Chapter 9: Reacquainted

Hello internet,

Please enjoy chapter 9 of Lead Heart!

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“Of all the people I’ve ever met in the field, it’s hard to think of many I’d’ve liked to run into less.”

Leliana laughed as Antros stiffly took the seat across from her. The door squeaked shut.

She couldn’t stifle the smile. “And yet here you are, sitting at my table. You can’t resist me.”

He scowled at her brazen reply.

“In the collective fifteen minutes we’ve known each other, I’ve witnessed three deaths and lost over five hundred silvers. Honestly I’m impressed, but you can’t blame me for being cautious. It’ll be easier to dodge a bullet if I see you aiming”

She liked the way he glowered when he spoke. Like his face realized the monotony of his voice, and wanted to place emphasis on the words anyway. “Hey, hey. I only killed one guy, don’t pin those first two on me. They jumped on their own, I wasn’t even close.” She shrugged, finishing the rest of the warmed brew in front of her.

“So did you pinch enough for me?” He waved his hands over the empty dishes.

“No! I paid for this, you..” Her nose scrunched up for a second, “whore’s ass.”

He held back a smile.

“Where’d you get the cash?”

Leliana crossed her arms and stared at a fat guy licking a stack of plates. “I earned it, basically.”

Gravelly laughter erupted from Antros and he relaxed visibly, uncrossing his arms to wave the waitress over. “I’m surprised to see you here though. I thought you were heading South last I saw, figured you’d head to Bolton or Chadwick. Barley’s not really a good place for petty thievery.”

“Petty thievery? That makes it sound small and weak. That stone your boy yanked was hella heavy and you should’ve seen the moves I put on to get it. Petty would’ve been something like surrounding the first team with guns and just demanding it.” Her narrowed eyes glared pointedly at the mercenary.

He smiled good naturedly. Well, she thought it was a smile.

“Alright, alright, fair enough. Creet was a slag sucker to be sure. But he was financing my trip to Triad, so I’d rather he sucked a bit longer at being alive instead of feeding scavengers under a bench.” Coins clinked as he dropped them into the Innkeeper’s pocket. She dropped a plate with a steaming mountain of vegetables atop, next to a glass of clean water.

Leliana flipped another coin at the woman and asked for a second beer. It wasn’t the best she’d ever had, but it had something of a spicy and sweet aftertaste and she was into it. The smell of the wood fire and the din of the others eating in small common room had an invigorating effect on her appetite. She was looking forward to drowning it. “I don’t really have a direction. I had a bit of a…strict upbringing, Now that I’m free I just wander around looking for things to get interested in. What about you though? You’re the only guy I’ve seen more than once out here.”

He waved the question away with a handful of purple broccoli. “I’m a bodyguard, I go where the work is. You have a knack for stealing from my clients. It’s not unusual for me to brush up against gangsters more than once.”

He stared into a fire across the room as he worked through a mouthful of food. Leliana finished her second cup and looked around suspiciously. Her gut was calling her attention, and not for more beer.

“I’ve spent a couple cozy years around this place,” Antros turned back to finish a thought, “but truth be told, the cannons popping off at all hours is almost as bad as the mosquitoes nowadays. So where’d you grow up? It’s pretty uncommon I run across a professionally trained ass kicker with no affiliations.”

Leliana looked away from the balcony above him for a moment to answer. “Oh, a small place over the mountains. You probably wouldn’t have heard of it. Also, I watched those cannons kill some freaky lizard thing outside town. They probably don’t just shoot off randomly. You have any luck finding work in this place?”

“Just because they’re useful doesn’t mean I can’t hate them. And you killed my last paycheck, I’m not about to tell you who I’m working for two days before I sail out of here. Meet me in Triad and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Sail

Leliana felt her breath catch as she eyed him. “You got a job on the flying boat!? Scat and slag take me with you!” She smacked the table for emphasis.

“No.”

“C’mon I’ll be good. I promise.”

“You give that ship a wide berth until it takes off, you hear me? They’ve paid half my fee already. If I see you skulking around I might have to kill you.”

She was incredulous. “I don’t want to kill the boat, are you crazy? That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, I never even knew you could sail a boat in the sky. I just want to stand at the top and look at the ground.”

“I have no interest in being murdered after I finally get a way out of here.” He finished the food on his plate and drained his cup. Then he rose.

