Friday, August 9, 2013

Short Story: Cariol, part the first

Cariol was actually a rather beautiful world, most days of the year.  From where she sat atop the bell tower in the little town of Bet-Zian, Rea could see a vast field, normally home to the town's sheep, or whatever the indigenous wool-beasts were called.  They weren't sheep, too tall, feet had claws sharp enough to dig into stone and they occasionally tried to eat their shepherds, but besides those minor problems, they were sheep.  Surrounding the town were fields full of corn, or barley, or some other grain, it was late spring and she couldn't tell; it looked lovely in the glowing, dancing amber glow.  Out beyond the field was a delightful little fairy tale forest that could only be described as 'vast' or possibly 'menacing'.  It probably held some kind of Wolf spirit or Lycanthrope who the villagers warned their children about.  Although a truely malicious Lycan would have destroyed the town by now, and even such a burst of violence would be hard pressed to match the casualty levels of several thousand years of being eaten or mauled by the sheep-things.  In fact, if there were wolves of any sort in the forest, they had probably developed stealth in order to avoid detection by the sheep-things, which they lived in constant fear of.
The town itself was like any other human town that had gone more than a few generations without external contact.  It had fallen into a sort of creative rut and the little plaster and cobblestone houses with their thatched roofs remained the most advanced form of archietecture in the community.  Even the bell tower, they all had one, Rea couldn't fathom why, had the same slightly uneven tilt.  Below her, people went about their daily business, buying and selling foodstuffs, gossiping about neighbors, comparing scars earned feeding the sheep.

Of course, a master Assassin has no business simply staring at ordinary folk.  And beneath the surface of the town lurked a sinister secret.  A Lych's laboratory, in which he had developed a disease capable of affecting even the Nielda.  Many of the townsfolk had been charmed or persuaded to help him, and many others had moved to the town to aid him.  They were in no danger from him after all, they were not his targets.  For all their depravity, Lych were strangely reliable in that sense.  Xanadu would not show himself here, where a spy or Knight could find him; but he would not have to.  He'd succeeded after all.  He'd probably even begun to pack by now.  What he failed to anticipate was how little hesitation the Nielda would have to break their treaty with the Seclorans and deal with him.  She could hear the roar of dropships entering the atmosphere all over the world now, and one would be coming here as well.  She slid to the ground, glammering herself as she fell to look as though one of the older children of the town.  No one in particular of course, that was the knack of glammer after all, just an ordinary fourteen year old girl everyone assumed they'd never met before.

The Nielda were being bolder than even Rea had expected.  The first ship touched down in the market, engines still at full roar.  The forces that came off were fully armored, but to her trained eye she could see the lack of military coordination.  They had cobbled this force together on the fly, most of them were there as a show of force.  One guard, a servant of Xanadu, drew his sidearm and took three shots at the nearest intruder, every shot negated by the shielded armor.  A soldier, Marine by the markings, drew his own sidearm and stunned him without hesitation.  Rea was surprised, not at his response, any Nielda would have returned fire, but at the passivity of the action.  Had men such as these just destroyed her homeworld, as once they had, she'd have gutted him like a garter-cow and strung his intestines from the nearest pole without regard for the distance between them and the pole.  What was more, it had been only hours since the attack, she could feel the passions of the Nielda boiling at the surface.  They wanted to carve the village and all its inhabitants from the side of the planet, but something was stopping them.
"Anyone else want to fight?  I have orders only to kill the servants of the Lych Xanadu, but if any of the rest of you want to get in my way, I'd be more than happy to burn out your skulls."
"At ease Sergeant."  A tall man in a flowing cloak stepped off the drop ship, which had spun down and was no longer deafening the crowd.  "You need only those three men and the woman in the fourth house up the block to the South, the rest are innocent.  Go gather them and do not kill if you can help it."  He had the bearing of a king, and the markings of an Admiral.  Rea found the rest of the world seem to fade into the background as she stared at him.  As she listened to him talk, as much to his own men as to the townsfolk, she could hear the conviction in his voice, and the principles he held even in such dire times.  One of the humans, the only one in the audience who served Xanadu, began to cry.
"Then you understand why I am here?"
"Y-yes, I didn't know."
"No one can fault doing what you thought was best, especially when the truth was withheld.  Go to Xanadu, tell him Admiral Krell Casat has come for him, and ask him to meet me in the hanger in the mountainside.  I want to keep this battle far away from these innocents."  The crying man rose, nodded, and began to jog off to his cellar, which led to the lab by a hidden passageway Rea had spotted months ago.  "Sergeant, take those four whom you have taken prisoner back to the ship.  I will rendevous with you within a day.  If I have not, inform the Guardsmen that Xanadu has escaped and that he was last seen in the mountain hanger.  They will take care of the rest."
"Yes Admiral."  And the soldiers began to board the ship, ignoring the still panicked locals.  Rea took this as her cue to leave and began to weave her way through the streets towards the edge of town so that she could teleport to the hanger herself.  After all, the book was going to require her to cast at least one spell before day's end.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A whirlWind Romance: Chapter Two

