One of nature’s most social and playful creatures, river otters have big personalities and even bigger appetites. Often seen in groups, they can be observed hunting and frolicking year round at Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. In winter, you might even catch them sliding across the ice on their bellies. Photo courtesy of Kenny Bahr.
10 Days of EOS 10 Day 4: Dream Crossover (The Penumbra Podcast + EOS 10)
Akmazian drummed his fingers against the bar top impatiently, glancing around him uncertainly. The bar he sat in was seedy, an sordid spot on one of the smaller Solar Outer Rim planets. Smoke swirled around him like mist above water, moving like a river with unseen creatures shifting beneath the surface. The people around him were dark shapes, mostly human in this sector which was an advantage for Akmazian.
He fidgeted with tattered red cloth wrapped around his wrist, a sign identifying him to his new supplier. The bartender raised an eyebrow at the cloth before hurriedly turning back to his drinks and the other customers slumped on the bar. Akmazian shifted on the uncomfortable stool, his eyes towards the old analogue clock which was almost ten minutes out.
It had been inconvenient to travel all the way to the Terrain system but after blowing up Oslo it had been necessary to find a smuggler who was completely unconnected to that particular ring. Therefore Akmazian sat in a sleazy bar waiting, feeling a thousand miles away from EOS 10 in more than just distance.
An elegant man lowered himself into the seat beside him, his movement spidery. His dark suit was elegantly tailored and tagged silver earrings dangling from his ears made him stand out among the tattered patrons. The bartender slipped a small glass in front of the man before his expensive-looking trousers even hit the stool. The man gave Akmazian a wide smile, flashing, uncomfortably familiar in more ways than one. Akmazian gave a tight smile in response.
“Mr Sherwood, I presume,” the man commented in a low tone, his voice smooth and silky. Akmazian frowned, struggling to identify the accent.
“Robin’s fine. You must be Caesar Chrome.”
“Pleasure to meet you Robin,” Caesar Chrome leant forward conspiratorially, “Now tell me. What’s your poison?”
“Thanks for the offer but I try not to drink while doing business” Akmazian said, eyeing the other man suspiciously. Accepting a drink from a potential-business partner was a sure fire way to wind up drugged and blackmailed in a dark alley. Not only that, there was something familiar about the face of his shape, something that didn’t sit right with Akmazian.
The man pouted and sighed. “I always find doing it professionally so boring but if you insist. If we aren’t going to drink, why don’t we walk? There’s a nice café just down the road. It’s more classy than here and the muffins are simply divine.”
Akmazian paused for a moment, chewing his lip. He wouldn’t trust a smuggler to begin with and the man’s haunting familiarity did not help. But still it wasn’t too late and the bar wasn’t really any safer than the bar if Chrome wanted to go after him.
“Fine,” he allowed, “Let’s go.”
He slipped off the bar stool and began shoving his way through the drunken crowd, keeping an eye on Caesar Chrome, walking beside him, moving effortlessly through the throngs of people who parted like the Red Sea.
“So, after a shipment of some rather rare Martian plants, I hear,” Chrome commented as they exited the swirling smoke of the bar and walked out into the cool night air.
“You already know that’s why I’m here,” Akmazian replied sharply, annoyed by the small talk. He’d never been one for manners and affectations in his illegal deals but this man seemed determine to make small talk. Chrome chuckled and shook his head.
The street lamps were malfunctioning, only a few of them flickered with a dull yellow light. Chrome glanced towards him, raising an eyebrow and Akmazian was once again struck with the sense of familiarity. He knew that face: the dark eyes and quirkier eyebrow. He had seen a picture or video or something; something long before his life had fallen apart. The cheekbones were sharper, the face lost the softness of youth, the dark hair shorter and slicked back rather than falling in a tangled curtain but the semi-mischievous gleam in the eyes and the slight smile was undeniably familiar but still nameless.
“So, tell me, Mr Sherwood,” said Chrome, his voice like satin, “What does the Destroyer of Worlds want with a Hyperion Lily?”
Akmazian stopped dead in his tracks, his hand flying to the gun he had hidden under his cloak. He gripped it tight, forcing his voice to stay pleasant as he replied.
“I see you did your research, Mr Chrome.”
“Well, your face is being broadcast across most of the Galaxy - as soon as I saw you I put two and two together,” said Chrome cheerfully. He grinned, looking almost cat-like, flashing unusually sharp canines as he did. “You’re a wanted criminal, Mr Sherwood.” The name dripped with sarcasm. “So tell me, why would you want a Hyperion Lily?”
That was when it hit Akmazian. The grin, the sharp canines, the barely-identifiable accent. He remembered Stephen, his old bunk-mate at the academy, muttering something about savages sharpening their teeth as they had flicked through photos on their holopads. The videos had been in a file on the freedom fighters of Brahma. That had been years ago, back when the Alliance was still thinking about intervening against the multiple human rights violations caused by the war. Before that project had been deemed impossible with out violent intervention and had been shut down, and Akmazian had been shipped off to the Adrarian Sector for unspecified reasons. A name matching the face came to him, one that was only really known through leaked information from Brahmese refugees’ hopeful murmurs and a some security footage smuggled out on a physical 21st century CD: Peter Nureyev.
“The real question is,” Akmazian drawled, returning the self-satisfied smile with one of his own, “What is the Angel of Brahma doing supplying them?”
(P.S. I kinda wanna write a follow-up, would anyone be interested?)
Far far away, jutting out into the emptiness beyond, like the figurehead of a mighty stone ship, is the Edge. Shrouded in mist and bordered by open sky, it is a place of forests, swamps and rocklands.
There are many who inhabit its various landscapes; from the trolls, trogs and goblins of the perilous Deepwoods to the phantasms and spectres of the treacherous Twilight Woods, from the bleached scavengers of the Mire to the white ravens of the Stone Gardens. While in Undertown – that seething urban sprawl which straddles the Edgewater River – there are creatures from all over the Edge who have travelled there to discover what they hoped would be a better life than the one they left behind.
Rikus Ferreira (South African, based Cape Town, South Africa) - Tokoloshe And The Children. My story was about the Tokoloshe - a smallish river creature that lures unsuspecting kids from the safety of their villages to the riverside. He uses fruits and other delicious foods as bait. Some say he then eats the kids.