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LMS VI: Built In a Day



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Tue Aug 09, 2022 4:48 pm
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TheSilverFox says...



CW: violence, gore, recreational drug use, death, implied sexual content, sexual references

@Ventomology: do the thing again
me: okay again

yeah I've written two novels already, but those were for a project I got bored of/felt like I could do better than, so here's a very distant prequel to my current project. It's about playing the harp, writing poems for your girlfriend, polyamory, the military-industrial complex, blood feuds, and long-standing traditions coming from people making things up as they go along. exciting stuff.

I'll also probably be throwing some poems in here. Current goal is to write at least two a week. I normally write five or six, so that shouldn't be an issue, but I don't want to hold myself to that many.

We'll see how this goes. I'm trying to get a job, so that might affect how much I'm able to write. Especially because there's this horrible job with a midnight-8 am shift that I'm vaguely interested in.

some nice and relaxing prokofiev to set the mood
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Tue Aug 09, 2022 4:50 pm
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TheSilverFox says...



note: many/most of these characters are anthropomorphized animals. it's symbolic. you wouldn't get it. please don't ask me questions about it or I will cry.

Characters


Viewpoint Characters


Vela Laetanus (she/her) - Lion. Distant relative and servant of the noble Laetanus family. A third cousin of the family head, she was born in poverty to parents who ran a bakery. While a few siblings joined the orphan of the state program, she stayed around and eventually learned how to manage the store. Between that and some family connections, she was able to get a metaphorical foot in the door and started working for her noble relatives. Under the supervision of the family head's aunt, Agrippina, she was eventually able to earn the family name. She's basically an event coordinator, handling the logistics behind parties, public ceremonies, and the occasional military procession. As an increasingly well-known harpist and poet, she's also been the family's unofficial diplomat/public face. She's been trying to juggle supporting her parents financially, keeping her name, writing sick poems for her girlfriend, and getting better as a harpist. She keeps busy. Fairly outgoing and personable, but gets quieter when she's stressed (and she's almost always stressed). Soft-spoken, still trying to adjust to noble culture. Coming into her own as a composer and a performer - she's still getting trained, but she has a knack for making popular pieces. Can be a little self-destructive and obsessive, especially when it comes to her writing and music. 29 years old, 5'7", more willowy, brown eyes.

Felias Ferox (she/her) - Lion. Queen of Caelis if you believe her, Lady Ferox if you don't. The current head of the family after the sudden and not even remotely suspicious death of her mother, Petronia, sometime last year. Her mother and grandparent oversaw the rise of the Ferox family and the construction of Caelis, and she's trying to keep their legacy intact. She doesn't have much power of her own (at least, right now) - while Felias has been training in everything from military leadership to civil administration, nobody expected Petronia to fall sick and die. As such, Felias is trying to find her own footing, depending on the relatives around her to keep the city intact and try to pull the other families into the Ferox sphere of influence. Kind of a tense situation, since several of those relatives could have stood to gain from Petronia's death. But everyone has to act polite and friendly around each other, since the Ferox family needs to put up a strong front to be taken seriously. Commanding presence and a quick wit, just like her mom. Terrible at emotional honesty, even around her spouses. Would like to be taken a bit more seriously by the older members of her family. Feels like she never got to have a childhood. Paranoid and suspicious. 25 years old, 6'1", fairly muscular, brown eyes. Has musical anhedonia (music doesn't make sense to her).

Luciana (she/her) - Lion. A soldier in the service of the Aescanus family. She had been brought into the orphans of the state program when she had been an infant, so she may or may not have ever seen her family? Either way, she'd been raised to be a soldier, so she was a bit miffed when, about a year or two ago, she was sent off to the Aescanus estate in Caelis to act as a low-level manager in some of the family's construction projects. She knows that the only reason she's a manager is because they consider her disposable. Not terribly motivated, hates her essentially dead-end job and her co-workers. Would really like all the glory of battle without the risk of debilitating injury. Bitter, sarcastic, doesn't open up easily. May or may not be thinking about running away, which would come with the risk of getting hunted down and killed as a deserter. Which somehow doesn't completely deter her. 22 years old, 5'5", also muscular, green eyes.

