Bricks and Murder
His home. A three-room dome, made from bricks. Bricks made from mud, the deep red mud of the Motherfen. Formed with his own hands, baked in the heat of the sun, laid one-by-one by him and his brothers.
His family. Gylean, his wife, wrapped in blue silk. Silk bought in the market along with sweetwater and spiced eggs. Silk sewn while laughing as he played with his children. Two girls and a boy. Ten, seven and three. Clever, gentle, and brave. Into dogs, into boys, into everything. Inside the home, surrounded by bricks.
The birdman. Green skin and black robe. Wings made of black feathers. Feathers made from black light. Sprouting from its shoulders like branches made of glass. A knife and a spear. A sword and an axe. Oiled and dripping, desperate for blood. Walks through the town. Walks through his walls. Walks through his bricks like a ghost through the fog.
Glig opened his eyes. The pink morning sky swayed gently back and forth, soft rapids lapping around the canoe. He blinked dust away and looked past his feet to Mahani. She was awake, curled up at the bow, looking at her hand. She was wearing one of the Summoner’s Gloves, moving her fingers faintly as if trying to recall forgotten gestures. Glig watched the stitching on the glove begin to turn white.
Mahani caught his eye and quickly pulled the glove off. “Hey. You’re up.” She shoved it into her pocket. “Did you have another nightmare? You were whistling in your sleep.”
Glig rubbed his face. “Brreep.”
“The angels again? Your family?”
Glig nodded. He looked around at the landscape, getting his bearings. In the daylight he could see that the woods had thinned, replaced by sparse brush, hardy wax-leaf, cacti, and the occasional stunted tree. Beyond them, he could see mesas and hoodoos, striped towers of blue coal, white sandstone, and pink shale, glittering in the shadeless sky like cities of their own.
“Only another day to the prairies, hopefully.” Mahani said, picking up her paddle, peering carefully at the water. “Maybe less, if the river behaves. If it doesn’t, we might have to walk.”
Glig pulled his gaze from the brutal, cactus-carpeted terrain. “Breep,” he asked. He started his journey in these badlands, could recall in perfect detail the de-boning method favoured by the giants that roamed here. He did not like the idea of walking.
“Murder giants aren’t even the half of it.” Mahani said, shifting to get a better look at some driftwood, “The canyons are crawling with kobolds, the mesas are crawling with panic bats, and the whole terrible deal is crawling with snakes, rabid coyotes, and poisonous centipedes.” She paused, staring at the driftwood. “At least the river is only crawling with one thing.”
“Breep?” asked Glig, following her gaze. The driftwood was getting closer.
“Ancient psionic crocodiles,” said Mahani.
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