Mother of Crow – 06 never fear for this has been known (First rewrite)

Reading Time: 15 minutes


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.


Chapter 6 – never fear for this has been known

Last updated: January 13, 2019 at 11:15 am

“Wait here.” Frederico whispered to John. “Remember what to do? Okay?” John opened his mouth. Frederico silenced John with a raised hand. “Push. That’s all you need to remember.”
John nodded carefully beneath his disguise. He whispered to Frederico’s feet, “Push. Fast.”
Frederico nodded and stepped back. “Be quiet, be still no matter what happens, and hurry when I say. Again, John, you can do it.” John squeezed his eyes shut. He was as ready as he would ever be. Frederico draped a piece of a torn undershirt over John’s head and stepped back. It would have to do. He opened the door wide, leaving the room exposed. John stood behind the door, for the occasional watcher perhaps resembling a vertical pile of laundry, broken broom handles and a coatrack covered in dust and grime. After one quick critical look, Frederico added the final touch on John’s disguise, a polishing rag infused with years of rubbing oils and dirt. The disguise wouldn’t fool a man, even the dullest of the dullest. And birds were smarter than some. The hope was not to hide, it was for no one to actually look. Could birds smell humans? Did they hear heartbeats? Well, if they did, They would be on Frederico within moments. Mother would have to do something. No prayer came to mind. mother of Crow would help them if she so wanted. But that, the monk conceded was a big fat if. he peered out in the dim corridor and listened to the approaching clatter. They had just run out of time. To the left, the passage lead to a narrow doorway, inside was a dark stairwell, and at the bottom, winding passages slowly opened up into the vast catacombs. The resting place for centuries of believers, sinners, and nobility with the money to pay their way to the heavenly realms of sky and all knowing. The space beneath the monastery stored Tens of thousands of bones mingled with treasures guaranteed to pave the way to bliss. The place gave Frederico the creeps. Even if it hadn’t, it was a dead end in every meaning of the words. There was no way in or out of the catacombs other than that door. But it could also be the perfect place for what Frederico wanted.
The corridor to the right lead after multiple turns and confusing passages to the kitchens, the sleeping areas, and the offices. Corridors branched off into various workshops, chapels and contemplation chambers. The butterfly breeding room, the catacomb door as well as one oddly placed metal shop turned storage room were on the far side of the cloister building, far from the contemplative silences that were the heart of the monastery, . where monks bustled and performed their duties, prayed and punished themselves in every thought for every thought they ever had. He didn’t stop to listen. Judging distance was near impossible in this stone monstrosity. With a final look at his butterfly sanctuary turned death trap, he .
rushed across the corridor and through the opposite door. He went from dim lamplit shadow to darkness. He stopped before venturing far inside the workshop. Inches and shelves to along the left wall, storage cubbies, malfunctioning machinery, and projects in progress littered the opposite wall. The back of the roughly rectangular room hid crates and boxes , stacked high . What Frederico wanted was back there, tucked behind a stack of illicit tomes, confiscated over an unknown number of years. Dusty tomes and and scrolls not suited for the faithful. Frederico knew the title of every book,, had read none. Frederico started through the narrow passage, rushing past tools piled on trays piled one atop the other and by some miracle retrieved the servant automaton without toppling everything around him to the floor. Frederico was responsible for cleaning and organizing the machines the cloister kept, even though they were never used. He kept the few items that were still working in good condition and despite strict rules against it, tested them every now and then. He placed it in the doorway where he had entered. The small rolling drinks table vibrated softly beneath his fingers when he positioned it just right. He left it there and hurried to the stairwell door that was slightly ajar. John had been the last person there. Oh, grace to you, Brother. for never remembering to close doors, putting away the brooms, sealing the water jars. As carefully as was humanly possible he pulled the door wide open, but it didn’t squeak, didn’t even creak. The heavy door opened with barely a whisper. This was too easy. Too, too easy. Since when did anyone tend to creaking doors? But Frederico had in fact oiled this door along with his own just days ago. He had no memory of doing it, and would never recall such a thing. And at this very moment,, even his noticing of something so unusual faded and disappeared completely in-between one beat of his heart and the next. He peered down in the dark stairwell, but there was nothing to see but dusty shadows draped thick over rough stone steps. A hundred of them. Frederico hadn’t counted but that was the word. A hundred short, steep, traitorous steps winding down in an uneven half circle. A hundred steps, a fair number of broken bones to be sure, and one suicidal machine. Frederico cringed when he rushed back to the metal shop door and his robot. He didn’t know if the machines in his care had a sense of self preservation or not. But it was too late to think about that now. it was far too late. The sound of rustling feathers, clicking scraping talons , and a constantly talking old abbot was clearly audible. He crouched next to the Madam and placed a hand on the polished flat top. He regretted what he would do to it. He spoke softly, “Wait, little one wait,” and waited. The sound of visitors grew louder and in another second they were there. They rounded the corner with the ticking of bird feet, a rustling of wings against stone floor, and the slow shuffling from human feet in sandals. The abbotT. Frederico inhaled and readied his command to the automaton standing ready beneath his trembling hand. They just had to get a little bit closer. Suddenly the abbot spoke. Hesitant but accommodating as ever. The old man had stopped at the corner and the guardians halted. “I must let you go on with your business, honoured guests. I shall wait in my quarters. The monk you wish to see is right over there. That open door. Brother Frederico will be pleased.” The old man nearly shouted those last words. Frederico frowned. The old abbot never raised his voice but Frederico had but a fraction of a second to realize that the abbot was doing all he could to prepare Frederico for what was coming. Too little, too late, old man. The guardians didn’t wait for the human to finish talking before starting to move down the new corridor towards Frederico’s room. Ten steps, five. They moved faster than he expected and they were nearly at the open door before he removed his hand from the little servant automaton. It hummed quietly and rocked back and forth in its eagerness to obey. They would have to see how far that obedience would “go.” The robot took off in a straight line to the open catacomb stairwell. It’s sirens screamed at full volume as instructed. Frederico ducked back behind the wall and pressed his back against the stone. . The screaming robot shot along the corridor toward the open door at the end. Frederico held his breath and waited for the reaction. It came a second later when the guardians answered the shrill cry with their own. Three of the remade killers, each as big as a man and a half, shot past Frederico’s hiding place in per suit of the racing madam. Unable to take flight beneath the low ceiling, they rushed forward, half hopping, working their wings that hindered more than helped their progress. Despite that, they moved fast and a domestic servant drinks table was no match for them. Another ten paces further would have left the robot the loser. But before they reached her, the robot made it to the end of the track, the corridor, and the floor. The robot shot through the doorway and over the edge to the stairwell and into darkness. It was airborne for the briefest of moments until it hit the curved stone wall, the siren stuttered and died. The automaton dropped and hit the one stone step after another, going down into darkness. Delicate machinery torn loose and scattered along the way down the stairwell. The birds followed. In quick succession, the three guardians entered the narrow door and out of sight. They clattered and cried, each bird pushing to get ahead of the others, caught up in the hunt. The remade killer birds were still predators by nature and a chase for prey would win over logical thought every time. This was no exception. Screeching calls for death followed the birds down into darkness. Frederico let out his breath. The sound of the guardians grew distant and Frederico stepped away from the metal shop wall and turned to the open door and the corridor. He opened his mouth to shout for John. When he saw what was ahead of him he froze.
The fourth guardian, an obsidian beast roughly resembling a hawk but the size of a tree stood less than three steps away. Frederico pulled hard on air that wouldn’t come and felt every part of him radiating his presence to the killer in front of him. Unable to move, he stared at the beast that stood in the doorway to the butterfly sanctuary, extending a long neck past the doorway to look in. Its sleek head brushed the ceiling as it slowly moved it back and forth. Suddenly it leaned down and with its beak almost touching the floor, it tilted its head and peered under the tables and cabinets. It jerked upright and Frederico could do nothing but watch as the bird stepped into the room. Its restless wings merely a step from the open door. Feathers and razor sharp blades scraped against the stone floor as it shifted to inspect the inside of the big cage that stood empty and silent against the back wall. Click. Click. Metal scratched and talons scraped lightly against the floor as it sidestepped along the front of the cage. It thrust its head against the crisscrossed copper wires to the cage to look closer. A thin high pitched whine rose from the creature. Disappointed, the bird pulled its head back. To Frederico’s relief, the sound stopped. There was nothing to see in the cage Not anymore. Frederico, unable to close his eyes, found himself staring at the guardians wings as he waited to die. One sound, one wrong move, one random impulse to turn around and it would all be over. So he found himself fascinated by the re-makers artistry. Each feather seemed to have grown alongside a thin blade, serrated and polished to an obscene deep sheen. The dust stirred up didn’t stick to the metal even when the tips of the shiny black feathers were grey from dust. Strange, that, Frederico thought. Distant cries from the catacomb stairs drifted to Frederico. Were they coming back up? Did they find the robot and decided it wasn’t what they thought? He couldn’t tell from the fractured echoes if they were coming or going. The obsidian bird jerked its head around, tilted its head for a moment as if listening to the same sounds Frederico had. But something else caught its attention. It looked up with an inquisitive crooning. It was looking at the ceiling. Puzzled despite his dull horror, , Frederico followed the direction of its gaze and his breath caught. From the ceiling hung cocoons. Frederico had attached each one to the ceiling with string of braided silk and tar. There were two-hundred of them at last count, all of them Frederico’s failed attempts to breed a new butterfly. Frederico had done it to remind himself of his failures. But seeing the collection was a shock. He didn’t remember putting up so many of them. Three, maybe four, he could account for. But two hundred? And when had he counted them? He didn’t know.
The obsidian guardian crowed softly and plucked one dry husk from its string in a quick jerk. Carefully, it lowered the chrysalis to the floor and rolled it around with its beak. Finding nothing but a dry exhausted cocoon covered in dust. The guardian jerked upright and plucked another one from the ceiling. Dropped it on the floor and crushed it, again finding nothing but dust and fragile silk. Frustrated, it turned from the cocoons, toward the doorway. It stepped out of the room, swung its head quickly from side to side and started to turn toward Frederico. Just A few steps, away was death and Frederico knew it. It had all been for nothing. The darkness in the metal shop wouldn’t save him. He closed his eyes, damned the mother and hoped for forgiveness in one and the same thought.
Birds may be smart and ruthless. They certainly were clever and superior in many ways. With weaponry seemingly built in, they had no natural enemies that could take them on. On top of that, the phantomthergy which gave them mental and spiritual abilities beyond any humans, made them hard to hide from. But they were also single minded, their attention-span could be considered intense but short. So when a particularly loud screech followed by a sudden clamber arose from the stairwell to the catacombs, the obsidian guardian immediately lost interest in the corridor and the room it had just searched. It failed to see Frederico where he stood frozen. It turned to the open stairway door and the noise beyond. It made a mad rush through the opening and disappeared into the dark beyond.