Avita (she/her) - Lion. A soldier in the service of the Thalassina family. She was raised as an orphan of the state, and she currently works as a guard on one of the boats of an otter merchant-king. Kind of a boring job, honestly. Other than the pirates and the occasional fights between merchant-kings, it's mostly an opportunity to go sailing up and down the river [what is the river named? uhhhh I'll get back to you on that]. She's not a big fan of the glory of battle in any case, so she's pretty happy with her job. She has a couple partners among the dockworkers/sailors, and she tries to find time to hang out with them. Also struggling a bit to find the funds and resources she needs to transition (social transitioning is pretty easy - neither the lions nor the otters care about that kind of thing - but medical transitioning is kind of a pain in a faux-medieval setting). Probably the friendliest and most extroverted out of the main cast. Not terribly motivated when it comes to most things, kind of used to the Thalassina family's upheaval and infighting getting in the way of what she wants to do. A bit of a pushover. The most honest about her emotions. 23 years old, 6'0", muscular (vela is a limp noodle compared to everyone else), blue eyes.


Plot



Setting


I probably want to start with some backstory - a few of the lions (generally in the form of large social groups/polycules) decided to give up their semi-nomadic life in the savannah and move south to the plains. They ended up working as mercenaries for the local rabbit lords (who brought crops to the river) and the river otter merchant-kings (who traded those crops and assorted other goods all along the river, and even with traders coming in from the sea). Those mercenaries started assembling into groups, and then into families with a clear hierarchy and leaders (essentially nobility, so they're often called the noble families). Kind of a mess from there - lion families fought each other to consolidate control over the plains and the river, with different families rising to and falling from power. One particularly strong family (Ferox) decided to broaden their horizons. They settled down at a spot close to the ocean, started negotiating deals between the river and sea traders (especially hiring out soldiers to go all over the world), and made a ton of money. So much money, in fact, that the Ferox family could start exerting control over the other families. It wasn't long before the Ferox family flattened the trading posts and makeshift towns in the area and started to build their capital. Other families, wanting a piece of the action, also moved into the area.

That led to Caelis, probably the only place that you (the hypothetical audience) are going to care about. The city's about 30 years old right now? It's both an architectural dream and a nightmare. On the bright side, there's a ton of fabulously wealthy people coming in who are happy to spend their fortunes on palaces, gardens, barracks, and whatever else their hearts desire. As such, they've been pulling in architects from surrounding kingdoms, and even some far-off ones. The downside is that these families still hate each other, have a penchant for solving problems with violence, and are desperately trying to one-up each other. A lot of buildings have been hastily made and don't have a ton of structural integrity. The road network is a confusing nightmare. Let's not even think about sewage.

The Ferox family essentially oversees the city - they have the most soldiers, and they're in charge of civil administration. They've been desperately trying to corral the other families, both as a power move and to keep the city from falling apart. That's been a bit of a challenge, which the Ferox family has tried to handle in a couple ways. The Ferox family claims to be royalty, and they've made up a whole story about how past prominent families were also royalty. The noble families don't exactly buy that, but it's been a potent tool for noble families descended from past "royal" ones. Setting up a council with a mediator (the Regulus) between the Ferox family and the noble families was another not terrible move. Especially the part where the assorted families got to decide who was a big enough deal to be in the council, i.e. who's really a noble family. Tons of negotiations, tons of bureaucracy, but it all basically somehow sort of works.

I'll copy-paste the climate stuff because I don't want to write it all out again: humid subtropical climate. Relatively stable temperature year-round, rarely goes above 90 F in the summer or below freezing in the winter. Consistently gets cooler air from the ocean. Can have storms come in from the west/northwest – thunderstorms are common in spring/early summer, and there are a few snowstorms in winter. Blizzards are rare. Has sometimes been impacted by tropical or extratropical storms (though I think that’s more of a problem farther north). Basically like a mashup of Buenos Aires and New York City.

have I ever been to Buenos Aires or New York City before? no. have I ever lived by an ocean before? no. I'm just going to assume oceans are bigger lakes and hope I don't regret it.



(note to self: write this out eventually)
Last edited by TheSilverFox on Sat Aug 27, 2022 9:22 pm, edited 12 times in total.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Wed Aug 10, 2022 1:11 am
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Ventomology says...



