2023/04/25 #DailyCreatedOOM #WrittenOOM #OwlOfTheMaze

Owl threw malleus spells repeatedly against the exoskeleton wall: a Standerbuild was filling the round tunnel like the backside of an hourglass spider. This tunnel branched from the regular squared stonework passages like the den of a wagon-sized stone-eating rat; and by now it was the most likely option of their scanty and unlikely choice of ways.

Peri held his book behind him, and tried to find things she could do or help him with among the unfamiliar sections and markings. He had never expected to have someone else shuffling through those pages, trying to decipher his scrawled and jarred notes, his more precise mystic text, and his heiroglyphic or childish drawings. Some of the pages were spotted with blood, some with sweat, some with… tears. No doubt her own book had been the same before it had been stolen. With one book between them they had tried various arrangements, none of which seemed to work.

It was difficult to repeat the malleus spells over and over: as it became more like meaningless sound to one’s mind, it became less of a spell. And he had to cast it at two parts of the creature in as quick succession as he could, or else it would simply turn, absorbing the pounding blow, and advance on them. The barricading hulk’s thin jaws were manifold as the arms of a typewriter, and twitched angrily. Peri’s page flipping was becoming frantic, and Owl winced when he heard one tear. She timidly said sorry, and he couldn’t answer as he continued his barrage.

Peri began a spell she had found, but faltered at an awkward part. He glanced into the book, and, as he recognised the spell (also as it required a pinch of self-heal he had in his belt), he was able to cast it successfully. A bitter and numbing odor came to him as under this enchantment the Standerbuild shuddered to stillness.

He turned to help Peri find something to clear it from their path, only to find that she was being hastened back and around a corner by a creature with a black insectile leg belted around her waist. As she stumbled backwards in the enemy’s grasp she was again searching Owl’s book, desperate to find some way to free herself. If she threw the book to him, he could save her by several means – yet he hesitated to speak, for the pained thought that it would seem he only wanted to save his book and not her.

Darting around the corner, he was in time to see her drop his book and wrestle with another thin leg which was… not a leg, but a jointed jaw and curving sting, which it ran through her.

Owl’s throat seized and his eyes went slack at the sight. He felt heavy rolling coils inside, as if of a snake that struck upward and stung him between the lungs.

Peri, still clutching the black limb, five inches of whose point was buried in her body, spoke in a horribly sinking voice:

“Matha, ktanai, silthei Peri anadan, saterei…”

Forked violet sparks stitched both her and the black-limbed shape that held her, lighting up the horrible tableau of predator and prey – these flares bled a dull orange, and flew apart into honeycombs of fumy lace. The murdering fiend shook on its stinger like a dry weightless leaf on its autumn stem, then it skidded away and rolled over, a stiff and destroyed carcass.

Peri crumpled to the stone floor, pierced, poisoned, and burnt, still clutching the sting that was left in her. Owl snatched his book and knelt beside her. He hoped he had strayed near the veil often enough to lead another poor soul away from it; yet he was no well-master, and here there was no well.

But while there’s life there’s running till your feet leave a trail of blood.

2023/04/25 #DailyCreatedOOM #WrittenOOM #OwlOfTheMaze

2023/03/07 #DailyWrittenOOM #OwlOfTheMaze

This particular chest was locked up with a vengeance – a very personal vengeance. The curses that bound it left wide scorch marks all over the wood. One lock spat a savage claw, which nearly minced his arm then burst like gunpowder. As well as he could for sneezing the smoke back out of his lungs, he did a complex summoning of a Manuet puppet, which he used from across the room, in case of any more booby traps. It was tedious: as dexterous as the wooden imp was (it had every finger joint), it was like using numb hands and a periscope. He was glad of his choice though, when a curse bound and hidden by another curse was released, clothing his puppet in arcing bolts of malicious force, snapping almost every joint apart. He had to summon another puppet.

Before he completely unbound the chest, he used a creeping whisper to worm inside and test the echoes, to be sure the chest wasn’t a disguised trapdoor with a waiting ambush – he’d been told a sad story about such an encounter. According to what he could hear, the chest was packed full of something soft; so not treasure, but there could be any number of useful implements. He also took a special knife of his, with intricate mystical patterns on the blade, leaving one patch clear, in which were always reflected the shining green eyes of a cat. He slid it across the floor to the puppet, which slipped the blade into the chest through the crack between the lid and the rim, and drew it along to scan the inside. All Owl could see through the cat’s eyes was a cloth cover, and a darkish mass at one end which must have been a large oath ball. Perhaps it was a chest of secrets, but such could be as much or more valuable, and if not they usually had a good story behind them.

