MENU

Books & Writing
Category

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:04

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

March 24, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry.  

There were moments, so many small moments, where Endrall missed Veskur.

He didn’t understand why the woman just couldn’t keep her mouth shut and accept whatever treatment he chose to give her. Didn’t she understand that her every moment with him was a gift that no one else anywhere in Midgard could give her? He stood outside her keep one night, scared of knocking on the door, terrified of being turned away. Finally, he screamed at the woman he had abandoned.

I don’t think you’re a rapist!” he cried, again and again. He saw Veskur appear on the battlements and so he pressed on. “I never thought you were a rapist and I already apologized but you’re never going to accept that apology, are you? You want me to crawl. You want to make me small. What do you want me to do? Beg to be in your life? Everything you have was given to you, I was given to you!”

The silhouette of her vanished and was gone. No matter what he said or how he called, she did not return. Her manservant came out eventually and told him to leave. He felt like stabbing the man, ending his life and entering the place that had felt like home for so long, but in the end, he shouldered his coat and walked away. The healers of House Suwilo had never tried to be fighters and he didn’t even have a levl, only a dryw. The other man would have torn him apart.

Dejected, Endrall went home. In his talks with everyone else, he took to referring to Veskur as the dryw, refusing to address her by any other name or title. His father merely looked at him and said nothing. His mocking smile and wise glances spoke volumes in and of themselves. Veskur had never had many friends or allies and Endrall was charming, the heir to House Sahr. It didn’t take much effort to poison the hearts of everyone else against her.

Soon, people that had never met or even seen the woman were speaking against her and Endrall found some comfort in that – but in the darkest hours of morning, when he was alone and he could not hear even the heartbeats of anyone else, he would hold the gaurn that she had made him and rock back and forth. Why had she rejected him? He couldn’t understand it. It was infuriating. How dare she? How dare she?

Sotaas had finally re-emerged from whichever hole he had gone to hide in. Endrall had sent him letters, not bothering to try and look for him or even enter the lands held by House Ygg. He had liked some of the people there and the things they did for him, sometimes comparing Sotaas to members of his House and telling the scout how he came up short.

There were things that Endrall had left with Sotaas and things that Sotaas had left with Endrall in turn. The wanderer of Ygg came to House Suwilo alone to collect what was his. Endrall tried to speak with him about Veskur and all that had happened, getting nothing more than half-hearted monosyllables in return to his witticisms and soothsaying. Sotaas said something about how he had done the bare politic minimum to contact him during his long absence and that he was well aware of this.

Don’t you know my efforts, no matter how slight, are equal to the greatest efforts of anyone else?”

Sotaas did not respond to this truth. It was probably too large a concept for his feeble and empty mind, Endrall thought. Glancing at the gaurn on his hand, however, Endrall said nothing more. For all that Sotaas was more feral than rational, the man still had access to the ethcinos and Endrall had never learned what it was, exactly, that Sotaas Ygg was capable of.

Veskur’s birthday came and Endrall knew better than most how often people forgot that day, knew how much the Good Lady tried to pretend that the lack of well-wishers didn’t bother her. He used Science to contact the woman, wishing her joy in the coming year. It didn’t surprise him when Veskur responded, her words not entirely hostile. They spoke a little longer but never in person – always through intermediaries or through the Sciences that the Lady had developed, refined, and perfected.

They spoke like that for some small time, Endrall taking the time to feel the Good Lady out and get a handle on her fractured psyche. She was still weak, still wounded, still nothing more than a pet. She mentioned how angry she was at how she had been treated but told Endrall again and again that she loved him and would do anything for him.

She was lying, of course.

His father was the only person that would ever love him.

Even knowing that, however, Endrall felt that there was still some use to be taken from the Lady Wyrd. He played along with her game, dismissing her complaints and ignoring the lies of her pain. He knew she wasn’t really real, wasn’t a real person. She was just a toy, a pet, something to be used – and when she remembered her place she made him feel better, sang his fears away and eased away his doubts. He would ride her and tease her again, he knew, and though he would be sated, he would never sate her and she would thank him for it. He was certain of it; certain he could make her see things the way he wanted her to.

When he proposed that they meet somewhere neutral she agreed to do so, the feel of her so very eager. He made the arrangements, picking a spot not too far afield from the seat of Suwilo influence. They had not seen one another in five full passings of the seasons.

Lady Veskur Wyrd was much as Endrall remembered her – unkempt hair and ruffled clothing, eyes maddened from far too little sleep and far too much energy. She stepped out of her carriage and ran a hand through her hair, walked into the inn that he had told her to go to, people that believed the lies he had told them looking at her with narrowed eyes. Veskur didn’t notice them, took a seat, ordered something to drink, sat and began to mull things over; Endrall watched over her for a time. He had arrived hours previously but he affected being late, going so far as to apologize for it before wrapping her in his arms.

He felt her stiffen and he smiled as he felt her resolve slowly vanish, the scent and presence of him overwhelming her pathetic need to stand apart. She told him she had brought him a gift once they had parted and showed her what had been wrought; an offering of power, a draught of the liquefied life-force of Midgard herself. Endrall eyed it and smiled, the two of them settling in to eat as she stumbled her way through a conversation. She was trying so very hard.

They talked at length about many things; why Figo had left her and what had happened to him since, about Endrall’s heated affair with Hekro. It secretly pleased him to know that Veskur had not been with anyone since he had left her to rot in the northern wastes, but that very leaving was an event that had stuck in her craw, a lack she felt the need to hold against him.

You left me,” Veskur said, holding one knee against her breast at the table, staring at him with eyes that held far too much to be real. “You were an absence in my life in every way. I couldn’t get a hold of you. You clearly didn’t want me anywhere near you. So why am I here now?”

This is why you can’t be trusted. I don’t owe you anything for this,” Endrall said, waving one hand in casual dismissal, taking the tone of an adult speaking with a difficult child. “I was angry with you. I hate you. I don’t trust you. It’s perfectly okay for me to not be in your life when I’m angry with you.”

You could have let me know.”

Endrall shrugged. They moved on to other topics.

Endrall told her about what he’d done with his time since escaping Jesam the First, how he had returned home to a hero’s welcome and how even his father had been there to greet him. Veskur listened with rapt affection, asking the occasional question as Endrall waxed about his accomplishments in the field of healing. Already he was beginning to eclipse the works of his father; his theories were bearing fruit in every field of medicine that House Suwilo practiced and many felt it was only a matter of time before his works dominated the studies of every noble in his House.

He asked Veskur what she thought of that but the woman was not gushing enough in her praise, so he interrupted her, speaking for her. He knew from long experience that anything that she had to say would just anger him – he told her this, looking into her eyes.

It’s not just what you have to say,” he told her. “It’s how you say it.”

She started whining about being spoken to in such a way, so he paid for his own food and left the inn, staring in the window as the woman sat there dumbly, staring at the gift that he had neglected to take and the emptiness that was where he had been. Eventually, she struggled to her feet, dropped some gold for her meal with the innkeeper and shuffled out after him.

You speak with too much flair,” Endrall told her. “What you say, what you feel, it isn’t that important and it certainly isn’t as deep as you make it sound.” She said nothing, merely following him as he walked away from the city and into the woods surrounding it.

