Mother of Crow – Chapter ? – The day after the day after –

Reading Time: 15 minutes

Mother of Crow

By Jenny K. Brennan

Chapter (?) – the day after the day after

Last updated: June 8, 2021 at 6:03 am

“Got it!”
Mal’s raspy exclamation drifted across the dusty floor and drew Bird’s attention for a moment. It wouldn’t stick though, the attention. It never did stick for long. It kind of lingered in the periphery like a sticky cloud of curiosity that Bird didn’t much care for. He refused to get distracted. He had things to do.
There was something living under the floor. He was certain of it. It wasn’t very likely. Right now, he had his head lowered to a slight gap between dusty floorboards, twitched his head this way and that, listening hard. It was something to do. Mal wouldn’t let him touch the tools, so why bother? But he couldn’t stop himself from glancing at the mechanic and the stupid machine. It took him three seconds to get over his pride. “Again?” he said through his mechanical voice box. Despite his voice being artificial , the large black bird nonetheless managed to convey a certain tone. Sarcasm? But it was not quite that. It was something between awe and utter mockery of Mal’s abilities. Mal himself couldn’t hear that specific note so he answered Bird without a trace of rebuke. “Yes, as before when I had it. I have it now. Just the other way. Like it should.” He grunted and moved some thing or other to attach it elsewhere or maybe back to where it was, Who knew.
“Right,” Bird said. He curled his restless feet around a roundish rock that happened to lie beneath his feet. He spread his wings best he could considering one was badly healed and crooked. He balanced atop the rock for all of three seconds before it rolled away from him. He dropped to the dusty floor and immediately forgot the rock. “Got it.”
“Don’t mind if you do,” Mal said and pushed a button. Something sputtered foul grease and a spark tore through the air toward Bird who jumped back, screeched, and retreated.
Mal wiped soot from his face and stuck his head in the machine insides in front of him. “Definitely got it,” he muttered. “Got it backwards. That’s what I’ve got. Got it turned about-somewhere. Somewhere here.” Mal’s voice, a distorted echoing muttering from where he stood with his head and one arm inside an automaton carrier. The machine was one of the two that Gabriel had brought from his late mother’s machine park in Dead River. Since its last desperate-and in the end pointless-rush along the train tracks, carrying Mal and Bird to what they thought was a rescue mission, the carrier had started acting up. Bird and Madame-the other automaton in their company-had managed to coax the difficult helper robot back along the train track and into one of the empty estates littering the desolate countryside. As soon as they’d maneuvered the machine into the stable, it had turned itself effectively deaf and lame. That’s where it stood now.

Mal hadn’t seen anything broken. But things that didn’t run were broken and therefore by definition fixable. And that is what Mal did. He fixed things. If he had to adapt and adjust and modify things to make that happen, that’s what he did. He pulled himself out of the carrier and scratched his chin thoughtfully. He placed a hand on the top of the carrier and kept it there as he walked around it. He placed both hands on the rotating disc that didn’t rotate. He traced the edge along where blinking lights were supposed to blink. He traced the bottom edge of the carrier, with a foot until he found the place . He gripped the disc harder, drew back his foot, and kicked the carrier. A clunk sounded, then a hiss. Mal lowered his head, still holding on to the top of the carrier, and listened. The hissing stopped. After a moment, a second clunk. The lights around the disc came on one by one and the disc started turning. After an introductory squeal it settled into its slow rotation with a whispering. With one ear toward the sound, Mal gave it a few seconds and then he nodded. He made his way around the machine and slammed the access hatch closed. It locked with a sharp snap. The carrier twitched, shuddered, and stilled. Mal took a short step backwards. Then another. He stopped and stood still for a long moment. He rubbed his chin with forefinger and thumb permanently blackened by machine grime and grease. Suddenly he threw his arm back to point at Bird who stood watching. The scruffy black bird walked to stand next to Mal who swung his arm to point to a spot several paces to the side of the carrier. Bird skipped to the indicated spot. He stared at the carrier and after some consideration moved farther away.

