Note: After an adventure has run its course, I collect the posts together so readers don’t have to jump around the blog to re-read the story. Originally this spanned a month’s time, posting each Thursday and continuing according to how readers voted in the comments. The comments you see at the end now are therefore what readers voted on the first post in this story. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy.
Hello amazing readers.
This month I started writing the rough draft to Hidden Mythics II, the Quaking Soul sequel. Usually I don’t try to blog while writing something big, but I recently watched a lecture by Mary Robinette Kowel about writing short fiction and really like her way of writing flash fiction. It clicked for me. So I’m going to try using that style for the adventures while I’m working on HM II. You might notice the posts are shorter, but hopefully the adventures will be just as fun. Feel free to join in!
Today we start a brand new adventure that has a slight steampunk feel to it in honor of Discarded Dragons publishing next week. Let’s jump in =)
You sneeze as dust in the train car wafts through the air, stirred up by the stamp of Coaster’s metal hoof. The horse might be all metal, jewel, and grit, but he hates train rides.
“Hold it together,” you admonish the beast while staring into his ruby eyes. “Next stop’s ours at the Madon Open Race. All we got to do is get off without damaging anything and the race money’ll be as good as ours.”
In response, Coaster huffs and kicks the wall, denting it slightly in the oval shape of his steel hoof.
“We can’t pay for damages, you ornery chunk o’ metal.” You grab his bridle and breathe a sigh as you feel the brakes of the train engage through vibration in the floor.
“Almost there,” you say as you pull a warm glow gem from your pocket. As a metal-bodied horse, Coaster loves anything that warms his ever-chilled steel. His red eyes fixate on your palm just as the railcar door slides open.
“Less than five to unload,” says a burly rail worker before moving away.
“Easy does it.” You hold the glow gem up and pull gently on Coaster’s reins. He takes a couple steps just as a mouse skitters past his hooves and off the train.
Coaster snorts and bucks, pulling the reins clean out of your hands as he rears back and then bumping into your when he lands.
You stumble backwards and feel the edge of the car against your instep, but you’ve too much momentum to stop yourself and land on your backside outside the railcar. Your glow gem sails out of your hand and thuds against the platform before rolling beneath it.
Coaster’s still bucking inside and you can hear his hooves hitting walls.
“Calm your metal hide,” you shout, turning away to retrieve your glow gem.
You’re head and shoulders under the train platform when you hear the whistle.
“It’s not been five!” Scampering backwards, your shirt catches on a nail. With a couple extra tugs, a clear ripping sound, and a sharp prick against your back, you crawl free only to see Coaster’s car—door still open—five cars ahead already. Racing for it, you wonder if you can jump onto the train as it gains speed. It’s that or whistle for Coaster and hope he jumps. Sometimes he listens, sometimes not.
Jump on the Train?
Whistle for Coaster?
Jockey Trouble – Jump on the Train
Your heart thuds as you race beside the train and latch onto the ladder running down one of the cars. As you haul yourself off the ground, you hear the heavy pounding of Coaster’s hooves hitting the sides of his car five spots ahead and wonder if the metal horse is going to derail the train. He’s heavy enough, if he throws his whole body into it, to rock the car.
It’s this thought that galvanizes you over the top of the train cars with the wind shoving against your body, until you can climb down between Coaster’s and the car behind. In the sudden quiet from the wind, there’s a new noise.
“Bloody stubborn horse!” yells a man’s voice. “I’ll slice you up for scrap metal you don’t calm down.”
A rail hand? You didn’t see anyone enter the car but there was a brief moment when you were retrieving the glow stone that you didn’t have eyes on Coaster either.
There’s the distinct sound of an electric whip snapping against metal and Coaster screams. “You’ll earn me too much money to come in damaged, but I can shut you down.” The whip snaps again.
Fury flushes hotly through you. That’s no rail hand.
The thudding from inside ceases and you chance climbing softly onto the roof and into the wind again to peek into the car. The man with Coaster’s one of those men who looks like he does logging for a living. The muscles in his shoulders bulge so much it appears he has no neck. And there’s that whip hanging from his right hand while he faces Coaster where he’s backed into the far corner.