She said nothing, merely following him as he walked away from the city and into the woods surrounding it.

See, here’s the thing with you, Veskur. You make it sound like you’re so much more than you are by speaking in terms of poetry and philosophy, but we both know you’re little more than an empty shell. You whine and moan about being so tired, so lonely. You talk about how Figo abandoned you but we both know you never cared about Figo; you just liked having him around to boost your own ego. If you had cared about him, well, you never would have done what you did.

But you did do what you did. And, no, I don’t have to apologize for what I said then. I don’t think you’re a rapist and I never said that but I do think that you’re a monster. You’re incapable of even the most basic kindness without expecting something in return, you like putting people in your debt. It’s why I don’t trust you, why we’re not friends, but it is simply who and what you are. You should be hated for it, but you know what? I love you anyway. I love you because I’m kind, because I’m great, because I’m the one of us that’s worthy.

I don’t trust you, Veskur. You talk about yourself too much, the things you feel and the things you think, and you talk about them as if either of them matter. Yes, you can hold me. Do so now. I’ll tell you everything important, share with you all my deepest secrets. I’ll rely on you, take comfort in you, be supported by you, but you must remember that you are not worthy of the trust that I have chosen to give you. We are not friends. You understand this? We are not friends.

I read your missives and they were all poetry, all asking which of us had it worse. It’s you that does, a thousand times you, and do you know why? Because, in the end, I have my father’s love. I have Figo and Hekro and I’ve had Sotaas in ways you never will. I touched their hearts in ways that you’re not capable of. And look at you, all alone, rotting away in the wastes that your parents gave you.

My father loves me, supports me, but he never gave me my own keep. He never really gave me very much beyond love and support. So, you see, I’m better than you. I’ve built everything I am while you just accept everything that comes your way. You suffer the abuses that you do because you think you deserve it and you are absolutely correct in that thought.

And you love me, right? You love me. Say it. Say it. Say it.”

I love you.”

Of course you do.”

He held her, drew her into his arms, and he knew in that moment that everything would be alright for the people that mattered.

 

More coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

Read article

God of Comics: X-O Manowar #1

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

X-O Manowar #1

We spent four years calling X-O Manowar the best of all comics. We then went into detail explaining why we said this, and you can read that explanation by clicking here. Everything we said still rings true and Valiant is about to take Aric of Dacia into a whole new storyline.

For those that don’t know, Aric of Dacia was a land-locked proto-Viking at war with Rome who mistook some aliens for Romans and attacked him. He got abducted, led a revolt, was chosen by their God, teleported back to earth more than a thousand years later, fought Italy until Italy surrendered, went back to free his people, and then brought his people home.

I’m brushing over the finer details for the sake of not repeating myself, but Aric saved the world, an alien civilization, and all sentient life in the cosmos. He learned and fought and began to desire only peace, and we learn that he found what he wanted at the beginning of this comic.

He’s given up the armor, settled on an alien world, and is tilling the land. All he wants is to tend his crops and live with his mate, an alien woman he’s met on this new and primitive world. He wants to be left alone, free from the war and violence that defined his every waking breath. Even the god-armor that gave him power lies dormant and Aric is finally at peace.

So, of course, some people are going to cross him and spoil everything.

Here’s the set-up: an alien army comes recruiting and decides to drag Aric to the front lines to be used as canon-fodder, but this is motherfucking Aric of Dacia, and he will win this battle so that he can go home, but the aliens leading this army won’t let him leave, won’t hold up their end, and are going to force him to fight. They have no idea who they’re dealing with or what they’ve awoken, because Aric of Dacia is not the sort of person you want to push around.

Matt Kindt is taking over writing duties from Robert Venditti, and if there’s anyone that can bear the weight of Venditti’s crown it’s got to be Kindt. He’s the force behind the utter brilliance that is divinity, also from Valiant, and if he brings the same sense of pathos and epic to this title that he brought to that one, then we’re in for one hell of a ride.

Tomas Giorello is handling the art, and you might know him from his work on various Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian comics, which might be the single greatest resume possible to work on X-O Manowar.

Seriously, get in now. If this run ends up being even a tenth as good as the original it will still be mind-blowingly excellent.

Read article

God of Comics: WWE #3

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

WWE #3 (Boom Studios)

Normally, I talk about the writers when I discuss comics. I love writing, am drawn to it with a certain degree of madness, and I’ve got some ideas for a comic I’ve been batting around for a while but I need an artist and it’s the artist here that I want to talk about: Dan Mora.

Dan Mora did the art for a Lovecraftian horror comic called Hexed, a spinoff from the incredible Fall of Cthulhu comic that was written by Michael Alan Nelson and also published by Boom. He also does the art for Klaus, a series that basically casts Santa Clause as Conan the Barbarian. It’s freaking brilliant and you should go and read all the things and take the time to study the gorgeous art.

Here’s the thing: that is Dan Mora’s entire body of work. He has done nothing else and this means that he is criminally under-recognized. The work he does is amazing and more people need to be aware of how amazing it is, so, kudos to you, Mr. Mora. You rock.

Case in point: the covers for this comic.

This isn’t to take away anything from the inside, either: Serg Acuña and Doug Garbank do a stellar job of capturing the insanity that is the world of professional wrestling and translate it to an entirely different medium, one that it has quite a lot in common with.

A lot of people liken professional wrestling to soap operas, but that’s not quite it. Professional wrestling is a pre-determined (not fake!) artform in which performers who are part-actor and part stunt-people pretend that they are in a wrestling show. It’s a live action comic that features larger-than-life good guys and bad guys in costume who engage in battle for a variety of complex reasons, but no fight can ever end in death and the show must go on.

Want an example of the insanity that is unique to wrestling? Recently, a swamp-dwelling cult leader had his cult infiltrated by a snake-obsessed sociopath. The sociopath ruined the cult to get to the source of the cult leader’s power, literally burning his house down to rob him of the powers granted him by the sister of Satan himself, only for the cult leader to go and baptized himself in her ashes. The two of them are one of the headlining battles at Wrestlemania this year.

And speaking of Wrestlemania, one of the big stories going into the marquee event – wrestling’s version of the SuperBowl – features Seth Rollins taking on Hunter Hearst Helmsley. You can learn more about the latter by clicking here, but Seth Rollins is something else again and this comic is about him.

Seth came in with a trio called the Shield, and they spent a year and a half dominating the whole roster before Seth betrayed his companions, selling out to his enemy to eventually become the WWE Champion. He’s an uber-talented performer who, because of his prior relationship with HHH, was treated badly by him. It was interesting, because Seth was a bad guy who was treated like a good guy by the bad guys in charge, and had good guy reactions while still being hated but appreciated by the crowd.

Did you get all that?

A little more than the grunting you thought wrestling was?

This comic goes into even more detail, giving background and expanding upon the events that led to the betrayal of the Shield, Seth’s rise to power and feud with his two blood brothers from that group, his difficult relationship with HHH, and the tragedy of a real-life injury that put him out of action for more than a year and stripped him of the heavyweight title, forcing him to come back and fight to regain the championship he never lost.

Dennis Hopeless – the writer on this – totally gets the pathos, pomp, and circumstance that goes into wrestling, and it makes this comic a hell of a lot of fun to read. Boom is onto something with this comic, and with Wrestlemania just around the corner, you might want to give this a look.

