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Red River, Red Hesperia (ASOIAF/JCoM crossover SI-OC)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Leanansidhe, Apr 9, 2020.

  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1: Copper Reeds

    Leanansidhe Getting out there.

    Jul 9, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Author’s Note: This isn’t a traditional full self-insert. More like an SI story with OC elements to make a functioning character. Despite the subject matter of both sources, I don't expect this to get beyond SFW.

    This is a self insert into the body of a Red Martian from John Carter of Mars in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire

    Chapter 1: Copper-red Reeds

    My pulse thundered in my ears. A relentless quickening, which only served to accentuate the effort it was taking to move this form.

    Every step was an effort, my body seemed impossibly frail. In essence, I was reminded of the accounts of people who had tried to walk after waking from a coma. Of course, it wasn’t nearly as impossible as that, since I still managed to take careful and deliberate steps forward. It was just, each step felt like I was wearing thirty-pound weights. A feature that extended to the rest of my body, there was a weight pressing down on my shoulders and body, enough to make my scant clothing dig into my skin.

    The moss here, under these trees, reminded me of home, it was thick and vibrant, clutching at the expansive roots. The forest itself was rather dark, but thankfully by that virtue, the underbrush was lacking. Still, branches here and there hung low, snagging at my black-as-pitch hair. It also caused the sword’s sheath, which I had slung over my shoulder, to dig into the area where I supposed my kidneys were. It was annoying, but the belt-sash-harness really couldn’t be placed around my waist. It was too wide, and the gaudy gold engravings meant it had little give.

    The sword all-in-all was the least alien of the gear I had found myself with and was only eclipsed in bizarreness by the body I found myself in. The whole ensemble was terribly indecent, barely modest by societal standards, except maybe in borderline desert regions. Even so, not really there either, except in some fantasy desert world, since this level of indecency would swiftly lead to some uncomfortable sunburns.

    It was all gold and leather though, which actually was even worse, all things considered. At least I assumed it was gold since it did not deform against my teeth at all, at least not at the level of force I was applying to it. I had gnawed at the gold bracelet around one arm but I really didn’t want to break a tooth out in the wild. On that matter, the straps were obviously leather, but weird, it was both a little too pliant and a little too tough at the same time. Also, the strange off-blue color it was didn’t really match anything I knew. It seemed like it should be reptile hide or something but was clearly not. As I said, it was weird.

    As a real culture clash with this vaguely tribal obscene prostitute like getup was the silver pistol on my hip, secured by a tight leather strip and gaudy intertwined gold fragments. Sinking down onto a protruding stump I turned my attention to it, finally deciding I should at least see what exactly it was since it didn’t look familiar at all.

    I hissed in pain as my descent was a little faster than I anticipated and the stump hit me with just enough force to send the stupid gold fetish covering stabbing into what I assumed was my tailbone. As I said, this body was strange.

    Clenching one fist and fighting through the spasm of pain I lifted one hand to the pistol, fumbling with the leather straps for a moment before pulling the pistol free. It was undoubtedly some kind of weapon. Or at least it was intended to be so since it had a barrel. I stopped myself from looking down the barrel with my eye. Yeah, I didn’t really want to die barely an hour into whatever kind of bizarre adventure I had currently found myself on. All I could think, really, was finally something exciting was happening.

    A moment later I berated myself, my mind flashing back to a thought I had first had about thirty minutes ago. I had a family, a mother, father, siblings, goldfish. I had no idea how I had ended up here, in a body that certainly wasn’t my own, since I didn’t remember having an alien body. Had I died? I suspected that my heart hadn’t been very strong from a very young age, but really hadn’t done anything to warn anybody about it.

    Was I lying in my bed somewhere back home, stiff and dead, just waiting to be discovered? Well, I sure hope one of my siblings took it upon themselves to finish my book, that thing was like a thousand separate pages and counting, with more than a hundred stupid hand-drawn maps of planets. Who would finish it? I wasn’t deluding myself into thinking I could’ve been the next Tolkien or anything, but it was a private dream. I think every fantasy writer wishes to be like Tolkien a little bit.

    If I had just been spirited away as a copy or something, it sure would’ve been nice to have been allowed to grab some kind of gear from my room or something. That flint and steel I got for my birthday when I was eight sure would’ve been useful. Some clothes too, and maybe a big hulking knife. Oh, and a sword that I was actually familiar with, or non-weirdo gun. I turned the pistol over in my hands again, first looking at it with one eye, and then closing that one and looking at it with the other.

    It was made of some kind of silvery off-white metal, I scratched it with a red fingernail, there was no flaking so I assumed it was natural. Carefully, avoiding the obvious trigger, I felt along the gun. If it was actually a gun it needed a magazine or some kind of aperture for bullets to be held.


    A dark black nodule fell onto the ground, gleaming even in the dim light under the trees. I picked it up, it was oddly heavy, far more than it had a right to be. It was all one piece too, no brass or metal jacket. It didn’t look like a bullet at all. I hefted it a little, staring at the little thing for a moment longer and then looking back at the gun. Where did this come from, again?

    After another moment of fiddling, I found the spot on the pistol and slipped what I assumed to be some kind of bullet back into it. Evidence was pointing more and more toward being in some kind of alien world, with some kind of alien weapon. I mean it had a sight, but as a sight, it wasn’t really what I would expect from an Earth weapon. The sight itself was a faintly glowing green thread, with the width of spider thread. Barely visible to the human eye if, of course, I assumed my new eyes were close enough to human eyes to judge.

    I lifted the pistol to eye level, sighting down the top and aiming at the tree right next to me. My finger slipped toward the trigger. A moment before my red finger tightened on the thin piece of metal I stopped myself. You know, my inner voice spoke softly, you have no idea what this thing does, if it even is a gun, and you’re going to fire it so close to you?
    I grimaced, considering. I wasn’t wearing proper garb, if it splintered or something I would get splinters all over my exposed body, and there was a lot of exposed body to get splinters in. Also, that wasn’t even taking into account whether it was actually a gun that fired bullets and not some kind of space-gun that fired proton torpedoes or something. Maybe like that plasma pistol in the new Warhammer 40k Astartes short? What did that gun use for fuel anyway? Weaponized plutonium? Could that even be weaponized?

    Okay, now I have got to fire this thing. I could be holding some kind of plasma pistol in my hands and if science fiction taught me anything, organic lines meant some kind of advanced energy weapon. I pointed at a tree that was hopefully far enough away and focused. Despite the immense downwards force exerted on my body and the fatigue that had already seeped into my muscles I felt my body stiffen as I focused.

    A preternatural stillness came over my body, muscles tightening just enough that my hands, one clutching the pistol grip, the other the short stubby barrel, steadied within a moment. I drew in a sharp, startled breath at the unnatural sensation that coursed through my body but decided to ignore it. Unbidden words floated to the forefront of my mind as if spoken from afar, words and syllables both alien and familiar. “When you take a moment to aim, you rarely miss even the most challenging targets.”

    My head swam, little pinpricks of white light, starbursts filled my vision. I inhaled, my sight expanding without my bidding, casting the knotted root of the tree in front of me into high relief. Its twisted cork-bark, over thin oak skin. A beetle climbing over the knot. My finger tightened.

    The gun hissed in my hands, like a serpent. There was a muted crack, like a sharp gunshot, heard through a silencer. Splinters flew from the tree, a small hole nailed into the knot of the great oak near me. For a moment there was silence and I felt a glimmer of disappointment in my stomach, was this all there was? Just some plebeian over-powered air pistol?

    Then the tree exploded. A deafening boom rocked the forest, and I was thrown onto my back, legs in the air. As my back slammed into the ground my feet continued up and over, a knew smacking into my face, no doubt leaving a nasty bruise on my face. I tried to suck in a breath but couldn’t seem to breathe for a moment, gasping at air that wouldn’t come.

    Finally, after what seemed to be a long moment I drew in a shallow breath and then another until I was soon drawing in great heaving breaths, which didn’t seem nearly enough. What was that? This thing fired explosive rounds? I lifted my hands and blearily noted the absence of the pistol. I swallowed, as clarity continued to flood back into me and I managed to sit upright. I struggled to my feet, the continuing heaviness of this place making it a monumental effort. I stilled as I felt the cold edges of the pistol resting against my skin.

    Carefully, I pulled it away from the spot where it had ended up, the barrel pressed against my inner thigh. If that had gone off… I glanced toward what had been a towering oak and now was no more than a clearing of splinters and chunks of shattered wood. Oh wait, there was the rest of the tree…

    I shuddered, imagining what that thing would do to a human body. Chunky salsa, anyone? Maybe not even that much, red mist and occasional pieces of skin? Either way, it would be beyond lethal, one shot one kill, even if it seemed to have some kind of delayed fuse to it. I lifted the pistol by the grip, carefully keeping my hands away from the trigger. I frowned as I returned it to its holster, I really wished I knew whether it had a safety. The equivalent of a landmine secured to my leg with nothing more than an old-school leather strap just seemed to scream danger.

    One red hand touched my face, feeling the sting where I had kneed myself right under my eye, yes, that would almost undoubtedly leave a nasty bruise. Plus, it may have given me a concussion. I shook my head, noting how that made my head swim and grasped the nearby stump, leveraging myself upright until I had my feet under me.

    My vision seemed to flicker and I jumped as my sudden upwards movement let something lightly scrape against the bare side of my stomach. I stifled a laugh a moment later as my startled grasping hand closed around a satchel. I have a satchel?

    Why didn’t I see it before, I berated myself, awkwardly grasping at it. I managed to get one hand around it but it seemed attached to my sword harness, and since my red silk cape was, in turn, stuck to that. The cape wasn’t even a real clothing item since it was more like something Supergirl would wear than an actual garment. Barely reached my hips. Clutching at it I amended my earlier conclusion, barely reached the small of my back. Just kind of reinforced my earlier conclusion that this was someone’s alien fetishwear or something.

    A moment longer of tugging didn’t seem to dislodge anything, so I groaned and shimmied out of the harness from below, lifting the whole thing, harness, sword, cape, and satchel over my head, freeing my chest to the caress of the slight breeze whistling through the new hole in the canopy.

    Yes, it was certainly a satchel and it was secured by a small gold and leather hoop to my sword harness. I spared a moment to look over the sword in more detail. My earlier interactions with it had been just enough to ascertain it was a sword and certainly not one I was accustomed too. The sheath was just as gaudy as everything else, gold, leather, and opulence. I even think there were real silk accent trailers. Completely impractical. Ignoring the satchel for a moment I drew the sword, frowning at the blade. This looked strange as well. For real, the point was barbed. If I stabbed anybody it would just catch on their flesh. At least it looked fearsome like it was the metal tooth of some great beast.

    A flicker of memory, a glimpse of a silver screen, and a great red dragon.

    “My teeth are swords, indeed,” I murmured softly. A moment later I paused, the words that came from my throat were definitely not English, the words seemed to resonate, echo without actually echoing. They were not English.

    Surprisingly, this was what seemed to do the trick. Earlier when I was trekking through this dense forest, my thoughts had been on the present. Finding out where I was, ignoring my new alien form. Then I had been filled with marvel over my weapons.

