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Fiction – My Bad Dream

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

May 13, 2017

Beyond the end of the world, the end of all the worlds, is a place where they all meet. All manner of creatures and beings come here; it is a place of refuge, of shelter from the storm. And there is always a storm somewhere.

Among them, strangely even for this strange place, is a child. A girl of eight or nine in a nightdress, flaxen-haired and blue-eyed, the very picture of innocence. One might be worried in this place that she is somehow a trap, a monster hiding, but it is not so. Goldie really is a little girl, but she is a dreamer.

Goldie fell asleep one night. It was a strange falling asleep, but she remembers nothing more about it. Then the terrors began. Night after night, week after week. The teeth in the woods, the house of blood, the gray faces, each more terrible than the last, the nightmares haunted and tormented her. Even in sleep, there was no rest.

But time passed. It always does, even if it moves strangely beyond the veil of worlds. One can eventually get used to anything, and though Goldie really is a little girl, she had been a little girl now for a long, long time. One day, with the teeth snapping at her heels again, she tired of the chase. She sat under a gnarled, blackened tree, picked up one of the fallen branches, and waited.

The snarling and howling stopped the moment she sat, and in short order, intrigued, the nightmare appeared to her, taking the form of a tall, dapper man whose body seemed to be made of black fire.

Why do you not run? it said, the words being remembered without ever being spoken.

“I’m tired.” she replied.

But you are asleep, it said, For years now. How can you be tired?

“Not sleepy,” said she, “Tired. Tired of running. Why do you torment me?”

The nightmare paused. This was something it had never considered. How could it? Do fish wonder why they swim, or flames wonder why they burn?

Finally, it spoke, without speaking: I am your Nightmare, it said.

“Mine?” Goldie asked.

Yours and yours alone, it said, as long as need be.

The girl stood. “You… are mine? You belong to me?”

Confused, the nightmare nodded, for was that not what it said?

Years of darkness change anyone, even someone who really is a little girl, and there in the gloom and the dark Goldie smiled for the first time in years, and ran forward, embracing the burning man who did not really burn.

“You’re MINE!” she said. It was the first time she could remember that anyone or anything was truly hers, even from before the strange sleep began. And the Nightmare, for it was made of her dreams as much as her fears, to its surprise wrapped its burning but not burning arms around her and hugged her back.

This, gentle traveler, is how you may meet the dreamer who has been young for so long in the place beyond the end of the worlds. Beside her always is her traveling companion, her Nightmare, which brings her from dream to dream wherever darkness touches, teaching her now the joy and laughter that lives where light doesn’t reach, for it already taught her everything it could about fear and pain. The nightmare is itself, himself, young in many ways, and does not always understand the places they travel. But it knows two truths that are clad in iron.

Firstly, he is HER Nightmare. Without her, he does not know what he would be, perhaps the nameless dread in the dark again, and it would be awful to go back to that sort of nonperson after finding this richer life.

And secondly, he looks really good in that hat.

 


Abbey St. Brendan is the sort of monster that would bake you a pie. She improvises, acts, performs regularly in the comedic end of geek fandom, and in this case writes. Her collaboration with Living Myth Magazine is kismet. You can contact her on Twitter @abbeykadabra.

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481

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:09

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

April 28, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry.  

 

Iataad taohif aamgae. None may escape.

Those were the words her House had been built upon. The very first Vanir to bear their name had looked up at the stars and pointed, she had been told, and uttered those words. Years later they would hear them echoed among other nations, among the Swann, the Devinii, the Darroken. There was some ancient truth wrapped in those syllables, in that meaning. None may escape. She had sought to escape the prophecy of those words with her genius and her tools but now Veskur Wyrd stood alone and afraid, naked and revealed on the top of her tower. She had been undone, destroyed, her every tenant proved a lie by what the world had become around her.

Wind and storm and fire whipped the lands surrounding her home. Her nameless manservant had finally proven to be no fool; he had abandoned her, leaving her to her fate. His doing so had saved her the task of having to tell him to leave before the price of all that she had done came to claim her. No one else should have to pay for the consequences of her actions and yet so many had.

Her quiet valley, her refuge and solitude and all that she had ever wanted had been blasted beyond all recognition. There was no sign of the peace she had tried to cultivate. Soldiers and barbarians died all around her, their final screams waging war with the clash of thunder and steel, rain turning red as it met the sea of death that lapped at her tower. Hekro was out there, Risue, Jesam the first. Every hero of two nations had come here, at this moment, to take from her a power that they could not hope to understand.

Some among the Vanir wore gaurn on their left hands, tools that she had not made and had never meant to share. Jesam the First knew them for what they were but not how they worked. The Coeecians came to claim the Ethcinos Sciences for themselves while the Vanir came only to take the rest of what they thought she knew.

They none of them knew nothing.

Sometimes the price of knowledge was knowing.

Out there, somewhere, was Figo, lovely and light Figo Jera. The Rose Dragon. Who had loved him like she had? Who had cherished him, respected him, cared for him? No one. Thea had told her how he had given himself to Jesam the First, convinced that his sacrifice was noble. Veskur saw only the price of it: a holy radiance swallowed by darkness. She had told him again and again that he was perfect but he had always blushed and muttered dismissals of her description, claiming that no one could ever hope to reach the tiers she judged him worthy of.

You idiot!” she screamed, her words echoing off the mountains and reaching the ears of the armies that even now waged war on her small home, Vanir and Coeecians thinking to wrest her knowledge from her while trying to kill one another. “You fool! I called you perfect because you were perfect even in your imperfection! You were the light that softened the edges of the darkness that I am, the joy that tempered the sorrow that I was so lost in that I could not even recognize it! I would have done anything for you, anything for you, anything for you, and this is where we are and this is what I have wrought! I miss you, miss you with everything that I will ever be, and there will never be another word for me, not from you, never from you!”

Thunder smashed the world around her keep as she slashed the very weavings of Creation itself with her gaurn, the nimbus that surrounded her tool burning with the intensity of a thousand suns and rendering the atrocity that had consumed her world in monochromatic silhouettes, either red or white or black. There was no mixture of color as two nations went to war with one another and with her, but as long as her tower stood, as long as she could keep herself in check, as long as she didn’t catch sight of the ones who had helped her become what she now was, it would not get any worse.

She weaved atop the stones of her keep, reeling like a drunk above the riot below her. She balanced herself on the battlements, staring down, counting the heroes that held their own: Hekro, Jesam, Risue, Leovi, Janwae, Darco. She knew they would fight until not one of their number was left, their clumsy groping violence as nothing compared to the horror she could unleash at any time, at any moment, if only she could find the will to do so.

Endrall Sahr would be out there somewhere. Ygg Sotaas. Possibly even Deeam Njiord and his fabled ahmr, smashing skull and heart with long arching swings, the deep baritone of his voice expressing only hatred. 

Did it matter who won, so far as she was concerned? 

Sotaas had told her of the rumors Endrall had spread above and beyond the taking of her name, knew that between her inherent strangeness and Endrall’s charisma that no one down there was fighting with her interests in mind; the entirety of the horror playing out below her was an action taken utterly without love.

She knelt, coated in a fine blanket of rain, clutching to the cold rock that made up her home as screams echoed throughout the world around her. She remembered Figo, how soft he was, how gentle, how kind. Veskur believed that he had been everything good and pure in the world but he was gone now, given up, driven to self-destruction by forces that she herself had crafted. She was responsible. She was accountable. The skeletal fingers of death that gripped the plains below her had been summoned by her, by the arrogance of her Science.

Perhaps, she thought, if she had been more careful or more subtle it would not have come to this. Perhaps if she had held herself in check instead of giving voice to her every wild imagining she would not have inflicted this final doom upon an undeserving world. Sotaas didn’t deserve this, or Hekro, or Risue, or even Endrall. And Figo, lovely lost Figo, well, the more Veskur thought about it the more she came to understand. She didn’t need Figo in her life, or Endrall, or any of them. She had lived alone and had been happy alone. She should have returned to her solitude. Instead, she had tried to weave herself into the lives of threads that were never meant to bear her weight.

She could fix it. With the power she could shape with her left hand she could fix all of it. She saw the plan unfold before her, the length of time it would take. She would have to remove herself from the equation but she wanted to do that anyway; she no longer wanted to be, to exist, to remember. All she wanted was quiet and emptiness. There was a place for her. Mathemagically speaking, there was a place that she could go that no one would ever be able to follow, another trick Sotaas had caught in her equations that she would have never noticed but had followed to finality.

Veskur Wyrd didn’t need to be a part of anything to win. All she needed to claim victory was for the people she cared about to be happy and she had never been able to view herself as a person.

She stood, brushing water from her shoulders, raindrops lost in the horror that painted itself below her, a landscape of entrails and screaming. No arrows were fired upon her, no one wanting to risk losing what they thought they were here to claim. She looked down upon them and felt an awful wrath set root in her heart, an anger that could never be undone, for upon standing she could see Endrall Sahr.

He stood in the midst of the carnage, walking towards her keep with a tingling disregard for all those that fell around him. He carved signs into the air with his gaurn, keeping himself removed from the conflict even as he moved through it, untouched and regal and all the more inhuman for doing so. She recognized him then, the true face that lay behind his beauty – a sadistic solipsist who hid behind the veneer of the humanitarian, the weapon crafted and honed for a heart’s battlefield by a bitter and childish father.

She should have been wiser. She should have known him for what he was.

I trusted you!” she cried, the words torn from somewhere deep inside her, echoing down along the corridors of broken steel and shattered flesh. Endrall looked up at her, not even breaking stride.

Then why did you leave?”

You left me, remember?” Veskur screamed. “You left me! You used me as an emotional crutch and insulted me and insulted me and insulted me and then you got angry at me for being hurt, again, and you stormed out on me! I had to chase you down, to give you back your things!”

