MENU

short fiction
Tag Archive

529

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:08

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

April 21, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry.  

 

Figo Jera had always seen the world for its light.

In his eyes, everything was beautiful. Everything had meaning. There were darker shades but they were perversions, not true things in and of themselves. Most of those shadows were outside Midgard and therefore unimportant in the greater scheme of things, but there were some darknesses that would leak into even the brightest day, little black veins that touched the light and stood un-banished. Figo had known the edges of a darkness like that, having even come to love her for what she was, but he knew that the danger of losing himself to that sort of monster was simply too great to be borne.

He had not seen Veskur Wyrd for a very long time.

A figure from his nightmares had returned – the madman Jesam. He had been Figo’s proof of evil and arrogance, a figure so consumed by solipsism that the rest of the world was nothing more than a toy for him to abuse and break. Figo himself had been such a toy, left bleeding and pleading. He didn’t like to think of it. Light should have saved him from that darkness but instead a greater darkness had come and taken away everything.

Figo had discussed that at length with Endrall, Farrell, and the other nobles that he kept in his closest circle. He threw parties for them, hosted events for them, took care of their troubles and listened to their problems – and if they did not do the same for him, well, perhaps he had no problems worthy of that name or they trusted his strength to overcome the things that they could not.

He was strong, he knew that. The fingers on his left hand twitched as the fabric of the gaurn chafed his skin. His levl was secured along his back, the dryw he had carried no more than a memory. He had seen the hated tool drowned, holding it underwater and leaving it to the tides. He had not wished to carry something so traitorous with him. Many of his soldiers had followed this practice, taking to wearing shield-gauntlets on their left forearms as another echo of their commander.

You’ve become an icon,” Hekro had told him, laughing. “Just like me. The Golden Champion and the Rose Dragon. What a pair we make.” She shook her head and clasped his shoulder. He wondered how much of that admiration was truly his and how much was a side-effect of his association with the Lady Wyrd, of the Science she commanded and the tool on her hand. He hated that he could not explain that to anyone.

He’d seen Wyrd thrice since abandoning her all those decades ago. Once had been at a public function; the two of them had resumed communication briefly over something silly and unimportant, sharing fables with one another. Figo had mentioned a time and place where he could be found, expounding on those details, but he had never meant for the woman to come.

She had anyway, keeping to the background. She watched with wide eyes, nervous as a colt, keeping to the back of the trees and looking lost, torn, and hurt. She had tried to approach him only once but had stopped immediately when Figo took a step back. She’s stared a moment longer, shaking, then simply waved and left, holding herself.

Endrall had heard of that moment, had told him that the woman was not to be trusted, that she was a monster and a foulness that needed to be kept at arm’s length. Farrell further drove that point home and Figo knew that if anyone would know these things and hold these things that it would be the two of them. Especially Endrall, who loved the woman in a way that Figo had once shared but now wanted no part of.

The next had been at random, sometime after Deeam had ascended to the position of Njord. He had been out at the markets of House Fehu when he had seen her, walking alone and shaking. He had caught her eye and seen agony writ there, a loneliness that he could not put a name to. She had looked at him and recoiled, had turned on her heel and shambled away like a corpse caught on a string. He didn’t like to think of that encounter. He didn’t like to think of that encounter at all.

What if his every moment since meeting her had been a lie, something she had created? Endrall was right; she could not be trusted and neither could anything that happened around her. Maybe she had set the entire thing up with Jesam the first time around, just so that he would accept her into his life the way he had. She was vile. She was a monster. She was completely capable of undertaking the actions that Endrall accused her of. Figo knew better than anyone that Wyrd was capable of anything.

But the look of her those last two times; the fatigue, the sense of defeat and longing. Figo was not certain what to make of that. He sighed and looked at the note that lay on the table before him, lit by flickering light suspended in the air through the application of Coeecian trickery. Vanir science could do similar things. Were they really so different?