I see your Rome reference buddy.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Wed Aug 10, 2022 9:00 pm
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TheSilverFox says...



it won't be the last one lol
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Thu Aug 11, 2022 12:52 am
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Ventomology says...



Fox did you read Redwall as a kid
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Thu Aug 11, 2022 1:17 am
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TheSilverFox says...



:smt022

a little yeah
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Mon Aug 22, 2022 4:52 pm
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TheSilverFox says...



wait what does a harp sound like


one of the main characters plays a harp, but I don't actually know that much about the harp repertoire. I'm more of a piano person (though modern pianos come from the pianoforte, which was supposed to improve the dynamic control and range of the harpsichord, so without doing any more research, I can probably say pianos are just sideways harps). here's what some french and russian romantics think a harp sounds like:

Tchaikovsky - Pas de deux
Debussy - Sonata for flute, viola, and harp
Ravel - Introduction and allegro for harp, flute, clarinet, and string quartet (ravel my beloved)
Debussy - Danse sacree et danse profane for harp and string quartet
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Fri Sep 02, 2022 8:45 pm
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TheSilverFox says...



poems


according to my computer, I've written somewhere in the ballpark of 650 poems (they're all in one file, but that file doesn't have every poem I've ever written, and there's a few duplicates in there). that's a decent number of poems, but maybe I'll write more, we'll see.

(any poems I write for LMS will go here. I might also throw in some older ones, for flavor).

sinquefeld cup (32 lines)

Spoiler! :
it's funny to me that people being good at chess -
in a book or a film or a TV show or what have you -
is supposed to be some sign of intelligence.
yeah, I know princes used to learn chess
in the hopes they'd pick up strategy,
and those sacrifices and checkmates
make for some potent symbolism,
and there's something to be said
about the pattern recognition and memory required
to recall any of however many thousands
or ten of thousands of chess games
grandmasters have either seen or played before,
and, sure, the creativity
to handle a completely new position
and follow it through to a win.
all the same, if I see someone
who can haul ass on the chessboard,
all I can assume is they're just good at chess -
they know how a few different pieces
move across a black and white square board
and they can calculate however many lines
in their heads they need to find a way
to keep the game going, or maybe
they know when to call it a day.
plus, chess is one of those things
that one can only really get better at
by doing it a lot, so who knows
what else the chess player's given up
for the sake of playing chess
(not blaming them, of course -
it's by no means the worst thing
anyone could dedicate themselves to).


try not to break anything (22 lines)

Spoiler! :
my parents keep these wide-rimmed vases
on the back porch, by the steps leading
into the grass, which, even dying
after months of heat followed by the dry fall
blowing in and smothering everything in leaves,
is still more alive than the scattered weeds
crawling over under between chunks of dirt.
my parents only plant flowers sometimes -
always in the spring, usually not perennials.
and yeah, it's not a great place to grow things,
what with the april and may snowstorms
and the may and june hailstorms
and even the rabbits and squirrels and crows
hopping on nibbling at crapping on everything,
but it's weird doing nothing with those vases
half of the time, they just sit there
taking up space while I have to move the cord
to my electric lawnmower around them
or they'll fall down the steps.
at this point, they're just here to make it look like
our porch isn't completely devoid of life, and for halloween
we might stick little gravestones in them or something.


covid (26 lines)

Spoiler! :
I can stand up
without getting dizzy anymore,
and walking down a hallway
doesn't make me want to throw up,
and I'm not getting goosebumps
all over my skin while my face
feels like it's burning somehow,
and I'm not swallowing phlegm
over and over again
trying to force it down
my throat because it's so sore
I have to scream everything I say
so it comes out as more than
some scratchy mess,
but I think the part I hate more
are the couple weeks between that
and when I'm back to normal,
all the sniffing and coughing
and bloodshot eyes and heaving chest
and lurching through my day
with all that brain fog
drowning out what I was supposed to do
or who I was supposed to talk to
and everything's just a little,
uncomfortable, enough
that I can't just ignore it.


paint the corn (16 lines)

