Franziska V. Dietl was born and raised in Nuremberg, Germany. At the age of 12 her mother brought her to the United States and it was at that time that she first learned to speak English. She found the aural aesthetic of the English language to be very pleasing compared to the raspy, harsh phonology of German from the very beginning, and that was when she decided to start writing creatively.
Her favorite thing about the writing process is creating characters from the ground up. Especially being able to think critically and develop a character's background, thought process, mannerisms, emotions; their entire psychology in relation to the environment and other characters. The settings, characters, and themes in her stories often draw their inspiration from historical fiction novels, current events, past personal experiences, dystopian ideologies, movies, video games, and those wonderfully nerdy tabletop RPGs she played with her friends every Sunday.
After living in Louisville, KY for almost two decades, she and her boyfriend decided to move to Texas in order to be closer to his family. They settled down in Buda in April 2016 and couldn't be happier with their decision.
Vindicātus by Franziska V. Dietl
Welcome to the Iron City. No matter how vibrantly the daylight rays might grace the earth, a persistent haze gripped the city firmly in its choking clutches. Each gust of wind wafted feculent fragrance, relentless and hostile as the gaze of the passer-by. All that was ever heard in the loquacious current of swiftly passing iron-shod hooves and clattering stagecoaches were mere utterances of words that may have once contained truth, emotion, genuine thought. Ushered away generations ago, notions of romance and intellect fell wilted into the gutters and crushed beneath oppressive sedimentary refuse of ignorance, petrified to fossil remnants no one really cared to exhume. Not even the preacher's jubilant Sunday sermon nor the Friar's gracious blessing could serve as an amateur disguise for the symptoms of something vile and festering...at least not to those who knew what to look for. And for those of us who did, the symptoms were everywhere; tearing away at each generation piece by piece like a wave of fear that just rolled over their children and their children's children; leaving everything automatonic, washed out, and monotone. Crime was rampant. Street gangs fought over territory like packs of savage beasts in human skin and would peddle their poisons to your grandmother if they had the chance. Slaves to the poppy's nectar got their fix in the slums of no-man's-land. Children, boys and girls alike, all covered in black chimney dust or machine oil surrendered homesick hearts to a merciless premature adulthood. Vulcan City was a corpse-museum for fever dreams come to spawn and die where they'd been conceived long ago in riverbeds of rubbish and broken glass. Here, only the strongest of dreams evolved beyond their tragic birth, reaching maturity in delusions of grandeur or disingenuous, self indulgent conquests before burning to elusive dust.
The pale moon was a luminescent smudge against the night sky, obscured by the gossamer veil of clouds, smog, and soot that drifted on the mild winds of the season. Twinkling lights of the sprawling city looked deceptively enchanting, like a carnivorous plant might appeal to a fly. Little channels and waterways leaked slow-acting poison into the River Eisen. Shayde had left Hillcrest far behind her after concluding her business there. Hillcrest; such was the name of Vulcan City’s northern mercantile district. Years ago, this whole part of the city would have been a gas-lit array of dazzling window displays and shiny commodities. Bits, bobs, and knick-knacks… Perfumes, cosmetics, stationary, candlesticks, hats, coats, and textiles...Mahogany furniture...Jewelry… She smiled at the warming thought of those twinkling treasures gleaming seductively in their display cases under the flames of the lamplight. It was a smorgasbord of pockets to pick and trinkets to lift for a thief of her caliber. But those days too, had changed and the shops were ordered to close their doors at the last rays of sunset. The only glowing flames that now danced in them were the reflections of the torches wielded by passing patrols of City Watchmen as they stalked up and down the district's empty streets. Thankfully, she possessed enough competence and proficiency to elude those trained old curs whilst lining her pockets with goods and coin. Few knew the city's hidden little secrets like Shayde did. Fewer still could master the tricks of the trade as she had. Those who tried a novice hand soon abandoned their illicit ambitions for fear of winding up like so many others before them: Strung up and swaying from hoisting beams around town square like macabre ornaments after a short drop and a sudden stop. Clearly, confidence without discretion didn't pay...at least not very well. However, Shayde was no novice by any means. The past 20 years of the 28 she'd been alive were spent doing the same things she'd been doing on this very night. What was at first a mere means of survival had evolved into an act that now fulfilled a much deeper need....and she was good at it.