    Now my thoughts spiraled back in on themselves. What would my family think? I really didn't think they would even recognize me. I didn’t know where I was, or where I should go, or what I should do. I leaned back into a tree, one hand holding my sword, the other still grasping the satchel.

    I let my mind wander for a moment. The terrible thoughts and feelings rushing through my mind. Always returning to the question, what happened? I knew that if I delved too deep into my thoughts I would cry, so I didn’t. Carefully, slowly, pushing away my emotions long enough to think things through at least semi-rationally.

    I was stuck in an unfamiliar place. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an unfamiliar planet or world since I didn’t know for sure. The undergrowth and trees weren’t too far out of ordinary norms. They looked earthly. The moss looked normal. The sky, what little I could see, was an ordinary blue hue.

    I felt a little calm returning as I walked myself through this. In fact, the best thing to do if I was lost was just to stay put. Of course, I wasn’t sure if I could do that, since by all indications I had just been dropped here, in the middle of nowhere by forces unknown. I might be hundreds of miles from where people would be looking for me if I was lost.

    Actually, I was probably hundreds of miles from where I was last since there was snow where I was before and now it was only chilly since I was wearing fetish wear.

    Of course, the distance brought up what exactly had happened. This body was certainly not mine. For one, the skin was copper-red, unnaturally hued, and covered in black tattoos, spirals and yellow tattooed script in an alien tongue. For a moment I stared at the words written near my holster and felt my head swim, spots dancing around, but new knowledge did not come. I would say it was Greek to me, but at least I knew the Greek alphabet, this was completely mind-bogglingly foreign.

    No body hair either, that was the weirdest part. By none, I meant none, not even the superfine vellus hair that most didn’t even think about. There was only hair on top of my head, the color of the blackest pitch. It wasn’t quite enough to be called vanta-black hue, but it was edging close to that. Alien, I shuddered, my new red-copper colored body shivering at the thought. Maybe I should’ve believed those wackjobs insisting on alien abductions before since this was really a textbook example of alien abduction. Minus the ship that is, I pursed my lips, ignoring the brief flicker of thought about whether my lips were also copper-colored, before amusedly noting that it wasn’t actually a textbook example because there had been no probing…

    I actually shuddered then, a full-body shudder that started at my bare copper-skinned toes and went all the way up to my neck. I couldn’t actually be sure about that, could I? After all, this was a new body and obviously new clothes. I spent a few moments controlling my suddenly shallow breathing before I did anything new.





    Forcefully, I turned my mind toward something more tolerable, the forgotten satchel. I clutched it to my bare breasts and opened it, dropping my death grip on the sword’s handle as I did. Two padded little jars greeted my eyes, they looked like green glass, and my MMO minded mind immediately jumped to potions. Carefully, I lifted them free. They felt solid, no liquid inside. Cautiously, I opened one, frowning as it didn’t seem to be sealed. There was a clear paste within, reminding me of petroleum jelly. Still frowning I sealed it back up tightly, I had no idea what that was.

    I placed both on the ground beside me, resting them in a little nook made by the tree’s roots. Next, I pulled a wrapped parcel free from the satchel, about the size of my fist. Well, my old normal sized fist, not this little dainty fist that this new body had. Equally carefully, I unwrapped the parcel.

    “Cheese?” I muttered, looked at the new object, it looked like a cross between cheese and styrofoam. Raising it to my mouth, I carefully licked it.

    “Bleh,” I said. Still couldn’t tell which one it was. After a moment’s hesitation, I took a bite.

    Bleh, I thought, since my mouth was full of whatever this thing was. It at least had a cheese texture. Maybe it was food. I swallowed, then spat. I actually couldn't decide whether it was supposed to be food. Some small part of me thought it was, the other half couldn’t stand the blandness.

    I wrapped it up again if I got hungry and wasn’t able to find anything it was better than gnawing on my sword harness since I couldn’t follow the example of the sailors of old and eat my leather shoes. My questing hand pulled free a metal rod, about six inches long, and made of the same silvery off-white material as the pistol. This comparison should have cautioned me since I was turning it all over trying to figure out what it was when I accidentally depressed a button on the side.

    Pure white flooded my vision, searing my retinas. I jerked like a fish caught by a hook and slammed my head into the tree behind me. I flailed around trying to find where I was but just ended up smacking my head into the stump in front of me. The white light was not abating, I noted with horror a moment later

    “I’m blind,” I whispered, both hands over my eyes.

    For a long moment, I just clutched my eyes with horror, waiting for a change. Thankfully, I slowly began to note, shapes and color began to bleed back into the world. Finally, I was able to remove my hands from my eyes, noting that it was slightly cooler than it had been before, and the sun, through the canopy, was beginning to descend now from where it had rested at its apex before.

    I was profoundly grateful there wasn’t something like two suns or something like that. I returned to my satchel, inwardly resolving to get on with surviving as soon as I made note of everything I had. I hadn’t had anything to drink all day, and there was a growing dryness at the back of my throat. Of course, this meant I hadn’t had to fumble with removing the fetish wear for nature’s call yet, which suited me just fine. I was able to ease it far enough to the side to see that there was nothing underneath the gold and red silk but actually figuring out how to remove it was so far a no go.

    There was only one more item in the satchel, and it was a strange little bracelet. At least it matched my necklace, I thought morosely. It looked a little crystally, with threads of fine gold running through the crystal.

    “Very expensive looking,” I noted sourly, “and probably useless.”

    I turned it over, frowning again as I stared into the semi-familiar face of an alien watch. Is this supposed to be a timepiece? I could sort of see it, but the symbols were nonsense. The organization? What might be the second hand was moving a fraction too fast.

    Useless… unless I could use the crystal to start a fire? I shrugged and placed it on my wrist, tightening the leather strap enough that it wouldn’t slide off. My red skin darkened around it slightly, but I paid no heed.

    With great effort, I stood up again. This whole place felt like it was heavy. Honestly, it was like the whole world gained double the weight or more than it had before. I was almost sure the only way I was able to move was the impressive corded muscles that graced my arms and legs and to a lesser extent my stomach and chest. It was just on the edge of being grotesque honestly, in my opinion. As it was, it added a kind of alien litheness to my movement. I imagined that every step seemed deliberate as if I was pondering the world around me.

    Stooping, ignoring the way I almost fell on to my face due to the sudden change in weight. I scooped up my two jars and the weird styrofoam cheese, placing it back in my satchel, before dragging the rest of the harness toward me and forcing the barbed sword back into its sheath. Then with a great amount of huffing and puffing, and squishing my breasts, I managed to finagle the whole thing back over my head and around my body again. I felt immediately better, more secure and less uncertain.

    I reached over my head and practiced drawing my sword. Oddly enough, it seemed perfectly suited for sliding clear from the sheath at this angle.

    I started to walk again, casting a glance upward toward the descending sun as I did so. I let my thoughts wander back to more serious matters as I carefully maneuvered between roots and branches. With the amount of difficulty I seemed to have moving, I was slightly worried that a simple fall could do untold damage to my body, despite the level of fitness it seemed to have.

    Stumbling over a particularly deceptive rock I stilled as the distant sound of a rushing stream seemed to reach me. I turned and made my way in its direction, inwardly congratulating myself on my good luck. The underbrush got thicker as I approached the stream and I noticed berry bushes and trampled reeds a moment later. Slowly, I arrested my earlier approach, berating myself for being hasty.

    Here were the facts. I appeared to be on earth if the plants, trees, and birdsong around me were any indication. However, the keyword here was ‘appeared.’ I had read more than enough strange into-another-world fiction that, when combined with the mystery of my arrival made me somewhat skeptical of everything being as it seemed.

    That was all assuming I was on Earth of course. The truth of the matter was even if I was on Earth, I was currently a mostly nude alien. Sure, I looked vaguely human, but this skin color was not found on any living human. Plus, my hair looked funny. That wasn’t even taking into account the fetish wear. Honestly, I kind of imagined I looked like some kind of stupid sexy succubus. A succubus with a bruise on her face. If you were a human and were wandering out in the woods only to come across a succubus-alien what would most humans do? Sure, I didn’t have stereotypical devil horns but...

    I kind of doubted it would be fun and games. Sure it might be for some people, but I wouldn’t want to run into them either. Shock and fear were the most likely I assumed, followed maybe by lust and fear. Not good combinations. Of course, I hadn’t even considered whether I had been temporally relocated in addition to being kidnapped. I mean, I was already in an alien body, wouldn’t be that strange at this point.

    Not sure if time travel was more likely or less. I didn’t like either one. Of course, most first-world countries in the modern world would probably be all right to reveal myself. I must admit I have day-dreamed about suddenly being changed into an alien creature before and revealing myself to the world, to evoke radical change in the world. However, more likely even if I was revealed in a first-world country that didn’t mean I wouldn’t be carted off to someplace like the United States’ Area 51.

    If this was in the past or a country with little contact for most of the inhabitants with outsiders, in other words, more conservative I could be liable to be burned at a stake as a harlot, witch, or demon. They might not even be wrong, this garb certainly could belong to any of those things except perhaps not a witch… The leather and gold, however gaudy, were still reminiscent of armor, even if it was quite bare-bones. Honestly, it reminded me of some of the really sheer clothing in mods of Conan Exiles.

    It was a warrior’s outfit but really-really minimalist. Plus the gear, weird salve, super-flashlight-of-death, barbed sword, and the explosive pistol just heightened that distinction. It was unlikely in my mind that this body had supernatural leanings. That was why I concluded alien in the first place. Still, my own deductions would not actually help me if someone had no context for their conclusions.

    Annoying. I pulled my pistol free of its holster, careful to grip it with my trigger finger outside the trigger guard. I had no desire to blow my foot to kingdom come or to do that to any hapless person I happened to startle.

    I touched the water with a barefoot, letting its cool caress soothe my weary feet. With my eyes I scanned the riverbank, making an inner note about the clearly plucked berries by the riverside, before finally resting on a nice woven basket. It wasn’t in the best condition, but at one time it must’ve been close to a work of art. Now, age had frayed it harshly, fibers eroded but it was still servable.

    My hand rose toward my sword but I arrested the movement half-completed. There was no need to jump to threats without figuring out what exactly was around here. With my luck, it would be monkeys from Planet of the Apes or something like that. I hated that movie.

    Slowly, I stepped through the water toward the basket, crossing the river, letting my mind flash toward how nice the water looked and how nice it would be to drink it while approaching what appeared to be a forgotten basket. One thing I noted was how my limbs almost seemed to encounter resistance when sinking into the water, almost as if my body naturally wanted to float. Honestly, that more than anything else unnerved me. A sour note gathering in my stomach, feeding my growing nausea.

    A moment later, I reached the bank near the basket a moment later, stepping out of the unnaturally buoyant water and back unto dusty dry land. The weight and the feel of the dust turned mud felt unnatural after the brief sojourn into being somewhat supported. Being lighter felt natural. This heavyweight was stifling, making it hard to breathe.

    Ponderously, I scrambled up the bank, bare red toes digging into the crumbling riverbank soil and round river-rocks. My fingers gouged into the dirt and tore at the shrubbery until I finally made it up. Let me tell you, feeling like you were wearing a full suit of armor while traipsing around the woods was not a good feeling. I couldn’t let the growing ache in my muscles rule me forever.