Read article

God of Comics: The Unworthy Thor #5

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

The Unworthy Thor #5 (Marvel Comics)

While Marvel continues to copy DC Comic’s plan of fail (controversy equals cash! Everything needs to be dark and gritty! Let’s reboot the universe! Captain America is a Nazi! Magento is a Nazi! Nick Spencer is a Nazi! Wait a minute…), some of their books have managed to avoid the terrible and quietly do incredible things. Few have managed to do the incredible as well or as long as Jason Aaron’s entire run on the mythic side of Marvel Comics.

Jason’s been working on a proper set of myths, building and expanding the visions set forth by luminaries like Walt Simonson and others. He’s turned a house into a mansion, and the one event Marvel let him plan (Original Sin) gave us Heven, a background for Angela, new Nick Fury, and the new Thor. It created new stories that made sense in the context of the world and added new facets to the heroes involved, as opposed to some other more recent events (Captain Marvel screwed over all her friends because she doesn’t like Phillip K. Dick!)

Part of the consequences of Original Sin led to Thor Odinson losing his hammer. Thor, now simply the Odinson, is no longer considered Worthy. We don’t know what caused this, but he went out and tried to fight without the hammer and lost his arm in the process. His arm has since been replaced, and after giving the new Thor his blessing, went off to look for a replacement Mjolnir.

So, funny story: remember the Ultimate Universe?  It was a mostly successful attempt to place the Marvel superheroes in a more realistic setting, modernizing and condensing some classic Marvel comics. The Ultimates, their Avengers analog, was basically the template for the Avengers movie. It was good times. The Ultimate line also has Jonathan Hickman at his very best, and as critical as I am of him, his Fantastic Four is amazing.

Anyway, their version of Thor was never considered unworthy, so that Mjolnir never had a curse put on it. Anyone with the strength to do so can pick that thing up and it looks super weird and awkward, but someone as strong as Odinson isn’t going to sweat those details. There is a hammer, he wants it, and he’s on the verge of getting it.

Jason Aaron simply gets the Odinson in a way no one else does. He’s been rocking at this for years, instilling all the mythic Marvel comics with pathos and humanity. They are some of the very best that Marvel has to offer on an epic scale, what with Doctor Strange and the Mighty Thor and the Unworthy Thor, and if you’re not reading this and want to see what sort of magic Marvel is capable of you should pick this up.

All those comics feature some of the best artists that Marvel can get their hands on, and the Unworthy Thor is no exception; Olivier Coipel is doing some amazing things with this book, so if you’re in this for the pretty you will not be disappointed. Check it out.

Read article

God of Comics: Iron Fist #1

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

Iron Fist #1 (Marvel Comics)

uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh.

So, the Netflix series happened. I’m about halfway through it not, and it’s… there, I guess? The better side of okay, maybe? There’s just a lot of stuff that they touch on that doesn’t seem to pay off with the main story: everything they’re doing with the Hand is great, but the main story is just kind of there. Nothing happens. There’s chances to talk about corporate greed in more than just a superficial way.

Daredevil was about legal and political corruption. Jessica Jones was about rape culture and PTSD. Luke Cage was about institutionalized racism and crime. Iron Fist is about… what, exactly? American Exceptionalism?

It’s frustrating. The show introduces the concept of heaven and time-displaced cities, hints at talking about corporate greed and the burgeoning class war, touches on colonialism and stereotypes, and even brushes in some talk about PTSD in a different way than Jessica Jones does. There’s mention of reality and expectation and then none on it is followed up upon.

Danny is joyless, laughless, exhibiting a sort of douche-bro cool that comes from a cishet white rich high schooler who went backpacking for the summer and just has to tell you about it. He doesn’t struggle. There’s no danger of him starving or dying of cold or being harrassed when he’s poor. And he comes across as a rude jackass Harry Stu, what with his moralizing without humor, lack of self-awareness, and walking into someone else’s dojo and trying to take over.

The whole thing is irritating.

And yet, I still have high hopes for this series.

Writer Ed Brisson has a proven track record and digging into the guts of a character’s themes, especially characters like this. Look at the work he did on Sheltered or the Violent, or his other big Marvel comic, Bullseye. He gets it, the view from the trenches, the utter destruction that an entire generation is enduring, and what are superheroes if not a means of fighting back against the corruption that is killing us all?

The set-up sounds like Ed has that very concept in mind: to start, K’un Lun is in ruins. Heaven is ruined. Because of this, the flow of chi – the life force of everything on the planet, the pure life energy that gives Danny his powers – is flickering away into nothing. Danny Rand is pushing himself to the breaking point trying to find some means of fighting the decay of his immortal power but the implications are terrifying.

If the life-force of the planet is fading, then so is the life of the planet. Danny might be the only person with the training to recognize the damage being done, but as his strength entropies he might not be in a position to do anything about it – not physically, anyway. Not through brute force. He might need to turn to a battlezone he’s unfamiliar with, the war that is politics, to save us all.

No idea if that’s where this is going, but it feels like a very Ed Brisson thing to do and I kinda wanna see that story. Social martial arts? If someone doesn’t write that I’m going to. Mike Perkins is handling art, and you might remember him from the awesome Ed Brubaker run on Captain America that Marvel and Nick Spencer betrayed when they turned Captain America in a Nazi.

Anyways, this sounds like a lot of fun. Check it out.

Read article

God of Comics: Bloodshot Reborn #1

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

March 22, 2017

Bloodshot: Reborn #0 (Valiant Entertainment)

Quietly, subtlely, Jeff Lemire has been writing an opus to the different flavors action stories come in. Taken as a whole, Bloodshot has been a masterwork – the sort of nuanced and detailed storytelling that you wouldn’t expect from something that started as a pure action story, but both the comic and the character the comic is about have evolved over the past four or five years through the application of consequence, a thing that Valiant Comics excels at.

The story began with a super soldier named Ray being deployed against enemies of the United States. Ray was an ordinary looking person who, when activated, turned into a snow white-skinned ghoul with solid red eyes and a red circle on his chest. He was super strong and fast, able to regenerate from all kinds of damage, and could hack into and take-over any machines in his range.

He was also part of a conspiracy, his family and memories a lie concocted to keep him loyal. The powers behind the politicians of the world – the bankers and corporations that profit off of human suffering – were worried about a man named Toyo Harada. Harada combines the best parts of Professor X and Magneto, only he started a corporation himself and was working against profit and capitalism, subverting the system from the inside. He was also, personally speaking, on par with gods so far as power: a telekinetic and telepath who can affect things on a microscopic level. Bloodshot was created to kill Harada, but in the process of his creation he ended up with a soul.

Since then he’s gained power, lost power, had allies and watched them die, been the subject of a manhunt, fought himself, discovered the full weight and history of the conspiracy that created him, and fought against the powers that be to free all humanity from the shackles of greed and avarice. He’s also made a massive mess in the process. This is not a comic for the faint of heart, but those of you that want some thought packed in with your ultraviolence really should be reading this title.

Also, Sony is planning a Bloodshot live-action film and Valiant did a web series where Bloodshot was played by Jason David Frank (the Green Power Ranger), so Bloodshot has that going for it. No idea if Frank will reprise the role for the movie, but Dave Wilson is directing. Wilson did promotional videos for some small projects like Halo and Titanfall 2 and that awesome mini-movie that announced a new Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game. He’s also the partner of Tim Miller, who you might remember having directed a little film called Deadpool.