You stopped speaking to me!” Endrall shrieked. “You replaced me and with what? Nothing? You stopped speaking to me without a word!”

Veskur stared down at the battlefield. Something broke in her, something that had been holding back the most terrible of whirlwinds. She slashed at the air, calling upon names and powers that she had only theorized but had never bothered to prove. 

All of them answered her, all of them came at her word, and when she directed this collection of things that should not be into the world around her they hammered every soldier of two nations with an unthinkable onslaught, driving everyone to the ground until only she and Endrall were standing.

The energies she had called upon tore her skin and boiled her blood. Her world was agony but still she stood as those same energies tore at the fundamental laws of physics that held her together and scarred the crucible of her mind. She forced her will into her gaurn and rewrote everything that had ever been or could ever be – it was her destiny to be here and now, her destiny to have this conversation, and if it hadn’t been before it was now and it always would be.

More energies were called upon, more names. Endrall tried to shield himself from her wrath and maintained the structure of his poor Science. She might have been able to smash it but did not care to, instead wrapping her will around his and bringing him to her, dropping him on the roof of her keep so that they could stand facing one another.

I thought that was an okay thing to do,” she whispered, releasing him.

Why would you think that?” he spat, shaking, picking himself up on hands and knees.

Someone told me it was okay.”

That person was wrong.”

That person was you!” Veskur cried. “That person was you! What makes it alright for you to treat me like that and wrong for you to suffer as I did? What makes it okay for you to hurt me, to dismiss me, to treat me like that? Are you even conscious of the injury and insult that you offer or is that behavior a fundamental aspect of the person you’ve become? Were you always like this? Did I just not see it or did I help twist you into this?

Look around us, healer. Look at the world as we have made it, you and I in all our towering arrogance! Look what we have wrought and tell me that either of us could have ever been in the right!”

You were wrong,” Endrall said, standing. “You were wrong. You were arrogant. This, this mess, this is what you made or allowed to be made. I didn’t make it and didn’t approve of it. This is always and ever your fault, just as everything is in your life is. All the miseries of Figo, all the miseries of me and of Sotaas, all of them are your fault. You could have made them better. You could have made this world better but you chose to make things this way and nothing you can do will change that now. You tried to make us all small. You wanted us to crawl before you, as if you were some giant or something worthy of love. You’re a monster. A process. Unworthy of trust and we were never friends.”

Veskur stared at her love for a moment and then stumbled back, laughing with a mania that frightened even her.

Hypocrite,” she wheezed, spreading her arms. “Charlatan. You think I’m not aware of my sins? You think I don’t know what I’ve done, the mistakes I’ve made? You think I don’t know that every time death claims someone below us it’s my fault? I know this. I know what I have wrought. My choice not to decide has brought us here, but you… you’re every bit the monster I am. The only difference is that you don’t acknowledge the pain you cause. You’re not a person. You’re a weapon.”

Coming from anyone else,” Endrall slurred, narrowing his eyes, “I might take that seriously.”

Veskur clawed at the air with her left hand, shattering every protection Endrall could think of with a fraction of the power that was hers to command. Energies rippled along her flesh, tearing it open, her blood bubbling out in steaming rivers, but still she stood straight and tall, a creature torn from the very fabric of nightmare.

A lifetime of anger at the ridicule and scorn she had suffered pushed its way to the surface, crawling out with talons tempered by the very fires of Hell. She was becoming something else, something both more and less than human, something indescribable to her shattered mind.

Endrall fell back, warding her fury off with his right hand, the gaurn on his left weaving patterns that rewove his wounded skin as soon as the backlash of Veskur tore it open. He struggled to do it, Veskur knew, and she could see the terror in his eyes – the knowledge that all the damage that he was suffering, the damage that he could only just repair, was only incidental. She smiled, feeling her body flaking into ash and held steady only by the Ethcinos Sciences that she knew better than anyone else could ever hope to.

She would not could not waver, not now.

A cry cut through the agonized orchestra below them, a single sound that caught the attention of them both. Figo Jera was down there, tied to the wrist of Jesam the First and held like an animal, his naked body covered in welts and scars. Veskur felt herself trembling to see the noblest man she ever knew reduced to such a whimpering state, felt her knees buckle, her right hand falling limply to her side.  

Her left hand, however, cut her pain into the fabric of everything that could ever be.

Mountains trembled, brought low by fates they had not known moments before. Metal found flesh and released a whole new choir of screams, guided by destinies that had not been meant for them seconds before. As Veskur gave voice to the agony of a lifetime the world narrowed, the very idea of possibility and choice narrowed and thinned and culled until death hung in the air as a bone white haze, an entire field suffering for the unloved blame that Veskur had accepted as her own.

This was the world shifting, the monochromatic figures shifting color even as they watched. The gore that coated the ground fell white as snow, the Vanir bathed in the blood of their enemies, the Coeecian horde blacker than Endrall’s withered and unused heart. Veskur watched, stunned at the result of her power, and it took a few moments for agony to settle into her shoulder.

She turned and saw Endrall towering over her, a dryw in hand, the serrated double-edge of the weapon tearing into her flesh. She watched her own blood fall, covering her arm and shoulder, flecks of it painting Endrall. She stared at it in horrified wonder, not even wanting that part of her to touch the awfulness that she now knew him to be.

I trusted you,” Veskur whispered, her voice cracking. “I trusted you and every word you said to me. I tried to get through to you, to let you know, and all you ever gave me was cruelty.” He struck her, sent her spiraling to the cold stone. She lay limp and dying on the ground, staring up at him as he panted above her, his eyes narrowing as he glared.

How many times do we have to tell you?” He struck her with all his strength. “How many times did Figo tell you? Thea? River? Myself? How many times do we have to tell you that your feelings don’t matter, that you’re an arrogant and unworthy thing, a process more than a person, a concept more than an individual? You don’t matter and you never did! Any usefulness you might have had has long since passed. Die, Veskur. It’s all you have to do now.” He struck her at the end of every question, every statement, struck her until her face was as bruised as her soul.

She mumbled something, unable to make sense of the words that struggled to be heard through the blood she was drowning in.

What was that?” Endrall asked, taunting. She glared up at him, left hand weaving furiously. It was not her destiny to die here. It was not her choice and death could only take her at a time of her choosing so long as she wore the gaurn on her hand.

I said,” Veskur mumbled, catching Endrall’s wrist as his hand came for her again, “I said what a fool I am.

She grabbed her levl and dryw as she kicked him off her and rose up, holding the weapons in a clumsy stance as she faced down the only enemy in her life that would ever matter. Endrall held a dryw in his left hand, keeping his right free to use the Ethcinos Science that she had given him. He was so much more graceful than she was, accepted by his House, trained to defend himself somewhat – but she was a power above and beyond anything that Midgard or any other nation would ever know.

All this,” Veskur said, knowing that it was Endrall’s destiny to hear the words, “All this is because of you. I blame your father for twisting the person you should be into the person you are, and me for letting you define me. I gave you everything I had to give, everything you wanted, but you always wanted more. You were destroying me, unmaking me, turning me into something that I did not recognize and did not choose and I let you. Would you have been happy, then, with me dead? Is that why you brought two armies to my doorstep?”

I don’t know what you mean,” Endrall answered. The dryw in his hand was steady.

I will try to end this quickly,” Veskur said, ignoring him. “I will try to set you free.”

She lunged for him, the damage her body had suffered not slowing her down in the slightest, but Endrall was so very fast and so very graceful. Every time she cut his flesh he used the gift she had given him to heal his hurt, mocking her all the while. He cut her right hand, stabbed through the back of the palm and kicked the levl away when she dropped it. She threw the dryw in her left hand at him but he casually batted it out of the way, falling back a step as he did so.

She did not have so much time to act in given the space between them.

Carving the air with her left hand, she began to call upon powers that would stagger even Endrall Sahr – but then he stabbed her, driving the dryw in his right hand into and through her ribs. Blood passed her lips, boiling into steam as it touched the air. He pushed her to her knees, laughing, pressing his boot against her heart to free the blade. She crumbled to the ground, whimpering as he put his boot to her, dancing up and down her frail fracturing body.

Do you have anything else to tell me?” Endrall asked. “I can feel you dying. You don’t have much longer, so if you have any last words now is the time to speak them.”

A whisper lost to the rain passed her lips, a weak rattle before dying.

What was that?” Endrall asked, voice cold and sure as he leaned down, holding his ear just above her lips. “I can’t hear you.” Veskur coughed weakly, cleared her throat, fighting to hold onto an ever dwindling consciousness.

I still love you.”

Endrall fell back as Veskur pushed herself onto her stomach, pushed herself up on shaking elbows, forced her knees underneath her. Coughing tore her throat, spasms wracked her decaying body, but still she held herself, still forced her neck to turn so she could look up at him from hands and knees. He kicked her in the gut and she curled into herself, kicked her again until she fell onto her back and lay still.

Why won’t you die?!” Endrall shrieked. “It’s the only thing left for you! There’s nothing else! Nothing else! You’re weak and pathetic and disgusting, a shell of a person, a rotten concept that corrupts and weakens and degrades with your presence! Filthy, disgusting whore! That’s all you are and all you’ll ever be!”

He stood over her, triumphant, feeling her heart falter and break, the pulse fading down to nothing. The woman below her was dead, a memory, and though a part of Endrall missed her and mourned her passing, he could not help but rejoice at the death of everything he knew was evil in the world.

Enough.” The word came from below him, the steady voice that spoke it impossible. “Enough.” A force he could not name pushed him off the corpse of his enemy. He looked down and saw her eyes flutter open, her gaze boring into his soul.

You can’t be alive!” Endrall cried. “I felt you die! I felt you die!”