    I am the master of my fate…

    Mumbling William Earnest Henley’s Invictus poem under my breath, like I had done so many times throughout my life, I managed to lift my head enough to look in the basket. There were berries in there!

    Saliva filled my mouth at the sight and I greedily scooped up a big handful, placing my pistol down as I did so. The flavor exploded in my mouth. Almost orgasmic compared to the bland styrofoam cheese I filled my mouth with before. The taste was like what I remembered of blackberries but at the same time, so much more. I shoved more berries down my gullet, staining my lips and hands with red berry juice. I needed the berries, they were the best thing I’d ever tasted.

    I wondered, if this body was alien, had it ever tasted anything but that bland cheese? Was it actually flavorful to this body? Was it only my experiences that made it tasteless? These questions and many more flashed through my mind.

    A moment later, I sighed, looking down at the empty basket and then back to the water. I clenched and unclenched my sticky hands, thinking. Well, I could solve the problem of my sticky hands right now, I suppose. With a very put-upon groan, I rolled down the side of the bank, stopping just before plummeting back into the water. I carefully cleaned my face and hands, thankfully the juice disappeared at the behest of the cold river water. I took the opportunity to examine my face. My eyes were a vivid blue, reminding me slightly of Dune Fremen’s blue-within-blue eyes. The iris of these new eyes certainly matched the hue of blue I had imagined but I still had both a pupil and sclera. They looked human enough beside the color.

    My lips were copper-red, similar to my skin, only a slight difference in pigment. Surprisingly enough, I still had eyelashes and eyebrows. I had been slightly worried about the eyebrows when I noticed I had no body hair earlier but had quickly discovered it was still there with my hands. It was nice to check with my eyes though. I scooped up handfuls of water and drank it, looking for any hidden creatures in the handfuls with each scoop. I was a little too thirsty to care about boiling it, and a fire would take too long to start anyway.

    I pulled myself free of the water again, scrabbling up the bank. I was half-tempted to stay in the water since it was so easy to float, but my childhood fear of water was still present. There was no way I was going to stay in water for any matter of time, especially when I didn’t know whether anything like alligators or tigerfish or something like that might be living in it. Or very large catfish, I hated those too. I mean, I liked eating catfish, but I hated the idea of swimming in the water with one. Snapping turtles too, I squinted back at the water.

    To be frank, I just hated water. Thalassophobia but even more acute because I couldn’t even stand ponds I couldn’t see into. Only clear water would do. I paused a moment in pulling myself to my feet to shake the water off and out of my various gold trappings, most of it had drained away already or wicked away by the silk but water would chaff something terrible in some places. Already I wished I had been more thoughtful and removed my garments because this leather harness was going to be uncomfortable until it dried.

    It was lucky that I had paused to consider my clothing since it allowed me a few moments of warning. My head almost seemed to tingle around the temples, and I heard voices. Again, voices speaking in not-English but not the not-English I had spoken earlier. With careful, deliberate steps I moved to the side, managing to step down the bank again and then to the side, into the underbrush. I lowered myself into the thick reeds by the side of the river and knelt, concealing my copper-red body. I scrunched up my nose at the scent of the stale water, risking a glance down. A mosquito landed on my arm but did not extend its proboscis. It rested for a moment then took flight again.

    Belatedly, I realized that the insects had not bothered me, even though I could see them hanging in a dense haze over the opposite bank. It was a marvel that I had somehow tuned out there buzzing and ignored their movement. I guess my captivation with the berry basket was a little intense.

    My stomach twinged a little at the thought of the berries and I frowned. However, my new thoughts flitted away as a boy and girl came into view. They were undeniably human. A boy with muddy brown hair and a girl with dirty blonde hair. They were children, about thirteen or twelve by my best guess.

    My head twinged again as if my brain had physically twitched behind my ears and then the boy spoke, “W’re the berries?”

    I watched the girl through the reeds as she looked over the empty basket, completely befuddled, turning it over to look underneath and finding no berries. Of course, she wouldn’t find any since I had eaten them all. They both were clothed in rough clothing, green and yellow. They looked like medieval peasants, which did not bode well for my eventual survival upon discovery.

    The girl scratched the top of her head, running grimy fingers through dirty locks. Continuing to stare at the basket with a contemplative face. The boy nudged her, causing her to stumble forward, “Ma aint gonna like it if ya ate them ag’in.”

    “I dunno,” she finally said, “What’sa that?”

    She scrabbled in the dirt for a moment before lifting up a silver object. With horror, my hand flew to my holster. I had been carrying it, hadn’t I? I had put it down to eat the berries, did I not pick it up again? She fumbled with it, the slick organic manufacture enough to make it slightly unwieldy unless you were like me and supernaturally familiar with it.

    The question was, how was I going to get it back?

    “What’s dat, sis,” The boy asked, suddenly interested. As I watched, the boy grabbed for the pistol, just for the girl to yank it away. He grabbed again, fingers closing around the barrel, shoving the girl back. In turn, she shoved back.

    “I found it! I did!” the girl shouted, grasping at it again. I clenched my teeth as my concern grew. Would I really risk their lives for my own life? If one of them pulled the trigger in their little squabble…

    My hands clenched and unclenched. I needed to get it back for both my own sake and theirs. The question was how? I looked down at the muck below me and then up toward the bickering children. Perhaps I could play myself off as some kind of river spirit?

    How should I address them though? Peasant? That sounded too harsh. Of all the times for some slight social anxiety to crop up, it had to be when the stakes were most dire.

    Then it happened. While I stood rooted in place, one of the muddy haired boy’s fingers slipped into the trigger guard and as he pulled back there was a hiss. The girl stumbled away, falling down the embankment. I could see from my position as red froth bubbled from her mouth. I exploded out of the reed, even as the boy peered at his sister with confusion.

    The girl’s chest exploded outwards. Red flesh and bone splattered me and the boy as his sister ceased to be. The force and proximity knocked me back on my arse, where I landed in the reedy water with a splash. The boy wasn’t knocked backward like I was, instead, he could only stare dumbly at the corpse of his sister. All life seemed to have escaped him.

    “Idiot boy!” I spat at him, incensed. I felt sick to my stomach, and I could feel my eyes water. My own inaction had killed the girl. All because I was too cautious to reveal myself, and even when I had resolved to show myself, I had done so too slow.

    He continued to stare at the wrecked body, the exposed bone, the wretched muscle. I grabbed the gun from the side, pulling it from him, resolutely not looking at the body. He let it go with nary a protest. I hesitated, the viscera making my gorge rise again.

    Yet again, what happened played out in my head. The worst part was that I clearly could have averted this result. If only I had moved if only I hadn’t been a coward at that moment. I couldn’t bear it anymore, I tore the red silk cape from my back, it tore down the middle, leaving itself in almost two pieces. I swallowed and stepped down the embankment again, approaching the body.

    It was even worse up close, I dry-heaved. What had I done? With jerky haste, I placed the cape over the girl’s face. Somehow this was even worse since now I could fool myself into thinking that she was whole under the cloth, but I could see it as the blood seeped into the silk, coloring it brown.

    I stumbled away, downriver, sloshing through the water. I felt sick.

    The vomit came then, splashing my tattooed legs and copper-red toes. I heaved, red berries coming up in chunks. That only served to remind me of the body behind me, and I vomited some more.

    I spared one glance back, at a boy staring at his sister’s feet sticking out from under a too-short cape and sloshed away, dry-heaving the whole time. The funny thing was, I had always thought if I ever witnessed a death I’d be able to handle it. Perhaps, it was the suddenness, perhaps it was the way I had directly, well almost directly, contributed to this death. I wiped my face with a copper-red hand and it came away stained with red blood. I sunk to my knees alongside the riverbank, feeling the round river stones against my skin. Hesitantly, I cupped a hand with water and splashed my face. It made me feel even worse.

    AN: If you have any suggestions about writing a story in ASOIAF let me know, this is my first real foray into both of these worlds.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2020
  2. Balra

    Balra Not too sore, are you?

    Aug 24, 2018
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    I sorta remember John Carter, werent all the aliens weak because mars gravity was weaker?
  3. Leanansidhe

    Leanansidhe Getting out there.

    Jul 9, 2015
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    Pretty much, yeah. They had other abilities though, according to the original book, like telepathy and asari-length lifespans.
  4. Balra

    Balra Not too sore, are you?

    Aug 24, 2018
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    Dont remember the life span part but it's been a while. I'm assuming originally being human cancelled out the whole weakness part?
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: Crimson Town

    Leanansidhe Getting out there.

    Jul 9, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 2: Crimson Town of Red

    In my sleep, I replayed that moment over again. Me, paralyzed by indecision, waiting moments too long. The boy’s grasping fingers closing over the trigger. The expression of shock and pain upon the boy and then her visceral death. I think I might need therapy.

    The next morning I was perhaps more chilly then I had been the day before. It was like there was a grey haze over my vision when I first woke. I felt even weaker than before, the world was heavier, more substantial.

    Breathing was difficult. Every breath an ever-increasing effort, like a millstone was placed around my neck. The whole world pressing down on my singular body. I had found a small place in the reeds to sleep, a little bit off the water. It had seemed safe enough in my guilt-filled haze the night before. Now I was apprehensive. Had anybody come by and seen me the night before?

    I rolled over the reeds, not quite able to muster enough strength to stand upright. I slipped back into the water and sighed, relaxing with the sudden buoyancy. I sucked in a deep breath. It was still difficult but with the added support of the water, it was bearable. Honestly, it sent little tingles of dread up my spine. I couldn’t help but think that for some reason I was suffering from some kind of slow suffocation. Would it get harder to walk and breathe every day? Would I die in my sleep, my body too tired to draw in another beleaguered breath? In a way, it reminded me of what I have heard of crucifixion, how what really kills the person, in the end, was the inability to take another breath.

    With that thought something finally occurred to me, eclipsing my thoughts of whether this was supposed to be some kind of divinely cursed Sisyphean punishment. This force… was it gravity? Floating in the water, I pondered that question. Actually, it made a lot of sense. I struggled to move and breathe and felt like there was weight tying me down. I had concluded this body was alien, and despite what fiction like Star Wars and Star Trek showed, it was highly likely variable gravity situations existed on planets throughout the universe.

    Of course, that didn’t really explain the whole humanoid body shape, since I would kind of expect an alien species to be widely different from a human being, barring deliberate meddling by higher powers. Plus, I had to take into account the obvious human children from before and the fact that they were speaking in a language that I understood. My brain, however, insisted that I hadn’t understood it. Sounds strung together in a way that matched nothing I had ever heard but was still understandable. A living paradox, I both had and had not understood it.

    I pushed away from the thoughts that threatened to bubble forth when I remembered the children. Forcing down the growing gorge with great effort.

    Feet under a blanket, red over red.

    I dry-heaved again, but nothing came out of my mouth but a pale watery liquid that smelled faintly of ammonia. It tasted like sulfur. I spat, ducking my head down into the water to clean my mouth. It was an effort to actually submerge since my body insisted so strongly on floating. Not even the heavy gold and leather really counted for anything, my body was too light.

    Partially as a measure to distract my own attention away from my self-flagellation, I turned to examine my reflection once again. It was an enduring problem and one I had considered multiple times over the last day.

