[Writing] Bleeding Edge (DMFA SI/AU) (PG-16) (Update 11/06/2024)

Started by Chairtastic, June 07, 2024, 06:36:07 PM

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Chairtastic

Bleeding Edge

by Chairtastic

Summary: Surviving in a deathworld is not easy. Trying to uncover secrets kept by a deathworld is not easy. Leaving a deathworld better than when you found it isn't easy. To do so, you have to be on the forefront of progress, beyond even the cutting edge.

Author's Note: This is an unlicensed derivative work of Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures (DMFA). As such this work and all its contents, concepts, characters, etc. are the legal property of DMFA's copyright holder, Amber Williams. At her leisure, she can ask this work to be discontinued, removed, etc. I post this legal disclaimer to very kindly ask that I not be sued, and to give Amber the legal right to lift or adjust the ideas posted here to her still ongoing work.

Glory to the house of tacos.

Reader Advisory: This story will contain death of characters both minor and major, frequent violence, the implication of violence, and other unfunny topics. This story is rated as unsuitable for audiences below the age of sixteen (16). Also it's hella gay, hella furry. Furrae is a straight-up deathworld with bright colors and comedy tropes. It's been described as poison dart frog to Westeros' rabid wolf.

You have been warned.

----
Index:
Chapter One:  You are here.
Gemenes Journal 1: Link.
Chapter Two: Link.
Gemenes Journal 2: Link.
----

Chapter One: Bonds of Blood

---

Lostkeep Island, 8556 years before DMFA

Nihi'lir Tuler Owona

On an island covered in dense rain forest, there were holes in the ground. Over two thousand holes in the ground, called cenotes. A little under four cenotes per square kilometer, completely excessive. They were filled with water, and some connected to each other through short underground rivers.

In the walls of these cenotes in the grounds, people had dug homes. They had windows, porches, walkways that connected subterranean homes. A little neighborhood, erroneously referred to as a 'homestead' by locals. They hadn't much liked it when their word use was corrected, either.

Nihi'lir knew what words actually meant, having come from a city where they had wonderful things like hieroglyphs and roads. He found out that complainers and educated folk got the worst jobs around the homestead.

"Man! You're teaching the young'ins how to swim with Giller today," he heard his wife shout from outside the house. "And no bellyachin' neither!" Her voice was haggard with age, like she had to put her whole chest into her words just to be audible.

He hadn't had the heart to teach his wife about double-negatives yet.

Nihi'lir, who had been previously cutting up breadfruit for lunch, stifled an exasperated grunt as he put the knife in the basin and pushed the breadfruit and the cutting board it rested on to the back of the counter-top. "Alright fine, but get me a coconut to use for cooking!"

"Get it ya'self, cookin's man's work!"

He rolled his eyes as he got his cooking stool put away.

His wife's family had odd little notions on the division of labor in a household. Euberta, his wife, would handle any of the craft work the house needed – repairs, tool-making, and resource allocation. Euberta jealously guarded those tasks, deemed 'women's work' in her culture.

To the point where she actively refused to teach Nihi'lir or their son how to do things like repair a hinge or carve utensils out of wood. Despite the fact that when whaling season rolled around she would be gone for five months.

But she seemed intent to have a backlog of repairs to gripe about when she came back from whaling. Perhaps it was the local religion, all the whaling women seemed to have that attitude, from what he'd heard talking with other husbands.

Or perhaps it was a raccoon thing.

Men were to be left at home to do domestic work, and to guard the home while the women went whaling. Repayment for the burden of pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing.

Nihi'lir fetched his son's sponge-noodle for floating and went to the boy's room to fetch him too. Their home was carved from the limestone around the cenote, with candles as their main source of light. Nihi'lir didn't need them, but his wife did. Raccoons were not blessed with low-light vision as mice were.

Even less so mice who had glowing eyes.

"Gemenes, it's time to learn how to swim!" He knocked on his son's door and shouted. "Put your toys away and get out here!"

Seconds, literal seconds, later the wooden door swung open and Nihi'lir had to look up at his son's excited face and feign excitement of his own.

Gemenes, like his mother and her family, was a raccoon. He didn't have unnatural colors in his fur as Nihi'lir did, but they had the same red eyes with that shone in the dark. They had the same leathery wings, and the same dense curly hair. All three the color of dried blood.

Nihi'lir was more obviously a creature – an innately magical being with unnatural coloration (in his case, shades of red), and wings. His wife's family were closer to the non-magical beings, enough to pretend to be beings if they cared to.

However, Nihi'lir was a mouse. Fully grown, he topped out at a hundred and six centimeters. His boy, six years old, was already taller than him at a hundred and twenty-four centimeters.

It made getting the boy to do things he didn't wanna hard unless Nihi'lir used magic. A temporary solution to an ongoing problem.

Nihi'lir held out an arm to stop the boy running off down the hall. "I know it's hot, but you have to wear pants. Lava-lava and shirts are optional, but pants aren't."

Gemenes' excitement melted like the spring thaw in that moment and he stomped off to get dressed.

"Meet me outside when you're ready!" Nihi'lir called as he started off toward the front door.

Their hole-in-a-wall house had a semi-enclosed porch attached to their neighbor's. Carved out of limestone, supported by breadfruit timbers, with a winding path outside that went from the surface to the water's edge. For the first time in three literal weeks, there was no rainfall – likely the reason for the swimming lesson.

Euberta, his wife, sat in a rocking chair at the divider wall between their porch and the neighbor's, while their neighbor sat on a rocking chair on her side. The two muscular elderly raccoons was totally involved in their conversation – they hardly noticed Nihi'lir leave the house until Euberta didn't see Gemenes with him.

"Man, where that boy at?" His wife asked, confused, and looked at the door.

"Give him a minute, he's getting dressed," Nihi'lir said and shrugged. "It's a hot day."

"He has to get that from your side of the family," she rocked back in her chair. "None of my kin have trouble with the heat." Unlike Nihi'lir who wore only small-clothes and a wraparound skirt, she was dressed like the heat didn't bother her.

Baggy pants, full-on shoes, a monochromatic striped shirt and oiled leather overcoat from the city. Like she was ready to go whaling that day.

Nihi'lir fought so incredibly hard not to roll his eyes, he just stood with his son's sponge noodle over his shoulders as he waited. When the acceptably-dressed winged raccoon came to the door, they set off for the water together.

Giller, his youngest step-son, was still older than Nihi'lir, so he handled the group of ten kids when they didn't want to listen. Nihi'lir mostly focused on the task of keeping them near the shore and far away from the river down to the next homestead.

The girls' swimming lessons focused on distance swimming and how to dive – skills they'd need for whaling when they got older. The boys' lessons were all focused on how to swim as exercise or how to fish underwater.

He was also on Gemenes-duty, as his father.

"Gemenes, stop! We don't try to drown people on purpose!" "Stop hitting your niece with your wing!" "Let go of her hand, Gemenes, let go!" "How did you make them cry?! Why did you make them cry?!"

Gemenes had inherited an unfortunate trait of his mother's – the immediate and vicious clap-back. Not always verbal, but always deserved according to the relatively little raccoon. When his nieces made fun of him for his wings, his eyes, or were just jerks as little kids tended to be – Gemenes responded like a demon.

It was no surprise when the lesson was over, the kids all left in their friend groups while Gemenes was left with his father and elder brother.

Giller gave his little brother a slight smack on the back of the head when they got out of the water. For a full-grown one hundred seventy-two centimeter raccoon, it was surprisingly gentle. "You gotta lay off that temper," he told Gemenes. "Ma don't like it when boys act like girls."

Again came the youngster's clap-back: "She's old, wait five minutes and she'll forget she ever saw it."

Nihi'lir was in the midst of wrapping his lava-lava back on or he'd have corrected the boy himself. But his mousy ears picked up another smack. He arrived on the scene just in time to keep his son from an attempt to bite his brother's hand off.

Not an exaggeration, mind. Raccoon teeth were surprisingly dangerous.

He shoulder-nudged his boy to get Gemenes' attention. "He of the tall-legs," the father said to his son. "Could you be persuaded to help acquire coconuts, on the promise of keeping one for yourself?"

Giller rolled his eyes at the theatrics.

Gemenes assumed a thinking posture, and thought for about half a minute. "These terms seem acceptable." He offered his hand to shake, cemented the deal, and bolted up the road toward the surface, still sopping wet.

"H-hey! Boy if you don't slow down you're gonna sli – There you go, right off the edge!"

--

Euberta Tuler

"Odette," Euberta said as she rocked in her chair on her porch. "I think... next whaling season. I'll go."

