On The Cards

On The Cards
A Collaborative Effort

Story Notes

Created as a round-robin in 2001.

On The Cards

In the city of Immanion, no single event is so anticipated, so talked about and so dissected after the fact than the annual Tigron’s Cup race meeting. The elite of Wraeththu society go to great lengths to assure their presence, to compete for most elegant pavilion, to gossip over whom is wearing what and who is escorting who, while outside the members’ area, the lucky citizens who have managed to buy a ticket, spend their day watching the watchers. For the most part, the actual racing is secondary to the social shenanigans except, of course, when the racing becomes part of the show. The horses that race are not the legendary companions of the Gelaming, but ordinary steeds, without magical powers.

There was the incident two years ago, where it rained right before the flag fell on the Phaconian Two Year Old Handicap and the brown shoe polish on one of the entrants began to run, but no one cares to remember that, especially not the horse’s owner, a Gelaming har named Enron, who was mustered out of the Tigron’s guard and stripped of his rank.

But mostly, the ordinary citizens of Phaconia place their bets, drink their betica and wine and watch the goings-on in the filmy pavilions of the famous, or infamous, as the case may be. They comment over the arrival or non-arrival of certain prominent hara from the provinces and territories, discuss what they are wearing and whose tent is closer to the Tigron’s this year than it was last.

***

The day dawned bright and breezy. Flags and banners on the pavilions danced in the gentle eddies and the air was redolent of flowers, spice and all good things. Servants scurried about, filling ice buckets, washing strawberries and generally making certain that everything that was meant to be there, was there.

In the stables, the horses were being washed down, curry-combed and braided. Their wrappings were checked, their saddles oiled and their handlers had stopped for a quick breakfast before the owners arrived.

The crowds had begun to gather at the gates as soon as the sun rose, determined to get the best picnic spots beneath the perfectly trimmed trees that ringed the course. By mid-morning, most of the guests had arrived at the pavilions. . .

Most of the pavilions were flung wide open, so the little hara could have a good look at the goings-on among the great and famous (what joy is there in being a celebrity if you’re not stared at by the hoi polloi?), but one of the tents drew conspicuous glances by the mere fact that it was tightly closed. Something more important than mere society seemed to be going on in there, from the intermittent shouts that emerged from the closed flap.”Can you do it, you barbarian sorcerer, or can’t you? Or won’t you?” a grating voice was screaming inside. This was Fireblossom the Dark, Colurastes consort to one of Phaonica’s most highly-placed generals. “YOU told me to throw my lot in with the option that sounded least feasible – so I put all my money on that miserable beast, and now you tell me that you DIDN’T MEAN IT THAT WAY???”

“Ahem. I meant it more as general spiritual advice”, a glum voice with the most horrendous Thaine accent conceded.

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From Har to Maternity

From Har to Maternity
A Collaborative Round-Robin

Story Notes

This story was created as a round-robin back in 2001.

Here be parody and mayhem, caricatures and bejewelled livestock. Here be all manner of unsavoury ruffians and their wenches. Thou hast been warned. The characters in this ensemble bear no resemblance to any persons I know, nor do they bear that much resemblance to any of Storm’s characters; but that be a minor quibble.

From Har to Maternity

In the ballroom of Phaconia…

Cal twitched. Then he fidgeted. Pell shot him a sideways look. Cal sat still. When Pell looked away again, Cal scratched his crotch. He took another swig from the bottle he’d earlier purloined from a passing waiter, ignoring Pell’s dread look. He hated parties. No. Scratch that. He hated these parties. He liked good parties. This was not one of those. All the poseurs and wannabees preening and parading like prized bulls before the judges. How did Pell manage to keep a straight face. He watched one particular buffoon floating around amongst the guests, trying to impress.Rolling his eyes at the performance, he nudged Rue and indicated the overdressed har. Rue sniggered and Pell gave them both another of those looks. When he saw the object of their derision,however, Pell couldn’t contain himself and a tiny smile crossed his face.

All three of them felt the etheric blow as Thiede whopped them all upside the head.

-Behave yourselves.- He growled. -Or do I have to come down there?-

That’s not fair, Cal thought, idly rubbing his sore forehead. I’m forced to come to these things when I’d much rather be chasing Ashmael around the bed, and now, I’m not even allowed to think? The disembodied hand returned, patting him condescendingly on top of his blond head.

-Don’t think, Cal.- Thiede said soothingly. -You know it gives you a headache.-

Ah well. Perhaps Thiede was right. Maybe he should just go back to his second favourite sport, after Ashmael-chasing; people-watching. Cal pinched another bottle from the same waiter,who was returning from the distant kitchens where he’d gone for a reload. The harried waiter favoured him with a sour look on behalf of his sore feet and turned 180 degrees, heading back to the kitchens yet again. Now, Cal thought. Who’s who in Phaconia tonight?*

She was tall, that’s the first thing he noticed. Regal and aloof. Her black, wavy hair hung loose down her bare back, tied up at the sides with silver, ruby encrusted slides. Her eyes were black, with long lustrous lashes. Her garments were made of a shimmering, red material, that clung to her slender thighs and her ample breasts threatened to tumble out of their small covering. Her whole body was covered in sparkles, that reflected and shimmered in the bright lights of the ballroom. She came up to where Pell was seated and curtsied, never once lowering her eyes from his. Pell smiled and made a soft remark to Rue, who was completely unimpressed with this Kamagrian, who seemed to place herself above everyone else. Cal sitting on the other side asked who she was. “Parage. Her name is Celestial Firewalker.”