    First off, I had already ruled out any traces of humanity. No matter how some insisted that Native Americans or Eskimos were red-skinned, the red-copper color of my skin was not shared by any earthly skin hue. Given the nearly fantastical nature of my arrival in what was either an alternate or fantasy world, it seemed prudent to consider red-skinned humanoids from fiction.

    First up was obviously Zeltron from Star Wars. The superhumanly perfect physique, the delicate features, and the weird awareness seemed to fit. Likewise, the fetish wear seemed to fit pretty decently with that theory as well. However, I didn’t seem to have any pheromones which I knew Zeltrons were able to use prolifically. Plus, my gear was not Star Wars standard at all. A sword, an actual metal sword and not a Vibro-blade was unusual. That wasn’t even to mention the pistol, which was certainly not a blaster and I don’t recall it's like in any Star Wars fiction, film, or television show.

    Perhaps the biggest nail in the coffin of being a Zeltron was the food. I highly doubted a hedonistic pleasure-oriented race like Zeltrons would ever eat such bland food. Not even if they were in some kind of military or mercenary. Such terrible food would lead to worse morale than Italian soldiers without water to boil their pasta.

    The tattoos, of course, prompted me to consider Zabrak as well, but there was just one glaringly obvious problem with such a suggestion. I ran my hands through my black hair and wet locks, yes, I still had no horns. The lack of horns also ruled out various fantasy species like Tiefling or Succubus, or something of that ilk.

    I really couldn’t think of any more options than those. My face was lean but nicely shaped, not chubby at all but held an almost refined feature to it. A thin scar, slightly darker red than the rest of my face, edged off from a high cheekbone toward a normal human-shaped ear. I sort of wished I could gather up all my messy hair into a coiffure, but I certainly had nothing to tie it with except strands of reeds and river grass. That might be harder to hide though, especially with the way my mind was feeding me elaborate hairstyles and the amount of gold wire I could entwine with it to make it truly exquisite.

    I felt faint and rested my head back into the water again, letting myself float. One hand gripped at the reeds so I wouldn’t float away, the other drifted aimlessly. The nausea was back again. These foreign thoughts only served to remind me that this was not my body, it was too elegant and too refined. A warrior’s body made to serve. For all that my reflection had the visage of an early thirty-something-year-old, it felt older. Perhaps, a more pertinent question was how long this body has been thirty? I snorted, sure. This body doesn’t seem that supernatural...

    All-in-all, it was quite a mystery I had to solve. I had a sinking feeling that the only way I would be able to discover what was going on. Where I was, and what was going on was to find whatever hovel or village was nearby. I frowned then, shifting back toward the shore. I would need to find some kind of cloak or covering because this garb was not ideal.

    If some medieval age peasants didn’t burn me at the stake as a temptress, the village would probably mob together and divest me of my ornate ornaments. I glanced down as I rose out of the water, droplets streaming from my gold coverings.

    This much gold was a complete liability. In addition to making me look like a fetish-warrior-prostitute, it looked valuable. I might have better luck and be better off completely naked actually, depending on where I was. Any villager would probably never see anyone with this amount of wealth in their entire life. Then there I would be, with gravity working against me to make me even weaker and of the fairer sex without even a full Utan to back me up. My thoughts stuttered at the unusual term before it settled back on track.

    Some kind of language bleed through, just like before, I mused quietly to myself, approaching my harness, which was the only item I had removed before sleeping. Really, it was in order to have my sword handy if I was jumped by somebody in the night. I was semi-confident that nobody would be able to find me in the deep underbrush, but you never know who or what might be watching.

    I groaned in annoyance as I carefully stepped over the sharp broken reeds, careful not to stick my feet into anything. I needed them to walk after all. It wasn’t as uncomfortable walking barefoot as it could be, this form had considerable leathery calluses on my feet. Sword calluses on my hands as well, but much lesser than what I would expect from a dedicated human swordmaster.

    The riverbank was harder to climb than the last since it was much less gradual. With a great deal of splashing, I managed to make it back toward a place I could get onto dry land. Just before making my ascent, I cast my gaze both downriver and then upriver. The river was fairly wide, about ten meters which probably contributed to its shallowness. Well, its relative shallowness, it was still deep enough that when I stood the water came up to just below my bare breasts at just a meter and a half from the shore. Its flow was slow, which made me worry again about fish and crocodiles. This looked like the kind of water they would like.

    Ruefully, I gave a little grin in self-amusement as I caught myself thinking, at least there was no algae here. That would’ve been absolutely horrid to get out of my gold and red silk bikini-loincloth.

    Speaking of that, I had slept in the thing and just about now I was starting to feel the urge that meant I should really take it off to get about my business. My copper-red fingers felt along the outside of the leather straps, looking for one that I could loosen. I glowered down at the sliver of gold barely obscured by a short red silk loincloth. Maybe there was a latch inside? I slipped my fingers into the little space between the golden metal and my copper-red skin.

    Ah, there it was, a little latch, just small enough and angled well enough that it wouldn’t be triggered by any normal movement. With a subtle click, it came undone and I barely snatched the girdle before it splashed into the water. As it was the silk was sopping wet and no longer the bright red color it was before. At least I hadn’t seen the color leech into the water, I think silk was supposed to do that, right?

    I was suddenly cognizant of my position. I had become so engrossed in undoing the little gold girdle that I had forgotten how exposed I really was. Currently, I was standing close to fully nude, except for the black and yellow tattoos on my red-hued skin. The water from the river was up to my calves and despite the thick river plants anyone could have been watching me. I felt my cheeks heat and the blush slowly spread down my bare chest. Not that it was actually visible in the same way that a human blush was visible since my chest was completely red already.

    My hands sprung up to cover myself but I aborted that action a moment later. There was nobody I could see, so obviously what was far more important was getting covered up again before someone did come along and see. Mind decided, I quickly pushed my way through the reeds and finally onto the muddy shore. My copper-red feet left small footprints squished in the mud, evidence of my travel. For a moment I thought about trying to obscure the tracks before just shaking my head. I didn’t really know how to accomplish such a deed, wilderness counter-tracking was not an elective ever offered to me in any school.

    Instead, I just hurried into the brush and did what I had originally removed the girdle for. This new body evidently had new internals, since things moved in ways I didn’t really want to think about. Shifting about beneath my skin in a perverse pulse that sent nausea climbing up my throat. Have you ever imagined the sensation of worms beneath your flesh? Or of being forcefully impregnated by some giant wasp which would lay its eggs in your flesh while you were paralyzed. Feeling something move that should not move under its own power without a convenient explanation like carrying a child. It reminded me of the chest bursters from Aliens, the growing horror that something was growing inside, without permission.

    It is in some ways a primal fear. However, it was wholly human. Already, I could feel some kind of distinction eroding in my mind. The boundary between the expectations of this new body and my old human psyche was growing strained. This body found this activity and undue undulation right and proper. My human mind found it an abomination.

    Steeling myself, I forced my attention on the instincts of my body. With strength of will, I focused on the way my actual body felt and not my mind. Slowly, but surely I forced the idea away, to be considered at another time when I was less unstable. Sometime in the future was an impending breakdown. An unraveling of psyche and flesh, which I clearly considered might leave me clinically insane.

    That was not a pressing issue. It was a problem for a future me to deal with. It was equally unwise to put it off and to consider it. To consider it was to invite insanity in the middle of a strange land but to put it off was to break when perhaps I would need to act.

    Already, the borders between my probably implanted psyche and the original fractured will of this body had been threatened. I had been loath to admit it before, but the original mind of this body, whose remnants I had become increasingly aware of, did not consider the death of the girl to be a tragedy.

    Unfortunate, but not tragic. The weak die, the strong survive. An almost excruciating Darwinian thought and custom seemed carved into the thought patterns of this body, courtesy of whoever was its prior owner. An owner that enjoyed the thrill of violence, despised weakness and wished for strong progeny.

    The death of a child unrelated was unfortunate only so much as watching two beasts of burden fight and injure another. This was the body of a creature more tribal than social. Unknowns were regulated to little space above animals. I had a sinking feeling that the original owner of this body would not look down upon slavery but perhaps had practiced it herself.

    The bleedthrough had gotten worse, but at least I had been able to gather some kind of information. My hands, cleaned in the river, gathered up a slivered strand of river grass, twisting it, breaking its rigidity, forcing suppleness into it. Expertly and almost without my conscious input, deft fingers gathered my tresses and elegantly molded them into an alien hairstyle.

    Gold would improve it, my thoughts snidely whispered in an alien tongue. My breaths were shallow as I stared into blue eyes that were not my own. I had wanted to put this off, I reminded myself, forcing my mind away from memories of skill that pushed against my psyche, willing to bubble forth and smother my mind. I was unsure if my willpower and sense of self was powerful enough to deny what I was beginning to suspect were closer to like fifteen times more memory than I was supposed to have. If I let this in, even if some details seemed stripped away, I could be subsumed.

    That was what bothered me about the death of the child, even more so than my own inaction. Even if I had been threatened by revealing myself, I should have done so. If I was back in my human body, that I had lived in for twenty-one years, I would have acted. Just as much as cowardice held me back, the sheer callousness of these new thoughts and memories threatened to do so in the future. I had no doubt that the original owner of this body was a social Darwinist, only willing to save her own skin.

    Sure faint bubbles of honor and chivalry seemed to exist but underneath all of that was the mindset of an assassin. I was half-tempted to immerse myself in her memories then, just to escape both the dread and guilt. However, that would be running away from something that, in the end, was still my mistake, even if it was tainted, influenced, by another’s memories.

    I bit into the bland cheese-like block, letting the taste ground me. It felt like it should crumble but it did not. My teeth left soft marks on the corner, the kind human teeth would leave if they bit into something soft, like ice cream or, well, cheese. I still detested the cheese, but I detested the memories that now accompanied the taste.

    I was right before, it seemed. Blandness was a way of life for her people. The sweets that did exist were natural, fruits, and they were rare. A delicacy of delicacies. This body knew of the concept of sweet but had not been granted the privilege of ever partaking in it. Hence, this body also didn’t really understand what sweetness actually was, beyond those berries, whose flavor was almost overpowering.

    It was a strange juxtaposition and blurring of minds. The cheese tasted bland because to my mind it was bland. The berries tasted oversweet because of the body they were sweet, but they were not rejected because at the same time it was still expected. Just as I did not spit out, but could still stomach, this over bland cheese. At some level, my body expected the taste, and that proved all the difference.

    After about five bites, which was pushing things, even after my revelation on the cheese’s edibility, I finally decided as empty as my stomach was, I’d better save it for later. There was a small part of me that chastised myself for wasting food by vomiting earlier. It was true to an extent, but I didn’t want to dwell on it. That way led me back into the circle of self-doubt and psyche problems.

    With un-deserved care, I wrapped up the cheese again, careful to make sure no insects had made it into the wrapping material, which was similar to cheesecloth, but much rougher. I wedged it in against the flashlight since despite its unsavory taste it was all the reliable food I had at the moment. I paused as my fingers brushed against something unexpected. I lifted the satchel to my face, frowning.

    Inside the lip of the satchel were tiny little pouches, which I had somehow missed before. A copper-red fingertip probed the little pouch. A moment of effort and I withdrew a little black nodule, exactly like the one-shot by my pistol. I held it in the air. In the sunlight, I could see a darker mass inside the bullet. I hefted it, half-weighing it in the air, before grimacing. As much as it had traumatized me I needed my pistol for protection, and by my count, I had used up two bullets.

