One ice-blue evening at camp, Irenka and Osanna set up camp far out in the fields outside of Icemelt. Irenka hacked down a small tree with her entrenching tool, more or less just to show off that she was good at it, and set up a nice warm campfire. Osanna set up the tent and church-keyed open the first beer, taking a long, loving drought as Irenka worked her flint and tinder, catching the kindling alight and getting the flame started in earnest. "Keep at it, almost there," Osanna said.
With a few flaps of her blanket the kindling caught, licks of fire pressing up through the pile of logs. "There we go," Irenka said. She took a seat on
"...and how is Irena doing?" Devaraja said as he placed his Boiler piece on the queen's pawn. The wargame was in its final rounds. Agnieska's pieces were thoroughly scattered across the bard and Devaja's own were poised to rush her point and take it. In a challenging game this would have taken an hour to set up. Devaraja had the queen at his mercy in about ten minutes.
"Oh, happy as she's ever been," Agnieska said, surveying the board and trying to suss out some way to disrupt his strategy. Winning was out of the question. She could never figure the guy out, but then, that's why she had him where he was. "I think she's doing great fo
Time passes; this is what time does.
Irenka took to her paints, and Osanna to her little life in the Flatlands.
This is how it went:
* * *
Six in the morning, and bells chimed. It was the end of the late shift for all the happy little workers of Mountainheart, and the start of the morning for the dayfolk. It was the start of Irenka's morning, too, and oh, how painful it was to peel herself out of her bed. She'd learned to love her stiff bunk, her lumpy bedroll. Sleeping in a real bed was like sleeping with her head in heaven. But the day waited, and the day would roll on without her.
A brisk shower, changing into her day clothes, b
Machine Gun Princess, day 19: Some Notes on Magick
Some Notes on Magick
Magic in its present form has only been practiced for about two centuries. The spirit shepherds were aware of the existence of other worlds and realms of being before then, but only with the creation of the spirit stake were they able to do more than observe via the use of assorted powerful drugs.
The spirit stake is created during a ritual undergone while on a particular mixture of alkaloid herbs and poisonous mushrooms. Inspired carvings and designs link the stake to a specific spirit witnessed by the ritualist; from then on, when correctly hammered into a living creature at a focal point just above the navel, tha
Out of the thirty-five men and women who tried their hand at getting a spirit bound to them, only four of them, counting Stawski, had managed to pass. Everybody else had either hurt themseves or almost hurt somebody else. This was about par for the course, Irenka had read. Few were cut out for playing host to a spirit, and rumble worms were among the most docile and easy to control.
Irenka only missed a week of training. The saliva and surgery of the Dove ensured that Osanna was only bedridden a month, and back to light exercise for the first week back. The overall effect, Irenka was startled to find, was minimal. It just meant she ha
Równiny ("Flatland") began life as a small barony that split off from its home country following a peasant rebellion that had the backing of the knightly caste. Even in its earliest days Równiny was unusually martially adept, training every able-bodied man and woman in the basics of combat in order to defend their fledgeling nation from invasion. As time went on, they expanded their territory through conquest or revolution, spurring on secessions from other countries into Równiny territory on the promise of freedom from royal oppression.
The country was a representative democracy with elaborate and cautiously bala
The queen sniffed dismissively. "That doesn't look so tough. Bet if I kicked it down it wouldn't get back up." She poured herself a little more brandy. The smell was just sweet and strong enough to counteract the oily stink of assorted greases and lubricants in the small machine shop.
"They're not supposed to be tough," Devaraja said. "Or, well, they're not supposed to be dangerous. An important distinction! These things are shot up by trainees every month. They have to be durable if you don't want to go through them like training dummies. We can spare more padding than we can bullet-resistant steel."
Lying on the table was a trai
It didn't take long for the downside of being the first machine gunner of the Reunification to rear its head: actually having to carry the Thunderbolt around on marches. It was three times the weight of the Cleaver and the ammo belts came in fat drums that didn't easily fit in any of her uniform's pockets. Then again, Nowakowski carried two boxes of ammo lashed across her back, plus her own gun, plus her own ammo, and everyone on her squad had to carry an extra drum for her. It was a burden they all shared, and that made it a little easier.
Usually made it easier. Depending on who she worked with it just made them snippier at her. That
Devaraja clapped. "There we go, that's a start! Here, let's get a reload going." He fetched a second belt and walked Irenka and Nowakowski through the process. "Open the feed cover, pull the leading links through, like so, until the first round is in firing position here... then close the lid, give her a pat on the back for being such a nice new gun--" He knocked the cover, which gently clicked into place. "There we go!"
