The first thing that she ever said to him was, “It’s a shame about your face.”
Zain had received worse, as far as greetings went. She hadn’t sworn, she hadn’t included an exacting right hook, and there was something about her tilted smile that slid it more toward sincerity than insult.
So, Zain smiled back.
“Thanks,” he said. He leaned his side against the bar, set his elbow on top, and kicked one foot lazily behind the other. “It was a bad day for me when they outlawed looking this good.” He had to hold his smile back from stretching into a grin when she laughed in surprise.
“Oh?” she said. She finished wiping out a mug and set it on the lower shelf on the other side of the bar. “So, that shiner was just a good friend of yours helping you stay out of jail?”
The sun was climbing higher. The chill that had hovered in the camp was slowly bleeding away, replaced with a light heat whenever bare skin faced the sky. Tiernan rubbed absently at his cheek, tracing the line of his beard.
It was a familiar feeling, the heat. The fires had been hotter, hit his skin more like a red-edged hammer, but this was close enough. He felt awake again. Partly, it was the sunlight, and partly, it was the memory of necessary motion.
Few of the others were sleeping. Tiernan wasn’t sure whether it was the sunlight or Aled.
They were gathering in knots. They talked for a few minutes, heads bent together, and then didn’t talk. They stood up, moved around, rooted through the few things they’d brought with them. It wasn’t much. But some of them had knives. Some of them had something longer. Most of them just spread out enough to open and close their hands. And then they knotted together again, none of that motion sufficient to calm a heartbeat.
“What did we do?” Danta asked, standing next to him.
Tiernan worked his tongue around the inside of his teeth for a moment, watching the crowd. “We started a fight,” he said. “What did you think we’d done?”
Tarra paid one of Dene’s nephews three sugar sticks to wait on the forward peaks and watch the horizon for sails. He was an eager little thing, with brown hair grown too long below his ears and eyes that could spot a frog three yards away in the weeds. He grinned at the thought of doing a favor for Dene’s soon-bride, grinned wider when he saw the thick sticks, and ran out the door with one already stuck in his mouth.
The hawks had come in days ago, and Galen’s ship could arrive in port any of the next four days. Tarra herself had lived long enough on a ship’s schedule to know that it was more likely to come in on the fifth than it was the first, but she also knew her brother. Galen was always around at the right times, and today was his birthday. Waking, lying in bed and looking at the sunrise turning her ceiling from ash gray to warm brown, she could believe that he would walk through the front door that day. If he did, she intended the whole street to celebrate with him.
Imalie probably should have hidden the money better. As a matter of course, no matter how well concealed, money could always be hidden better. Whoever had invented it, was a genius for making it so easy to carry, and also an idiot. No matter what else was around, Imalie knew that a thief would take coins first. They were easy to pocket, easy to run with, so easy to trade in for something more personally valuable, and nearly impossible to recover once taken.
Imalie knew. She’d taken enough of it.
But she’d lived behind serious locks for a long time, and she supposed somewhere in the back of her mind, she’d believed that anyone who cracked their way inside her four walls would have earned the right to the purse.
She stopped believing it the moment she slipped through her back window and found him standing beside the toppled table.
Imalie blinked at him. She glanced at the front door, still perfectly seated in its frame, but she didn’t really have to. She’d circled the block before she came in, assured herself that everything was in place twice before she allowed herself to trip the window latch and arrive home.
Slowly, she smiled. Rocking back, she looked over one shoulder, then the other. The table was resting on its lip. The shelves were pulled straight down off the wall. Her books, her papers, every small thing in the room was scattered over the floor. “You made a mess,” she said.
Answers served with double the trouble, because it’s Apprentice Never Master’s second birthday, and the party doesn’t stop until I say
Bekah Beth searched: Can you be both a ghost and a zombie? Answer 1:
Depending on the mythology, it’s possible. And simultaneously frightening and amusing.
Assuming that zombies are purely a physical continuance of the human existence, and ghosts are purely the loosened spirit once it’s been untethered from the flesh, your zombie could crawl out of the grave and start drooling over your neighbor’s cranium while your ghost sighed in disappointment.
But are they both you? Did the zombie and the ghost somehow split what made you you, do they share it, does one own your essence exclusively, or did your ghost lose your personality when it lost your physical body and your zombie lost it when it forgot to use your brain?
And isn’t the more important question: how much time would your ghost spend running around after your zombie, trying to keep it from embarrassing you by eating squirrel brains?
If you know me in real life, you’ve likely heard (and stopped in stunned confusion at) my traditional birthday wishes:
Happy, happy birthday,
from all of us to you!
We hope you have a great day
AND MONKEYS DON’T ATTACK YOU.
I picked it up in high school, from a friend who has since been intelligent enough to realize that it is a ridiculous thing to say – or shout – to someone on their birthday. I, however, have never stopped being amused, and have never found an adequate reason to deny myself the pleasure of a simple silliness.
I imagine that’s an obvious thing after two years and six-hundred and eighty-seven blog posts here on Apprentice Never Master. And, as of today, it has officially been two years.
And since it’s my birthday, and I can party as I like, I’ve decided this would be a good time to wish for a monkey attack.
Monkey #1: The Great Gibbon of Gratitude
I started this blog for myself, as a place for me to practice and play. I may have wildly dreamed of, but never expected the amount of support I have received over the last two years. I have received so many kind comments, talked with so many amazing writers, and been encouraged by so many friends, new and old.
Thank you. Each and every one of you has felt like a fairy godmother (or gremlin godfather), granting me wishes on the night of the ball. And nothing has turned back to pumpkins yet, so you must be awesome.