    With a snap of leather, I pulled the pistol from my holster. A holster that was currently on my person since it was secured to my thigh instead of being attached to my girdle, which rested over a branch in the light of the sun. I felt for the aperture in the side of the pistol and found it a moment later. I slid the bullet in, and the whole gun made a loud click. Daintily, I removed a second bullet and slid that into the pistol as well, where it made another click as it slid into place.

    I had no real idea of how many bullets the pistol held or even where its magazine was. Or even if my extended trips in the water had rendered it inoperable but I resolved to be more careful in the future, since it was one of the only weapons I had. That being done, I slid it back into the holster, careful to keep my finger away from the trigger. I would feel a lot better if it had a safety but since it didn’t have one there was nothing I could do.

    Shivering slightly in the encroaching morning breeze I plucked the girdle from its branchy perch and slid my legs into the openings between leather and gold, letting the wet silk fall down the front. It was a pity that there was no loincloth in the back unless my posterior was what the cape had been supposed to cover? Whoever came up with this thing must’ve been a real pervert.

    Afterward, I struggled with the harness. It had dried during the night but unfortunately, that left the alien leather rather stiff, so I was forced to knead it between my fingers before slipping into it. It was a little tight, as before, but since it did not seem to impede my breathing and made me look at least semi-decent if fetish-wear was decent, I elected to keep it on.

    First things first, I was stealing a cloak. I mean, I suppose I could pay for it. The sheer number of gold bracelets, armlets, and anklets, one for each spot really, meant I had quite a bit of wealth. I didn’t have rings or earrings, however, which to my mind, just enforced the notion of this body being wholly or partially divorced from humanity. I also had the chronometer on my wrist and the somewhat matching crystal necklace on my neck. The chronometer I probably wanted to keep since it was at least semi-functional, but the rest could go.

    If I was actually in a medieval world, whether through time or dimensional travel, I would probably have enough to buy a horse and some bodyguards. It would be a tricky sell, both because of my exotic looks and undefended wealth. I will admit the thought of armor did cross my mind but combined with my shape, which was, to say the least, atypical for a knight, and my problems with weight, there was no way I was going to be able to use a suit of armor.

    Maybe in the future, after this body has gotten accustomed to the change. I knew this body was an accomplished duelist before. My bare-bones Kendo instruction back in my early teenage years only served to make me better realize the level of skill the former inhabitant of this body had when it came to sword fighting.

    While most sword arts back on earth had been eroded away by the march of technology and time, this body seemed to hold sword fighting in high esteem. An art of fine arts and she was a connoisseur. If I just reached for them, decades of sword forms, fights, and duels were at my disposal. Unsaid, of course, was the mental contamination that would result from embracing memories of where the previous inhabitant was at her worse. Just as many memories of slaughters and pillaging existed as the memories of drills and swordplay. Two lifetimes worth, only sparsely interspersed with spots of pleasure and intrigue.

    This body had come from a cutthroat society, that much I was able to gather from the glimpses. Assassins and poisoned blades, duels for honor and as weapons of conflict. Wars that lasted centuries, honing great warriors over several generations. The greatest veterans of these conflicts so far beyond what any individual on earth could hope to contest without some kind of physiological boost. The only thing that could hopefully contest such skill would be strength and speed at a level almost supernatural.

    The sound of a voice hollering in the distance was what broke me from my stupor. Broke me from memories of endless slaughter, slick blades, and spiraling airships raining death upon the thronging multitudes below. I found I had my sword in hand, gripped tightly but not too tight that an unexpected shock would jar my grip unnecessarily. Despite my handicaps, I felt a little better about foraying into civilization. If I just let myself sink into muscle memory, even if I had little strength, a swordfight could still be won on skill alone.

    However, that was a matter for another time, now she had a voice to investigate. It sounded older and cautious, calling to another person. Idly, I slipped deeper into the underbrush, drawing slightly on memories of war to do so without leaving a single noise. My memories hinted at a barren landscape and machines that soared far above. I postulated that the reduced gravity would allow flight easier than contemporary Earth.

    As it was, I wondered whether the spiral tattoos were actually formulated for more foliage heavy war. The spirals and designs seemed like it could work similar to a tiger’s stripes, useful in breaking up the overall pattern of my body. A branch broke to the left of me, followed by the sound of someone cursing. My brain twitched between my ears again, just as it had done before, and likewise, understanding for the language seemed to flow into me.

    “Old Maxar is finally mad, is he? His boy been feeding him tales of river spirits!” A rough voice spoke, crashing through the reeds. I paused trusting in my crouched position and the fact that the copper-red of my skin was probably not what a searcher would be looking for. Still, a twinge of regret swept through me as I realized that the man I heard was probably searching for the girl.

    Another voice answered and I caught a glimpse of a dirty brown garment from my hidden spot, “He did come back w’out his sister, pa?”

    The second voice was much younger but still sounded like it should belong to a teenager. A young man. I spotted him pause at the riverbank where I had slept, perhaps noting the way the bushes were stamped down.

    “I found something!” He hollered, crashing through some brambles.

    I heard the other, probably his father, approaching. From my spot, I ducked down further, happy that I had discarded my silken red cape, even if the way I had discarded it was rather morbid. Through the underbrush, which was thankfully rather leafy, I caught a glimpse of a craggy face, weathered and tanned. He wore a loose dark mustard yellow shirt, made of what looked like rough wool, stained around the armpits with his perspiration. In his hands he clutched a stout stick, which he swung, knocking some reeds askew so he could approach.

    The younger turned to face him, revealing another craggy face and deep blue eyes, old beyond their years. The voice of the younger was the voice of a teenager but his face was aged by hard work. A farmer or hard laborer, prematurely aged by sun and sky. Instead of a heavy stick, he carried what looked like a spade. A lot rougher than the shovels I was used to on Earth since the blade was made of wood rather than iron or steel.

    “Looks like a hart lay here, Clayse,” The father said curtly, “If it was a man there would be bootmarks or a fire.”

    I would’ve sighed with relief, but refrained, mindful of the proximity of two others who were probably looking for the girl that died. I shifted my grip on the shaped white-silver handle of my sword, which I held obscured by the underbrush, parallel to the ground.

    The father turned away to continue upriver when he paused. I could see from my angle that his gaze had found the riverbank where I had come ashore after my brief sojourn into the water.

    He inhaled sharply and gestured to his son, drawing his attention to what must be my tracks.

    “A hart, pa?” The son chided softly.

    The father scowled, giving a look that could be translated as ‘don’t be daft, boy’ and whispered softly, “No… but I doubt these are from whomever we are looking for, look at the way the tracks sit in the mud.”

    The son, who I assumed was named Clayse, frowned at the marks, “What, pa?”

    “They barely seep into the mud, it looks like the tracks of a child, a grown man would way more and sink deeper.”

    “I thought we were looking for a river spirit?” Clayse asked, suspicion in his voice. I had heard enough at this point and risked raising myself slightly and moving deeper into the undergrowth. Carefully, mindful of my current lack of precise coordination I moved away, stepping over a branch and then ducking under another.

    For a moment, I wasn’t mindful of my sword’s edge and it slipped through a branch with nary a noise. I froze for a moment but the branch caught another, dangling precariously. My eyes snapped to the left, toward the two still scrutinizing my tracks. They showed no reaction, the elder just stating that they needed to continue on since the foot size was too small for ‘Sesa.’

    I slipped away, only stopping once I couldn’t hear their voices nor feel the odd pressure on the sides of my head while they were talking. First off, they were obviously looking for the girl, which sent another pain through my breast. Of both guilt and fear. Second, they obviously came from some kind of community. If it was just a homestead or whatever the medieval equivalent was, they would not have others looking with them for the child. Ergo, there must be a village nearby and if there was, it would have both news and clothes. At least, I hoped it would have such commodities.

    My pulse was still thundering in my ears from my close call so I waited for a brief moment for it to calm down before continuing forward, keeping just close enough that I could hear the movement of the water, but not close enough that I could be visible from the shore. In some ways, this seemed a little safer than going into the deep forest which was both more visible underneath and also more likely I would get lost. I didn’t have a compass and I didn’t trust myself to tell directions by silly things like tree lichen.

    I also didn’t want to go too close to the riverbank when I knew people were watching, searching for a missing person. If the boy had actually made it home, I would assume most would be looking for a naked or semi-naked river spirit. A malicious river spirit at that, since I would bet my bottom dollar that part had carried over in any coherent account the boy gave.

    Before long, I could hear the faint sounds of activity. Voices, a hammer ringing. Chickens clucking. A dog started barking and I paused. I should’ve guessed the village would have animal guardians. Dogs have been an integral part of human communities for a long time. I paused for a while, considering whether I should press forward. It was possible the dog wasn’t barking at me, and since the noises of the village didn’t seem to actually pause I decided to continue.

    The first house I spotted was a stocky river mill, tattered old wheel turning ponderously under the weight of the rushing river. The river itself was much narrower here, meaning that it was running quite a bit faster. An old bridge, made of wood and about a meter and half wide connected the village to a road across the river. There were two houses on my side but the majority were on the other side. I flitted forward, moving from shadow to shadow watching the village carefully. An old peasant woman tottered around the front of one of the houses near me. My eyes took in her frailty, some part of me inwardly noting that she wore clothes to hide her infirmity. Another even more alien feeling was a small nodule of disgust that welled up at the sight of one so visibly old. Better for them to leave the world for the younger brood.

    Those thoughts were not mine and made my heart thump strangely in my chest, a witness to my discomfort. I focused more on the old woman, she held an old basket in one hand and scattered a few ears of grain to the gathered birds with the other. Her every movement was weak. Certain frailty that was even greater than her age would suggest. She moved over toward a small hand mill, placed out in the sun, plucking the kernels of wheat from the ear and beginning to grind them in the hand mill.

    I watched it for several moments. My fingers were tight around my sword and the only thought that kept threatening to encroach on my thoughts was how unaware she was. How easy it would be to slay her and plunder her goods. She would be a poor slave and one so old would have few weapons worth taking but…

    Shaking my head, I dispelled those notions. I was momentarily ashamed of myself for thinking of murdering an old woman for her tattered woolen shawl. The movement drew my blue eyes and they jumped over to the door of the nearest house. A woman, young, with messy blonde tresses constrained by a hastily adorned scarf keeping her hair in check. She held a pot a little away from herself, hurrying to the riverbank. I furrowed my brow, was she getting water?

    A moment later my lips curled in disgust as she dumped what could only be a chamber pot into the river water. Absolutely disgusting. I can’t believe I had been floating in that water earlier. Still the door of the house was open as she attempted to empty the chamber pot. I moved forward, slipping from the trees.

    It was a real security hazard that this town didn’t have a town wall or gate, or anything like that really. Nobody was watching these fields of what looked like wheat and so I was able to cross it briskly. My gleaming copper-red skin against the green would’ve been a striking sight if anyone was there to see it. Even more so by the way my gold adornments shone in the sunlight. However, the old lady did not turn from her grinding, and the young woman did not turn away from the river until I was inside the house.

