Day 211: A person is standing on a soapbox in a park, yelling at passersby. What is going on?

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“Come forth and hear my words!” Franklin Callahan, standing tall on his soapbox called. “Mine is the way that will lead you to salvation, not the heathen passage. Forego the silent temptress of the skies and make your way into the Fog. For only there, when blinded to the world, can you be truly set free to wander and be found!” He raised a fist in triumph, daring the heathen deities to smite him with a gesture and a shout. The crowd that had gathered around him shifted uncomfortably, moving from foot to foot as they digested his words and waited for the aforementioned attack.

“He’s gonna look like a right wally if he actually gets struck by lightning now, ain’t he?” Corbin nudged his friend in the ribs. “As if anyone’s gonna follow this guy’s crackpot nonsense. Come on, let’s get back up home.”

His friend shook his head as if he were waking from a dream. “Sorry? I was miles away.”

“I said let’s get on home. Your mum always worries if we’re still down at the market when the sun sets.” They moved away from Callahan and headed towards the staircases. “We could use the vertical carriages, if you fancy it? I’ve got the cash from that delivery for Tell.”

“Thanks, but no. I think I need to clear my head. Just, wander for a bit. In fact, do you mind if I head back up alone? Need to sort some stuff out.”

Corbin looked around awkwardly. “Arnold, come on. You know what your mum’s like. Last time you were late, she chased me down Main and Short with her rolling pin. Gave me such a thrashing, I couldn’t sit for a week.”

“I know, but,” Arnold looked out over the railings into the dying sunlight, “I need to think. Cover for me, okay? Tell her that Bill Tucker caught me for stealing those apples last week. She’ll love that. Gives her something to thrash me for and keeps you in the clear ‘cos you told her.” He looked into Corbin’s eyes and rested his hand against his friend’s shoulder. “Ten minutes. Twenty at the most, then I’ll be up the staircases.” He watched his friend flickering with indecision, but knew that he’d give in. He always did.

“Fine. But if you’re not back in twenty minutes, I’m coming after you.” He turned and began to walk away towards the spiral staircases that led to the upper levels. “Arnie?”

“Yeah, Corb?”

“Don’t go into the Fog. Don’t listen to that crazy old priest in the park. Just… Come home.”

“I will.” With that, Corbin headed up the stairs and out of view. Arnold turned and went back to the viewing railing, a six foot high metal barrier built so that only the most determined could get across it to hurl themselves off into the mysteries below. Chain link though, revealing the vast expanse of greys and dirty whites that billowed as far as the eye could see.

The Fog. Nobody knew where it had come from or how long it would last. In fact, all most people knew of it were three things.

  1. The Fog is deadly. Spending enough time inside it, even in the edges, will kill a full grown man within hours.
  2. The Fog is fast. Patches have been known to grow from clouds to blankets that cover whole mountain ranges within three hours.
  3. The Fog takes. Anything that goes into the Fog never returns.

Arnold looked out over it and rested his fingers on the cold wires of that fence. He realised, as he had many times, that there was an extra item on the list for him.

Number 4. The Fog is mysterious and he, Arnold Glasier, would find out the truth.

He would fix it and Man would walk again at the level of the sea.

In this world, there is a deadly fog that exists, forcing society to build upwards. To go into more detail, there would be a tiered system similar to that seen in Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve where the most affluent and wealthy live high above the deadly Fog. Those from the lower classes would spend their time residing down at the edges, perilously close to being wiped out by the slightest swell in the mist. Dangerous? A cauldron waiting for the fires of revolution to ignite? 

Who knows?

The Idiot in Tin Foil

 

Day 181: Write a story based on the title of your favourite song

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The Boys of Summer

There are a lot of gangs in this town.

A ridiculous amount when you think about the size of this place. More gangs than districts and if you threw a stone there’d be a fight about whose territory it landed in. You’ve got the Harlequins down by the docks, all the fired workers and old sailors ganging up to protect their piece of the pie. Parklife over in Highfield Green, Alcatraz in the prison district. The Mechanicals, The Bootlegs, The Cartwrights, the list goes on.

Then of course, nestled in the black heart of this dirty town, you have the Boys. The Boys of Summer.

They’re the current kings of this place, around which every swirling eddy of misfortune circles. The drugs, the guns, even the banned toys go through them. That’s right, the Boys control everything here in Clifftown.

The upper echelons gather sometimes in Summerhall. It’s the fancy manor that sits incongruous amongst the factories as they belch their foul smoke into the atmosphere, coating the hall’s stone walls with a thick layer of soot and grime. The inhabitants were much like the hall, dirty, out of place and filled with secrets. The best of them would gather in the dining room, at least half of them every night, for the parties. There would be honoured guests from the other gangs, like Hercules Watley of the Harlequins. He sat at the top table, laughing and carousing with the leaders, waving a tankard in his fist as he raised his voice in song.

Mother Van Cartier shook her head shook her head at the interruption and turned back to her fellow Widows. They were in charge of the old religious district, long abandoned by the priests and the martyrs. It was now a hive of scum and villainy, just like the rest of Clifftown. Their conversation was quiet and reserved in a direct contrast to Watley’s squawking.