Her sister-in-law snorted and covered her eyes with her hand. "Well... I sort of expected it. You only ever missed whaling season on account of your adventurin'." Odette was more delicate-looking than Euberta. Longer hair, less muscle, less mean in the face. Traits that made her a good match for Euberta's baby brother for a wife.

Damn she'd made a good call getting them hitched.

"Nah, see." Euberta waved her hand. "I'll go."

The levity bled out of Odette quick. Her face hardened as she turned to look Euberta in the eye. "You have a new husband still unused to our ways, and a boy not ten years old. Don't be stupid."

Euberta kept rocking, unconcerned with Odette's piercing gaze. She looked out onto the path where her man and her boy went up to fetch coconuts.

Damn she'd lucked out when she nabbed him. Little feller, thin but not scrawny. Fur in shades of red with black marks like one of them mean cats – Sia-something. Nihi'lir called his pattern 'pointed', but Euberta pretended not to remember.

He was cute when he was annoyed.

And her boy... spittin' image of her, with his pa's hair, eyes, and wings. That side of the family said their kids would look like her mostly, but she hoped for more cute lil' mice like her man.

"I shouldn't have had that boy," Euberta sighed the words more than she spoke. "I'm too old. Make that little feller cry cause everything he do is too loud, or too silly, or too hard on my knees."

"Ya know when that kinda thinkin' woulda been good to do?" Odette layered some sweetness on her voice so it became extra nasty when she curled her lip and snarled. "Six years ago. Affore you brought a city-boy down here, affore you had a boy he's gonna look after without you."

Euberta nodded, sad with the situation and wishing she could whoop her own ass just a lil'. "Yeah."

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Odette pull her hand back to swat at Euberta, then force it down as she muttered a countdown from ten.

"What's gonna happen to them when you's gone?" Odette asked her, calm in her tone. "I got grand-babies to mind, I can't go managin' a house you left behind. You told any of your girls they need to come look after their step-pa and brother?"

"Was thinkin' I'd talk to 'em when we go out whalin', present it as a sort of contingency plan."

Odette pinched her face as she glanced at her sister-in-law. "What?"

"It's a fancy word Nihi'lir taught me. Means plannin' for stuff what might happen, but might not." Euberta interlocked her fingers as she rocked back and held herself in position to look at the roof. "...M' thinking Leda or Kur might be okay lookin' after 'em. And if they ain't... they can go live with Nihi'lir's family."

"That man's what... twenty-five, right?" Odette pointed at the distant winged mouse, on the far side of the cenote path, only visible by dint of his extra limbs. "What're the odds you dying on purpose to a skeljúngur makes that man's headwings go 'pop'? Or that little boy's misery from losin' his ma does it?"

Euberta thinned her mouth to a line. She'd married a sub-adult incubus. They had one set of wings for flight and shapeshifting when they were adults – and a second that sprouted from their head to allow mind-reading, emotion-reading, and emotion-eating. The second set popped out fully formed after the cubi (weird term for the race in general), got smacked with a strong emotion stick.

"His clan ain't misery or grief," she defended herself. "They said they were rage. So as long as he doesn't get mad beyond all reason -- "

"Like findin' out his wife killed herself, on purpose, to leave him to raise a son alone, on purpose, cause living with them is annoying and difficult?" Odette slathered her voice in sweetness, with no snarl followup.

The truth, sweetened so sickeningly, hurt worse than a bear trap.

Too defeated to lie, Euberta sighed. "Yeah. That. As long as he doesn't find that out, it'd be fine for a bit."

"...Assumin' that happens? Already a high bar because I ain't no liar, and neither are any of your girls." Odette raised her eyebrows high. "When our folk and cubi folk make youngin's they get both sets of powers. Who gonn' teach your boy how to manage your side of that hot mess?"

Euberta, in the midst of realizing she'd made a bad mess for herself and her family, feebly smiled and turned to look at her sister-in-law slash best friend.

"If you are thinking what I think you's thinking?" Odette leaned over the divider between their porches with her eyes narrowed. "I will come 'round there and beat you with my rocking chair."

Later on, when her man and her boy had come back from coconut hunting to finish cooking lunch, Nihi'lir pulled her close when Euberta came to get a bowl of breadfruit and coconut milk sauce.

"Do I want to know why you were being beaten with a rocking chair earlier?" He asked with eyebrows raised.

Lips swollen, one eye blackened, and covered in healing salve from splinters, Euberta shook her head in the negative. "Just women things, don' worry 'bout it."

"Tell mom she looks prettier like that!" Their son commented. "She has a reason to look like she lost a fight now!"


--

Lostkeep Island, 8552 Years Before DMFA

Euberta Tuler

For the first time in decades, Euberta was going to miss a whaling season. For two solid reasons. One, she'd busted her shoulder in a spar with Nihi'lir and couldn't very well throw a harpoon into a skeljúngur in that state. Two, the rage her kinfolk had felt before it became obvious it was a spar, and not a real fight had made her husband's headwings pop.

They'd known it would happen soon-ish, Nihi'lir's clan mark had already been present for years, and his twenties were soon to pass. The two of them had taken to spar so that Nihi'lir would be in practice when it happened.

Creature powers, once clear of a threshold, would go out of control for a time. That was how it'd been for all Euberta's family as far back as they could remember – and it was true of other creatures.

Nihi'lir had been summoned by his clan's elders to learn control of his new abilities – the bare basics of which would take months.

Of course, that meant she was on her own for looking after her boy. That hadn't really set in until she felt hungry the day after Nihi'lir left and she went to the kitchen. She looked at cupboards, stone chests, and the pantry door, then realized – she had no idea where the food actually was.

It'd always been – she'd bring in the food to the kitchen, and leave the man to sort it out. She was in her comfortable chair by the time processing started.

Her arm in a sling, she started to open cupboards to look inside. She found cups, plates, bowls, a spider, and a bin she'd seen Nihi'lir use for washing.

It wasn't until after she was done that she realized the spider had been the size of her head – and thus why that cupboard had a latch on it. She re-latched it swiftly.

How did she used to get food when she was an adventurer? Almost fifty years ago that was, the memories were foggy. She remembered being on the big island – hunting snakes in the trees.

It helped that she was part of a team back then.

"Hungry? I can make some --"

Gemenes, who had come up behind her without her knowing, spoke up suddenly enough to cause Euberta to jump.

Unfortunately, Euberta had age-old adventuring instincts on top of her eldest sister instincts. When surprised, her first response was violence.

That's how she accidentally punched her ten year old son in the face as hard as she could.

She was a seventy-three year old woman – her punches weren't enough to break bones anymore. But the end result was she had a sore wrist, a crying kid on the floor with a busted nose, and no idea how to correct the situation without a loss of face.

"D... don't you go sneaking up on me, boy!" She shouted at him as he used his wings to cover his head. "Get out of here! To your room, get! No supper, boy!" Anger was a convenient mask for confusion and shame. She hollered at Gemenes until he scampered off, still crying, to his room.

She stood in the kitchen in silence until the mask of rage began to crumble.

"Why did you do that?" She asked herself as she dragged her feet to the kitchen table. Euberta slumped into a chair and held her head in her one good hand. "Why did yo do that? He didn't do anything wrong...."

Nihi'lir would shout himself hoarse if he'd seen that. Any of Euberta's kids would know – that weren't how they was raised. Euberta never punched them like that. If Euberta's mama had seen her treat one of her kids like that, Euberta would get exactly what she gave Gemenes.

"Why did you...? Dammit, you stupid old woman, why did you do that?" Because she'd been startled, afraid. Because she realized how old she really had become – that she had started to forget how to take care of herself. Because she'd been reminiscing about her adventuring days, when reflexes like that were necessary.

Her tail hung listless as she bemoaned her own idiocy.

"How do I fix this... already said no supper – gotta work around it. Snacks, maybe? Teach the boy how to dodge a punch and call that punishment?"

Nihi'lir would have suggested she apologize, admit she was wrong, but those thoughts barely lasted a moment in Euberta's mind. Of course she should apologize, because she was wrong. But she'd never tell Gemenes that.

She'd go to her grave first. Apologizing was a man's business.

Euberta decided, she couldn't admit a mistake to her son. But it wouldn't be as unacceptable to ask help from her brother.

She went next door, explained to Odette and Rothbart that she'd made a mistake and needed help with the house, and came to an arrangement.

It involved owing her little brother a favor. One request, granted at a later date, no questions asked.

Rothbart, grinning ear to ear, looked over her kitchen and explained Nihi'lir's madness to her in a way she could understand. The terms of her request didn't extend to decoding his cookbook, however.