With Sony having finally clued in that making good movies that happen to have comic book characters in them rather than making comic book movies is why Marvel is doing so well (as evidenced by Logan and Deadpool), we have high hopes for this eventual release. If you’re looking for the early scoop on something that can and should be awesome, get into the comics now.

It’s the perfect moment. Jeff is starting the next part of his epic saga here, so this? This is the moment that you’re going to want to jump on board. Renato Guedes, on art duties, will shock you with how pretty his art is. Do not miss this.

Read article

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:03

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

March 17, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry. 

Sotaas watched as it all unfolded. There was nothing that could be hidden from him, not a moment that passed that he was unaware of. Oh, the warlords of the Coeecians thought they were secretive when they met in their eyries or caves or tents, but there was always wildlife around them and anywhere life prevailed he could see. Even in those places where there was no life he could go, slipping between their moments of awareness.

No place was safe from him. There was no where to which he was unattached, no distance he could not cross with a thought. All space was a single space to him, though as he become more aware of that it was harder for him to focus on a single location. There were times he felt like letting himself unravel, sinking into every measurement of length and width and depth until there was nothing left of him. Some sense of things always held him back, however.

Some sense of things. He wondered if he was going mad.

His left hand ached, sometimes, but still he refused to take the gaurn off. He had left the civilized world to calm himself and sort through his feelings for treacherous Veskur and unfaithful Endrall, but his efforts in that area had been underwhelming at best. A terrible anger grew in his heart, a rage and a hatred that no one would be able to withstand should he ever let it free.

Sotaas’ reasons for remaining in the wilds were, he would have thought, obvious.

Members of his House sometimes came looking for him. They were the best trackers and scouts in all Midgard, a House that prided itself on such activities. He stood in the midst, sometimes, and listened to their words, cobbling together a picture of what was happening among the Vanir as they made war on the Coeecians.

It all seemed so trivial out here and in the wilds. The idea that thousands and thousands of people were dying in every battle over some imaginary border, over which way of living was right. Couldn’t the Coeecians see how wrong they were? Were their thought processes too flawed to understand the superiority they consistently threw themselves against? It baffled Sotaas, left him thinking that there was some part of their physiology that was wrong. No matter how many of them he dissected, however, he was unable to discover what that mistake was.

So he wandered along the borderlands, unseen by all – his nation, his House, his Njord and Freyr and Freya. No one could find him due to his mastery of the ethcinos and he vowed that he would never know a personal tie again, never be bound by thought and heart to anyone that he could love. There would be no more friends who betrayed him, Njords that asked him to do unsavory things, lovers who soothed with words while stabbing into his guts with a smile.

He moved east and further east, past the Darroken lands and into the Middle Kingdom of a people called the Hsien, then further east still to a nation of shattered islands. It was here that the sun was born every day and here where he set down to watch light vanquish darkness every last mourning. There was something soothing about the birth of light, a vision taken in absolute solitude as the days slithered past and bled together.

“Sotaas?”

The voice startled him. The question in it wasn’t one of presence; the speaker knew he was there but wasn’t certain of his exact location. Sotaas turned and stared from a place of hiding, wondering if this woman – the inventor of the Science that kept him hidden – could see through that very Science. He did not think so, but had learned long ago that it was never wise to believe that a Lady like Veskur Wyrd had any limitations at all.

“I know you’re here.”

Sotaas circled her, his consciousness wandering through the world around her. Veskur was sitting down in a natural break in the woods they were in, her bum resting on the grass, her eyes downcast. She was trembling, frightened, though of what exactly Sotaas was not certain. He drew a dryw as he circled, considered jabbing it through the skull of his old friend as he stalked around her prone form. The Lady had to know what was happening but she offered no defense, did not even raise arms or head.

“I came to a-apologize.”

Sotaas stopped. He was not certain if he had ever heard that note of quiet desperation in Veskur’s voice – he had kept tabs on Endrall and Veskur only enough to know that there had been some sort of falling out between them. Endrall, he knew, had half-heartedly tried to contact him for a while, but even the ghost of attention that Sotaas paid the darling of House Suwilo allowed him knowledge of his old lover’s thoughts; when Endrall spoke of Veskur it was in nothing but insults. He had even taken Veskur’s name away, referring to her as the dryw.

“There’s a peace offering. Will you drink with me?”

Slow, gentle, Veskur shrugged a pack off her shoulders and opened it, producing a bottle of fine wine and two glasses. She possessed none of her usual arrogance right now, Sotaas saw, held none of the manic confidence that had always been her air and armor.

“Please? I’m sorry, Sotaas, I’m sorry for everything. I don’t, I didn’t…”

Sotaas was not certain when he took Veskur in her arms. They held one another for a time, grasping at one another, holding one another steady in the face of their separation. They discussed everything, leaving no truth unlit no matter the ugliness of it. They spoke for days, the sun rising and sleeping over them as they banished all the things that stood between them.

“I can forgive you,” Sotaas said, finally. “I can forgive you because you understand that you were wrong and you came out here to find me. Do not expect me to forgive him.”

“I wouldn’t ask that.”

“Did you know he asked me not to take a lover after he left?” Sotaas felt bile rise in his throat. “He told me it would break him to see me with someone else. And then, not a moon after his absence, he was lying with an echo of his mother.”

“Hekro.”

“If that is her name.” Sotaas scowled, clenched and unclenched his hands. “What has been happening in Midgard?”

“Much. Where would you like me to begin?”

“Politics and succession. I would like to know what sort of jungle I’m getting into now that I am rejoining the rest of the Vanir.”

Veskur smiled and nodded, telling Sotaas everything she knew.

Click here to read the next chapter. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

Read article

427

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-03-02

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

December 28, 2015

Every week, we’re going to post some new fiction for you to devour and read, with original art as a header, and then a collected version for purchase from our store when the book is complete. Questions? Comments? The writers are right here, and they’ll respond as they’re able. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:03:02 –

“Are you doing okay?” Risue asked, looking at the ragged woman that stood beside him.

“I’m fine,” Veskur whispered. “Fine.”

Risue was polite enough to say nothing.

He knew all about Veskur and Endrall’s falling out. He had heard the story from both sides, but tended to favor Endrall; he was prettier, better spoken, and more fun to be around. Veskur was, at best, a lunatic that meant well. An idiot savant – someone to be used, perhaps liked or even appreciated, but never fully trusted; the insanity that threatened to overtake her was so much more promise than threat.

“Did I tell you I’ve been talking with Figo?” Veskur asked for what felt like the ninth time. “I was tired and contacted him on a whim nine days ago. We’ve been in pretty much constant contact since then, talking about all kinds of things. Silly things. Light things.”

That degree of happiness was something that Risue was not used to hearing in this woman’s voice and he was not certain what to make of it, or of her.

She’d shown him some of those missives, hastily scrawled on both their parts, paper passed back and forth through scientific means long since established. He wondered how the Ethcinos she was blathering on about would effect such tried and true sciences, but he bit his tongue and read the single sentence responses. There was more wit than he’d expected from with party, even if he did not know the particulars of what they were discussing, but Risue had met Figo enough times to know that if he didn’t want this conversation then he would not be having it.

