This is a selection of scenes of my original work, a series of fantasy books set in a post-industrial world. The story follows three protagonists (and later a fourth one) who stumble on a political conspiracy that could shake the world. Their stories intertwine and separate multiple times, shaping the evolution of their relationship with each other. I tried to include a variety of scenes that portray the full range of my skills. Investigation, action, scene-setting, internal struggles, and love scenes.
About the characters
Vivi is the surviving half of a set of twins, carrying a sword that contains the soul of her lost brother. She is individualistic and resilient, but has a softer side that sometimes comes out.
Brendan is a street child who finally found his place in the world, only to lose it all to protect a friend. From there, he has to scramble to survive first, and then to create a safe space for the same people he wronged with his actions.
Kyle never felt like he belonged. He was the butler of the most powerful family in the country, and maybe the world, so he doesn’t belong with high society, but neither with his peers. He struggles with his identity and with the expectations of the people he loves. He finally finds his place in the city’s constabulary as a detective.
Vivi, Crime Scene
The pungent smell of decay filled Vivi’s nostrils and forced a sneer on face. Only a dozen paying passengers had access to the waiting room at the Governor’s plaza station, and it had only one entrance. She traced a spiral mid-air and as her fingertip glimmered, a breeze rushed through the ajar door and cleared the stench. Kyle offered her a thankful wink and put his constabulary badge back in his pocket. His auburn hair was messier than usual today, and his wrinkled shirt peeked out of his trousers. The guard closed the door behind them.
“What do you think?”
“Well, there’s a dead person on the floor.”
“I see that our taxpayers’ money is not wasted on your expertise.”
She pressed her hands against her hips to stretch her back and examined the room. Dark wood and crimson brocade hugged the walls. It mitigated the little light that came from the wall-sized windows and facilitated the perusers’ rest. Aside from the obvious corpse, nothing seemed out of place. She peeled through a leftover newspaper from the day before sitting on a chair, but it had no notes or missing pages. The floor had no marks of something being moved, no sign of violence. The curtains that covered the windowed wall suggested that there were no witnesses. She could not find any reason for this man to be dead. Clean shaven, recent haircut, steamed formal clothes. Put together, composed, clean, more than most people who commuted from Portsborough.
“He’s a government goon,” she said.
“John Steele, Adela Harland’s bagman. His papers were in the coat’s pocket.”
Vivi turned around to face her friend. Kyle rubbed his neck and looked at a floor tile that must have been the most peculiar he had seen in his life, avoiding her judgemental stare.
“A bagman without a bag?”
“We think it was stolen.”
“So, why do you need me? You have your work cut out for you: you just need to catch the murderer. If there even is one, because this bloke has probably just dropped dead. ”
“His briefcase,” he answered, lowering his voice, “he was carrying the blueprint and prototype of a new weapon. Adela had to present it to the Parliament today on behalf of the research and defense commission to approve further funding.”
“Oh,” she said, as she arched her brows, “your girlfriend put you in charge of this, didn’t she?”
“Shush,” he looked around, and continued when his inspection satisfied him that nobody heard. “No, she didn’t. This is in front of my precinct. I have jurisdiction here. She just provided the context.”
“And a healthy sense of urgency, I bet.”
Vivi chuckled. He acted as if nobody suspected that he was shagging Adela Harland, when it was such a known fact that it was not even material for gossip anymore.
Kyle shrugged. “Adela said this prototype is unlike anything we’ve seen before and that our priority is recovering it. If it gets into the wrong hands, or worse, abroad…”
“A priority? Over the murder?”
What a cold, heartless bitch.
“Vivi, look, I need your help. All the information in this case is classified and the government won’t share any with us. The red robes will probably step in soon if we don’t recover them, and you know their methods…”
The red robes, the Ordo, the judicial body of the Boreal Republic. Torturers in disguise, unafraid of stepping on the wrong toes. A scenario in which the government gave them free rein to investigate in the city was not ideal. For anyone, but especially for her. She did not need this now.
“Do we know what it looks like? I can’t just go to Red Marion and ask her if she has some deep state secrets lying around in her shop.”