It would have been an almost pleasant night if it weren't for the sour, acrid air that clung relentlessly to this corner of Vulcan City. Shayde pulled the hood of her well-worn cloak deeper into her face. The garment's hem that swayed tattered and weathered at the back of her calves had doubtlessly seen better days. The feathery black mess of chin-length hair tickled her right cheek. Far beyond the little shops and shanties that followed, the hollow, metallic twang of the old Clock-tower's bell rolled out over jagged shingles and jutting chimneys like sonorous urban thunder. Twice, it rang. Strangely, the hands of the tired old mechanism never told the correct time but that bell’s toll continued with haunting persistence, accurately every day and night. After sunset, once the muted gaslight glow lit up the cobbled streets and the city gates were locked tight, only those possessing official documentation of business were sent on their way without an escort. Thanks to the Duke Bothwell’s One-Child law for working-class households, Orphanages and even work-houses funded by factory owners were overflowing at alarming rates. Forced by fear of the law, many pauper women began leaving their newborns in back alleys at the mercy of starved dogs, and by the river to drown or die of exposure in the night. Thus, foot patrols of the constabulary frequently combed the streets to remind dallying pedestrians of the Citywide curfew ordinance.
Once she was absolutely certain that the cobbled side-street below was as devoid of life as the corpses in the bone yard, Shayde crouched at the ledge where the rudimentary masonry of the building's roof overlooked a dark, narrow alleyway. City guards rarely patrolled here...and why should they? The people who lived here were either dead or dying; waiting eagerly to finally find rest in a plotted bed of their very own. They had given up, like slowly drowning once you've stopped struggling.
With feline grace she descended along the jutting ledges and footholds of the facade until the soles of her supple leather boots touched solid ground. The extraordinary compound bow and quiver at her back were so well secured that they barely shifted out of place. There, right at eye level, a poster plastered to the stained brickwork featured a very familiar portrait in bold, black strokes of ink. Fair complected and dark haired. It was her own.
The Deadly Nightshade
For: Larceny, Treason, and Murder
500 Gold Coins
“Tch!“ The noise passed between her lips with a sharp, agitated breath of air. Years ago, the fellow guild mates from her little family of misfits and criminals had started calling her Nightshade, a flower as lovely as it was dangerous. It complimented her affinity for toxicology so she didn't mind it at the time. It wasn't until the High-Constable and his lackeys from the City Watch began parading their fear-mongering propaganda that she was dubbed the Deadly Nightshade: Scapegoat for all wicked deeds in Vulcan City. Since then, she had altered her nickname to Shayde. Short and simple.
Although it appeared that the poster had only been there for little more than a day, its corners were already beginning to peel away from the gritty, grimy surface perhaps in reluctance or disgust. Shayde reached out and ripped the inked page from the wall with a broad diagonal swipe. Would it really make a difference? She couldn't help but think to herself. For every one of those posters she had torn down, a dozen more seemed to take its place...and if they were starting to turn up in these urban wastelands now too... The thief stilled her reeling thoughts and tucked the now crumpled page away into folds of fabric within the textiles of her cloak as she turned away and started toward her new destination.
While one end of the narrow back alley opened up into into a broader street, the other was a dead end of stone, wood and windows. Families here were stacked like sardines, haphazardly stowed away and eventually forgotten. The fact that the city charged residential tax for it was downright criminal. Refuse piled around every corner. A feast for rats. Everything wooden swelled and shrank and leaked and moaned, laden and rotting with stagnant moisture. Metal rusted and crumbled, producing jagged little edges to snag your elbows on. Within one of the windows on the second floor, the faintest candlelight shone out with warm radiance into the choking darkness. That was her destination and marked the second act of her performance for the evening. A route to reach it already formulated in her head.
Somewhere in the distance, a dog yowled desperately for companionship. Shayde approached the dead end and quickened her step. The crude catwalk below the row of second story windows was a bit too far to reach from the ground, so she ran straight at the jagged face of the perpendicular wall. Like a skilled traceuse, she pushed off the ground, ran two steps along the vertical surface, pivoted her body toward the catwalk, and pushed off again. Her leather gloved hands reached out and gripped the old wood planks of the catwalk. For a moment, she swore she could feel the rot-riddled wood start to crumble away under her weight but a couple of seconds later, she was up and crouched beside the window without making a sound any louder than the rats rummaging through the filth below. Shayde listened, still as a statue, and heard nothing. Carefully peeking through the warped glass pane from the bottom left corner of the frame, her steel-gray eyes observed a tragic, yet all too common scene. A bearded man in grimy patches of sleepwear sat slouched, dozing against the mudded wall of the room. Mismatched stitches and scraps pieced together the crude straw mattress on the bare floorboards. On it, a young child, a girl with matted golden hair, lay curled against the body of her mother who had undoubtedly nodded off from sheer exhaustion. A pale cotton rag covered the girl's forehead. Her chest rose and fell with heavy, labored heaves under a knitted blanket. Fever dreams haunted her innocent imagination. Tiny fingers clutching at her mother's gown twitched briefly, then lay still. The only other movement in the room was a moth that flitted clumsily in the candlelight around the table beside the window. The girl was very ill. Her right foot was tainted with coal-rot.
