I've been having fun with Rory's Story Cubes as a means of helping prompt or generate small bits of narrative. What follows is an example, originally posted to Twitter but edited for quality here, of a short story using this method. Phil and Fred are two of the main characters of Bug & Claw's world and this story takes place after they've been separated and forced to go their own way for a while.
Fred stared out over Silkhold, observing the pink hue of silk that helped hold many of the buildings together, coalescing brighter towards the center of town. The commemorative emerald obelisk, placed for the great war, was getting a bicentennial upgrade to add a fountain. The upgrades were a reminder to bug-kin of how close they recently came to all out war with the Shrouded Steppes, the closest province on the mainland.
Lanko silently snuck up next to him– the old general that hired Fred to help with security still had tricks up his sleeve. Fred hoped he wouldn't have to see what Lanko could do. An easy paycheck for once would be nice.
From their vantage point at the old abandoned mansion on the hill, Fred could see something flashing from the lower branches of the old arbutus tree that towered outside town limits.
"You catch that?" he asked Lanko.
"Yeah. Far off, though. Thoughts?"
"Could be a signal. Better safe than sorry."
"You check the crowds; I'll check the source of whatever that was," Lanko said, and they were both off. Hand braced on sword hilt, Fred launched off the top of the hill and allowed his wings to glide him gently to the streets near the center of town.
It was hard to tell what was normal during a big event where people get excited. Bug-kin were dancing, checking out market stalls, larvae were playing, and different music was blending together. All the while, other folks were going about their daily routines.
Fred watched bug-kin going about their work:
- A construction crew tidying up a work site.
- A farmer unloading goods at a shop.
- A fishing vessel unloading a large coho salmon. It was over a quarter the size of their ship and took four bug-kin to unload and start wheeling down the road.
Everything seemed normal at first blush, but Fred knew how dangerous it was to read things at face value. He watched everyone with more scrutiny.
The construction crew continued wrapping with silk, the farmer finished unloading and started wheeling his cart away, and the kin wheeling the large coho turned east. But there were no fishmongers or taverns that way, were there? Though, they could have been going to a private residence, Fred thought. Lot of upper crust folk live that way they could be delivering to, but weren't most of them asked to publicly endorse the event?
Fred decided to follow the fish cart from a distance. Two beetle-kin larvae racing toward the event in the center of town bumped into one of the fisher-bugs. They turned and grumbled angrily, and Fred saw a flash of metal under their cloak. His mind now buzzing, Fred looked around for members of the Town Guard should he need their help. Of course, none in sight.
He called out to the group carting the hefty fish, "stop, please! Town guard. Routine check." All four looked back at him, sneering.
"Just cartin' this big un off to an estate for a feast."
"A feast during a week when there's free food and libations?" Fred asked.
"The rich do what the rich do."
"Better be gettin' on, if you don't mind?"
"I've never seen fisher-bugs that needed to be armed?"
Fred tested a step forward and saw the bug-kin closest to him twitch. "Which estate are you headed to?" He asked.
"Private residence, edge of town."
"How about I come with?"
The closest bug-kin was about to snap something back when another surprisingly replied "suit yaself."
On guard, Fred followed them, picking up pace due to the downward slopes, to one of the private estates on the edge of town.
"'Ere we be. Thanks for the escort."
"Not so fast!" came a voice– it was Lanko, snuck up again, this time not just on Fred. He tossed a severed bug-kin hand between him and Fred and the group of fisher-bugs. It still clutched a dagger. "Let's get a closer look at that fish," he said.
Cloaks moved, and steel flashed. With more of their bodies exposed, daggers, swords, hooks, and all manner of tools could be seen strapped to the fisher-bugs. They'd been loaded to the mandibles for battle.
The closer of the opposing group went down fast and loud, with a well-placed THWACK of one of Lanko's hatchet sidearms to the head. Nothing more to say from him, it seemed. Now it was only three against two, but they seemed unphased by the loss of one of their number. Did they care? Maybe mercenaries? The thought sped through Fred's mind barely faster than his sword flew through the air to meet another.
It looked like a perfectly choreographed dance, with both groups seeming to be evenly now matched– the three bug-kin not having the experience of Lanko and Fred but clearly benefitting from their additional number. Fred wondered how long they could keep things up.
Lanko pushed one bug-kin away from himself with a devastating kick but jumped back defensively when an arrow landed right in its forehead. Fred had barely a moment to register when an arrow struck his opponent the same way. All three of them remaining, Fred, Lanko, and the now bewildered fisher-bug, gaped on, all wondering who had just turned things so quickly.
From behind a carriage stepped a large crab, bow drawn and trained. He had a massive axe strapped to his back that looked almost as menacing as his stare. It was Phil, Fred's old comrade. "Thought you two could use a hand." And then to the remaining fisher-bug "another move, and you get one just like your pals." The remaining fisher-bug dropped his sword. "Not a moment to lose, Fred– bind him. Quickly."
Fred nodded to Lanko, assuring him this bulky new crab was a friend, and they bound the remaining bug-kin, who thankfully seemed to value life more than secrets.
"Quick now, open that fish's mouth."
They opened the great coho's mouth to see a fuse slowly sputtering, with only a few lengths left visible.
"Crud! Down the hill! Heave!"
They all took a running push, sending the cart further down the hill towards Colqui Creek at the bottom. The cart and fish barely began to sink before a raucous explosion temporarily deafened them and sent fish and water flying everywhere.
"Right then," Phil said, posturing his claws and turning to Lanko and Fred, "I imagine you'll want to hear what that last kin has to say as much as I do."
And that's a random short story from the Bug & Claw universe based on Rory's Story Cubes!