“The last iteration of it can be mounted on a glove, but from what I understood, it’s like a… a piece of stone? A marble? So it could take any form.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. So now I’m supposed to go through all my associates and ask if they’ve seen a magical marble that kills people?”
“I don’t really know what it does, either. I don’t know if it kills people or maims them or how. Classified.”
“Do you even know anything that can help?”
Kyle shook his head.
Kyle, A slap and a kiss
“This is not a joke, Kyle. Are you sure of what you heard?”
“I didn’t dream it if that’s what you’re asking.”
“I’m just checking if Rubina’s outstanding qualities that you described in depth didn’t distract you.”
“I- what?” he took a step back and took out his mask to glare at her. “I didn’t. And besides, at least I did not drink half of our caskets of Arcadian wine with Martin, whoever he is.”
She scoffed and slapped him. The loud smack hit him before the pain, and as his cheek started burning, he brought his gloved hand to touch the bruise instinctively.
“Right,” he said after a few seconds of dignified silence, bowing. “Well, now that you are aware of the genocidal plans of your guests, I guess I can take my leave.”
“Wait.” She closed her eyes and leaned on her desk. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have. It’s just…” she hesitated and bit her lower lip. She looked much younger and vulnerable in the half darkness of the room. “You don’t know how it is, Kyle. You go around with your tray of food and drinks and lighting up lanterns, but you are ultimately free. I will never have that. I will be lucky if I end up married off to a gopher like Martin to seal a deal between our families.”
“You have no idea of how my life is, miss, with all due respect.” He bowed. “I would like to take my leave and go back to distributing food and drinks as I’m supposed to, if you’ll allow that.”
“At least you can love whoever you want!” she said, letting out a sob. Her tears drowned her eyes. “You can be ignorant. You can look at the sky without wondering how much the stardust you see is worth and how to use it for your family. You can be imperfect! My life is a collection of gestures, notions, and phrases. I have had to learn how to move, how to position myself, how to talk, when to stay silent. All to be more likeable. I have memorised the right facial expressions and tones to perform when I am in public. All to bolster the grandeur of my heritage! Some days I wonder if I’m even a person anymore or if I’m just a collection of stolen things!”
Kyle’s instincts commanded him to just leave, to run away and let her have her meltdown in peace. His feet would not collaborate, though. This was the first time he saw her without the veil that she always wore on her heart, sobbing, broken. She was just a lonely girl that needed comforting, another piece in the big play they were all acting in everyday, him with his mask and gloves and white clothes, her with her posture and polite smiles. For just a moment, she was not the scion of the Harland family or the mean lady who liked to torture him just because her status allowed it. He sighed and bared his hands and face.
“May I?” he asked.
He hugged her quietly as she sobbed against his chest. He thought for the longest time about something to say while her rouge and her tears stained his candid shirt.
“It’s not true you can’t love who you want,” he finally whispered in her ear. “Maybe you can’t marry who you want, but they cannot take your feelings away. Those are just yours.”
As he said that, she raised her eyes to his, stood on the tip of her toes and pressed a kiss on his lips. A delicate, innocent kiss that tore his heart from his chest. She could have crushed it if she wanted. He had painted her as a capricious girl to avoid confronting it, but there was no way to lie to himself now. He wanted more.
“Stay,” she commanded, “please.”
The first thing he did when he entered his room for the night, was to dive his hands and face in the bucket of fresh water they left for guests, and clean up all the mess that was still left since Aìma. From what he saw of himself in the mirror, he looked like a dirty labourer, which had suited him just fine until now, but if he hoped to get back to Arsilia unnoticed, he needed something better than that. He glanced at the dirty water beneath his face and sighed. It reflected a distorted and monstrous face, appropriate for how he felt. He wearily grabbed his razor and started shaving. His beard morphed into a moustache. Then, he grabbed a pair of dull scissors and plucked the locks that fell on his shoulder into a more mundane, boring cut. Short enough to look different, not short enough to show his shaky hand. The mirror returned the image of an absolute arsehole, which was what he deserved if he had to be honest with himself.
