Sunday, December 28, 2014

Snippet: I'm no lightweight

I survived Christmas. Parts of it were quite nice.

Anyway, here's a snippet.

A moment went by before the door silently opened, revealing the well-lit, airy interior. Tall and narrow stained glass windows lined the upper walls, and there was an arch leading to Twix’s stable. The floor was polished oak, and a platform bed sat in one corner. Burled wood shelves and a counter made up the otherwise bare kitchen, and the sink consisted of two sunken wooden basins with an wooden spout and knobs. A partition hid what he presumed was a bathroom, for he could see a rain-type shower fixture.
Juniper slumped in the middle of the floor, her face ghastly pale. Her staff was on the floor next to her, a length of dull wood. Swearing, he hurried to help her up, supporting her when her knees tried to fold. He got her to the bed, absently noting the mattress was made of a rough, buff colored fabric and filled with something oddly springy, almost like coconut fiber. “You overdid it, didn’t you?”
“Trail mix in my pack,” she whispered, and he hurried to grab it for her. She ate with an effort, gradually regaining color.
He handed her a canteen. “You look like crap.”
She closed her eyes and lay back on the naked mattress. “I miscalculated, ran out of juice. Was too much fun.” The desire to keep going made her ignore her body’s warning signals. Like a child, she played too hard and crashed.
She couldn’t afford to crash in the Bramble.
He laughed without humor. “Great. Do you need a doctor?”
“Good question,” a dark voice said from the door. Grigori whirled, his machetes out to confront the man. “Who are you?”
Juniper frowned. “Kjetil. What are doing here?”
He ignored the question and came closer. “Relax. I want to check her pulse.” He looked at Juniper with displeasure. “Before she tries to die on me again.”
“I’m not dying,” she protested. Everyone was a drama queen. “I work hard, that’s all.”
The guys exchanged glances, and Grigori put away his blades.
Kjetil checked her wrist and looked at her eyes. “There’s probably a news team on the way. You’re headline news tonight…again.”
She sighed. “I’ll lock the door.”
He frowned. “You aren’t staying by yourself.”
“I’m too tired to argue with you. What’s the point of making a fortress if I don’t use it?”
“I hate to agree with him, but he’s right. Like I said, you look like crap,” Grigori said helpfully. “I should stay with you.”
Kjetil stared at him.
“I’m working for her,” Grigori said defensively.
Kjetil looked at her, and she suddenly remembered telling him that the only one who would get inside her tree was “her man”. She scowled. “I’m employing him, but nobody needs to stay. Did you see what I did? I’m no lightweight.”
“Maybe when you’re healthy,” Kjetil said calmly. “Did you wonder why I’m here? I got called out to check on the “disturbance”. My superiors want to know what’s going on with this tree, and they aren’t the only ones who’ll wonder if you’re a threat. My team’s outside.”
She groaned. “I have a headache. Can we talk about this tomorrow?”
“The elves sent investigators, too. Should I let my team let them in?”
“What do you want?” she growled, recognizing blackmail when she heard it. She was tapped, but she still had enough juice to eject him from the room and seal it if she had to. After all, he was trespassing.
“Sleep at the station tonight, and you can come back tomorrow.”


Friday, December 5, 2014

Snippet: remodeling

She was deep in mediation the next day, working on her tree, when Grigori showed up. He’d caught a ride with a tow truck driver, guiding the nervous looking man to the closest junk car. The driver stayed put as Grigori hopped out to check out the car.
Juniper sighed and disconnected. She was dreamy, in no state for company, but a deal was a deal. She joined the men, nodding to the skittish driver. “Hi. Checking for varmints?”
“Yeah. He won’t pay us until he’s sure there’s nothing alive in there.” Grigori picked up a rock, presumably to chuck it at the car.
She held up a hand. “I’ve got this.” Still deeply connected to the tree, she sent a pulse through the staff. Oak roots pushed from the soil, lifting the car and slowly rotating. They shook the car upside down, causing a clatter of old cans, trash and a family of ordinary mice to rain on the ground. Satisfied, she put the car back down and looked at the slack jawed driver. “Money?”
The guy shut mouth and fished some cash out of his flannel shirt pocket.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” she said, giving Grigori half. “I’ll see you tomorrow; I’m busy today.” She turned away.
“Are you high?” Grigori called.
“What?” she asked irritably.
“Your eyes are dilated,” he said smugly, no doubt enjoying throwing her comment back in her face.
She shook her head in disgust. “You interrupted my mediation, kid. Scram! I have a tree to remodel.”
“You added on,” he commented, nodding to the areal roots that formed a bump out.
“Twix needed a stable,” she said, offhand. She was itching to finish her project and in no mood to chat, so she hurried inside and sealed the door.
Grigori and the driver hooked up the car, working fast. The driver didn’t want to linger, and he suddenly stiffened and stared at the tree. “What the…?”
Grigori blinked as he saw tree roots snake over an old army truck. The roots glowed green and the truck began to shrink, absorbed by the tree roots. Astonished, he watched the gray sheen of metal crawl up the tree trunk, slowly coating the bark.
The driver thumbed his dirty ball cap back and shook his head. “Kid, the money’s good, but this place is weirder than granny on crack. You’re going to have to find another driver from here out.”
Grigori shook his head. “No guts, no glory.”
“You’re nuts, kid.”
Iron climbed the tree until it sheathed it completely. Spectators (people as far as a mile away, some with binoculars) watched as a golden bulb sprouted on top. It slowly grew to the size of a house, developing stained glass panels supported by amber ribs. The garden themed art on the panels was translucent, but prevented anyone from seeing inside.
 “What’s she thinking?” Grigori muttered. “Anything could break that glass.”
As if in response, the curled sepals, or the pointy leaf things that sit under flowers to protect them before they bloom, uncurled, becoming iron shutters that covered the bulb. The iron dome looked like leaves of brushed steel. Water shot from the bulb’s top in a geyser and settled into a living fountain. It lasted only a minute before drying up.
Grigori shut his mouth. “Oh.”
Dozens of vines grew from the tree, dangling within easy picking distance, each with an acorn on the end. The acorns had a flattened base and ranged in size from mug to canister. The men took a wary step back, but one of the acorns followed Grigori and swayed invitingly in front of him. The words, “Open me,” appeared on the acorn.
The driver took a big step back. “It’s for you, kid.”
Grigori shot him a look, but reached for the nut. It easily detached from the vine, and he found the cap was a screw top. Instead of a nut, there was a buttery, solid oil. On the inside of the cap, it said, “Acorn oil. Good for cooking, frying or fuel.”
Since Grigori hadn’t exploded, the driver crowded him for closer look. “I’ll be shaved ape.”
An acorn swayed in front of the driver. Print appeared on it, too. “A gift. If you’re willing to come back, I’ll give you more next time.”
The driver accepted the acorn, but said, “Thanks. I’ll have to think about it.” He admired the acorn and admitted, “My girlfriend likes to collect canisters. She’ll go crazy over this one.”
Grigori waited until the guy left and said, “You doing okay? That was something, lady.”

Silence. He waited a long moment and wove through the hanging acorns until he reached the steel-sheathed door. He banged the acorn knocker. “Are you all right, Juniper? Answer me!”