Xeric scratched his short beard. The young man thought for a long time on how to word his wish. You had to be careful with djinn, he thought, and efreet were even more dangerous than them. In the dark basement storeroom, a pair of fiery red eyes gazed impatiently through the smoke. What appeared to be a horned man had a grin on his face, trying to look trustworthy. It worked surprisingly well.
The plan was simple: sneak aboard Captain Kem’s airship where she is keeping the philosopher’s stone, steal it from the cargo hold, blast a way out of the ship’s hull with alchemist’s bombs, and parachute back safely to the ground. Naturally, things never go according to plan.
Diary of Albert Winston, of the Kope-Marshal Expedition, Sunday, the Second of September: We have seen the first signs of tracks since our expedition began some four weeks ago. Mrs. Kope and Mr. Marshal, well-read as they are, insist on inspecting every set of tracks they come across in the hopes that it is their quarry. Often I must persuade them, by the number of toes, the shape of the impression, and other attributes of the style of the animal’s gait, that, no, they have not found their tyrannosaurs.
She looked up at the ship, its rotted planks warped by the sea water and plastered by the leavings of seagulls. It was still beautiful in her eyes, and although she could not say she was the more beautiful thing anymore, now that she was pushing 70, she didn’t feel quite so old looking at the shipwreck of The Dragonfly. After taking a moment to take in its crippled majesty, she hobbled up the rocks, cursing in achy stiffness as she went.
Kara woke up and, yawning, got out of bed. She waved her hand vaguely towards the domestic robot, who had only just opened the door to her room. She was already awake, even though it was early for most other people, and could see its android silhouette in the morning light.
Darkness receded. Lodge opened his eyes. A bugbear must have hit him. Lurking in the shadows, even as the raid howled and frenzied all around him, the bugbears still preyed on fear through surprise attacks. Why it didn't finish him while he was down, he couldn't say, but he was glad to be alive.
A leaf, crimson red, falls into the water and floats on top. It flows down the stream, like a tiny boat in autumn colors sailing on the gentle water's flow. Above, the orange sky of dusk fades lazily in from the afternoon. Below, a carp swims in the opposite direction. Upstream. The koi is old. He was once a captive creature, the pet of nobles, bred for show, that like so many others were released into the wild. He swims forward against the current, with deliberate intent but pacing himself. He remembers the climb from previous years, and in his age knows that this will likely be his last attempt.