A gong sounded, deep in the bowels of Summerhall. The revel stopped dead, a veil of silence falling across all of the guests. They knew what the gong meant.

The King of Winter was joining them. This was going to be an important night.

Two of the Autumn Knights threw open the doors. The Knights were the elites of the gang, those who had worked their way up through the ranks of the Boys to positions of responsibility within the gang. The one to the right of the door as the guests were looking at it, was Irwin Smedley. He was the shorter of the two, broad shouldered and condensed. He wore a perpetual grimace as if the world disgusted him and every step was a stomp, a vicious attack on the ground. He could be found at most revels in a corner, in an argument and in trouble.

His companion was his opposite. Tall, gangling and he barely spoke a word. He was known only as the Stranger. He wore a mask over his face that covered everything but his eyes, eyes trapped inside two small windows of glass. They are frenzied and bloodshot and constantly roaming. If the eyes are the windows of the soul, the Stranger’s mask turns them into mirrors. They say that the King knew his real name and what face he kept hidden beneath that mask.

Smedley and the Stranger stood to attention on either side of the doorway, ramrod straight. Silence remained the champion of the room, stilling even Watley’s enthusiastic tongue.

A series of sharp ticks grew in volume, spurs clacking against the stone slabs of the hall. A figure grew from the shadows, a long coat swirling the shadows into a frenzy. As he passes, the gas lamps to either side grow in power and then dim again, as if the King gives power to his surroundings. He walked into the room and surveyed his guests, all of them sitting expectantly with drink and food raised to their mouths, conversations paused, all their interactions halted by this mans power.

He grinned and clapped his hands. ‘Don’t let me keep you from a good time!’

I’ve had this idea floating around for a while, ever since I heard a cover of Don Henley’s The Boys of Summer by Front Country. It’s one that needs some work, needs a few of those details ironed out, but as a start it works for me. A city of criminals and crime, with everything led by my mysterious Boys of Summer. I’ve put this into the Sky Pirates category as I can see this linking in with my Argent Siren stories, though it could yet be something independent.

Also a favourite song? Out of all the available music in the world? Can’t do it. I can’t even choose a top twenty, let alone a favourite. The other idea I was going to go for with this one, had I not gone with the Boys of Summer, was a collection of very short pieces based on ten or twenty of my favourites. Then I would link them together. 

That sounds a lot like hard work though…

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 162: You are a pirate. Describe your perfect day.

 

sailing-ship-vessel-boat-sea-37859.jpegMy name is Astrid Barnes. If you’re following the events in the Chronicle, you already know me. You know all about the Siren, you know about Escobar Rannigan. You’ve heard all about Ragnar’s perfect day (blood, sweat, usually some tears) and Boondock’s, though how they managed to get him to say more than four sentences in a row will forever be beyond me.

Me, my perfect day is a little different to theirs. Far less blood and guts and far more refined.

It’s the day after we take a prize. Either we’ve ransacked it and let it fly on or we’ve sent it towards Tinguza with a prize crew. Most of the crew will be sleeping it off, seeing as the Captain always rolls out any barrels we take for the watches to enjoy. Always keeps the nice bottles for the Round Table though.

I don’t tend to go hard on these nights. I much prefer the heady feeling of the day after.

I pick my away around the bodies, merrily snoring as we pass through the clouds. Practically dancing my way through, what with the density of them in some places. I make my way through the decks until I reach the upper deck. Doesn’t matter what the weather is like, not on the Siren. If it’s raining, we just pull more sail and rise above it. So, every time, I emerge from the below decks into glorious sunshine. Warm on my skin, warring with the cool air.

It’s always quiet. That’s what I find as I mooch across to the prow. There are no birds up here, just the ships. I’ll sit with the Siren and just… Talk.

About what? That doesn’t matter. I just get to talk to her. I usually get a couple of hours before the non-scrub wake up. Roscoe or Mulligan are usually kicking around, supervising the navs. But they leave me to it, these days. Someone had come to bother me the first time I’d come down here, but they don’t anymore.

I’m fairly sure they reattached the hand in the end.

Twice now, Rannigan has come to join me. I’m always there first, but he’ll arrive. Booming voice that carries, even here. Even whispering, he could be heard over the rush of the wind. He says nothing, just sits with one hand on the figurehead’s midriff. It’s a truly human moment for an otherwise godly figure.

He sits there for one hour exactly. Then he stands up, growls a greeting at me and stomps away through the decks. Captain’s rounds at 0800. However hungover you were before, you’d better be up and ready. Just like that, it’s a normal day.

That’s my perfect day though. A day aboard this ship, with those moments in the morning. That cover it for you?

Excerpt from an interview with Astrid Barnes, conducted by Oscar Belinsky
17th January 1853

Hey, it’s the Argent Siren again!

Few things to mention here. Number one, a big thank you to Corey at Quintessential Editor for putting a link in his Feature Friday. He’s pretty much as prolific with his posting as I am, but with his posts you even get to learn stuff! 