What to do?
If you attack the man now, at least it’s just the two of you…but you’re small in size like any jockey. You could wait for the next stop and the authorities, but the man might not be working alone and then you’ll have more people to deal with.
Fight the man?
Wait for the next stop?
Jockey Trouble – Fight the Man
With the whip and the man’s size, you’re not sure you can take him head on, but if you surprise him, you might just have a chance.
Coaster’s backed into the front corner of the railcar now while the man paces in front of him, which puts the man near the open door as you peer in from the roof. An idea takes form in your head. It’s risky, but you’re an agile person and after thinking it over for a moment, you don’t see a better way.
Gently crawling across the roof, you position yourself directly above the large man, grip the top edge of the open door in an awkward upside down position, and wait. Just as the man turns his back again, you swing into the car, committing fully with your feet sticking out in front of you. At the last second, you let go and sail feet first into the man’s back.
It’s like hitting a rock. He barely moves and you hit the floor on your back.
But his head whips forward enough to head butt the wall, which thuds like Coaster’s hoof hitting it again. He whips around, baring his teeth in rage. It’s then that you see his teeth are made of metal and his eyes whir as they mechanically focus on you. Unlike Coaster’s red gem eyes, this automaton’s eyes narrow using tiny metal plates. You’ve never seen anything like him. Other than his teeth and eyes, he looks human. He steps forward, swinging his arm back to lash the whip at you.
And Coaster rams him solidly in the ribs, or at least where his ribs should be, and his body dents in below his arm. The automaton drops, his systems making small clicking sounds like he’s trying to restart.
You roll off your back and scamper forward, grabbing the whip out of his slack hand. Then you retreat to stand beside Coaster and the metal horse rests his steel head over your shoulder.
“What do we do now?” you ask him. Coaster grunts and stamps a hoof.
“Right,” you say, “either he needs to go or we do. Do we roll him off the train or do we jump off ourselves?”
Roll the Automaton off the Train?
Jump off Yourselves?
Jockey Trouble – Jump Off the Train
“Right,” you say to Coaster as the railcar rocks on the tracks and the automaton man’s body twitches like the motion threatens to wake him, “easier to jump.”
Coaster snorts and backs up. There’s not a lot of space above him in the car but with your small size, you gauge it’s just enough. Sliding up over his back, you hug yourself tight to his neck and keep your knees in tight, repositioning the whip you took from the man so it hangs freely from your hip.
Watching the rolling hills pass the open door, you sidestep Coaster so he has a solid step before jumping.
“Time to go.” You give the horse’s side a firm tap with your heel and Coaster takes a step back, then one, two forward, and you brace for the jump from the car. Coaster jerks to a stop and whinnies in anger.
You look to see the automaton man has a hand around Coaster’s fetlock.
Freeing the whip, you snap it down, where it snakes around the automaton’s neck. You don’t expect to choke him, but when you give the whip a hard tug, he lets go of Coaster to free himself.
Coaster takes the opportunity and jumps. The whip wrenches out of your hand and you slide precariously sideways before grabbing tight to Coaster’s harness. The train car disappears from beneath you and you’re in open air.
With a heave, you haul yourself back into the saddle just as Coaster hits the ground and stumbles. The impact travels through his body and into your bones. You’re still processing the shock when Coaster straightens and shakes himself.
The metal horse grunts, sounding satisfied, and takes off running. A look back reveals the automaton man leaning out of the train car but not following.
Coaster rests his head over your shoulder, absorbing warmth from your body, as you read the morning paper.
“There’s been a rash of horse thefts,” you tell him. “Many of the horses stolen were supposed to race in the Madon like us. Guess we got lucky.”
“Yeah, I know,” you say. “We’ll move on down the road and find a new race.”
Thank you for joining the Jockey Trouble Adventure! So far these shorter posts are working so I can keep writing on the Hidden Mythics II rough draft, so next week, we’ll see a brand new adventure where you’re a stow-a-way on a pirate ship. Hope to see you there!
(If you enjoy these adventures, check out my newest adventure book, Discarded Dragons, that published this month!)