Spoiler! :
rain at the edge of thunderstorms
turning misty in the sunlight
like ghostly fingers dragging themselves
down green cornfields turning yellow
waiting for autumn to come, looking
like they were painted, in the sense
that you can see the brushstrokes
in the gaps between the rows,
divided, neatly organized, waiting
to be cut up and ground and shipped
and flown and driven and sold,
the chaff rotting on the ground
to become next year's crop,
like the rain's the painter
admiring their handiwork
before it has to go on the auction block.


pause (29 lines)

Spoiler! :
if I'm listening to music
and I hit the pause button
halfway through, walk away
to talk to someone
or do chores
or head out somewhere,
I'll come back to a different song.
I'll hit the play button
and it'll sound like a jumbled mess
of notes drowning each other out,
fighting for the spotlight
until I pick up on the melody
and I remember where I paused.
so sometimes I'll be in my room
sitting on the couch
counting down the seconds
until the song's over,
watching the clock tell me
I'm a minute, two minutes, three minutes
late, because I'd rather have
the song as it was meant
to be listened to, and not
find myself jumping over the gap,
stumble because I can't
stick the landing, and wait
however long before
my head starts bobbing again
and I can lose myself
in the music.


and it takes me a few seconds after I wake up to remember I've graduated (15 lines)

Spoiler! :
you know, I keep having this dream
that I'm taking some high school class
(either because I didn't graduate
or it's for college credit),
and every time I'm sitting down
at my laptop or my old computer
and scrolling through all the lessons -
most of them don't have assignments,
but they're all long and have readings,
as in parts of novels or something,
and every time I tell myself
it can wait, I've got other classes
and I can probably bang out all the reading
in a month or so, and that's about when
I'll wake up.
Last edited by TheSilverFox on Mon Sep 26, 2022 2:49 am, edited 4 times in total.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Fri Sep 02, 2022 8:47 pm
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TheSilverFox says...



chapters


this is where the actual novel will go until I exceed the character limit and have to make like five more of these or something


Chapter 1: High Society, Part 1 (1013 words) it sucks but whatever, at least I'm writing

Spoiler! :
Vela Laetanus wondered what would happen if her harp fell on her. It had slipped off her shoulder a couple times – mostly while practicing, thankfully – but either her or her mentor, Cloe, had been quick enough to grab onto the wood frame. As big as it was, it wasn’t exactly heavy. She was more worried about damaging the harp (and embarrassing herself in the process, of course). It had been her Cloe’s harp since her Cloe had started to learn, and, when Vela paid attention to Cloe’s long and rambling stories, Vela got the impression that it had been passing between servants and members of the family for a while before then. Which was obvious in the way that she had to keep replacing the strings, and how the wood scratched against her neck. Still, she liked it. It had history. The family harp, the one she played in public, spent most of its time collecting dust in that private room where she entertained guests. It was more of a symbol than an instrument. At least she didn’t have to worry about breaking this harp, putting it back together, figuring out how it worked, seeing what she could do with it-

“Excuse me, my lady.” Cloe said, sitting next to Vela. The older lioness reached out with stiff fingers, plucking a string with a chipped claw. “You’re playing a little harshly. Try that.”

Vela nodded and plucked the string.

“Softer,” Cloe said, shaking her head.

Another pluck.

Cloe eased back into her seat. “Good,” she said, pulling her arm back. Her orange robes, patterned with black swirls, pooled around her as she tried to adjust the pillow against her back. Satisfied, she rested her hands on her lap. “If you could start from the beginning of that section, my lady.”

Vela nudged the harp a little closer to her neck, took a breath, and started playing. Not that she paid much attention to it. It would’ve been much easier practicing if she wasn’t sitting on the balcony of the family estate, with a sandstone railing (imported at great expense) separating her from the street below. To her left and out the corner of her eye, she could see a broad cobblestone street, with soldiers in padded straw armor hoisting shields and spears as they followed their assigned routes; people hauling carts to the marketplace; workers heading to construction sites; and messengers sprinting through the early-morning crowd. She knew they could hear her. Sometimes she could see them pause by the balcony. Sometimes they’d clap.

How awkward. They could hear every mistake, every technique she didn’t understand. Odds were that most of them didn’t even know she was messing up, because it sounded pretty enough. Of course, that’s why Agrippina had Vela practice in public in the first place. Who wouldn’t want to hear a harp over their head while they wander in-between the walled mansions and public parks and imposing statues of this mostly-built city? But Vela knew she could do better. Vela didn’t want the world to hear her attempts.