If the circumstances surrounding this conversation had been reversed, however, Risue was not so certain that Veskur would have had the presence or wherewithal to entertain no as an answer.

The Coeecians had stepped up their aggression in recent months, Jesam the First hammering his Vanir betters with a series of hit and run assaults that had forced the nobility back and back and back again. None of the other leaders had been able to pick out a pattern to the onslaught, but he had been acting as a go between for Hekro and Veskur. Those two had taken to drawing the strikes out on a map, weighing the days and patterns and distances that lay between one attack and the next. The two of them theorized that there was a pattern, just one they could not see.

Risue stared, his eyes going wide.

“His pattern is based on a Coeecian folk song,” Risue said.

“Really?” Veskur did not look convinced. “How can you tell?”

Risue walked around the table they had drawn the map upon, humming a tune, hitting the table with an amhr in time with the music. Veskur’s eyes went wide.

“Brilliant. Utterly brilliant.”

Risue smiled, shrugged, and did not mention that she had been the one to introduce that tune to him. She was forgetting more and more these days. He wondered if there was anyone still around her enough to notice it.

Turning back to the map of Midgard and its tributaries, the two nobles plotted out where they thought the next attack would come. It didn’t take them long to figure out – a forested area in the south, flatland with a keep towards the north and east. Risue made certain to send a copy to Hekro, the two of them waiting to see what the Golden Champion with a question.

“Do you know who’s posted there?” Risue had written.

“Figo Jera,” Hekro wrote back.

“I know this,” Veskur said, the excitement in her more infectious than any virus. “I knew I knew this, I knew. He told me this. Figo did. I know how many troops he has, their movements, their arms, when they watch, who goes on patrol, all of it.”

“That’s a lot of information.”

“I know.” Veskur licked her lips.

“We could send a message to Figo, warning him.”

“Or we could go ourselves.”

Veskur looked at him, her eyes burning with an intense mania.

“He did give me all that information, like an invitation,” Veskur pleaded. “This is just an excuse to go there. Besides, if we’re right and Jesam the First does attack, well, we can see that attack firsthand. We could figure out how to counter his raids, take back the parts of Midgard that have been lost.”

It was the idea of seeing the Coeecians’ new formations that got Risue to agree.

They took Risue’s carriage – House Raido had the best transportation technologies in all of Midgard, no disputing that. They rode in comfort, talking over what they had discovered, double-checking the evidence that supported what they now knew.

No one challenged their passage and there was no sign of the horror that they thought was coming so very quickly to this place. Risue was recognized by some of the troops, those soldiers that had fought with him back when he had not needed a cane to walk. He was greeted with smiles and clasped wrists, a greeting of one soldier to another. Most recognized Wyrd, as well, but there were fewer greetings for her. She was known for her strangeness, for her power and her madness, and these three things would always set her apart.

Figo was giving a speech when they arrived, rallying the troops. They found him easily enough. He was a young commander who stood tall and proud, a power and a presence that deserved love, admiration, and respect. On his left hand was a glove similar to the one that Endrall and Veskur both wore, a tool that Risue knew had something to do with Veskur’s invented and advanced Sciences but a tool that he did not yet possess. There was talk of someone having figured out how the gaurn worked and how to make them, but those that had heard those whispers knew better than to repeat them around the Good Lady Wyrd.

03-00-03-02

Figo was in mid-sentence when he noticed Veskur. He paused ever so briefly; staring, he shook his head quickly and resumed his speech as though nothing had happened. Risue caught the moment because he was good at reading people, as good as any of the more politically minded nobles that frequented the courts and not the killing fields. He turned to the woman beside him, wondering if she had noticed the response and saw instantly that she had.

“I shouldn’t have come here,” she whispered.

Then she turned and left.

Risue went to Figo and gave him the warning they had come to give, but he could tell that the other man was not really listening, that he was badly shaken by the appearance of his former lover. He asked a few polite questions and then excused himself, clearly not wanting to be around anyone at that moment, and Risue was kind enough to let the young commander retreat. There was terror in his eyes where there had been none before, a resignation that was terrifying in scope.

He searched for the woman he had come with but she had vanished. No one had seen her and no one seemed to have any idea as to where she might have gone. Risue gave up after some time; Veskur spent much of her time walking in the wild places and was almost as good as an Elhaz at not being found when she did not want to be. He returned instead to the troop formations, leaning heavily on his cane, speaking with the soldiers as they lazed about.

Not one of them believed that the Coeecians were coming. Not one of them was willing to listen to what he had to say to the contrary. Irritated by this lack of respect, Risue retreated to a high point and paused to watch and wait – and when the attack came he was in the perfect position to see everything that happened under the mad leadership of Jesam the First.

It was only his quick thinking and Figo’s leadership that saved the Vanir from being overrun completely.

***

Click here to read the next entry. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

Read article

344

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-03-01

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

December 18, 2015

Every week, we’re going to post some new fiction for you to devour and read, with original art as a header, and then a collected version for purchase from our store when the book is complete. Questions? Comments? The writers are right here, and they’ll respond as they’re able. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:03:01 –

Thea had yelled and yelled at her, calling her a coward, a hypocrite, a liar. He had belittled everything she was while telling her again and again that they were meant to be together and that it was only with him inside her that she would ever be complete, that she would ever be whole, that she would ever be at peace. Veskur had sat with her head bowed and listened, offering no defense.

She had told Thea everything, hoping for some moment of peace and getting none. The boy had traveled across the breadth of Midgard to come and see her and she had ended up telling him what had happened with Endrall. This was not something she had wanted to do, but Thea was not and never had been an idiot – he was able to read her moods, knew that something was wrong and had wanted to know what it was.

“Are you sure?” Veskur had asked him. “You’re not going to like it.”

“You can tell me anything.”

So Veskur had told him everything and now Thea was hurt and upset and lashing out, his wit sharp as any dryw. He ripped her apart with words, flaying her mind, unable to see anything past his own desires. Veskur accepted this. She deserved it. She deserved all the crosses and nails and agonies that Midgard could offer her for the crimes she had committed, the things she had discovered, the sins that were so very uniquely hers. All ten thousand swords of humanity’s hatred could be sheathed in her and then, perhaps, she would begin to pay the penance for all that she was.

Dropping everything to go get Endrall had been a big part of the problem. Thea had screamed and cried and hit her, told her that she was abandoning him for a man that did not care about her, had never cared about her, and was incapable of caring about her. Veskur had considered all that was said and finally decided that whether what Endrall felt was truth or lie did not matter; what mattered was what she herself felt, and she knew above all other things that the passion she felt for Endrall Sahr was truth.

She had called upon the Ethcinos and created storm and steed, riding out to save the man that had come so very close to destroying her. It had hurt to see him so badly wounded and she mended him on the way back to Midgard, making sure that he was safe at home with his father before retreating back to her keep. Thea was waiting to berate her, injured and insulted that she had once again left him behind to deal with what crossed her.

“You only like him because he’s taller than me,” Thea claimed, sniffling all the while. Veskur was uncertain how to deal with the degree of that insult – belittling her emotions by claiming that they were based on nothing more than some physical attribute. The shallowness of it… Her guest continued to be insulting, to push boundaries, to hurt both himself and his host. He expressed remorse but then continued to cycle through the same sins, the same sins, the same sins.

