The Paradox of Fog and Smoke

Submitted into Contest #206 in response to: Set your story in an eerie, surreal setting.... view prompt


Fantasy Mystery Adventure

Night had fallen on the Fog District of Vulane... not that there was much difference between night and day there. 

The rain pattered against the uneven cobblestones as the sickly sweet “fog” wound its way around the uneven buildings and filled the air. In the back alleys, deranged beasts gibbered and spoke to things only they could see, their minds long gone. The wind howled through the streets carrying the noxious fumes with them.

Through the enchanted streets two figures walked, their bodies bundled up against the rain and cloths covering their snouts from the fumes. One of them was a brown rat, the other a large reptiloid who stood far larger than his companion. They were an unlikely pair but - against the odds - they had found each other. 

The rat was known as Skreet Snickertooth: an investigator of sorts back across the waves. His pursuit of an old criminal had brought him to Vulane’s cursed shores, and the city had foiled his attempts to find her... so far. Every time he thought he was getting closer he found himself caught up in some new incredible occurance.

The reptiloid was known simply as Draknor. The horns on his head made protrusions on the hood of his cloak while his yellow eyes gleamed in the darkness. He was a wanderer - a roving blade - and up until recently he had been a gladiator in the fighting pits of Vulane’s wild and sparkling Entertainment District.

The two thought about how they had come to be in the situation they now found themselves in. 

One night prior: 

Farah the ferret thief had a damnable smirk on her muzzle. She had talked herself in with a vague comment about a business proposal. The rat detective regarded her with folded arms as he leaned against the wall of the loft above the vegetable merchant below. 

“So ‘Draknor,’ was it? Did I hear you right? You’ve lost a sword and want to steal it back?” 

“Hurr, correct.”

The ferret’s tail twitched. “Must be some sword.” 

“It is,” Draknor rumbled. 

“Don’t tell her anything else Draknor,” Skreet warned. 

Draknor regarded the rat. “I wasn’t going to.” 

Farah scowled. “Well listen here Drak - and you too, mister Rat.” 

“Snickertooth, Skreet Snickertooth,” he said, introducing himself while still leaning against the wall.

Farah’s eyes widened. “I’ve heard of you! You’re the detective from the Shadowclaw Chronicles, aren’t you?” 

Skreet rolled his eyes: he had been made a semi-fictional character in a series of sleazy ‘detective novels’ by a journalist he had known back home. He was still waiting for any kind of reimbursement for the use of his identity. 

Skreet grunted. “I’ve heard of you too, Farah.” 

Farah put a paw to her chest. “Flattered, truly. All right, now that introductions are done, my boys: I propose a partnership. I can steal any old sword back for you, I just need a teeny tiny little favor in return.”

“What would that be?” Draknor asked.

Farah grinned. “Well you see. I was working a job in a... particular location. It turns out the guards there are not only perceptive, but there’s a lot of them and they are skilled. That’s when I saw you two in action.”

Skreet scowled. “So you want us to be your muscle?”

“Very clever and handsome muscle,” the little ferret cooed.

“Hurr,” Draknor growled.

“Are you as good as they say?” Skreet asked.

Farah laughed. “I’m better. I’ve stolen from heavily guarded fortresses, temples of fanatics, manors of the wealthy, and catacombs full of undead.”

Draknor snorted: He was accustomed to the braggadocio of mammals. “Yet you need our help with this latest scheme of yours.”

Farah rolled her eyes. “Okay, fair enough. Sometimes even the best need assistance. I could probably still do it on my own, but it would take me a lot more time than I want to spend on this job. I’m a busy little ferret, you understand,” she said with a sly smile.  

Skreet scowled. “I don’t like it. Feels like a setup and you need some patsies.” 

Farah huffed. “Really Mr. Snickertooth, your words wound me more than that lynx’s sword I encountered there.” 

Draknor and Skreet both shifted, giving each other sideways glances. 

“A lynx?” Skreet asked. 

“A female lynx?” Draknor rumbled.

Farah tilted her head. “Why so interested? Lynx are common here.” 

Skreet shrugged. “Let’s just say we’ve both had some bad experiences with a lynx recently and we’re not sure if it’s the same one.” 

Farah clapped her little paws together. “Well I think that seals the deal. She might still be there and might be the same one. You help me, I will help you steal Drak’s sword back if you think you can find it, sir investigator.” 

Skreet huffed. “I’m sure of it.”

“Then it’s settled! Welcome aboard,” the thief said offering her little paw. Skreet gave it a tepid shake. Farah turned to Draknor who lifted her off her feet trying to shake her paw.

When Farah was set down on the florr finally she clicked her tongue as if she remembered something, she turned back to Skreet as she shook her paw out form Draknor's grip.