Clenching his teeth, he directed the puppet to loose the last binding, and open the chest. The lid creaked on its hinges, and Owl jumped when the corner of it struck the wall behind. He approached. As he had seen, a thin undyed sheet was stretched over something smooth which filled the chest, and at one end was the ball of hair, which he now saw was in fact tied into two messy… pigtails. Oh.

He wasn’t sure how she even fit in the chest, if she was old enough to be out here at all. He doubted she was a Manlurer, as those… well, tried things. She was just lying there, if it could be called lying to be packed like blanket in a bread pan. He knew she wasn’t dead – he had gotten to be able to recognise death from ten paces. With a wry face he set a small Limbourg spell to smell for any curses on her. Then with one finger he tentatively tapped her shoulder. She didn’t move; unless he had seen a tiny shiver go through her skin. Was she… scared?

He cleared his throat.

“I won’t hurt you. That is to say, it isn’t my current plan, as I don’t know who you are; so if you turn out to be dangerous, then I’ll probably try to hurt you… anyways, why don’t you come out?”

She made very muffled sound like either a whimper or a snarl.


This time he could just make out some words.

“Why don’t you get me out?”

Get her out? He put out his hands, as if to pull a puppy out of mud, but hovered indecisively over her, wondering what would be an appropriate way to… he gave up.

“No, I don’t think so. Or are you stuck? Can’t you just sit up?”

She said something he couldn’t understand – unless she was just sobbing a bit.

He pinched one of her pigtails, where it was bound with a tiny dark silk bow, and carefully pulled. Thankfully she let him sit her up in this way. She glanced at him with a look mixed of curiosity and suspicion, then looked away, probably to hide her black eye.

“Here, take my hand,” Owl said, offering to help her stand, forgetting that he himself was still on his knees. Not taking his hand, the girl crawled out of the chest past him, and sat in a sort of heap on the floor. She was the smallest woman he’d ever seen, but very obviously a woman. He grimaced to think of how he had unknowingly scanned her, and hastily put the cat’s eye knife back in his pack. She had no pack, or belt, or even shoes. Most enemies would only take food and treasures.

“What happened to you?” he asked.

“There was a rogue venturer – I killed a Grumevisage I didn’t know he was fighting, and he felt I had made him look stupid in front of his friends.”

“He took your book?”

“Yes,” she said in a faint voice. Owl knew the pain; he had actually lost two books, and nearly lost one again the last time he had almost died. Losing your book was like having years cut out of your life.

“How much did you have in it?”

“A lot,” she said, her eyes beginning to look quite wet. As if partly to distract herself, she was shyly stretching out her cramped legs.

“How long were you trapped in the chest?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I already didn’t know the days anymore, I’ve been stuck in the tunnels so long. I think I was locked in more than a day.” Then her voice got quieter. “Thank you for getting me out; I could have died of thirst.” Owl knew the type of rogue: too self-conscious to kill someone face-to-face, but willing enough to let them die slowly and torturously; or to leave a curse behind that would shoot anybody on sight.

All at once it struck him like a hammer: she’d been locked in a chest for more than a day and it only then occurred to him to offer her water. He gave her his canteen, apologising that he had no cup: she clearly did not care about this. He tried not to laugh at the look of blissful relief in her eyes as she drank; it was amazing that she hadn’t asked him for water.

Her left ring-finger was missing: a bad sign. It could be an incidental injury – there were enough of those to go around, and plenty on her person specifically – but if some enemy had a piece of her she could be tracked, or worse; and there were serious evils that could be done with someone’s finger in particular.

She paused to breathe a few times, but finally her thirst was satisfied, and she dabbed her mouth dry with her knuckles.

“Thank you… what’s your name?”

“Owl, son of the Fort. And you?”

“My name’s Peri, daughter of Brand.”

A two-syllable name: curious; he could think of multiple spells this would make more difficult, and wondered if it was an advantage in other spells perhaps. She also didn’t seem to know what “son of the Fort” meant, but then many more people were born than were summoned. Speaking of summoning, he summoned a quail for her to eat. Her shoulders twitched when he killed it. He considered not casting the fuller’s veil, so she could smell the meat cooking, but they were in a dangerous area.

