Mother of Crow
By jenny K Brennan
This Sundered World, book 2
A spirit-punk steam-punk tale we don’t know where, maybe not even why, and most certainly not how.
Draft exclusive to House of Imp. Copyright 2017 Jenny K Brennan – All rights reserved.
A scout flittered down in front of Owl and tweeted brokenly through a scrap of paper held in its mouth. It spat out the paper and flittered off. Owl looked at the note. Paper? Paper was an unusual commodity among the guardians. There was only one machine capable of producing paper in the nest capital. And the transcription of that information had proven to be increasingly unreliable. But if Butterfly had talked to its counterpart, or parts, or fractions of self scattered throughout the lands, this could not be ignored.
But it could wait for a little while longer. Owl’s awareness of the worlds constantly shifting states of being didn’t quite prepare him for the idea of manifested thought being able to be everywhere and every time at the same time. Owl was too solipsistic to appreciate an existence that wasn’t focused in one body working within one set of instructions for a set number of tasks organized by priority. Butterfly was a concept. And how could concepts without blood or bones or duty be real.
The communications between butterfly and the rest of Butterfly unnerved Owl. But they were real. There was no denying the value of ever present and all encompassing knowledge. When it worked. Unfortunately most of what Butterfly knew was illogical and inaccurate at best. Deceptively logical and misleading at worst. But still, this butterfly could not be disregarded and until it could be replaced with a fresh specimen it would have to do. Owl had no interest in the dying butterfly and its faulty prophecies. But if the new formula worked as the monks had assured him that it would, the next generation communicators would be useful indeed. They would not guess at the state of the world. They would know. And they would obey. And it would mean obedience without all the softhearted diplomacy Owl dispised. They would have power. Real power. Owl liked power. Power to take knowledge and shape it, not just observe and report.
Owls bloodstaine feathers bristled softly with a delighted shiver. He checked himself and managed to contain his excitement. He needed to be calm. It would be soon enough. There was work to do, never hurry, all in good time. The big white owls scattered thoughts found their proper positions and his eyes twitched to his still grimy coat and snatched up the scrap of paper. He tucked it into a slot in his chest. He gave the human a nod to proceed. Not even thoughts of Butterfly or the sure to be disgustingly diplomatic visit with a hive of humans could keep him from enjoying his cleaning and polish.
The old woman trembled when folding her cloth and continued her work; slowly and meticulously rubbing each of Owl’s metal parts to a mirror like shine. This part was easy. It was the feather cleaning that gave her the nightmares. Blood, most of the time still fresh and sticky tended to creep into every crevice and every intricately carved copper plate and grafted blade base. That was nothing compared to the blood-soaked and now drying coat. This Owl in particular did none of the cleaning himself. It encouraged extra care and unbreakable loyalty, he told his entourage of tinkerers and communicators and yes, the cleaners, at every opportunity.
And so it was. The woman never failed in her duties. Until the day of her death she would never fail, never falter, and never submit. She was too old to fight but never too frail to hate. Unbreakable loyalty, timeless grief, bottomless hatred. Those were the things she knew and nothing else. And the cleaner who was still human who had never forgotten that she had a name once, polished another convoluted silver talon engraving.
Coming next: Chapter 1 — Build me pretty, break me prettier
Authors note: I will be doing edits every now and then right on this page and sync that to my scrivener project. That’s just one way I like to work. It’s motivating somehow to have a piece of work on a page, already published. This specific text needs to be edited down somewhat. Its a bit wordy and it feels a bit awkward in parts. The balance between telling what needs to be told in a prologue to make it interesting and cramming exposition down the readers throat can be hard. In a second book in a series, that also feels a bit weird. To understand who Owl is, it may be absolutely necessary to read the first book. On the other hand, I should be able to make this character and the events here clear enough to get a drift of what’s going on. Am I doing that? Do let me know if you have a minute. And thanks for any feedback.