Figo, the note before him read, Lovely Figo. You were taken from me so long ago that I have trouble remembering you – your face, your touch, the look of defeat in your eyes. I hear you’ve become a Lord and a General, a leader of the forces I fight, but we both know that’s a delusion born of the arrogance you’ve surrounded yourself with. The truth is and always has been this: you are nothing more than a whore, nothing more than my toy to use and abuse as I see fit.

Your mistakes are many but I, in my generosity, can be forgiving. You have some understanding of the damage I am poised to inflict upon your people, having seen first hand the advantage I have built myself since assassinating your previous king and taking advantage of the ceremony surrounding the crowning of your new one. Believe me when I say that the victories you have suffered are as nothing compared to what I am even now prepared to claim.

I make you this offer, my most precious whore. Come to me of your own accord. I am not saying that I will halt my plans – I will not – but if you come home to me I will cease my attacks for seven full seasons. Your people will have time to catch their breath, to mourn their dead, and you will have won that time for them. Come to me, whore, as I have commanded you. If you do not, then by the next turn of the moon I will have wiped your people off the face of your world, and still, whore, still I will take you for my own and you will not like what I do to you then.

Or perhaps you will. We know how much you adored the things I did to you.

This is the last choice that I will ever allow you to make.

For I am as I always was: Jesam the First.

Figo read over the note once, twice. The Vanir were losing – Jesam the First was an imposter, clearly, trading on the name of an old hero of his people, but his strategies were good ones. The Vanir were a hardier people but not quite so fast. The Coeecians fought brutal battles, digging in trenches and fighting for every inch of land. They cared nothing for actually winning, it seemed, striking at settlements, at civilians, at supplies, at anything they could and then running away at the first sign of trouble.

When Jesam the First said that he would end the Vanir as a people, Figo believed him. He remembered the way the first Jesam had claimed him, had touched him and used him. He remembered the illnesses he had suffered, vomiting every morning with the taste of Jesam and Farrell in his mouth, the dull throbbing ache that had dimmed the light of his eyes and shaken his spine and legs. He knew that if Jesam claimed that he could do a thing that he fully believed that he was capable of doing it.

He walked the length and breadth of his soldiers, silently naming them as he went. Many of them rose as he walked past and he smiled at them but waved off any attempt at conversation – there was no one he wanted to talk to at that moment and his men were wise enough to respect his desire for solitude. He reached the edge of his camp and looked south, into the far wilds where the collected marble that the Coeecians laughably called cities sat, tall and imposing. He thought of Endrall and Veskur, of Farrell, of Jesam and Hekro.

How many of his decisions were his own? Wyrd had always told him that she wanted what was best for him, that she wanted him to be happy. She had once explained that she didn’t need to be in his life to win – all she needed was for him to smile, to be the light that she could never be. He looked at his men again and felt like the sun, each of them a planet that reflected the light and warmth of he himself. Had Wyrd done that, too? Hekro had once said that the sort of charisma that he possessed was an inborn talent, that he had shined of greatness from the very moment that the two of them had met.

Wyrd could change that sort of thing if she desired. Figo knew she could.

Silent, he walked back through the camp. There was a way for him to win if he only possessed the courage for it, a way for him to escape all doubt while saving the whole of the Vanir nation. This method would not require him to stand and it would free him from the pain of thought, of choice, the horror that came with being a man.

He pulled the gaurn off his left hand, laid it on the desk and looked at it. How much of himself he had poured into such a complex tool and how simple it looked, a heap of inert fabric without his will to guide it. He unstrapped the levl from his back and laid it down beside the gaurn, staring at it – these were symbols, he knew, things that he would never surrender were the choice his own.

Whatever happened now was all her fault.

It took him longer than he would have thought, using Science without the gaurn to ease the process. He completed the circuit required for sending a message, directing it to what was left of the Nauthiz Coven.

To you what are left, he wrote, I have received word from Jesam the First that he is poised to destroy the whole of the Vanir as a people and to claim Midgard for himself. I believe that he is capable of doing this but he has offered to stay his hand for seven full seasons if I turn myself over to him. I am going to do this – but I am leaving you the key to our people’s salvation.

