Writing Prompt: 5/24/17

Writing Prompts1

I’m in a writing server, and the organizer created a writing prompt for the week that I found to be delightful. So… I wrote a thing. Woohoo!

The Prompt: The world didn’t end with a bang or a whimper–it ended one scream at a time.

The fic is below!


Hunting in the Dark

She breathed, moving through the woods light-footed and intent in the darkness. She could hear the quiet pitter-patter of footfalls to the left and right, where her brothers and sisters hunted with her; nightfall was precious and rare creatures emerged from dens and borrows during the hours the suns hid their face. He would only give them so long, after all.

Doir lunged over a dropped log (not so old, she thought, but dead long enough that the bark had gone, if not long enough that the luminescent fauna had arrived to cannibalize it) and nearly lost her footing over a clutch of slick stones. One of her brothers hissed a protest to be quiet, then caught his ankle in a rabbit-hold and went tumbling forward into the brush. She smothered a bark of laughter and settled for grinning, reaching up to caress a low oak branch as she ducked beneath it.

Leaves rustled, a spirit’s greeting, and she felt her heart lighten as she continued onward. In the distance the false-suns that the Kakori used to light their settlements glittered like not-so-distant stars. They feared the darkness, but Doir and her kin reveled in it, alive as if for the first times in their lives. These were their woods; they knew them, and the wind and trees whispered to them secrets of the future.

“There’s a herd of voli to the east,” Doir’s sister said, dropping down from one of Grandfather Oark’s wide branches next to her. The whisper wasn’t meant to carry far. Voli were dangerous to hunt, and it was Doir’s choice if she wanted to take the party there, for voli were her hunting spirit.

“Anything else?”

“The Kakori are doing something in the north, beyond their settlement,” her sister’s lips twitched into an annoyed frown. “I would like to check it out, but..”

But no one here was a hunter of Kakori. Let the Kakori do what they willed, as long as they left the deep woods to the Children of the Sky. She did not have any desire to traverse that far in search of something they could not eat, for a people who could no sooner see in the darkness than they could swim across the river.

“Keep watch on the voli,” Doir requested, pausing in her movement to cast about in the dark for the rest of her kin. “We might go back for them later.” They were blooded hunters, except one; Liar, who hoped to make his first blood of the towering king-of-beast, the morial. She had heard the Kakori call them other things, wrecks maybe, though the Kakori tongue was strange. Not that the Kakori had better chances at surviving the morial than they did. Though they were, supposedly, Liar’s hunting spirit. She would help him if she could, but first and last blood had to be his.

She wasn’t out here for morial, though. None of them were. But where one found morial, one found the alori, huge and silvery birds with beaks the size of young trees and wings that spread as large as Grandfather Oark’s branches. And at night, the alori slept.

She whistled, low and haunting. The call of a huntress leading a band.

She knew it haunted Kakori nightmares. Strange sounds from the rare nights that no one could place? What other things might cause them fear?

When she had the attention of her brothers and sisters, she raised her hand high and then motioned to the north-west, where she knew there was a morial hunting ground. Knew and sometimes wished she didn’t, for Liar wasn’t the first of the hunt to wish for a morial kill. But if they were lucky, the trees were tall enough they could scale for alori and ignore the morial altogether…

They were not lucky, and it had nothing to do with trees.

On the forest below, clad in their strange hunting gear of black and green, a hunting pack of Kakori moved in bewildering, unsettling precision. They moved quiet, but not quiet like Doir and her siblings. Quiet like this drove away the creatures of the night, which made them loud, while Doir and the others moved as part of the woods instead. The Kakori were not part of the woods; Grandfather Oark did not shelter them, nor did his many cousins.

They made their homes from the dead and the dying, they trapped the light of the Sky in shards– they were strange and foreign people, and they looked very little like Doir’s.

But even though they were foolish people, they were people, and the morial did not sleep when the suns were resting. The roar shook the air around them, leaves quivering, trees shaking. Beneath the Kakori, the ground rumbled, and then a morial– adolescent, not yet having acquired the reddish colors of adulthood, some scaled flesh still opalescent– charged into the pack of them.