The count was an old man, not that anyone could tell by looking at him.  He was, after all, a vampire, and even the most ordinary citizens of the universe could tell you that vampires didn't grow old.  He was also a man of some wealth, a byproduct of carefully planned high-interest banking and a productive career in land cultivation and ownership; he was also known to flip the occasional mansion for considerable profit.  Being wealthy, he could have easily afforded surgeries and ointments that would make him look even younger than he did.  The Count had no interest in either source of youth; he was old and felt like he ought to look it.
It was for that very reason he had moved to his current residence.  It was an old, traditional castle, located in a part of Tara well known for being low in sunlight, high in acceptance, and favorably inclined towards privacy.  A number of months prior he had sent out word to all of the tens of thousands of vampire covens in all the millions of inhabited worlds of the universe, urging them to follow a set of basic principles he'd devised.  He wanted to be at peace, no longer worrying about the constant threats of monster hunters, vampire slayers, and hordes of angry villagers that had plagued him for over two thousand years.  But what was more, he wanted to make sure that other vampires could do so as well.  And he wanted to see it done without costing the lives of more mortals.  He wanted to see his cursed spawn live in harmony with the still living folk on whom they now preyed.  Tara, he had decided, was the best place to do it from, since here such a possibility was already realized.  a plentiful supply of fresh blood was always available, the ordinary folk of the nearby town were not bothered by his presence, and he could read in his vast library without the curtains drawn and not even tan.

"Monster!"  The Count heard his front door shatter once again.  The third time that day in fact, he hadn't even finished wiping the blood of his last would-be slayer off of his slender blade.  "Prepare to meet your maker!"
The Count stood up, rag in hand as he cleaned the polished sword.  He didn't even turn to face his opponent before he replied.  "I have met my maker.  He gave his life for me in fact.  I have also met the demon who gave me my curse, and I have cast him back into the depths.  I have seen the face of Death, and she sent me out into the world.  If you wish to send me to any of them, I hope you will first understand that I do not think any of them would take me in.  Such is my life."
It was a dramatic response, but for most of his adversaries, this was to be the most climactic moment of their life, even if they won.  It gave them a chance to size him up, to get a look at the room, and let them have every possible advantage of imitative and position.  He was nothing if not sporting.  But this one had hesitated, she, he could smell it, did not view him as a threat.  There was no creaking of the floorboards as she tried to creep into a more advantageous position.  There was no hum of magic or chanting of complex spells seeking to bind him.  There was not even the draw of a bow or the faint tension of a trigger being eased back.  This woman wanted a straight fight, and he would oblige.
"Most vampires I have fought call it a gift, or a blessin even.  What have you got against it?"
He heard her nudge a book aside, one of his beloved shelves had been shattered in a fight the previous morning, and he had not been able to find the time to restore it.  She hadn't drawn a weapon yet, and while he could feel the magic that seemed to come from her as though carried on a strong wind, he couldn't detect any attempt to prepare an assault.
"I have seen children dragged from their beds in the middle of the night by my hungering spawn.  I have seen good men go to their deaths not knowing what lurked in the shadows they sought to expel.  They say that vampires are beings without souls, and they do not say it because it is true.  I have also seen hunters break into the crypts of vampires who fed only when they needed to, staking them as thy rested simply because they were vampires.  This curse ruins more lives than it could ever save."
"Then why don't you end it?"
"Have you read my Three Points?  I am trying to at least lessen the impact, even if I could never hope to stop what in my youth I wantonly began."
He heard a sword drawn.  A rapier, much like his own, and of good quality he suspected.
"They say that if the first were to die, all those descended from him would die too.  If you want to stop vampires, you oughta start with yourself."
He had considered it, many times in fact.  It would be easy; locking himself in a glass sphere in space would be fastest and most certain.  But in the end, he knew that the demon who had sired him had sired others before him, and most likely others since.  Killing himself might, and even then it was hardly certain, end many of the most prominent covens, but certainly not end all of them, and not for all of time either.  The only way to be sure would be to kill the demon first; and then find all who he had sired and end them each in turn.  Maybe then, and only maybe.  But even if he did, he could not simply kill himself.  He had lived to long, and grown to comfortable in his undeath to simply end himself.
"I do not believe it would work.  Not well enough at least.  Are you going to try and find out?"
"Can't hurt to try, can it?"  He spun through the shadows, slipping past his desk and into the wide open space before the great window of his library.  The woman's strike was like a flash of lightning in the dark, one second darting through the air, the next second gone.  When she saw where he had moved she soared up over the desk as though borne by the air itself, twisting her blade in a flourish as she set down facing him.
She wore a T-shirt and jeans, and by the looks of her was a Nielda in her mid forties.  Older than most his opponents, but he'd learned the value of age from personal experience.  Most curious of all was not her flippant attitude towards his own power and skill, but the pale blue of her hair.  He had smelled no dye when she entered the castle, and could sense no spell to alter her appearance.  Yet in no species he had met, nor in any he'd read cataloged did such a color come by nature, and certainly not the Nielda, who took much pride in their natural hair.  As he effortlessly began to parry her blows, though she was both strong and swift, he began to remember a time in his youth when a sybil had told him of a girl he would meet, saying only 'you will know her by her hair'.  And so, as he flicked her blade skywards, the Count began to wonder.  Could this be the woman he was fated to spend his life with?