Brendan laid on the bed and awaited his slumber, hoping for some respite. It would not come to him, though. Whenever he closed his eyes, he saw the flames erasing Thule, or smelled the scent of burning flesh in the air. He sighed rolling around in the uncomfortable inn bed. There was no fixing what he had done. All the pain he caused, the lost lives. They were the people with whom he had shared his life for the last four years. His chest felt empty, the echoes of his heartbeat almost drowning any rational thought. There was no escaping his responsibility in all the horror that had just befallen on the remote village that welcomed him like family. He closed his eyes and spent several hours trying to mute his anguish, and when he finally realised that was impossible, he took his backpack and left. It was not even dawn yet.
Brendan, A daughter
“Come in,” she said.
The automatons came back with a young woman, around twenty years old, dark brown curly hair, evidently pregnant, holding a bundle wrapped in a blanket to her chest.
“Day, my previous employee, has taken care of her since, but we cannot protect them forever here. The mansion is big, and it was rather easy to keep them a secret from my parents, but they need a more permanent accommodation.”
The woman extended her arms to hand him the child. He met her halfway. Brendan had held babies before, at the Whisper Home everyone stepped in to help when a new one was born. He had forgotten, though, how frail, and soft they felt in his arms. The little one looked at him and he knew he would kill anyone who tried to harm her. She had brilliant ruby eyes, and her toothless smile made the sunshine brighter. As he rocked her and caressed her small cotton head, he felt a tear run along his cheek. How long had it been since his hands were used for affection instead of bringing death? He did not fight the waves of grief and guilt, instead, he let them wash over him.
“What do you need me to do?” he asked with a broken voice.
“I need you to disappear with this baby and protect her from any harm.” Adela Harland said, getting closer to them, “I will give you all the resources I can spare without alerting my family, but you need to keep the Hidden Eyes away from her at all cost. Day and Alia will assist you, of course, and you may hire whomever you think fit to help, within reason.
“You will also receive documents that attest her as your daughter, should you need to leave the country,” she said, touching the baby’s head, “but I must ask you to stay close, unless it becomes really necessary that you escape.”
He looked at her with a puzzled expression.
“I would appreciate regular updates on her wellbeing and on Day’s. Her child will be born soon, and I hope you will take good care of them as well,” she concluded, and stepped back from them, reclaiming her cold demeanour. “You will be compensated generously, of course.”
He glanced at the babbling baby in his arms and shook his head, “I don’t need to be paid if you will provide for our living expenses, Madam.”
She answered with a polite smile, “You may leave as soon as it’s dark. More discreetly than how you came, if possible.”
When she took her leave so that they could organise their departure, Brendan stopped her. “Miss Harland,” he said, “why are you doing this?”
She turned around with her dress’ train flowing around her feet, “Because although many would disagree, House Harland will always represent the Republic, and the Republic protects all its citizens, Brendan Steele.”
Kyle, Bad News
The kosmos rail train stopped at 8.06 in the morning at the Order Commons halt. Kyle descended, smoothing out his trousers and coat. Another day was upon him. He often wondered if this job would finally manage to bore him to death, or if there would be, at some point, a chance for him to get out of his fucking desk for a change. The sky was grey with upcoming rain. He rejoiced at the prospect of ice on the curbs. At least he would pass his time between one stamp and the other watching his colleagues slip and fall. The walls of Central Meadow, the big park next to his office, were covered in electoral posters. He could not help but smile at Adela’s face smiling back at him, immortalised on paper by the best photoengraver of the country.
She looked directly at the bystander, in her most sombre and anonymous dress to highlight her perfect features. A friendly but stern face, she was the epitome of pride and sobriety. She already looked like a President. She would win.
He adjusted his fedora just in case it would start to pour, and crossed the road. As soon as he entered the double class doors of the Constabulary headquarters, he knew something was up. The huge entrance hall was empty, no civilians inside. The gurgling of the mosaic fountain in the centre of the space accompanied the frantic steps of the officers running across it, whispering to each other. He could not help but notice the faces of his colleagues as they saw him enter. They went blank, then pale, then they rushed back to their offices. He crossed the columned hall, passing below the glass skylight, and entered the office he shared with his assistant. It was a rather small room with two desks and few decorations, mostly on Lyra’s desk.