I know that you and yours have been eager to study one of the gloves that the Lady Wyrd has crafted, to study the limits of the Ethcinos Sciences that she has tapped into. I am giving you that chance; I will hide mine in a place that only one among you will think to look. Though it has been designed to work only for me, I will leave you some of my blood. Perhaps, you will discover its secrets. This is my wish.

In return for my sacrifice and my end, I ask only that you discover the secret of making and copying Wyrd’s tool, that you pass that secret to the rest of the nobility and that the Vanir, as one, stand strong against the Coeecian horde that threatens us and has now claimed me.

Endrall Sahr will be upset by my absence, as will Hekro Gherlid. I ask that you show this message to them, that they might know that I was thinking of them and that I loved them both for everything they had given me, everything that they meant to me. Tell them both that this is not their fault. Tell them both that this is my choice, made freely and of my own will.

He signed the message and sent it along with the note that Jesam the First had sent him, taking the glove with him when he snuck out of the camp but leaving his levl behind. His soldiers would find it. He hoped they would understand. His sentries stood to attention but they were looking without, not within – no one abandoned the Band of the Rose Dragon, all of them loyal to a fault. He felt a momentary twinge of guilt for abandoning them in this manner, but he knew they would all die otherwise.

Alone, out in the dark, he looked to the night sky and set the moon as his marker. He did not have much time. Shrugging out of the noble robes and leaving them and his birthright behind, he moved swiftly into the darkness of night and circumstance, the light within him guttering out with each step until there was no sign of anything other than the eternal black.

 

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

Read article

425

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:07

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

April 14, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry.  

 

The woman was an idiot. That was the only explanation.

Veskur and Thea had been in constant communication for decades, the letters they shared so much shorter than they once had been but still providing Thea with a sense of completion that he otherwise lacked. Even after River and Veskur had fallen apart he had continued to hold them both in high esteem, speaking with both, trying to bridge the gap that loomed ever longer between them. River was polite enough in mixed company but when given the chance to speak his mind, he could wax for hours on Thea’s favorite subject.

She’s a self-obsessed ninny,” River would say, lounging over his latest conquest. “She’s an idiot and she isn’t worthy of your time. She’s a coward who’s afraid to take anything except the misery that other people heap on her and who wouldn’t want to heap it on? She never fights back. She’s a simpleton playing at being a genius. There are better things our people might do and better people you should share your genius with.”

When Thea shared these insights with Veskur she said nothing.

She’s a hateful, spiteful little witch and I hate her,” Endrall told him, the one time that the Prince of House Suwilo came by looking for information. “She’s a dryw. You can’t trust her. She never does anything for anyone unless she can hold that person in debt for the act. She lies and spreads rumors, she’s deceitful, and she hurts people without ever really thinking about it. She’s double-faced, double-edged, a monster and a monstrosity.”

Thea wanted to strangle him; instead, he smiled and waited for Endrall to go away.

Coeecian offenses reigned down from all over Midgard. Risue was of the opinion that Jesam the First had used Deeam’s ascent to the position of Njord to place his agents all throughout Midgard. Thea agreed with him but knew that agreement meant as little as Risue’s supposition – what had happened had already happened and Thea considered Risue a failure, a rank failure in his chosen arena. Still, others listened to him, paid him the respect that they should have saved for finer minds.

We had wondered why the Coeecian front was quiet during our Njord’s ascent,” Risue droned on. “Now we know. Jesam the First used our relaxed guard to move his scouts into our lands without them drawing attention to themselves. Our intelligence informs us that they’re using some sort of trickery to communicate with one another at a distance, their number waiting for orders from their Skie warlord. What we need to do is find him but he’s been clever and gone into hiding.”

The supposedly greatest military minds of the age were quick to agree.

It was a clever move,” Hekro muttered. “We expected some sort of large scale assault, the usual stupidity and reliance on brute force that the Coeecians are known for, not this low cunning. Our scouts are searching for them, but only Sotaas Ygg has beaten their methods, yet the means of the accomplishment remain unknown to us.”

“Have you asked him?”  