It was intolerable but still Veskur did nothing.

Thea eventually left and then she was alone again, but there was no peace in that solitude. She discovered that she did, indeed, have a bedroom in her own home and went nervously inside it. The stone walls felt cold and empty, the bed something that she had never touched. There was probably some method for creating light in that small space but Veskur did not know what it was and did not care; she wanted to curl in the dark, alone and empty, both inside and out.

She was not certain how long she lay like that, trapped in a void of her own making. She shook and shivered and did not sleep, did not rest, did nothing but quiver in an echoing agony of her own making. Endrall and Thea’s words rang accusingly in her head, Figo and Sotaas’ absence a burning lack that she was all too aware of. Her servant checked in on her, bringing her food she did not touch. She withered, muscles atrophying as no one called on her, no one wanted her.

It had been so easy before, to be alone. It had been so easy for her to know no one and dwell within the equations that had once been her passion. It had been a mistake to let people into her life, she could see that now. It had been an error to love Figo, to care for River, to rely on Sotaas, to welcome Thea, to hear Deeam, to embrace Endrall. She should have known better but she did not and now she was stuck with this terrible sense of absence.

“Where is my ending?” she would sing to herself, her broken voice a rasp in the endless shadows around her. She started hallucinating shades of darkness, terrors that she welcomed and hoped would be her death. “The thing that defines us? The sense of closure, the only thing left… to us…”

Her lips bled when she smiled.

12394845_813691618740876_748949658_o

When the light came, she was too far gone to fight. Her servant took her in his arms and washed her, forced her to eat, and took her on walks. Slowly, slowly, her mind came back and she was once again aware of the pain that had driven her to a starving ennui. Her servant looked at her and she knew he would save her from that slow suicide no matter how many times she gave into it. She scowled at him and he smiled at her with thin eyes, daring her to try and escape him.

She took to the land, walking the woods that had been her comfort and company back when she had been ignorant of all that she had missed and now was far too aware of. The forest and the night were not the solace that she had hoped for, not quite, but they did soothe the ravaging wounds of her soul. There was comfort to be had there and she accepted it, began to rebuild herself, and for the first time in her life she felt anger on her own behalf.

It scared her. She was uncertain what to make of this swelling emotion, this terrible fury that rose out of her like a reaping whirlwind. She went into the drifting snow around her home and screamed into the wilds, taking a savage delight when her rage caused avalanches. She wondered how those around her could claim that this was love when all they had done was take and take and take, when all they had tried to do was define her as something that she would and could never be.

Still, when Endrall contacted her there was a fluttering in her heart, a joy that sang to her and wanted to lay that simmering anger to rest. They spoke only briefly, setting a time and place for their meeting.

Humming to herself, Veskur cleaned up, dressed up, did everything she could to be everything that Endrall deserved. They met at neutral ground and Veskur took the younger man out for an evening meal, the two of them discussing what had happened and the fallout of it. His father and he were estranged, Endrall claimed, and he laid the blame for that estrangement at Veskur’s feet. Veskur paid for their food and they walked outside and began to discuss everything else.

“I don’t have to apologize for what I said,” Endrall told her. “I just hate when you’re like this. I hate you. I have every right to say what I said. I’m sorry, but I don’t mean that, not really. I stand by my statement.”

For two days Endrall said exactly that. They walked and spoke about everything, but where once their conversations had been a flowing and lively process whereby all seemed understood, now Endrall refused to understand how there could possibly be anything resembling even the tiniest sliver of an iota of wrongness in what he had said. He drove that point home again and again, that he had been right to say what he had said, and that whatever pain Veskur had suffered because of it was her own affair.

When Veskur tried to express any opinion that did coincide directly with Endrall’s, he mocked her and laughed at her, touched her the way a lover might while telling her that she was in the wrong and always would be, would whisper that whatever she felt counted for nothing.

“I meant what I said,” Endrall told her, holding her. “We’re not friends. You get that, right? I don’t have to apologize for that, but I will anyway. I want you to understand that I’m not actually sorry.”

The repetition sank into Veskur’s head and into Veskur’s heart and she fell into silent acceptance. Hekro came to collect Endrall eventually – the two had become lovers at some point – and he left in her arms. Veskur walked away and did not look back, could not have looked back even if she had desired to. She found somewhere quiet and curled into a ball and shivered and shook, tearing at her arms, wishing she could pull her veins from her flesh, wishing for silence unending.

She made it home somehow, screaming and kicking with an insanity that she could recognize without the ability to do anything about it. She managed to hide her gaurn and her levl, told her servant to flee and then lost herself to the madness. She did not know how much time had passed when she was next able to recognize her own thoughts, but everything in her keep had been destroyed and her body was covered in scars and blood. She was standing in the main hall, dressed in rags and looking into a window, the light behind her turning the glass into a mirror – and what she saw there terrified her, a nightmare granted skin. She fell to her knees, hugged herself and wept.

I meant what I said. I don’t have to apologize for that but I will anyway. I’m not actually sorry.”

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

Read article

330

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-02-09

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

December 11, 2015

Every week, we’re going to post some new fiction for you to devour and read, with original art as a header, and then a collected version for purchase from our store when the book is complete. Questions? Comments? The writers are right here, and they’ll respond as they’re able. 

***

Click here to read previous entry.

***

– 03:00:02:09 –

Endrall tended to the wounded. It was what he did out on the front lines, far from where his father’s long shadow would drape over him. He worked under an assumed name and though some of the nobility he tended to recognized him, they respected his desire to remain incognito. He was there when the survivors from every battle came round; he was there when the Coeecians pushed forward with a large invasive swarm. The other lords barely discussed strategy with him, telling him that healers had enough to think about what with all the healing, but he snuck into a couple of their discussions anyway.

Veskur had taught him how to lurk unnoticed in the background.

He tried not to think about Veskur too much.

Life was difficult but good. He had lost the weight of Sotaas weighing him down; the Wanderer of Ygg had consistently missed the obvious, and had proven to be much less interesting than Veskur had insisted he was. He’d gone into Ygg lands a handful of times to collect old things, but none of the faltering nobles there seemed to know where Sotaas had gone. Not that Endrall cared. He just felt it was good to feign an interest in Sotaas’ well-being. He knew the nobles of Ygg were too stupid to recognize his performance for what it was – had he actually cared, well, he might have done more than simply ask after him.

It was arguments with his father over Sotaas that had finally driven Endrall out, arguments about Sotaas and Veskur. He didn’t want to discuss either with anyone but people kept bringing them up relentlessly, as if either of them were worth talking about outside of their relationships with him. It was frustrating. It was intolerable.

Veskur kept sending him missives, begging to be allowed back near him. He looked at them with the amusement they deserved and watched as she tried to mend the damage that lay between them. He insulted her and she flinched, saying nothing like the pathetic toy she was. Endrall kept her around on his terms, showing her the occasional flash of affection before insulting her thoroughly and reminding her of just how utterly without worth she was.

She deserved such treatment. Both of them knew it. Neither ever stopped to wonder why.

The only problem with Veskur was that occasionally she would stand up for herself, or express her feelings – as if her emotive state was something that Endrall was supposed to care about.