Kyle took out his hat and entered his office. He hung it on the wall and took out his coat too. When he turned around, he found Lyra staring. Her eyes were red and her lower lip was quivering, which was in contrast with her usual chirpy appearance. As the daughter of one of the former noble houses of Arsilia, her career had been… aided by her father, who was a Magistrate for the Ordo. So she always looked perfect and composed while on the clock. She was the most precise and punctual assistant he had ever had. Today, her clothes were crumpled where she held them while crying. The rouge on her cheeks had melted in a sad, clownish fashion that did not belong to the office.
“Will someone tell me what’s going on already?” Kyle said, adjusting his jacket.
Lyra sobbed and tears cascaded on her face. “Please sit, Captain,” she said, pointing at his desk.
Brendan felt a sharp pain beneath his ribs and saw the blade leave his flank, covered in blood. Before his vision started to blur, he noticed a trace of blue running on the blade. It was faint, but definitely there. Empress Blue. Damn. His hand raised to his wound, as a loud metallic clash exploded above his head. Only then he noticed he was kneeling. Blood sprayed on the cobblestone next to him. It was someone else’s. His mind already foggy, he couldn’t tell why the finishing blow did not follow, not that it would make a difference. He would die soon without an antidote. The antidote, focus.
His left hand, shaking, went to a pouch by his chest. It contained a white calciferous powder. He breathed it in, trying to not lose focus. He felt the powder rise through his nostril as he breathed deeply, again and again, bringing him a step further towards salvation. A man screamed in agony to his side and fell with the deafening thud of life leaving his body. Just one more thing, one more. He lowered his hand to the bandolier, where he put all his antidotes in a specific order before each mission. Empress blue, Empress blue… it was the third. His fingertips counted: one, two, three. He plucked the vial from its casing. It contained a milky liquid, the correct one. He uncapped it, and bent down when a fit of cough caught him by surprise. He inhaled back in but the air didn’t come. Fuck. He lifted his hand to drink the antidote. It felt heavier and heavier, but he had to cough again, and the vial slipped. He barely saw a foot crush it and a body fall.
Vivi screamed his name, and rushed towards him, her hands grabbing him as he fell on his side, wheezing. She stammered some more words that he couldn’t understand anymore, and as oblivion embraced him, all he could think of was that he never told her how beautiful her eyes were when she worried for him. He tried to reach her face with a bloodstained hand, and then nothing.
I enjoy writing fanfiction for practice and character studies. The extracts that follow are two self-contained scenes that were published in a fan colouring book, Overlapping lines.
Lae'zel, Baldur's Gate 3, No tears for the githyanki
Note: I wrote this short story for the Overlapping Lines colouring book of the Down by the river community.
“What is life on the Tears like?” Gale’s voice broke the silence of their watch. He was looking up at the sky, where the asteroid belt that wrapped Selune was not, for once, hidden by the clouds.
“Efficient, clean, quiet,” was Lae’zel’s answer. Words escaped her, sometimes. It was impossible to explain in common what it was to look out of crèche K’liir and see the vast, black emptiness of what the humans called Realmspace. To be stranded, with her comrades in arms, in the eternity of a dark ocean. Nothing like the dirt-ridden mess that was Toril, with its plants, voices, and the sweat. So much sweat everywhere. The wizard was now staring at her. Did he expect more? “We are raised to fight, not to tell stories, Gale.”
“Of course, of course,” he said, rubbing his knees. Such an unnecessary gesture. “I did not mean to pry, my apologies.”
The silence fell again as they both admired the Tears above. There was a certain decadent beauty in them, from this point of view. “Most of crèche K’liir is excavated in the rocks,” she said, “but from the docks you can see the stars and Toril, below. It all looks so small, so… fragile. But there is not a better feeling than braving the astral winds on a Spelljammer with your comrades to collect resources for the crèche.” Lae’zel could not tell what moved her to talk, but when she started, there was no going back. “Sometimes we even raid your Underdark. There is a portal in K’liir that leads to a maze with crystal walls. You would be surprised by how many fools venture there looking for glory and end up dismembered.”
“A maze with crystal walls?” asked Gale, stroking his beard.
Lae’zel stood up in front of the soft human. “It’s not often that our raids lead us there. We don’t venture further, the effort would not be rewarded.”