I don’t believe you.” Veskur picked herself up off the ground, the gaping wounds carved into her ignored. He could see tendons move within her, exposed muscle stretching with her every motion. “It is not my destiny or fate to die here. This world is what I choose it to be and I do not choose your reality. You think this is a fevered dream, a last ditch effort, and I know that because I put that thought in your head – you were fated to think it just now. Destiny and fate, the push and pull of choice and circumstance, are mine to do with as I will. I tried to play by your rules, I did, but I am done with your game.”

He wove shields around himself, drawing on the Ethcinos Science, but Wyrd broke his circuits, shattered his knowing, her will washing over the battlefield around them and crippling all those it touched. She rose into the air, eyes glowing with eldriss energies, her left hand burning with the fury of ten thousand suns. He screamed as his eyes broke, outlined images burned into his brain one after another as the world shifted, changed, broke apart and was remade as Wyrd desired it to be.

The stone they stood upon shattered, broken into dust that somehow held his weight for the span of a rapid heartbeat. He counted down those seconds, each as long as a lifetime before he fell through that dust towards the ground that waited to claim him. His bones broke as he struck the earth. There was no place to hide or flee from Wyrd, not now, not as she was. Her fury washed over the assembled nations and Endrall could only watch in horror as those around her were picked apart, skin and sinew washing away in a wisping cloud of white ash. Only the two of them remained untouched and whole and Endrall knew that this was not a mark of mercy.

He coughed up blood, forced himself to roll over as ribs strained and fractured under from the simple motion. Breathing hurt; his lungs were filling with blood, his fluids leaking out of holes in his body that should never have been. The woman watched him, still standing on the dust above him, her eyes alight with that same terrible energy, steam catching and reflecting the edges of her madness. His left arm twitched. He was too hurt to call upon the Ethcinos but still strong enough to use baser sciences to heal himself. He wept as his bones set and his flesh mended, whimpering as he rolled onto his stomach, forced his knees underneath him.

Calling upon the Ethcinos, he willed that energy into him, found a place where he was whole and unhurt and pulled that self to him, massacring even the possibility of anything else being there. He opened his eyes as phantom pains still assailed him, his real hurts now nothing more than dim flickering ghosts.

Veskur had reached the ground, now standing in a whirlwind of human ash. The rags she wore whipped around her, revealing flesh that was constantly being pulled apart and sewn together by the energies she had invited into herself. She stalked towards him, kicking up little clouds that had once been women and men, driving her foot into his chest as he struggled to stand, driving her heel into his heart as he lay on the ground and tried to remember how to breathe.

Veskur,” gasped Endrall, trembling, looking up at the woman.

There are no names between us,” the woman whispered. “The dead have no names.”

You and me,” he said, tasting iron on his lips, “We can fix this. We can make it so it never was.”

But this is what you wanted, isn’t it?” The woman looked around them, at the blasted landscape that had once been her refuge. Snow mixed with ash until it was impossible to tell the difference between them, coating ground and sky. She trembled, her every living moment an agony that she could not describe, mind-shattering and yet still not quite enough to dull the terrible ache this man had placed inside her. “Don’t you know that this is war?”

He quivered as she knelt down on top of him, straddling him, her fingers reaching for his flesh. He screamed and tried to buck her off him but it was no good – he knew with an awful clarity that it was not his destiny to escape her in such a way, that it was his fate to falter and die underneath her.

A circle of royal sigils burned into the snow around them.

Veskur looked up and screamed as searing light lanced into her from eight directions, thrusting through her skin and bone, holding her aloft. Endrall heard chanting – why had he not heard that chanting before? – and looked into the wilds. Freya, the Nauthiz Coven, Thea, and River were all standing there, using Science to bind the Good Lady and hold her in place, to inflict unspeakable pain upon her. It was only just holding her, their efforts, but Endrall knew that so long as those figures stood that Veskur would never break free, would never use her power before they ripped her apart.

He pulled himself to his feet, used his Ethcinos to finish healing himself. He walked around her in a circle, watching her suffer and smiling, taunting her with whispers that no one else would ever hear. He was so very careful not to touch the light of the sigils that were holding her, not wanting to risk her getting free, knowing what she could do with even a moment of liberty.

You’re finished,” Endrall whispered, low and throaty, a tone meant for lovers. “It’s over and you’re done. Whatever plan lies within your heart will die with you.” She shuddered, her head lolling, and he saw that she was smiling down at him through narrowed eyes.

She flicked her fingers and there was a flash. For a moment, just a single moment, Endrall thought he saw a series of spiraling corridors that circled off into the infinite, winding corridors lacking any sense of floor or ceiling that nonetheless went off into forever. He saw as some of the heavy doors that were held in the oldest stones light into black flame and heard a terrible wailing from each, uncounted lives ending as each portal flickered and died. 

The flash brightened as Veskur’s smile grew, the light becoming blinding.

When Endrall could see again the vision and the Good Lady were gone.

Are you alright?”

Endrall looked up, realizing that he must have fallen in the Lady’s final moments. Thea was offering him a hand and he took it, letting the smaller man haul him up from the corpse-dust that had pooled around him.

Is she…?”

She’s gone,” Thea nodded, looking around. “She was driven insane and she had to be put down. I came up with the method of doing it, the Coven putting together the Sciences that would have to be enacted. A process for holding, a process for pain, a process to smother her actions, a process to destroy her, a process to banish her into a plain of infinite possibilities from which she will never escape.”

You sent her to Yggdrasil?” Endrall asked, looking at Thea in horror. “Do you know what you’ve done?”

I’ve cleaned up your mess,” Thea hissed. “She was perfect and you ruined her. Don’t tell me that you didn’t. She made the mistake of loving you over me and look what you did, what you brought her to. You’re a whore, a spoiled stupid whore who thinks only of himself. Do you have any idea what we lost in her, in her home?”

Nothing of import,” replied the eldest of the Verra Coven. “We know how to make the tools of her Science, the gaurn, all of it. Soon all our nobles will have them and then where will the Coeecians be? Let them have a hundred Jesams, a thousand, and still we will meet them.”

We should let her Science die with her.” River spat at the place where the Good Lady had vanished. “There are other ways, less profane.”

You’re just angry because she never slept with you.”

You never rode her, either.”

Endrall turned from their bickering, looking at the spot where his would-be lover had vanished. No one living knew Veskur Wyrd so well as he and that smile, that final smile, haunted him. The power and qualities that Veskur had known, Endrall knew, would not limit her from within a place that only she had mapped and theorized, a place that only she believed in.

The certainty of those around them was a lie.

The Ethcinos War had only just begun.

 

It’s over. The novella is done, and the novels still loom in the future. If you want something more to read, why not click here and try my novel? If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people. I’d like to dedicate this to her, AJ, Andy, Claire, Greg, Andrew, Kathleen, and Jaime. Thanks for reading, hope you liked it, and stay tuned for more original fiction here at Living Myth Magazine.  

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Fiction – Love is War 03-00-02-07

Books & Writing, Short Fictions, Showcase

November 27, 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.

***

– 03:00:02:07 –

It was a strangeness, to be sure. Sotaas was uncertain how he felt about it, especially at first. There was a closeness between Veskur and Endrall that he didn’t want to get between, but Veskur seemed to be alright with it – or, at least, she seemed to be as alright with it as she was capable of being – and Endrall was all for it. The boy spent four days regaling him with reasons why they should be lovers but still Sotaas was not certain; they knew each other only barely and had nothing to fall back on if anything should go wrong, save their mutual tie to the Lady Wyrd.

However, Endrall was insistent, so much more insistent than Sotaas was willful. Endrall held him and he felt something he had not felt in so many long years – loved, wanted, desired, cherished. And though Sotaas was older than Endrall, the boy still seemed so wise, so powerful. He walked into a room and all eyes turned to him and there was something nice about being woven to someone possessed of such gravity.

So much of Sotaas’ depth was hidden. Like a mountain, much of what made him who he was, was kept safe from eyes that might otherwise search those qualities out. Betrayal and betrayal and betrayal had taught him to do this, and so he played to his own consul, living up to his ideals as best he could and never compromising those ideals in spite of the problems and troubles that continued to assault him.

The first five seasons he was in Endrall’s arms made him feel safer than ever he had been. Endrall made him feel like he could trust people again, like he could conquer the world. The gaurn that Veskur and he had made also helped: Sotaas found himself wandering the wild places with an ease that no other noble of his House had ever dreamed of possessing, leaving no sign or mark of his passage. Thanks to this new Science, he was now always able to find shelter or location, always knew what was around him and where he was. He had always been talented at navigating the stranger roads outside of Midgard, but now his House looked to him as if he were the greatest scout their line had produced.

He was not certain how to deal with the attention that consistently sought him out.

He and Veskur were still experimenting with his gaurn, still trying to determine what it was fully capable of. The survivability and alertness he experienced while wearing the tool, to say nothing of the capacity to fade into the wider world, were apparently not enough for the Good Lady. She seemed to think that there should be more to the wonders that this tool could produce, but Sotaas was not so certain. Wasn’t what they had accomplished enough?

Sotaas did not need to ask to know what Veskur’s opinion on that would have been.

Their work brought them closer and closer, though sometimes Veskur would pass on the chance to re-examine the equations that seemed to be her only joy so that they could look at the myths of faraway cultures. It was through these studies that Sotaas learned more about the Hsien and the Kami, the Trahmin and the Darroken, the Zaerm and even the Coeecians. These studies kept him amused. He wasn’t certain what Veskur was searching for in the lies that the lesser nations used to justify their place in this world.

In the quieter hours of the night, Sotaas admitted to himself that he didn’t care what Veskur was looking for. It passed the time, and gave him more of an excuse to wander further and further from the lands any Vanir knew.