“He refuses to share his secret.”

All eyes turned to Figo Jera and the gaurn on his left hand. His lips twitched, fine muscle tight on his body. Thea hated him, hated his collected presence and poseur confidence, hated the way that eyes that should have belonged only to him had once looked with such adoration at this simpleton.

Thea told none of them what he thought. Instead, he told Veskur, the same way he always had.

Jesam the First was striking throughout Midgard, small little bands of his barbarians striking quickly and fading away, the lightning of destruction followed by a slowly fading thunder. There seemed little that anyone could do to stop him. The Golden Champion herself could do little to stop these attacks and they quickly took a heavy toll on those who suffered them. A full half of House Wyrd was wiped out over the course of a single moon. Houses Verra and Ygg followed, nearly driven to extinction. Gebo, Hagalaz, and Ansu followed. Only Elhaz and Ehwaz were holding their own, the former too stubborn to die and the latter too difficult to find.

House Raido, ever the fastest journeymen among the Vanir, were pressed into service as messengers. They used their knowledge of the roads and their private Sciences to spread information across all of Midgard, to and from every Vanir noble. No one seemed to notice if one messenger or another rifled through the information that they carried; no one had time to do so.

It was in this manner that Thea learned almost all of what was going on in the world around him and came to understand more than almost any other living Vanir because there was no one – not even in his House – that could move so quickly as he.

The Vanir were being hammered into submission, only a few nobles holding their own against the tide of barbarism that threatened to wash them all of them away. There was Hekro Gherlid, of course, to the east. Figo Jera to the south. Sotaas Ygg wherever he felt like showing up, his appearances more random than the attacks of the Coeecians themselves and harder still to trace. Endrall Sahr seemed to be assuming more and more power as the other nobles panicked and fell by the wayside, his handsome features keeping the Vanir stable.

Veskur Wyrd stayed hidden in her keep, silent and moping. If only she had taken him as a lover… he would have propped her up, made her smile, given her the courage and the strength to go and fight the Coeecians as she had so many times before. He would have kept her from fracturing into the broken shell that she had become.

A rumor passed across Thea’s desk, a claim that Jesam had offered to give Midgard a chance to rebuild in exchange for some unknown thing. No matter how hard he looked, he could find no sign of what it was they were supposed to trade. He did, however, read a message from Endrall to Figo that spoke of it.

Don’t you dare do it, Endrall had written. Don’t you dare. I will never forgive you.

Figo wrote nothing back to the man who many now considered the Freya’s left hand.

Two of Veskur’s brothers were slain and the lady that another brother had been in love with, though at least her death had saved a handful of that House’s few surviving nobles.

It’s a shame you weren’t among the dead,” Thea told the woman that should have belonged solely to him. “I understand why many people would want to kill your family and particularly you, but don’t worry – neither you nor your kin are worth that sort of attention. I mean, look at Endrall Sahr. He succeeded to the ultimate degree only once he was done with you. Perhaps the same will hold true for me. Anyone else would beg me to be with them but instead you, in all your insipidity, claim that you feel nothing for me. Liar. Fool. Charlatan. We would all be better if the Coeecians had taken your life instead of your kin’s.”

Midgard would be a better place for my lack,” Veskur agreed with him.

It was the last message Thea would get from her before the entirety of Midgard fell apart.

 

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

Read article

401

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:06

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

April 7, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry.  

 

A month passed and Veskur had not yet replied to any of the messages that Endrall had sent her. Sotaas not responding to him he could kind of understand; the man was constantly out in the wild, whatever power that Veskur had inflicted upon him making it impossible for even the most careful Science to find him. Veskur, on the other hand, never left her damn keep out in the northern wastes.

Perhaps the woman was busy. Who knew better than Endrall how Veskur could lose track of time? Yes, the woman had always been quick to come to attention whenever he called her, dropping whatever unimportant foolishness had claimed her this time around, and thus it was entirely possible that whatever project currently held her interest had robbed her ability to notice anything else.

He would talk to her about this the next time they saw one another. He was too important to be treated thusly, especially by someone as pathetic as her.

