit and mask are also strangely covered in all manner of stickers.

Right. They asked me a question. 

“Uh, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if I wasn’t?” I am on a roof, shouldn’t be sassing a hero. “I mean yeah. That’s me. Hi.”

“Hi,” they chirp back. It doesn’t seem like they’re using a voice changer. Sounds like a boy younger than me, and that fits with the build too. “I’m Stickers.”

“Stickers?”

“Yeah, cause I’m sticky.” He leans out over me, only holding on to the building with his hands splayed out flat on the smooth surface. The emoticon face does the 😀 smile. 

“Oh. You are.” Should I be running? He seems like a hero, but like. A little baby one. I don’t think this kid can reasonably be older than fourteen. Is he here to distract me so the regular heroes can catch me when I’m off guard? 

He lets go of the structure, hitting the roof in a pretty decent three-point landing. Looks like he has super strength, so landing like that shouldn’t mess up his joints too much. He’d do better landing in a roll, or on his toes. The people who trained him were probably going more for style than functionality.

“So,” he says after I don’t respond for a second. “You’re a vigilante. That’s pretty cool. Why do you do that instead of register as a hero?”

I blink. “That’s a really weird question to ask out of the blue, kid.” It’s so odd watching the sticker-plastered mask change expressions.

“Stickers,” he corrects absently. “I dunno. It’s all I hear about you, y’know? You’re pretty famous in . . . well, my group I guess.”

“Uh huh.” I run my hand through my hair. “Well. I think the hero system kinda sucks.”

“Why?”

I should not be saying this sort of thing to a tiny hero. Who cares. I’ve done dumber stuff. “I mean it’s kind of an unbalanced system. Heroes are assigned to certain places to take advantage of publicity and get paid to protect certain neighborhoods, regardless of the actual amount of crime. They only get the minimal amount of training possible to control the more intense powers, which is like. Really dangerous. Look at King, y’know, he blew up half a building on accident. I don’t. I want to help people but on my own terms.”

Stickers’ face changes to a thoughtful one. “Makes sense. I do hear that a lot. What are your powers?”

“What is this, an interrogation? Pretty sure you’re only supposed to do those at the HQ.” I carefully edge myself to the corner of the boxy structure where I could push off and book it if I need to. 

“I told you mine!” His fingers tap on the concrete. 

“Yeah, so?” I play with the edge of my sleeve. If I really need to I can grapple-gun out of here but it’s not the most reliable device. 

The digital expression changes multiple times, way too fast, almost glitching out before landing on a wide-eyed, mouth open surprised face. Stickers points at me. “We match!”

I freeze. “What?”

He moves forward before I can back up, grabbing my forearm. Oh he is strong. He’s already got me. There’s not much I can do about this. My heart starts to pound as I stay frozen.

He doesn’t yank off my mask. He doesn’t call for backup, or restrain me in any way. He pulls my sleeve up to my elbow. 

“See?” He points to the tattoo on the inside of my arm. It’s a very small, simple design. A carnation flower. I wince, trying to pull away. But then he pulls up his own sleeve and I see that we do, indeed, match.

Oh crap we match.

“They got you too?”

He nods. The expression turns neutral. “Yeah. That’s why I’m sticky. What did they do to you?”

“ . . . healing.”

“Oh. Geez.”

“Yeah. How . . . did you get out?” I can barely remember how I got out of that . . . horrible place. I tried so hard to forget everything about it. It’s making my stomach hurt to think about it. 

“Got rescued. They shut it down, did you know?”

“No.”

“Yeah. Somebody found it, all of the scientists and doctors are locked up now, and everyone who was still there got rescued. There weren’t many of us. We weren’t allowed to join the hero force or anything, so some retired heroes and trainers took us in.”

I blink. “You’re . . . not a hero?”

“Nope!” The face smiles again. “I’m a vigilante, like you.”

“Oh.” I slump against the structure. This is. A lot to take in. It’ll probably fully hit me again later. I tried so hard to forget everything . . . 

“So yeah. I’ve been looking for you, Zeph was pretty sure you were one of us. He wants to talk to you. Make sure you’re okay and all, maybe help you, get everybody off your back.”

