Thursday, February 18, 2010

[RP] An Involuntary Reassignment [PG-13]

Staying up all night with the writing bug: not always a good idea, especially on a school night, but what can you do?

"I respectfully decline, sir."

Late summer in the Outlands, such as it was, always brought sticky-hot temperatures to Hellfire Peninsula (there are only three seasons in Hellfire, as the old saying goes: summer, late summer, and son-of-a-bitch), and the barracks at Honor Hold were sweltering. Lieutenant-Commander Rowsell raked a hand through his hair (these days far more salt than pepper), sweat forming it into wild peaks that, when paired with the look of woeful exasperation stamped on his typically dignified features, made him look as unsettled and pissed-off as she felt.

"You can't decline. The paperwork's done. You've been promoted." He dropped a thick sheaf of parchment on his desk to illustrate. The top sheet was heavy, embossed with the seal of Stormwind and signed by both the acting field marshal and Force Commander Trollbane.

"That's shit."

"Sergeant Harker--"

"Corporal Harker, sir."

His lips disappeared, pressed into the thin white line she knew and hated. Standing, he planted his hands on his broad, immaculately-polished desk and leaned forward, dropping his voice to a low rumble. "Shut the door."

Crossing the office with purpose, Brijania locked the door behind her, killing the light draft that was the room's only source of relief from the choking heat. She snapped back to attention before him, her blonde hair dark and matted with sweat, undershirt stuck miserably to her body. For the first time in eight years she disregarded his gesture, the extended open palm that had been their signal that she could come forward and be frank, even intimate. She may as well have slapped him. When he was distressed, she noted, he actually looked his age.

Old, even.

"Bri. Don't be like that."

"Easy for you to say," she spat, trembling with rage and something else she couldn't or wouldn't identify. "You're not the one takin' the 'needs o' the Kingdom' right up the arse."

"You've been a corporal for over a decade, Bri. You're fast approaching the point where the powers that be take offense to a terminal lack of motivation."

"Funny that, you didn't seem to give two shits when you were fucking me."

"For the love of the Light, Bri, keep your voice down." Rowsell held his breath and listened for footsteps, the rustle of clothing, anything that might betray an unsolicited ear.

As far as he knew, everyone in the administrative wing and most everyone else on regular duty was released early for the midday heat. Only a skeleton crew remained on the noon watch, a duty for which buck privates and corporals, the workhorses of the post-Sargeras era, drew short straws, bartering and gambling them away at every opportunity. Still, a patrol might wander by and catch enough to start a wildfire of gossip and a fraternization suit that would make last year's infidelity scandal look like child's play. In that case, the logistics officer and his assistant had gotten off with a slap on the wrist and a minor reassignment. This was a bit more complicated.

"I've worked my arse off for you, spare me your fuckin' motivation. You said keepin' low would protect me. You said
you'd protect me, no matter what. And stop calling me that." Her chest heaved, and she realized a little too late that she was about to cry. He must have seen it in her face, because he skirted the desk between them and sat on the edge, his once-crisp uniform as wilted and tired as he looked, and spread his hands in an expression of surrender. Brijania closed her eyes. A line of sweat trickled off her brow and merged with the hot salt on her cheek. A second soon appeared, the burning drops falling from her chin, the tip of her nose.

"Bri." His voice was firm, but not unkind. "At ease, love. Come now."

She brought her hands to her face, refusing the comfort she knew he wanted her to take, the comfort he knew she wouldn't. It was over. Her fingers went white, pressing against her wet, contorting face, willing herself to speak calmly, to put on a stony mask of
I-don't-care. It didn't come. "How long've I got?" she choked through her hands.

"You're to report in two weeks." He exhaled, bracing himself for the worst of it. "Ship leaves port four days from now, out of Stormwind. You've got 48 hours to pack and run through logistics."

"Why not Carter? Or Lambeck? Gerald Bitch-in-Boots Kinley's been dyin' to get out o' here since day fuckin' one, for Light's sake. Why the hell not one o' them?"

"I didn't have a choice."

She batted his hand off her arm and took a step back. "Bullshit. You're the personnel officer, it's all y--"

He cut her off. "Bonnie knows."

The fight went out of her at once. His arms were around her, but she hardly felt them as he led her to the austere sofa where they'd worked, talked, and done any number of things of questionable morality and legality. The stifling hot-box that served as Barrett Rowsell's command center was suddenly cold, and her damp clothes chilled her to the bone.

"She's got me on the wall, Bri. She was set on going straight to the liaison marshal up at Shattrath unless I reassigned you. You know what that means, don't you? Stripped rank, prison, fines. Time in the stocks. For both of us, though I think we both know they'd be harder on you than on me. I'm not going to let it happen." There was a brief pause. She supposed he expected her to respond, but when she elected to keep her mouth shut (a skill he had always appreciated) he added quietly, "She's not bluffing, either. She has a list of witnesses who'd testify if she asked, and a barrister on retainer."

The grim set of his jaw was telling; in it she saw what she already knew, and where she stood.