    It was a gamble since I had no real way of knowing whether the house was inhabited or not. Given that this was a medieval town and it looked to be midway through spring I expected most of the houses to be sparsely attended since most household members would be out attending fields or working their craft.

    The village itself wasn’t a small collection of houses, however, it seemed fairly large. This was a help to me because it meant that people probably stopped by semi-regularly and that the fields were probably a fair bit away from the houses.

    The sturdy door had been left ajar and I was able to ease it open near silently. I could hear the murmur of the old woman as she hummed around the corner. It was a little rhyme, but I had trouble deciphering it. The words had blended together too much. I raised a copper-red finger to the side of my head as I felt something twinge inside like it had before.

    Words, flickers of thought. The little humming had too little meaning. The words themselves were little more than sounds that resembled words. Once maybe the old woman had remembered the words, now she only remembered the tune. It was surreal because I could pick out separate words in the tune, even though there were no words.

    I shook my head, my sharp blue eyes flickering over the interior of the room. It was darker than I expected, shrouded with little light. A loom rested in one corner, beside a rough wooden table without chairs. Rough clay pottery was stacked on the table. The floor was covered in straw, and the room smelled musty. A fire weakly fought for life in the small hearth. A black iron cauldron sat on top of it, covered.

    For a moment, my mind leaped to food before I dismissed it. No way was I going to eat peasant food. I was already really wary of hygiene in this world, and besides whatever they were eating might not be edible to me.

    The door creaked behind me, and I heard the footsteps on the threshold. With a quick sidestep, I stepped away, into the shadows behind the door. A moment later it creaked open and the young woman stepped in. She opened the door wider with one hand, forcing it to let light in. In a flash, even with the weight of gravity pressing down on me, my sword was raised to rest right under her chin. For a moment she didn’t seem to realize it and the blade sliced slightly into her neck.

    She froze then, half-flinching away before stilling. A tiny bead of blood oozed from the wound on her neck. Her eyes focused on the blade and cruel forward-facing barbs. I felt admonished for a moment, looking at the fear in her eyes, at the way the artery in her neck pulsed. I felt sullied by the way I was hyper-aware of her body.

    I was looking at her with the eyes of a duelist, not focused but still seeing. Aware of everything her body was doing but not excluding anything else. This was either instinct or long-ingrained training that this body possessed. It felt more animalistic than human, more like a predator eyeing prey than anything else.

    Her eyes found mine and widened. They moved down, taking in my form, the gold, and leather. If anything her fear seemed to grow, the silver-white blade pointed at her throat seemed to be just as scary as my copper-red skin, black swirls and yellow script tattooed into my flesh.

    “Do not fear,” I said, and I was surprised at how my voice sounded. I spoke, as I had noticed before, in a language that was not English. It was both comprehensible and incomprehensible. Deathly menacing and rabidly afraid. Somehow my words spoke my emotions. I conveyed the sense of a cornered animal, even though I felt like I was vaguely in control.

    If anything it was worse, because she could understand the meaning and words. I could feel that she understood, for all that the fear seemed to cloud her emotions. I spared a second to ponder why exactly what she was feeling seemed to stand out so harshly. Sure, I considered myself empathetic before but this was beyond anything I’d ever experienced. However, it felt natural and despite my misgivings, I needed to focus on the moment.

    I must admit that I felt somewhat ashamed for immediately jumping to violence. I could’ve talked, asked for what I wanted. That's what I had worked out in my head. I hadn’t decided to just accost her the moment she showed weakness. There was also shame for another reason, a deeper shame that stemmed from something else. Her hands held naught but a bucket and in my hands I brandished a sword poised at her bare throat. Worse I had already marked her, as evidenced by the trickle of blood staining the point of my silver-white blade.

    I dropped the blade, letting the cruel barbs skim over the floor, a few pieces of straw fluttering slightly in its wake. Her eyes, wide and green, framed in a small blonde haired head, tracked its descent sharply. For a long moment she seemed transfixed and then her eyes tracked sideways, from the edges of my barbed sword to my copper-red feet and golden anklets. I could see the way her thoughts stuttered, feel the confusion at a visceral level. With slight amusement, I admitted to myself that the anklets were worthy of stuttering thoughts. They were ornate, not just a simple band of gold. Instead, it had a strap of gilded leather holding it fast, and blue jewels were set at regular intervals, some spaced higher, others lower, in addition to the words carved into the soft gold.

    They were works of art really, and I detested them all the same. Sure, I appreciated the value of gold and gems, but jewelry had never really been that attractive to me. I liked the necklace, the way it gleamed, but not the gold. It was gaudy, too great for my stature.

    She swallowed, and I could feel the fear and also some other faint stirrings as her eyes drank in my body in all its copper-red reality. Yes, fear was the predominant emotion but others lingered, veiled, buried too deeply for even my newfound empathetic ability.

    I decided to break the silence, even as a blush spread slightly across my face. I doubted she was able to see it, but it still made me uncomfortable. This whole encounter was vaguely embarrassing. Well, really, it was more than just embarrassing. Now that she managed to somehow gain my measure.

    “I apologize for my immodesty,” the words slipped free, sounding conciliatory. The words that followed sounded hollow to me, false, feelings given thought contrary to the words, “I was waylaid along the road, and I was forced to flee…”

    She stiffened, and I wondered whether she picked up on what I felt when I spoke those words, the falsity behind them. It felt wrong to even lie. I pulled those thoughts down, tried to clear my mind. I never had this kind of difficulty lying before. As a human, I had even been praised for my poker face, how I could whisper honeyed words without letting even an ounce of my true feelings reach my face. How I could betray again and again, and each time people would trust, even though they intellectually knew that I told the truth by my own whim, not theirs. This was not true here, somehow there was a bleedthrough.

    She just watched me, and I noticed that I had paused, looking at her with narrowed eyes, “I would appreciate it greatly if you could confer upon me a cloak.”

    She blinked then, seeming to come out of a stupor. I was acutely aware of the ways my words sounded, alien to me but still familiar.

    “...Milady…” She tried, voice cracking as I shifted at her words. Again I felt my skull twinge, something felt like it was moving but not as she spoke. I looked at her, this was an address given out of fear. It tainted her voice. Somehow, I peered deeper, past the words she wished to use, at the root of the word was an association ‘demon.’

    I smiled then, and it was not as kind as I would have liked. I needed to snip this at its bud, “Please, I am no great lady, do you think one such as they would be caught in such garb?”

    I gestured to myself, running my free copper-red hand down my bare side, grazing along black tattoos. Attempting to draw doubt in her mind between both associations. Here she feared I was a tempting demoness, but there was a strand, a connection between demon and lady I could work.

    My thoughts gibbered madly in my head, I felt like I was drowning, reaching too fast and embracing the thought patterns that my body offered up. Invading another's mind was not human, and I shouldn’t be taking to it so easily. It was as natural as breathing, the longer she talked the more I saw. Sure, I couldn’t see into the innermost depths of her thoughts. I could not pick apart her fragile psyche, but I could tell it was fragile, and I could snare words and concepts as they surfaced.

    “My apologies!” She whispered with an ashen looking face, and I feared perhaps I had gone too far. My touch was that of an amateur, nevermind how natural it came. I had inadvertently pushed into some other connection, some deep-rooted fear. A childhood nightmare perhaps? It was different from a fear of demons, it was something else.

    “I am just a visitor from a distant land,” the silken words dripped from my mouth, sincerity staining them, “Inconvenienced by bandits, please, if you would, I would ask for the finest clothing you have.”

    Nevermind, the fact that I had only asked for a cloak before, I laid the narrative before her. I could feel the moment she registered my words, and I tried to express truthfulness. I wasn’t quite able to tell whether it succeeded or not, but from the way she relaxed, I thought maybe I had hit the right notes.

    “Clothes…” She asked. She seemed to have decided on something and her eyes darted to the door. I could still hear the somewhat distant measured sound of the old woman grinding the wheat outside. Too much fear had been stripped away, leaving her to think of flight. I could understand it. I had broken into her home, accosted her, cut and obliquely threatened her with my presence. If the situation was reversed and I the one at home…

    “Please,” I said, and the admission of need pained me more than I would admit. It was unbecoming of a great warrior such as I, one in the upper echelons… I forced those thoughts down, forced away from the mental contamination.

    I reached with my free hand for my armlet, just above my sword hand's elbow, undoing the leather strap holding the gold bauble in place. She watched me with hawk-like eyes.

    “You must understand,” I said, tone low, but much warmer than the chilly hoarfrost I extruded earlier, “I will not take without payment.”

    I tossed the bauble, watching the ways the rubies gleamed in the scant sliver of light from the door. Her eyes immediately fixed on it as it moved through the air and she snatched it from the air as it gleamed.

    She looked up at me then, and greed filled her eyes. Yes, all humans felt such. Suddenly, world-weary I sighed softly. Why did interactions always have to be so complicated? Oh sure, I might enjoy verbal sparring but when every conversation was duel?

    “Clothes,” I said finally, looking her in the eye and enunciating clearly. Not that it really mattered, because all that did was remind her of the way my words were foreign without being foreign.

    She stepped away from the spot she had been standing resolute, still grasping the gold armlet in an iron grip, and pulled away a basket by the loom. She lifted free a dark green cloak and held it out toward me. I stepped away from the corner, briefly before the small crack of light from the door and snatched it from her. Her eyes flickered over my body, but this time finally rested on the bruise beneath my eye, caused by my own knee.

    Somehow this seemed to reassure her and she finally spoke for longer than just one or two words, “What should I call you?”

    I paused then. What name should I go by? My first instinct, of course, was to go by my human name, but I doubted it would fit well in a medieval world. Any internet moniker was equally silly, it would make me stand out even more than I was before. I opened my mouth perhaps to say something but my mouth slipped, speaking words I did not intend.

    “Mora Taro, Dwar Mora Taro,” the words lingered for a moment before the girl in front of me offered a sunny smile, which reeked of falsehood. She was making an attempt to be friendly, but I was worried that she was not that positively inclined toward me. After all, I had cut her neck.

    I myself was perhaps as confused as she was. Mora Taro? Dwar? Dwar felt like it had weight behind it, but was less familiar than Taro, which my thoughts seemed to insist was ‘beauty’ and mora which seemed to mean something like ‘leader’ or ‘leads.’

    Inclining my head toward her in question, I moved my sword away and behind me even as I grabbed the cloak from her outstretched hand. For a moment we lingered, my hand against hers and I could feel how cold she was. For a split second, I wondered whether I was running a fever but then dismissed it with the observation that she may just have cold hands.

    Pausing a moment, I considered my sword. Wearing a cloak with the sword harness would be quite tricky. If only there was a way to take off the sheath. The harness itself was narrow enough I could use it underneath any clothing unless it was skintight which I kind of doubted it would be.

    “This land,” I said, lifting my eyes to the woman, “What is it called?”

    She looked down at the basket, as if she was trying to gauge exactly what I was asking, then she lifted her head and answered, “The Riverlands?”

    Oh. Well, maybe it was the town of Riverlands from New Zealand? No? I looked at her and the village hovel she was living in. She seemed completely serious.

    Well… I was… I’m sure... it could be worse.
  6. ShadowStepper1300

    ShadowStepper1300 I trust you know where the happy button is?

    Jun 20, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Well, it can get worse than living in a territory that's been warred over for centuries, but you really wouldn't want it to.