When things turned dark with Endrall they would both turn to Veskur. Endrall would retreat and spend some time alone with her, and then the Good Lady would talk with him and then everything would be alright again, at least for a little while. Sotaas wondered what the two of them got up to, but believed that Endrall was up front about everything they did. Veskur herself sometimes asked Sotaas if he knew what the two of them were doing and Sotaas said that he did, confident that Endrall was hiding nothing from him.

It would be seasons later that he would learn otherwise.

Endrall was going to Veskur for physical affection in addition to whatever advice the Good Lady could offer. Outside what Sotaas had been told, the two of them were exploring one another with a desperate hunger that bordered on insanity. Sotaas sat still and quiet when he learned this. He could be forgiving. He and Endrall spoke of it for a time and then he went to confront Veskur, who shook and looked even paler than usual and would not meet Sotaas’ eyes.

“I thought you knew,” she said. “I thought you knew I thought you knew I thought you knew.” Sotaas looked at her through the senses that his gaurn offered and saw the hairline fractures that were beginning to form in Veskur’s psyche, the evidence of a terrible breaking to come. He knew, then, that he and Endrall were all of what was keeping the Good Lady from shattering completely.

Love is War 03-00-02-07

They talked everything out, Veskur confessing her entire litany of sins, of every time that Endrall had come to her for comfort. Sotaas listened and was reminded of the core betrayals that had shaped his life – the time his mother had abandoned him in the wilds to die, the time his closest friend had turned on him and tried to destroy him – but this was something new. His mother’s sin had been apathy and his friend had acted out of sheer malicious spite, but Veskur had believed they were being open with one another when they had not been.

It was damaging, terribly damaging to the tie between them, but that tie and the order of Deeam kept the two of them talking and they worked what crossed them to a parallel.

All that crossed between him and Endrall, however, was harder. Endrall berated him, mocked him, tried to make him feel less while depending on him for emotional stability. He tried to undermine every dream Sotaas built for himself, doubted the rightness of his decisions, made him question the purity of his vision or the strength of his will. And whenever he questioned him on this or pointed out the flaws in the boy’s logic Endrall would explode, yelling information that spun in circles before fleeing back to Veskur, still expecting the Good Lady to set things right.

The Good Lady always seemed to find the time to set things right.

When Endrall announced that he was going to the Darroken lands and that he intended to bring Sotaas with him, Sotaas was ecstatic. Here was a chance for the two of them to escape the confines of Midgard and talk things over without the shadow of Sahr Eri looming over them or the spiked balm of Veskur Wyrd there to soothe the fury in their hearts.

From the moment they left, however, things began to sour. Endrall sat back and expected him to handle everything. “You’re from House Ygg,” he would say, looking down at Sotaas with contempt. “You’re supposed to be able to find your way around wherever you happen to find yourself.” And, though he could do this even without the gaurn he had left behind, Sotaas’ victories were still not quick enough to satisfy the man that had brought him here.

Endrall grew sick as well as insulting. Farrell came and met them in the Darroken capital and spent his time drinking and seducing everyone around himself with a leer on his face. Sotaas never slept with the fox but the two of them went out often, whenever Endrall’s moods became too much for Sotaas to take. The two of them would crawl from one pub to the next. Farrell liked to get other people intoxicated so that he could have his way with them; Sotaas just wanted to dull the pain.

By the time they returned from the Darroken lands, things were over between he and Endrall. Endrall could not even be bothered to say anything that was not an insult. To add injury, the moment they were back he fled north and entered the Good Lady’s keep, falling into the eager arms of the woman that lived there. Sotaas would hear later about how Endrall cried and cried over how badly he had failed him, these claims made with a vehemence equaled only by Endrall’s accusations that the Good Lady had taken advantage of him in a moment of weakness.

It didn’t matter at that point. Sotaas wanted nothing to do with either of them or anyone else. He wrapped the gaurn around his hand and went to House Wynn, took Deeam aside and spat at his feet and told him that he was washing his hands of all of it. Deeam looked concerned, even offered to listen, but Sotaas was having none of it, not then, not ever again. Growling, he spun the sigil on the back of his hand and activated the Ethcinos Sciences that he and Veskur had been working on for so long, fading into the background and walking into the wilds.

No one would find him. No one would ever find him and he never wanted to speak with any of them, not ever again, not after the insult and the injury he had suffered at the hands of those people that had once claimed to love him as much as they loved their own lives.

***

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

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437

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-02-06

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

November 20, 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.

***

– 03:00:02:06 –

Every time he said Sotaas’ name, Endrall shone.

Veskur watched this with amusement at first, catching Endrall in his darkest moments and mentioning the wandering Ygg noble’s name, smiling herself when the boy shone like the sun his House took their name from. That light was a balm to Veskur’s wounded heart, and when Endrall confessed that he loved Sotaas and wanted Sotaas as his lover, Veskur conspired with him that they might catch the object of Endrall’s passions.

Sotaas didn’t make it easy. He was as leery of emotional traps as River was eager to set them. Veskur brought Sotaas to her keep more and more often, even going so far as to make him a gaurn, even going so far as to include him in the process of that making. Sotaas asked intelligent questions, analyzed the flaws, even came up with a method of making the gaurn more sturdy that Veskur began to include in her design process.

Simply, the maths that Sotaas came up with were easy enough to fold into pre-existing formula, while still requiring Veskur to re-evaluate the entirety of her depths. It was perfect, perfect. She was all too ready to get lost in her work once more.

There was still no word from Figo, but Thea had come north to help fill that gaping void. River had been an absence in Veskur’s life since he had blamed her for all that had gone wrong with Thea’s last visit and Thea alternated his words between praise and hurt, favoring the latter more than the former. He questioned when Veskur stopped talking to him as much, cursing her, accusing her of not knowing her own destiny.

Veskur looked at the sum total of her work and wondered if he was right.

“Why call your little gloves gaurn, anyway?” Thea demanded. “What does that word even mean?”

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Veskur admitted. “I just like the sound.”

“Your egoism is proven time and again,” Thea sneered. “Why not go vomit into your little healer’s mouth. Do you like the sound of him gargling on your puke, or is it the sound of your throat’s waste that gets you off?”

Such accusations were frequent, and Thea wondered why Veskur gave him nothing but silence.

Her gaurn and hers alone allowed her to see the long equations of each individual, the possibilities tied to the choices they made and the capabilities they were. Her gaurn gave her the power to change those equations, to map out the numbers behind every last act. She could explain everything, every thought and deed through the application of the mathematics that came so easily to her whenever she wore her invention.

While there was still a sense of giddiness to the thrill of discovery, a harrowing sense of terror was beginning to overtake her mind.

Changing even a single number could have consequences, long term effects that could change the very nature of a person, place, or thing in ways that Veskur could not predict while also changing the world around them in ways that were incalculable, not with her current understanding.

Sometimes, she looked at the weapon on her hand and wondered about her own destiny; she was fairly certain that she herself remained intact but she could not say for certain – her Science tore the delicate thread-work of all reality like a dryw sawing through a tapestry.

All of this made her fearful of doing too much. She sat in her tower, in her lab, head in her hands. It became her preference to do little and thereby maintain the integrity of what already was. There was too much that could go wrong and the initial excitement of re-crafting every possibility had long since worn off.

The other gaurns she had made did other things, none of them so blunt and changing as the one she wore on her left hand. She had studied them extensively, had kept from Sotaas what the other sigils of the Houses might do if such tools were to be made for them.

No more, she thought. No more of them will be made. No others will ever have to feel the weight I’ve place on my shoulders.

Figo, lovely Figo, might never have left her had she just let her work go.

LiW 03-00-02-05

Veskur was beginning to doubt that she had any real gravity; the tides that pushed and pulled the Vanir seemed to find no purchase within her and she was left adrift, wandering the lands around her keep. Endrall’s every visit became a broken promise as he increasingly voiced his desire of Sotaas while reminding Veskur that she meant nothing, would never mean nothing.

“We’re not friends,” Endrall whispered in her ear. Veskur nodded, taking the words to heart and slipping her guarn on her hand, using it to set the circumstances Endrall wanted.

When Endrall went and spoke to Sotaas next, they parted as lovers.

This relationship needed to work. Veskur needed it to work. She needed the vicarious sense of gravity in those that were closest to her. It would have to be enough for her, have to be enough even though whenever they kissed Veskur felt like someone was stabbing her in the chest and laughing.

She pretended not to imagine that laughing figure looking down on her from behind Endrall’s eyes.

***

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

 

 

 

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402

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:02:04

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

November 6, 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.

***

– 03:00:02:04 –

Risue Nihm of House Elhaz was one of the best politicians in his family. He could talk and negotiate, carried himself with an air of confidence that often rolled right over lesser men. From the time he could speak he was pushed towards wheeling and dealing, accepting only the best as he dealt with the brightest children of the other noble Houses. He took to fighting with a levl early on, meeting Hekro Gebo as a child, the two of them learning from one another.

Perhaps it was because of his learning with Hekro, one of the best fighters in Midgard, that he developed a strongly defensive style. Perhaps it was where his own skills would have taken him anyway. The fact remained, however, that his preferred method of physical combat was in direct contrast to the way he spoke, and it often confused others.

It was through Hekro that he met Secu Nauthiz, a girl with long red hair and bewitching yellow eyes. She followed at his shoulder in all things, walking with him into meeting halls with the rest of the nobility and listening as he won favors for both their Houses. The elders of Nauthiz took note of him, met with him, deemed him a worthy match for their pretty scion and met with Risue’s father, seeking an engagement.

It was granted.

Life, Risue had thought, could not have been better.

He served along the Coeecian border as all noble youth must. His father made certain that he was sent to the north and west, a place where the barbarians did not strike all that often, and the few fights he found himself in were more exhilarating than terrifying. When a handful of Coeecians attacked and ran away his people thought nothing of it, riding down their enemies into a valley and thinking to finish them there. Never once did any of them suspect that Coeecian cunning had brought them into an ambush.