“Killing you in an enclosed space in the middle of the sky on a vehicle I can’t operate would be suicide. Surely you can’t think I’m that stupid.” She reached into the canvas bag behind her, sliding the hunting knife from its sheath.

“I don’t know anything about you kid. Sorry, but I’m not hiring, and I don’t trust you enough to let you that close to the captain.” He did seem mildly apologetic, which she appreciated.

She smiled and narrowed her eyes.

“If I can protect you right now, will you think about it?”

He glanced around skeptically. Everyone was absorbed in their own world, nobody was even looking this way. “Protect me from what exactly?”

Tss

Tss

Tss

He jumped back as the table smoked and sizzled. Leliana dropped the bag hiding her blade and glanced up.

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Chapter 5: Camping

Lazy smoke curled around the campsite as Leliana’s eyes slid lazily down. She slumped a bit and then jerked up, slapping at her cheeks to help wake up.

“Smoking meat is so boring, ugh, why does it taste so good.”

Three of the legs she’d swiped from the tiger the day before hung from a makeshift wooden rack to dry and smoke so she didn’t have to waste any. The last one had been devoured, having been the first meat she’d seen in months. She stood to yawn and stretch, jumping a bit as the fire crackled behind her.

Dammit fire.

The dense forest was a cacophony of freaky noises as it turned out. She almost wished something would show up to fight just so she could stop jumping at her own shadow. Well the campfire seemed to keep most of the irritating things at bay for now, so she tried to relax. She cast her eyes around for something to do. The small pile of debris next to the dead tree she’d used as a chair reminded her that she already crafted as many sniper shots as she had material for, another 10 or so. It wasn’t a lot, but she didn’t need a lot.

She ran her hands across her pockets briefly, and discovered a shattered glass tube in a small leather pouch fitted to her belt. Well scrap, there went the last antidote she’d taken from the lab. With an irritated sigh, Leliana realized it was about time to try her luck in town to refresh some supplies. Hopefully a small town. Bigger cities were cheaper by far, and had access to more variety, but that convenience was nestled among too many police for her taste. The only “family” she’d ever had used her as a convoy guard during their regular trips to the nearest towns, and the police were by far the worst part of the trip, pushing and shoving and demanding her about while the quartermaster sat in a steambuggy lying about on pillows. Well, okay they were all bastards.

Though, she recalled the disgruntled mercenary earlier and his…advice? Being a muscle for hire would probably be pretty easy money. It was probably more likely to find that kind of work in the bigger towns. More people, and more need. Though in her experience, a lot of people underestimated just what she could do based on her outward appearance., so she may not even find any buyers. Antros’ bulging muscles, scarred eyes and gravelly voice probably got him all kinds of work.

 

Then again. If she were still in reach of the facility, she couldn’t afford that kind of leisure.

She’d run for a week after she slipped out, and had kept moving the same direction ever since. The mountainous path was her best bet due to the limited driving space for the buggy, meaning they’d have to follow on foot. Not many people back there would expend the effort of walking on their own legs, not while they could invent something to do the work for them.

Leliana snorted and laid her dirty blonde head on the now-empty bag. It smelled like crap, but at least the sand from the river had done a good job removing the viscous blood.

Come to think of it, she could probably dye her hair with blood, would that just make her smell like a snack out here though? She felt herself drifting, crackling fire and the buzz of the insects dragging her into unconsciousness.

Lelianas eyes snapped open after the cracking of a twig all too close.

The cold remains of the fire and the ever so slight brightening of the sky hinted at the time passed while she slept. The crisp air felt good and she filled her lungs quietly, holding it in for a second before jumping off her back into a crouch. The atmosphere was pleasant, the early morning birds chirping and a slight breeze rustling the canopy above was normally a nice wake-up.

The guttural growl behind her, however, THAT wasn’t her favorite.

Frozen in place, she slowly formed a plan, casting her eyes around the vicinity and making a checklist.

Knife? Check, she couldn’t sleep without it.

Something for cover? This big log she was using as a chair seemed fine. Check.

She heard up a faint scuffle as whatever it was eased forward in the tall grass beyond the clearing. Nerve to fight off a scary forest monster?

That was a negative.