Emerging from the mines just outside of the city, the recent occurrences of this strange affliction trickled through the working community like heartsick whispers passed from mournful lips to fearful ears. The girl’s foot would need amputation before the blackened lesion could grow, harden and finally crack open like charred fat on a broiled roast weeping sick blood laced with an otherworldly luminescent tint of blue. Her pain must have been inconceivable but money for a physician was lacking. The hopeless labor of their long, grueling days yielded greater panic than proceeds. Every coin of their combined earnings was devoured by the cost for their unsanitary tenements and the meager quantities of food they could afford. Now that the man had to leave the mining camps with his afflicted daughter to return her to the city, they had literally nothing left to spare; no pewter mug or cooking pot, no glassware or washtub. Even family heirlooms with precious sentiments were pawned off to the highest bidder. At this rate, bound by abject poverty, they would loose their daughter and their home within the month. He might as well have brought her home to die...at least they were finally together.
From a secure place inside her right boot she produced a metal tool about 2 inches wide and 8 inches long. One end curved up slightly and had a tapered edge: A prying tool. The steel-eyed thief slipped it into the frame and applied careful pressure. Most of the windows in buildings such as these had broken over the many years and one by one, replaced by planks or covered with patchwork drapery. The pane stuck in the warped frame. It would have been impossible to open without breaking if it hadn't been for the prying tool. At last, with a bit of patience and finesse, Shayde managed to slide it upward just enough to be sufficient for all intents and purposes. The tool was slipped back into the confines of her snug-fitting boot. A gentle breath of the night breeze slipped into the room and ghosted over the slumbering occupants. The man stirred, drawing in a sharp breath that sputtered to a quiet snort. Eyelids fluttered with residual visions of a fading dream. Hopefully it was a pleasant one, because his waking life was weaved of night terrors...
The thief withdrew herself from view and pressed her body to the wall beside the window frame as much as possible. Her jaws clenched and she nearly cursed with frustration but held her breath instead. Please stay asleep, I don’t have all night…C’mon, just a few more minutes… She thought to herself while vigilant eyes darted to each of the nearby residences. A quiet sigh of relief passed through her pale lips when some short moments later, the rhythmic purr of soft snores came trickling out through the open window. What she proceeded to do next would have had more than a handful of individuals confused and tilting their heads. But what was the fun in being predictable?
From a pouch secured to one of her belts, she pulled a tiny drawstring sack sewn from moleskin and filled with coins of varying value; a little donation she'd lifted from one of the shops in Hillcrest. Certainly this family had greater need for it than the merchant whose exorbitantly priced goods appealed only to the purses of the wealthy. Like a serpent, her right arm slithered through the cracked window into the room, up to her shoulder. The coin pouch was deposited diligently on the scarred surface of the little candle lit table. All the while the sick little girl continued to dream, her mother slept motionlessly, and her father went on producing those guttural (occasionally wheezing) snores. All was going well. She let her arm recoil, pulled yet another object from the multitude of pockets on her person, and then reached back in for a second time. Shayde placed a tiny, cork-stoppered glass vial beside that moleskin pouch with as much care as its fragility demanded. The nearly opaque liquid contained within almost gleamed as pale as milk or moonlight. Creation of a small batch of this potent narcotic had taken her a bit of time and resources. Due to its increasing popularity with physicians and addicts alike, the clandestine synthesis was as illegal as it was lucrative. In other words, Worth It!
The moth flitted more frantically. Stupid thing...She thought to herself. The window is open but you're too hypnotized by that dazzling light to seize your own freedom...The poetically tragic (yet somewhat self-reflective) allegory made her smile a little as she reached for the candle, pinching the wick between her fingers to snuff out the flame. Come dawn, the family would surely wake and thank the gods for the merciful blessing of charity bestowed upon them so mysteriously in the night. Shayde didn't care whom or what they would thank. Her work here was done and the thief withdrew back into the shadows of the sleeping city which she loved, loathed, and haunted like a tenacious ghost of vindication. The wealth surely wouldn’t redistribute itself, and there were other places she still needed to go before the amaranthine smog of the Iron City could inhale the first rays of morning with a contagious yawn.