They came from the top of the valley, raining down boulders that crushed some of their mightiest. Primitive weapons followed their use of terrible chemical fires that no amount of water could quench. Scientists were targeted and picked off, leaving the remaining Vanir with no defense against the extant superstitions that the Coeecians could call from myth to reality. The Coeecian mystics tried to flood the valley and the Vanir tried to escape, and failed. The water rose and soaked them through to the bone, all of them shivering and pale, none of them able to remember what it had been like to be warm.

Risue came up with a desperate ploy, a quick run that cost them half their remaining number but saw them escape. He himself was injured in the process, some Coeecian savage shoving a pointed length of wood into his spine. He ran anyway, as fast as he could manage, further and further north as their enemies chased them. One of their number – a woman from House Dagaz that he had never learned the name of – said that there was a proper keep up in the most remote wastes. They ran for it, hoping that whoever lived there would give them shelter.

The Lady of that keep had emerged from her home and used some form of Science no one had ever seen before to flatten those that chased them. She called a mountain out of the sky and caused it to crash on top of the Coeecian horde, rattling the earth, tossing them from their feet, shaking the bones in their flesh. The Lady’s manservant, Jaso, had emerged from the Keep and told them that the Lady was not receiving guests and gave them every supply they asked for before sending them on their way.

It had been the first time that the Vanir people as a whole became aware of Lady Veskur Wyrd and her strange Science.

Love is War 03-00-02-04

Risue had been shipped home. The house medics could do nothing for him, and so he was sent to the nobles of House Suwilo. Eri Sahr himself had tended to his wounds, sealing the gaping hole in his spine and teaching him to walk again. There was pain, a lot of pain, and old muscle began to soften as the exercises he had done since childhood became impossible to perform. His mind and his tongue remained sharp, however, and that gave him some comfort even as the levl at his hip became something he carried more for comfort than practicality.

Seasons came and went and past and slowly, slowly, he came to terms with his new lot in life. The Golden Champion fell to Jesam, Jesam fell to the Lady Wyrd, a new Njord was named, and the White Rose became hero to the Vanir people. Risue’s father was never able to accept his new weakness, but Secu remained by his side. It was enough; with skill of word he created a web of contacts and contracts that brought both his House and Nauthiz wealth and honor.

However, the glory that he had hoped to win fell by the wayside. Worse, when Secu travelled, she did so under the protective arm and eye of a recovering Golden Champion. Risue pretended that it didn’t bother him to see his fiance walking with his friend, the friend that would recover physically where he could not. When it happened he forced a smile and kept on talking, relying on his quick wit to shield the agony he felt whenever he saw his love in Lady Hekro’s arms.

Life went on.

He did the best he could.

He brokered treaties with the Darroken and fermented trade through the Darroken lands with the strange eastern nations – the Hsien, Zaerm, and Trahmin peoples. He was important in the eyes of his House but not his father, and every time the old man looked at him he was reminded of how much he had lost and all that he might have been. He wondered if perhaps the world might not have been better off had he fallen in that valley so long ago, his blood soaking into Coeecian hands, but then he would shake his head and smile and get on with the business of leading his life.

It was harder and harder again to do so. He began to lose focus and confidence, keeping his word and charisma at the beginning of various encounters but becoming frustrated as people failed to live up to the expectations he had for them. They placed difficulties in his way, conspired against him, and he knew that they did even if he could not prove it. They did not pay him for his work and he felt exhausted, betrayed, and alone. Still he tried to be the best person that he could be, still he tried to live up to the potential that he had once possessed.

More and more his father set him out and away from the family holdings, traveling from one place to the next to carry the family banner. Lesser Vanir were sent with him to try and finalize the terms that Risue tried to set but the longer he was gone the more of what he tried to build crumbled.

Finally, he was sent far to the north and west, his father returning him to the place where his life had ended all those seasons ago, the place where his body had refused to lie down. Perhaps his father thought that by returning him to this place he would finally be able to rest, that the not-life that he continued to suffer would finally give way to the ending that should have been his.

And it was there, on the borderlands where he should have died, that he befriended Veskur Wyrd.

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411

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:01:03

Books & Writing, Short Fictions

August 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.

***

03:00:01:03 –

Figo Jera vomited into the basin that Jesam had left in his chamber.

The Coeecian warlord had claimed the keep that Figo had been put in charge of when he had claimed Figo, leaving thousands of Vanir to die in a raven’s feast. He had issued a challenge and Figo had accepted, not noticing until after their weapons were locked that Jesam was not tired, was not wounded, was entirely rested. Figo had been battling all day, one duel after another, winning all of them – he had been flushed with his own strength and skill, so certain of victory, and Jesam had used that as a weapon against him.

Now, bound by his own honor, he was a prisoner among Coeecians. The only ally left to Figo was one of the ambassadors from House Suwilo, and that man was not even Vanir but some refugee from a far off nation, a fox that walked like and wore the face of a man. Farrell, the creature was called. Figo had never suspected him to be anything other than Vanir. He had been spared as a curiosity and now served as Jesam’s personal healer, his talents reserved only for Figo and Jesam himself.

After Jesam had taken him for the first time the Coeecian had looked deep into Figo’s eyes, smiled, and told him I do not love you.

Figo had wanted to fight, had wanted to scream. He did not know how long he had been kept, did not know how often he was pampered and proven weak by his savage Coeecian captors. They had handed him one of their practice blades and offered him escape if he could merely fight past them, had let him believe he was so close before a single blow to his back had rendered him incapable of movement. Jesam had driven into him that night, whispering mine mine mine over and over again while biting at his ear.

The healer had slaved over him for what seemed an eternity after that, stitching severed muscles together, teaching Figo how to use his arms again. His strength slowly returned but his confidence was shattered and there was a pain that never truly let him be, but he was alive and this was not the worst of what befell him.

No, no, the worst was his growing affection for the warlord that abused him at a whim, who displayed him like a jewel, who expected absolute obedience and offered him nothing in return save lesser abuses. Whenever Figo showed the slightest bit of resistance, Jesam would have him punished before taking him roughly, finally leaving the little lord to the wandering hands of Farrell.

The fox did what he could to ease the many pains of body and soul, but as one day bled into another Figo felt himself growing more and more distant. At first he was alarmed to realize that he wasn’t thinking for himself so much anymore, but even that sense of wrongness faded due to apathy. He sighed and accepted his lot, eyes downcast, listening to fewer conversations and not attempting to make any of his own, accepting the fate that had taken him.

He did not even react when he learned that Farrell had seduced Jesam and that the two of them were lovers. The fox never offered any excuses, becoming slightly abusive when dealing with Figo’s hurts. Figo barely noticed, becoming more and more the possession that Jesam saw him as.

Some things penetrated the haze that claimed his mind. As he knelt beside Jesam’s throne, the warlord’s fingers running through his hair, he learned a little of the Coeecian tongue, just enough to follow the gist of various conversations – but his understanding came too late in his captivity for him to do anything more than attempt to listen.

The Coeecians had rebuilt Jesam’s keep and were using it to do exactly what their betters had once done: stage raids outside of Ashaewulo’sabberkena while holding their ground inside it. Thus far no one had been able to take it from them. Jesam would sometimes toy with him during these meetings, and would beat him whenever a setback was suffered, hurting Figo in place of his people.

Figo could do nothing about any of this.

Jesam’s gentility was reserved more and more for Farrell, the scant care and attention that Figo received becoming ever more rare. Even Farrell’s kindness became more a mockery than anything that Figo could truly rely upon. He began to fear that he perhaps deserved this treatment, his sense of personhood melting into nothingness. The Vanir that came to try and defeat him were inevitably beaten back and Jesam used Figo as a sign of his dominance, presenting the fallen noble with every victory he claimed.

When it was said that a noble from some far off House was coming, Figo did not pay much attention. However, he did pay attention to the messenger, a tall and handsome figure dressed in blue robes, his hair and eyes as dark as coal, his feathered wings blacker than the darkest night. He sang instead of spoke, warning Jesam of what was coming. When Jesam offered Figo as an amusement, the beautiful stranger claimed him and toyed with him, but when Figo whispered the name of the coming noble the stranger spread his wings and fled.

Figo could have sworn he’d seen fear in those dark eyes.

Time passed. Figo could not have guessed how much. Though his House was obsessed with the ebb and flow of time and the passing of the seasons, he so rarely saw the sun or felt fresh air on his naked skin. Time passed and he was kept. Then, one day, the promised noble came.

Jesam had Figo brought out in chains, making him kneel before the warlord’s throne. He looked out at the assembled Vanir forces, armies from Houses Gebo, Elhaz, Wynn, and Jera, all assembled in a line and waiting. A single woman was pushed forward from their ranks. She had wild hair and even wilder eyes looking out from a gaunt face. She might have been pretty had she put in the effort, but it was clear from the annoyance she wore like clothing that she had better things to do. It took him a long moment to recognize the non-sigil of House Wyrd, a distant nobility that kept to themselves.

This lone noble had brought no army with her, stood alone without fear between the Vanir armies and the Coeecian horde. She looked at the wall, sizing it up, the levl at her hip an uncomfortable weight, the glove on her hand something that Figo had never seen before. She felt Jesam stiffen, heard his cruel laughter as he sized the woman up and found her lacking.

This is their hope?” The words were a muttered threat, the sign he gave his ritualists something that Figo had seen before. He felt sorry for the woman, for the doom that was about to assault her. The ritualists would take a minute, perhaps two, and then unleash forces unlike anything the woman could possibly deal with by herself. Figo managed to raise his eyes and caught the woman’s stare and froze.

Her eyes were hazel and without bottom. There was a mania there, a passion and genius that bordered on insanity that could not be withstood, could not be tamed, could only just be channeled into something that was nearly comprehensible. The moment the Coeecian magicians started their rites the woman smiled and met Figo’s eyes, the insanity there promising more than Figo could have dared to hope.