The projects that he was working on claimed most of his time now, but there was so much adoration being paid to him that he barely noticed. The Vanir intelligentsia had taken note of his work and theories, weighing them and finding them to be of merit. It was everything that he knew he deserved, everything that he had been born to claim.

Only this one thing stuck in his craw.

Hekro, the Golden Champion, was speaking to him again. She had to – his raw charisma and talent had made him much sought out among her friends and allies and some trick of the gaurn on his hand made him excel at strategies and tactics in a way that soldiers three times his age could not. She became a fixture at meetings of import, where the Freya herself discussed the wages of war as the struggle with the Coeecians continued. He even saw Figo from time to time, lovely Figo, though he kept a polite distance. Endrall sometimes found himself wondering what was behind that, but at least that beautiful man had not cut him off the way he had Veskur.

Farrell sometimes accompanied him when he went out, mostly at his father’s insistence. He never minded this, not really. Farrell had a deep insight into the nature of those around them, was quick to find the fallacies others had adopted into everything they did. They played games, sometimes, undermining the structures and bindings that others had made for their own benefit. House Suwilo benefited greatly during this time, Endrall further cementing his name.

The Vanir ceased to think of him as Sahr’s son. They started to think of Sahr as his father. It was a slight distinction, one he knew that Veskur would have appreciated above and beyond anyone else. If only the damned woman would answer him…

After nearly sixteen seasons of no contact, he took a moment to send her another message, letting her know that he was angry with her for her failure to contact him. This was meant with silence. Annoyed, he went and spoke with Thea to see if he had any insight into whatever stupidity had currently gripped the heart of his pet. Thea would tell her nothing, merely smiling as if that stupid expression should be enough to explain everything.

He sent another message, threatening to go to Veskur’s house, to force a confrontation. It was an empty threat; he didn’t actually care enough now that there were other people paying attention to him. Who needed Veskur, with her annoying ways and annoying questioning and her irritating way of talking? She made noises sometimes and operated under the illusion that she was a person, not a process meant to make him better. If she couldn’t be bothered to remember that, well, perhaps she didn’t deserve his company at all.

There were things that he had left at her home. He sent her another message, asking if she had seen them, but even this received no immediate response. Instead, another couple of seasons slipped by before a box arrived on his doorstep. Within was everything he had ever given her or left at her home, along with a note written in some language that he did not recognize. He contacted her again, let her know that this was not okay with him, that he expected better, that he was disappointed in her and everything she was and why wouldn’t she speak with him…?

He had done so much for her, couldn’t she see that? He had put up with all of her inanity and all of her insanity. She owed him more than this, was indebted to him and always would be. After all the acts of kindness he had performed for her, this was the sort of behavior she thought he was entitled to? Didn’t she realize that he was the most important thing that would ever be in her pathetic little life? Hadn’t he reminded her of that often enough, hadn’t she acknowledged the truth of those very words again and again over all the time they had known one another?

The Coeecians struck again. Figo went missing. Jesam the First seemed to have an understanding that Veskur Wyrd was a threat and he went after her House, wiping out half their number in short order. Somehow, the Skie Warlord had placed forces deep within the heart of Midgard and he lashed out with them. Gebo, Nauthiz, and Ehwaz were the hardest hit after Wyrd, their infrastructures and their peoples thrown into wild disarray. The Nauthiz Coven was devastated, those nobles left in their wake turning to him for guidance, a noble from another House – a thing completely unheard of in all the history of the Vanir. Endrall sent Farrell to act as his liaison between them, turned to Hekro and Risue to organize what forces were left.

Deeam contacted him, told him that he had tried to contact Veskur Wyrd and failed. The rest of the Honored Guard had come when called but Veskur was still cowering in her tower up in the frozen north, unreachable, unassailable, a power that sat bloated, accomplishing nothing. Endrall merely sneered when Deeam asked him to go and collect the Good Lady; he told the Njord that there was nothing good about Veskur and that there never had been, that they were better off without her. He named her dryw and now no one would speak in her defense.