Her little brother prepared a simple meal for her and Gemenes, and departed to attend his own house's needs.

Neither Odette or Rothbart knew how to make up for the mistake Euberta had made with Gemenes, though.

She stared at the two plates of food laid out on the table, a perfectly prepared supper, and realized she'd have to at least cave on that. The boy needed to eat. Glum that she had to back down, Euberta made her way to the boy's bedroom door.

Knock, knock. "Boy, your uncle begged me to let you eat – get your ass out here and eat."

There was no verbal response. Just an indistinct sound of motion – shifting fabric? Had the boy curled up on his bed?

Again, knock. "Boy, don't make me come in there. You get out here and be grateful you got an uncle so good at talkin'."

No response again. But the noise was closer to the door. Obviously, the boy was a bit too much like her – proud and pouty.

She took a deep breath and twisted the knob. Her intent was to open the door and intimidate the boy into obedience.

What she got the second she opened the door was a cloth-wrapped wheeled wooden duck swung right at her face. Wham!

The cloth that wrapped the ducky had softened the blow to where it surprised her more than actually hurt. Euberta stumbled back into the wall, dazed, and fell to the floor once she had her back supported.

Her vision was in doubles for a minute, as she processed what had just happened. In her stunned state, she barely noticed Gemenes leave his room and go down the hall.

Euberta gradually recovered, stunned out of any emotional reaction. When she stumbled her way to the kitchen, she saw her boy pouring a drink for her, with a full cup already present at his plate.

Gemenes thrust his jaw forward as he tilted his head back at her. "I give as good as I get. Remember that." Defiant, lightly threatening. Unashamed.

Euberta felt moisture around her nose, and saw blood on her fingers when she checked it. Her boy had drawn her blood with a wooden ducky wrapped in a blanket.

She met her boy's eyes and smiled. "Alright," she said and left her nose bleeding. Suddenly, she didn't feel so old anymore. For just a minute, it was like she was in her twenties -- dealing with a rookie adventurer. "Sounds good to me."

An arrangement in place, the next few months passed amicably.

--

Lostkeep Island, 8549 Years Before DMFA

Nihi'lir Tuler Owona

Shapeshifting, as it turned out, was great. Finally, he could change the ratio of black and red in his fur so that the vivid green marking of his clan didn't clash so much. It also meant he could withdraw his backwings into his body to make himself taller – on eye-level with his boy.

Important, given he had to teach Gemenes how to fight.

"You're sure that healing spell will let ma get through the whaling season?" The winged raccoon asked his shapeshifted father as they walked through the jungle between cenotes.

Waves of unease and doubt rolled off him, which Nihi'lir had the ability to detect now. The headwings on an incubus or succubus allowed them to detect thoughts and emotions – even when hidden via shapeshifting.

Useful for parenting, or the unpleasant tasks he'd have to do professionally.

"I study with our clan's allies when I go away," Nihi'lir responded over his shoulder. "I'm not a healer to their standard – but I can make her feel young again for a while." Nihi'lir didn't have the heart to tell his boy yet that, most likely, Euberta would die early on in the season. Maybe after the first skeljúngur.

She wanted to die surrounded by her family, and one last whaling season would do that. Euberta had asked him to study magic that could make it possible when last he departed to his clan's instructors.

They hadn't been displeased to hear he wanted instruction from their allies in Jin's clan. But for a clan of ambushers, assassins, and warriors the desire to heal was an oddity. Unexpected, not unwelcome.

As they stopped in between two rows of breadfruit trees – they seemed to naturally grow in rows, freaky – Nihi'lir stopped to turn and smile at his boy. A wide, coy smile, that belied his violent intent.

Gemenes narrowed his eyes and shrugged off the basket he carried on his back. Breadfruit collection was off the table for the moment.

"Begin with the stretches – remember to hide their movement so your target doesn't realize what's going to happen." Nihi'lir applied the lessons of his assassination instructors, still fresh in his mind from his last visit.

Nihi'lir's parents were skirmishers, not assassins, so they'd taught more open combat stretches and stances. He would have passed those along to Gemenes, if the order hadn't come down that they would serve the clan differently.

Clan politics, ugh. He'd spare Gemenes from learning that until necessary.

Stretching done, Nihi'lir wanted the early spar to cover their previous lesson. To see how much the thirteen year old had remembered, yeah? He moved closer in the appearance of stretching his legs, then went oddly low to the ground to sweep kick.

Gemenes, still in his stretches, hopped over Nihi'lir's leg without much fuss. He didn't retaliate, though, and continued his stretches. Annoyance with a faint mix of pain were the emotions Gemenes gave off.

Nihi'lir narrowed his eyes up at his son. "Why are you still stretching?" Was he being led on for a surprise attack? Did Gemenes even know how to do surprise attacks?

"Got some pain, trying to work it out," Gemenes put his hands on his hips and bent his torso every which way to stretch it. "Feels weird." Small sharp spikes of pain filled his emotional profile.

Paternal instinct mixed with his healing knowledge immediately. Nihi'lir perked his ears up and gathered mana in his hands. "Hold still, I'll fix you up."

"Feels kinda like...." Gemenes bent at the waist and swung his leg on the way back up. The raccoon's shin connected with the side of Nihi'lir's head. "...Being kicked in the head." All at once, the pain he gave off stopped, replaced with amusement and a sense of accomplishment.

Nihi'lir, dazed from the kick, blinked at his son until he noticed small bloody holes in his palms. The winged raccoon had used his own claws to trick Nihi'lir with pain detection. Clever little jerk.

Gemenes wore the same wide, coy smile Nihi'lir had used minutes prior. Perhaps it was genetic.

When Nihi'lir recovered, and picked himself off the jungle floor, he realized the absolute hell the clan's instructors would need to give Gemenes to make the boy feign respect. His boy thought he was hilarious, which ill-suited assassins in clan's worldview.

Perhaps not Owona's, though. She and Nihi'lir hadn't talked at length. She was busy, he was unimportant.

"Hmm, nah felt like a gentle nudge to me," Nihi'lir wiped some blood from his nose and cracked his knuckles with a wide smile. "Let me show you how being kicked in the head really feels." And so battle was joined.

Nihi'lir's training in healing magic meant the two of them could go just a bit more vicious in a spar than would otherwise be appropriate. Assuming his son didn't play a jokester and render himself immune to magic – always a risk – purely to make Nihi'lir look bad, all injuries could be treated quickly.

Once they finished their spar, they actually got to work collecting breadfruit. Breadfruit trees were tall, so lots of climbing was involved to get enough fruits to feed the homestead. Nihi'lir, with more magical training, could store more fruit than his son's basket could carry.

After the harvest, they went to each family in the homestead to deliver some breadfruit then returned home.

"How come everyone else got so many and we didn't?" Gemenes asked as they walked the path down to their home.

Nihi'lir let his headwings pop out for a moment. "Because you're the only one in the house who needs to eat them."

The adult and older teenage women had all already left for the whaling season that morning. Including Euberta, so the only folks in the homestead were men and children. There were no pregnant ladies that year, perhaps that was why Euberta decided this season was the season for her.

Perhaps it was that Odette, their neighbor and Euberta's best friend, had passed the year before. Nihi'lir would never know his wife's motivations – she had kept them to herself.

It didn't hit Nihi'lir until after he closed the front door that Euberta wouldn't come home. He'd given her enough healing to die in glory, surrounded by her daughters and sisters. But nothing short of a master healer could give her the vitality to return alive.

All the cheer bled from him as he settled in at home.

His wife had gone to her death, he'd known she would go to her death and so had she. Neither of them had said it out loud, or had proper goodbyes.

She hadn't given a proper goodbye to her son, or any of her older sons.

The last time he'd seen his wife would be the last time he saw his wife. Her last words to him would be the last words they shared.

With the disparity in their age and lifespans, it seemed obvious in hindsight. That she'd held out for thirteen years was a big accomplishment for her. When was the last time anyone in her family lived into their late seventies? It likely wouldn't happen again for hundreds of years.

Nihi'lir was snapped out of his reflection by a sudden shift in light, and a swell of emotional relief. He'd kept his body busy by carving up an ube for cooking, and turned away to look.

Gemenes was in the midst of dousing candles. He'd point, let loose a bit of cold air and frost, then out went the flickering flame. Each time, it felt like an old pain dimmed. The light wasn't the source of his son's pain, from what he gathered. It was the smell of smoke from the candles.

Neither of them needed candles to see – Owona's clan all had eyes that cast light of their own. During whaling season, they usually went without. The candles were for Euberta's benefit, and she was gone.