“Really?” I breathe. 

“Yeah. He’s really cool. You don’t have to come now, but like you could.” The digital eyes turn pleading.

“I . . . I can’t tonight. But. Um. Tomorrow?”

He bounces to his feet. “Yes! Tomorrow. I’ll meet you here?”

I nod. He reached out the arm with the sleeve pushed up, and he smacks my hand and then fists bumps it. “See ya, Theseus!” He jumps and I’m not even sure where he goes, but he’s gone. 

I stare at the tattoo for a moment before I cover it up again and get ready to head home. I have. A lot to think about. 

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Day 9: Nest

“Nest, nest, nest, nest,” Jinx chanted incessantly as he scooped up blankets, pillows, discarded hoodies, towels. Anything soft he could find strewn about the house. He dumped them all in Aislinn’s bed, somewhat molding them into a nest-ish shape. He threw some stuffies in from him and Kayden’s room. A few of his own feathers. Just anything he could find to make the nest he needed so badly. Why? No idea. Instincts probably. His crow brain was being very loud today, so yeah, probably instincts.

Kayden got home from school looking exhausted and upset. He’d been out all night last night, doing the stuff he did when he was Bluejay. Under his eyes were dark, bruise-like crescents. 

So Jinx dragged him into the nest, still chanting. Kayden stopped protesting once he was actually forced into the mound of soft. Jinx continued building it, switching between his native language and the one that Aislinn spoke but never quieting down. He couldn’t, it felt good to say things over and over, like a rhythm. 

When Aislinn got home she was about in the same state as Kayden. Exhausted. Jinx chirped at her, and she chirped back, and he dragged her into the nest. Then his brain stopped screaming at him and he was content, snuggling with his tired humans in the nest he made all by himself.

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Day 10: Crabby

A crab.

It’s just there, sat on the sand. Claws rapidly sifting through sand for food. Once in a while it dances side to side, claws waving in the air. It does look rather like a little dance. 

There are more around it, all doing more or less the same thing. Sifting. Dancing. Sifting. Dancing. The tiny sound of their little legs shifting grains of sand is somehow audible even over the gentle shushing of waves. Sift, dance, sift, dance.

Two crabs happen to meet each other in their respective cycles. They raise their claws at each other in warning. They could fight, if they wished. 

But the moment passes and so do they, moving on with their little ritual. Sift. Dance. Sift. Dance.

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Day 11: Eagle

Krista let out a heavy exhale. She dragged herself up onto the (thankfully) wide and sturdy ledge, flopping over and letting herself breathe for a bit as her muscles burned. She had absolutely not expected to have to climb a cliff today. With some effort, Krista pulled herself to the edge to look over at the wreckage of her flying machine. Yeah. That wasn’t recoverable. The wind whipped into her eyes and making them tear up. That was fair. She kind of wanted to cry anyway, she had worked so hard on that flying machine.

Oh well. She could make another one. A better one. That wouldn’t crash.

A sudden piercing, shrill, repetitive sound made her jump. Behind her on the ledge was a huge bird nest of sticks and grass, and from inside several fuzzy, wrinkly, weird looking bird babies peeked out with their sharp beaks wide open and screaming. And they were pretty big. Enough that Krista would need two hands to hold one. She wasn’t considering that though. She was considering how perfectly awful it would be if whoever the mama of these baby birds was came back and attacked her. 

She didn’t have to wait for very long, ruminating on that unpleasant notion, because the mama bird did in fact swoop into the crevice a moment later. A golden eagle, absolutely massive. Krista didn’t move. She barely breathed. 

The eagle cocked its head at her. It fluffed feathers and raised its wings. 

Krista swung out of the ledge, adrenaline providing the last push she needed to climb the last few yards up to the top of the cliff. Nope. She was not waiting around for anything to happen there, with a giant mother eagle in an enclosed space. 

By that night, everyone involved was safely in their own beds or nests, the encounter to stay in at least Krista’s memory for a long time. 

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Hope you enjoyed!

~Ace

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