Number two, thank you to the various bloggers who have linked to me in their awards posts. You’re all amazing and I will get round to checking them out properly. 

Finally, keep letting me know what you think, keep reading, hopefully keep enjoying… All that good stuff. Thanks for stopping by.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 32: Life among the pirates.

‘Captain! Sail off the starboard! Looks like a three master!’ Came the cry from the tops. Otis Carter held the spyglass to his eye before calling down, ‘Captain! Looks like she’s riding low!’

‘Excellent!’ Captain Rannigan ran his hand through his thick beard, a classic Captain Birdseye look. Except, of course, for the two sabres that hung by his sides in jewelled scabbards, the pistol sitting by the small of his back and the treasure hungry glint in his cold, grey eye. ‘Mr Ingram. Set the flags for a gasbag leak, but don’t run them up yet. Mr Carter, I want timekeeping and three minute reports.’ His redneck American accent boomed across the deck. ‘I want all watches ready to move in six minutes. Ragnar, Boondock, all Round Table to the boardroom.’ He grinned and his gold tooth gleamed in the morning sunlight.

‘Aye Captain!’ Came the chorus from the deck and the cabins. Scurrying like mice as they rushed about their tasks, drawing weapons from the arms lockers, buckling on mismatches of armour. Only very light armour mind, as on ship movement is king. A pair of armoured boots here, a set of plate gloves there. Nothing fancy, but enough to show that this group of people had teeth.

‘Good. I feel like it’s gonna be a wonderful day!’

***

Notes on the Argent Siren

The Argent Siren has three watches, one for each of its masts. There is the Flash Watch, the lowest ranking members, their training battalion as it were. This is led by Astrid Barnes, the youngest member of Rannigan’s Round Table. A classically dashing, vaguely stubbly rogue, six feet tall and a terror with any kind of blade. He’s never been seen anything less than impeccably dressed, sharp double breasted waistcoat, a shirt with lightly rolled up sleeves. A man who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, but would rather not. He is a man who has sworn to die with a smile on his lips.

Then there’s the Flame Watch, the Siren’s rank and file. The largest watch had to be run by the largest man, which is where Boondock comes in. Boondock is touching on seven feet tall, and is almost as wide. The running joke amongst the crew is that he’s as tall as a mast and pretty much as thick, but he’s a damn good leader. Men would follow him anywhere, especially as long as he’s buying the beers. He isn’t known for carrying a weapon, he simply wears thick, plated gloves that can crash a man’s skull. He is gruff, but can often be found with a bright smile crossing his face.

Finally, we have the Ash Watch, the elite of the Siren, and their fearless leader Ragnar. Ragnar is a 5 foot man with a ten foot reputation, a compact parcel of fury. A long, red braid falls down his back, never having been cut for as long as he has been alive and fighting. The day a man beats the axe from his hand, he will cut the braid. So far, he has many scars, but the braid remains uncut.

Also on Rannigan’s Round Table are the helmsmen, Roscoe and Mulligan, the cook Doshka and the Pusser. These are the men that Rannigan trusts to help guide him. But when it comes to making decisions there can be none but Rannigan himself.

He is a man who has been learning piratecraft since he was in diapers, a man who’s first words were ‘Mast ahoy!’. He learnt his trade aboard Caliban’s Stone Pixie, growing from a young cabin boy through to Caliban’s first mate, before taking the Siren.

The world has come a long way. The new world is ever growing, ever expanding. Pirates fly. Metal thunders across the landscape at terrifying speed. We ride the winds, we ride the waves and we rule the land with rings of iron.

Welcome to the future.

Oscar Belinsky, The Daily Chronicle, 17th December 1852

***

‘Captain. If it’s a three master, it’s probably going to be heavily armed.’ Ragnar drawled, hunched over the table. ‘Could be time to cry off. Especially if it’s Navy. He leaned his axe between his legs, resting his calloused hand on the head.

‘Or could be time to take everything. Everyone, Flash through Ash.’ Boondock replied, slamming a meaty fist onto the table. ‘C’mon captain! It’s been weeks since we had a good prize! Let’s take that  cheeky little ship and be on our way? Hell, I reckon Flash Watch alone could take that lil frigate!’

Rannigan stood at the edge of the room, pouring himself a glass of brandy from a crystal decanter. The decanter had been poached from a Merchanter heading for Virginia, a terrified man holding it out in front of him and begging for his life and the life of his family. He raised a hand to scratch at his eye socket beneath the soft cloth patch he wore, before turning to the group, speaking over the rising hubbub. Roscoe and Mulligan were arguing as always, Doshka was drinking from a flask, the Pusser was counting away happily.

‘Gentlemen.’ He flipped up his eye patch to expose the angry socket. ‘This is what happens when we make rash decisions. And as they say, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Roscoe, send out two of Flash on flyers. See what they can tell us about the state of the ship. Get them to spread rumours about our leak as well. Let’s hoist up our skirts and see if we can’t convince them to take a tumble? Just make sure we stay protected, eh?’ The room grumbled to a stop.

‘Alright, you bastards, let’s go get filthy fucking rich!’

The Idiot in Tin Foil