Clawed feet scraped against rock as the animal leaped from its hiding place, carving a jagged gash in the soil she’d been sitting on moments ago. She felt the breeze of the swipe against the nape of her neck, heard the snapping jaws as it tried grabbing onto her while she darted away. Leliana tucked the blade in her left hand safely under her arm, vaulting over the fallen tree and turning just enough to toss her throwing knife from a vest pocket before raising the knife as she landed. The knife dug into the terrifyingly close face of a gigantic black cat, which halted its charge and sprang back in surprise. The panther had gorgeous, jade-green eyes and narrowed, slit pupils looking hungrily through her. A line of sharp, bony spikes dotted its spine through the velvety black coat, which itself looked clean and smooth.

The clean coat was bad sign for her. This one was either too young to know when to back off, or good enough at killing not to care who it went after.

She kept the 30-inch blade between them, the log protecting her lower half. The cat was pacing on the other side, waiting for a gap in her defenses to open up. Though, that didn’t seem quite right. It wasn’t advancing or prowling or stalking, it was just walking back and forth…directly between her and the smoked elk legs hanging over the fire.

“Ohhh, that’s what you want.” She giggled and stood a little straighter. This slag sucking-

Swapping the knife to the other hand, she took a few steps back and plucked one of the newly made bullets she made yesterday. The barbed point stuck out an inch or two from the tip of the narrow, 5-inch bullet. Hopefully this cat had never been stung by the giant fire wasps further south and this was going to be a big surprise, enough at least to run it off. She made a mental note not to throw all her weapons away or have them stolen in the future.

Her grip tightened on each weapon, and her stocky frame launched over the fallen tree. “No! Bad kitty!”

A feral hiss set her hair on end, but therewas no way she was giving up this much meat. She caught a heavy paw with the flat edge of the knife, deflecting those sharp claws away from her face once, but was forced to retreat as two new swipes breezed by less than an inch from her eyes. She feinted in and jumped back, leaving a deep cut between two clawed toes. The scariest sound she’d ever been subjected to leapt from the cats’ mouth and she went on the defensive under an angry onslaught. She wouldn’t have called it holding her own, but she did manage to just avoid a brutal death by mauling as she slipped out from under leap after leap of a snarling hellbeast.

She ducked right again and again, the panther seemingly getting faster each time, until they were actually just running in a circle. She sliced at it with her own blade, cleanly cutting the air as the cat let the swing go by.

Those beautiful green eyes watched the sharp knife in her right hand as she hefted the rifle round in her left, then chucked it as hard as she could. Barbed wasp stinger pierced deep into its left eye as it turned back to face her and the cat went wild. Spitting and clawing and screaming in a fit to dislodge the bullet.

Leliana bound behind the dead tree to avoid the maelstrom of murder going to town on the campsite, though she couldn’t help feeling a little bad. The fire wasp venom wasn’t going to kill this big, beautiful hunter, but it sure was going to hurt. Well, it was trying to steal her food, she couldn’t feel that bad. The panther probably got to eat meat everyday, but it had been months for her. The yowling grew more frantic and panicked, the smoke rack and campfire in shambles, and the leopard smashed through the thick underbrush as it fled.

That was a lot of noise and blood she just threw out into the wilderness, and she had learned that to be a good way to meet new friends. Friends with teeth and claws and appetites. The sun was basically up, so it was time to go. She tossed the weapons where they belonged and crammed the legs into the bag, sealing it tight. A once-over of the camp confirmed she wasn’t missing anything, she took a step to leave when-

“What the hells!?”

The clearing around her turned black again, just a few seconds before brightening again. She watched a patch of inky blackness move away in confusion, before realizing it was just a huge shadow. Unable to fight the curiosity, Leliana climbed the tallest tree to check it out. She popped out of the canopy and blinked in the early sunlight, eyes adjusting just in time to watch a ship smoothly gliding over the top of a huge hill.

A ship? What the FU

In which Kris organizes…something probably.

Hello Friends!

Tina and I have decided to spare your delicate ears this week and just do a regular, written post. It’s like we’re back in the stone age!

We’ve been hard at work this month with our November writing shenanigans, as I know you all are as well. How’s everything going so far? I’m definitely behind, personally. I believe I’m sitting around exactly 50% of the suggested word count for the month as a matter of fact. It’s FINE, it’s all fine everything is fine. I’m sure one or two of you are getting a bit behind too, right? That’s alright, I know you can push yourself to do great things, even if they happen in December or January. Remember, those word counts are just suggestions, the spirit is in the writing itself!