Moments before the ritualists unleashed their power the woman raised her gloved hand, speaking a word that Figo could not hear while slashing through the air. Light trailed after the glove, carving an etching into the world before her. Lightning gathered above her, called forth by the Coeecian shamans, a pillar of electricity that seared the breath of the world as it raced down towards her and split the earth around her – but the etching held and the lightning, the very fist of some mighty god that the Coeecians had called forth, shattered the land around her while letting her be.

Her laughter as the Coeecians and Vanir stared at her was full of a terrible madness.

She began carving the air once more and even Figo could feel the power that gathered in her hand, a power that should have been impossible to constrain in such a short time. Figo heard Jesam gasp and step back as the woman spread her fingers, a hurricane’s exhalation smashing into the earth and pushing it up, up, up into the stones of the wall, rocking the boulders, pushing them into the air and destroying the wall entirely. All this damage wrought by a single woman with her glove. She smiled as two nations stared at her in horror.

The woman drew her levl and began to walk forth.

Jesam shouted a battlecry, his people following his lead. The Vanir answered, two armies rushing forth on the battlefield, two entire nations forming a circle of quiet around the woman as she continued to walk directly to the place where Jesam still stood and Figo knelt.

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He called forth all the powers he could muster on short notice, wind and rain and lightning, but the walking woman ignored them all with a casual disdain. No Coeecian stepped in her way, the war between Coeecian and Vanir funnelled into the conflict between warlord and stranger.

When the woman was sixty feet away, Jesam drew his sword and screamed a challenge to duel. The woman smiled and accepted, carving her strange signs in the air, signs that could be seen one heartbeat and were gone the next. Jesam was a seasoned warrior, a ritualist who knew his way around a blade. The woman looked as if she had only just learned to hold her levl properly, like it had been shoved into her hands as the battle began.

Jesam attacked. The woman’s block was clumsy but it left her safe. Her attacks lacked all skill but still she penetrated Jesam’s defenses, surprising him as her left hand carved her strange etchings into the air. The look in her eyes said there could be no other outcome than this, that she would attack and attack and attack and that there was nothing that anyone could do to stop the woman from winning.

He died eventually, his wounds boring him down, blood leaking out of him as the light left his eyes. Figo remembered the look of the woman, the perfect clarity of her. Her stance, her technique, all implied a lack of skill that should have been her end, but she stood victorious with not a scratch on her. She knelt beside Figo and held him, just held him.

Are you alright?” she asked. Figo did not know how to respond, not remembering when he had last been given leave to speak. “It’s going to be okay now. You’re safe.” There was something in her eyes, some spark of compassion that Figo knew surprised them both. He fell into her arms, holding her while a war raged around them, the Coeecians calling retreat as they realized their warlord was dead.

***

Click here to read the next chapter.

***

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

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576

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:01:02

Books & Writing, Short Fictions, Uncategorized

August 21, 2015

So, way back when, some rather good books were published a page at a time in newspapers. The Sherlock Holmes series, the Count of Monte Cristo, and the Three Musketeers are all tales that got their start in this fashion, and we’d like to follow suit. Every week, we’re going to post something new 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. 

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Click here to read previous entry.

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– 03:00:01:02 –

They called her the Golden Champion.

Hekro Gherlid of House Gebo had lost count of the soldiers that had come to her and told her that they believed they would survive this war only because of her guidance. Sometimes she let herself believe their words but she knew a grim truth that would have broken the ranks around her; that she was not the giant that all these people made her out to be, was merely a Vanir noble doing what was needed of her, even though she did not feel she did it especially well. Her forces won more than they lost and she held her independence and lived up to her word. These were not qualities, she thought, that should have made her the object of such blind adoration.

Ages had past and she had served along the Coeecian border all her life, fighting against the hordes of savages that sometimes surged from the southlands. She had learned a little of their strange ways and even knew a smattering of their language. She even knew how to pass for one of their number from a distance – the ways they stood and carried themselves – but the blood of the Vanir ran proud in her veins and her features would never be mistaken for anything less.

She stood with arms at her side, one hand resting on the pommel of the levl she wore across her back, the preferred weapon of the Vanir nobility. She had fought many duels with the weapon and won all of them. Generals and Dukes sometimes came to study her form, to master the techniques that she had cobbled together on the battlefield so they could train their own warriors.

In her youth she had sought tutors in levl fighting and had studied all three major styles, taken from them what she could while most children were still learning how to hold the weapon properly. She was happy to pass on her knowledge to those that wished to stand with her on the killing fields.

Those who came to learn for their own political or social benefit she sent away.

Rare among her people, Hekro believed in the sanctity of certain concepts, places, or objects. The levl was one of the things in which she had faith. A two-and-a-half foot length of metal inlaid with runes and hardened to the point of unbreakability, infused with the blood of the Vanir it was made for. Levls were sometimes passed down through family lines but most of the time they were designed specifically for the noble who wielded them. She had been told that the grip was as sure as any lover’s caress but this was not a thing that she had any knowing of.

Not that anyone else needed to know that.

She sighed and walked across the battlements that were her most recent assignment. The Vanir bards had taken to calling her army the Band of the Golden Cross, for her pennant displayed two golden lines on a black background. She had marched her soldiers over three thousand miles of terrain to bring them here, a soft spot in the Coeecian border, a valley that had been mired in conflict for centuries. It had been handed to one noble after another, claiming life after life until the ground itself was soaked crimson and the air smelled of copper.

When songs were sung of this place, the bards called this valley Ashaewulo’sabberkena – the Shadow of Death.

The latest offering the Vanir had made to the valley was a young man from House Jera, a noble line that Hekro had never had much use for. A slight youth, Figo Jera was more cute than handsome. Despite his boyishness he had proven to be a quick study and a capable officer.

For all his good qualities, however, he was still young and terribly naive. His enemies took advantage of both flaws, drawing him into the Ashaewulo’sabberkena with every intention of spilling his blood on the unholy grounds of the valley. When Hekro had arrived she had found Figo taking risks where what was lost far outweighed what there was to gain, even if he had been capable of gaining whatever goal it was he sought.

Hekro had quickly realized the boy’s limitations; Figo was not brash, just innocent. The Coeecian in charge of the forces which opposed them had recognized that failing for what it was, had taken advantage of it to fully decimate Figo’s forces. The loss had been devastating and even more experienced nobles would have found their troops demoralized in such circumstances. To his credit, the boy had managed to maintain a surprising amount of control over his forces and, having now met and spent time with him, Hekro could understand why.

“Good morning, my Lady.” Figo approached from the east, his levl at his hip. It was the custom of many noble Houses to wear their levls in such fashion, but most nobles had not stood on the frontlines of the war. Fewer still had witnessed the horrors that House Gebo stood against on a regular basis. The nobles of House Suwilo did but they were healers, not warriors, a distant presence in every conflict. Hekro had explained the advantages to Figo at length but the boy was still a creature of his upbringing – another decade or so on the border, Hekro thought, would change that for the better.

“And you, my Lord.” Hekro clasped the boy’s wrist, a casual and friendly show of dominance that Figo had never sought to contest. The boy took his place at Hekro’s side and looked out over the assembled forces that waited on the lip of a distant horizon, their mass looking like nothing so much as a sea of chaos.

“Do you think they’ll attack today?” Figo asked. Hekro looked in the boy’s wide silver eyes and earnest expression; the boy was so very eager to learn.

“At twilight, yes.”

“How can you tell?”

“Do you see the pinions, there, there, and there?” The boy nodded. “See how they move north to south? They wobble a little, yes, and they look like they’re just part of the crowd, but the Coeecian’s method of war is a complex architecture. The swarming mass of chaos only looks that way. In truth we face three separate armies that have all fallen under the command of a single warlord. If we can find him and kill him, that force will disperse.”

“You know all that just from their pennants?”

“Yes. Coeecians put great stock in their leaders and the favor of their gods, but their minds are soft from their reliance on superstition. Hence, they dress up their forces to remind themselves of who is on what side and what they are doing. There is a language to their horde, and I have learned to read it – which is why I know that there are three armies down there, that they do not like one another, and if we kill their leader they will fight among themselves and then disperse.”

“Only to reform somewhere else.”

“We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it. One thing at a time, Lord Figo.”

The boy nodded, studying the mass and memorizing the pinions that Hekro had pointed out. Hekro could have told him not to bother – the Coeecians were a superstitious people, changing the color and designs of what mattered according to which of their barbaric castes was ascendant at any given moment in time. Hekro was able to spot the leader’s campfire with only a little difficulty and judged their enemy to be of the Skie caste, a group of mountain dwellers as known for their arrogance and sense of entitlement as they were for the powerful storms they could summon.

Figo had met that warlord in personal combat but, like so many Vanir, he knew none of the details that defined the Coeecian swarm and so had let his enemy go. Figo’s scouts had spent some time within Hekro’s, the combined force able to learn that their enemy’s name was Jesam and that he had developed an obsession with Hekro’s young charge, a powerful lust for ownership that had rewritten his view of this campaign.

Jesam emerged from his tent, his white robe coated in dust, the lightning blue cloak on his shoulders hanging loose around his throat. He kept his black hair spiked and, as he saw Hekro, waved and offered an insipid grin as he moved towards the ashes of an abandoned campfire. Hekro scowled and crossed her arms, knowing the man was preparing some sort of ritual working and knowing that she was too distant to do anything about it. She stood still when the rain started, remaining still when the chill seeped into her bones. She did not react even when Jesam looked up and raised his hand in a mock greeting.

