Just a quick post to let you know this is progressing nicely! the objective is 1,661 words a day (or thereabouts) with a final word count of no less than 50,000 words. I daresay I might need more than that to fit in what I'm aiming for, but we'll see. Here's an excerpt from what I have so far (still rough and probably has quite a few typos):
Slaven cared little for the eyes. It was the rest of that retched face he couldn't stop thinking about. He had heard a saying once in the etheri pidgin. t was difficult to translate into the imperial tongue, but in a nutshell meant: Meet a halfblood and you've met them all. Know a hundred and you know nothing. Something like that. And it was true. He had failed to keep track of the different breeds and houses and lineages of halfbloods he had met in his years on the road. Admittedly, his life had spanned centuries; far more than the paltry two to three decades most proletariats in the cities enjoyed, but still, the variety was most... disturbing.
While a rare few had bodies and features that most humans would kill to lay down with, the vast majority for them were so alien as to be repulsive. Bifurcated jaws, skin that sloughed off in metallic flakes where it was not calloused and malformed, deadened eyes that said more with a glance than conceited poets could with a day on a soapbox, corpse-like bodies.
This specimen was none of those things. Unnaturally slender, with the grace and spindly form of a spider, the halfblood was altogether the son of its father, as the saying went. Stood upright, it would have been around 8-feet tall and probably weighing less than an emaciated man of the empire. Its arms and legs were gifted with extra joint, making the spider analogy yet more pertinent, their movements fluid yet strangely... spasmodic. It gestured with seven-fingered hands, equally fluid in motion, despite being weighed down by heavy signet rings and gemstones. Like the rest of it, its face was long, almost horse-like with skin akin to that of shimmering oil or the scarab-shell, catching the harsh light in different hues as it moved and beneath bulging lids of similar quality, protruded dead eyes like pearls, emotionless yet beautiful. Almost unnervingly so.
Slaven struggled to maintain eye-contact with the halfblood as it continued to talk, its last words lost to his cursory examination. "... exiled for nourishing outsider beliefs. The etheri care little for the ways of the greater world and tend not to look farther north than the mountains that border that collapsing desert-home. His views were extreme, his attitude seditionist." the halfblood paused, noting the alabaster-skinned mans' reaction. "What is extreme to one people is a cultural norm to others. I do not part with knowledge freely, and though your donation for such gifts of words weighs down my purse, there is not a little that i have learnt of you too, clone. One such as yourself must surely have seen the world in his travels. It is likely that what severe beliefs this man harbours are something that comes common place to people of the civilised world."
Though Slaven was not surprised that the halfblood had ascertained his history (anyone versed in the histories of the Steel Legion would have blind to not forge the links), he was surprised that it had named him for what he was so openly. If the halfblood was not so well-connected Slaven might have retaliated, verbally if not physically. He was trying to forget his days of bloodshed, not reawaken the beast. "I didn't ask for his life-story. I want to know where this man is."
The halfblood noted the inflection of his tone, the slightly shifted expression, the urgency in his posture. "Something tells me that it is more than curiosity or professional desire that causes you to search for this man, clone."
"Say that word one more time and you'll regret it, Tahlib," said Slaven, edging forward in his seat.
The halfblood clapped mockingly, the eerie gait of its many-jointed fingers and elongated palms unsettling and strangely silent. "Well done. I did not know that the Steel-Legion offered esoteric education as well as martial training. Few people are well-versed in the lineages of halfbloods."
Slaven let the slur pass. "I have come across your kind before. You are hardly trustworthy."
"Well, that is likely more than I have. We are hardly a fraternity, though I am sure you know that already."
"I know all you care about is amassing your collections," said Slaven, referring of course to the Tahlibs' insatiable greed for knowledge of any kind. That trait, garnered from an ancient primogenitor - the otherworlder patriarch or matriarch whose blood, though now diluted, still gave that monger of information life and character - was a vital commodity in the cities of the lower empire. Indeed, any empire or kingdom or province that was home to such a creature could scarcely consider itself to have any secrets. "you still haven't named your true price."
The halfblood nodded sagely. "True. Excuse my penchant for digression. My mind, you see, it works different to yours. Though everything is compartmentalised and stored, within easy reach of my tongue, it yearns to spill out. I cannot help but tell stories.
"That which you seek was not easy to come by. Without giving anything away before taking my payment, this man cannot and will not be found close-by. Even armed with the necessary directions and languages, he will not reveal himself willingly -"
"Though he preaches to crowds of thousands?"
Another nod. "The more powerful a demagogue becomes and the more followers he gains, the more he seeks the solitude of whatever providence caused him to unite so many people. I feel sorry for such men, truly."
"I do not. Now please," said Slaven.
"Of course," said the Tahlib, gesturing with its spider-hands. "To cut the hyperbole short, Rashul was a difficult nut to find. The monetary cost for this has already parted hands," he said, tugging cheerfully on the small pouch, the ceramic-coated coins inside clinking. Its toothless mouth was curved into what might have passed for a smile. "Now, to the true compensation.
"The days of the Steel Legion as a mythic force is over. The sundering of empires and the, how should I say it... degradation of the world and its peoples, has caused the militant orders of the empires to falter somewhat. I know little of your brotherhoods' fine past, other than the cursory. I wish to know what it is like to be born to cold glass and steel, to never have felt the warmth of a mothers' womb. Were the spot not already covered by an occlusion, I would have dearly liked to see your stomach without it navel."
"Get to the point." Slaven's voice was dry. Each word grated at his nerves more than the last. There was only so much he could put up with this fool.
"A biography of sorts, from your inception, to this day. Why do you not travel with the legions? Are you a deserter? Are your brothers no more?" the Tahlib's lip curved upwards into a lop-sided smile. "Or do you not know these things?"
Slaven gritted his teeth and tried hard to rein in his anger. He looked at the alien thing before him, its opalescent eyes without focus. Was the thing even looking at him, he wondered? Its fingers played with the pouch on the table, knocking it from one side to another, enjoying the sound of the coins. Though Slaven had no way of knowing what passed for a smile on a face so grotesque, he knew it was enjoying this. Slaven had been tortured many times before, but this toying was the subtlest most infuriating kind. Where physical pain was something he had been conditioned to withstand and combat, this psychological bullshit that city-dwellers insisted on levelling at one another was something else entirely, something the carnatects and technarcanists responsible for his life and the patrician-generals who had trained him had not considered.
He spat on the ground, keeping his eyes affixed on those of the Tahlib and leaned forward. "I think you know more about me than you let on and you're trying to goad me into giving something away, something you want, perhaps for another deal or to satisfy your sick cravings."
Slaven stood. "I can find what I need elsewhere."
The halfblood nodded, lifting a metal cup to the Legionnaire. "I look forward to speaking with you again."