I’ve made some pretty good progress on my first draft I started coughcough last year coughcough. After restructuring my outline a bit (mentally of course, never write anything down. It distracts from the now,) I’m thinking I may follow Tina’s lead here and cut the whole into a few smaller segments. When I first started the story, I wrote a brief outline that’s served me pretty well – but I’m also more of a discovery writer most of the time. That means you sorta just write and discover the story along the way. I managed to get passed that bump that slowed me down earlier this year, so I’m tentatively optimistic I can blast through this bad boy at least by the end of the year. Only 500 more revisions to go!

Let’s not get distracted from what I originally came here to write about though.

While we were taking some downtime from our hectic, future-authorly lives, my dear wife proposed to me. An idea that we keep ourselves some bullet journals. Now I know what you’re thinking. I know! Me too! But no, it’s not like a diary you shoot at.

A bullet journal is basically a daily planner and a journal, scheduler, calendar and a sketch pad in the same notebook as far as I can tell. Which is fantastic, you guys know I love multitasking. I carry like 4 notebooks at all times, this whole ‘single-notebook’ business seems way cooler if it works. I started writing in it 24 hours ago (probably closer to 40 when you’re all flocking to read this as soon as it drops,) and I can say I’ve probably filled up about ten pages already. Also, I’ve organized a hundred things, started planning Thanksgiving, and obviously drew a picture of a buff cow.

Okay the cow picture was there a while ago and I forgot all about this notebook, but I found it again and it made me laugh so I’m keeping it. Maybe I can make it the featured picture for the post, it won me a drawing challenge against Nik some months ago.

I ran across the info about these actually independently of Tina, I just never gave it a thought until she demanded it. I first found the info, and later referenced the same info, by watching a lot of “How to ADHD,” which is a delightful channel on YouTube I’ve been getting a lot of great information from. I’ll toss a link to the video I came back to when I was making the journal last night in case any of you are interested in organizing your wild lives, or just want to watch some fabulous adult ADHD videos yourselves. The basic idea is that you A) Number all the pages, B) Write an index, and C) Use the journal. It’s a great tool and I know some of you will put it to great use,

 

 

Good luck to everyone getting ready to prepare for Thanksgiving next week, and I wish you all merry…weekend!

Waiting for the fall

So often my life has been full of great chances or experiences followed by huge falls. I often tell people that I don’t have a fear of heights, just a fear of falling, because I know how much it hurts when you land.

I find that this has slowly been changing for me. As I work on bettering myself for me, I have found that I take great pride in my ups and lessons in my downs. No longer do I fear the fall because it will hurt. I understand that falls happen and that if I breath and use my tools I can learn from them and grow in a new or better way next time. So, Let’s talk about what I am pumped about doing.

So far I have lost over 10lbs. Which is amazing for me. Not just a loose it and gain it back like normal but a good month or two of being down in my weight. Or as my handsome husband likes to say, “Making new lows and lowering our highs.” He is right. When I stopped looking at it as a loose or you lose, I started noticing that yes sometimes I go up, but I have been rocketing down so even as I gain a little here or there, they are my new high which is still much lower then my old high. With that I have been pushing on. Focusing on my body and what I eat. Pushing myself to do more and move as much as I can without hurting myself.

Another thing I have going is my business. I started a new company called Mochi Photography. I had an idea a year and a half ago to have a booth where cosplayers or families could come and take pictures during their convention. I am also selling plushies and other crafty things I make in my spare time. I am now working on my sales pitch to get into daycare centers and other children rich areas where I can take pictures for them.

My other ongoing project is school! I am now in my second year of school to get my business degree. I am proud to say that my grades are awesome, my work is…. in by the due date, and I have really enjoyed the classes so far. I am so proud of myself for having stuck to my schooling and keeping up with it regardless of how I am feeling that week. I keep reminding myself that I started this school at the same time as Nik to keep me accountable. If he can do it so can I!

And one of my greatest ongoing joys is that Nik is doing so great in school. He is even leading the pack in the emergency drills and keeping focused on his work without a teacher or helper around to help. This is a big change from last year at the end of the year and a huge relief to my anxiety!

With all that said, I still have one more thing I am picking up in the next two months or so. I will be doing NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I am going to focus down and split up my current novel work into a few novellas. So my project in November will be writing every day, and a deadline to finish the first draft of my Novella by the end of November.

So much to do, I am feeling a little tired just talking about it. Guess I should take a nap really quick before getting back to my homework, Mochi plushie making for this weekend, and taking care of Nik…… Nahhhhh I got this!