Doir watched from the safety of the trees, staring down with gnawing horror taking root in her belly. Kakori screamed when they died; Doir could understand it, because the Kakori did not seem to understand that death simply was, and they feared it. But they screamed, not understanding of the danger they had walked into, and it sent chills up her spine.

“They’re dying,” her brother whispered, as confused and upset by the scene below as she felt, voice thick with it. She swallowed, nodded.

They were people, though, and Liar–

The alori could wait. Doir let go of her hold and moved forward, fling herself off it. As she fell, she loosed her dagger from the ties.

They usually left the Kakori to their own devices. They did not interfere. That was how the world worked.

But they were people, screaming– and that was how Doir decided the world must end.


Finito! Cross-posting it on Ao3.

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Weekly Writing Prompt Response: 9/11-9/17 (2016)

Writing Prompts1

You ever have one of those times where you’re not sure what to write, you’re not sure at all, and then you hit the deadline, go into last-minute panic mode, and vomit out two thousand words?

That just happened. I’m kind of weirdly proud of it but oh god, please stop growing, I want to finish and sleep at some point.

So the writing prompt Amanda chose this week was the Digital Daggers rendition of Dust in the Wind, which I listened to on and off trying to hammer out an entirely different response that drug its feet pretty horrifically and resulted in being terribly stubborn, not letting me do it. I’ll get to it eventually. This is not that response. I see nobody is surprised by that.

There are some more things I want to cover in the ‘verse I just spouted, and I will eventually because I just did a ton of research on it, and it’d be a shame to let all that delicious reading go to waste, yes? I didn’t even write all of it I wanted, but the scenes I wanted to cover are disconnected from the segments I did, so.

Anyway, have a 2k+ Voltron fanfic with manifested soul segments, because everything’s better with daemons.


In the Wind (Or Lack Thereof)

Shirogane never expected his Kohaku to settle as anything but a bird, which sounded weird only out of context, born up by people who hadn’t known his father was witch-blooded and feathers were in the family tree, but he really, honestly hadn’t. She had been wearing the mantle of birds for his whole life, starting out– embarrassing pictures as proof– as a screaming, featherless chick of undetermined origin and gender. Apparently his parents had called the gathering dust on his mother’s Daichi an egg out of pure irony for his father’s blood, Iriomote-yamaneko covered in so much glittery gold-red-brown dust next to his mother’s swollen stomach.

There were no pictures of Daichi dusted when Mom had been pregnant with Keith. Or, at least, there were none to be found, but Mom and Dad had been divorced for ages by the time any of them knew about Keith. Dad had remarried; a witch-blood named Josephine, with a Peregrine Falcon named Glenn. The blue-grey matches nice with Dad’s own daemon, Akane, the Japanese sparrowhawk that had been so much Kohaku’s best cuddle-buddy Shiro’s whole life, he couldn’t not know his father loved him.

But Shiro-and-Kohaku had been six when Keith-and-Marie had been three, fresh from a loss Shiro hadn’t really understood, crying for his (their) maman. Shiro had understood his father trying to comfort him, knew but didn’t know why Keith was crying and Marie was a screaming polecat.

He knew his mother a little, sort of. Peripherally. Dad told him stories about her all the time, though she lived far away in the desert and he didn’t get to see her. She sent him gifts every year, all year round. This year he’d gotten a necklace for his birthday, bone beads and feathers, a nod to his heritage on Dad’s side. She’d sent him a book, too, a text with a lot of big words he didn’t understand yet, about space and space-ships and flying, with wire-frame pictures. He liked the book, and he loved the necklace, the same way he liked all her other gifts.

Keith didn’t have a necklace or a book. Keith had a knife, much to Josephine’s ire, and the knife is a familiar thing for Shiro as he grows up. By the time he settles– Kohaku has always been brown but she settles slick and smooth as silk, a snake in his father’s nest– Shiro is aware that Keith’s father is not Shiro’s father, that Josephine doesn’t think children need knives (his father thinks they rather do; both he and Keith end up in the back yard with Dad, learning the finer points of knife fighting as well as what magic Dad knows, what magic he can pass on to them) and he knows more than anything that he wants to be a pilot, that he wants to explore deep space.

