For [ profile] mini_nanowrimo


There was clockwork crawling over his hands, clockwork that had not been there before the memory stone thundered at him. His left hand was worse than his right, but the dull metallic maze was thick enough that it looked like he was wearing dark lace gloves.

Turnspit stared down at his hands a moment longer, but they didn't change. Not dead after all, he thought, and shivered. What actions did he take or not take, because of this more subtle employment of his clockwork? And why did the Brocks lie to Iros about it? He had heard Test-to-Destruction, and the Brock had said that the clockwork had been made not to work anymore.

He said I wasn't a miner anymore, and that the rules were dead. Maybe that isn't the same thing?


He looked up, taken unaware. Iros was up?

Up, ready to travel, and staring worriedly at Turnspit. The aughisky crouched before him and tilted his head. He apparently decided something, because he put his long hand behind Turnspit's neck and held him still; the rough tongue scraped over his neck. Not my eyes? Turnspit realized, confused. Iros always licked over the eyes, an unmistakeable and intimate habit that Turnspit had learned to tolerate. That his aughisky had refrained said much about how badly the memory stone had made Turnspit.

Turnspit grabbed Iros' collar, and pulled himself up to lick at the corner of the aughisky's eye. Iros drew back, his eyebrows raised and his face blank in shock.

Turnspit made himself smile. See, I'm all right. He wanted Iros to believe it; even if the aughisky took it for an invitation, he wanted Iros to believe he was over last night, because if Iros beleived that, it might be true.

Iros smiled in return, a small guarded twitch of his mouth. Mostly he just looked grave.

"You look better."

"I am."

"Not going to vomit?"

"I don't think so."

Iros nodded, then offered Turnspit a hunk of horse-bread. "Hungry?"

"I could eat." Turnspit took the food, and pulled off a bit. It was tough and chewy and not quite stale, but he'd grown accustom to it. With enough water, it was almost good, and certainly not as bad as miner kibble, which was tough and chewy and tasteless. Horse-bread generally tasted of whatever peas and beans had been ground into it.

Iros watched him eat, relaxing more ever moment that Turnspit continued to eat, instead of sick up all over the ground. WHen he finished, the aughisky was smilling a bit, obviously releived.


"For horse-bread."

Iros chuckled. "I'll get you a duck tonight," he promised. Then he put his head down and set his jaw.

Turnspit straightened, put on edge by the way the aughisky was crouching, his feet set and his jaw stubborn as he crouched in front of him.

He was a little surprised when Iros took his left hand and pressed until Turnspit flattened and spread his fingers. One quick movement of Iros' hands, and Turnspit's clockwork clicked and whirred like agitated bees.

He looked down at his hand, surprised. There was now a dark ring up his third finger. The band was brown, and as he ran his thumb over it, examining it, it turned out to be braided brown horsehair, with a light and dark pattern meandering over it. It took Turnspit another moment to realize that the pattern was also formed from hair, but too fine to be horsehair. The pale sectiong was straw-colored and straight, the dark black and finely curled -- his own hair, and Iros'.

"What?" he asked, confused. Iros had never given him jewelry, unless you counted the braided rag collar still around his neck. The collar had a distinct purpose and ritual behind it, and was just a symbol of Iros' claim.

The horsehair ring, however, was simply bizarre.

"I made them last night, after you fell asleep. Give me your other hand."

Turnspit did so, feeling off kilter. Iros slid another ring up the third finger on Turnspit's right hand. The pattern didn't match the first, but it was still light and dark against a brown horsehair base.

"To keep you safe. I can make more, if you need them." WIth that, Iros stood. "We're changing roads, a bit. I want to talk with wiser heads, as soon as I may. Memory stone shouldn't do that." The aughisky reached down and ruffled Turnspit's short, shaggy hair. "Get packed. We need to get going."

Turnspit nodded and climbed to his feet. Packing the bedroll and cleaning up their camp before they set out on their road, he was repeatedly distracted by the feel of the rings. But for as strange as they felt, he also felt reassuring. Maybe Iros knew what he was about with them, though Turnspit had no idea what that actually was.

Stopping the clockwork from killing me, he hoped.

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