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Spooktober 2022

My plan for Spooktober is to basically use the prompts for writing, and specifically character, exercises. For a couple of them I might do actual articles, but for the majority I'm just going to be writing random scenes that help explore and flesh out some of my characters and their relationships. I'm not putting any further constrictions onto this, so the length of the scenes might vary drastically depending on my mood, and I'm also not editing them or anything for now. I'll probably only post little snippets on worldanvil in order to get the badge—I don't want to post the whole scenes because I'm expecting there to be a decent amount of both cringe and experimentation—and I'm pretty much just going to use this for myself and to get better at writing consistently to prepare for nanowrimo.

1 Portrait
"I've got commentary," Inigo murmured beside him, and Evander gave an indignant sigh.

"Well aware, Inigo." The figure drawing was well-done, now that he veered his attention to it, but the fact that it was Vallen and that Inigo had drawn him like—it wasn't overt or suggestive in any way, but the situation was still unsettling. "You have a portrait somewhere, or just figures?"

"Drying on the windows." She pointed with her brush, and he started over. "Don't touch it!" she called out after him, and Evander gave her a noncommittal, "mm."

She actually had several portraits tacked to the windows, all in various states of drying and of assorted mediums and styles. He could tell which ones were made during her normal periods of temperament, and which had been done during her. . . episodes, because there was less precision on those, and more liberty taken with the color and composition. He'd seen some of her work border on abstraction—none of the drawings or paintings here were as such, but there were a number where the proportions were off, or the lines wavering, or the colors much more vibrant that what he considered her style.

full wc: 2062
2 Vanish
"You vanished." Jezen's voice, from the top of the staircase though Misha hadn't heard the woman stepping across the loft, was deep. Not a smooth deep like Misha's that was made for lamentation and whispering false promises in men's ears, but a smoker's voice. A voice scarred through the lungs and scratching up the throat. Misha turned away from the mirror.

"You vanished," she told Jezen, and Jezen laughed. An awful laugh, because it was a smoker's laugh, and then the woman began descending the staircase. Her fingernails knocked against the metal rail and Misha, though she had been warned of Jezen's appearance and demeanor, still stiffened at the way she moved. Her feet were bare. There was ink crawling up her skin everywhere. What skin was still left uncovered was almost translucent, pink and smooth where life still lingered.

What she had been most warned about was Jezen's blindness. There was a cloth wrapped around her face to cover her eyes, or whatever was underneath—it was a torn scrap of white linen, folded and tied as if someone else had done it for her, or perhaps to her. Black ink had soaked and dried through the cloth where her eyes should've been, and as she stepped she glanced around with the directive of someone who did in fact possess sight.

"I never vanished," she said. She came to the foot of the stairs and stopped, facing Misha with her fingernail still gently clicking on the banister. She paused, sucked in her lip. "Your mouth is bleeding." Misha licked at her mouth again.

full wc: 1358

3 Abandoned
"I—" Dmitri started, and then Ast finally cut through the last strands of the rope and it slid loose down Dmitri's sides like a pit of snakes retreating. Ast took a step back, still holding the knife and now pressing the back of that hand to his face, and bent over, angled away from the boy. Vomited.

"I'm sorry," he heard the boy's small voice, and Ast's response was another involuntary retch. It splattered across the floor and the foot of the table, which was fine because it already smelled like piss in here anyway and they'd be leaving in a few minutes, once he composed himself. He could still feel Dmitri's wide eyes boring into his back, heard the table creak as the boy sat up.