Bonnie Rowsell was a veteran of her husband's first ambitious, then harrowing career; she bore his three children (now grown and close to Brijania's own age); she wanted desperately to return to her homeland but, to her credit, had waited with a greater reserve of patience than Bri had ever seen in an officer's wife. When it came right down to the heart of it, he was fiercely loyal to the woman, and if Bonnie was dissatisfied with the integrity of their marriage, he would attempt to repair it. He certainly cared for the young woman in his arms (perhaps not so young anymore, but still nigh thirty years his junior), he might want her, even love her. But after all was said and done, it was an affair. Bonnie was family, and family came first.

Brijania Faye Harker was on her own.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A little fun at someone else's expense: Mixing reviews and creative writing [Possibly NSFW]

I've been following Heidi Swanson's vegetarian cooking/photography blog off and on for some time now. I like her photos, and I have really enjoyed trying some of her recipes. At the same time, I find her writing style grates on my nerves. A lot.

Thanks to Miss Heidi, I now cringe any time I see the words vibrant, spritz, jolt, drizzle, pop, and flecked. Especially flecked. Everything Heidi makes is flecked with something. It's like the Glitter Fairy threw up in her kitchen ten years ago and she's still having a hard time keeping the mess out of her food.

Heidi, some words are fun. I understand that! But sometimes words are uncommon for a reason. Unlike salt, you can't just liberally drizzle them all over everything you make, or they stick out like sore thumbs.

I'm fairly certain she'll never read this blog. I'm also pretty sure that I would never quite fit into the odd yuppie-granola category that seems to be her target audience. It's not really any of my business how she writes (and I know that her hordes of fawning foodie fans would eviscerate me if I dared to criticize her on her own territory) but it's bothered me for a while and something came up tonight that gave me a reason to write about it.

I was discussing a typical Swanson-esque blog segment with my friend Andrew. Here's an excerpt from her recipe for Buckwheat Cheese Straws:

Crispy, cheddar-flecked, and rustic, it's the buckwheat flour that lends these slender creations their convincing shade of brownish gray.

He came up with the brilliant idea to write pornography using the same words. I got on that right away, because I'm always up to a pervy challenge. Sorry, Heidi, this one's for you.

They made love in the rustic cottage until the sheets were crispy and his face was a convincing shade of brownish-gray. She knew he was sated then, and as they lay twined together in her fine, cheddar-flecked linens, she traced her fingers up and down his body. He was perfectly vibrant; her strong, yet slender creation. "I think we're all out of buckwheat flour," said Martha Stewart.

Here's another example of Ms. Swanson's flavor text. If you pornify it (yes, I know that's not a real word) in the comments I'll send you something nice!

It's just the sort of thing to slather on a sandwich, dollop over hot pasta, or you can do what I did, and work it through a bowl of plump, chewy wheat berries. The bite of the arugula is tamed by the creaminess of the pine nuts, and the saltiness of the grated Parmesan and chopped Kalamata olive offsets the wheat berries nicely.

One more sample before I sign off, a little gem that was just a few lines down on the same page:

These wheat berries have a beautiful, barely-noticeable red blush when cooked, and they plump into perfect oblong orbs that look like they might pop between your molars.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

[RP] The Faire, Chapter 2

Whenever we traveled, our home stacked neatly behind us on the graying slats of Midan's wagon, I sat quietly beside my mother on the seat we shared. Midan drove. He was my mother's uncle, a big man, dark and quiet with great white whiskers. I was afraid of him just as I was afraid of everything, even though he took care of Mama and me. He sweetened me with treats, always silent as he made his offerings of cake or candy in the rough palms of his enormous hands, and I would steal them like a mouse, heart hammering in my chest. Now that I am grown I see how like him I am. Sometimes I wonder what he thought of me. He only spoke when words were needed. I never saw him smile.

Mama was dead eight months before word reached me. I was living in the desert then. My shoa came to me during meditations, rousing me with a firm hand on the shoulder. It was one of only two times he ever interrupted the sessions he himself prescribed, and I knew even before I opened my sun-stung eyes what news he bore. The paper was brittle from much traveling and changing of hands; the ink was smudged, no doubt from the damp of some dewy eden worlds away. I can still remember the hot, sterile sand shifting over the tops of my feet (always swathed in leathers to the knee, a desert-dweller's humble protection against the scorpion's sting), the sun baking into the crown of my head as I carefully unfolded the fragile note and began to read. Ever brief, Midan's letter was quickly read even though I was only just learning my letters. "Take heart," he'd written, "she suffered well." My heart mourned. I understood why she had begun creeping into my dreams, returning always to those balmy Faire nights when I slept in her arms. Only in my dreams, I held her.

To this day I can feel his overwhelming pride as I refolded the letter, solemn but tearless, returning it to the man who had become my teacher, my mentor, and my guardian. He was not yet my lover, not in those days. He had made me strong, and like Midan, he did not speak often, but his satisfaction and displeasure were as unmistakable to me as my own when he permitted me to see. Soon there came a time I could read him as though he were written on paper, whether he allowed it or not. This, he said, was my power.

It made me valuable.