November 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
I would not be lying if I told you I do not know much about the history of the Alronian Empire. For one thing, it’s not an empire. The nation most Etreans call Alronia doesn’t exist, as such. There are hundreds of city states within the borders of Alron, each ruled by different means. Nazreal, for instance, is governed by a council elected from her citizenry, determined by wealth. If you pay over 100 talents a year in taxes, you get to be on the council. The Nazreans keep the ancient custom of the broken shard alive, meaning that if you get too above your britches, they’ll break some pottery, write some names on it, and throw it all in a pot. If your name comes up, you are exiled. Even the most powerful Nazrean citizens can be so dealt with, which to some degree keeps them honest. To a greater degree it keeps assassins occupied to make sure no pots get broken.
However, none of these cities can truly be said to be masters of more than its own borders, and all pay tribute to Alron, the Ringed City, on the banks of the Enethyri Ocean. Alron rules half the continent by virtue of its ruthlessly efficient military, its vast wealth earned via trade and domination of the Enethryri (called the Alronian Lake in some quarters), and most importantly its ability to make cooperation with it more valuable than battling against it. If all the little kings, princes, potentates, pontiffs and diverse other self-styled rulers of various cities ranging from towns of a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of souls all rose up at once, Alronia might be able to hold onto its power. It would definitely be a near thing, however. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 12, 2011 § 1 Comment
“You are not here.” Belan’s voice cut across her, adrift in memory. Elizabeth turned to look up at her, really looking at those faintly yellow eyes. Unlike her, Belan’s eyes glowed naturally and almost all of her people could access the zero point to some degree. Belan called it “Elsewhere” but the principle was the same. Having never seen another of Belan’s people, she always wondered if they all looked so ethereal. It was like talking to an elf sometimes. An elf made of dark brown wood.
“I’m sorry. Just remembering.”
“Khayyin brought you here?”
“If he was then as he was when I knew him, he took you immediately to Oldest. Always with theatre, that one. Everything he does is a performance.” She smirked, and it was such a human expression that it took Elizabth back to see it. “Oh, he thinks he is so straightforward, but he plays a role he invented for himself. Make no mistake. His grief is real, but his manner is feigned.”
“If his grief is real …” Floating together a few hundred feet off of the ground, the two women presented contrasts. Elizabeth’s frame was taut, muscle over bone with pale skin, while Belan was lean and languid in manner and dark as rich soil. Elizabeth’s jagged stripes of red chain lashed across her naked skin while Belan’s graceful waves of blue formed arches and curves. Belan flew in a gentle blue aura while Elizabeth’s crackling red caused the air to shimmer around her in heat distortion. “I don’t follow. He seems genuine enough to me.” « Read the rest of this entry »
November 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
If you have not killed a world, it is difficult to understand.
He drifted in the void a few hundred thousand kilometers away from the planet and watched its methane ocean burn. Watched its atmosphere glow with the heat. The ‘holes’ he’d opened between the molten iron core and the basins that held the methane oceans were now closed. They weren’t necessary any longer: the jets of molten iron tunneling through otherspace, passing through dimensions to ignite the planet, had created the chain reaction and even now were seething columns of superheated slag floating to the surface. Quakes from the loss of stability, of matter below the surface sent surges of burning liquid in waves that drowned and burned the lattice cities of the metal spiders.
He forced himself to watch it all. To watch them, uncounted multitudes of them, burn. Their cities, the masses of them drifting in what to them was a birthing matrix, a liquid womb from which their species was born. The planet was a mother to their kind, and it was dying at his hands. So were they. They had other worlds, older worlds, younger worlds. There would still be Taklarsaza, not metal spiders, in the universe after this day. But there would be many, many dead ones on this world.
He was a killer on a scale few could possibly understand. He had never killed anything a few scant days ago, and now he was genocide’s handmaiden. So he made himself watch. He opened his senses to the electromagnetic spectrum, and he made himself hear their shrieking pulsations, flares of static, ululations of x-rays.
It took a very long time.
He did not leave until it was done. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 10, 2011 § 1 Comment
She lay sleepless in darkness and watched the fire crawl along her naked body, remembering.
She had a hard time keeping track of years, considering she had never been back. She knew it had been many, but how many? Twenty? When aging slowed, and life became mission after mission, did it even matter how long? Every time she closed her eyes, she was back in dead Edgersall and they were coming through the door. She lay on her front and applied tension to her shoulders, feeling the pain where her neck pulled against the taut muscle of her upper back, and closed her eyes. She wasn’t going to sleep.
She didn’t really get hungry anymore. She just felt sick when she tried to live too long on energy pulled from the zero point instead of eating. She could go days without food, without sleep, longer if hunting. She wished she was hunting now, instead of laying in a dark room trying to force herself to sleep while memories spun around inside her head.
The room itself was sparse, made of white material most likely spun out of a zathrak’s crystal glands. She hated to admit it, but the zathrak still creeped her out. Too many limbs, with two huge carapace-like structures on either side of their bodies. It wasn’t their fault they looked like her nightmares. She was supposed to be better than that.
She opened her eyes, and knew they were glowing like banked embers. She forced herself to breathe, to calm her pulse, to let the fire recede. She knew the voice.
“Belan.” Her neck craned up to look at the woman she shared a room with. “Back from wherever it is?” « Read the rest of this entry »
November 5, 2011 § 1 Comment
It was simple. She held out her hand, and he took it. One of the burning trails on his skin slithered down onto her, and as it wrapped itself around her wrist it left him. With it came pain, as the skin on her arm registered the intense, fluid heat and for a moment began to burn.