Frederico opened his eyes. He breathed. The corridor was silent and empty. He damned the trembling in his legs and thanked the mother all in one thought as he rushed forward. “John” he wheezed and rushed around the open door. “John, time to go!”

John didn’t move. He trembled and wouldn’t respond. He stood as he had moments ago. “John, come, push!” Frederico wheezed in his impatience. He pulled the rags off of John’s head. “Now, John. Now.”

John stared dully at him. “Now?”

Frederico forced himself to be calm and put his hands on John’s shoulders, “Yes, now.”

“Bird.” John said quietly and glanced around the room. “Bird? Bad bird?”
Frederico nodded and tried to pull John out of his stone posture. “They’re gone, Brother. “ John was nearly as movable as a brick wall and shook his head. “Birds gone? Are you sure?”
Frederico shut his eyes and thought desperately. John could stand there for hours. He spoke through clenched teeth, “Gone, John, gone. But if you don’t move. Guess what. They will be back. And they will find you. And they will kill us both.”
“I’ll hide.”
Frederico lost his patience. He glared at John and raised his hand. If there was one thing John didn’t like it was pain. And with few other places on a metal armoured man to inflict pain upon, he poked John in the eye.
The big man jerked back with a squeak and covered his face.
Frederico pointed at him, “So now you can move. A poke in the eye is all it takes? Is it? Well, do you want another one?”
John stared at Frederico in shock. And then he snapped out of it. “Move, push, poke bird in the eye.”
“No, John, just push.”
He kept staring distrustful at Frederico as he shook off most of his attire. “Now?”

“Now!”

John rushed out of the room and stomped his way through the corridor. Astonished, Frederico watched the slow minded giant slam the door to the catacombs. He even drew out his key from a pocket Frederico didn’t know about, and locked it. Then with considerable determination and a hellish noise, John put his shoulder to the stone statue that had lived in the corner for over a century. Mainly because it was too heavy to get rid of. The figure depicted three-headed, absurdly muscular dog. It had its spiked tail wrapped tightly around several smaller winged characters, all with their backs twisted in unnatural angles and heads turned backwards. . The statue had always made Frederico shudder but now. It would finally do some good to make up for being created in the first place. Grunting and breathing hard, sweating, John pushed the statue in front of the door. He turned to Frederico and grinned.
Stunned, Frederico gaped at John, looked at the monstrous statue, looked at John. Until that very moment he hadn’t truly believed that John could do it. He opened his mouth but nothing came out of it. Instead he looked along the corridor which was their way out. Maybe they could bring the others with them. Get out and be gone. There had to be a way out somewhere, where they could hide. Or run. Or… he hesitated when the implication of what he had done hit him. There was nowhere to go. If there had been, they would have gone long ago.
“Fred, don’t just dream. Go.”
John stood beside him and pointed at the corner of the corridor. He had shed most of his disguise in his rush to block the catacomb door and he plucked a few more items off his metal suit while Frederico tried to interpret the dusty darkness ahead. Flickering light cast uneasy shadows on the stone and the various idols adorning the walls. Hanging haphazardly on the walls were carvings of faces. The two monks passed a morose row of long dead holy figureheads, now they spent their time impassively watching the last humans to ever walk their floors pass them by.

John and Frederico made it as far as around the corner. A feeble voice spoke to them. “Frederico. John. Best you not go that way, Friends.”
John shrieked and stopped suddenly ahead of Frederico who ran into him. “Father?” Frederico peeked out from behind the mountain of John. When he saw the Abbot standing in the middle of the corridor, smiling at them, he hurried to greet the abbot in a proper manner, “Father, may the Mother be with you.” He stumbled over his words and glanced back to where they had come from. The screeching and scratching told him that the guardians had discovered the trap and worked to break out. “Father, we don’t have time..”
The abbot raised one hand and spoke quietly, “I know, my son. But this is not the way. Our..” The old man grimaced at the word he was about to utter, “benefactors are at the front gate. And every other entrance to our house. We are not meant to leave this place.” He raised a barely visible eyebrow toward Frederico, “I presume that this means your communicator failed to take to the spirits?”
Frederico nodded, with his ears focusing on the birds beyond the catacomb door. How long would it last?
The abbots smile was one of sadness, but also obvious knowing. Frederico fixed him with a questioning stare, “You knew.”
“I have known for many years, Frederico. It would never work. Within these walls,” he made a gesture to encompass the entire monastery, or perhaps the entirety of the world outside. He said, “It held them at bay for longer than I had ever hoped. The original communicator transformed by the mother herself. Before she faded into her oblivion.” He nodded at Frederico’s stunned silence, “She created a ward to keep an eye on those left. A creature that could relay to her how things progressed without her. Well, we know how that turned out. She made a mistake. The communicator fell ill quickly after that. And it suffered the influences of many.” A loud crack echoed in the corridor and the Frederico whirled around, ready to see death come around the corner. But the door held.
“Father, we have to leave. All of us.”
The abbot shook his head, “None of us will leave this place, Frederico my son.” He reached into his robe and pulled out a key of rings. He gave it to Frederico. “No one except for you two. And you need that to do it.” Another loud crack from splintering wood made John jump. Fred?”
The abbot pulled a small pouch tide with a s=drawstring and placed it in one of John’s hands. He looked the big monk in the eyes for a brief moment and nodded. “You will need this, my son.” Come now,” He walked past them, back toward the corridor. He stopped in sight of the catacomb door. Birds scraped and tore at the wood from the inside. Several cracks had formed between the boards. The abbot ignored the birds. But he held out a hand to make them stop at the corner, out of sight. He turned to them and dug at the collar of his robe. A small vial hung around his neck from a silver chain. He smiled again. He indicated something on the wall opposite Fred and John. A small door. Frederico immediately knew what the abbot was intending. The back gardens. There was another way out.
“Come with us!” He desperately urged the ancient monk who just shook his head. “I will not suffer. None of us will.” He caught Frederico’s expression and crinkled his eyes in amusement, “Come no, we are not as ignorant as all that, Frederico my son. Trust me, Frederico, I’m done on this world. If there is something other than this, then I will know.” He grasped the small vial as a life line – a line to an easier death – and looked at the two monks in turn. Finally he nodded one last time and said, “Severin will know what to do. He is back there in his hideaway.” One more crease appeared among the many already on the abbots wrinkled face, “if he is still alive.”
“Severin?Frederico must have heard wrong. Severin was a tale, a story.
The abbot didn’t reply. His watery blue eyes focused on the closed door at the end of the corridor. “That abomination can’t hold them there for long.” He drew a whistling raspy inhale and quickly formed the sign of the Mother and smiled at something taking shape in within his mind. “It is my time.” he whispered, almost whist-fully. “It has been my time for a long time. may the Mother be gentle with us. As and afterthought he said to a spot between John and Frederico, “May she protect all of you on your way to find her.” With that, he started walking toward the failing catacomb door. To Frederico, the man seemed suddenly larger than life, step by step shedding his age, straightening his bowed spine, broadening his form. He took up more space striding down the corridor than was possible. John pulled Frederico’s arm and pulled his mind from his stunned reverie. Then the abbot started singing. His voice filled the space, amplified and distorted by stone surfaces and Mother knows what hidden strengths the abbot tapped into. It was loud, creaky, and strangely pitch perfect. The guardians reacted instantly with a screaming symphony of their own as their assault on the door intensified. The heavy lock disappeared into the wood, ripped out from the other side. Frederico saw the gaping hole for a fraction of a second before the view was obscured by the abbot’s back. But what he saw was enough to jolt him into action. A talon the size of a hand poked through the hole, probing the space beyond. The enormous statue held the door in place but once the door had been destroyed board by board behind it, the statue would be no barrier.
“Fred?” John tugged Frederico’s robe. “They’re coming. Fred?”
And with that, the statue holding the door shut, started to move. Just a fraction, allowing just a bit more darkness to leak out of the frantic turmoil. Frederico didn’t see it, he didn’t have to. The Fred selected a key at random from the big key ring and the door clicked open. “Too easy,” Fred mumbled as he pulled the door open. Oiled hinges, a key that should not fit, a singing abbot. The abbot’s voice couldn’t compete with the birds cacophony anymore but not for lack of trying. Frederico hadn’t recognized the melody but now he knew what it was. It was a hymn never used, never heard. Although all children had to learn it at an early age, they were strictly prohibited to sing it, or even speak of the ancient tune. The song to be performed only in the most dire of circumstances. A text only for the end of days. Something to gather all spirits and all life to celebrate World’s end. He had not heard it sung since his childhood lessons, but the words came to him. Just as fast, he made a point to not hear. As if singing the ominous bittersweet words would make it happen. That was what they were taught. he pushed John through the door and followed him through. Pulling the door , his final view was a frail old man, singing, and the fast glint of torchlight reflecting in a small glass bottle raised as in a toast to the monsters that would rip him apart in seconds. A glimpse of questionable relief for the old faithful man. A shade away from the worst that could happen. But a significant shade. He pulled at the door when John’s considerable hand suddenly squeezed his shoulder. “Fred!” He shoved Frederico out of the way and extended a hand through the opening and shook something out on the floor. Moments later the door was closed and Frederico stared dumbly at the darkness surrounding John. John who suddenly held the ring of keys, locking the door. He had no memory of giving them up. He backed away from the door, expecting it to crash open, for the guardians to rip it open, for something. But it was silent. “Too quiet,” he mumbled through his numb lips, “Ttoo easy.” When a handful of breaths passed and nothing happened, he exhaled, “Okay then.” They turned to face their way forward, “Okay then, okay. This shouldn’t be too difficult,” he said to the darkness ahead. ”