“Well, my lady,” Cloe said. She frowned slightly, the wrinkles around her face making it a little worse than it was, and leaned forwards. “I’m glad we didn’t start working on the hard part today. You’re playing quickly, and it sounds a little dry. I had to play this for the lord gods knows how many times – he was a lullaby for him when he was young – so I think I would know uninspired playing.”

“Sorry,” Vela began, but Cloe raised a finger.

“My apologies,” Cloe said. “Talk as my lady should.”

Vela nodded. She didn’t want to be Cloe’s lady, or (almost) anyone’s lady, really. If anything, Vela liked how blunt Cloe was. Everyone else dressed up their words because they either didn’t want to offend Vela, or they didn’t know how to give advice. But Vela was noble, and she needed to act like it if she wanted to stay that way. “My apologies,” said Vela. “I am merely having some difficulty adjusting to this, public setting.”

Tapping her claws on her knee, Cloe said, “I can’t blame you. If it helps, it’s not like anyone’s paying that much attention. If it sounds nice, it probably is. Why – also back when the lord was young, of course – sometimes I would perform by just playing scales. He found that funny, as did his parents. He found a lot of things funny back then. I believe I’ve already told you, but there was the time he used to collect marbles so he could scatter them on the floor before his father’s generals-”

A couple loud knocks from inside. Cloe paused as Vela lifted herself up. “If you could wait a moment,” Vela said, handing over the harp to Cloe while trying not to sound relieved. Vela adjusted the shoulder strap on her pale orange dress as she walked across the balcony, sandals slapping against stone. Quickly slipping her sandals off, she entered her room and made her way to the door, where whoever it was had stopped knocking. Hopefully Floriana had come back with prices for some of the more expensive ingredients. The Laetanus family wasn’t exactly going to pull out all the stops to celebrate one of the lord’s wives getting pregnant, but a couple other families had showed interest in coming.

Smoothening the fur around her shoulder, Vela opened the door. She almost stopped smiling when, instead of seeing her wife, Vela found herself looking down at the short, reedy figure of Agrippina Laetanus. Dressed in an orange shirt that stretched down to her wrists, black pants, and black shoes that clacked against the floor as she tapped her foot, Agrippina beamed in that kind of way she did when she had some “lovely new opportunity” for Vela. “What lovely playing!” Agrippina said, arms behind her back. “I heard you as I was coming back from a charming little social occasion with one of those merchant-kings. We have may ourselves a lovely new opportunity to ingratiate ourselves with her family.”


Chapter 1: High Society, Part 2 (1017 words) I go one day without coffee and I'm miserable

Spoiler! :
“You would like me to do a performance, then?” Vela said. She felt a little self-conscious about her smile, like she was showing too many teeth.

Not that Agrippina noticed (or cared, more likely). “Her daughter showed some interest in your talents,” said Agrippina with a wave of her paw. “She and a few friends were hoping to visit later in the evening. You could prepare some snacks, give them a brief tour, and play a couple songs. Maybe those ones with the, how did you call them, glisses? Such pretty pieces.” Her smile grew a little wider. “Nothing too complicated. I know you have enough on your plate.”

Well, Vela had to plan a baby shower. And perform in front of all the families at the Regulus’ meeting. Oh, and something about a music festival to inaugurate one of the newer parks by the river. Never mind any other shows and performances like these that Agrippina decided to pile on her. Vela ignored the pit that settled in her stomach and bowed her head. “Of course,” she said. “It would be my pleasure.”

“Lovely,” said Agrippina, nodding her head. “If you could start preparing now, I will let you know when they arrive.” Not waiting for a response, the older lioness walked down the hallway, her shoes tapping a steady beat as servants carrying bedsheets and clothes moved out of her way.

Sighing, Vela closed the door behind her. She turned around and paused, looking over her room. Part of her wanted to throw herself into the thick white sheets of the bed, bury herself in the red-embroidered orange pillows and wait for her wife to come back. Part of her wanted to wade her way through the piles of papers and notes scattered around her desk, maybe pick up some incomplete piece that caught her fancy and get to work. Of course, this job was the only reason that she could live in this room at all. But Vela hated how often she wanted to do anything other than perform, entertain, act. If she lost her name, maybe she could go work in one of those theatre groups.