“Ready?” Mal breathed into the stillness.

Bird didn’t answer. Perhaps he was wondering why he was the one that always got the shitty, stress-full, and potentially actually almost always-potentially fatal jobs. But if he did, he didn’t give it much weight in the big scheme of things. He trampled the floor and glared at the carrier. Bird willed the idiot thing to be nice.

Mal took one more step back and nodded at Bird.

The space that they were in Might be called a barn and from the outside very much looked the part. A sturdy wooden structure sized to accommodate up to twenty horses in stalls at one end of the long building. The other half sectioned off for storing carriages, tack, and other necessities. At the very end was a small room to house a resident caretaker of the animals and all that they required. Above, a loft still half filled with hey. Two large doors, one on either end of the barn opened up to the entire space. One could see from one door to the other, inspecting all stalls at a glance. A smaller door for a single mount and rider, a man-door for the fine peoples at the front, and a smaller door for the resident groom were now closed tight. At the back , another door allowing access to a dung heap. The pile of horse-shit had been unused for some time before the world sundered. Weeds covered the mound and even before The Mother had decided to put the world in stasis, it had been little more than fodder for nature to have its way with the area behind the barn. The barn appeared to have been converted to machine hall in a haste. Although all stalls remained, they hadn’t hosted living horses for some time. The hey loft had never been emptied and any hey remaining, left to turn to mold and rodents to care for. Various bits of machinery had taken over where horses had once lived without consideration of suitability. Few creations resembled anything useful.
Now, at one end of the stable, near one of the big pair of doors, now open to a still morning and a view of a flat landscape of withered grass, sorry looking trees, and in the distance, a dull sheen of metal rails stretching away to vanish in a dusty blue haze of horizon. The morning was quiet. Silence didn’t mean it was safe. Bird would have preferred the doors to be closed, and hammered shut, and bolted, and… he didn’t know what could keep the Guardian patrols from finding hem. But whatever would do that; that was what he wanted. Bird clacked softly and rustled as he waited for the signal.
The carrier was a simple model and its name described its purpose perfectly. It carried things. It had little finesse, plenty of raw power, and was simple to operate. The workhorse of the age, it came when called. It could be loaded up with what two or three pack horses would have managed before the remaking and phantomthergy became the new way of things. Once packed, the carrier could be led by sound to where it needed to go. Walk ahead of it and it would follow your voice or any sound you decided to use. Like a whistle. It came to you if you spoke to it. In extreme cases, carriers were placed at the tail end of a train. As the train departed, the carrier followed. A well maintained and calibrated carrier would stop at a safe distance from its target where it would wait to be unloaded. Somewhere in this carrier’s life, that safety margin had been lost. Its variable speed had also at some point become constant. The new default speed was simply run-as-fast-as-possible. Mal had not thought that would qualify as a priority job. When Bird made a sound, the carrier would come. Bird would have to step away fast. It wasn’t ideal, but it had served them well enough so far.