About the author


Jenny K. Brennan is a Swedish/Canadian vocalist, songwriter, and writer living in Ontario, Canada since 2002 with one husband, one dog, and unfinished projects in the thousands. Find her on
The House of Imp,
kompoz.com, and anywhere else Mr. Google can locate her. She studies English and braille at The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually impaired. On her free time, she learns Wordpress by trial and error, audio production using Apple Logic Pro, and carpentry by association.


Mother of Crow – 05 – A pleasant little town (Revised draft)

Reading Time: 6 minutes


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.


Chapter 5 A pleasant little town

Last updated: January 14, 2019 at 13:52 pm

Gabriel listened with half an ear and none of his attention to Jesse’s pointless conversation with a mindless town official in the dirty little office. It had taken them less than a minute to realize that any hope of finding any sense or useful information would be a complete waste of time. The one good thing about it would perhaps be that no one had shown even a hint of hostility toward them. On the other hand, the delusion these people were in was maybe even more disturbing than killer birds and lunatic thugs. This building had the appearance of normality, so far as Gabriel understood what normal should look like. The Mayors office had seemed a good place to find answers, but Gabriel had learned nothing. Jesse didn’t want to call it quits yet so Gabriel let her do her thing. Instead of frustrating over the pointlessness of their visit and despairing over the disappointment burning him, he watched through empty window frames at the street below. So much death and half baked construction, dysfunctional re-makes, broken down automatons, unfinished projects where apathy marked any human face. Dreamy purpose marked others. Those who came and went, carrying empty baskets and women smiled lovingly at lumpy bundles of faded fabric. Gabriel shivered in the reek of the stagnant community that didn’t know what had hit them. Those not dead ate when others gave them food. Those with instinct to survive grew crops of corn and tended pots of grubs. The water collectors leaked and around the base sprouted tendrils of brown vines. A woman picked a vine and dropped it into a basket. She turned and walked away. After a few steps, she crumpled the vine into a ball and stuffed it into her mouth. She chewed slowly, watching the ground before her. Then she looked in her empty basket and slowly made it back to the water canister and picked off another strand of the slimy brown plant. Gabriel looked away from the emancipated woman and looked at Jesse who was still trying to show the mayor that his town wasn’t at all how he told it. Gabriel shook his head and turned to the mayor. “So you are quite proud of this town then.” He said with a smile that made Jesse stare at him.

The mayor lit up and swelled visibly of pride and smug satisfaction. “Oh indeed.” He waved expansively at the town beyond his window. “My people, Isn’t it marvellous?” He continued as he stuck a finger in the bowl of corn mash and sucked it clean with a moan of pleasure. A clerk appeared at the desk and cleared his throat. With a deep bow he placed a small piece of paper on the desk in front of the mayor and disappeared back to a dark alcove where a machine hummed and crackled behind a pile of similar bits of paper. As Gabriel watched, the machine creaked loudly and produced another card that appeared empty.

The mayor looked quickly at the paper on the desk without touching it. “Ah. This is marvellous. My loyal clacker will bring me the answer any moment now.” With a content smile he placed a finger gingerly on the piece of paper and dragged it to the edge of the desk where it fell. It fluttered down to the floor in a heap of similar pieces of paper.

“The answer?” Jesse said carefully.

The mayor looked at her seemingly surprised to see her there, but he answered readily with a shrug. “The answer we all need of course.” As if it was obvious.

“Yes, of course,” Gabriel said quickly, “the answer to the question.”

“Ah, certainly to the question.” The mayor nodded and glanced at the clacker feeding the analytical machine. “The question.” He mused.

“But what question…” Jesse started but at the look of the mayor’s dreamy blank gaze, she tightened her lips and decided on a different strategy. To shut up. It made no difference as the mayor kept talking without the need for prompting.

Gabriel caught movement in the corner of his eye and turned to see a thin figure supporting a voluminous wig staring at him in wide eyed astonishment. As the Mayor kept astonishing Jesse with one pretty anecdote after another, Gabriel stopped listening to the pompous little fat guy and moved closer to the wigged character. The pale little man trembled slightly and shook his head not in warning but as if clearing the wig from powder and his mind from an unpleasant dream. The man suddenly grinned, looked around the decaying office. The grin faltered and he frowned. But then he looked at Jesse and the grin returned. He glanced at the mayor before meeting Gabriel’s eyes And blinked. He gave Gabriel a hint of a nod toward the window and raised his eyebrows. Gabriel looked around the office and caught the shadow of a bird vanishing through the front doorway. When looking back at the man, he was too disappearing around a corner, hurried footsteps quickly disappearing.

Gabriel scratched at a healing burn on his cheek and turned to Jesse. With a nod at the mayor, he offered Jesse his arm and excused them both from the most fruitful of honourable encounters. The mayor smiled and waved them off with a satisfied smirk and turned back to his bowl of grub.

Clack waited for them at the edge of town where neglect transformed into neglect of a different kind. Terrytown was the first populated town they had come to after leaving the train station where they had picked up Clack and left carnage and a fresh set of bad memories behind. The others waited a mile down the road to the South. Gabriel nodded to the scar-faced captain and then immediately shook his head. To Clacks unasked question. Jesse was silently staring at the dusty road at her feet, unwilling to give away her thoughts. Clack glanced at her and then he sighed and put a hand on Gabriel’s shoulder.

G”Gone huh?” He cleared his throat. “Their minds I mean.”

Gabriel nodded and then shrugged. “ Not as far gone as,” he hesitated and glanced quickly at Jesse but she didn’t seem to listen. She hadn’t been talking much and despite everything, Gabriel found himself missing her sometimes irritating chatter about all of Gabriel’s many failings. He looked back at Clack. “The gang back there.” What he really meant was ‘Your gang back there,’ but he didn’t feel that was called for. Clack had saved them from his own band of lunatics as well as the guardians. He had been as long gone as the others before Morette made Gabriel bring him out of it. He knew what Clack was thinking now and shook his head. “I wouldn’t bring some of those people back if I could.” He grimaced, opened his hand and shook it as if that would remove the sensation of the mayor’s sticky handshake. “I mere touched one man. A greeting I well could have been without. I think that was enough for us to know.”

Clack grunted. “Nothing.” It wasn’t a question and he was not surprised.

“Nothing. ”

Clack nodded and glanced back toward the town. He frowned. “did you know you have a tail?” At Gabriel’s blank stare he shrugged. “Well, someone’s hoofing it this way. That fellow is either murderously wanting to get us, or he is getting away from this town in a fucking hurry. Let’s get moving.” He urged them further down the road and to the side. Gabriel and Jesse followed without question. Gabriel squinted against the glaring sun and saw someone running toward them. Someone with ta huge white head. “Yeah, maybe. Must have slipped my mind.”