Never to return.

The realization didn't make Nihi'lir break down in tears. It made him feel heavy, but there was no cascade of grief.

Gemenes needed to be told, he was old enough to have an opinion on his mother's suicide-by-whale choice and Nihi'lir's enablement of it. If that meant the boy would hate him, so be it.

Nihi'lir put the knife down on the cutting board and hopped off his cooking stool. "Gemenes? Can you come over here...? We need to talk."

--

Gaia De'Tialdo

At the behest of higher powers, a winged cat left the peak of civilization to arrive at a backwater. She didn't bother to change her bearing, her dress, or her coloration – nevermind that no one had seen silk like hers, mistook her professionalism for arrogance, or ever saw a sky-blue feline before.

Gaia would, better or worse, be herself. Those that thought less of her for it likely would have thought less of her regardless.

Part of that was that, unfortunately, she had too much hope for people far from the heights of civilization. A backwater was a downgrade from the palaces of Hishaan, she had assumed it would be enough of an upgrade from the wilderness that people would live there.

The town of Crowfalls was the greatest population center on Lostkeep Island, a spot where jungle paths converged from centuries of cultivation. And it had, at most, ten percent of the island's total population. Three thousand seven hundred people, not even in the same magnitude of order as Hishaan.

The people she'd been assigned to find weren't there, and what information she could find pointed her west-north-west. In that direction there was a satellite town, the older settlement of Lostkeep.

Gaia had thought: 'Oh! They live in the namesake town for pride's sake, even if it's less developed' like a sensible person. But no. A gryphon-cart ride later had her find that while her assignment's relatives lived there, they did not.

It was then that she learned they lived in a hole in the ground, out in the jungle. Like animals.

"Next opportunity I get," she muttered to herself as she trudged through the jungle in heels, cleansing herself of mud every ten paces with magic, "I'm going to send the council a strongly worded letter signed with the name 'exploding runes'."

Regrettably, the 'living in a hole' thing was based on sound logic. The island was dotted with cenotes from frequent rainfall eroding limestone, to the point where all the rivers were underground. Lostkeep and Crowfalls had resident creatures and enough population to make them unlikely targets for demon rampages or gryphon depredation.

But being underground, people could live in smaller communities without being visible on flyover.

It was offensive on a spiritual level, but it worked.

Gaia followed the instructions she'd been given and came to a cenote with a hidden path that traveled along its edge. It was gratifying to hear her heels hit stone, not mud, for the first time in hours.

Everything she saw about the settlement as she walked the path was pure pragmatism. The stone had been sculpted with magic to support a roof that artificially shrank the cenote's surface hole and covered the path. Channels to the side of the path were obviously designed to collect rainwater, then funnel it down to the pool of water to keep the path dry.

The homes were all simple affairs, made of breadfruit wood and stone worked by magic. Next to no ornamentation. No art visible outside the homes. A place the residents wouldn't grow attached to – that they could flee without regrets.

Disgusting. It assumed failure, by design. Shameful.

She sensed fear and confusion long before she saw the residents. They likely heard the clack of her heeled shoes, and saw her shadow pass in front of their windows, and thought she was a demon come to rampage.

They'd only change their mind when they saw her feathered wings, and believe her to be an angel.

Their assumptions were not Gaia's obligation, though.

She stopped at a home that carried some graffiti carved on the exterior wall. An arrow inside the incomplete shapes of a rectangle and circle overlaid – Owona's clan symbol. Gaia stepped to the door and knocked three times, hard and heavy so there would be no failure to hear her.

As the door opened, Gaia's eyes narrowed. There was a young man, a raccoon of natural color with the telltale trait of Owona's clan – black sclera, glowing eyes. Red, in his case. Unfortunate, it would clash terribly with his clan's mark wherever it was.

Blinding bright green and anything on the red side of the spectrum just did not go well together. At least he was mostly grey.

Bare chested and barefooted, clothed only in an odd skirt held on by friction. The pattern was colorful, at least, a design of tiger lilies. The young man kept his bat-like wings flared so something smaller behind him couldn't get through. She was told her assignment had a child, perhaps that was it.

Yet, he hid his headwings. Curious. Gaia let hers slide from shapeshifting and pulled aside a shoulder strap of her dress so her clan mark was visible.

Against the blue of her fur, a white circle that linked to a downward facing trident stood out in a complimentary fashion.

The raccoon blinked and recoiled. "Cyra?" He asked, like he recognized her.

Gaia arched her eyebrow. How many blue feline succubi had been out this way for that to be the case. "No. I'm Gaia De'Tialdo. I've been sent by your clan leader the De'Tialdo clan council to carry out a contract."

The small figure behind the raccoon finally got under his wings enough to be visible. They were much redder than the raccoon, half his height, a mouse, and... had headwings. "Ah, I'm Nihi'lir – this is my son Gemenes."

Gaia looked at them, the mouse less than half her height, and the raccoon at most a couple centimeters shorter. Her knowledge of being culture said they did not lightly cross species divides – and she knew this to be a raccoon settlement.

The reason for their remoteness made sense, in hindsight. A more populous settlement might have lynched them.

"Come inside," the mouse said. "Before the neighbors convince themselves you're a threat and pounce."

Gaia glanced to the side and saw several raccoon men, all more akin to beings than Gemenes. They were afraid, no more or less than when she'd arrived. But they all had mana collected in their hands, ready to fly.

"I think I shall, as soon as your boy moves?"

--

Nihi'lir Tuler Owona

The news had come, Euberta had died to a skeljúngur after they'd beached it. The whalers would drive the armored whales onto shore, where their speed and protection meant nothing, then kill and butcher them where they lay.

Euberta died stabbing the whale's tongue, so that it would bleed to death rapidly. Per tradition, she was given a sea burial to repay the ocean for its bounty.

As a widower with a child, he would be allowed to keep his home until Gemenes was fully grown – then he'd have to leave whenever a newlywed woman of the family decided she wanted to live there rather than build her own home.

Amazon tribes, ugh.

For a while, Nihi'lir had forgotten to absorb the emotions of his neighbors so he didn't need to sleep, which resulted in him passing out in the living room. It had been nice to dream of how things could have been different.

But he was woken up by a knock at the door that Gemenes got to before him. They had a guest of the Hishaan De'Tialdos. Very wealthy, prestigious, and not ones from the frontier.

She looked like she'd just come from a boutique in Hishaan proper -- dressed in green silks that complimented both her blue fur and white-blue feathered wings with a satchel bag as her only accessory.

Gemenes had mistook her for someone, 'Cyra', he'd called her. Odd since Gemenes hadn't left the rain forest a day in his life.

Still – Nihi'lir let her in and showed her to the kitchen. It was appropriate to offer tea to travelers.

From her satchel bag, Gaia produced a letter sealed with their clan's symbols in colored wax.

"Gemenes, could you make the tea for us?" Nihi'lir asked as he sat down to read the letter. Unlike the tall-legs he had to sit on his knees to rise above the table.

"Must fight the urge to make 'one lump or two' jokes," the teenager muttered as he took the kettle to collect water. His emotions read as uneasy, confused, doubting.

Nihi'lir left that alone, and opened the letter. His headwings and ears flared up as he read on, then folded close to his head as he looked over the parchment to meet his guest's eyes. "You can't be serious."

"I would not be sitting in a hole in the ground if it wasn't serious." Gaia rolled her eyes. Vivid green, like her dress, like the leaves of a palm tree – the opposite of Nihi'lir's. "Your wife is elderly, she will pass soon. Your son is a decade from being an adult." Her eyes narrowed. "And it would appear that this culture is not as supportive as your clan had hoped."

"So you want me to send him off to an adventuring school that's not even built yet?"

"As the architect building said school, I'll have it completed in a week or less." Gaia's headwings and ears betrayed none of the annoyance that radiated off her. "Most of the prep-work is already done. The land is bought, the official notifications are being sent out, and we have Taun's and our clans promoting it to the mainland guilds."

"Sending a thirteen year old off to adventurer school in a city he's never been to, surrounded by strangers is not going to end we -- "

"Oh, you're sending me to school?" Gemenes returned to the kitchen with a full kettle and set it on the fire pit. A bit of magic, and the coals flared up. "Score, finally get to leave this place and you can finish up your schoolin' too."

Gaia glanced at the boy then smirked at Nihi'lir's stunned expression. "Not going to end well, I believe you meant to say?" Cats and smug expressions went together too well. Much too well.