She had no honor, no function, and no reason for being.

Endrall knew that Midgard, like himself, would be better off without her.

 

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

Read article

308

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:03:03

Books & Writing, Culture, Short Fictions

March 17, 2017

Click here to read the previous entry. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sotaas?”

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

“I know you’re here.”

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

“I came to a-apologize.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I wouldn’t ask that.”

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

“Hekro.”

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

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

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

Veskur smiled and nodded, telling Sotaas everything she knew.

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

Read article

539

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:02:02

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

October 23, 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.

***

– 03:00:02:02 –

There was so very much to learn.

Sotaas Ygg was one of the greatest minds of his House, a friendly quiet sort who got on well with everyone. His House had given the Vanir nation their greatest trackers and scouts, a powerful need for motion driven into all those that could claim their blood. Sotaas had been gifted with a wanderlust of the soul that matched his drive to explore the physical world and he spent as much time reading and theorizing as he did mapping out the wild places of Midgard and settling the occasional Coeecian incursion.

House Ygg had always been close to House Wynn and, in fact, Sotaas had grown up acting as the personal scout for the soon-to-be Njord, Deeam. It was that connection that brought him to Wynn’s capital and to the chambers of his friend. Deeam rose with a smile when he was announced, foregoing whatever other conversations held him to clasp Sotaas’ wrist. Sotaas did likewise; there had never been a need for formal greetings between the two of them.

“My friend, my friend, I have need of you,” Deeam said. Sotaas smiled and rocked on his heels because, really, his friend had only to ask and Sotaas would do all he could to help.

“What do you need found?”

“An idea.” Deeam smiled, wrapped an arm around Sotaas’ shoulder and led him out into the dark. “There is an upcoming ball that I will ask you to attend in formal wear. I know you despise it, but I need you to meet someone.”

“Who?”

“Her name is Veskur Wyrd,” Deeam grinned. “You may have heard of her.”

“In passing,” Sotaas admitted. “Some distant hermetic noble. Has a connection with that noble from Jera everyone’s been talking about, the one with the deathwish.”

“Figo?”

“That’s the one.”

“What it I told you that Veskur was responsible for Figo’s successes?” Deeam asked. “That Veskur has invented a new science that has allowed Figo to claim victory after victory?”

“Well, first I’d ask if you were telling fables, but you wouldn’t have brought me here if this was some sort of passing fancy,” Sotaas looked out into the wilds. “Is this a high Science or a low science?”

“The former, I believe, though there is so little any of us know.”

“And why do we know so little?”

“Veskur Wyrd keeps it to herself.” Deeam paused, looking north and into the dark. “Her reasons are her own, certanly, but her reasons pale before the need we have of her secrets. Her discovery is clearly something that must be shared. Right now the only two people that are using her invention are Figo and Veskur herself, but think about the applications of such a tool – if those two alone are able to win so much, imagine the glory that could be claimed if all our nation possessed that knowledge.”

“I understand,” Sotaas said. “What would you like me to do about it? Speak with her? Steal her notes? Copy her designs?”

“All of those things have been tried,” Deeam shook his head. “I could show you the copies of her work that I already possess, repeat the information that she herself has given me. She’s mad, you see, completely and utterly mad, and Figo does not understand how she did what she did. I can’t make sense of her tales and neither can our best scholars.”

“Not even River Megru?” Sotaas’ tone hid nothing of his contempt for the man.

“Not even River has had any luck.” Deeam smiled and shook his head, the two of them standing on a balcony and looking down at the world below. “The world is changing. The world is constantly changing. The dominant nations long ago were far to the east, but now there are only us and the Darroken to uphold civilization. The Coeecians are a constant threat from the south and west and the Zaaerm in the north cannot be trusted. We need whatever Science Veskur has if we are to survive.”

“Alright,” Sotaas sighed. “What do you want me to do?”

“Talk to her,” Deeam said. “Get to know her. Map out the country of her mind the way your kin map the lines of Midgard itself. Define the boundaries and mountains of her Science and translate her madness into something understandable.”

