The snow globe shattered on the obsidian floor, tiny shards of glass flying outwards in all directions, sparkling in the firelight. The water once inside splashed and settled into a puddle, in which floated the flakes of faux snow which seconds before had hovered suspended around the miniature, encased world. With its destruction went the tiny cottage and hilltop, the warm, eerie scenery. Dashed into pieces and scattered on the floor, and with it also, went my dream of you.
“Late, late, gettin’ too late. Too late to work, I need a break. I’ve spent me day and the day before, the day before that, and then 3 more, hunched in my workroom with all of me tools, pickin’ and pokin’ and makin’ a globe. This one’s a lovely, a house in a tree, any child would love and be grateful to be.
But Lord I can’t finish, it’s too late tonight, I’ll just visit my Village and say a goodbye. Won’t bring any out, I’ll just let them sit, I’ll play with some soon as I finish this bit.”
Muttering, the old, hunched giant rose from his worktable where his newest snow globe lay in scattered, delicate pieces, nearly finished, and hobbled down the long hall to his display room so that he might sit in peace with his little miniature city and the children living within.
Deacon vomited violently over the side of the ship, and I turned away in order to grant him just a sliver of dignity. We’d been at sea for a total of two days, and with another week to go, I pitied the poor, furry Djingo. He warned me weeks ago that sailing didn’t agree with him, and obviously he was right.
The air was developing a chill, and the scar where my left breast used to be was beginning to ache as it always did in the cold. I put my hand on it.
Seven years ago I had entered the Yellow Lands, named for the waxy ground that covers the hundred kilometer stretch of canyon just west of the Ashen Lands. The ground is sticky, a syrupy mud that covers your boots, making travel difficult, and variations of this wax covers all of the winding rocky crevices and cliffs that line the canyon floor. The danger traveling aboveground here is extreme, for roving bands of scouts are always on prowl, looking for new bodies to sell belowground in the flesh-pits if you’re young or nimble, or fight-dens if you’re thick and have some spirit.
I had a friend who had spent a few years as a poke-toy in one of the drug dens in the southeast of the belowground city. He had been accosted on the outer northern rim of the canyon, captured and sold. He was kept chained in a small room beneath the den for three weeks while the management plied him with Forsinth until he was suitably addicted. Afterwards, he lived upstairs, ankle-cuffed with a thin, ornate shackle to a roped area lined with velvet, pillows, and hookahs. The patrons, who would stay in the establishment getting high for anywhere from three hours to three days, would sometimes desire a sexual release, and for less then an ounce of Raxok, they could rent him as poke-toy.
He had eventually escaped with the help of a patron who had fallen in love with him. One evening, what looked like a drug induced patron funded romp turned out to be some rather complex sex-magic, which cleared by poor, drug fueled friend’s mind and gave him a 30 minute burst of inhuman strength, long enough to break the shackle and run. The patron had made him memorize the directions to his house, and over the next four weeks my friend stayed there, cared for gently while he went through the violent withdrawal associated with Forsinth.
This patron had an unfortunate habit of falling in love with and freeing flesh-property however, and a collection agency set on his tail long before, by a window-shop proprietor who he had stolen a boy from, finally caught up with him and raided the apartment. My friend barely escaped by diving out the back second story window and slashing the neck of a collector waiting beneath with one of the shards of glass from the shattered window. The patron was taken and delivered to the window-keeper to be used as a replacement for the boy-whore he had freed. My friend followed them, waited until the next day, and broke into the office while the window-keeper, underwear at her ankles, was drugging the patron. He stabbed the window keeper and tried to run with his lover, but too potent a dose had been injected, and the patron overdosed.
My friend managed to get himself out of the Yellow Lands and onto the Western Peninsula where, to his credit, he kept a cottage that served as a stop in a chain of safe houses for a group who helped bonded flesh-toys escape.