"I didn't think—" Ast gripped the side of the table, just to keep himself from keeling straight into his own vomit. He tried to block out the boy's voice, and his own betraying sympathies that incited from it, but it was more or less futile; it was only the two of them left in the room and Dmitri, though small and young and seemingly inconsequential, had siphoned himself a heavy presence in Ast's conscious. And he kept talking: "I thought—I figured you'd—"

"Abandoned you?" Ast wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and then laughed, his gaze still cast down on the small, sour puddle across the floor. "I would've, if it were up to me."

full wc: 1737
4 Enchant
He reached out to brush back the hair that had fallen over Leike's face. "You're sweet," he said suddenly, and Leike felt the urge to laugh or push him away. Maybe both. Instead he scribbled out the date in his notepad, a few jarred sentences to set the scene. Tried to block out the shadow of Stef leaning forward, and keep himself steady. "You're enchanting, you know that?" Stef still didn't touch him beyond the brush of his hair, but there was an itinerary being set, wasn't there? A hand would come to rest on his leg, just above his knee, that would soonafter make its way to palm him through his trousers. Fingers pressing into the back of his neck, rubbing the muscle into silken numbness, and then some sort of whisper—he wasn't sure what Stef would say, whether it would be vulgar, direct, or more delicate. He had said sweet, enchanting. Delicate then, most likely.

"Your lover before he died, the fifth son of House Ratham?" Leike said abruptly, tapping his notepad. "Right?"

Stef scoffed, a volatile mixture of annoyance, arousal, and rancid grief. He slumped back, adjusted his erection, and slid his hand around his mug without picking it up.

"Fifth child. Third son." Leike nodded and made the correction in his notepad, wondering just how much Stef was suddenly wanting to beat on him right about now. He glared at Leike the whole time he was writing and when Leike had set his inkpen back down: "Are you even interested in fucking?" So much for delicate.

full wc: 2889

5 Misfortune
"Yes, he is—" Fjornin sighed, diverting his gaze from the fire and regarding the rest of the room as though he were just now realizing where he was. He shifted in his chair flexing his legs and working out the muscles. It wouldn't have been surprising had he been sitting there for multiple hours at this point, doing nothing.

"I suppose he's getting better. He has his moments, more and more now, but—" He shook his head. "We just—we keep going back and forth, and I can't push him, because—because he's like. . . that." He never said it; never admitted that Evander was like Ophelia, but they both understood it.

"Well, he's gone through a lot, he was—"

"Yes, I know." And it had been easier to circumvent it before everything had happened. When Evander was just passively melancholic and still going about his life and pretending himself, then they could also ignore it, but now it had grown all over him like a fungus and he was constantly suffocating from it.

"You've both had a lot of misfortune these past few years," he said quietly. Fjornin merely nodded, as if to reiterate what he'd said before. Alexei pivoted slightly: "You've had a lot of misfortune these past few years."

full wc: 1148
6 Chasm

 
7 Thorn
 Across the wall and along the crevices and mortar of brick, a thin layer of fungus sinewed out like webbing, rippling with wretched blain and ooze. The Lord looked up—Brynn following his tracking gaze to where thorny arms of vine crawled out over the bed on the wall. At first, neither of them understood. It was mesmerizing, something like art almost despite the horrible pulse and meander of it, in some seemingly deliberate fashion but not one that Brynn could exactly discern. There was something about the natural patterns of nature, and not just any nature but this particular kind of degenerate, hollowed nature that engendered an uncertainly complex intention. It was not good, per se, but it was not an inherently evil thing either, no matter how distinctly it gave such an impression.

The Lord looked back down at her, confusion breaking out over his face in response to her own bewildered expression. A few other nuances passed across his brow—a diluted anger, a need for more from her, and something else she couldn't identify.

"You did not do this?" She bit back laughter at that. Her? Do that? And while she was lying here bound and at his whims, no less. It was an insult for him to suggest it when there was at the very least no uncertainty, on both their ends, as to her own current state of helplessness.

A fissure broke out across the mortar where a particularly thick vine had tried to wend its way not just along the wall but through it. The thorns had managed to crack it, but the vine itself had stumbled at the hardiness of the brick, jolting back in a zigzag, like a convulsing snake, its movements all sharp and unprecedented. It made it look even more unnatural, and it had run itself ragged against the face of the brick as well so that the stem, appearing to nearly match the size of Brynn's wrist, split along its length at several intervals, a simmering black pus leaking out and slugging down along the wall. It was awful, and yet Brynn was amused by this as well. Her mouth quirked, and she felt her own sickened amusement pilfering up beneath the Lord's hand still clasping her throat.

full wc: 2388
8 Howl
"Lean off it," she said loudly, hoping he could hear her through the door. "It makes it harder when you do that." As it finally gave and she jerked it open, she heard him grunting, "does not," presumably more to himself. "And I'm not your mo—" she continued but stopped when she saw Raughdon hanging off his shoulder, head hung with mousy black hair covering his face and a snotty mop of blood down the front of his leather vest.