“Is that all?” Sotaas asked, rolling his eyes. Deeam just smiled and let him go.

He went to the rooms that Deeam always set aside for him, washed the grime of the road from his skin and put on the formal wear that had been laid out for him. Short hair was spiked up, eyes hidden behind tinted glass, hands covered in gloves, his levl and a dryw resting at his hips. He studied himself in a mirror and grimaced; he would rather walk through the uncharted wilds than navigate the perils of court politics.

Still, when the time came he went and joined the ball.

A good collection of nobles had come. Not Figo or any of the predominantly military nobles, as all of them were on the frontlines of the latest Coeecian incursion. The Nauthiz Coven were there, the three of them as different from one another as they were from everyone else, yet still tightly knit, still ruling the world around them with their sheer force of presence. There was a man from Ansu that Sotaas had met but could not remember the name of, a couple from Fehu that he had never cared for. He scanned the mass of people, looking for the individual Deeam had put him upon.

She was standing off to one side, thrown over a chair haphazardly, a drink in one hand. Her formal clothing was a mess, her hair a tangle, but her eyes shone with a shy amusement. When Sotaas began moving towards her she noticed immediately but took no action, not running nor rising to greet him. She just sat there, waiting.

“Hello,” Sotaas said, and introduced himself. The other woman introduced herself as the Lady Wyrd and gave Sotaas leave to sit beside her before lapsing into a quiet that he found oddly comfortable. There was a strange sense of peace to be found in sitting beside this stranger, a feeling that he had known this person all his life and was only now remembering an old friend after a long absence.

Fiction – Love is War 03-00-02-01

“Any reason you’re here?” the Lady Wyrd asked.

“Deeam asked me to show up,” Sotaas admitted. The woman nodded, accepting this, her eyes brushing over the crowd. “How about you?”

“The same, actually.” She paused to sip at her drink, dipping her ungloved finger in the liquid and stirring. “I’d rather be at home, working, but my family seemed to think me coming here was a good idea.”

“You have other thoughts on this?”

“Clearly.”

The two of them fell into quiet again and Sotaas got the impression that the Lady Wyrd was not used to speaking with others, that she just let conversation ebb and flow as it willed instead of taking control of it. He wondered what would happen if the Lady was pressed and decided not to find out; he needed the Lady comfortable and pliant.

“What’re you working on back home?” Sotaas asked, keeping his tone polite.

“A little of this, a little of that,” the Lady answered, her posture turning reluctant. When Sotaas asked her to continue she blushed and looked away. “I’m told that I lose people when I talk about the stuff I work on. It’s pretty esoteric. Are you sure you want to know?” Sotaas said that he did.

The conversation wore on. Sotaas understood most of it and asked questions when he didn’t, getting answers until everything Veskur said made sense. He ended up being invited to the Lady’s keep up north, Veskur liking him due to his questions – she said that they made her think and consider things she wouldn’t have otherwise. Besides, the commentary Sotaas added furthered Veskur’s ideas in directions she would not have traveled otherwise.

Sotaas found herself liking Veskur, her shy earnestness and confident madness.

“What did you learn?” Deeam asked later, the two of them alone and sipping at some fine Fehu honey-wines.

“Much,” Sotaas answered. He smiled, running his finger along the stem of his glass. “You’re right, of course. She’s utterly mad, but very comfortable in her madness.”

“You sound like you enjoyed her company.”

“I did. There’s a lot to like there.”

“As you say.” Deeam paused, sat in a chair and sighed, ran his hands through his hair. “Be careful. Her madness may seem stable, but it is still madness and not to be trusted, never to be trusted. Especially when she holds a power as great as she does.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Be sure that you do.”

Read article

557

Fiction – Love is War 03:00:01:08

Books & Writing, Culture, Projects, Short Fictions

October 2, 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.

***

– 03:00:01:08 –

“She is insane, you know,” Farrell said, lazy and smiling. “She cannot be trusted.”