Kris is terrible at drawing

Kris here,

I thought I’d made this week a bit picture heavy and start my “stop sucking” drawing thing that I mentioned 2 weeks ago. I used to be a… proficient, artist. I haven’t done any of it for about 10 years, because it was worse than doing the dishes. But lately, I’ve been losing that mindset  – thanks to my adorable wife – and figured I’d put my skills to the test. I’ve always been a big advocate of “everyone can draw, you just need to practice.”

I decided to start three different images – one from my imagination, one from a reference, and one from an actual object. The first is “Bob Moss”, a big tree guy that I just thought would be amusing to draw. The second is a tripod that definitely wasn’t just sitting a foot away from me after I finished Bob Moss and THAT’S why I chose it – that was my real object. And Tina suggested I draw a Squid she painted a while back for my image from reference- it’s a cute squid, sure I’ll draw it.

One thing I learned from this experience is that…I should probably scan the pictures next time, instead of taking pictures. Another thing to do is probably to draw my sketches lightly on the back of the 5 minute drawings, because this paper was VERY thin, or it’s just easy to smudge graphically. I drew most of this with a mechanical pencil, except the squid, which was a normal wooden pencil. Which was way better, I have to say.

I spent 5 minutes on each drawing for 1 image, then I spent 30 seconds of warm-up, a sketch of the object for 30, 60 and 90 seconds, and then a second 5 minute draw. The warm-up thing is just to loosen your hand up a bit – just draw some shapes or whatever makes your drawing hand comfy. I’m not sure the best format to actually show the images – I was thinking of just pasting them right here, but that would be pretty confusing I think and might look weird. I’ve posted them to imgur for now, and I’ll see how that works for the time being.  Let me know if it’s better to just post the pics on the post – it’ll be more to look at all at once, but will also save a couple of clicks!

Click the links to view the pics, feel free to follow along at home on your journey to become an amazing artist! Feel free to giggle, I definitely did.

Bob Moss the tree guy –
Sketches: https://imgur.com/t0OktYz 
1st 5 minute: https://imgur.com/Cupzgrt
2nd 5 minute: https://imgur.com/hN4nm2l

The Tripod of Convenience –
Sketches: https://imgur.com/Gf4Cetv
1st 5 minute: https://imgur.com/3WycvTp
2nd 5 minute: https://imgur.com/2Rw1gxB

And Finally, Squidly the painting (I need to actually photograph the painting still…foreplanning!) –

Sketches:  https://imgur.com/xkzvriR
1st 5 minute: https://imgur.com/dGrAH9i
2nd 5 minute: https://imgur.com/qZTJRba

As you can see, my artistic skills are incredible. I’ve decided to stick with pencil for now. Once we’re happy with our progress, we’ll spread out into other mediums, don’t even worry about it. If you get inspired to draw along, choose an object in real life, an object from a picture or drawing, or just something you concoct in your own head, and have fun with it!

Kris finds more things online to take up all his time

Kris here,

Sorry we went totally AWOL last week – we had a crazy week and the 4th of July was just all up in our grill. Haha! Grill. We didn’t cook outside because it started raining and I’m already 90% inept in the ways of starting fires as it is – thunderstorms truly are my kryptonite.

 

For those not living in the US, the 4th of July is where we celebrate not being blown up by trying to blow ourselves up. It’s a great pasttime, very traditional.

 

This week I thought I’d plug a couple projects that have been taking a bit of my time recently and probably a lot more time in the near future. Project Gutenberg and Librivox. They’re both sites dedicated to crowd-sourcing the digitization of public domain literary works, but the former works in print and the latter produces audiobooks.

 

I know a lot of public domain works get a lot of bad rep sometimes, but spend some time perusing the libraries and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting. The part of the sites that has such a draw on myself personally is the contribution bits. I don’t mind reading something from a hundred years ago or some dry piece of information, but I have a really hard time focusing on one thing at a time. In this case, you get a chance to read a bit and help preserve at the same time, and that’s totally great by me.

 

Librivox is a little different in that they need listeners to help listen to recorded works and make sure nothing is amiss, but you can do some of the recordings yourself. I’ve always been a huge fan of audiobooks, helping to make them personally sounds pretty interesting. Give them a look the next time you’re bored and check it out – the worst that could happen is that you get to read or listen to free books!