"Pa, no one in the family likes me," Gemenes explained while he shaved tea off the brick and put it aside for when the water boiled. "I spend most of my time trying to figure out magic on my own, or helping you with chores. Ain't got friends or anyone I'd miss here – other than you."

That was something that would've devastated Euberta to hear – that her entire side of the family were akin to strangers for their boy.

"I mean... I knew the girls didn't like you being so aggressive, but...." Nihi'lir set the letter down and folded his hands in front of him.

"But the moms of all the boys didn't want them hanging out with someone who makes it less likely they'll get a good wife." Gemenes cracked his knuckles. "Which I definitely do, since I kept trying to teach them how to throat-punch people."

"...You know, that actually works as a flirting maneuver against demons." Gaia couldn't help adding to the conversation. "Also, is it normal to keep your home this dark? I'm having trouble seeing just a bit."

Nihi'lir sighed and got up to get the candles from the closet. "Sorry, sorry, Owona clan things...."

"While he's doing that, since he and Ma were never willing to talk about their adventuring days – how socially acceptable is it to defeat rampaging demons by subjugating them and adding them to an ever-growing harem?" Gemenes asked the question as soon as Nihi'lir left the room.

"It... depends on what stage of their rampage you do it, I guess?" Gaia seemed bewildered by the question from her tone of voice and confused aura. "You'd want to do it when they're in the property damage phase, not the substantial body-count phase – why?"

"I have it on good authority that the majority of demons that adventurers encounter are actually half-breeds and thus more likely to be colorful twinks."

Nihi'lir froze in the middle of candle-grabbing to whirl around and glare into the kitchen. Gaia had her eyebrows raised and her headwings half-folded from the word choice.

Gemenes saw them and raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Oh wait, Twink Territories might be around – does that make calling people twinks culturally insensitive?"

"Yes, extremely," responded both adults in wildly different tones of voice. Surprised yet professional for Gaia, outraged for Nihi'lir.

"Aw man, that means I gotta call 'em bishounen or femboys. I gotta shelve all my 'I want that twink obliterated' jokes too." Gemenes glumly added tea to the kettle and set it aside to steep. "That sucks."

Gaia slowly turned to look at Nihi'lir with extreme concern. "You've... taught your thirteen year old son what bishounen, femboys, and harems are?"

"No! No, I didn't! And right now I'm wondering if my wife committed suicide-by-whale partly to escape having that question asked of her!" Nihi'lir grit his teeth and brandished the candle in his hand toward the ground. "When I get down there, old woman, you and I will have words!"

"...I feel I should be concerned that you're convinced both you and your wife are bound for the pits of torment. But considering what our clans do for a living, I'm struggling to see any alternative. Really, I'm just curious what she did to deserve it."

"Well, she unleashed me on all of you," Gemenes commented as he got the tea cups from the cupboards and dragged out the palm sugar dish. "That's pretty heinous in my book. But, while Pa's lighting the place up... one lump or two?"

---

Glossary!

Furrae: A rocky planet with three moons, whose globe is still unmapped at the time of the story. Lots of maps whose edges have 'here there be dragons' unironically. Furrae is a colorful deathworld where multiple powerful species compete for each other, and might makes right is the foundation of all governments. Magic abounds, both wild and tamed, and civilization takes forever to reach certain milestones.
Being: A category of non-magical anthropomorphic animal people. Remarkable for their natural coloration matching non-anthropomorphic versions of their animal, high reproduction rate, and inventive nature. Their birth rate can be as high as one per year, where creatures usually average one per century.
Creature: A category of magical anthropomorphic animal people. They tend to have colorations that are not naturally occurring, and unique abilities according to their race. Tend to call the shots on Furrae, and live very long lives.
Cubi: A race of creatures known for their natural ability to pick up thoughts, emotions, and shapeshift. Cubi children are born with their backwings formed, but manifest a second set of miniature wings from their heads above the parietal lobes. Males are incubi, females are succubi. All cubi have a clan, identified by a mark on their bodies that they cannot shapeshift away no matter their form. Can have bat, feathered, dactyl, and dual wings.
Demon: A race of creatures known for their violent tendencies, natural strength, and carnivorous diet. Typically dark-colored, with horns regardless of species, and bat-like wings.
Angel: A race of creatures known for their excellent use of propaganda. Genetically similar to demons, they're only different culturally in their perceived benevolence by other species and solitary lifestyle. Typically, they are brightly colored with feathered wings.
Lostkeep Island: Third largest island in the Comia Atoll. Present population is estimated to be thirty thousand. Part of the United Republic of Mostalsia.
Skeljúngur: A species of toothed whale that grows between twenty to forty-five meters long. Covered in protective armor, and capable of extreme speeds in open ocean. Hunted by whalers on Lostkeep Island and from the Swiftkeep Union for meat, oil, shell armor, and bone.
Owona Clan: A cubi clan noted for being nondescript, stealthy, and for unarmed combat. Frequently seen as skirmishers, assassins, spies, and adventurers. Known for their black sclera and glowing irises.
De'Tialdo: A cubi clan known for their support of the dragon-city of Hishaan, largest city in the Comia Atoll. Typically all members are feline with bright blue fur and hair.
Comia Atoll: A massive archipelago comprised of three islands arranged in a ring around a shallow sea, with a fourth island within the ring. The south island comprises most of the landmass in the atoll, with the north island and Lostkeep island making up roughly a quarter put together.

--

Cast!

Euberta Tuler: Race, REDACTED. Age at time of death, 76. Species, raccoon. Occupation, retired adventurer, whaler, matriarch. A fist-mage, before the term 'gish' came to describe the fighting style – mixing melee fighting with spell-casting. Favored element: Blood.
Nihi'lir Tuler Owona: Race, murine incubus. Age, 32. Species, mouse. Occupation, retired adventurer, house husband, assassin trainee. Primarily a martial artist, gradually working magic into his combat style to become a gish. Favored element: Darkness.
Gaia De'Tialdo: Race, feline succubus. Age, 981. Species, domestic cat. Occupation, mystic architect, troubleshooter. No combat data available.
Gemenes Tuler Owona: Race, REDACTED incubus (adolescent). Age, 13. Species, raccoon. Occupation, being a Chair and an asshole. Likely to develop into a gish, like his parents. Favored element: Ice and blood.

--

DMFA is something near and dear to my heart. It got me started on being a furry, on being queer. It introduced me to my first chatroom based game which let me be a stupid kid and figure myself out while being stuck out in the country with no car and dial-up internet.  I'm writing this because I love DMFA and wanna play in that sandbox a lil.  Hope you enjoy reading me being silly in a colorful deathworld.

Here's the link so you guys can read it yourself, http://www.missmab.com/

(For Tower of Art folks, the link is there because I post to multiple locations.  :mowtongue )

And here is a map of Comia Atoll, for your viewing pleasure.  A little over 2500km from side to side, thing's big.

[/u]

Liatai

Whee, commenting!

Ooh, cubi and were cross? The "making oneself immune to magic" tipped me off.

For those who don't recognize the name De'tialdo:3

Also, for those who don't know -- a "Chair," as the author Chairtastic phrased it, is a kind of self-insert of his that manifests in multiple worlds. All Chairs are connected by the "Chair" oversoul, and can occasionally get knowledge from other lives. Like recognizing Cyra (something the author would do) and knowing the word "twink" (which is something a Chair from a more modern setting would know). Kind of like reincarnation, but with some past-life (and future-life) knowledge.

Tapewolf


J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Chairtastic

Quote from: Liatai on June 07, 2024, 10:03:00 PMWhee, commenting!

Ooh, cubi and were cross? The "making oneself immune to magic" tipped me off.

For those who don't recognize the name De'tialdo:3

Also, for those who don't know -- a "Chair," as the author Chairtastic phrased it, is a kind of self-insert of his that manifests in multiple worlds. All Chairs are connected by the "Chair" oversoul, and can occasionally get knowledge from other lives. Like recognizing Cyra (something the author would do) and knowing the word "twink" (which is something a Chair from a more modern setting would know). Kind of like reincarnation, but with some past-life (and future-life) knowledge.

Quite correct!  Usually the Chair gets bleedthrough from past/present lives even before being activated, then becomes activated on a near-death experience or temporarily dying.  Like when Aliph impaled Dan and it helped establish his link to Cyra.

You're being waterboarded just a bit too hard, and suddenly remember how to cast Power Word: Scrunch.

Quote from: Tapewolf on June 08, 2024, 06:29:45 AMNice to see more DMFA-based stories!
What I'm noticing is that my fic made some folks remember DMFA on the other forums I posted the story!  I hope they enjoy catching up on the comic from where they left off!