“Something like that?” Clack snorted as he watched the running man appear to pick up speed. “I don’t know about you, Kid, but I wouldn’t forget such a character easily.”

Gabriel shrugged. “Wasn’t the only odd character….” he mumbled as they approached a stand of scraggly elms at the side of the road

“Oh Mother, what is that?” Next to him, Jesse suddenly swore under her breath and moved behind a tree to watch.

The skinny man from the office, struggling to hold his absurd wig in place as he ran full speed toward them, was screaming. Gabriel thought at first that the man was screaming in terror. But the man rushing toward them and then dashed past them was grinning. Not pausing a second in his sprint as he yelled at them wit wide eyes and gleaming teeth slamming together hard between the gasping words. As he rushed toward them and past in a whirlwind of dust and flapping robes, frenetically pumping limbs and a toppling wig. “Good people! If I may…” gasping, passing.
Clack pushed his companions behind him. The running man shrieked louder as he ran down the road and away from them. Away from the town. “I would strongly advice…” Gasp. “you good people…” he stumbled, regained his balance and continued, “to join me in…” Gasp. “removing yourselves from the road.” With that, he turned and upended himself into the ditch beyond the grove of trees and disappeared out of sight.

Gabriel finally glanced back at the town but didn’t have time to interpret the running mans message before Clack jerked them both off their feet and he found himself face down next to Jesse, both pinned down by the big cursing soldier.

“I knew this was a bad idea. I fucking knew it.” Clack growled.

Then, for the third time in Gabriel’s recent past, the world blew up and everything turned too bright, too hot, and utterly fucking miserable.

About the author


Jenny K. Brennan is a Swedish/Canadian vocalist, songwriter, and writer living in Ontario, Canada since 2002 with one husband, one dog, and unfinished projects in the thousands. Find her on
The House of Imp,
kompoz.com, and anywhere else Mr. Google can locate her. She studies English and braille at The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually impaired. On her free time, she learns Wordpress by trial and error, audio production using Apple Logic Pro, and carpentry by association.


Mother of Crow – 04 Mundane things, and water (Revised draft)

Reading Time: 5 minutes


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.


Chapter 4 Mundane things. And water

Last updated: January 5, 2019 at 19:40 pm

Mary turned off the tap from the water collector and moved the full bucket to one side. She reached into the tepid water and grimaced. Tendrils of slimy water vine stuck to her hand. She moved the hand in several small circles before pulling it out of the bucket. Threadlike greens stuck to it in a clump of wet slimy grass. She tugged at the mess with her other hand; the metal one. When she had managed to gather all the vines in a soppy bright green ball, she squeezed it dry and tossed it over her shoulder and Over the edge of the island that had become her home. It disappeared without a sound. Peering into the bucket, she picked up one stray bit of green and then nodded to herself. She placed a second bucket beneath the tap and turned the crank once more. Water dribbled lazily, taking its time. Mary didn’t normally mind. The vine choked reservoir would eventually give her all the water she needed as it always had. There was time, there was no rush to do much of anything. But time was short. Somehow, it had gotten shorter. “Or I’m just getting older,” she muttered. She was barely forty but her body felt differently. The next water collector would work better, but she would have to make her way to the other side of the Maker’s Plaza for that and she had neither the strength or the will to go that far. This was safer and close at hand. Plus, it was rarely used and never ran dry. Waiting didn’t bother her. Until it did.
She turned her back to the copper collector with a creek of dry metal and innumerable twinges and pinches throughout what was left of her body. Mary stepped carefully to the end of her world and looked down. This took a moment as her neck protested in pain while emitting noises no human body should be able to. Mary cringed. She would never get used to the harsh grinding crackle that made her head ache. But it was easier than trying to fold forward; bending at the waist. It had seized a few weeks earlier. Her lower back would fuse completely if she didn’t do something about it. Soon. She walked with an uneven clunky lumbering gate on the best of days, It was getting worse. She would have to visit the tinkerer again.
She sighed heavily and looked out over the ocean that wasn’t there.
Listening to water dribbling into her pale, she raised her arm to shade her eyes from the misty harsh sunlight. Once again, she tried to make out the land that she knew was on the other side of the dried out sea. There were days when she could. Today was not one of those days. The glaring light made the world harsh and unforgiving.
No different from any other day and she should be able to see if only a hint of the distant main land. But her eyes were tired and the strain made them sting. If she kept insisting they would ache. That was one thing the tinkerer couldn’t do anything about. Her natural flesh which consisted of her head, one complete arm, chest, one complete leg and both feet was beyond his expertise she knew. He could oil her midsection and left leg, adjust her right arm to make it function, but he couldn’t heal her torn skin and aching bones.
That didn’t stop him from glaring at her chest and pretend he didn’t. She lowered her gaze to the edge and the great waterless expanse of death far below her. At the edge of Isle of Machine the land dropped off steeply and fell away in a tangle of rocks and petrified remnents of life.

From where Mary stood, she saw no bottom. Perhaps it was her failing eyesight that made the distant ocean floor look soft and not quite real. She had a feeling that it was better that way. She could think of it as something distant, something from a dream. But pretending didn’t stop her from wondering. What happened to those creatures? All the fish? all the boats stuck on the surface of the sea when it drained out of the world. The land was over there, somewhere, and again she squinted.

The changing sound from the bucket brought her out of her reverie of a world lost and with a grinding squeak she turned back to clean one more bucket from slimy growth. She wondered about the new plants that had started growing all over the island. A stubborn sickly green vine that clung to everything and anything. Even the bare rock that covered most of the island could sometimes sprout ugly plants that had little or nothing to do with real nature.
this island was dead.
She thought of something else. Could it be called an island without the water? Mary smiled weakly and turned off the water collector. But what was the point of remembering? It hurt to remember and she ached to forget. Forget all of those dead and all of those minds lost in the change. She slowly and carefully shook her head. A muscle twitched, sending a spike of hot pain down her spine and hip. She grimaced and pushed the past out of her mind best she could. After cleaning the second bucket of water from vines, she whistled softly. A battered Model madame service robot rolled up on squeaky wheels and announced its arrival with a distorted beep. Mary smiled at the helper. “Oh I know, little one. I may be broken and only half me, but I can see you just fine. You should spare your voice, Dear. You have precious little left.” She placed the water on the flat top of the rolling drinks table that beeped once more. Mary’s smile lingered and she shook her head. “Come now, we best get back before…” Mary let her words fade as she walked slowly and carefully next to the diligent servant of long gone nobility. Before what? She didn’t know what bothered her. She was restless and more distracted than normal. Something was up. She glanced up at the sky that was opening the blinds to its tainted secrets. Unnerving flashes of something that may or may not be the answer. But Mary thought not. “Taunting bitch.” She said, but quietly. Mary’s dislike of the world as it was did not allow her to disrespect the Mother. Not even to herself. She had seen the display thousands of evenings. It never seized to fill her with awe. And terror. Now she made herself watch it again. Soft tones of orange and red crept into the endless misty blue. They quickly changed to deep purple that shifted to ugly green. Streaks of luminous yellow appeared and disappeared. Red gained stains of color Mary had no names for. The emerging lights were just the precursor of the blazing nighttime artistry that was Mother of Crow never letting humans forget. But the deiti’s nightly tantrum wasn’t what was bothering Mary. Something else was begging for her attention. something other. Something far away but right here. Despite the pain, she glanced over her shoulder and swept the horizon with weary blue eyes, as if something would come. If she looked hard enough, something would come. A sudden shiver ran down the spine that was so embedded in metal that she shouldn’t have felt anything at all. She shuddered and closed her eyes, momentarily without air, without time, without thought, simply a vibrating longing pain that she didn’t recognize. For a fraction of a moment she thought she knew. Knew what? Suddenly released from the sensation, she turned violently and painfully away from the sea and hurried away. Away from a quickly fading knowledge that she didn’t know if she could bare. Not yet, she didn’t. so she forgot.
For now.

About the author


Jenny K. Brennan is a Swedish/Canadian vocalist, songwriter, and writer living in Ontario, Canada since 2002 with one husband, one dog, and unfinished projects in the thousands. Find her on
The House of Imp,
kompoz.com, and anywhere else Mr. Google can locate her. She studies English and braille at The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually impaired. On her free time, she learns Wordpress by trial and error, audio production using Apple Logic Pro, and carpentry by association.


Mother of Crow – 03 – To panic or not to panic (Rewrite 1)

Reading Time: 4 minutes


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.


