neotoma: Neotoma albigula, the white-throated woodrat! [default icon] (aughisky)
([personal profile] neotoma Nov. 24th, 2006 09:21 pm)
For [ profile] mini_nanowrimo


"This is insane. Who builds homes on cliffs?" Turnspit said, looking down into the great rift. It went down and down, in a way that had him crouched on the edge because standing and looking over made him dizzy and uncomfortable -- his clockwork whirred and clicked, too, which added distractions on top of disquiet.

Iros shrugged. He was standing quite unconcerned to peer down. "There's always been a settlement here, back beyond the Before-time. See, there," he pointed to a dark gap in the cliff walls, "is a mouth into the deep-down. The Brocks come up to trade. And far down, there's a river. You can reach the sea from here, if you're any good with a paddle. This is one of the few places Selkies still come to trade."

"We're going all the way to the bottom?" Turnspit asked. That far down, there would be switchbacks on top of switchbacks for the horses. He rather missed the stairway paths of their overwinter village stay. The horses would hate them, but it was rather nice to be able to go up and down hills in straight lines.

Iros chuckled, and leaned over to ruffle his hair. "No. There's a great pasture ground slightly below this, behind that bend in the cliffs. That's where the main stables are, and Lord Stormbringer's hall. The Slew will be there.

Turnspit crawled backwards far enough that he felt safe enough to stand, and did so. "Well, let's go down then."

They led the horses down. The cliff road was wide enough that they could walk the horses abreast, all four of them together. Iros obviously thought Turnspit's wariness of the fall was charming, as he took the outward side every turn they made.

They walked for a long time, going down, but finally they came to a fork. The road twisted down, and also went level around the cliff. They came out onto a wide expanse of meadow grass, the road arrowing towards the sort of long buildings aughisky loved -- stables for the horses below, rooms for people above, and the kitchens in different buildings entirely.

It was quite obvious where Magpie's Slew was lodged. Two stable buildings with a yard and fountain between them were painted with borders of stylized thief-birds and fanged horseheads. There were people about, aughisky in their riding clothes, stable hands barefoot in their tunics, and two Dogs in russet kilts.

Some few of the aughisky noticed them, and called greetings to Iros. He waved to them in turn, and called back greetings. Turnspit felt near invisible, because while the aughisky obviously noticed him -- some of them were very blatant in their stares --none addressed him, or asked about him, or remarked on him in any way.

"Iros Longshanks," a low voice said from behind them. Turnspit jumped around, startled. An aughisky, taller than himself but not remarkably so, with distinctive white patches on skin and hair, and mismatched eyes, was standing behind him. The aughisky's manner was cool, and disturbingly familiar.

"You're here, twelves early, with only four horses and a new Dog. What have you been doing, rider?"

Iros broke out in a grin and ran forward to grab the aughisky's hands. He licked the knuckles once, then clasped the aughisky on the shoulders, a familiar and close gesture. Not as close as licking the face or especially the eyes, but a respectful greeting of subordinate and not-too-high superior.


Magpie? Turnspit stared at the piebald aughisky. The last he'd seen of Magpie, the aughisky had been riding away from the Brewster's Holding. And had been unmistakeably female.
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