“Oh, and if you’re feeling squeamish about fighting these people, former constable, remember that they are all either too mind-addled to be saved or dangerous criminals.” 

Skreet sighed. “In this city, even the underbelly has an underbelly.” 

Soon Skreet and Draknor were moving through the rain-and-smoke-filled streets together. Draknor was grateful that Farah had stolen him some clothes that actually fit: it was good to have more than just a cloak and loincloth. The three made a plan and Farah scouted ahead, knowing the city slightly better. 

The closer they got to the Fog District’s opium den, the more the streets began to curve back on themselves and shift directions in paradoxical ways. Alleys between buildings that didn’t exist on the other side of the street now showed themselves. Corners that had been so low as to see the foundations of old buildings above now opened up to vistas of parts of Vulane that should have been impossible to behold from that district. 

The stars in the sky above moved too fast or too slow, creating new constellations with each breath. 

Draknor avoided looking at the sky as he walked.

Whether it was the enchanted air that occasionally breached the cloths over their snouts or the nature of Vulane itself, the duo found that streets that should have circled back around to their origin had instead opened up new vistas.

One boulevard they happened upon was filled with slow moving creatures in robes, a few creatures clinging to each other and drunkenly singing tavern shanties, and still more creatures wandering the paradoxical district in a permanent haze. The shops that lined the streets were similarly bizarre: unnamed places with mummified paws and embryos of bizarre creatures preserved in alcohol began to spring up.

In front of one windowless building, a temporary stage had been constructed where a fox and a cat in masks silently acted out some bizarre play to a crowd of mannequins. Somewhere in the distance, the two could swear they could hear an audience laughing.

Skreet shook his head wondering if he was being effected, one of his earlier sojourns he’d somehow gotten drunk in a booze den and forgot the previous night. 

“Madness reigns,” Skreet grunted. “Seen a lot of strange things in my time, but this is… like the capital of strange things.” 

Draknor rumbled. “Hurr, I recognize things here... Things that are best left unsaid.”  

The two nearly collided with a male rabbit in tattered robes.

“S-scuse me, gentle... gentlemen,” he said.

Skreet could tell that his tatters were once resplendent robes: a former clergy of the rabbit prince El-ahrairah. Skreet gave the rabbit a sad glance as he continued speaking.

“Have you seen it?” He asked with a faraway gleam in his eye. “It... it used to be in the sky.” 

“Don’t know what you mean pal,” Skreet replied.

The red-eyed rabbit wrung his own ears, his eyes moving in seemingly random zig zag patterns. “You need to see it! It changed my life… I changed… It used to be so warm and beautiful...” 

Draknor grunted. “He has descended into madness.”

Skreet, a tear forming in his left eye, reached into a pocket and extracted a bit of cheese he was saving for later, then gently pressed it into the worried rabbit’s paw.

Suddenly the rabbit pawed at Skreet but Draknor was quick to get between them. 

“Oh, your face! Your face!” The rabbit suddenly shouted at Draknor before scampering away into the night, his robes dragging along the wet stones.

Skreet shuddered. “Guess you’ve got a real mean mug, Draknor.”   

“Mug?" Draknor questioned. "I have no drinking vessel.”  

“Heh, nevermind.” 

At that moment a column of what Skreet referred to as “Silvermasks” marched through the intersection: Creatures of various species all wearing silver masks and armed with poleaxes, and all seemingly unaffected by the bizarre fog. 

They were accompanied by the ominous CLUNCH CLUNCH CLUNCH of their plate mail as they marched in strict unison to wherever their final destination was.

Draknor growled as he shifted nervously. He remembered them guarding the arena at times. 

“Easy,” Skreet said gently. “Just don’t draw attention to us and we should be fine,” Skreet advised. Nonetheless he kept a hand beneath his coat on one of his fighting sticks. He wondered if it was the Silvermasks that Farah wanted them to fight. 

The two soon drew closer to what they assumed was their destination. Strewn across the street were lounging pillows, occupied by opulent creatures in various styles of dress - lounging and gossiping and sucking on long pipes or tubes that led into the den itself. The building itself was very tall, and the smoke only became thicker and thicker as they approached.

Through the smoke and fog they could hear lascivious whispers accompanied by bizarre, faraway music - but could not see more than a few feet in front of themselves. From the smoke, a figure suddenly appeared in front of them.

Skreet and Draknor drew weapons, only to lower them at Farah’s familiar giggle. 

“What took you two so long?” She asked, somewhat annoyed.

“Hurr, moving through these streets is... difficult,” Draknor grunted. 

Farah checked her cloth over her snoot. “Well, I hope you two are ready: It’s just ahead. I’ll help out as much as I can, but my wonderful prize lies far below the den.”