Farrell had returned to House Suwilo following his incarceration at the hands of the Coeecians, the same period of time that Lord Figo had been taken. Sahr Erison had listened to all of the fox’s tales as the creature spoke of all that they had suffered together, the young lord and the tricky healer. It was one of the reasons that Sahr had taken such care with Figo when he was brought in battered and wounded; that man had suffered enough, and continued to suffer if Farrell was to be believed.

Lord Figo had been enslaved by the Madwoman of the North, the Hermit of High House Wyrd. Sahr had heard all about that woman and all her madness, her use of narcotics to get what she wanted in any circumstance, the terrible science that she had used to win glory for herself in the highest circles of the Vanir. He had even read some of the woman’s works when she had caught his son, his precious son, reading them.

The ramblings had been that of one abandoned by sanity, barely coherent, nothing more than fictions. Sahr was certain of this because he did not understand it and he did not care for the woman besides. She was a woman and not to be trusted. The Vanir mindscape was taken with her but that would pass and hopefully she would be as forgotten as his former wife.

But now Lord Figo was repaying the care he had been given by offering Sahr’s son to that selfsame madwoman. His precious son, the only child he had sired who had proved loyal to him in the wake of his wife’s treachery.

He had married young, his paramour decades older than he. She had crippled him with her support, making his accomplishments less merely by being a part of them. Eventually she had proven more liability than use, the various resources he had taken her for becoming less, so he took everything she had selfishly thought to keep from him and then banished her from his lands, exiling her all the way across the breadth of Midgard where he would never have to look upon her again.

A child had stood between them during this separation, the first boy that he had sired. Little more than an infant, Sahr had taken him aside and explained to him why his mother was not to be trusted.

“I’m the only that loves you,” he had told the young boy. “I’m the only one that cares. You’ll see when you go visit your mother that she is nothing. And if you don’t do what I say, my son, well, the affection I feel for you and the only affection that is right or true in all this world may just wither and die.” The boy, Endrall, had looked at him with wide eyes before stepping into the carriage that would take him to visit his mother.

He had begged to return only days later. His mother was a drunken wreck, Endrall said, a ruin that could not rouse herself from the misery that had claimed her. When Endrall returned, Sahr swept the boy into his arms and gave him everything he wanted, rewarding him for his loyalty.

And so it went whenever the boy went to visit his mother and Sahr would smile to hear of what had become of his now shattered wife and the contempt with which Endrall spoke of her.

The boy had taken a lover eventually, but that was only to be expected. Sahr had instilled the boy with an inability to keep secrets from his father, so he knew all about Grais Rlied of House Raido long before the girl had been brought home to meet him. He had spoken with the girl at length and decided that she presented no threat to his authority. As such, he had consented to the union between his son and Grais.

However, this other woman, this Veskur Wyrd, she was something else again.

Intelligent, articulate, and old. Far too old for Endrall to even be thinking about and he knew – he knew – that Endrall was keeping something about the woman from him. Figo had taken Endrall to meet her at some social function and his darling son had come back with a sick light in his eyes that Sahr remembered, for he had once seen it in his own when he had been young and foolish.

He had tried speaking to the woman but found her utterly without merit. He invited Figo back under the pretense of checking his recovery but the Lord from House Jera had nothing but good to say of Lady Wyrd, though there was regret in his eyes whenever he spoke of her. Eri was not sure what to make of that but he knew – knew – that secrets were being kept from him. It was Farrell that he turned to for explanation.

Love is War 08

“She has bewitched Figo,” Farrell said. “She will do the same to Endrall.”

The boy had the gall to argue with him when he forbade him from seeing the silly psychotic bauble. They screamed and fought, his gentle son howling like the possessed. This was not the son he had raised, not the loyal child that he had cultivated. Sahr told the boy that his love for him would wither and that had bought him respite, though resentment and rebellion both festered in the eyes of his beloved son. It was not a thing to be borne, but he did not yet see what could be done about it.

Staring north, he stood at the top of his keep. There had to be something he could do. There had to be. He would find it and he would destroy this threat as surely as he had destroyed his wife and no one would ever again think to take his son away from him.

***

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

 

Read article