Mal held up three fingers and Bird tensed. Mal folded one finger at a time and when Mal’s hand was a fist, Bird screeched. As the noise bounced around the stable walls, he jumped back, turned, and ran. The carrier came to life. It hummed, hissed, and raised its huge legs just as Bird got out of the way. It stomped and launched forward. Instantly, at full speed, it rushed across the floor. It punished the old wooden floor, running to where it needed to be. Away from the noise, not towards it. It ran toward the wall, and then through it. Withered wood planks tore and creaked , groaned in resistance for less time than it took the mechanic to realize what was happening. Splinters and years of caked on dust exploded in a roar of machine and stable wall attempting to become one in a cataclysm of misunderstanding. Then the carrier was through the wall, took one final step into the glaring light outside where it stopped. It stilled as suddenly as it had come to life, awaiting further instructions. The blinking censoring disk turned in and machinery clicked and settled in a cloud of dust and steam carrying the unmistakeable smell of burned corn husks. It waited.
Bird looked at the mechanic but left his voice box inactive for once.
Mal turned his head toward the gaping hole in the wall. He coughed and said, “All right,” he picked at some imaginary something stuck to his face and groped at it with ragged fingernails, “so, clearly the listening part works now. And the crashing and breaking shit in its way functions admirably.” He rubbed his face again.
“Yup,” bird said, “so it’s fixed now, that?”
Mal was silent for a moment while pulling vigorously on his lower lip and took a few slow quiet breaths as he considered Bird’s question. “Fixed,” Mal finally said, “why, certainly. Fixed absolutely. Did you think..?”
“Didn’t think nothing, I,” bird quickly said.
“Good, good. Because…,” Mal’s words trailed off into tense silence. He directed his hard-to-read empty eye sockets to the spot where Bird had stood a moment ago, which limited the effect of his awful stare somewhat. Bird was grateful.
Mal continued, “Because I know what I’m doing,” he concluded with an eye-less glare at that empty spot on the floor.
Bird shuffled back a little bit more, careful to not make a sound. However, his efforts were wasted when he spoke. Trying to come up with something to say that would actually be helpful he said, “Uh-huh!”
Mal’s empty eye-sockets pinned down Bird’s new location and turned to it like a whispviper registering vibrations from a careless spindel invading the viper’s elaborate trap.
Bird had seen a whispviper once, didn’t much care to experience it again, And right now Mal reminded Bird very much of one of the creepy remade snake species and he couldn’t stop a shiver from rustling the tips of his feathers. He carefully shuffled sideways, out of Mal’s stare that was not actually seeing at all. But it didn’t matter that Mal was blind. The dirty human didn’t even have any eyes left. Bird still felt that viper stare and didn’t much care for it. Sometimes he wondered about Mal. Momentarily perhaps, fleeting certainly, but he did now.
Mal focused on the new empty spot on the floor for another few moments as bird held his breath. Then the mechanic turned away, Suddenly he grinned and swept the floor around him with a foot to locate his pile of tools and other junk he claimed to need. “Okay, you little shit. You go outside, and chase that thing back in here,” he said, “out there the bloody finch-fuckers will see it and we’re all pigeon feed.” He picked up a sack of corn and waved it in the approximate direction of the stunned black bird. “Go on now, cracker-head, I don’t have all day.”
Bird, pondering for the second time that day how it was that the almost certainly fatal jobs were given to him without fail.
Mal, understanding bird’s hesitation, said, “You look like them, I don’t. They won’t kill one of their own. Now, get!”
Bird opened his beak to protest. Mal knew right damn well that Bird was the prime target for the guardians. He had escaped, had evaded them numerous times, had even managed to get the great white Owl blown up-well, it was Gabriel’s doing mostly but Bird had been helping- and Owl didn’t just want Bird dead. He wanted Bird deader than dead hundred times over, and butchered and plucked and broiled. That was how safe it was for Bird to go outside.
But Bird didn’t say any of that. He got to go get. They didn’t have all day, after all.