As a further thank you, I’m extending my usual offer: Leave a link in the comments to any of your own blog posts, and I will drop by, read, and leave a comment of my own. Please don’t feel any hesitance in doing this. I don’t have nearly as much time as I would like to read, and this gives me an easy way to find great stuff and have fun for an afternoon. I love reading your posts, and just wish I spent more time on your blogs.
Monkey #2: The Prime Patas Monkey of Pride
While I’ve written some blog posts by the seat of my pants, at eleven o’clock, racing for a midnight deadline, I’ve also posted some pieces I’m really proud of. Here are just a few of them:
Land-Bound – On the ocean, a storm rolled the world under its palm like so much clay, shaping it into something flashing bright and alive…
Deathless – Lediah’s Name Day passed in all the usual ways…
The Next Breath – The house slouched between its neighbors, too old to lean out on its walls or keep its eaves straight…
Skirling Ladies – It was a rude game, fast and thick and full of names for plays that no good man would say in a church…
All His Lies – Deidei answered the door as soon as she heard the knock – his knock, the five sing-song raps he’d learned and borrowed from his father – and smiled before she’d pulled the door open…
Miles Away – She tended to just tune them out when they started speaking in different languages…
Gray Lines – Vardan shut his eyes when he heard the key in the lock…
Abandoned – This was not an alley. Alleys were designed to be walked, to draw shortcuts between streets…
Killing Time – The hourglass sat on the other end of the table, dropping sand with the kind of arrogant indifference that only inanimate objects can achieve…
If you remember really liking one of these, or one I haven’t mentioned, I would love for you to send it on to someone else who you think would enjoy it. Spread the love, the smiles, and the very strange stuff that happens on this blog. (It is my birthday.)
Monkey #3: The Terrific Toddling Tamarin
Two-year-olds are toddlers. Adorable toddlers, who have just discovered the word mischief, and make life interesting on a daily basis, but man, do they have a lot of growing to do.
I know. I was two once.
It was years before that shirt fit right. Don’t get me started on the shoes…
This blog will hopefully continue for a long time, and will grow as it does. Feel free to click some buttons in the following poll, to help me see how you’re reading right now, so I can decide would be best for the future:
Monkey #4: The Repetitious Roloway Monkey
Thank you, again, for your time, your attention, and that killer smile. This blog is one of the main reasons I stay up too late, and wake up smiling.
Monkey #5: The DeBrazzas Monkey
Because it’s not really a party until you have five monkeys and one of them looks like a creature from a 1980s fantasy film.
“Why?” He rounded the corner with a quick hop step so that he was ahead of her again, walking backward to talk to her again.
Osanne held in a smile. Ciro was never graceful, a little too abrupt in all his movements, but his backward steps jerked and his heels skidded against the carpet on almost every stride.
She had to slow a little, to keep from treading on his toes. Hesitating into her next step, she simply shortened her stride and folded her hands in front of her. Her skirts whispered a little softer on the carpet. The sunlight draping through the windows played a little longer in her hair. She didn’t much mind that he had cut her pace, but she kept walking, moving him steadily down the long, straight hall.
“Why would you give them the ships they asked for?” Ciro asked. As usual, he held her gaze earnestly, eager to know, eager to understand. He was the only historian she knew who didn’t reserve the look for inked and yellowed pages. More often than not, he gave it to people, and ignored the books entirely.
He was not Osanne’s favorite historian.
But he was foreign, and that excuse had held well enough to explain his too-tight breeches, and too-long coat.
Lord Brance slipped into the room quietly. Nodding to the servant waiting at the wall, he let the door settle shut behind him, and took a few steady steps across the flagstones. On a good day, he would have entered at a stride that would make a lion jealous, the door swinging on its hinges, and moved immediately to the center of the room. So, Winton concluded, today was not a good day.
Glancing over his shoulder, Winton began slowly closing his ledgers, some of the day’s reports still between the pages.
“Can I help you, my lord?” he asked calmly.
Brance continued his measured pacing around the other side of the pillars that ran down the long line of the room. “The rumor is that you needed my help,” he said pleasantly.
Winton finished closing the last book, stood, and turned to face him. Leaning back against the desk, he crossed his arms. Then he uncrossed them, set his hands beside him on the edge of the desk.
Mel wasn’t sleeping. She sat with her back to the cart’s wheel, hands dropped in her lap, one leg stretched out and the other bent beneath her. Her brown hair was a tangle, roughly braided, quick, in three strands, like she just wanted it out of her way. Usually, she would have been smiling, not just with her mouth, but with her eyes and the quick way she turned her head as she looked around. But she was slow this morning, tired maybe, but she wasn’t shutting her eyes, wasn’t laying down, wasn’t yawning.
Anie watched her, with her arm bent under her head as a pillow. Thea was asleep behind Anie, breathing deep and low. Darien, Chas slept too, on the other side of the cart. Every once in a while, Anie heard one of them shift, roll over in uneasy sleep, but she could still see them under the cart, flat on the ground.
Momma and Wesson were missing. Anie couldn’t remember when she’d last seen them. Momma told her to go, and she had. Wesson was loading the cart. The cart, they’d found near the trees, wedged as far under the twisting branches as it would easily go before the roots caught the wheels too much. It was full, with their things, and with other people’s things, with whatever they had space for as they tried things out of the camp before they caught fire.
But Momma and Wesson weren’t there. They must have run.
Anie blinked slowly, trying not to move as she looked up at Mel. Her older sister was mostly still too, but she turned from one side to the other, slowly scanning the edges of the camp. Looking for them to come back, Anie knew.
“Are you watching me?” Mel murmured after a few minutes.