Chapter 3 To panic or not to panic

Last updated: January 5, 2019 at 19:07 pm

A dusty pile of shattered butterfly, a bottomless pit of dread, a shattered future. All of that could be stuffed in Frederico’s memory hole and covered with some blissful ignorance. If it weren’t for the distant echoes of instant punishment and the true consequence of his failure drifting into Frederico’s breeding lab.
He desperately needed to let his bladder empty itself. He wanted to crawl up in a ball on the floor and wait for this horrible moment to end. The sound of their visitors drifted ominously through the silent building, but wasn’t rowing stronger. Not yet. But in a rare moment of pure selfishness, Frederico’s self-preservation kicked in, Truth was: staying where he was, like a fool, would not be helpful.
they would not move ever again. Maybe they would get a last scenic trip to the Nest Capital for repurposing. Maybe. But the look on John’s face shattered all illusion. the big man trembled and any second now he would start blubbering. the sound of click and scrape mingled with the so helpful abbot’s joyful blabber were still far away. The corridor made three turns before hitting the cloisters eastern wing, where Frederico and his Butterfly operation was located. It was in the farthest corner of the oldest part of the main building, closest to the rear gardens and the secondary garbage pile, not needed anymore as the total number of residents had dropped from nearly a hundred to less than twenty in the last decade. John raised a hand and pointed at the door and tried to speak. In an instance, Frederico made up his mind. He put a finger to his lips and John shut his mouth. Frederico’s illusions drained away quicker than he could hold on to them. The benefactors. That word was a mockery. The guardians didn’t accept failure and Frederico had failed. “”Shh.” He stopped to listen. Still distant, but their so called benefactors were coming. Benefactor. In just a few moments, The concept of the guardians as benefactors had become a mockery of everything good in the world. The Abbot believed the guardians kept them safe. Safe from what? He didn’t know. Frederico hadn’t been outside the cloister walls in months, outside the monestary property in nearly twenty years. Where had the time gone? Where had all the missing monks gone? A few of them, like the aged Rafael had died ob old age. A few of the older monks had died from prolonged illness and in one case, a fall that broke too many frail old bones to mend. Where had his mind been? His sense of truth? He suddenly felt his body in a way he hadn’t just that morning. He was thin and his robe hung on his frame like little more than rags. He remembered eating, but didn’t know what or when. He recalled working, but didn’t know why. The butterfly. He blinked the mist out of his eyes and stared at his hand. It trembled. He closed his fist and didn’t recognize it at first. Then it came back to him. The self. I am me.
“Fred?” John watched Frederico with wide eyes, “Brother?”

The sound of John’s voice jolted Frederico out of is inaction. He rushed to the open door and peered out in the misty passage. The sound did not indicate any kind of hurry. The Abbot was one of those that should have died of old age decades ago, but he lingered well past his due date. And he was slow. it would take the abbot a good long while to guide the guardians to the right chamber. If he could even remember where it was. But he couldn’t count on the old monk forgetting. Not this time.
He had to put his faith in age. The Abbot and his visitors had to make their way through a maze of narrow corridors. It was a less than optimal part to live in if one wanted company, but growing butterflies in the midst of monks on duty in the main garden and the library complex was unthinkable. It was also a good five minute walk through dusty passages past crumbling artefact collection and empty rooms and chapels.
he stared at John and his metallic coverings. That wouldn’t be good. And he couldn’t leave the man behind could he? the thought shamed Frederico into action. He quickly inspected the metal parts and knew that as soon as John started walking, the sound would reverberate and spread through the echoing building to eager ears. He looked around the room and thought frantically. Removing the armour wouldn’t work. Unfastening the straps and buckles holding John’s suit together would make just as much noise as leaving it on. But maybe he could do something about that. If John could cooperate. But first. He hurried to the heavy door and tried to remember when he oiled the hinges last. Remembering John’s entrance earlier he tried to recall if the door itself had made any noise. He didn’t think it had. if he was wrong, he was bird food, but if he was right, it could win them a few moments. He pushed the door closed. it swung silently and closed with a barely audible thud. He released his breath and saw what he was looking for. A pile of discarded blankets and polishing rags lay in one corner. John’s tear-filled eyes followed Frederico’s doings. Frederico caught his eyes and put a finger over his lips. He leaned close to John’s ear and with barely a breath he whispered, “We will get out of here. But you have to be quiet. do you understand me, Brother? “ The big man frowned and opened his mouth. Frederico quickly put a hand over the trembling lips. “When I say quiet I mean absolutely quiet. No talk. no moving. No questions!” He waited a moment. John blinked furiously but his eyes lit up and he nodded. “Good, very good.” Frederico didn’t stop to listen. What was the point? He muttered to himself as he got to work.

About the author


Jenny K. Brennan is a Swedish/Canadian vocalist, songwriter, and writer living in Ontario, Canada since 2002 with one husband, one dog, and unfinished projects in the thousands. Find her on
The House of Imp,
kompoz.com, and anywhere else Mr. Google can locate her. She studies English and braille at The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually impaired. On her free time, she learns Wordpress by trial and error, audio production using Apple Logic Pro, and carpentry by association.


Mother of Crow – 02 The choices of flutterbys (Revised draft)

Reading Time: 7 minutes


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.


Chapter 2 The choices of flutterbys

Last updated: January 18, 2019 at 13:48 pm

A voice like velvet, like chill wind over frozen forest floor, of sand over water. It was all of those sounds in one gentle plea. Perhaps the tender tone was a trick of the acoustics in the bare stone room with its unforgiving surfaces and odd architecture throwing the sound in strange ways. It could easily be explained that way if one wished. And perhaps not. Maybe these sweet whispers were honest enough, halting and insecure as they were. The truth was somewhere in between. Deception was the work of the room; the honesty was real. ,And the force of will could not be denied. The man speaking urged and encouraged with soft gestures and careful movements of face and hands. “Come now, Little one. Don’t be shy with me. Come on, Sweets. You only need to do this once. A little bit closer now. Oh, that’s right. Just a little bit. ” Frederico’s Urging whispers spread out in the room and as the sound hit the stone it seemed to grow rather than fade. Gentle words of encouragements turned into a harsh echo of hissing that lingered. Frederico stood leaning forward in a painful posture that left his back constantly aching. His natural hand poked through the aluminum mesh and he held it palm up as close to the newly formed insect he dared to. The butterfly quivered a little as it stretched its newly formed wings in the warm air. Brand new wings spread out proudly, exposing their marvel of colour and form. A still damp pattern in luminous yellow and black somewhere between hot charcoal and pitch quickly dried as it slowly moved the wings against its new world.

Beautiful. Yes, you are.” Frederico breathed almost soundlessly with that familiar feeling of awe. It was an amazement that never got old. But this time however, it came adorned with an aching sense of dread.; A feeling long expected and not really a surprise. He moved the hand slowly, and with practiced smoothness in his approach to his ward, He moved it a barely measurable distance closer to the being beyond the barrier. A single drop of Frederico’s carefully concocted phantomgenic mixture sat ready on the very tip of his middle finger. A clear drop of liquid that would be the first, and last meal the butterfly would get. On the butterflies wings yellow and black appeared to move within their individual shades until one became the other, without a visible change. This was the critical phase. Where the insect was still in flux and could decide to be one of three things. It could finish the process of becoming what it really was meant to be. By letting the colours and shape settle into a normal creature in the world. A butterfly destined to live out its life in a futile hunt for sustenance until it starved and died . A quick and natural death in this unnatural world where butterflies could not survive .

“We don’t want that do we, darling. No we certainly do not.” Among the nonsense words had crept in a dissonance of desperation that the Butterfly tending monk didn’t like. Barely breathing, he let his mind stray no more. The butterfly was still but for the slow movement of wings where the colours were not quite solid, not quite there. Frederico’s mind stilled but not without effort as the butterfly started moving toward the glittering drop on the human’s finger. Slowly, hesitatingly, curiously turning toward it. The monk held his breath. Would this be the one? Would this time be different? Yes, this time they would finally be able to deliver on their promise to their benefactors. The butterfly trembled but calmed just as quickly and moved closer. Frederico’s equilibrium, threatened by his sudden hope, held for another moment where he kept his thoughts strictly on the image of the creature coming to him. He needed to hope, then believe, then be in utter and complete knowing that the insect would come to him. He needed more than endless patience. Patience alone couldn’t bring the creature to him. the butterfly had to decide to come. He was almost depleted of patience. He had the hope. He also had a sliver of belief in his craft. But it was the lack of knowing that had on previous attempts failed him. He had rarely been able to see reality as something different than what was in front of him. But this time he felt it. That rare alignment of wanting and being came over him as the butterfly crept even closer . It would take the plunge and become what he needed it to be. What they all needed this one to make the right decision. Finally. Frederic’s vision shifted and he saw it. Saw the transformation take place. layered with what his eyes saw, he saw what he believed and the future was clear and decided.
Just another moment. Just a single second, a held breath. This time it would come to him. What felt like a lifetime of responsability, of threats, fear, and doubt lifted and he could breathe. Frederico exhale into the endless still moment. The butterfly came for its meal. It flexed, reached. And that was when someone decided it was a nice time to visit. The silent butterfly sanctuary held in a silent reverie rarely broken, shattered with a bang. dissonant shriek of uncoiled hinges and the sudden crash of a door slamming the wall shattered the fragile image and Frederico reeled, suddenly dizzy and disoriented. His perfectly placed fingers shook and his heart jumped into a jolting ra-ta-ta against the insides of his ribs. A loud clamber followed, the unmistakeable sound of a fully suited metal monk making his way across the stone floor but Frederico didn’t hear. He struggled to remain still, to keep calm. He desperately fought to pull back the image and the belief. ”No. don’t listen. That didn’t just happen.” He keened and begged the butterfly. It took him a split second to make his hand go still again even if his racing heart couldn’t be slowed that easily and his mind would not be eased. He stared at the insect in dismay. He knew what was happening and he couldn’t stop it.

