The drama continues over at #EquusFight, the contest where the equine stars of the anthology Equus are pitted against one another in a Battle Royale!
My trained war unicorns Nova and Reaver made it through the first competition, but they are neck-and-neck with a Sleipnir-inspired rival. Now, normally you know I’d be all supportive of Sleipnir, because of The Songweaver’s Vow and other stories, but not this time. This time it’s war. Unicorn war.
So please click on over to the battleground and vote for “Rue the Day” and the war unicorns. And if you like, you can even share the enthusiasm!
— Laura VanArendonk Baugh (@Laura_VAB) June 2, 2017
But wait, Laura — didn’t you promise us a snippet?
Yes, yes I did! I said that if Nova and Reaver made it through their first combat, I’d post a scene. The problem is that story’s been submitted for a blind reading, and some of those people read my blog or social media, and if I post a scene and identify the story as mine, then it’s not a blind reading anymore. So please allow me to post a snippet from a different story, one that will be coming out later this year, and then when the submissions are settled and I can publicly claim my story, I’ll post a snippet from that. Is that okay?
I flipped the air mattress up against the wall to make a clear spot on the floor, and I propped open the bathroom door to let in air from the fire escape window which had started the whole mess. I chalked out two tangential circles, double-checked my markings, and put a day-old roll in the middle of one circle. Then I pried up the loose floorboard in front of the bathroom and I waited.
It was twilight, and I’d put out the single bulb in favor of a candle which shed less light and made the room more comfortable for my target audience. It wasn’t more than a couple of minutes before the cockroaches came out of the floor and, after a brief reconnaissance, made their way toward the roll in the second chalked circle.
See? If the tattoo went on the cockroaches, it would be protected from sunlight forever. Still safe in my apartment, still in the dark, still on living things if that mattered. Not on me. It seemed like a workable solution.
Sure, I didn’t know what the point of the tattoo was or what it carried. But if it could be created by a generic guy with an ink machine and no particular talent, then transferring it couldn’t be too magically complicated, either, and I knew my skills.
So I sat very still at the edge of my circle and waited for the roaches to clatter their way into their circle and the bread bait, and I began to organize the spell in my mind. I needed enough roaches to make up the same surface area of the tattoo, because size matters with some things, and I didn’t know if this would be one. When there were a dozen roaches in their circle, picking at the roll, I activated the circles with two fingers placed on the chalk line. Then I began to speak the spell aloud.
The roaches didn’t much react one way or another. They kept picking at the bread, even as the arcane energy began to move around them. Roaches are worse than honey badgers as far as “don’t care” goes.
I was about a third of the way into the spell when my door opened. See, yes, I made a mistake—I didn’t lock or ward the door. I’d been thinking about the spell and just forgot.
So there I was, one hand resting on the chalk line and the other frantically flailing a universal “go away” signal at the door, only the person coming in didn’t speak universal signals. It was Donny Brandt, who lived up the hall and was congenitally incapable of catching a clue if you tucked it into his cupped hands and closed his fingers over it. Even that aid wasn’t available this time, because my hands were full of spell and his were full of calico kitten.
This is from “Good Spell Gone Bug,” which will be coming out in a hilarious anthology soon from World Weaver Press. More on that to come.