“My lady?” Cloe called from the balcony.

“One moment,” Vela said, shaking her paws as she walked back over to her harp.

******


“And you are sure you heard them deliberating?” Felias Ferox said, marching down a narrow hallway, wearing a purple robe hastily thrown over a worn, browning shirt and pants. The light from narrow windows ran across her face as an attendant, keeping pace just ahead of her, wiped sweat from her cheeks. Felias’s sandals slapped against the stone floor, making her grit her teeth a little more.

“Yes,” came the voice of Felias’s stepsister from behind Felias. “I couldn’t quite make out everything they were saying, but it had something to do with the Regulus and your security detail.”

Of course, it was something trivial. Felias had used to think that, if they couldn’t wait a few minutes for her to arrive, she was dealing with some kind of family crisis, some kind of threat to the city, some outsider challenging her authority. Having spies had told her otherwise. And yes, it was almost certainly some kind of family infighting. “Security detail” meant the captain of her guard and her generals were arguing over the logistics, and Ignatius was probably saying something about optics. But, if they respected her, they could have waited a few minutes before going at each other’s throats.

The hallway expanded as she reached a part of the family compound. The soldiers in front of and behind Felias had enough space that two of them could stand side-by-side, while her attendant could run around her and pull her robes out, adjust the sleeves, try to hide the clothes Felias had been wearing while practicing swordfighting, and so on. Felias hated those robes. Not only were they long and flowy enough that she’d tripped on them at least a few times, they didn’t have anywhere where she could so much as hide a dagger, much less a sword. They could generally hide armor, if she was wearing enough layers, but they generally made her feel exposed. But no, this was a queen’s outfit, apparently. And she was around family, so she had nothing to worry about. Obviously.

A couple turns later, the procession made its way to the meeting room, where a couple guards had been posted. Sure enough, Felias could hear shouting from inside. Ignatius’s “how dare you” voice slipping from underneath the wooden door. “Check the perimeter,” Felias whispered, glancing back at her stepsister. The stepsister, a smaller lioness with pale fur and a rounded face, nodded and slipped between the soldiers. Taking a wooden staff from her attendant (Felias would’ve preferred a spear), Felias gestured for the guards to step aside. When they did, she pushed open the door.

There were three people inside the small room. Ignatius Feroxes, the head of Caelis’s civil administration and the reason that the city wasn’t an architectural turf war between the assorted families, sat in the back. They had just slammed a fist on the table, their graying face twisting into a scowl. A few scars lined their face, with the more impressive ones on their broad shoulders buried under light purple robes, but it still couldn’t compare to the gashes across Naevius Ferox’s face and nose. Naevius, opposite Ignatius, wore the polished set of armor that Felias wished she could be wearing, complete with a purple cape draped over the back of Naevius’s seat. Though not quite as tall or impressive, Naevius had the stance of a career soldier. Back straight, unblinking, looking at Ignatius with a blank expression. And one of the Ferox generals sitting between them, watching the spectacle happen. This general was also older, graying fur exposing the scars around her missing ear. Dressed in shorter, purple robes bound around her waist by a belt, she’d been writing down notes on the piece of paper set in front of her. Felias could read something about troop movements.



Chapter 1: High Society, Part 3 (1036 words) 3-4k words is a pretty okay chapter length

Spoiler! :
The trio turned their heads to look at Felias, their shadows flickering and jumped under the lit braziers surrounding them. Ignatius started to speak, but Felias tapped her staff on the ground. “Am I to understand you chose to start this meeting without your queen?” Felias said, glaring at Ignatius.

“I was merely concerned about your security detail for the upcoming meeting,” Ignatius said, their voice getting softer as they set their paws on the table and held them together. “I made a proposal to Naevius, and I was not satisfied with the answer.”

Walking over to her seat - opposite the general’s – Felias shook her head. “And you would rather not have my opinion?” she said, sitting down. Her attendant stood to her right, while the guards positioned themselves behind her.

“I had presumed that it would be trivial enough,” Ignatius said, adjusting their thin-rimmed glasses. “Apologies, my queen.”