What did stop was the moving butterfly. Its world changed immediately and it went from being curious, to puzzled, to frightened at the sudden change around it. It instantly had the knowledge it needed to make its choice. For the briefest of moments, thanks to the phantomgenic infusion during development, it knew too much of the future it was expected to enter. It was in that briefest of seconds that most butterflies made their choice. To live the one day, to evolve and scatter through the world as communicator, or simply to choose not to. This butterfly saw enough of its own destiny and its place in the world to decide on the not. The insect froze and stilled. Frederico swore and he knew it was too late. Still, hoping against the horror filling his body with numbing cold that it wasn’t so. In a last frantic action, he thrust his finger toward it. It could be forced. If he could just get the transforming liquid close enough. If he could just…

The butterfly had finally dried completely which made what happened next so much easier. It decided to break and so it broke. Minuscule cracks spread from the body throughout the velvety colourful expanse of its wings to the fragile edge, breaking the glorious coloured surfaces into pieces. One by one the divided sections of wing turned to dust. The body imploded and all the pieces of the once magnificent beast slowly and soundlessly fell through the air in a rain of soft dust to settle on the worn granite floor below.

Frederico stared in disbelief at the empty branch, then at the finger with it’s uneaten drop of magic brew. Its glittering seemed to mock him. His failure. His weakness of faith. He pulled his hand out and turned from the now empty breeding cage. He shook his hand but the stubborn drop still clung to the skin. He brought it up close to his face and glared at it. To his horror, his eyes burned and he fought against the choking sensation at the top of his throat. He ground his teeth against the emotion he didn’t quite know what to call. He had been so close. So close. He closed his eyes and took a moment to consider the consequences. But only a second.
“Oh, sorry, Brother. Didn’t realize you were in here.” Said a not too concerned voice followed by more metallic noises.
the familiar voice ripped Frederico out of his thoughts and he turned around. Where else would I be? What else would I be doing? The words stuck in Frederico’s throat and the choked gurgle he emitted fell on nothing but an empty doorway and a dim corridor.

Brother John had moved and stood at the table, peering down at the bottle of useless butterfly food, scratching his chin thoughtfully. Frederico glared at the man and absently put his finger in his mouth and sucked off the sticky drop and grimaced at the bitter taste. He turned away from Brother John and sighed. His mind returned to the situation at hand. It was what it was. And what was didn’t look good at all. Oh dear Mother of Crow, Save me.” He groaned at the empty cage with its layer of failed attempts to breed another communicator. The fresh sprinkling of dead insect clearly visible on top of all the others that had crumpled, shattered, or just fallen down deaden silent protest against their destiny.
John creaked, groaned, and clanked to stand at Frederico’s side. “Fred?” He pointed into the empty; cage.

“Yes, John?”

“Am I seeing things or is that thing empty?” Frederico’s fellow monk spoke with a surprisingly high pitched voice as his eyes roamed the remnants of dead insects.

Frederico sighed. “If you were finally starting to see things, my dear idiot, what would you be seeing, pray tell?”

“Um.” John blinked.

Frederico turned toward the door, attempting to leave John in his usual puzzlement. He could stay that way for hours if no one came along to poke him out of his revery of some random thing he had found. This seemed like a good time to leave the man undisturbed.
Frederico paused and let his gaze roamed the rest of the room in a second of indecision. The breeding cage covered one full wall of Frederic’s breeding lab. The rest of the cramped space was taken up by two large tables hosting the phantomgenic still, an incomprehensible compilation of burners and pipes, coloured glass bottles and all the tools. At the very edge of the largest table, on a spot hastily wiped clean merely hours ago, stood a single carefully sealed vial; the result of months of preparation for the last living specimen. Useless now. Frederico tore his eyes from the bottle and hurried over to the tall cupboard standing alone against the opposite wall. He pulled open the double doors and stared at the contents for a long moment before closing it again. He drew a calming breath that left him ready to throw up and started toward the door. He would admit his latest defeat. He would speak to the abbot and explain. He would understand. Surely. He cringed at the memory of his own words, his promise.

“Fred, wait.”

John’s squeek jolted Frederico and he stopped with a hand on the open door, and waited. “Yes, john?”

“Um, I was supposed to tell you something.”

“Yes?”

Brother John had turned to Frederico and the normal puzzlement was gone, replaced with a look of fear. John was fighting to say something, damp lips flapping soundlessly. No words came. The sudden intensity in the monks eyes gave Frederico pause and he stepped to John and put a hand on the metal clad shoulder. John spat the words he had been struggling with. “Don’t go. Fred. They’re coming.” He faltered and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling as if the rest of his words were up there. Finding them at last, he sputtered. “To see you, Fred.” John smiled, happy. He nodded to confirm his message and then he frowned. “They’re coming to… inspect, that’s it, inspection. But Fred. He glanced anxiously at the cage. “Fred? where are the flutterbys?”

About the author


Jenny K. Brennan is a Swedish/Canadian vocalist, songwriter, and writer living in Ontario, Canada since 2002 with one husband, one dog, and unfinished projects in the thousands. Find her on
The House of Imp,
kompoz.com, and anywhere else Mr. Google can locate her. She studies English and braille at The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually impaired. On her free time, she learns Wordpress by trial and error, audio production using Apple Logic Pro, and carpentry by association.


Mother of Crow – Prologue – Build me pretty. Indeed. Oh thank you, My Lord, is there anything else you can do to me? (Revised )

Reading Time: 16 minutes


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.


Prologue – Build me pretty. Indeed. Oh thank you, My Lord, anything else you can do to me?

Last updated: January 18, 2019 at 14:43 pm

“Isn’t she a beauty? Such a marvel. Just see those lines and how it all fits together.” He interrupted himself “jenks?” Lord Lee Reginald Maddow, outfitted in his finest, already well on his way to flat out drunk, looked around the crowd in search for the man in question. He frowned and waved his brandy glass in irritation at no one in particular, splashing licker on his white starched sleeve “Oh there you are.” Maddow’s face split into a grin as his chief surgeon, or scientist, or body magician, or whatever the hell they called themselves these days, hurried through the crowd toward him , mumbling apologies to whoever would listen. Lord Maddow slapped him on the back. “Jenner! So pleased. so, so , pleased. Good man, now show our dear friends this miracle. go on now.” he said pointing his glass at the unmoving woman at the front of the room.

Peter Jennings, thirty going on seventy, not so much a scientist or doctor as a hack with a knack for understanding the human construction and how to modify it, stared blankly at maddow. he straightened his newly acquired ill fitting waistcoat and offered the man a clumsy bow. “It’s Jennings, Sir.”

Maddow sputtered. “Jenkings, right. didn’t I say that?”

Jennings sighed inwardly, conjuring a smile of sorts. He glanced at the gathered nobility while still speaking to maddow. “Yes, of course, Sir. Jenkings it is.” Jennings groped in a pocket for his handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his face. The damn thing wasn’t there. In his other coat, of course. He had forgotten it In his hurry to make himself presentable to the Lords and ladies. Well, damn it to hell. And they were all staring, waiting for something. He drew his sleeve across his face in a moment of defiance. The glory faded quickly when he caught a disapproving glance from Lord Maddow. never too drunk to have a stick up his ass, that one. But regardless of his dislike for the man, or maybe thanks to it, Jennings was firmly placed back on uncertain ground where the thoughts refused to come. He was there to do something. But what was it? What the hell was he supposed to do? . . Someone coughed wetly and fancy dresses rustled beneath all those decorated faces. Ladies. Women. What were they doing here? Looking at him. What did they want?

“Jenks!” His employer hissed.

Jennings jumped at the sound and instantly the thoughts were back. Ah, right. Money. Those hags had husbands with money. And they needed that money to wake the dead. Thus this ridiculous spectacle. Waking the dead. That’s what it was. Not that she was really dead. Not quite dead.
Just… Just not quite alive.
not yet. He swallowed and managed a nod and another awkward bow that no one noticed.”yes, Sir.” He croaked. “Certainly, Sir.” ” He coughed and turned to the item he had been working on for weeks now. Or was it months?

Maddow waved him to continue. “Kennings here will show us something…”

Jennings tuned out the voice and thought about the work left to do. Making the sell. and once Jennings focused on his latest creation he found his confidence. Even having to deal with Sir Maddow and his ludicrous ambitions, this was his doing. The clueless lord couldn’t fit two pieces of clothing together to make them fit, and Jennings had built a brand new creature from bones and trash and metal. His Mother would have whipped the pride right out of him. But that bitch was long gone from the influenza and she couldn’t poke and prod at his inner thoughts anymore. This was his, and only his. he finally moved, stepping up to start the prepared presentation, and took up his place next to the silent subject. Did she even breathe? Jennings knew she did but for someone other than him, she would appear long gone. A beautiful corpse, but a gunner nonetheless. Despite himself, the unmoving form unnerved Jennings. He wouldn’t have chosen to keep her in stasis for so long. There was no telling what went on in the mind of a body kept somewhere between life and death for a prolonged period of time. but again, maddow wanted a show. and if the mighty Lord Maddog’s new pet monster woke up a drooling idiot, it was apparently worth the gamble.