She wasn't expecting it, so there was a lapse where she stared at Raughdon unsure of what was wrong with him, until he coughed up a bit more bloody spit and Ast angled him away so it dripped down onto the cobbles that ran along the alley.

"Ugh," Ast grunted, and Alma winced instinctively and hugged her arms around her fleece wrap.

"Fuck, Ast." He wiped a lingering string of spittle from Raughdon's mouth with his jacket sleeve, and then wiped that on his own leathers. Then looked up at her sheepishly. "What happened?" she asked him. She was vaguely aware of several cravvik kids running down the street a ways behind him, all decked out in masks and leather revelry, hooting and howling to several other party-goers on the main street. One of the young women, dressed in little more than a shift, boots, and masquerade, shrieked as her presumed lover grabbed her by the waist from behind and swung her over his shoulder in a single swoop, racing down the street all the while and barely breaking stride in the maneuver.

full wc: 979

9 Mirror
Misha turned at that moment—Dom saw it in the mirror, and heard her intake of breath, disappointment threading through her as she set down her make-up and came around to where Dom lay. It was a strange diversion from the voyeurism he'd sunk into, watching her legs moved across the pane of glass and then come into his direct view in front of him. She crouched down, her face finally coming into his line of sight: dark eyes and lips, a sallow pallor, hair swept up into an airy bun with wisps still hanging around her earlobes. The neck of the dress dipped deep between her breasts, just as he'd figured, and this close he could see the ripple of bone between them as well, the purple shadows under her eyes that she'd tried to conceal with powder. He felt the blood beating beneath her skin, rich with arcanic energy, his own body desperate to wake itself up in response to it.

Once upon a time he'd lived for that feeling, the very prominent electricity that came from having her blood so close, feeling powerful merely because he was in the presence of something powerful. It had turned stale sometime along the length of their journey here, growing to be more a nuisance than anything else. Yet still Misha used that against him.

"You look. . ." Rather than finish the thought, Misha sneered at him, and then laid her hand on his thigh, pulling gently at his trousers. "And you've pissed yourself, you fucking. . ." She didn't finish that thought either, instead sighing as if it were some childish annoyance she had to deal with yet again.

full wc: 1742
10 Broken
"It was never there to begin with," she told him. "There wasn't enough to be broken in the first place." Maybe that was a harsh response, but it was true, and she rather thought that was better than there having been something broken to begin with. Because what it came down to was that Leidevelt had thought he ought to have all these idealistic things—Delila had been a Lady, a sultry dream of a girl in her pleated dresses and idle triviality—but he hadn't ever had it, and it had taken having Delila in the flesh and in his home for him to realize that.

He started walking again without any preemptive, and Leski had to trot after him to catch up. He'd thrust his hands back into his pockets and was fumbling around for something; she didn't understand what until he pulled them out with several tendrils of lint in one hand and a flintpiece in the other and let out a despondent huff. He scattered the lint on the walkway and shoved the flintpiece back in his pocket.

"It was easier just going out each night," he mused, and Leski wasn't sure if he was talking to himself or her.

"The whorehouses?"

"Yes." He'd begun chewing on the inside of his cheek, and Leski swung her pack around to rest on her hip, opening it up and digging around inside. She handed him a cigarette.

full wc: 2240

11 Escape

 
12 Slime
He sank the scalpel down into the skin, dark, ichorous blood welling up around the lesion. It was thicker than normal blood—even normal orvon blood, which was yet thicker than common blood, so this came out in an almost molasses-like consistency, squelching a bit, a blackish purple hue that reddened as it thinned.