But they did have all day as it turned out. And most of a weeks worth of wasted time. Three days into their retreat into the house, Clack’s nerves were starting to wear thin. There was only so much planning and preparation one could do. And he needed to do, not wait. To find some shit to deal with, not pick lint off of horse-hair overcoats.
He wasn’t sure who’s idea that was. Morette most like, wanting to teach him some lesson that remained incomprehensibly idiotic to start with, impossible to complete, and that had taught him nothing. And that simply because he had let an audible sigh escape him in the middle of the brain-numbing exhibition of expensive trinkets filling the luxurious drawing room. So, Clack and Mal both decided to escape the ladies to some place more suitable for their uncivilized mannerisms.
The ladies, who, in the sudden comfort of a mansion once owned by some long dead and obscenely rich minor lord related to some distantly royal cousin, had made themselves right at home. With a fully functional Butler class house robot, they had no immediate wish to continue across a deadly countryside. There were fine clothes in silk and fur and who knew what other fancy garbage women found so much pleasure in. Clack couldn’t honestly say he didn’t enjoy the sights of young Jesse and the more world weary Lady Morette cleaned up and nicely dressed, painted, combed. Oh, indeed he was a man. But a man that had always been careful to stay out of the way of women in their true habitat. Mal, ignorant and disinterested for other reasons, was just as pleased by Clacks invitation to escape the clouds of face-powder and ruffle and lace.
Gabriel had less choice in the matter. Still not in Jesse’s good graces, Gabriel’s suffering look when the two older men abandoned him in the main house, stayed with Clack who could sympathize. Mal had no such gentle considerations regarding the young man. As Jesse’s father, Mal knew his daughter would either forgive Gabriel and make sure he didn’t forget that she had. Or, she would not forgive him and remind him constantly how much she had not forgiven him. The result was the same in the end. Gabriel was screwed.
What exactly Gabriel had done to deserve Jesse’s ire, Mal wasn’t totally clear on. He wasn’t sure Jesse knew herself. Mal had spent most of the last two decades in a semi-permanent catatonic state. Gabriel had brought him out of it somehow during the trip south. Mal didn’t know if he was grateful for the awakening or not. That was still up for debate in the back of his mind. He was however thankful for missing the last few years of his Carnival wife’s decline and gruesome end. The little information Gabriel and Jesse had deigned to reveal to Mal regarding those last days of The Fat Lady’s life, led him to believe that Jesse blamed Gabriel for the explosion that finally blew up the Amazing, the glorious, the indestructible…. Mmm, the Fat Lady had apparently gone insane rather than snapping out of it as Mal had. Or, as Gabriel had let slip, “She found her mind and she didn’t want it.” The young man had shrugged helplessly and glanced at Jesse. What gruesome destiny had befallen his almost-wife, Jessica’s actual mother, Mal didn’t think he needed to know. But if that was what Jesse was angry about, Gabriel would have a tough time with the girl. For now, he was behaving. Jesse was courteous and allowed him to exist and adore her. From a proper distance of course. Mal smiled to himself and shook his head. “Leave home when you step out the door,” his old pop had said many times to his grandson. “The women will do what they do, and they’re ain’t nothing you can do about it. Fishes don’t care how they’re cooked. Their problem is you, and that’s in the river, nowhere near the kitchen.”
“Leave home when you get out the door,” Mal muttered and turned his attention to Captain Clack, who paid no attention to Mal’s musings of the past.
Clack had his thoughts firmly removed from the main house and its female majority. He shook his head in disgust, looking into the first stall just inside the one set of large stable doors. “This is what those rich bastards did,” he said to Mal who took a sudden interest in one absurd contraption he had nearly fallen over when following Clack through the door. As this was the opposite end of where Mal and Bird had worked on the carrier just that morning, the space was confusing and littered with stuff that might just be the death of a stumbling blind man. He decided to stand still and let Clack do the initial inspection.
Clack glanced at Mal and decided that the man was dangerously close to a protruding iron pipe wrapped in coils of burnt wiring. He pulled Mal by the arm,, grunted at his friend to stay put, and turned back to the machine he was trying to make heads or tails out of. He muttered as he moved stuff this way and that. He said, “When they didn’t remake all their servants, they built crap and tried to make it work.” He grunted and pulled at a jumble of thin copper-wire arranged around a glass pipe sticking out of a block of what looked like a bundle of bones. From a sizeable animal like a cow or horse. The rest of the contraption remained unrecognizable for Clack. It looked like something a child might build out of a pile of trash. When Mal’s hand trailed down the glass pipe towards the bones, Clack put a hand on his shoulder. “I wouldn’t touch that, old friend,” he said.