Maddow spread his arms wide and his customary self-satisfied smile dazzled the audience. “Ladies, and gentlemen. Let me present to you the future. ” he paused to allow Jennings to prepare the subject for the awakening.

As carefully instructed by Maddow ahead of time, Jennings made a show of drawing the phantomgenic liquid into a syringe, displaying it to the crowd before tapping it several times. As planned, the fluid caught the light perfectly. The resulting sprinkling of coloured light drew a gasp from the crowd. People leaned forward to see better. Hushed mumbling, excited tittering. He had their full attention. It had to be perfect. A perfect show. That was all it was. The tip of the sparkling glass syringe with its too long needle barely touched the smooth pale skin at the base of her throat, Between her collarbones. The syringe hovered above the silk gown, made just for this occasion. it draped her naked skin but revealed beautifully the parts that were no longer her, while hiding the raw ragged edges between flesh and metal. No surgeon, however skilled, could make the transition smooth and pretty. Jennings had thought the outfit unnecessary and had privately thought it too expensive and extravagant for a simple whore. it was a body, not a lady. but Maddow had insisted.

The presentation droned on. Lee Maddow told the story of the poor damaged young lady who had come to him after such a horrific accident. Practiced sympathy, executed with perfection. “ Her name is Mary. And she had tears in her eyes when I refused to assist her. I refused this beautiful young woman. Yes, I am shamed to tell you, ladies and gentlemen. I refused to mend her injuries with steel and clumsy machinery. I refused to Marr her beauty such. Can you indeed find fault in my reasoning? ”

From sympathy to regret to pleading. . He lowered his head and folded his hands in front of him momentarily silent. He waited for the gathered to take a good long look. “This unfortunate girl… Such sweet perfection, ruined.” He let the words fade and allowed the silent young girl on display speak silently for him.

and indeed, she was astonishingly beautiful. There was no denying the perfection. Smooth clear skin, a face to take your breath away, Long silky blond hair had been washed and trimmed and combed so it fell in smooth silvery cascades over her shoulders and down her back. A perfectly shaped, manicured hand showed beneath the single long sleeve of her gown. And showing beneath the hem of a long specially tailored dress they could all see an equally perfect naked foot. the parts of her still exposed by the awkwardly shaped dress shone and sparkled in the sunlight streaming through newly cleaned windows. .
“Until!”
Maddow raised a hand and smiled. He turned toward Jennings who stood ready. at a small table next to the carefully propped up woman. On the table, a polished wooden box sprouted cables. No attempts had been made to hide the wiring. They were all part of the show. They connected to the woman with clamps that gripped selected parts of her body. One metal wrist, her one metal ankle, and to a small copper knob protruding where a navel had once been.

That was the one procedure Jennings had nearly refused to perform. When the woman had survived the severing of limbs and the massive blood loss, he had thought that had been it. It had after all been his biggest achievement yet. but Maddow hadn’t been satisfied. Lee Maddow was never satisfied. When Mary had been brought to him, her navel, stomach, and all internal organs had been undamaged. Her flat soft belly had been perfect. It had been so perfect, so beautiful. so…. But who was he to say? Jennings banished the thought. He was ready. The button at the top of the box was ready.

In front of filthy riches and their fleeting attention, Maddow became the salesman, the snake oil pusher, and he continued. “Until today! What I will show you today is simple. It’s a miracle. But a miracle of medicine, not of our great Mother of creation. “Mother of Crow, bless us.” He mumbled quickly. . A few in the audience lowered their heads and mumbled their own quick reverie of the Mother.. some of them even repeated the gesture of infinite sky. Not bad, not bad at all. Less than half were believers. and chances were that more than half of those did it only for show. good. Good.
“this is a miracle of reason and modern science. Because, This woman needs no engine.” He paused for the meaning to sink in. It was unheard of. She was obviously re made. with metals. “That’s right. No motors, no hot steam. As you can see. No permanent wiring. or leaky valves. None of that, my friends. And best of all: There is no need for fuel. No dirty, foul smelling coal or wood or even oil. None of that!” Maddow reached the height of his spiel. he pulled in a deep breath and held it, letting it out slowly. Every eye was on him. and he knew he had them. Simply mentioning the possibility of savings had done it. Fuel , which was a sore point for any machine owner and Every master of metal fused servants, was pricy. And that’s where he got them. Presenting the potential of considerable savings to those cheap bastards would give him all the funds he would ever need. From this point, it was all gravy. The crowd exploded in a cascade of questions and objections. but they were easily answered with non-statements and promises of explanations to come. “This is the future. We no longer need those clumsy contraptions. With this brand new system.” He pointed at the syringe in Jennings’ hand and then at the contraption standing at the ready.

Jennings nodded and tried to smile. he was ready. If only the pompous drunkard could get on with it. If it weren’t for the allure of fine compensation, and funds to continue his experimenting, this charade wouldn’t be needed at all. But he would play along. As always. But the beauty of this meeting was that he only needed to pull this crap off this one time. Hook them, and they were home free. once the machinery had started, the humming and electrical sparkling was only for show. The phantomgenic substance was all that was needed. and in fact, the whole thing with the syringe was redundant too. The spirit capturing substance could be ingested, or rubbed directly on the skin. It would work either way.

Maddow continued. “Phantomgenics. Remember you heard it here first. This miraculous mixture Professor Jenkers invented will make fuel simply obsolete. old news. a thing of the past. Ladies and gentlemen. With just a single administration of the phantomgenics, and then” there was a slight pause, maddow realized that his glass was empty so he glared at it. He found his smile and waited for the spectators to quiet down. “And then… an electrogenic pulse will do what steam and oil has done for centuries. This machine,” he swept his arm over the metal grid that hung suspended over Mary’s head, And all the unneeded wiring. “is the future. And this is the moment we have all been waiting for. Dr. Kemper, if you please, do proceed.”

All eyes turned to Jennings. He suppressed a grimace at his new name but turned toward the woman.

“Lord Maddow? If I may?” A thin voice from the back of the room piped up.

Jennings froze. Maddow gritted his teeth and waited for the voice to either go away or continue. it would not go away. The nobility quieted and turned to the speaker. who blinked in surprise at the sudden attention. But he quickly gathered his thoughts and continued. “Apologies dear friends. I would like to ask a question.” He cleared his throat and wiped his brow before blinking nearsightedly at Maddow. “Before you proceed with your excellent and certainly very…”
Blink.
“informative demonstration. But I seem to be missing something.”
Blink.
“I would like to be clear on what exactly it is that I…”

Maddow nodded before the man could finish the sentence. “Certainly,” he said, “I’ll be happy to clarify. Please go on.” Okay, Maddow thought, let’s get it over with. His smile never faded. If it stiffened for just a second, few would notice.

“Phantom… genics you say.” The thin man spoke and then moved his lips silently as if searching for his question. “If I’m not misremembering, and I do sincerely apologize if I am incorrect in my assumption here. But Is phantomgenics not simply another name for, how can I say this without causing …. well, I do think that we can all agree that the very name of this process implies a strong association , if not direct relation, to spirit gathering?” his thin eyebrows rose along with his voice. All attention shifted from their host to the little man. A few glances drifted uncertainly to the inert woman, some returned to Maddow, but most remained watching the young Lord Ralph, who they all knew to be something of a trouble maker. Ralph continued. “Of course, this may not at all be what is happening here.”

Maddow struggled for a moment with his face but managed to keep the smile, barely. He cleared his throat, calling for attention. The mystified audience turned to him as one, expecting an explanation. In some cases the aged expression was unfamiliar In some cases they actually wanted to know. The group was divided. In his favour he was sure. Maddow waved his hand and topped up his smile, he nodded as if actually thinking about it. “Certainly, the confusion is understandable. Lord Ralph does have a point. It is reasonable to compare the two and to make that very simple mistake. Especially for someone not inclined toward serious academic studies.”