"Hmph." Ryven wasn't sure what the examiner meant by that, but he seemed only mildly surprised, so Ryven figured he'd wait on any questioning for now. Upon the initial incision, the air inside the body seemed to have been released as well, and the corpse itself deflated with the guise of a shallow exhale. The examiner prodded lightly at the welled blood.

"Certainly slimy," he said. Who the comment was meant for remained ambiguous.

"Slimy?"

The examiner looked up at him, apprehensive until he saw that Ryven wasn't in the least bit queasy. "Should get moreso inside," he told him earnestly, and Ryven wasn't certain what that meant either. He'd heard of arcanic reactions in bodies before, but usually it involved hardening, the calcification of organs and the drying up or expulsion of bodily fluids. Not. . . half-congealment, or accumulation of sludge within the central cavity.

full wc: 1828
13 Haunt
"It's haunted, isn't it?" Lach squinted between two of the fence's thick bars. He could barely see the peaks of the manor's towers, one spire stretching just a few feet higher than the other. The rest of it was hidden behind the thick copses of trees all sprinkled in somewhat unnatural fashion across the grounds of the estate, and gnarled and overgrown as though they were trying to fill in the awkward spaces that lacked vegetation. He tried to make out any movement beyond the graze of wind through leaves and branches but there was nothing that caught his eye. "You think maybe you have to do. . . something, to get in?" He was thinking of books he'd read, ghost stories of the like, where there was always some riddle or motif required upon entrance. This did resemble the right sort of place for such mysteries, but then so did half of the holdings on the Isles.

Dhunus turned to him, scowling, then turned back to his consideration of the fence. "No, nothing like that." He walked a few paces right of the gate, tested the sturdiness of the bars there, which were only slightly less corroded than the gate itself. "The key's supposed to be the only way in." He propped one foot on the bottom rung of the fence and heaved himself up, testing the hold of his weight. The fence droned out a low creak, and Lach tensed, waiting for it to snap. "Which I didn't even know Brynn knew about."

"She never went herself?" Dhunus jumped down and came back over to the gate, toeing a patch of dirt that looked to have been dug out and replaced.

full wc: 1196
14 Ruin
It still felt as if he were in Chamberv. Many of his comrades who'd been stationed in Chamberv with him, he knew, felt so as well. They'd arrived in Chamberv months ago with the impression of a morbid dreamscape, none of the war quite real until after the fact, and when they'd returned to Beourjen City, oddly enough it too felt like a dream. He stepped across Brickard's courtyard and he couldn't help but imagine it in ruins, the clamor of the infantry in the background, the sharp scent of sulfur and mentholate arcana sitting across the hazy air. And reading that letter. The callous way what little was left of his life had been ripped out from under him.

He'd worked hard not to blame Len, because Len had done his best and really, Kestern should've been thankful his son had survived. He was thankful. There had not been much reason to come back to the capital aside from the baby, and sometimes he thought it might be the only thing that ground him back to reality. He passed by the hospital each morning where men he'd fought beside for months were losing their minds, or had already lost their minds, and Kestern reckoned he might be there too except he couldn't. And as he formulated his own assault, he garnered some acceptance of this new livelihood that was only half living.

"Is he awake?" He turned to see Len paused in the threshold, a large bag of greyed milk in his hand, his briefcase set by his feet as he unbuttoned his coat. It took Kestern a moment to process what he was asking.

"No." He glanced down at the baby, its face flushed but contented.

full wc: 1532

15 Mist
He continued in up to his waist and then dove the rest of the way, icy shock coating over his skin before his body quickly adjusted. He felt, briefly, like a boy again, the scars and tension and myriad injuries throughout the years all rinsed anew, all of him moving fluidly underneath the water without any notion of what existed atop the surface. He didn't come up until he'd expelled all of his air, and when he did, he was nearly a quarter of the way across the width of the river.

This far out he could feel the gentle tug of its current, and the mist was a palpable thing, the tiniest tickle over his shoulders. He could see the other side of the river as well,  a mound of rocks erected in the grass just shy of where the lip of it would be when the river level rose to its highest. It was an oddly shaped mound, clearly man-made, its shape resting somewhere between a tower and pyramid. He and Ast had made it years ago, for no reason he could now reconcile.