The only people doing that are the military, of course. It’ll be ten years of service, four of it school, but he wants to go. Keith sits at his side while he writes up his application, Marie on his lap, Kohaku around Shiro’s throat. They both try not to listen to the echo from upstairs, while Dad and Josephine argue.

Josephine has a thing against reptiles; Shiro can’t get out of the house quick enough.

 

The Garrison takes him. The base is out in the Nevada desert, huge expanses of nothing that they can shoot at and practice with when they hit that skill level. They send him a Greyhound ticket. Everything else he has to get on his own, and by that he means his father gives him money for food and a hotel for the layover plus a card with his name on it for when he gets there.

Keith makes him promise to call– Dad and Akane try and Josephine and Glenn don’t, and it is and isn’t Keith’s fault that he and Marie bite and claw and don’t even worry about asking questions or permission. They’re a ball of pent up frustration, and not even barely-teenagers.

By the time he gets to the Garrison and gets his bunk, he’s too tired to call home. He and Kohaku are rooming with another recruit, Stefan and Amber, a long-legged Labrador Retriever, golden from snout to tail-tip and all sorts of friendly. Stefan found it endlessly entertaining, once Shiro told him Kohaku’s name, the meaning of it.

“What is she?” he asks later, while they’re unpacking. The first week is all social events, getting to know the base. Shiro can already direct and lead anybody to the main offices and the quartermaster.

“Not a bird!” Kohaku laughed before he got the chance to open his mouth. They haven’t even been settled long, but her response is as much rebuff as a defense, a way to protect themselves; make it seem like a game that they’re not what they should be, that they settled wrong.

It’s a bad way to think about himself, to feel about himself. People don’t settle wrong. He knows that, intellectually.

“She’s an eastern coach-whip,” he tells him, and Stefan’s eyebrows climb up past his hairline.

“Aren’t those the hoop snakes?”

“The what?”

By the time Shiro remembers to call home, gets time to call home, it’s been two weeks. His father tells him Keith stormed out of the house a week ago, ended up on the roof (somehow) and wont come down no matter how much he tries to persuade him, and could you please talk to him?

Apparently he ended up pitching a tent against the chimney bricks. Josephine probably thought it was unsightly. Shiro calls Keith’s phone and talks for a while, cradling it against his skull while he works through mathematics homework. Stefan and Amber are out jogging; they have the dorm to themselves. “I miss you,” Keith says. “Come back. It’s not home without you.”

I can’t, Shiro doesn’t tell him, though Kohaku curls herself loosely around his wrist, resting her head on the side of his hand while he writes. It occurs to him, suddenly, that Marie has been a great many shapes but she has never been a bird. The odds of Keith settling as a bird don’t fit; he can’t shape his mind around it. “You can come join me in a few years,” he says instead. “Mom said your father was an off-worlder, right? Maybe we can find him.”

“Maybe,” Keith agrees, but he sounds doubtful. Shiro is too; they don’t even know what planet or space station he was from, where he worked. Finding Keith’s father without even a name is going to be difficult, and Dad doesn’t know who he was. The silence stretches. After a while, his little brother sighs into the phone. “Okay.”

“Just a few years,” Shiro says, chest tight. Keith sounds so weary. What did Josephine say to him? “I’ll call every week until then, and I’ll come home for holidays if I can, okay?”

“Promise?”

“Promise. But you gotta get off the roof before you give Dad even more gray hair, okay?”

A heartbeat. For a moment, Shiro thinks it wont work. Then Keith sighs, defeated, and he knows he’ll do it. A week on the roof, he wonders. What has he even been eating?

Birds. Probably.

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

He calls Dad back when he gets off the phone with Keith, tells him what Keith told him; that he feels crowded, that he needs space, that he needs exercise and understanding, which is something Dad already knows but Josephine, in all the years Keith has been with them, doesn’t seem to grasp. Keith is independent and fierce and full of energy, he acts without thinking nine times out of ten. Witches are, by nature, slow to act; they do nothing they haven’t thoroughly considered several times.