Deacon had been with me back when we had been referred to this man as someone who would be compassionate in my endless search for my brother, and who could guide me through the Yellow Lands. It was he who gave me false papers, taught me how to pass as an owner and connoisseur of young fighting boys and collector of eccentric rarities, and cautioned me to stick to the inner city and wealthy suburbs underground.
Deacon and I had pulled off a risky heist some months before, and we had just enough money to attempt our ridiculous plan of infiltrating the underground’s city elite in order to track down a map of the Icy Lands. If possible we’d buy it. If not, we’d steal it.
It turned into a fiasco, as these things usually do.
We got in without a problem, flashed money at the right places, make some contacts and made headway into the right circles by purchasing some 15 year olds who were in training to be pit fighters. I made a potential mistake of being honest with them, and letting them know that I was going to free them upon leaving. Once they realized that I was only shackling them as cover and had no intention of using the shock collars, they plotted more their escape and subsecquent revenge.
I ended up in the salon circle of Brihams Meastroso, who claimed to have the map and was willing to negotiate. I knew negotiations would consist of all the remaining money we had, as well as some sort of deal sealing erotic encounter with both him and his idiot son, and I was prepared to accept that. A soiree was called at his townhouse, attended by several well respected names, and a series of fights between all of our boys would entertain the evening.
The boys however, knew that I didn’t have the electrocution remote for their collars, and since each remote is tuned to only specific collars, they had no fear of being tortured or punished by any of the other guests.
Before my boys were to fight, Brihams showed me the map, kept in a hexed glass case in his museum room. I paid him, and all that was left, was for he and his son, whose overbite and receding chin gave him a tendency to drool, to perform whatever nauseating, contract signing sexcapades this insane culture insisted upon.
During the third fight of the night father and son began the process of feeling me up as we and all the other guests stood along the gold railing that overlooked the marble pit in the recreation room.
My boys fought with an uncomfortable fierceness which at first excited the guests, then made them nervous. When his opponent fell, the boy of mine who’d been fighitng let out a shriek, and on cue, the other boys rushed out into the pit and formed a human pyramid. They climbed up themselves and leapt over the railing. The first few went straight for the hors deurs table as the finely dressed guests yelled, shrieked, and staggered out of their way. They grabbed the tiny little knives and forks, threw handfuls back into the pit for their brethren, and viciously used the miniature utensils to stab, rip, and slice the astonished and panicking attendees.
At first, I was shocked and appalled myself, mostly because high societies always seem so well insulated and protected that you assume they have too many safeguards for this kind of thing to happen. But many safeguards are psychological, and as the panic and mayhem broke out around me, I thought: screw it, I had thrown up earlier in the day in revulsion of sleeping with Briham and his son anyway, so I drew my sword and killed them.
Deacon helped me drag Briham to the museum room. The hex around the glass case would electrocute anyone who tried to touch it, so we simply threw Briham at it. Being dead, he didn’t mind the shock, the glass broke, and we grabbed the map.
All would have been well, and I’d still have my damn breast today if Briham’s brother hadn’t seen us dragging the carcass to the museum room. The aristocracy tended to live together in large, incestuous families, so brother, sister, and sister’s son showed up. They were good with swords and put up a good thrashing, although I managed to kill the sister’s son, and did a pretty good number on the brother. They gave me several scars I still carry, slashed my breast, and would have killed me if Deacon hadn’t ripped their necks out with his teeth.
Security had arrived, and were massacring the boys who by now had massacred half the guests. In the commotion, Deacon carried me out of the townhouse on his shoulders. Outside you could hear the buzzing of the incoming Hornets, the city’s guard force, on their way to quell the disturbance. Hiding in one of the waxy caverns close by was the boy who had won the fight earlier in the evening. Since it was standard to train pit fighters in combat medicine beginning at age 11, he knew enough to tend to my wounds, and together the three of us made it out. The last I saw of him was when we bid him goodbye six months later, flying off in an airship to the Ethers where he had gotten a job as security.
Which is all a long way of saying I don’t like the cold. It makes where my left breast used to be ache.