"Aye!" He turned back at Dmitri's voice; the boy stood again with his toes just gracing the edge of the water, arms hugging around his belly and legs slightly trembling. He looked incredibly small from this far away, a thin slip of a boy and pale against the brown fields and forest. "I can't swim!" he called out to Evander. "You have to come back and watch so I don't drown!"

full wc: 1028
16 Whisper
They both watched the rest of the guests out on the dance floor. It was in between formal songs, so everyone was mostly just mingling, joking and reveling and waiting for the next dance to start. She met Key's gaze across the ballroom—he was well into his third drink, and grinned at her with unadulterated ardor, a forward regard she was still getting used to. He was forthright in everything he said to her, and wholly devoted as well; she didn't mind it at all, but it was a strange manner to be the recipient of when she herself had never been particularly romantic.

But she was happy. And Inigo was leaving so she would be happy as well, and Julen wanted nothing more than for them both to be happy.

She dropped her voice to a whisper. "I'm going to miss you, In."

Inigo tilted her head so the side of her forehead bumped against Julen's. "You too," she told Julen. "But you'll come visit." Ah. There was no easy way to crush that notion for her sister, so Julen held her tongue. It would be lovely, wouldn't it? To visit Beourjen City, and be led down the the market streets by her sister, to go to the theater together, and see everything that would soon be filling Inigo's life. She'd brought Inigo to Ethaeras several times in her early years at university and Inigo had loved it. She'd been entranced by everything, and also secretly jealous. And Julen had loved showing off all of that new life, showing Inigo what life could be like outside the glen once she got a bit older.

She knew Inigo wanted her own turn at that.

full wc: 1145

17 Shadow

 
18 Spirit
"We have to let the arcanic spirit out. When he died, he was in a state, yes? So the organs likely hardened." She held her hands up to mimic the hardened crust of an organ for emphasis. "We have to crack the heart—and the adrenals, for it to release." She mimed the cracking as well, and made a tkk sound with her mouth. Then her face drew somber again and she dropped her hands back to her lap. "Unless you want to burn him, but. . ."

"I know." He did want to burn him; that's how they did it at Brickard, and that had always seemed the most preferable method to him, if only because that was how he'd been brought up. But it wasn't his call to make, and Alma—Alma, he reckoned, might want him buried in Guardsrest. It would be honorable for Corrigan to be buried in Guardsrest.

"You can—if you want to be the one to do it—"

Ast shook his head again. "You have steadier hands." He also didn't want to do it, because the thought of anyone doing it, never mind himself being the one sinking the knife into the body, sickened him a bit. It would be difficult enough watching it.

"All right." The dreamweaver shrugged, and then steeled the hunting knife in her hand again, pausing just before the first incision to shift a glance back to Ast, perhaps to make sure he wasn't second-guessing his decision to let her do it. Perhaps she was waiting for him to pose an argument to the whole ordeal. Either way, he kept silent, and so she went in.

full wc: 1379
19 Relic
Once there was a wide enough space for them both to fit through, Ylsev eased off of it and nodded his head, beckoning for Essina to follow inside. He didn't ask for the lantern back, and Essina gathered that he had brought it along mostly for her benefit. Many orvon still had some of that thick, dwarven blood in them from the time of the clans—Ylsev must've been one of the ones with enough to see through the darkness.

"Mostly everything is here." He kept his voice hushed despite his earlier assertion that no individuals, or even animals, could find there way into this place without his own accompaniment. "Anything that belonged to an individual family—one that's still around, anyway—was returned, but most of it, there's no telling whose it was originally, or where it was passed along, especially through the Trades."