“You treat me like an ailing pet!” she would wail, staring up at him.

“I hate when you say that.” He did not deny the truth of her words. “I hate you.” He loved the hurt in her eyes. All he wanted, all he ever wanted, was for his favorite toy to be silent and accept whatever he chose to give her.

He ignored her most of the time. When he felt bad he went to her and she made him feel better, explaining anything, justifying his every want. She was wise in any way that was not immediately related to her, able to see and explain connections and events with a clarity that always amazed, and yet she was unable to do so much as walk into a room without doing something wrong or breaching some bit of protocol. She was an embarrassment, really, a connection that Endrall sometimes felt ashamed of in ways that he would never express or admit.

However, after he had finally grown tired of her pathetic begging and the ceaseless questions about her that others asked, well, then he had left the world he knew behind and entered the world he had been groomed for all his life. The work was difficult, yes, but he made real headway. There were nobles that knew his face and not his name, nobles that sought him out and spoke of him and owed him so much. They trusted him with their lives and their hearts and he healed both, soothing their hurts and calming the raging demons that sang within their veins.

It was Figo Jera that brought things to a head for him. Lovely Figo, one of the most successful of the Vanir Lords, one of the warriors that held the line on the killing fields of south and west Midgard. Endrall had made his way there only gradually, not knowing what to expect and not truly caring – what would be would be, and he was not trying to control his destiny so much as letting himself drift and learn from wherever his path took him.

Figo was holding a rocky cliff that was covered in brambles and thorns. In more peaceful times, those thickets would flower into a cascading fall of roses, daffodils, and ivies, but now those plants were trampled underfoot as men and the barbarians that assailed them made war. This cliff was widely considered an indefensible position by the entire host of the nobility, but here Figo was, holding it, keeping it safe, keeping the Coeecian mass out.

Losses were heavy. House Suwilo was already spread thin, the three lines borne of the House cast all across the borders of Midgard. Endrall could have ended up anywhere among the Vanir armies but he had ended up here and Figo had recognized him and retained him as a personal healer, respecting his desire for secrecy in public and granting them moments to satiate their hungers in private. They clung to one another, whispering secrets to one another.

Endrall wondered what circumstances would be required to destroy Figo utterly.

Figo wept sometimes when Endrall was holding him, clinging back with a painful strength. Endrall allowed this, stroking the general’s hair and whispering in his ear, calming him, offering solace as only those of House Suwilo could. Figo accepted this comfort and flung all the harder, desperate for even the smallest measurement of comfort.

“What is it?” Endrall would ask, when the sobs had left Figo and he had regained a measure of calm. “What is it that strikes you?”

“It’s just…,” Figo would pause, his grey eyes growing distant as his gaze turned to the gaurn on his hand. “You know what it’s like. What she’s like.”

“All too well.”

“I can’t help but wonder what I could have accomplished without the tool she gave me, but more than that, well, do you know what she can do? Yes? I wonder how many of my victories are mine, how many of the choices I’ve made were truly meant for me. I wonder if she’s influencing me even now, violating everything that I might ever choose to be or become.”

“And this upsets you?”

“It makes everything that makes me – me – invalid! There’s nothing I can do, no choice I can make, nothing that I will ever be that has not been defined or chosen by her! She’s ruined me, ruined me, and there’s no way to know if I’m right or wrong because even if I were to ask her I know she would lie to me, I know it.”

Endrall was all too aware of how often Veskur said she never lied.

“You could just walk away from everything.”

“I could never do that.” Figo licked his lips. “I could never do that. I could never walk away or put down my levl and gaurn and let them overtake me. There’s nothing in me or in who I am that would ever let me make that decision, which only raises the question of whether it’s me or something that she put in me.

“How much of who I am is who I might have been? How much that I have accomplished is actually mine? Even if she only did it once that would make me fundamentally different, because every decision that I would have made afterwards would have been predicated on the decision or the outcome that she made sure would come to pass. She’s violated everything that might ever define me – my will, my choices, my life. She’s violated me on such a fundamental level and there’s no one that will ever truly understand what it is she’s done.

“How am I to explain this to Deeam or Hekro or anyone else? No one really knows what she’s capable of, not even you or I. We think we know but she can radically change anything any time she feels like it. All the paths of our lifetimes are hers to play with, all the decisions and outcomes and eventualities are open to her, and she can write any of us any way she feels like it. And every time she does that to one person she does that to everyone, she invalidates everyone. Even if she changes something simple, it will ripple out and touch everything, change everything, make everything that follows a shape that she has sculpted.

“Do you see the scope of what she is? The monstrousness? I love her. I count my time with her as good and gracious. She was never anything more than willing and supportive and caring, but I cannot help but think that she manipulated circumstances in all those instances to make me believe that was what she was.

“And I know she was manipulative in her dealings with me. I know she never looked to anyone else for years, even when I told her I was leaving her, even when I told her that I had taken on other lovers and did not want her anymore. We’d speak or part ways and within the span of a moon or three, we’d be back together like nothing ever happened.

“She made that happen. I know she made that happen. Do you remember when you and Farrell told me just how badly she was using me? Do you remember that? I went home and thought about it and realized it was true. I was talking with her and she was telling me of her plans to celebrate me and I just couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t be around her. I asked her not to contact me or touch me or have anything to do with me and as far as I know she hasn’t and yet I can’t help but think that she’s just biding her time.

“She’s a monster, an utter monster. I don’t know what to do or think or feel. I drown myself in work. That’s what I do. That’s all that’s left to me.”

Figo was shaking at the end of this speech, his eyes glazed over and his skin pale. Endrall held him and held him and soothed him to sleep, using the Science that his gaurn gave him access to. He narrowed his eyes, waited for Figo’s breathing to steady, then took his leave to go and find the nobles of House Elhaz. They did not know him. When he asked them to take him somewhere quiet and alone they simply nodded, guided him there, and left.

Night had fallen. He was unsure when that had happened. Veskur had been trying to get a hold of him now for some time but he had ignored her, caring nothing for her, but now the Good Lady was going to get a piece of his mind. Endrall pushed his left hand forward and cut into the very fabric of the world, wrestling it to his will. His Science shaped that energy and he opened an avenue of communication with Veskur Wyrd, heard her intake of breath when she realized who it was that called upon her.

“You’re a monster,” he hissed. “You’re a beast, a savage, an animal. I do not trust you. You’re no better than Jesam was. I hope you die in horrible, horrible pain.” He severed the connection without another word. He could feel her trying to contact him but he did not answer, would not answer, ignored her until the war turned and the Coeecians pulled back. He could have gone home but chose not to, turning instead to the east and north, bordering the lands of the Zaerm.

It was from there that he called Veskur and bid her come to him.

She was working on something, that was clear. There were people in her home and, undoubtedly, whatever she had devoted herself to was something that she considered important. Still, she abandoned everything and came to see him, following his orders as she always did, appearing before him like the failed pet that she had become.

He motioned her closer and she came, hesitant, so very clearly wanting to touch him. Endrall held her at arm’s length. He looked into her eyes as deeply as he was able, watched her tremble, watched her shoulders slump, her lips part, and heard the beat of her heart thrumming like the pitter-patter of a weeping sky.

“Every time I look at you I’m going to see a rapist.”

The words rolled off his tongue, searing the air between them before striking her.