Chairtastic

Gemenes Journal #1


---


Translated from braille.


--


So this is my journal, I should put massive airquotes around the word 'journal' because it's a scroll of papyrus I'm punching holes into.  I have no idea when braille was invented in Furrae's history, never saw the bumps on the signs, but I know for a fact no one around here knows what I'm doing.


They think I'm touched in the head, even Pa.  Being seen as insane might be useful, I should try and cultivate that image more.


I don't know exactly when I am, here's what I've been able to piece together:  M'Chek isn't dead yet, though he recently had an assassination attempt on him.  Someone put two gryphon Cs (the giant ones) in his bedchambers via teleportation magic.  Fa'Lina hasn't become a clan leader yet, there are hundreds of leaders at the moment, and the cubi population is still in the millions.


Teleportation magic is a big deal at this point in history, because near as I can tell -- Warp-Aci aren't a thing yet.  I asked Gaia and Pa about flying glowrats that cut through space with their tails -- and they thought I was high as a kite.


Related note, kites haven't been invented yet.  Not going to change that in case certain horse Fae get explodey like he did over the yo-yo.


Related related note, bat wings are awesome cause they have built-in hands.  Mine even have them gripper thumb things!  I really should become a veterinarian at some point so I know what they're called.  Anyway, flying around here is generally kept to the canopy or just above.  Giant gryphons, you see.


Anyway -- Owona's clan!  That's gonna be interesting.  I'm told that Owona has allies in Taun, Jin, Hrienth, and De'Tialdo clans at the moment.  But outside of those clans we're rather unpopular.  Owona doesn't want us to be flashy, so Pa says other clans see us as a buzzkill.


They still pay us for assassination work, though.  Probably for the best that I don't ask if that attempt on M'Chek was one of ours.  Don't think Pa's high enough in the ranks to know either way, but it's best not to risk it.


Our tentacle-heads are really similar to Blue Volcano mythos heads, from the quick look Pa gave me at his.  If I had any expectation that Owona would actually answer me, I'd ask about it.  Pa didn't seem to know what Blue Volcano mythos even were, so can't ask him.


Pa says we're part of a branch of Owona's clan originating from the fourth generation -- so one of Owona's great-great-grandkids started our branch.  We're far from clan administration, and will have to complete a couple hundred years of direct service before we're allowed to freely roam.  He's going off to finish his assassin training, and I'm supposed to train as an assassin adventurer.


Owona's clan always struck me as the warrior to Taun's soldier.  Less regimented, less celebratory of the group's accomplishments and more of the individual's.  But Pa says it's just as accurate to use the thinking that Owona is the mercenary to Taun's soldier.  Assassination is a major part of the clan's income.


Running out of papyrus, so until next time journal!  You better not tell anyone what I wrote on you!


---


These journal entries will be, ideally, the only time you see from Gemenes' perspective.  They're side-content between mainline chapters, totally optional reading.

Chairtastic

Chapter Two: Bloody Knuckles

---

Pudrock, 8547 Years Before DMFA

Themis Riken

Society had certain expectations of people based on race and species, or economic status and background. Foxes were expected to be seductive, felines were expected to be mean, canines were expected to be friendly. Avians, such as Themis, were expected to be delicate, fashionable, regal.

Themis was none of those things.

She was strong, so she took a poleaxe as her weapon. Her default outfit for all occasions was a simple tunic or armor. Themis was unafraid to have blood on her bone-white feathers, or to get it on her beak.

Something her opponent found out when he tried to exploit the range requirements for her weapon.

Themis was a student of the Pudrock Adventuring School – and presently fought another student to prove her strength. She was a warrior, he was an assassin; she was a wingless avian, he was a winged mammal. Themis was dispassionate in battle, and he got his face pecked for being rash.

"First blood, Themis," announced the referee, a llama woman with a cardigan over wizardly robes and a clay tablet in her hand.

Themis didn't gloat, despite the pride in her chest. The teachers had been clear, gloating should be done after a fight, not during. She clacked her beak ominously, then shook the blood off.

Her opponent, Gemenes, was ill-suited to fight her. A student of unarmed and unarmored combat, Themis was his natural opposite. Whatever advantage his demon ancestry afforded him was useless against her. He didn't have iron skin, Themis had punched through it with her beak easily, he wasn't unnaturally strong or his blows would have damaged her armor.

Neither was he incredibly fast, as Themis had no trouble winding her axe up to intercept him as he charged again.

Out of pity, Themis decided to end the fight quickly. When Gemenes stopped short of the trajectory of her axe, she halted her swing to use the edge of the blade as a makeshift spear.

Gemenes ducked below the jab, he leaned backward with his knees bent to get low enough since Themis had aimed for his waist.

Themis promptly took a step forward and used her booted foot to drive him into the arena floor. She'd intended to try and make him surrender then and there.

But she erred, she hadn't been fast enough to pin Gemenes' legs underneath him.

Gemenes used that mistake to drive both feet into the fork of Themis' legs. Forcefully.

Stars danced in front of her eyes. Women sang in her ears. White-hot pain burned through her so fast it hurt only in hindsight, at the time it was a numb tingle – like a limb gone to sleep.

Gemenes, not content to kick her in such a rude spot, opted to use the spot to lift her off him and have her fall backward.

Themis, on her back in deep pain, didn't know until later – but she had let go of her axe midair. The blunt counterweight side then followed as gravity dictated, and landed on Gemenes in between his legs.

The two of them were incapacitated by the same injury.

"Match over, no victory." The llama referee announced, though to Themis' ears she was far away. "Healer, step forward."

Themis' vision eventually returned, and the first thing she saw was the angel-blooded healer trainee knelt over her. There was an unpleasant smell in the air.

A floppy-eared canine, white-furred with pink hair in loose curls, eyes covered in a blindfold. White wings with pink flight feathers spread around her protectively.

As required, Themis held still and remained on the ground until told otherwise.

They had mana around their hands, green in one hand and white in the other. The white was held out toward her while the green held back. After a couple seconds, the canine swapped hands. Healing magic washed her lingering aches and symptoms away like water cleared grime.

"This patient only has soft tissue damage to groin, their stamina is not significantly reduced." They moved their wings away and moved over to Gemenes. Their wings covered the raccoon, with only his bushy tail and wingtips visible.

Themis rolled onto her side and strained to stand. She looked around for her axe and found it partly under the healer's wings. It had to stay there until Gemenes was healed up, alas.

"Your performance was lackluster," the llama referee informed her. "An unarmed, unarmored opponent should be an easy kill for a warrior adventurer." She shook her head as she marked down information on the tablet. "Fail."

The healer trainee finished up with Gemenes quickly. "This patient has soft tissue damage to the face, torso, and groin. Their stamina is not significantly reduced."

As soon as Gemenes was up, the llama referee laid into him like she'd done Themis. "You didn't even use assassin techniques during the fight, no flanking or misdirection. Fail." Even the healer didn't get off lightly. "And you, you didn't observe triage before you started healing. Fail."

She marked their grades on the tablet, and snapped her fingers to point at the door.

"Bugger off, all of you."

The three of them left the arena, dejected in their own way.

Between the arena and the hall was the armory, where students would return weapons and armor that belonged to the school. Themis shrugged off the coat of lamellar armor she'd taken, put it on a rack, and hung the poleaxe on the wall where it belonged.

The other two didn't have equipment to return, so they were quicker to leave.

Themis came out to see the poodle healer remove their blindfold and put it in a satchel bag – she hadn't interacted with many of the spellcaster students, so didn't know their name. In her mind she used 'they' simply because she couldn't immediately identify their gender due to the fluffy wizard robes they wore.

Compared to them, Themis and Gemenes were more immodest but simply dressed. Themis had a blue tunic, rope belt, high boots and vambraces. Gemenes had loose trousers, a cloth belt, and a vest with the back cut out for his wings.

"I really hope that lady gets kidney stones," Gemenes muttered. He and the healer had stayed outside the door for Themis.

The poodle sighed, and wrung their hands. "It's... really not her fault. She gave us legitimate reasons for failure."

Themis had no intention to grouse to Gemenes or a canine stranger, regardless of her feelings. "We'll do better next time, or we won't." She moved to walk around them, when an acrid smell hit her. A quick glance around had her spot Gemenes' red trousers with a dark patch near the upper thigh. "...Did you piss yourself?"

The demon-blooded raccoon's eye twitched. "I had a poleaxe hit me in the crotch when I'd been holding it in for an hour already. Leave me alone."

She considered doing as requested. But then considered a totally legitimate way to frame her tied match with Gemenes in a way that made him look worse. "Hmm. Alright. I'm going to go tell everyone in the warrior bunks about how you kicked me in the groin so hard you pissed your pants."