She didn't see what he was talking about at first, but the she followed him into the central cavity of the room, where it was all laid out, or thrown into various nooks and corners, or piled haphazardly onto shelves. It was a bit of a disaster, if she were being honest, and she tried not to let such candid assessment play out in her features as she walked around a bit, holding the lantern up and taking in the many dozens of relics. A hoard, some might label such a precocious assortment, but really, the way it'd been all thrown down here in disarray without proper care or maintenance, it looked more like trash. A place where the Daeravitch dynasty disposed of all their unwanted gifts and valuables because it wasn't as though they were close enough to the sea to throw everything out there.

full wc: 1866
20 Unquiet
The next time he woke up, the lantern had burnt out and his back felt like it'd been shattered and then stitched all back together again. The bane of sleeping on this floor, but it wasn't as if he had any other choice. Any other option, and he wouldn't have gotten even a wink of sleep, for reasons he didn't care to delve into right now.

He turned—the ache sang through his shoulders too. He'd laid to bed once, when he was little, with a syringe still in his neck after taking his varalys, and had woken up to a similar sensation. Blood spotting his pillow and dripping out of the pinprick wound. There was no blood here though, and no syringe that he rolled onto. He'd never made that same mistake since.

It was still grating, rolling onto his side, looking out across the room and breathing hard. He couldn't see much, and all he could hear was Brynn's slow, rasping breath. It was the kind of breathing that laid precursor to snoring. He wasn't all that surprised.

The rest of the room was all dark shapes, moonlight thin outside the window. The curtains blocked out most of it, but they weren't entirely opaque and he could see its murky shape behind them. Couldn't hear anything though, which was strange. It had never been completely quiet outside, in the time he'd spent in these woods. In the time he'd spent in any woods; woods like these were by nature unquiet.

full wc: 1546
 

21 Shatter
Dom let Leidevelt entered ahead of him, and glass crunched underneath his heavy build. There was a particularly wide smattering of glass near the threshold; probably a shattered pane of some sort that Leidevelt stepped straight through because he didn't care, or perhaps dramatics. He enjoyed the sound of it crunching underneath his boot. Dom stepped carefully around it after.

"Their. . . doctor." Leidevelt still had his hands shoved in both pockets, and he peered over each table they passed, as though examining the surface for—what? There was little of interested on there, and the surfaces were stained from numerous chemicals and humors. "He only worked here?"

"Yes. Just here." Dom licked his lip; a nervous habit, and he hated it because Misha did it too. One of them had taken it after the other, from being around one another for so long. "He preferred working alone, but Misha always made sure he had two or three assistants. And I came in weekly to check on everything." He paused, and frowned. He fucking hated Saden, but— "He was quite loyal to Misha. And the rest of us."

Leidevelt turned, and considered him and then the piping running across the stone ceiling. It wasn't dripping anymore; they must've turned the water off when they left. How odd. They'd had time to manage that, but not enough to grab the entirety of their instruments.

"Your wife?" Leidevelt asked.

full wc: 705
 
22 Lock

 
23 Door
"Hey," Ast breathed. He wasn't sure whether to come in further, because he felt uncomfortable and also somewhat unwelcome. But he'd told Alma he would check on him. It was the right thing to do, he supposed.

"Hi." Dmitri's face was mostly shrouded, and especially from across the room it wasn't clear what he might be thinking but it was rather obvious, from the way he was all closed in on himself and staring back at Ast, how he generally regarded the earlier events. "You can come in," he said, quietly, because that was how he always spoke. At least to Ast, that was how he always spoke.

Still, Ast considered staying by the door. He shouldn't have been the one checking in on him; didn't want to be the one checking in on him, but there wasn't much option, was there? Though he wasn't entirely sure when he'd signed on for this either. It was too convoluted for him, trying to meander through the boy's young understanding. He preferred simpler issues to contend with.

"All right." He pushed off the molding he'd been leaning against and came across the room, attempting to mitigate his usual. . . overbearing? Dmitri still seemed uneasy in his presence; of course, he was also just uneasy at the moment in general. It'd been a discomforting night.

full wc: 927
 
24 Curse

 
25 Possess

 
26 Abyss

 
27 Echo

 
28 Darkness

 
29 Hunt

 
30 Tear

 
31 Drown
This one ended up being a full short story and turned out okay, so I made the story its own article. It's 4.5k words long, so I'm not expecting anyone to read it, and I don't think I ever actually used the word drown in the story but there's definitely a drowning. Technically two drownings.

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Cover image: by John Quidor

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