Fascinated, he watched as she collapsed in on herself. He saw it in her eyes, the trust she had for him, the way that she accepted his words as truth over anything she might believe of herself. He recounted what Figo had told him, twisting it slightly, perfectly, knowing how to hurt her.

She crumbled, fell to her knees and shivered so hard that Endrall thought she would break apart right then and there. She rocked back and forth, her breathing shallow, a low moan leaking past her throat.

She believed him, he knew, believed him more than she believed in anything else, believed in him more than she believed in herself.

Every time I look at you I’m going to see a rapist.

The words echoed between them.

Veskur’s eyes went dark, her musculature instantly slack. She tried to run, stumbled, mumbled incoherently, stopped herself and stuttered. She heaved forward and Endrall thought she might vomit but she didn’t, she didn’t, she just lay there and shivered and didn’t even hold herself and he thought he might have gone too far.

When he tried to move closer, to hold her, she waved him off and he narrowed his eyes at her. How dare she do this, deny him her, deny him the right to touch her. He tried again and she denied him again, this time a terrible violence barely held in check caught in that denial.

Endrall kept his distance after that.

He walked about for an hour, Veskur listlessly trailing after him. She shambled like a marionette, the core of her absolutely destroyed under the weight of what he had accused her of. He smiled at her and explained to her again why she was a monster as she meekly followed him back to his carriage.

“Did you want me to help you get home?” he asked her. She blinked, shook her head, fell away from another offer of physical contact, arms hanging limp at her sides. He shrugged and left her there, looking back at her as the carriage started away. She stood, shivering and alone, no longer one of the Vanir but a simple empty husk, a broken creature made of shells and shards.

He went back to the frontlines after that. The Coeecians had all but retreated. Months passed and there was no sign of the incursion that had once threatened all of Midgard. House Elhaz searched and searched but found no sign of them and the Vanir returned to lands they had been forced out of, began to rebuild.

During this peace Endrall fell into the company of a Nauthiz noblewoman named Secu, and the two of them got along splendidly. They were of similar age and temperament, sensualists assured of the world and their place in it. They went to markets and balls and dances, Endrall still hiding his name but basking in the glory that his skills had earned him. So many nobles knew him or of him, so many nobles welcomed him at their tables. It was intoxicating and wonderful to have such admiration.

When the Coeecians struck anew it caught everyone off guard.

They came seeking hostages as much as victims, killing Vanir peasantry as they went, binding the unprepared nobility as they were caught. Endrall knew his way around a levl but he was no warrior; he and Secu were taken, bound, dragged away past the confines of Midgard and deep into the Coeecian camps. He had heard Figo’s accounts of what happened to captive Vanir and he felt himself trembling and horrified. They brought him before a grinning warlord and forced him to his knees, interrogating him and beating him and keeping him bound for hours and hours.

He was locked away with Secu. They had established and confirmed her nobility by speaking with both her and others, but though Endrall Sahr had told them his name there was no one there who knew who he was and no one there that could vouch for his identity. A ransom was paid and Secu was given back to her parents, but Endrall was left alone on his rocky plateau.

The Skie, rulers of the Coeecians, did not believe in locking people away in the dark. They were the people of the storm and their ways were far more frightening and far more barbaric. Caves in their mountain fortresses were pushed out onto the mountain, facing a sheer incline thousands of feet up. There was no hiding from the wind and the rain where the Coeecians kept their captives; there was only a forced appreciation for the forces that they claimed were divine.

Four by four times the sun set and rose after Secu was sent home. Endrall was cold and wet and miserable, the foods they brought him tasteless and empty. His captors looked in on him only to see that he was still there, bringing him food once a day and expecting him to subsist on that. When he had complained they had told him that he could always go and kiss the storm. They smiled when they said it and gave him no more food that week.

03-00-02-09

He heard that there was talk among them concerning which of their lords would get to keep him. The thought terrified him but not enough for him to step out of his prison and plummet to freedom. He held himself, hoping that someone would come and save him.

No one did.

He was alone.

They had left him his gaurn.

Why wouldn’t they have? The nobles were all left with their weapons. There was no chance to use them. Besides, they did not recognize the tools for what they were and why would they do even that when only four such gloves existed in all the world? Endrall thought about saving himself but he could see no way to use the Ethcinos that he had been granted; what use was healing others in a situation such as the one he found himself in?

He could, however, cleave the energies and so find someone to come and get him.

He thought of his father, first, and used the Sciences he knew to craft the sending. His father looked at him with cool eyes over the distance that separated them, listened attentively when Endrall began to tell him all that had happened.

“You thought to make it on your own, child?” His father sighed, sat down and rubbed his temples. “A fine mess you’ve made of it, traveling without your name or my leave. You have nothing now and your life is over. Do you understand? Your life is over. I will not pay for you even if they were to believe me – my resources must go to healing those children that listen to their parents. You have built yourself a tomb. Perhaps you will make it out on your own, child. Perhaps.” His father looked at him, smiled, and severed their connection.

Endrall wept.

There would be no salvation. The one person that loved him, the one person that truly cared had left him here to this. He sat on the cold stone and cried until there were no more tears and then he heaved and was sick over the edge.

He considered jumping.

What was left to him, truly? What destiny could the world hold for him now?

He thought of Figo crying because all his choices had been taken from him and Endrall laughed with bitter mockery. He was the one that had been robbed of choice, left with only two options – suicide or submission. There was nothing else, nothing else that could happen, no one else he could turn to, unless…

Endrall stood and walked to the very edge of life. He held up his gaurn and tapped the energies once more, sending a desperate missive out into the world. It reached its destination, he could feel the response.

Veskur stared back at him in her laboratory, Thea behind him for some reason, and she looked at him with a hatred that melted the moment she saw him fully.

He tried to speak, failed, fell to his knees and wept. He heard Veskur telling him to breathe, to just breathe, and to tell her where he was. He heard Thea in the background saying that it didn’t matter, demanding that Veskur leave him to rot, but Veskur waited and waited, prayed and repented until Endrall was able to give her the knowledge she needed.

“Be strong, Love,” Veskur whispered. “I will be there as soon as I am able.”

The connection severed.

Another sun rose, all the promised warmth contained therein a lie. He froze and held himself, too exhausted to sleep or eat as the wind came, whipping all around him, and a violent rain arose from nothing to pelt the world with an unrelenting fury. Thunder doomed down all around him, shaking the earth and making him jump as lightning as thick as any keep slammed down into the earth, an onslaught that he would never have imagined possible had he not been there to witness it.

Not a drop of moisture touched him. Not a single breeze ruffled his hair.

Staring from the eye of the storm, he he could understand why the Skie dominated the Coeecian people and why the Skie worshiped the storms that ravaged their lands, but even they had seen nothing like this. He blinking, looking at roiling black clouds that shifted like an ocean tide, narrowing his eyes to see the impossible.

Riding the storm was a figure on a horse with hooves of lightning. She carried no levl, wore little more than casual clothing and a glove on her left hand. When she moved the storm went with her. The horse circled the mountain once, twice, blasting the stone and peak, and every time the horse went by electricity crashed into rock and Endrall could hear Coeecians scream and die.

Veskur Wyrd had come for him and she would not be denied.

***

More is coming next week. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

Read article