Hmmm, interesting. The Kamagrians were out of hiding. Ever since that little incident with Opalexian, the Garridan warrior and the stalk of rhubarb, the Kamagrians had been noticeable by their absence. It was good to see them back. Cal had begun to think they’d never get over the shame. As he took another swig, he noticed his waiter enter the room via another door. Cal decided he’d better slow down on the wine. He might not get a chance at another bottle.

Now, who else was here? Cal looked around.* He entered quietly, nodding courteously to guests as he passed them. Lithe, silent steps that sauntered coolly yet with purpose as he made his way towards the Triad. Calanthe’s eyes narrowed imperceptively………Thea?…….and then relaxed as he realized who it was and smiled wryly. This har always reminded him of Thea, he thought to himself and idly wondered whether Thea himself would be here tonight with his old friend Zack. The har made his way impressively towards the Trinity, turning heads as he went. He wore black leather trousers that hugged his lean hips sensuously and went on forever to disappear into thick, black, leather boots that reached just below his knees. A heavy but netted cream cotton shirt covered in silver embroidered symbols hung open at his throat where a necklace made of large opals nestled. The baggy sleeves of the shirt fluttered gently as he walked, clasped firmly around his wrists by large, sleek silver bracelets. He reached the dais and presented himself, bowing deeply, long luscious black hair falling forward. He straightened, looking up to see Cal grinning at him and he grinned back with mock annoyance on his face. It was plain to Rue that the har and Cal were obviously acquainted. Calanthe turned to Rue and Pell. “This is Ramestton Ava from the Ferike tribe. Met him when I was there with Thea.”

He then gestured for Rue to move in closer and they whispered for amoment while Pell’s attention was diverted elsewhere. The Tigron and Tigrina then glanced up, amusement glinting in their eyes and Cal addressed Ramestton, beckoning for him to come closer. The har smiled and came nearer.

Cal bent forward to whisper in his ear…. “Your zip’s undone, mate”.

Cal had the priceless joy of seeing the smile on Ramestton’s face collapse in double quick time.

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Only Kidding

Only Kidding
by Maria Leel

Story Notes

Title: Only Kidding
Chapters: 2 (so far)
Spoilers: None as yet
Date Posted: March 2004

Author: Maria Leel
Contact: maria@leel2.freeserve.co.uk

Credits: Dedicated to Tyg, who asked for it and supplied the first line. Also dedicated to anyone else who is curious about goats.

Disclaimers: Storm’s world, not mine. I’m just playing in it and I promise to leave it nice and tidy when I leave… well, tidyish…

Chapter 1

“What do you mean you incepted a goat?” Lulan shrieked at the recalcitrant harling standing before him. Olney was seven years old, just a few months shy of his feybraiha and looking increasingly as if he would never live to see it. The way things were going, Lulan would strangle him first.

Olney had always been a difficult child. Tall, gangly with buckteeth, with a mop of unruly hair and disturbingly intense eyes, what he lacked in good looks he more than made up for in sheer curiosity. The walls of his sleeping chamber were festooned in collections of every kind of bug and beetle. Olney had collected each and every one, individually stuck a pin through them and mounted them on felt covered boards. The wooden surfaces of his desk and dressing table were barely visible under the numerous fossils, bones and skulls that Olney had discovered on his frequent forays into the surrounding countryside.

The collection nearly drove Lulan to distraction. Naturally tidy, he abhorred clutter but reasoned that if it were contained within Olney’s chamber at least he could shut the door on it. Out of sight, out of mind. Lulan had been obliged to put his foot down when Olney’s interest in the natural world had escalated into keeping live animals. For a while a corner of the cellar had been given over to Olney’s personal zoo – snakes, spiders and scorpions. But following the escape of several specimens at particularly embarrassing moments, most notably at a dinner party of high-ranking hara, the zoo had had to go.

Lulan had breathed a sigh of relief as that particular phase had passed by. But the relief was short lived. In preparation for his forthcoming feybraiha, Olney was undergoing instruction from the local Tirtha. A third-generation har, both Lulan and his chesna, Hendred, were pure-born. Olney had become fascinated by the whole concept of inception. He talked about it incessantly, demanded to see the inception scar of every har that was not pure-born and then subjected them to a lengthy third degree about what the process involved.

Lulan took a deep breath and counted to ten.

“Olney,” he said in as calm a voice as he could manage. “Tell me exactly what you’re talking about. What do you mean – you’ve incepted a goat?” Olney raised his eyes to his hostling.

“I just wanted to see what it was like.” he said, “It all sounded so interesting. So I borrowed Nishka’s baby goat and fed him some of my blood. But I’m worried. Now he’s acting really funny.”

“When – when did you do this?” Lulan asked.

“This morning.” said Olney, “But I’m really worried. Can you come and see?”

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