Then she knew how to not burn, as thoughts, memories, lives upon lives showed themselves to her. She did not live them. they merely clawed their way into her and were there in her mind. She didn’t even scream, just shuddered as the shape on her arm melted and resolved from a tendril into a chain. Many chains, thick red and black shapes, lashing around her limbs. She could feel raw heat climbing down the skin of her back and could hear hundreds of voices explaining that the path of flame was a metaphor. A means to an end. A way of using force, of approaching the cosmos. She didn’t care. In that moment only the body on the ground staring up with dead eyes held any reality for her.
A black stone body pushed itself up through the ground, dust and grit clinging to the spinal lobe in the center of its elongated disc body. She imagined the chains on her arms lashing out, and that’s exactly what they did, crashing down on its body and cutting it in molten halves. Her teeth were bared, her swollen lower lip bleeding and staining her teeth. She’d bitten it. Her hair whirled around her head in the updraft from her own body, and she knew she was covered in fire. She was fire. She hated, and the hate was a bright burning up and down her spine.
More of them were coming out of the hole that had been tunneled out of the ground near her feet. She could vaguely feel something from the grey man who had touched her hand, but she wasn’t focused on him. He could do whatever he was going to do. She was going to burn.
And so were they. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
He had a name, but he had not used it nor heard it used in so long that he didn’t casually remember it. It would have taken an effort, and he didn’t expend it. The Blue One had called him The Orphan, back when he’d been pledged to learn the Path of Water. He had not learned it. He’d meant to, but while he had the aptitude, he did not have the desire.
He pivoted his body in a form he’d learned long ago, when he’d first traveled to Biv. Snaking ropes of fire rippled off of his skin, slashing out at the terribly silent blackness. They did not reflect the lights aimed down at them so much as they ate light so thoroughly that you could tell where they were by how much darker it was. Looking at them caused his eyes to water and twitch. Horrible static emitted from the mass of them, a thousand scraping nails down shale. If they thought at all he couldn’t hear it.
He made a fist. Above him, a fist of pure seething red-orange plasma appeared and crashed down into the mass of them. Even as their figures tumbled and melted from it, more came up. It was pointless. He backed away, contemplating his next move. Flight was an option, if destruction couldn’t be successfully achieved and containment seemed improbable. He had no idea how many living things were on this planet. If it were heavily populated, it should have been like a beacon in the dark and the zero tunnel should have been easy to establish. Instead, he’d only found it by pure accident, following a trail of dead worlds that should have or could have supported life.
He could feel the radio emissions that suggested life, or at least intelligence, perhaps artificial. But the life itself was hidden. If he had not left the zero tunnel up he might have been trapped there. If these things had already killed off the world’s native life he had no reason to stay. Six tendrils of fire lashed out from his shoulders, striking in great sweeping arcs to clear tendrils composed entirely of the smaller black ovals. Scattering them in molten stone spraying backward, glittering trails of red hot rock and severed oval bodies.
He prepared himself to ascend when he felt coherent thoughts behind him. Someone was alive. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 3, 2011 § 1 Comment
She crouched, kneeled, crawled, and even ran through the empty streets of Edgersall. Jaime Dufresne’s black 1940 Mercury was laying on its side, dented, sheet metal rent open. The broken windshield and street near the car were covered in blood, but there were no bodies. Just a wet scrape that trailed off into the dark between flickering lamps. Those that still worked.
Elizabeth clutched Dave’s shotgun. She’d used up all the deer slugs, but it still could serve as a club if any of the black bug things found her. They seemed to be spreading out, from the old road that led downhill to the mine in an ever increasing circle of screaming and the sounds she couldn’t make herself think about. Gunfire, dull thuds, loud banging sounds, all of them unwelcome to her in the tight, painful rictus cut across her face. She could only think about her mother, who had been at the mine working late when the world decided to show another side.
Once Elizabeth had found a dead dog on the side of the road leading out of town. Before that day, that road had always seemed magical to her, the way out of the tiny, even cramped town she’d grown up in. She had been too young to understand why a dog would lie like that. Too young to understand someone had run it down, too young to know that turning the dog over would reveal decay, slimy fur, and bugs eating away at its face. It was no longer a dog, it was just food for things that dug and squirmed their way through it, tunneling. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 2, 2011 § 2 Comments
Everywhere was fire and screaming. Elizabeth huddled in the dark, clutching the old shotgun her stepfather had used for hunting and felt the dirt under her cheek. Laying on her side she could hear the screaming. It would stop in once place, somwhere out there in the dark, and then start somewhere else.
The black bugs that were not bugs, at least not bugs like she had ever seen, had chittered their way into the trailer and killed Dave. She had not loved Dave, really, but he’d tried awfully hard to deal fairly with her and it wasn’t impossible that in another year or two she might have accepted him. Her mother Sioban was down to the mine. Dave had been making dinner for the two of them, grilled cheese because it was all he knew how to make. She didn’t mind, exactly, but he wasn’t her father and the man hadn’t been dead long enough for her to have forgotten him. At least not enough to forgive Dave, or her mother for bringing him into their lives.
The door had simply curved and then burst right off the hinges, and they came in. Bugs, as big as a dog with a huge spine running down the middle of their segments, black as anthracite. Huge eyes like carved lumps of quartz, and terribly silent. Four of them poured into the trailer. Dave had bellowed something to her, and she ran while he bashed at the closest one with the cast iron skillet. The sandwich had twirled end over end, burned on one side.
She didn’t remember how she got out of the trailer, or where she’d found the twelve gauge in the rear bedroom. It was warm, clutched up to her chest. In the dark, she hid under old man Eastlin’s porch and watched fires flicker into the sky, heard gunfire. She remembered firing the shotgun as suddenly as the act itself, remembered coming out of the bedroom shrieking, pulling the trigger and pumping over and over and over again. « Read the rest of this entry »