Halfway through the second belt the barrel shroud was already getting hot. "Will this come with gloves?" Irenka said, a little louder than she meant.
"Ah, right! Here, like so." He took her left hand and planted i
Sometime around week three boot camp had gone from a strange new phase in her life into something like normal. A good third of the recruits had washed out by now, and cruel as it sounded there was a real improvement in how well everything was fitting together. The ones who couldn't hack it--that was always how Stolarz put it, "hack it"--had taken their woes with them. By midweek she was certain she'd passed the worst of it.
Midweek was also when training in the most common weapons of the army began, starting with the IR1 Cleaver rifle. It was a bolt-action rifle, five shot, firing 7.92x57mm rounds--"eight em" or "seven nine two" going b
To her considerable surprise, Irenka had absolutely no problems with basic training.
Oh, it wasn't pleasant. By the end of the first day she had hit her tiny bunk feeling like she'd been squeezed through a laundry press. Amid the nervous, angry, and exhilarated chatter of her fellow recruits in the girls' dormitory, she tried to eke out a quick sketch only to find her head wouldn't rub two thoughts together without crying at her to stop making it work so hard. So she tucked her journal and pencil into her little bag of personal effects and tried to sleep.
After turning around for an hour or two, she finally lost consciousness. She ha
Irenka's head felt cold. This was what she focused on as the wait outside went from reasonable to intolerable. Sgt. Stolarz's first act was to arrange every new trainee into two lines on an exercise court outside one of the barracks, one line for men, one for women, facing each other. Stolarz then excused herself and disappeared for however long it had been since she vanished. Irenka could've checked her watch, a hardy little number she'd picked up a few days before, but she didn't dare guess what the penalty for stepping out of line was.
There were several dozen people here, about two men for every one woman, and they were a diverse l
As it transpired Irena would not find herself starting basic until seven days after her birthday. Not that Agnieska minded; putting the burn on Renka was just for funsies. Besides, seven days was a more harmonious passage of time. No, more than that: an ideal amount of time. All seven Heavenly Crowns would look upon her as she transitioned from "gentle princess" to "immenent hardened warrior for the Reunification," all seven modes of thought and seven paths in life, time to reflect and prepare. And, evidently, to paint her little heart out.
In her room, Irenka nudged the painting into place--a few gentle taps from its left, another fr
It was close to midnight when three delicate knocks interrupted Agnieska's reverie. She reached for the little hammer on her left-hand nightstand and pinged the entry bell, just loud enough to unlock the door. A moment later the door opened and one of her aides (the guy with the face thing--what was that? a birthmark?) stepped through, holding a thin envelope close to his heart. "Your Majesty," he said, mindful of the child, "something of note."
"I'd hope," she said, popping on her reading glasses. She folded her hands over her lap, leaned back, and said, "Don't suppose you could read it to me~?"
"I... may, Your Majesty." He sliced
Two bells chimed in Unity Square. Thirty minutes 'til Bronze and Steel classes went on break. Perfect timing.
Princess Irenka had scouted Unity Square for weeks, sketching, people-watching, framing scenes, occasionally borrowing a warden to get an unusual perspective. After much deliberation, comparing sketches, resources, and what she wanted to capture in her art, this particular corner of the square, from the garden at it center, was ideal. Dressed in the right greens, at the busiest time of day, nobody would give her a second look. Unless they saw her bodyguards, but as long as Kuba wasn't on assignment that day, they'd be good and
Chiyo fell from the hole she dug through the ceiling, landing coincidentally enough back in her seat. She scrambled into a sitting position, brushed plaster from her hair, and tried to look casual. "Hi, Yomi!" she said, feigning nonchalance, "What'd I miss the past few days?"
"Well, nothing much, really," Yomi said, looking up from a magazine. "Sakaki took the ice bucket challenge and it gave her superpowers. But it's one of those things where you get your first skill point at level 5, so she's been busy running quests to level up." She gestured at Yukari, who was eyeing her watch while unnecessarily holding a stopwatch in her other h
On Friday morning, just before dawn, Jan and Clio jogged down a quiet street. Clio took the lead, because Jan definitely wasn't going to take the lead, and seemed to have a destination in mind as she focused on the street signs and numbers passing by. Jan gave the universal signifier to pull to the side ("Rosy Cross I think I'm having a heart attack!") and, after spending a few minutes catching her breath, fetched her phone from her jacket pocket.
"Clio," she said, slumping onto a dew-and-probably-hobo-piss-damp bench, "I've got an idea. The last couple nights I've been cramming wrestling history, like, the highlights, the big names. I