Mal hesitated with his fingers still on the dusty glass. He nodded slowly as if considering, maybe imagined what Clack considered too horrible to touch. He turned his empty eyes to Clack and rubbed his unshaven face with his free hand. “I don’t doubt you, Captain,” he said and turned back to the machine. He hunkered down lower and found the bundle of bones. He trailed the length and heft of the stack and did a quick calculation of the collected bones. He examined a few of the joints and the strings binding them together. He shuddered and stood up, wiping his hands on his trousers. “Horses,” he said, “maybe as many as five. All lower front legs as far as I can tell.” He let his unseeing eyes roam the row of stalls. He breathed slowly through his nose for a long moment as the stillness of the place told him clear enough what would be in the other stalls. Clack cleared his throat and words failed him. He stepped away from the stall, uncomfortable in the truth. But a moment later he shook it off. As in a mutual agreement, they both turned their unease into grim smiles. They would let it rest for now. Mal placed a hand on Clack’s shoulder and motioned him to continue along the row of stalls toward the storage half of the barn beyond. Mal said, “Don’t concern yourself, Friend. Perhaps you could find some comfort in that I myself is not forced to look at the abominable creations.” He chuckled softly and appeared to shrug off some internal vision.
Clack guided Mal to the open space that began at the end of the last pair of opposite facing stalls and stopped. A large tub stood awkwardly atop a poorly constructed wooden support. Next to the tub, pushed against a scarred wooden wall. The Most of the rest of the space looked like a metal butcher shop in the middle of dinner preparations. Organized chaos filled tables and shelves. With exception of a thin layer of dust, the floor was clean, tools that had not been in use hung in tidy rows. As Clack spoke quietly to Mal about the workshop and the space surrounding them, light started changing. “We’re losing light, old friend,” Clack said. He stared through the open double door, grimacing. A dusky blue gave way to an unsettled green that would shift to various reds and violets as the sun went down. Saying that they would be robbed of light was a misnomer as nights never gained the soothing darkness the world had seen for innumerable nights since the dawn of time and planetary arrangements. After the sundering of the fundamentals of whatever it was that kept life on earth evolving, growing, cycling through seasons, and did what living planets did, darkness was no more. Clack had no more understanding of why the skies turned into coloured chaos than anyone. But it was so. Light turned from sharp dusty blue to an eternally unnatural sunset. A transition to night that defied sense.
Mal, back in a familiar space, made his way to the carrier and placed a hand on its massive bulk. As a precaution Mal had sent Bird to the loft to bring down as much old hey as he could get his beak on. Mal wrapped the top of the carrier so that it covered the sensor. It muffled the sound enough so that a normal conversation wouldn’t trigger the sensitive circuits. Shouting would bring it running, but talking was safe.
Clack glanced at a ragged hole next to the repaired carrier and frowned. “Was that hole there before?”
Mal pursed his lips and buried both hands in his pockets. Showing surprise when he said, “No, I don’t believe it was.”
Clack stared at Mal who said nothing more. He peered through the new hole and pushed at a loose board. It hung by a nail and Clack’s probing hand made it let go and clatter to the floor. “Why, isn’t that strange,” he said.
“Indeed,” Mal said, mildly interested but with a remarkable lack of concern.
Clack watched Mal for a long moment. “Remarkable.” He joined Mal at the carrier and sighed. “Strange indeed.”
When Mal said nothing, Clack said, “We’re truly losing light, my friend. Perhaps we should join poor Gabriel before it’s too late.”
“Too late for what?”
“To late to hinder the poor boy from becoming domesticated beyond repair.” Clack grinned. But his face turned serious and he said, “I do prefer to not have to walk across the property in that….”
Mal knew what Clack meant and didn’t blame the scarred soldier for feeling uneasy. Mal had seen the new night sky but once. That was shortly before he had no eyes left to see it with. The very night when the guardians tore them from their sockets in preparation for his remaking. A remaking that in the end failed. Mal had escaped the guardians thanks to Captain Clack and his men. Shortly after, Mal and Clack separately lost their senses as the shift in the world caught up to them. The worst of it had happened over the next couple of months as water withdrew, human minds broke, mechanical minds malfunctioned, and societies collapsed.
Mother of Crow, who few realized was more than a religious icon, had abandoned them all. That’s what Clack believed. Mal had no reason to doubt.
He shook his head. What was then, was in the past. Gabriel thought he could find this elusive Goddess … and then… Then what? What ? The foolish boy had in his head was anybody’s guess. It was what it was. The night sky was something he didn’t want to consider. And truth be told, he preferred the starlit sky in his memories.
“If you say so, Captain,” he said. He patted the carrier on one of its storage compartments. “I suppose this bastard is as ready as it will ever get. So we might as well try to get a good nights sleep. While we can.” He turned to Clack. “Gabriel is still set on moving on tomorrow?”
Clack nodded. “Presuming he can persuade the ladies to leave.”
Mal grimaced. “The boy is an odd one,” he said, “but for whatever reason, we follow the kid where he goes. He is the only one that truly thinks there is more to this fucked up world. That there is something to do about it. Somewhere,” he waved his hand in a vague gesture encompassing something somewhere to the South, “out there.”
“To the South. That’s all he says.” For a moment Clack wondered how the hell Mal knew south from any other direction. But he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know. So he started towards the door, waiting for Mal to follow. Before continuing, “But if that is where he thinks we should go,” Clack shrugged, “that’s where we’ll go. Mother help us.” He glanced back at the brand new hole in the stable wall and grinned at his friend. “You are such an awful liar, Soldier. I trust you will tell me the story one day.”