    Loving this story so far.
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 3:

    Leanansidhe Getting out there.

    Jul 9, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 3: Blood-wine

    After a brief moment of consternation, I turned away, ignoring the way my instincts screamed at me for showing such vulnerability. Already, my body was straining my ears, straining my mind. Focusing on the small noises. The creek of the house, the whistle of wind across the thatch roof. Bubbling from the pot on the fire, and crackle of flames. I had a problem I needed to solve in the immediate sense. After that, I could deal with the greater problem of where I was exactly.

    I pulled the harness over my hair, which was currently still secured in a simple, if alien, coiffure by a strand of river grass. I placed it beside my feet on the floor. I could hear the woman move behind me, rearranging something and I almost froze but managed to turn it into only a brief pause. I couldn’t afford to be scared by her, not with the thoughts currently circling around my mind.

    I looked the harness over for a moment, at the way the sheath attached. Before I had dismissed moving it as unimportant, but now I was forced to consider it in more detail. Let me see, if I moved this, then maybe the strap could be undone?

    With a slight effort, I managed to get my fingers into the small space between harness and sheath and undo the heavy leather strap, which had been hidden before. With a heavy thud, the sheath fell away and landed, point first, on my foot. I bit back a yelp that threatened to break free. Even if the woman hadn’t tried to scream or break away and flee yet, it wouldn't mean that the old woman outside would not be listening. Low voices might not carry, a pained yelp would.

    “I have given my name,” I spoke a moment later, as I crouched to place the rest of the harness on the ground carefully.

    “I would like it if you gave yours in turn,” I continued, pausing a moment to look over my shoulder at the young blonde-haired woman. She stood by the pot, half turned away from me. Evidentially, she meant to give me some measure of modesty by her inattention.

    “Mertha of Biller,” she replied after a moment. Her words tasted honest, at least it seemed that way, despite the reluctant way she answered. I gathered that while she didn’t want to answer, she thought it was connected to something else.

    I refrained from probing deeper, trying to find what she was really thinking. This new power, this super-stoked empathy-telepathy was, I suspected, a dangerous tool. The ability to peer into another’s thoughts and minds could easily become a crutch. That was also provided that it was actually real and not just a fleeting figment of my imagination. However, I was inclined to think it was real, and resolved to consider it that way.

    Mertha of Biller seemed to be real, it felt real, so I was going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume it was real. My mouth twitched, a half-smile, aborted half complete. I wasn’t sure this suspicion suited me. Sure, if I was actually in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire it would prove useful. After all, you play the game or you die. However, at the same time, always assuming the worst, as this world warranted, seemed like it would just lead to a miserable life.

    That was the crux of the matter. No matter where I was in the timeline I would almost be better served by flouncing off to Essos and trying my fortune there. A question of course was time. When this was and where exactly in the Riverlands.

    “Do you know the year?” I asked.

    “Year?” No, apparently she did not. I could feel the genuine confusion, both in her voice and echoed in her mind. Not that I necessarily expected a peasant to know when the year was. What the modern world regarded as common knowledge would probably be close to useless by medieval standards.

    “Nevermind then,” I said easily, words slipping free to assuage the brief flicker of fear she felt, “You must know the great value of the bauble I gave you?”

    “I do,” Mertha replied, turning back toward me and watching me cautiously. Some of the caution abated when she noticed my sword resting on the ground and not in my hand.

    “I find myself without any small change,” I paused as the term left my lips. She didn’t understand the word used in the context I was using it. I changed tack and decided to attack the question in another way, “Would you think our exchange fair?”

    Now that was fear. My mind recoiled from its paper-thin grasp around her mind at the almost acidic taste. It was actually nauseating. I forced it down after a moment, belatedly realizing that I was doing that an awful lot lately.

    “No. No.” I said, raising my free hand placatingly and stopping my fidgeting with the harness to focus.

    “Don’t worry. I just would ask for any spare coin you have,” I elaborated.

    Suspicion still warred behind her eyes and I could see her eyes flicker to the door again, even as she clutched at the little gold ornament.

    “I do not have enough of these,” I said, running my free hand over the bracelet on my arm, “Please, could you give me whatever small coin you have, enough for a stay at the inn.”

    I assumed the town had an inn. It might not though, this village seemed pretty small.

    Her lips twitched like she wanted to say something but she paused. The fear strobed greater and she shakily nodded, casting a look toward me before hurrying over to a little spot on the wall. She pushed her hand inside the dried mud that made up the wall and withdrew a little leather pouch.

    I turned my attention back to the harness. I sighed, the current configuration seemed like the best I was going to get. The sheath looked like it could maybe be attached to a loop on the dress and if I kept it inside of this cloak, it would be fairly well hidden. My pistol would not be accessible unless I put it in the satchel and carried that at my side. I frowned, that's what I think I needed to do.

    I stepped into the dress, pulling it up over the harness and loincloth. It was a little tight in the bust area and was way too long in the legs. Of course, that was a relative assessment because it was actually a little shorter than the woman’s own dress. By just a little.

    There was still the problem of my face, but I hoped that wouldn’t prove too problematic. U considered myself to have a bit of a silver tongue, and while the nuances of political science might be lost on ordinary people, I felt I could maybe speak fast enough to avoid any witch hunts.

    I slipped my pistol into the satchel and secured it to the inside of my cloak. I heard movement behind me and half-turned, hand flying toward my shoulder, only to grasp empty air. For a brief moment, I felt panic, both from myself and the woman suddenly in front of me before it subsided.

    In her hand, she held a couple of coins. They were brown copper, evidentially pennies. I reached out a cupped hand and she dropped them into my hand. Her eyebrow twitched, climbing upward, as she took in my appearance before she turned away.

    “Please,” she said, “Leave.”

    I let out a sigh. So much for thinking myself diplomatic. I gave myself a once-over, lifting the hood of the cloak over my head. It was rather nice for a cloak, even if it smelled very faintly of smoke and a farm. Smells I could live with. The itchiness would probably grow completely annoying with enough time.

    Was this wool? Why was it so itchy? I scrunched up my face and resolved to stop myself from itching.

    “Thank you,” I said lamely, in lieu of a better farewell. I felt vaguely rotten as if the whole interaction was tainted. It was in that moment, as I lifted my hand to grab the door and leave that I felt a glimmer of a thought. An image of herself talking to a priest, a septon.

    No, this would not do. My mind lashed out, focused and fast, almost by instinct and drove a mental lance into her head. No, I focused, trying to reign my own mind into control. I felt wet on my upper lip.

    I felt something fall behind me, and the mental presence diminished. I turned to look over my shoulder, only to see Mertha on her knees, her head scrunched up in agony. Red blood trickled down from her nose, falling to the straw floor. My own hand raised to my nose, and touched it, lifting to my eyes. There was blue blood. I had blue blood?

    My lips twisted in disgust and I left through the door, rubbing my face as I did so. So what, if I had blue blood? I was already an alien, this just cemented the fact. The old woman outside squawked at my sudden appearance, flinching backward from ascending the steps to the house.

    I shot her a glare and she stumbled backward a few steps. She gave me a look of fear, her eyes flickering between my red face and the sword still clutched in my hand, since I had not bothered to sheath it.

    “Do not look at me,” I commanded, quite a little irrationally.

    The old woman made a gesture, which I interpreted as a warding gesture. Defense against the evil eye and all that. Yeah, frightening the locals, not the best idea, is it, Mora?

    The villagers gave me a wide berth. The first glances were ones of confusion and flickers of uncertainty. I felt ill at the idea of leaking into their minds to find out their thoughts. The earlier backlash enough to dissuade me from probing for some time.

    Their eyes always quailed away when they caught a glimpse underneath my hood, at the red skin and deep blue eyes. One hand gripped my sword, the other clutched at the vertical hem of my cloak, keeping it closed.

    The street was muddy, with what seemed thankfully to only be dirt and not feces. The inn beckoned in front of me. At least businesses didn’t have any no shoes, no service, stipulations in this world. Or, at least, they wouldn’t outside of civilized places like Braavos probably.

    I heard the rumble of deep laughter even from outside the building. Nimbly, I stepped over the threshold and into the seemingly warm room. A fire flickered in a hearth and a few tables, worn and evidently the product of many generations at work.

    The smell of food was the first thing that reached my nose and I inhaled deeply, luxuriating in the scent of actual food for the first time in a whole day. Yes, I was being dramatic, but after a day and a half of eating nothing but nasty bland cheese, I felt I could be allowed this small enjoyment.

    “Ya just going to stand there?” A rough voice asked me and my eyes flew open.

    Suspicion warred with greed as what could only be the grizzled inn owner eyed the necklace on my neckline. One hand flew up almost subconsciously to cover it and I scowled.

    “Yes,” I said, “I’ll stand here as long as I please.”

    The barkeeper lifted his hands, almost placatingly, but the interest and suspicion in his eyes and mind remained. Simmering slightly. Apparently he disliked backtalk, especially from a woman.

    I could tell he was wary however, the red skin was unusual, but not unusual enough to refuse business, especially since I appeared to have some hidden wealth. If I was more bedraggled looking, less usual, perhaps a thief would be visiting me in the night.

    “A room and a meal,” I said, hand clutched around the copper coins the woman gave me.

    “A silver,” the man said.

    “Robbery,” I hissed, tasting the greed in his thoughts. There was something more at work here.

    I heard a heavy step behind me, and half turned, expecting a vagabond to be caught mid-attack trying to brain me.

    An armored fist caught mine, and I caught a flash of yellow livery. A black stag on a yellow field. Sharp blue eyes, almost stormlike peered into my own dark blue.

    The man-who-would-be-king laughed.

    “Ned!” He called to the outside and then stepped around me, releasing my hand from his own armored gauntlet.

    “Innkeeper,” he said easily, a smile on his face, “Perhaps a pint and some company? We’re on our way to Harrenhal. Saw your little place and since my throat was quite dry...”

    Robert Baratheon laughed again, a deep boisterous sound.
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: Blood of Red

    Leanansidhe Getting out there.

    Jul 9, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Chapter 4: Red Blood

    A grim-looking young man stepped into the room. My eyes dropped to the heraldry on his chest, a couped direwolf head, grey as stone. This was a Stark, and based on the name “Ned,” this was Eddard Stark.

    There was a certain unreality to the situation. Both men were straight out of fiction, stags and wolves alike. They were also both young, for all that they were immediately recognizable. They weren’t dressed in full plate but in strong layered cloth armor.

    I slapped my silver down on the innkeeper’s bar, “A room and a meal.”

    The innkeeper looked at me, more deeply this time. I could feel the suspicion behind his eyes. I could feel that he thought there was something more to me than met the eye. He seemed willing to look past the red skin, at least in the face of money.

    He swept it off the corner and I was momentarily unsure. Should I go and sit, and he would bring a meal to me? Or should I just stand here like an idiot? Good old social awkwardness, emphasized even more since I was in direct eyesight of two characters I definitely didn’t want to think I was stupid.

    That brings up another question, one I had been putting off for a while. Really, ever since arriving where I was. Magically, I had found myself in a work of fiction. Magically, I had found myself in a new body. An alien one. Obviously, there were strange forces at work here. Now I wasn’t inclined to think that my arrival here was the act of some random being since honestly, I expected if it was something like that, they would have gloated. At least I hoped so.