“Haven’t you eaten fresh before?”

She swallowed.

“I only ate dried meat.”

“Fresh is the only way, you’ll see. Even when there isn’t time to flavour it.”

He had to keep from laughing again, watching her try to eat daintily with his rough knife and plate, and while she was so hungry. From her face it was plain that the experience of freshly cooked meat was not lost on her. When she was finished, Owl realised there was nothing for her to wipe her mouth or fingers; he used cleaning spells on himself or his clothes when necessary, but that was painful. It seemed quite silly that there wasn’t a stitch of loose cloth between them. He offered to summon a rabbit for her to wipe her mouth and fingers on, but she was afraid it would get killed in the tunnels. He thought of suggesting they kill it themselves, and dry the meat, but decided that would be a mean-spirited jest. In the end, she used her sleeve, though it was short; then he pulled the cloth away from her arm as he used a Feinles purge on it, taking care that she got no indication of how it stung his fingers. It was amazing how something small could become so important.

Now that the more pressing matters were dealt with, the most important matter was next to settle.

“Alright, then,” he said, “let us find you a book.”

2023/03/07 #DailyWrittenOOM #OwlOfTheMaze

2023/03/06 #DailyWrittenOOM #OwlOfTheMaze

Owl sent out a Jigensson, a Northern serpent spell, which swarmed and slithered along all the sides of the tunnel, feeding their findings back to his mind as he hastily tried to keep up, pencilling the map into his book by the faint light of a bug clamped in his teeth. The spell revealed to him every turn off, upward shaft, pit, or stairway, without the need for a dangerous amount of light and moving around. He rather shabbily indicated verticals by diagonal dotted lines and numbers, mapping different levels on different pages of his book.

Several of the serpentine manifestations of the spell near the end of their course abruptly spread out, and Owl’s heart leaped: an exit – or a room. He finished drawing what he could remember and hadn’t missed that the spell had revealed, used a rude endless stench curse to mark the wall, and put out his bug. The Jigensson spell had not felt anything that seemed like feet, or that moved when touched, nonetheless he crept as quietly as his longing for the exit would allow.

As he drew nearer, he began to see the rough contours of the ground. It looked more and more like sunlight. Peering round the last corner, he was sure of it. Then a report lashed the echoes into life, and a bullet nicked his ear.

He shrank back from the corner as further shots shattered it, and bit his tongue to keep from crying out. He should have realised long ago that things already flying, or with thin legs like spiders, would be missed by the Jigensson serpents. He cast a seal on his wounded ear quickly, and summoned a vampire moth: wherever the moth found a drop of his spattered blood, he purged it away with a small pin-pointed cleaning spell. When the moth could smell no more blood, it dissolved into dust.

From what Owl could remember, the gun was held by thin, jointed limbs, very much like spider legs, without any body, clinging or bracing on the floor, walls, and roof of the tunnel, so that he might have mistaken them for plants. It was placed and animated by a curse, laid by some cruel and strong enemy, which Owl hoped was far away. He also remembered seeing a Boarsuch creature beyond the gun-wielding curse, well into the light.

He filled a creeping whisper with insulting epithets, and directed it to find the Boarsuch. It took some time, as it was unfortunately a slow spell, usually used for shorter and clearer distances. His wounded ear was throbbing, and the seal made him itch. Finally he heard the Boarsuch growl, and lumber indignantly down the passage, tearing through the gun emplacement. Nothing else was necessary but to wait in the dark while the creature passed like a troll with a tapir’s head, still blind from the light. With great satisfaction Owl heard the scrape and thunderous tumble as the Boarsuch fell into a pit.

The gun seemed to be missing only the three shots fired at Owl; he had only rudimentary knowledge of handling firearms, and about that particular weapon he knew no more than that it was an automatic rather than a revolver. He fed it to a rope-pile worm to hide it in his pack till he could get to one of his vault doors; he would probably sell it rather than try to keep ammunition stocked.

He was then stepping into the light: which he soon saw was from a lamp in a raised ceiling: a lamp made to look like a mocking sun. It was merely a room rather than an exit from the tunnels. Ah well. At least there was an unopened chest lying near the far wall…

To be continued.

2023/03/06 #DailyWrittenOOM #OwlOfTheMaze