About this book

Mother of Crow - 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.
This Sundered World - Book 1 - A Mother's Heart for Kindle on Amazon.

Draft exclusive to House of Imp. Copyright 2019 Jenny K. Brennan - All rights reserved.

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,,
Icarus Machine official,
JennyK Productions Youtube,
and other places. She is the lyricist and vocalist in the melodic metal band Icarus Machine since 2015. She studies 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

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,,
Icarus Machine official,
JennyK Productions Youtube,
and other places. She is the lyricist and vocalist in the melodic metal band Icarus Machine since 2015. She studies 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

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,,
Icarus Machine official,
JennyK Productions Youtube,
and other places. She is the lyricist and vocalist in the melodic metal band Icarus Machine since 2015. She studies 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

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,,
Icarus Machine official,
JennyK Productions Youtube,
and other places. She is the lyricist and vocalist in the melodic metal band Icarus Machine since 2015. She studies 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

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.”


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,,
Icarus Machine official,
JennyK Productions Youtube,
and other places. She is the lyricist and vocalist in the melodic metal band Icarus Machine since 2015. She studies 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 – 01 – Just another day for Owl who certainly deserves a break (Revised)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mother of Crow

By Jenny K. Brennan

Chapter 1 – Just another day for Owl who certainly deserves a break

Last updated: January 18, 2019 at 15:15 pm

A scout flittered down in front of Owl and tweeted brokenly through a scrap of paper. It spat out the paper and flittered off. It rose to the dark cave ceiling and vanished through a narrow crack in the dark stone. The opening to the coastal plane above allowed the remodelled finch through, but only barely. Owl watched the messenger until it was gone before he cocked his head and glanced suspiciously 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.

Author note:

This chapter used to be a prologue. But it didn’t make sense to me so it has switched place with what used to be chapter 1 – Build me pretty, break me prettier. (It takes place in the past so seems odd that I didn’t clue in on that earlier. But oh well.)
I know there will be a certain amount of rearranging chapters so that the timeline makes sense. So don’t worry if it suddenly gets confusing. No, you didn’t remember wrong, I changed it on you. 😀
It will all fall into place at some point.

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,,
Icarus Machine official,
JennyK Productions Youtube,
and other places. She is the lyricist and vocalist in the melodic metal band Icarus Machine since 2015. She studies 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.