Skreet flattened his ears against his skull. “Yeah, yeah, we’ll draw all the attention for you.”   

Farah’s tail twitched in excitement. “Yes! Follow me.”

“Don’t cross us,” Draknor growled.

“Wouldn’t dream of it. I actually sort of like you two.”  

The ‘fog’ was becoming thicker and blacker as they pressed on. Skreet had heard rumors that the fog was in fact the exhalations of a great dragon that lived under the opium den, but he wasn’t sure if it was a flight of fancy... or fact. 

Neither would surprise him honestly. 

Farah led the way ahead, through the crowd of lounging patrons and guards. She wondered if security would be tightened after the scuffle she had caused a few days ago. By the time she threw the door open though, the scene was mostly the same as before. Brawls probably weren’t that uncommon. 

The interior was of beasts of all sorts spread out on their cushions. The only major obstacle were the silvermask guards that ringed the room.

Draknor tilted his head. “Something about this smoke,” he said groggily.

“Don’t inhale it, Draknor!” Skreet hissed.

“Yeah, last thing we need is for you to lose your senses here, big guy,” Farah added.   

“Hurr,” Draknor replied, tightening the cloth on his large snout. 

“Okay you two: Start a fight,” Farah instructed as her paws went beneath her cloak to her shortsword and handaxe. 

Draknor grunted and advanced on one of the silvermasks, it looked to be a badger. The badger lowered its poleaxe in challenge as the reptiloid tossed back his hood. 

“Raaaagh!” Draknor roared, the outcry even startling some of the smokers. 

The badger thrust for Draknor’s gut but the strong reptiloid grabbed the shaft of the weapon and pivoted his hips, sending the guard flying across the room without his weapon. 

“Come fight me!” Draknor bellowed, holding his newly acquired poleaxe. The silvermasks closed in, unafraid, and Draknor met them head on, swiping with the polearm and thrusting as Skreet and Farah moved in, attacking the distracted guards from behind. 

The guards were tough: injuries didn’t seem to phase them their addled brains numbing them to the pain, but they weren’t invincible. 

Reinforcements moved in, ordinary thugs, not as dangerous but still a threat in their own right. For the second time that week the opium den was now a brawl. But this time Farah had Draknor on her side. The skilled fighter had cut a swath through their foes, and Farah didn’t waste time heading for the now-unguarded entrance. 

She knew what she sought: The trinket she had originally stolen...

...that she now had to steal back.

Hopefully that Lynx wasn’t lying in wait again.

July 14, 2023 18:32

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[One of them was a brown rat, the other a large reptiloid who stood far larger than his companion.] Oh yes, Skreet and Draknor are back! [She had let herself in with a vague comment about a business proposal.] She didn’t exactly let herself in, they opened the door and spoke with her. Maybe instead write something like {She had talked her way in with a vague comment about a business proposal.} [The rat detective regarded her] I think it would read better if you add the word {Now} at the beginning of the sentence. [“Don’t tell her anyth...


05:11 Jul 16, 2023

So glad you've been enjoying this little miniseries. Oh yes there's little tributes to other literary works and myths on occassion. For example the god of foxes is named Reynard. The mug joke I'm a bit proud of as it shows a difference in slang. Keeping poleaxe as polearm, a poleaxe is basically just a type of polearm like spears, glaives, and halberds. Sloth was supposed to be swath, one of those moments where the brain and fingers don't quite interact like they're supposed to. So glad to see you read this, and I've made some slig...


Slang is a very fun element to find ways to include! I did not know that about poleaxes and polearms—I'm not very versed in weapons, I think, though I know some, like the claymore/zweihander (one of my favorites). I find that when I'm typing, I tend to hit o when I mean to hit i, and when I'm writing by hand I write m when I mean n and n when I mean m, rather more often than I like. Also when writing by hand, I'll get an entire sentence ready in my mind, and then when I try to write it, I skip words in the middle because I'm so ready to wr...


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Hey MB, do you think you'll write another Skreet and Draknor story with these new prompts? The prompt about the "sleuth who's a little too keen" makes me think of Detective Snickertooth, and the prompt about the "warrior who doesn't want to kill the dragon" makes me think of Draknor. I pray you're well!


19:26 Sep 22, 2023

Good to hear from you! I just might, none of the recent prompts have made me think of these characters recently. But this weeks I just might.


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02:06 Sep 30, 2023

And I ended up going with the creepy manor prompt using our trio. Didn't feel like it was my best though.


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Cajek Veilwinter
19:23 Jul 14, 2023

This one is bound to pique some interests...


19:30 Jul 14, 2023

Such is my hope.


Cajek Veilwinter
15:43 Jul 17, 2023

We have some Skreet and Draknor fans in the audience


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