The thin little man actually seemed to bristle and started to reply but Maddow cut him off with an assuring smile. He nodded. He directed one index finger toward the ceiling, waited. He had hoped to avoid this, but now that it had been brought up, he couldn’t be seen to try to avoid it. “As I’m sure you are all aware of, in this enlightened society, the science of energy and life homo-teneki-thesis, is the basics of the newly developed motor as well as biblioneuric formulaic thinking and it is as you all understand quite basic and perfectly technological in nature.” And since everyone thought that everyone else understood and they all agreed. A few nodded enthusiastically. Maddow continued, “Yes, it certainly is such basic science. Practically more common sense than anything.” He smiled. “But the details, now that is nothing to be concerned over. My trusted colleagues take care of everything just so you won’t need to be bothered with such time-consuming matters. It is all in hand.”
Relieved, the audience resumed their observation of the remade woman and her attending scientist. A sparkling needle in his hand drew their attention to the woman that looked very much dead. But if Maddow said otherwise. Who were they to say? Lord Ralph stood helplessly at the fringe of the excitement. He glanced around, but no one paid him any mind. He sighed, blinked, and resigned himself to watch. But his intoxicated host wasn’t done. Maddow set the final nail in the coffin of Lord Ralph’s reputation. With a tight smile, he finished his impromptu presentation. Never mind that the only one listening, barely, was a minor nobility, who didn’t know his place. “I can assure you that it is not the case. This process is completely different from spirit gathering. “What you, my good man, is referring to is an old theory about the collection and imprisonment of spiritual knowledge. Naturally, that barbaric practice was condemned by the church and banned. Phantomgenics cannot be mistaken for such outdated satanic beliefs. I assure you. What we create here has nothing to do with ghosts and,” he paused to chuckle at the entertaining thought and shook his head. “spiritual adventuring. Such a ludicrous notion. One might wonder where such a distinguished gentlemen could have even heard of such nonsense. Superstition. Surely not, My good Sir.” He raised an eyebrow and waited. Ralph said nothing. With a final cold stare at Lord Ralph, Maddow scanned the room for further questions, knowing there would be none. he turned and waved at Jennings. “If you would, kennings? is she ready? ”

Jennings quickly raised the syringe into position and at a final nod from Lord Maddow he slowly pressed the needle into pale skin, broke it, and slid it into her body. He proceeded to employ the drug, depressing the plunger slowly. At the same moment, he pressed the button on the box on the table. Gasps arose from the audience. The thin metal rods crisscrossing each other over their heads hummed and flashes of bright light swam around the metal, illuminating the woman, bathing the polished metal and shiny silk, creating a better spectacle than Maddow could have ever imagined. A hush fell over the people. A low crackle from the metal grid was the only sound heard for several seconds. the people with the funds to sponsor a bright new future, seemed pale and lifeless in front of the glowing apparition. “Silence please, dear friends,” Maddow said needlessly. All eyes were on the remade woman. No one seemed to breathe as Jennings removed the empty syringe and stepped out of the way. This would be it. A completely new way of fusing man and machine had been born. There was a limitless supply of energy in the emptiness around them all and they had found a way to tap it. Not only to fuel the new types of humans sure to fill the market, but to drive those machines that now demanded fossil fuels and endless maintenance. “Behold, Ladies and gentlemen. See again. There is no engine and no heavy machinery to drag around. Mary?” Maddow stepped forward,. “Mary, my dear, it is time to come back to us now. he raised a hand and placed to fingers under her chin. He turned her face up slightly and leaned closer. As breathless as the watching crowd, he talked to her. “Be alive.”

And in an instant she was.
Jennings’ heart shot up into his throat and started galloping. Mary’s face twitched. Then her mouth tightened in sudden awareness. No matter how confident he had been, Jennings hadn’t been sure. he still wasn’t sure she would be fine. Mary’s remade right arm jerked to life and rose with a few uncertain jerks and twitches. But it steadied quickly and she held it in front of her. Not until then did she open her eyes. Her expression was unreadable when she folded one finger and then another. Her body shuddered and she blinked The shudder subsided as the electrogenic sparkling faded and finally stopped completely.

The audience surged forward for a closer look and excited conversations broke out all around Maddow and he grinned in satisfaction. Mary turned to them, suddenly aware of the presence of people. But But they weren’t important. She turned her head slowly to the tastelessly dressed man who stood annoyingly close. He wasn’t important either. She ignored him. Instead, she returned to look at the thing in front of her. , waved it and the polished metal threw cold light at her face, intensifying the pale features. Maddow stood in front of her now, preparing to deal with any problems that may arise from an involuntary body modification. But it would be easy enough. The doctor, or whatever he was, had things at hand to ease the poor girls difficulties to adapt. He smiled and gently took her biological hand in his, squeezing it. Mary didn’t see the man standing in front of her. Not at first as her blurred vision cleared and the thing, that finely crafted abomination that was and was not a part of her transfixed her. What she saw was a hand, perfect in every detailed mechanism, polished and glimmering in the light from the window. A masterpiece of body-modification. A hand that obeyed her with perfect accuracy. It was hers but it was other. she felt the smooth movements when she curled it into a fist. She felt the pressure. she even felt the warmth of the sunlight on the glimmering surface. She saw the thing and she hated it. She knew what had happened. She knew what it was. Mary’s face twisted, turned ugly. The initial moments of horror showed for only that; a rare few short moments where Mary allowed her feelings to show. The pit of grief and disgust, bottomless as it was, flashed in a second of weakness before she clamped down on it. Mary hardened back to her previous self, hard as the steel that now made up a large portion of her body. Cold as the anticipating gleam in her makers eyes. Mary calmed her breathing and returned Maddow assessing stare with one of her own. The man who had promised her that this very thing would never happen. The man that had held her as she lay between the rails. Where greedy gravel drank her blood and vision finally began to fade. It hadn’t gone as easy as she would have wanted, but there was no doubt that injuries would kill her quickly. A little bit of planning would have been better perhaps. Placing her neck directly on the rail instead of impulsively walking in front of the oncoming shrieking train would have done the job quicker. But that didn’t matter now. The man who had peered beneath the train, held her one remaining hand in his, and told her that everything would be alright, had betrayed her. Instead of transportation for remaking in one of the prison surgeries, she had taken her destiny into her own hands. But rather than letting her escape, this man had remade her according to his own agenda. She didn’t know how she knew this. she had never met the man before trying to kill herself. but she knew what had been done with her, and why. She looked into his eyes and the Mary that had survived the streets since offering herself for the first time to a man not unlike the man before her, had finally failed. She had failed to die. This man had taken even that away from her. Mary smiled. But it was a smile that Count Maddow had never seen. A smile devoid of life, lacking any emotion other than pure hatred. Mary didn’t dwell on troubles. she dealt with things and never gave in to regret. She had long since lost the ability to love. But the seething hatred for the man who had thwarted her plan to rid herself of people just like him, finally made Maddow look away. His self-satisfied smile faltered and finally died. But before he turned his back to her, he exchanged a quick glance with Jennings who nodded. The meaning was all too clear. “Take good care of our young lady now. We will chat more later. There is much to speak of, you and I. When you have settled in, of course. ” Maddow mumbled, looking at her but directing his words to Jennings. “My Lady. ” He nodded to Mary and kept her gaze longer than was comfortable for any of them. But in the end he yielded, and looked away. His confidence rushed back with another radiant smile and he turned back to his noble guests. Mary stirred uncomfortably in her restraints. But nothing could be done now. She relaxed and it took less than a minute to survey what had been done to her. It was bad. But it could have been worse. she let go of all thoughts of what had perhaps once been. It was easy to let it fade into the nothing that was before. Finally looking away from the lord she turned her thoughts to the now. She had been given a new lease on existence, no matter that it had been against her will, she had gotten another chance. and with that, she had found a brand new purpose. But she would have to bide her time. She would wait and see. and learn. The man who had awakened her with his invention stood watching her, unsure of where to look, really. She was his masterpiece. she was the thing that shouldn’t be. And he had made her. Remade her. A dead whore that he had made into something new. She was his by right. But never had he felt so taken. The breath caught and he quickly pulled a second syringe out of a pocket. The power over her continued existence was no comfort. It was a meaningless power and he knew it. this woman was never his. He may have moved every part of her body, touched every inch of skin, violated her form to the core of her. But she would never be owned by anyone. Not even Maddow. Mary’s cold smile lingered as she looked Jennings over. pointedly ignoring the second needle. Just a man. Men, she could deal with. Jennings stepped closer but she shook her head and spoke softly, so quietly that the excited spectators wouldn’t hear her. “Jennings. I am correct? ” rough from disuse, her voice scraped uncomfortably. Jennings hesitated but nodded. He stepped nervously from foot to foot and couldn’t quite meet her unblinking eyes. Mary sighed, suddenly tired. Her face softened. The icy smile turned warm and almost genuine for the briefest of moments as she focused on the sweating scientists. “I will cause no trouble, Jennings. That concoction of yours will not be needed. ” She glanced at the syringe in his hand. A sedative? A poison? It didn’t matter. and closed her eyes. So tired. so very tired. Her defences fell away and it was suddenly so hard to remain standing. Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked at Jennings beneath charcoaled lashes and innocence. “Jennings. ” She mumbled, tasting the name, finding it appealing. “You saved me. ” She quickly looked down, shuddering in her bonds. Blinked away a sudden tear. She closed her eyes with a deep sigh. She turned her face away from the man and left it at that. It would be a start. A second later any thought of Jennings, The Saviour, left her mind to make room for more immediate matters. She needed to rest and learn about her new body. If her life had been hard and unforgiving before, it was nothing compared to what would come. Rest, bide her time, and then.

About the author


Jenny K. Brennan is a Swedish/Canadian vocalist, songwriter, and writer living in Ontario, Canada since 2002 with one husband, one dog, and unfinished projects in the thousands. Find her on
The House of Imp,
kompoz.com, and anywhere else Mr. Google can locate her. She studies English and braille at The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually impaired. On her free time, she learns Wordpress by trial and error, audio production using Apple Logic Pro, and carpentry by association.