Turning on her heel, Hekro went back the way she came and settled into her quarters. They had the high-ground, their walls on a massive embankment that would keep the Coeecians from any sort of direct attack. Some of their magicians were capable of great wonders but such magicians had to be in eyesight to make use of their most potent rituals, a limitation which would put them within eyesight of the Vanir scientists, who could then complete the circuits of science to crush their enemies. It was, in Hekro’s opinion, a stupid and endless cycle that rendered both groups completely useless – the best the magicians and scientists could do was annoy their enemies, like what Jesam had done with his little working.

Hekro returned to her quarters with the intention of sleeping, leaving strict orders that she was to be awoken the moment the Coeecians did anything out of the ordinary. She was confident that her soldiers knew exactly what she meant. She walked into her room and stripped off the jacket all nobles wore when going into battle, a thick fabric interwoven with metal thread. The weight of it off her shoulders brought with it a dull ache that she ignored, her well-muscled torso covered in old scars. She took note of them all, remembering those who had died to leave proof of victory etched into her skin.

Manuind Berhagala. Ashaewi Manuund. Iwasund Berkenaund

She was awoken by a knocking at her door, her hand gripping the levl beside her before her mind was completely aware of her surroundings. Long vigils all along the Coeecian border had taught her that sleep was a luxury and coming back to the waking world without a weapon at hand could be a costly mistake. She blinked at the empty room, shrugged into her jacket and sheathed the levl across her back before walking back among her troops.

“Report.” She looked at the fidgeting Lord Figo while fastening the jacket closed; the blush along the boy’s cheeks was both flattering and bearing clear evidence of his youth.

“We thought that the Coeecians were using the rain as a distraction,” he began. “But it, uh, seems that they’ve been using the storm to erode the earth out from under the keep.” Hekro snapped to attention, looking at the boy and considering the applications.

The keep they lived in was the centrepiece of Vanir presence in Ashaewulo’sabberkena, a bastion that had stood since before Hekro was born and had provided haven, refuge, and staging point for the Vanir nation. It had allowed the Vanir, even in the leanest of times, to keep the Coeecians from encroaching further into Midgard, the home of the Vanir people. The loss of the keep would be devastating both strategically and moralistically, a truth that someone like Jesam would know.

Hekro finished straightening her jacket, strode outside and stood on the heavy walls. Figo followed, chattering on about logistics. Hekro ignored him as she crossed her arms and looked outside. The rain was so thick that she could only just make out the Coeecians down below, using their tools and fell trickery to erode the base upon which the keep stood, and she knew that Jesam had trapped them – for if they went out there they would be walking into a trap, but if they kept behind their walls the walls would crumble and the Coeecians would swarm over them and kill them all.

She explained this to Figo, trying to decide if there was a way out of Jesam’s little gambit. Figo wanted to go out and fight, confident of his ability to win, but Hekro held him in place with a look. There was more going on here, some plan that they did not see.

“Figo Jera!”

The cry caught them all off-guard. A moment later twelve arrows were fired from down below, each of them striking the battlements. No other volley was fired and even Hekro could see that the arrows were tied with messages around them, the paper treated to resist the strain of water. She strode to the edge of the wall and claimed the arrow, ignoring the warnings of Figo’s men. The Coeecians would not shoot someone in the act of retrieving a message; they considered it bad luck.

She untied the string around the shaft and unrolled the paper, looking at the girlish Coeecian script. The Vanir held the Coeecian written language in contempt for its complexity and facade of elegance, preferring the economy of their own written codes, and most Vanir nobles would have had no idea how to interpret Jesam’s message. Hekro was not so ignorant, though she did have trouble with the strange curves and loops that the Coeecians used for their inert written sigils.

My Darling Figo,

As much as I admire your persistence in resisting my advances, I have to admit that I’m finding the drudgery of our game growing a little old. You know I want you and you know that there is nothing that you can do to dissuade me from getting what I want. How many more of your people must die before you turn yourself over to me so that we can both sate our desires?

Oh, my lust, my lust… can you not see that what I’m doing is for the best? You are so precious, Lust, a treasure. I will keep you safe, lock you away like the most precious of gems. Surely this is what you crave because it is what I crave for you. How could you want anything else?

I’ve spotted you speaking and walking with that blond harlot. I want you to know that she will not stand between us much longer; my plans have nearly come to fruition. Soon, we will be together and you will be mine and all will be well.

Until then, my Lust, know that the seed I spill I do in your name,

Jesam of the Skie

“They’ve been sending arrows like that every couple of weeks,” Figo said, looking over Hekro’s shoulder. “Our ritualists claim that there is no magic about them, but there must be some meaning to this act… is it some sort of superstition?”

“Yes, that’s it exactly.” Hekro felt no guilt at the lie as she crumpled the paper and tossed it into the nearest fire. His knowing the full details of Jesam’s obsession would benefit no one.

A deep growl rumbled underneath them, the earth giving way under the deluge that assailed them. Hekro’s hand immediately went to her levl, the weapon drawn as she walked towards the sound and ordered the soldiers on those walls back. No Coeecian rope or ladder touched the battlements above the sound as Hekro ordered her country-folk into position. For long moments nothing happened, nothing more than rain tumbling down from on high, liquid shattering on stone.

Then the world screamed as mighty stone walls were dragged out of sight by simple entropy.

She did not flinch when those walls fell. She held her ground and Figo stood with her, his own levl held at the ready. She did not turn to see how much of her people’s resolve had broken with the wall, did not take her eyes from the gaping emptiness that waited before her, a threat, a promise, a sigh made real. She held her ground and she knew that those behind her did so only in honor of her strength.

When the Coeecians swarmed through, a horde of them bashing through like rats, Hekro lifted her levl had howled a warcry, leading her people forward to meet the enemy. Bones shattered and blood swept out in arcs as she struck, cutting a swath through the invaders as an answering cry rose behind her, the Vanir finding their courage and joining their attack.

Time passed. The rain continued. Her limbs felt heavy, her breath coming in long and painful gasps. For the moment no Coeecian dared approach her. She stood straight, taking a moment to assess the situation. Piles of the dead lay all around her, Vanir and Coeecian blood co-mingling an offering to Midgard below. She glanced around, knocking stones out of the air with her levl as she assessed the situation. The Vanir, from what she could tell, were winning.

Hekro’s knowledge of the Coeecian war machine allowed her to know what they were doing and how they were moving. A few shouted orders stymied the efforts of those they fought, stuffing their games before they ever took effect. She caught sight of Jesam in the crowd, holding one of the short blades his people favored, his cloak free of the gore that coated everything else. Hekro scowled at him, envious – she would be bathing for hours to get the blood out of her hair.

Jesam smiled at her and vanished into the crowd, safe behind the lines of his people. She grimaced and forced herself onward, heading towards the spot where he had been. If she could kill that one man, the Coeecians would retreat, fighting among themselves until they had another leader to guide them. She got to that point, a small group of her own soldiers following her as best they could as she cut down the cattle that tried to stand before her.

She caught sight of him again. He wasn’t looking for her, she saw, his eyes on the figure of his obsession – Lord Figo Jera. The boy was holding his own, a credit to a noble line that did not deserve such as he. He stood, levl and dryw drawn, fighting his enemies one at a time. Unlike the rest of them, Hekro saw, Figo was fighting one duel after another. He was being worn down, being left mostly unharmed. She could see what Jesam wanted to do and felt bile rise in her throat at the thought of it.

LiW 002

 

Pushing herself forward on limbs that were already screeching fatigue, she pressed through the crowd and broke past any fool that thought to stand in her way. She was halfway to Figo when she felt the blade enter her back and push through, steel exiting from her midriff. She spun, trying to backhand with her levl, but her killer ducked under the blow and used her movement and strength to make the wound he had inflicted upon her so much worse.

“I want you to know,” Jesam said, cradling her as the levl dropped from her fingers, “That I could never have done this without you. The Golden Champion, the Vanir who knows our ways. Did you ever think that perhaps the language of war could change? No?” He pressed his lips against hers, recoiling when she bit him and laughed when he tasted his own blood.

“Figo will stop you.” Her voice faltered but her glare did not.

“Doubtful.” Jesam smiled, his words slurring together in her ears. “He is a beautiful bauble, nothing more. Without his walls to protect him…?” His smile deepened. He left her there, among the corpses and the muck. She heard him shout out a challenge to Figo, demanding a duel to end the conflict. The boy, flush with the victories he thought he had won, accepted.

She tried to shout a warning but spat up blood, drowning herself. He had punctured her lungs with his blade. She could do nothing but lie there and die, listening as the beautiful Lord Figo was lost.

***

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

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Fiction – Love is War 03:00:01:01

Books & Writing, Short Fictions

August 14, 2015

So, way back when, some rather good books were published a page at a time in newspapers. The Sherlock Holmes series, the Count of Monte Cristo, and the Three Musketeers are all tales that got their start in this fashion, and we’d like to follow suit. Every week, we’re going to post something new 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. 

***

03:00:01:01

A storm was coming, the kiss of it cresting the horizon.

Lady Veskur Wyrd watched the gathering clouds for a time, trying to remember if the storm was something she had called. She did not remember and could not think of a reason why she might have, but then she had been very busy. Twitching, she pulled the blanket draped over her shoulders tighter and stood barefoot on the balcony of her lonely keep, her brown hair catching in the wind. She did not remember the last time she had been outside, did not remember the last time she had slept, did not remember the last time she had left her laboratory.

If she had been prone to look in mirrors her appearance would have surprised her, the light in her eyes a stark contrast to the lines of fatigue etched into her flesh, the pale sallowness of her skin. As it stood, however, none of it mattered. She was allowing herself this small break only because she had discovered a miracle that she knew no one else would understand. Her nation claimed to be one of rational intellectuals but not a one of them could have understood what it was she had wrought.

