Well, it’s Thursday. My con crud is still working its way through my system, primarily in the form of a cough that makes me sound like John Keats. Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ In Phlegm…

And since there is no rest for the whimsical,* it’s back to the word mines for me. Working on Dragonbreath art. (Only 80 more illos to go!) Royalty statement for Horned Bunnies arrived over the weekend, and indicates that it sold 40K copies in the first five months and earned out faster than any of the others. This is very cheering. Also, I pretty much expect to be hit by a meteorite at any moment now. Hugo! Royalties! Flowers from agent! Kevin! At least the garden is in post-August wreckage, to provide some shreds of karmic balance, otherwise I wouldn’t dare get out of bed. *grin*

If I haven’t said it already, thank you to everybody who’s sent me congratulations. You guys are the best.

By way of gratitude–and also to prove that I’m working, really!–here’s two short tidbits from House With Bird Feet. Summer has met three odd sisters wearing animal skins and seen some very odd trees. (This story is really cookin’ for me. If my agent can’t place it, I’ll have to do something else with it, because it’s got hold of my brain in a big way…) The second chunk is a conversation that takes place as she walks across the desert by scorpion-light.

****

“Now then, Summer,” said Boarskin, pouring another cup of tea into Summer’s cup, and watching the steam curl up from it. “How did you get here? Did you ride in by fern-fish or step through a door in the hedge? Did you walk into a dragon’s shadow?”

“She doesn’t smell of dragon,” said Bearskin.

“Well…” said Summer, wrapping her fingers around her teacup to keep them warm. “Baba Yaga told me she was giving me my heart’s desire, and then I went out of her house and I was in the hallway with the stained glass windows.”

“Baba Yaga sent you?” asked Boarskin and Bearskin at once, and drew together on their rock.

Donkeyskin drew the hood of her cloak up over her head. Its long donkey ears were tattered and it had white stones sewn into the eyes.

“Um,” said Summer. “Yes?”

They looked at each other, then back at her.

“Baba Yaga, the cannibal?”

“Baba Yaga, the crone?”

“Baba Yaga, the witch, the wonder-worker, the teeth-that-bite-the-ground—“ Boarskin pressed a hand to her lips. “That Baba Yaga?”

“Don’t be a fool,” said Bearskin sharply to her sister, “do you think anyone else would dare claim that name? She’d feed them into her cauldron and take them out as a hundred spiny salamanders. She’d turn them into a drift of wildflowers and plant them in a sheep meadow. She’d make their bones into the root of a fig tree and sink them into their own children’s graves.”

Summer gulped.

“She—she didn’t do any of that. She said she’d eat me if she was in a bad mood, but I didn’t think she meant it. Well, she had a chair made of bones, so I wondered, but…” Summer twisted her fingers together. “Um. She gave me a weasel.”

The weasel stuck his head out of her pocket and gave her a dirty look.

“Very useful animals, weasels,” said Boarskin.

*****

“Is it true what they said about Baba Yaga?” asked Summer.

“True?” asked the weasel. “True enough. They said less than they might have and a great deal less than they could have. It doesn’t pay to talk about Baba Yaga behind her back.”

“Oh.” Summer thought about that. “How did you wind up in her house? Did she offer you your heart’s desire?”

“Not hardly,” said the weasel, sounding very annoyed.

“Then how?”

“The witch’s house lays eggs sometimes,” said the weasel. “I tried to eat one.”

Summer wrinkled her forehead. “But it’s a house. Wouldn’t its eggs be—oh—enormous? Bigger than me?”

“So maybe I’m ambitious,” said the weasel. “Nothing wrong with ambition, is there? ‘Shoot for the moon,’ everybody says, ‘if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.’” He spat, a motion almost too tiny for Summer’s eyes to follow. “Feh! I suppose ‘if you miss, you’ll be captured by a great bloody hag out of legend and stuffed into a coat pocket for a week’ was too much of a mouthful.”

Summer had no idea what to say to that. “Um. I’m sorry?”

“Not your fault,” said the weasel. “Also, we’re being followed. No, don’t look!”

 

And with that, it’s back to the word mines. The next section involves an oracular cheese. Hard to go wrong with an oracular cheese.

 

*Even I don’t believe my claims to be wicked anymore. Also if I tried to go “MUAHAHAHAAH!” with this cough, I’d have to spend a few minutes in the bathroom with a glass of water.

  • reply tanita ,

    HAH! That’s a true weasel, there. Never mind eating something larger than your whole body! Ambition! That’s where it’s at!!

    Thanks for the snippets – they’re truly a gift.

    • reply Hawk ,

      Hope you get over your cough soon.

      House with Bird Feet, the next web comic that might get nominated for a Hugo…?

      (I joke)

      • reply The Gecko ,

        Ah, weasels. Is there anything they’re not good for?

        Anyway, absolutely not to nitpick, and I know this is a job for the editing phase, but I can’t help but try to be helpful against my better judgement and the story so far is interesting, I promise!

        “… pouring another cup of tea into Summer’s cup,” just sounds awkward.

        And as someone who studies meteors, you don’t have much to worry about in terms of space rocks falling on your head! Most of them just burn up in the atmosphere, and the ones that don’t have a FRUSTRATING tendancy to land over water, where we can’t recover them.

        • reply RhianimatorLGP ,

          An Oracular cheese… hrrm. Is it a penicillin cheese, or one of those holey ones? I imagine a nice stilton could be quite oracular if so inclined.

          You, muse, shoo.. This is Ursula’s story. Sorry, love oracular cheeses, though. they have a certain pungent quality.

          Can’t wait for the next bit, now!

          • reply The Gecko ,

            Arrgh, now I’m worried I sounded really pedantic there when that wasn’t my intention at all!

            • reply Escher ,

              I… uh…

              Oracular cheese, huh?

              • reply Smitty ,

                LOVING it. this appeals to me hugely! pretty please can we have more?

                • reply Escher ,

                  Just a little editing thought:

                  “Baba Yaga, the cannibal?”
                  “Baba Yaga, the crone?”
                  “Baba Yaga, the witch, the…”

                  The term ‘cannibal’ sounds a little awkward there for some reason; maybe it’s me but that brings up the wrong mental image. And having “crone” and “witch” side by side sounds odd to me. I was thinking it might flow better as something like:

                  “Baba Yaga, the crone?”
                  “Baba Yaga, the man-eater?”
                  “Baba Yaga, the witch, the…”

                  Also, what’s the “teeth-that-bite-ground” thing? I’ve never heard that turn of phrase.

                  • reply Sixwing ,

                    Its long donkey ears were tattered and it had white stones sewn into the eyes.

                    What you did there, I see it. o/

                    Loving the list of Baba Yaga’s epithets, too! Particularly “the teeth-that-bite-the-ground,” in light of her famed (infamous?) iron teeth, and the play on “bite” as in anchoring, and the same as in “trick.”

                    • reply Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ,

                      “Don’t be a fool,” said Bearskin sharply to her sister, “do you think anyone else would dare claim that name? She’d feed them into her cauldron and take them out as a hundred spiny salamanders. She’d turn them into a drift of wildflowers and plant them in a sheep meadow. She’d make their bones into the root of a fig tree and sink them into their own children’s graves.”

                      Oh my, this is wonderful. And now I’ve got Schmendrick the Magician in my head: “I’ll turn you into a sheep, and everything you love into green grass. I’ll turn you into a bad poet with dreams, you mess with me.”

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