Themis fully expected Gemenes to tackle her for that comment, but the poodle -- whose name she still didn't care to learn – held the winged raccoon back while Themis turned and walked away.

--

Illyria Scorcros

Adventuring School involved a lot of stuff Illyria hadn't considered when they begged their parents to let them go.

They hadn't expected the coursework to be so intense, or for the grading systems to be so harsh. General school in Pudrock wasn't in the same league. But the school was only two years old, perhaps they would dial back their standards when their first graduating class was only nine people.

Illyria's parents would likely make a stink about them not being one of those nine, too.

They pondered this as they waited outside the showers for Gemenes to clean up and launder his clothes. Both they and he were in similar positions – forced by their families into roles at the school that they didn't care for overmuch, perhaps failure would allow them a measure of freedom?

When Gemenes emerged, fur and hair still damp, Illyria brought it up as they walked.

"...Do you think, if I play up how hard being a guild-standard healer is, that my folks will let me take a warrior class or two?" Illyria walked beside Gemenes, the clack of their shoes contrasted the slap of his bare feet on the wooden floor.

Gemenes responded with a drawn out 'n' sound that transitioned into his actual reply: "No." He put on the air of being closed off – arms crossed, ears flicked back, wings interlocked in front of him like a cape. Yet he continued to walk with Illyria well past the assassination bunks. "When I failed last year, the teachers went over a list of the reasons I failed and had me try again."

"Your folks didn't have any input?" Unconsciously, Illyria folded their wings in front of them too. They lacked the thumbs to hold them in place, but the net effect was similar.

"Pa considers it practice for when I have to get advanced learnin' from our clan once I'm grown." He shrugged. "But I'm failing because I don't give respect to people who are allergic to earning it."

"Is that why you don't like Themis?"

Gemenes looked at them like they'd grown a second head, he stopped in the hall to address them with his complete attention. "I like Themis fine, what are you talking about?"

Illyria waved their hand in the air. "You just tried to maul her twenty minutes ago."

"Well yeah, she figured out a way to tell the story and make it funny before I could. You think I wouldn't do that to you, if you beat me to a good punchline?" Gemenes rolled his eyes and resumed walking. "That whole thing has me pissed – let's skip class, I'll teach you a move called 'repulse the money' and you teach me how to regenerate teeth."

"Oh, I think... you mean repulse the monkey?" The poodle tilted their head as they followed the raccoon without reservation. They had heard that move used in folk stories about the Amazon tribes of Lostkeep Island.

"No no, this is a move for punching rich people in such a way that it leave their coinpurse floating in the air for you to grab. You're starting to outgrow your robes, and they cost money to make. Figured two birds, one punch."

--

Gaia De'Tialdo

Gaia wasn't a teacher, she didn't build the school with the intention of being a member of the staff. She was an architect, and was supposed to design a building that could act as a school and defensive structure in the event of an attack on Pudrock.

Only, she'd been called in multiple times to expand the school, or repair damaged sections. All the strength of the building had been arranged outward, with the idea that damage could come from inside was discounted. She also had to shapeshift her back and headwings away for the sake of working undisturbed.

In the end, she did so much work that she was brought on to teach certain aspects of spellcraft and architectural design. With elements like earth, wood, and ice her courses could help junior adventurers survive.

Gaia was convinced she wasn't a fit teacher, being able to work as an architect didn't qualify her to teach design after all.

But then she listened to her coworkers in staff meetings and realized the bar for success was so dangerously low that she could clear it with ease.

"...So let me get this straight," Gaia spoke up as one of her least-liked coworkers – Herriet, a llama being with strong anti-wing bias – finished a report on recent failures. "You barred the assassin from using any magic in the match, had the healer try to treat injuries blindfolded, and expected the warrior to actively try to kill their opponent?"

Officially, student grades were supposed to be confidential. Only the teachers in their specific programs would receive their grades with the name attached, to inform who would graduate and who wouldn't. So they had to do a whole song-and-dance routine to dance around certain topics.

The meeting table was designed so that each adventuring program's teachers and general sat on one side in the teacher's lounge. Spellcasters, assassins, warriors, marksmen, and general education.

Herriet adjusted her glasses and had the presence of mind to look away. "Well... it sounds bad when you phrase it like that."

"Probably because it is bad."

On the warrior's side of the table a hulking black-furred mare marked with white jaguar spots and dressed in lorica-style armor cleared her thoat to be heard. Su'ume, the teacher of tactics.

"Herriet is the referee this year," Su'ume rumbled with a voice deep enough to rattle bones. "She is within her rights to set the conditions for her exams, spars, and contests."

Gaia didn't look over at Herriet, but she could sense Herriet's smug emotions through her mind filter. Ugh, the taste would linger in her mouth for hours.

"...But Gaia is not wrong to say her execution leaves much to be desired." Su'ume folded her keratin-sheathed hands together. "It is my recommendation that placing restrictions on only two of the three participants creates an unfair advantage. Asymmetrical combat scenarios are best done in lessons, not examinations."

Barely contained anger rolled off the mare in waves, not evident by body language but clear enough to an emotion-eater. Her voice's natural deepness failed to convey the quiet anger, so Herriet felt no fear and would seem to take it as purely professional feedback.

"What would you have done for the warrior, as a handicap?" Herriet had taken out her clay tablet, keen on Su'ume's opinion.

"...Perhaps place one of their arms in a sling, so the handicap is equivalent to the assassin denied the use of magic." Su'ume replied after a deep breath.

Gaia listened to the rest of the staff meeting without much interest. So far, her students had been receptive of lessons like 'how to demolish a wall without collapsing the ceiling' and 'how to create a wall to block spells'. And she didn't care about the other departments too much.

Outside of her lessons, she was simply the eyes and ears of the De'Tialdo clan. Anything she saw or heard was something to report on later, nothing more.

"...And I'd like to formally complain, again, about one of the assassin students trying to take spellcaster course books," muttered the shrew next to Gaia on the spellcaster side of the table. "It was my understanding that the assassin course covered spells required for their combat role – and thus expensive theoretical textbooks were unnecessary?"

Gaia's eyebrow arched. She hadn't been teaching long, so that was the first she'd heard of assassins trying to steal textbooks. Those were kept chained to the instructor's desks, and in locked drawers – each book cost the equivalent of a classroom's construction. A student had tried to steal them?

A long-suffering sigh came from the assassin's side of the table. Her upper-body covered under a robe and hood, with only her naga-like lower body and rattlesnake tail visible, the head of the assassination course held her head in her hands. "I'll... see to it that it doesn't happen again."

"Thank you, Tina."

"What kind of textbook did they try to take?" Gaia feigned concern when her real intent was to collect information. Was there perhaps a spy in their students? "Was it damaged? Do we need to replace it?"

"Oh no no no no," the shrew hastened to clarify, she shook her head and hands to emphasize her 'stop' sentiment. "The book is fine, the chain the book is attached to... not so much." She shrugged. "We'll have a blacksmith fix the chain, it'll be done tomorrow. We don't have any classes which require dimensional studies at present, so it'll be fine."

Dimensional studies? Teleportation, perhaps?

"...I know something about dimensional studies," Gaia offered, her gaze flitted between Tina and the shrew. She didn't know her coworkers names yet, she only knew Su'ume from clan politics and Herriet from being a massive pin in her cushion. "It's used in the creation of storage spaces, and magical homes. If the student wants to learn, I could tutor them?"

The offer wasn't serious, it was unlikely that any assassin student would know enough spellcraft to even attempt dimensional studies. But both Tina and the shrew had mindshields – so she could only feel their emotions of frustration and annoyance about who the student was.

She was a cat, curiosity was their cardinal sin.

Tina looked at her like she was drowning and Gaia had thrown her a rope, her eyes gleamed with relief under her hood. "Would you? Oh, that would help so much."

Per the adage, curiosity sometimes killed the cat. As she chanted 'shit' ad nauseum in her head at the unexpected acceptance, she could only hope the satisfaction would bring her back.

--

Illyria Scorcros

In the forest outside Pudrock's western wall, the Forestgate neighborhood, two winged people used fighting to occupy their bodies while they processed their thoughts.

People thought they were weak. For being a healer, for being a poodle, for being pink.

Gemenes swept his leg, just slow enough for Illyria to see it and dodge. A ploy to create space so he could generate momentum on an attack run.

He didn't think they were weak. Gemenes offered instruction in exchange for instruction. If they couldn't physically keep up, he'd train them until they could.