Oh, she had tried to explain it to them. She had taken her numbers and theories into the cities owned and operated by the Great Houses, sat before their councils and nobles and shared everything she had spent her lifetime unraveling. They had accused her of madness and dismissed her with winks and knowing smiles, eager to have her on her way. She knew they considered her a joke, good enough to call upon when they needed a laugh. She accepted this, as she cared nothing for their opinions.

There were times, uncounted by both her and the rest of her people, when they would come to her to fix their problems. She would come, solve their troubles, and leave. No one took note of these moments, least of all the lady herself. She cared nothing for debt, obligation, or tie. The only thing that mattered to her were the studies she had devoted everything that she was to; all else was empty distraction, noise without meaning, and the only reason she ever went in the first place was to fulfill her family’s obligations to the Vanir so that they would leave her alone.

It began to rain, sky-tears touching her face and spilling down her high cheekbones. She took note of it and enjoyed the sensation, taking a few more minutes to stand there until she was drenched and shivering. It was information, being cold and wet, and she accepted it for what it was before retreating back inside and fixing herself a hot cup of tea and an even hotter bath. Warmth within and without eased tensions that had been building in her for weeks, a gentle drowsiness seeping into her every pore. A simple application of her knowledge kept the water steaming. She drifted into oblivion, woke when the mood took her, dressed and went back to her one true joy.

She had been forced to take up weaving and metallurgy when none of her family wanted to help her with what they thought of as her wasteful efforts. They had moved her out into the wilds and forgotten about her, granting her the solitude she had needed from them almost by accident. She had shown anyone who so much as feigned interest on those rare visits the glove she had made. She tolerated their blank stares and hollow praises.

The glove had bits of wood woven on the outskirts of the fabric. She had found that only ash, yew, elm, alder, cedar, or rowan could shape the energies she had bound in the way she wished. Metal had been woven within the glove to channel those same energies, taking from flesh and moving it to the world outside the body. Gold, silver, or copper, exclusively – nothing else would accomplish the task.

The Earl of her House had seen her glove and asked her to explain why she had placed the Crest of High House Wyrd on the back of the palm. She had tried to explain it to him but he had just stared at her blankly, not understanding though willing enough to indulge her. She had a soft spot for the old man and felt a kinship to him she did not feel for any of the others; he had built their House from nothing and she, if they would just let her alone long enough, would change the world in his name.

She slipped the glove over her left hand and felt the energies coursing within and frowned. Her problem was one of proof – how could she explain that she had changed the world when the changes that she made had always been, particularly when considering something as subtle as the possibilities of greatness or failure within a lifetime? She had used the science she had invented to further her own understanding of things the rest of her nation could not even begin to fathom.

It was only a matter of time, she knew, before that understanding drove her irreversibly insane.

Her family had left her a single servant, a man of some passing handsomeness whose name she could never quite remember. She knew that her parents hoped that she would take an interest in him and for their sakes she had tried. He had ended up striking her as pointlessly dull and she had as little to do with him these days as possible, ignoring the sounds that came from his rooms when he brought yet another lover to her home and pretended to be some minor lordling. If they knew of his games the rest of her family would have had him killed; she politely ignored him and appreciated the same courtesy paid in kind.

But now that man was standing on the edge of her laboratory. He wouldn’t say anything until she acknowledged him, knowing how irate she could become when she was torn from her work, but his eyes weighed upon her. She was tempted to use her sciences on him in that moment but held back, knowing better than anyone else ever would the responsibility that came with knowing what she knew. She sighed and slipped the glove off her hand and looked up at him with polite impatience.

“There’s someone here to see you.”

“Who is it? Family?”

“No.”

He seemed uncertain of what else to say so she sighed and followed him to the modest greeting room that was mostly used by him. There was a figure there that she had heard of but never met. Handsome, coal black hair and beautiful eyes, slender elegant features with just a hint of roughness around the edges. He wore clothing that was entirely out of place with the Vanir people but that nonetheless suited him, draping down and around his slim build. The most notable thing about him, however, were the dark and feathery wings that rose from his shoulders, stretching out like clouds to flick the water off.

“Lady Wyrd, greetings,” the man said. “Do you know who visits you?”

“Your name is Lloykiel,” Wyrd said, staring at the figure, grimacing as she stumbled over the complexities of his first syllable. He nodded. There were tales of him, fables that her family had shared regarding some long ago war. He was said to have been involved in that war, somehow, and it was said that he had taken an interest in the war that her people were now enmeshed in with their uncivilized neighbors, the Coeecian people. No one she had spoken to knew what that interest was, only that he was out there and a part of it.

“So I am known here,” Lloykiel sang. That was another thing she’d heard, that he sang instead of spoke. There was beauty in the sound and she did not begrudge him this even if she did find it passing strange.

“What do you want?”

“I have a question.” He paused and stretched his wings out, accepting some steaming liquid that her servant brought to him. “It is about your studies.”

“What do you know of them?

“Only what you claim.” He paused, mulling over the cup in his hand. “There is use for you, a call that will credit you, give you acceptance.”

“Really.” Even she could hear the disinterest in her voice.

“I tell you the truth,” Lloykiel smiled. “To the south of here, battle. Use what you have learned.”

He finished his beverage and left, toasting her briefly before going. She considered his words at length and finally decided that while he had been interesting, his message was not. She returned to her laboratory and her work, noting equations that would aid her in her quest for discovery. She lost track of time, ignoring the world around her completely until her servant ran into her room, ignoring all sense of decorum.

“Yes, what is it?” she demanded. He merely stared at her.

“The C-Coeecians,” stammered the man. “Jesam. They’ve broken past the southern border, a surprise raid. They’re nearly here. They aren’t far from here, you can see them in the distance without strain.”

Cursing under her breath, Wyrd slipped on her glove and went to the top of her tower, throwing a blanket around her shoulders. There was wind and the storm she had enjoyed before and just as her servant had told her there was an army of Coeecians chasing down a small group of her people. She studied the Coeecians with some passing interest, having never seen one before.

Where her people were orderly and stringent, the Coeecians were dirty and chaotic, a mess of lines and flesh. Not one of them was dressed like another and they charged forward with less sense than beasts, much of their flesh exposed, their weapons poorly made and rusted and dented. She had heard they had a religion andthat they believed in some sort of higher power, but she had scoffed that any human people could believe in something so infantile – but looking at them now, she would have believed them capable of any sort of idiocy.

She scowled as she noticed her people running towards her tower. They would expect her to shelter them, distracting her from her studies while the animals on their heels battered at her walls. Her own people would attempt some sort of defence and would try and fail to engage her in conversation. They would go through her things looks for weapons. They would go through her things. It was all too much of a bother for her to want to deal with.

Though the glove she had made had been meant for quiet weavings, there were other more blunt uses that she could put it to. She had used a base bit of knowledge to keep herself warm in the bath, but what she crafted allowed for her to magnify that power a hundredfold with a quickness that everyone else had told her was impossible. When she had tried to prove her discoveries they had called her a liar and accused her of trickery. Unsure how to deal with their accusations, she’d retreated to the home they had given her and locked herself in her laboratory, gotten back to work.

It was her fault. She should have known better.

But now, looking out and over the plains below her and the two ravening hordes that were charging her home, she sighed and realized that she would have to put her theories to pragmatic use. Destructive power had always been the preferred sign of the Vanir’s strength and she called on that power now, forcing the unseen forces that coursed through every living body into the wires in her glove, into the wood and the etchings she had carved into them. Silver and elm, that was her preference. The sigil attached to the glove began to spin, light and lightning spilling forth and carving a place in the storm.

– a web woven of her will reaching far beyond the skies and into the black sea that the world itself swam through – debris floated there, drawn by a power called gravity by some and love by others, a circle around the world of endless yearning – Veskur Wyrd took one of those bits of rock and ice, pulling upon it with her will, bringing it closer to the earth, pulling it to where those that wished to disturb her were coming – this is what was meant to be, had always been, and none could dispute the claim –

11840634_752889074821131_139674472_oShe heard their screams over the wind when the gift her will had summoned came into view. Some among the Coeecians, she assumed, would know that someone among the Vanir had to be calling upon such power. She saw some of them falter and look for some sign of whoever it was that had brought forth the approaching cataclysm, hoping to destroy the primitive techniques they would have employed instead of the more civilized approach she had created.

One of them realized what was happening. She saw him stare at her and point, he still too far distant for her to see anything else before the end claimed them all. Her chosen weapon smothered them, the impact knocking her from her own feet even at this distance. She rose and looked towards the point of impact, but the cloud of dust and snow following the wake of devastation knocked her down again. She hissed in irritation, both from the growing bruise on her thigh and knowing that her laboratory would have suffered from the blast and been torn into disarray. She managed to stand again eventually, her leg protesting as she looked out and over what had once been a fertile plain and was now a blasted valley.

The people of her nation had survived, caught on the edge of the blast. They had been knocked to the ground and looked battered, but none the worse for wear. They were all looking at her and she could see the awe on their faces and knew that they would gather their courage and one of their number would be chosen to come and speak with her.

More time would be lost as she ran through the same explanations and the same condescending idiocy. Growling, she stormed into her tower and screamed for her servant, his trembling presence finally coming clear to her.

“Go out to those imbeciles and tell them I am not accepting company at this time,” she hissed. “Give them whatever supplies they need and then send them on their way. If you have dire need me, I’ll be in my laboratory.”

He may have stumbled over a response; she was not certain, did not care and did not stay to listen. She howled when she entered the only room in her keep that was important and saw the mess she had made of things. Taking a deep breath, she considered the clutter. As bad as the mess was, it did not appear as if anything had been damaged and the time spent cleaning would still be less than the time it would have taken to deal with the siege that would have happened otherwise.

Muttering under her breath, she took the glove from her hand and started re-stacking every last detail that had fallen.

***

You can read the next chapter by clicking this sentence. If you like the artwork, why not go and thank Meghan Duffy at duffyartdesign.com? She’s cool people.

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