i) The unknowable leylines whisper to Abia

The unknowable leylines whisper to Abia. They speak of wind, soil, shadow, cells. On the way back to the Jiko camp, they recommend a campsite.

Sheltered from the icy winds, she and her friends find a growth of fibrous tubers, and get a fire going. The tubers smell of pine resin, remind Cang of his home.

Fassn shares his flask around as Shyan tends the fire.

When the unfamiliar stars come out against the ink-black sky, they see in the distance lights from the Jiko colony. It seems brighter, bigger, than it did before.

“We really goin’ back there?” Fassn asks. His breath comes out cloudy, thick.

“Let us not forget they promised a reward,” says Cang. “They needn’t know we spared Grumalla.”

“Won’t take them long to find out,” Shyan says.

Staring into the fire, Abia asks, undirected, “What we do with them?”

sunday special: one-stop shop

All right folks bear with me.

My daily material will soon converge here.

That is to say, I’ll no longer post art to Instagram and poems to Twitter. It will All. Come. Here.

Bit of a mixed bag, I’m sure.

You can filter posts via the categories, though. I’m gonna try to make them as visible/accessible as possible.

That way you can get A Sprawling Place in one consolidated one, etc etc.

Forgive me for this. I use a PC to draw and can’t find a suitable way to upload it to Instagram. Plus, Twitter doesn’t seem the kind of place to spam 4-7 lines of poetry every day. Better to do that kind of thing on a domain with my own name on it.

So there you have it; stick with me, if you will.


v) Grumalla freezes

Grumalla freezes. So do our heroes. It’s cold, you see.

A frigid tension fills the air. Only the distant cracking of ice is heard.

“Well,” Grumalla says. “You gonna?”

Abia, Cang, and Fassn turn to Shyan.

“No way,” Fassn says. “Too big, too big.”

“Of course, we have been promised a reward,” Cang says.

“Maybe.” Abia says. A look of concern settles on her face.

Shyan turns back to Grumalla. “No,” she says. “But you can’t kill any more Jiko children. They have a right to life, just as you do.”

Grumalla exhales, and a great, steaming cloud comes along with it. “Then you condemn me to starve,” it says. “I’ll waste away, and this land along with it.” Its great head drops, to study the snowy ground.

Shyan lets a hand drop casually to the hilt of her blade. “Think carefully,” she says.

Grumalla fixes a stare at her. “All shall freeze,” it says.

It stands, stoic, as the group departs. Without moving a stringy, atrophied muscle, Grumalla watches them go.

iv) Grumalla shows them withered stalks

Grumalla shows them withered stalks. “All this used to be fine eatin’ for lil Grumalla. Then them Jiko come and ravage the place, jus’ tear it all up. Now look at me.”

Grumalla held its arms aloft. Sure enough, slack skin draped off a large but fragile frame. Grumalla’s hair was thin and matted.

“What’s more’s they make this place so damn cold.”

“Jiko do this?” Abia asks, then breathes heavily to create a vaporous cloud. “They make cold?”

Grumalla sadly nods. “Gives me the shivers, it does.”

The group takes a beat, suddenly feeling very small in this vast, icy place.

“Oh but where’re my manners. You all must be hungry. Stew’s a bit thin but y’all are welcome to a bowl.”

“Eh, no, thank you,” Shyan says.

Fassn stops his prayers a moment, to interject. “Aw, come on, Shyan.”

“In fact,” Shyan continues, “we’ve been sent by the Jiko to kill you.”

iii) Abianarin rests a hand on Fassn’s shoulder to silence his prayers

Abianarin rests a hand on Fassn’s shoulder to silence his prayers. It doesn’t work, though — the reassuring touch seems only to encourage him, and he speaks louder, more feverishly.

“Old Ajralan, eh?” Grumalla says. “Never heard of ‘im. Who’s that callin’ ‘is name?” It shuffles its grand bulk in Fassn’s direction.

Shyan steps forward, back straight. “Halt, demon. We’ve come to put an end to your devilry, and protect the Jiko.”

Grumalla snorts. “Protect ’em? They’re an invasive species. Y’all oughta to be protectin’ my crops and plants and ’em, ‘stead of those little tadpole folk.”

Cang blinks. “Invasive species?”

“Sure. Don’t no tadpole folk live under the ice all natural.”

Shayn raises her voice. “What do you mean?”

“I mean some dumb adventurers brought a few ‘long with ’em, few years back. Pets or somethin’. Course the ‘venturers died and left the Jiko who just went on proliferatin’.” Grumalla gestured at the torn-up ice and rock around them. “Used to be this was a fine yield o’ crop and now, nothin.”

Fassn, having heard nothing of this, continues his prayers.