Illyria jumped up and over Gemenes with the aid of their wings. They planted both feet on Gemenes' scalp, sprung off his head and jumped behind him. Gaining height was always their strongsuit with their wings.

In a similar vein, Gemenes expected Illyria not to treat him like he was stupid. If he didn't understand something they taught him from spellcasting courses, he expected them to work with him until he could understand it.

Gemenes fell forward from the force of Illyria's jump off his head. But he flared his wings and glided a meter or two before he gained height, turned so sharply his wingtip dragged in the mud, and came back around where Illyria. Cornering and flyby attacks were his strongsuit with his wings.

Their clans weren't allies, their leaders didn't even like each other. When they both became adults, they likely wouldn't be allowed to interact. Any time they did, it would likely be enemies. Illyria had known that when they asked for his help.

"Repulse... the money!" Illyria moved their body to be in profile relative to Gemenes' attack, shifted their weight onto their back foot, and tensed the arm furthest from Gemenes. When they called out the attack, they snapped forward, shifted their weight into Gemenes' attack and lashed out with their fist.

'Sure, I'll help.' Gemenes had said, with no hesitation. 'Hope you don't mind bloody knuckles, though.'

Gemenes forward momentum stopped dead. His lower body and wings swung forward from how quickly he was stopped – then launched back by the martial art Illyria employed. The raccoon soared into the distant bushes in a blur of color, and shook a barely-visible tree from his impact.

A coinpurse, barely filled, hung in the air for a moment until gravity asserted itself. Illyria had time to turn their hand up and caught it as it fell.

"I... did it!" Wings flared, Illyria did a happy little dance with Gemenes' coinpurse in hand. "First try! First try!"

"Awesome... so happy for you...." Gemenes returned to the scene, ruffled, covered in mud, and one wing limp behind him. "Give me my money back and pop this thing back into socket, would you?"

After Illyria fixed up Gemenes wing, they sat down on a mossy stump to share their side: How to regenerate teeth. The whole time, the fist they had punched Gemenes with bled just a bit from broken skin under their fur. They decided they'd allow it to bleed and fix it up when Gemenes understood the skill.

"So... got a question for you, power puff," Gemenes started as Illyria healed their knuckles. "I'm not gonna lie, I like the way Themis fights. All on the offense, doesn't showboat like most of the warriors, still has a sense of humor. Would you... want to invite her into our group, become an adventuring trio when we graduate?"

Illyria cocked their head to the side. "I thought your clan was gonna have you take contracts after your graduate?"

The raccoon narrowed his eyes at them. "Not sure if you meant it that way, but Imma take that as a compliment. But nah, they want me to have some combat experience and develop my own style before they assign me anything." He pressed the backs of his wrists to the sides of his head and flapped his hands. "Also I'm missing some of the requisite limbs."

"Oh, right." Illyria flexed their hand, then pulled both into their sleeves when it was clear the healing was done. "I'm... okay with her? If she's okay with me, that is. I don't think she knows my name."

"You could do the egotistical thing and have a floating magic nameplate around with you at all times." Gemenes demonstrated by sculpting light into a nameplate of his own. 'Gemenes Tuler' in a wacky, eccentric text style.

"...If she can't remember my name when I'm the pinkest thing in forty kilometers, why do you think a nameplate would help?"

"I like to think I'm an optimist. And that she could make funny anagrams out of your name when she's annoyed by you."

Their response was to promptly grab Gemenes' magic nameplate and rename them as 'Legem Neuters'.

--

Glossary:

Assassin: An adventurer category, indicates a stealth-based skillset. In combat, they are meant to eliminate enemy leadership, particularly dangerous targets, or stragglers.
Warrior: An adventurer category, indicates a melee weapon-based skillset. In combat they are meant to serve as the front line and main melee combatant.
Spellcaster: An adventurer category, indicates a magic-based skillset. A catch-all term for mage, regardless of specialization. Can range from battle-magic to healing to utility magic.
Marksman: An adventurer category, indicates ranged weapon-based skillset. In combat, they are meant to deal precision damage from the back lines.
Forestgate: The westernmost neighborhood of Pudrock, existing on both sides of the city's wall. Densely overgrown by plant life.
Scorcros Clan: A cubi clan, known to have dominion of the peninsula on the far side of Lostkeep Island, in the Swiftkeep Union. A peer of Jin's clan, very pink, very canine.

--

Cast:

Themis Riken: Race: Being. Age: 16. A bali mynah bird in the warrior program at adventurer school. Does not think highly of magic, or people who use it frequently. The buffest bird you ever saw, all the better to swing an axe with enough force to punch through creature hides.
Illyria Scorcros: Race, Cubi. Age, 16. An agender poodle cubi, presently debating the use of 'concubus' to describe themselves given their lack of gender. A student of the spellcaster program at adventurer school, focused on being a healer. A power puff, learning to throw hands.

---

Adjusted for inflation, each and every book at the adventurer school costs roughly fourteen thousand Ha'Khun gold dollars. The printing press hasn't been invented yet in a lot of places, so each copy is a unique masterpiece from multiple artisans.

Also, in the Chairly House we greatly encourage you to teach your dogs how to throw a punch. If you have a dog, you should be teaching them how to throw a haymaker at this very moment.

Chairtastic

Gemenes Journal #2

---

Translated from braille.

--

Got another scroll of papyrus, woo!  After Ms. Gaia gifted me the last one, I dared hope that I could get them reasonably often.  But then I forgot I'd need money to buy them.  Ugh.

People assume I'm part demon, because of my bat wings and eyes.  I'm working on building up my strength and speed to play into that, a project years from completion.

In the past two years I've devoured every scrap of lore on magic that I could from the assassin course.  They teach us finished spells, not the mechanics behind them so I had to fail on purpose to get more time with them.  Making friends with Illyria helped a lot, I lucked out there.

The school uses Zingauru and Baneel's spellcraft books to teach -- Zingauru, a biclops mythos who helped introduce the scientific method to magic; and Baneel a duck phoenix who wrote many fully complete spells -- some of which even totally non-magical beings can use.

The latter is what is taught to assassins, while the former is taught to spellcasters.  The warrior and marksman courses may have some of Baneel's spells taught to them too, dunno.

Both sets of teaching result in people using magic, but Zingauru's stuff gives you the tools to make your own spells -- at the cost of being more labor-intensive.  Baneel's stuff is more user-friendly.

So, Pudrock has certain decency laws that require dudes to wear trousers even if lava-lava would be better given the heat.  It's the capital city of a baby republic -- and not likely one to last the century -- they want to be taken seriously.  So of course, everyone has to wear certain clothes depending on your parts.

Will never get over how stupid that is.  Ugh. 

Right now they're facing a crisis of religious leaders running for public office on the basis of running Mostalsia like a theocracy.

Since I came here, I learned some stuff about the local geography and culture.  Holy shit it's an atoll two and a half thousand kilometers across?  Could a volcano big enough to make that even exist?

Ancestor worship is the flavor of religion in this part of the atoll.  Sidenote: Not worshiping Euberta, she didn't want me in her life I don't expect her to want me in her death.  Swiftkeep and Mostalsia both subscribe to 'praise the ancestors' vibes, but mainland Mostalsia seems to be undergoing a shift.  Those religious-political leaders I mentioned have invented a common ancestor for everyone to worship -- Smotli.

Specifically he's a common ancestor for natural beings and the ones with bright colors to indicate angel ancestry, wings or no.  They say Smotli stopped the Fae that were fighting which created the atoll.  How, you might ask?

According to Smotli's 'priests', the Fae physically ripped pieces of other landmasses and shoved them into the sea to make the atoll in a game of some kind.  Which might be totally true, the Fae are weird like that.  Smotli convinced them to stop by teaching them how to skip rope instead.

I wish I was kidding.

I'm so tempted to introduce double dutch and make them think I'm Smotli reborn, but no.  Cults can come later.  I have a goal I need to work toward:  Harem of creatures I have defeated in battle and subjugated righteously.

Someday.

But I'm out of papyrus again.  See you next time, journal!

---

Mostalsia is not a very well constructed representative democracy, but it's one of the oldest attempts.  They've just recently made it so The Poors can vote as well.

Tapewolf

That thing about Smotli and the Fae is absolutely the sort of thing that could happen.

J.P. Morris, Chief Engineer DMFA Radio Project * IT-HE * D-T-E


Chairtastic

Quote from: Tapewolf on June 11, 2024, 09:59:58 AMThat thing about Smotli and the Fae is absolutely the sort of thing that could happen.

We have to keep the hula-hoop in reserve for if they get really out of control.