“I understand,” he said, “but… now that you mentioned this, my curiosity must be sated. Do you know the location of this crystal maze, perchance?”
Laezel squinted, “We weren’t interested in mapping your lands, the maze is just a source of sustenance for us.”
“You really enjoyed the ransacking part, eh?”
Lae’zel raised her arms to the skies. “Have you ever seen Toril from above?” she did not wait for the wizard’s reply, “your kind can never understand how small and pitiful you are,” she said, accompanying her speech with hand gestures, “ if you cannot see yourself from the stars. We used to jump on Spelljammers, all devoted to one single target, one party, one mind, and feast on the blood of our enemies. On the Tears you have to fight even for the air you breathe, there is no space for error, or futile discussion. Not like these…” Lae’zel glanced around the sleeping camp.
“You miss your people, don’t you?” Gale asked.
“There’s nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia,” he insisted. If she could rip the smirk from his face, she would.
“A githyanki is devoted only to their duty and their queen.”
Nevertheless, she raised her eyes to the starry sky and basked in its beauty, taking in as much as possible while the sky was clear.
Nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia, after all.
Alfira, Baldur's Gate 3, Allegretto
Note: I wrote this short story for the Overlapping Lines colouring book of the Down by the river community.
“Like this?” asked Alfira, observing the reaction of her mentor with wide eyes.
“Again,” said Lihala. Her flaming pink eyes followed the young tiefling’s arpeggio closely and squinted when she hit the wrong string.
“Again,” she repeated, “slowlier this time.”
Alfira snorted, “I’m never going to learn the complete song at this pace.”
Lihala tilted her head, “You are not performing at the Elfsong, focus on the technique first.”
The young tiefling sighed. Her mentor gave her an encouraging pat on the shoulder. Alfira repeated the arpeggio, finger by finger, at a slower tempo, while her mentor scanned the time. On the third try, she played it correctly. Alfira looked up to see Lihala’s smile, her eyes brimming with pride, and it warmed her up inside out.
“Can I perform at the Elfsong now?” joked the young apprentice.
“No, but you can pick the next exercise,” replied Lihala.
When they were done, the bard spent half an hour tuning the lutes by ear. She did it before and after practice, to make sure the sound was always pristine. Alfira watched her, taking in all the information she could. The movements of her hands, how she gently bent her head to hear the notes better.
“You are going to become a great artist, Alfira,” Lihala commented between tuning one chord and the other, “You just have to learn how to turn your feelings into music and lyrics.”
“I want to be as good as you.”
“You are probably going to surpass me soon. Such is the destiny of a teacher,” said Lihala closing her eyes to focus on the sound. Her fingers started tracing the beginning of a ballad to check that the instrument was tuned correctly. “We exist to take your hand so you can be better than us, and disappear when it is time for you to rise on stage.”
“But you don’t have to disappear,” Alfira replied, “I would miss you”
Lihala smiled wisely, “And how can you soar in the sky if an anchor is weighing you down?”
“You can fly with me,” insisted Alfira.
The mentor’s smile widened. “Play with me, instead,” she said.
Alfira picked up her own lute. For the first time, Lihala let her play the melody while she scanned the rhythm. The sunlight filtered through the overgrown glade they were in, and the chirping of the birds accompanied them. The Chiontar river rushed in the distance, a rumble of clear waters. It was the perfect percussion accompanying their song.
Down, down, down by the river…
Alfira opened her eyes, as the Chiontar’s rumbling still filled her senses, her dream fading into the distant echo of a memory As her eyes focused, the ceiling above her morphed from that of the verdant forest, to sturdy river rock, carved by the master artisans that had built Silvanus’s Grove.
The tiefling sighed, as she raised from the bedroll. She crossed the grove in search of a quiet corner where to practise with her lute, and finally found it near the beach, right above the rotunda where the druids chanted their ritual.
A profound sense of desolation took a hold of her heart, with every step she took, a crescendo of loneliness and despair. The memories of the ambush haunted her. The smell of blood, her mentor’s lifeless eyes staring into the void. Lihala would never come back, and nobody would look after her and her people.
She plucked the chords and fought back her tears. It was time to soar.