    The enduring question was, what had happened?

    I saved from existential murmuring by the timely return of the innkeeper. He handed me a warm bowl of what smelled like a hearty soup and held a tankard of what I suspected was ale. That was all fine with me, fewer microbes in alcohol after all.

    Turning, I left his company. I could feel his intense stare on my backside. I couldn’t exactly taste any malice but I suspected that I might not be getting that much sleep tonight. The issue was, as safe as I was back in civilization, I was also more vulnerable in other ways. This was an issue compounded by being visibly a foreigner. To an extent, I was lucky that the immediate conclusion to my appearance seemed to be “stranger from a strange land” and not “burn the witch.” However, it would be naive of me to assume that just because that appeared to be the case here that it would be the case elsewhere.

    I tasted the soup. I had been given a wooden spoon and for a moment I was worried about it splintering in my mouth or something like that. It was smooth though, well used, and wasn’t that disgusting? There were even teeth marks on the wood.

    The soup was good though. At least it smelled all right. It wasn’t as strong a soup as it looked. Frowning, I examined it more closely. Actually, I didn’t even know if this was proper soup. It looked like there were maybe potatoes and carrots, and another strange vegetable. No discernable meat, which might be for the better since there was less chance it would be spoiled.

    I tried to feel out what Robert and Eddard were thinking at the opposite table. Two tankards already sat in front of Robert, and as I watched he lifted one to his mouth and drained it in one gulp. The beer ran down the side of his mouth. Eddard did not look like he was depicted. Really I only knew him from his heraldry and from what Robert called him.

    For a moment I wondered whether somehow I was doing it wrong. I couldn’t even feel the barest glimmer of thought from either. Then I felt a flicker of thought, extremely errant.

    Hunger and thirst. The bare primal feelings. Faint enough that I wondered whether they were my own urges. Robert Baratheon paused for a moment, setting down his tankard. A moment later he grinned and whispered something to Eddard. With the distance, I was unable to hear exactly what was said. Eddard Stark’s lips twitched toward what might be a smile.

    I was forced to turn my attention away as Robert glanced up after grabbing his tankard again to beckon to the innkeeper. I could still feel the innkeeper, he felt irritation mixed with greed. I glanced around, scooping a spoonful of soup into my spoon as I did so. The other occupants looked well worn, heavy cloaks and tired faces. I guessed it was about noon, so it made sense that travelers would stop here to break their fasts or to eat a noonday meal. I actually couldn’t remember if people in Westeros even ate lunch.

    I felt a flicker of a dark emotion from one man, away from the others and very carefully did not turn my attention toward him. It was an unpleasant, animal thought, that gestated in his mind. A primal animal urge. I pushed it from my mind with careful slowness. Belatedly, I wondered why I could pick up his thoughts so easily but the nobles remained frustratingly opaque?

    Turning my attention back to my soup I tried to eavesdrop once more. Mechanically eating I stretched my senses to their utmost. Try as I might, I was only able to catch brief snippets of their conversation.

    “-Harrenhal. The Last-”

    “-Long time, you’ve-”

    Other snippets slipped past me, and I berated myself. The noise in the small inn made it almost impossible to catch up on their conversation without making it obvious I was listening. I was left with either turning my face toward them, in order to hopefully read their lips, or get up and move closer to their table.

    Yeah, I thought to myself, I didn’t like either one of those options. The first invited confrontation. With the way both were trained swordsmen and soldiers, it was impossible that they wouldn’t notice my attention on them. Especially since, the longer I looked at someone, the more my other thoughts intruded. I had no concrete proof, but I suspected that they might be able to feel me sizing them up as adversaries. Furthermore, in a world where the nobles ruled, it was unwise to draw their attention without good reason.

    I could move closer to their table but that was almost as obvious as just staring at them. Plus there wasn’t really a closer table that was unoccupied. I mean, I could do it but I had no doubt that it would look as awkward as I felt even contemplating it. It was like sitting down in class and then realizing you should have picked a different spot. If you didn’t get up and move right away, it would be too awkward to get up and move at all.

    Intellectually, I tried to convince myself that it wouldn’t look that suspicious. At the same time, however, I was reminded yet again that I was really very far out of my comfort zone. Not that being out of my comfort zone was that surprising in itself because ending up in a different world would be out of the comfort zone of anyone.

    My spoon scraped against the bottom of the soup bowl and I resolved on another, third, option. I reached out with my mind again, refusing to take no for an option. I teased at their minds, trying to ferret out words. Trying to feel what they felt in the immediacy. I focused on surface thoughts, the sound of voices.

    I felt high, for a moment, like I was a cloud. I was light-headed as I touched Robert Baratheon’s mind. It felt volatile like there was a charge just waiting to be set off. Delicate triggers, honed and restrained. Rage stuffed behind a gilded will. Sure, he wasn’t mad now, but he could be. I could feel the happiness and contentment flowing from him. I could feel anticipation and bloodlust, faintly smothered. It wasn’t what I was after, and I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Did I dare dig deeper?

    My awareness pushed to the side, toward Eddard Stark. Immediately, I knew something was very different. I could feel more than seeing it as Eddard sat up ramrod straight, his chair scraping against the wooden floor. Robert’s rough baritone broke off then and I snapped my awareness back to myself. I ignored the way my breath came in short shallow gasps and ducked my head.

    I could feel Ned Stark’s eyes rove around the room, some gut sense telling him that something was wrong. His eyes lingered on my bowed head for a moment before he said something curt to Robert. The Baratheon scowled and muttered something back but rose from his seat, snatching up his dropped gauntlets. I could feel the annoyance in his mind, not quite progressing toward anger, but moving toward amusement instead.

    Eddard stopped over by the innkeeper and whispered something, low enough that I could not catch. Of course, it wasn’t like I would’ve been able to catch the words even if they had spoken normally since I couldn’t even hear the normal conversation between Robert and Eddard.

    Based on the innkeeper’s scowl and the growing anger in his mind, intermingled with something else, there was some issue. Robert stepped forward, I could taste the conciliatory tone to his thoughts now, and the electric nature of his mind was becoming more familiar.

    For a moment I was torn. There was a golden opportunity slipping through my fingers. If this was a story I would liken this chance interaction down to authorial fiat, a deus ex machina. Why else would the two who could almost be considered the proto-protagonists of A Song of Ice and Fire appear before me, right as I was trying to get my feet?

    Realistically, though, what could I offer? Merely satisfying the carnal appetite of Robert might provide me some short term stability but I hardly doubted that would last, especially with a war about liberating his sweetheart on the near horizon. I was not confident enough to try and act as a seer. Sure, I could do cryptic writing like nobody’s business but actually doing it in real life with real stakes that actually mattered was another story entirely. That also depended on actually convincing Robert and Eddard to let me tag along to what seemed to be the tourney of Harrenhal.

    My garb as a peasant woman didn’t really afford me much interest, even coupled with my more than exotic features. My mind flickered, even as they argued. What could I realistically do? Challenging one of them to a fight was just the height of folly, especially with the way my body felt weighted, enfeebled. I had no doubt that despite the skill I seemed to possess with a blade, their superior strength and speed would be sufficient to defeat me. Also, I kind of doubted either would fight a woman.

    That left me with precious few options. For another long moment, I debated starting a bar fight. If I purported myself well, I might be able to buy my way into tagging along…

    No, that sounded stupid. Maybe if…

    The man in the corner was a dark sort. Carefully, very carefully, I prodded at his mind. There was a slight touch of fear lingering in his mind. Very carefully I attempted to smother it, feeding thoughts into his mind. I stood, making sure to stretch faintly. I felt flickers of attention on me, both Eddard and Robert were turned away, toward the innkeeper. The attention was not from them. I felt sick to my stomach, even as my heart pounded. What I was attempting to do was the height of idiocy.

    Stepping toward the door, I passed the two as they argued, standing before the open door. I made sure not to glance behind me but exited the inn promptly. I could feel the lingering intention, the growing malice. I turned away, spotting two richly adorned horses. Eight men-at-arms, four with Baratheon livery and four with Stark sat atop other nearby horses. They looked kind of irritated, the horses eager to move on. One of the Baratheon men snapped a quip, causing the others to laugh. I could still feel the presence of the man in the inn. Again, I prodded, feeding images to him. I let him fixate on the glimpse of the gold bauble he saw on my wrists.

    I could feel his presence approaching. Now was the most dangerous part of my plan. I turned away, still within technical sight of the men and into an alleyway. My feet moved through liquid filth and I grimaced. The river was so close, why was their stuff in the streets? I tried to rub it off in the dust and stones of the alley.

    My target emerged and glanced around shiftily. I sensed when he spotted me. He hesitated and for a moment, his eyes flickering over the annoying looking men-at-arms. Yet again, I felt the moment his eyes found my form, resting against the side of the entrance of the alleyway. Caution warred with greed and lust in his mind. I could feel the argument wrapping up inside and also felt the man’s decision rest on the precipice.

    Part of me felt bad, but with the quick way this man reached his decision, I had no doubt that he would’ve found someone else to prey on. I stoked what already existed in his mind, drawing it forth.

    He moved toward me, semi-quietly. Not quite slinking, but that was just because he didn’t want to draw attention. I opened my cloak, outside of his view and removed my sword from its sheath. Already, I regretted my quick and stupid plan. I was sure there was a better way to get what I needed.

    I drank of the well of memories that my body possessed. Swordplay, and sword-fighting. Duels and combat. Everything I could, I forced into my mind as quickly as I could. My muscles spasmed at the thoughts as I absorbed them.

    So consumed by the flashes of blood and metal within my own mind I almost lost track of the brigand behind me. A rough hand clutched at my cloak, and I heard the slither of steel on leather. The sound of a blade drawn from a sheath. I spun away, off-balanced, and my cloak tore with the sound of tearing fabric. My silver-white blade flashed up and knocked his dagger away.

    The brigand had been on the verge of snarling something, probably a threat. I could taste the shock and fear in his mind. Earlier I had tasted his intentions, to drag me into the alley and divest me of more than my gold. He had aimed to do so with a quick grasp and dagger to my throat before I could call for help.

    I could feel more than his attention on me as I fell into a sword-stance, silver-white blade raised in front of me in a perfect guard. I didn’t care about the way my feet squished into animal excrement. My mind was on the moment, the way his arteries pulsed on his neck. The beads of sweat on his forehead. He stabbed and I moved before he even completed the start of the strike. He tried to correct but was unable. My blade flashed out, effortlessly slicing through his cloth jerkin to the muscles underneath. It was not a lethal strike, just a surface wound.

    He didn’t squirm or cry out, just grunted in shock and stepped forward, lashing out again. He was trying to maneuver me into the alleyway, away from prying eyes, but it was a lost cause.

    “Cease this!” I heard a man shout, voice full of anger. One of the Stark men-at-arms had pushed his horse toward us, his hand resting on his sword, “You would disturb the King’s peace?”

    The man, the brigand I was fighting, seemed to realize what he was doing and broke off. He rushed past me into the alleyway, and around the corner scarcely a moment later.

    “Are you all right, woman?” The man asked, leading his horse toward me. I dipped my head, picking my sword-sheath from the muddy ground. I think everything might just work out.