“What is this proposal?” Felias said, looking over at Naevius. As annoyed as she was at Ignatius, it didn’t change the fact that Naevius had answered Ignatius’s question in the first place. She wasn’t going to let Naevius hide in the background.

Naevius sighed. “Ignatius requested that I remove a couple soldiers, on the grounds that it was difficult to see you during the last meeting. I told them that I thought it risky – I did not expect an argument.”

Then he’d clearly never talked to Ignatius before. Felias didn’t know why Naevius expected her to buy that. He’d obviously been trying to provoke Ignatius. At the same time, it was interesting how often Ignatius made suggestions like this. Put her in a more prominent spot. Fewer soldiers. Everyone needed to see their queen. Not like that would make her a target. “That proposal seems unnecessary,” Felias said. “Lift my seat if you need to – no more than a foot or so – but I had no qualms with my guards.”

“Excuse me, my queen,” Ignatius said, leaning forward, “But I find that rather excessive. The other families typically behave themselves in the meeting hall. Beyond a few insults, they respect the peace. Does it not come across as weakness or fear if you should have to hide yourself?”

“I am not hiding myself, considering where I sit,” Felias said. Adjusting her robes, she straightened herself. “If the other families are not looking at the central stage, they are looking at me. Furthermore, ‘insults’ appears to be something of an understatement, which I was hoping to discuss.” Felias gestured to her general.

Nodding, the general set a few papers down on the table. “Our network has found increased activity among Maris family soldiers in the city,” she said, looking around at the rest of the group. The general had a bit of a growl to her voice, which reminded Felias of the scar across the general’s neck, almost hidden under the general’s robes. “Largely concentrated around their estate, but with extra security around the stores under their patronage. Particularly those neighboring an Imbrius-owned park.”

Ignatius looked over the papers, brow furrowing. “Some kind of show of force?” they said after a minute. “Or a possible attack?”

“It is hard to confirm,” the general said. She crossed her arms as she stared down at the papers. “I have heard rumors of smoke coming from the Maris estate a few evenings ago, but not so much as a word from either family. At the very least, they appear to be on worse terms with each other than usual. There was that incident in the markets only a week ago.”

“And the Thalassina family?” said Felias. It was also possible that it was some kind of Maris in-fighting, but those three families were miserable enough without thinking about the skeletons in their closets.

The general shook her head. “Despite your request, I could not see anything out of the ordinary. This conflict does not appear to concern them. Yet, anyhow.”

“Is this some attempt to persuade us to entertain their ridiculous proposal?” said Ignatius, leaning back. “Instigate a couple fights, trade threats, and then come crawling to us to beg that we address their own problems. How pleasant.”

“Or they have little interest in diplomacy,” Felias said.

Ignatius stroked the fur on their chin, taking a minute before responding. “Well, I must say that it has been entirely too long since we have had anything in the way of a large-scale conflict. I had hoped that the other families could occupy themselves with their mansions and internal rivalries, but I suppose that could not have lasted forever. All the same, it would blemish Caelis’ reputation if the Maris and Imbrius families chose to fight within the city limits.”

“What would that mean for the meeting, though?” Naevius said. “With their lords being in the same room, should we expect a fight?”

“Possibly,” said Felias. “I find it hard to believe that they would choose violence in a public place, never mind all the other families and their guards being present, but we cannot rule that situation out. If they decide not to make their proposal, that would definitely be a cause for alarm. I was contemplating relocating some more of our soldiers to the meeting hall, and possibly to the streets near their estates.”

Already lost in their own train of thought, Ignatius was in the middle of a hushed conversation with the general. They nodded to acknowledge Felias, but the two kept on going. Felias caught bits and pieces about where to relocate citizens, evacuation plans, and the amount of soldiers they’d need to secure certain places. All technical stuff. It was the kind of conversation Felias wished she could have. Well, the military part, at least. She knew where her soldiers were stationed, the contracts the family had made, so on. But it was her generals that called most of the shots – she wasn’t experienced enough to call the shots. Ignatius could manage the civil stuff. They’d seen Caelis rise up from the ground, and they’d spent years wrangling it into what it was now. Good for them, because Felias found the city itself profoundly boring. She wanted to be a warrior queen, like her mother before her.
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  








Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.
— Lemony Snicket