Joining the Garrison was the most impulsive thing Shirogane has ever done. He does not regret it, and neither does Kohaku.

 

A few years later, Keith and Marie join them. She’s a Savannah cat; a good twenty-five inches at the shoulders. Keith has no ballpark for how much she weighs until they get to the Garrison and go through the physical, sits through it by virtue of the knowledge that Shiro is waiting for him outside the door. “Twenty-five pounds,” Marie purrs after, proud of herself. Keith’s shy smile says he’s proud too.

He’s even more proud when he hits the top of his class less than a month into school. Proud enough to call back home, to call Dad, and they can both hear the pride in his voice when Dad congratulates him.

He’s not Keith’s father, but he’s just as much Keith’s dad as he is Shiro’s.

Shiro is still trying to decide what Josephine is. She’s definitely not his mother, and she makes a point to remind him of it, just as she makes a point to remind Keith of it.

Shiro skipped a grade and it looks like Keith will do the same, graduate early just as he did. He can’t figure out why she’s not proud of them. (Dad is ecstatic. They can probably see his smile on the moon.)

A few months into the new year, Shiro snags his first big assignment that isn’t playing hopscotch between Nevada, Texas, and Florida. There’s a science mission to the far-flung moon of Kerberos; it’s not a big science mission. Ice cores and things. They’ll be gone four months tops, and that’s if things go badly and they get stuck there. It’s not even particularly dangerous: it’s not like he’s going to be taking people to any of the gas giants. Kerberos is an all ice moon, way out swinging around Pluto. But it’s too big for him to say no. It’s his first chance to get off world.

Apparently he’s been specifically requested. By the head of the science division. By Commander Holt.

Keith is understandably upset when Shiro tells him. The base psychiatrist said he had dependency issues, cited that it could become a problem. He was personally under the belief that she was projecting. Keith just liked the people he knew to be around him, and he had difficulty making friends. Shiro knew he tried, but Keith and Marie alternated between warily friendly and wanting the world to drop off the face of the Earth. Bipolar disorder, maybe.

Shiro got him a blanket permission pass to use the training room whenever he needed to, even if it was after lights out. He can’t, doesn’t, get him time off to go to Florida with him, because Keith doesn’t want to watch Shiro leave the planet without him.

If it were Keith leaving, Shiro knows exactly how badly he’d feel, keeping his feet in the dirt. Better not to encourage something they both know will hurt him and make him even more restless. He does call him before he boards the shuttle, before they make them stow the things they wont need while off-world. His cellphone is one of them.

“It’s just Kerberos,” he swears. “I’ll be back before you graduate.”

 

They haven’t been on Kerberos a day when purple (purple? Purple.) aliens beam them up just as they’re getting the first of their ice cores. Kohaku is tight around his throat, and he can see Matt’s Ariel in his helmet, wings and perching feet tangled in his hair the moment that they all realize that something is wrong, that something is happening, the moment that they all turn to run.

They don’t make it very far. He thinks he sees Commander Holt grab Anna’s harness as they’re lifted up, but then Shiro passes out, so he’s not sure.

When he wakes up he realizes the aliens are purple, he realizes he’s kneeling, he realizes Commander Holt is hanging limply where he’s held on his kneels, and there’s no daemon to be seen. He has been trained for being taken captive by hostile forces, but they expected militant humans, not aliens– he thinks Commander Holt had been joking about the aliens thing– so he marshals up his calm and tries to reason with them. Maybe he’s hallucinating.

He’s not. It doesn’t. He gets knocked out for his trouble instead.

 

When he wakes up again, he realizes the soulless aliens are dragging them into the mouth of Hell.


And now, while I have you, how about we take a peek at other people who’ve written this prompt, yeah? Okay.

Other Responses:
Amanda

Remember, Amanda drops prompts once a week, and I try to do them by habit. It’s a good habit to have. So if you want to write a prompt, this one or any other, forward or backward, give a pingback so I can link you! More exposure for everyone!

–Natasha

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