Friday, January 18, 2013

A whirlWind Romance: In the Dragon's Castle

It was, as it so often is, a dark and stormy night.  The wind whipped through the trees outside the windows of the castle on the hill.  At the base of the cliff, against which it was backed, waves crashed against rock with tumult as much akin to that of the thunder as to any normal yawning of the tides.  And indeed, as white streaks appeared across the waves, a fearsome foam induced by an oceanic fury so mighty it ensnared even the air itself, so too did streaks of white-blue lightning break the normal darkness of the sky.
But it was a rare occasion on which Tara experienced any less evil seeming weather.  Indeed, to most of it's nobles and more prominent citizens, this was considered one of its strongest selling points.  The days were foggy and gloomy, the weather was always very dramatic, and to date, no one could remember a night without at least one full moon.
"Yes son?  Come in; sit down."
The largest room in the castle was the study, which doubled as a parlor, living room, and dining room.  It wasn't for lack of such rooms that it served so many purposes, but rather from a lack of interest in leaving.  The room was, you see, three stories tall and every inch of wall either decorative depictions of its owner's adventures, or shelves of old tomes of the sort befitting an older, retired adventurer.  The desk at the center of the room, facing the door and not the floor to ceiling curtain most visitors suspected but could never prove hid a window, was a rich, dark hardwood that only its owner could ever identify.  His chair was much the same, though secretly much padded, and rose above the head of even a standing man.  All in all, it was intimidating to stand before the desk, no matter how kindly the man behind it.
"Dad, I was wondering.  What was Mom like?"
The olive skinned gentleman behind the desk looked down at his son, more a byproduct of large furniture than of small boy.  The boy was no younger than fourteen, studious, diligent, and in every way the sort of son a respectable man could dream of having.  He was not above getting into scrapes, before you get the wrong impression, he was simply not inclined towards getting into the wrong scrapes.  The difference, his father had once told him, is critical.
His father looked over him; dark eyes probing the boy's mind and mood.  It was not the first time such questions had arisen, it is in the nature of all children, man and beast alike, to want to know their mother.  And in the case of most, the question is answered through the course of childhood.  But this boy was not part of that happy majority, and his father remained reluctant to tell his son too much too soon.  Tonight though, tonight he could see that the boy was ready.
"Sit down, over in one of the reading chairs, this is a conversation too important to be held over a desk."  The boy needed no prompting, and walked over to one of the many comfortable chairs in the study.  It had become his favorite spot in fact, a poorly fitted window pane let the wind blow through at night, but it never made the dreadful whine of so many a bad window.  Instead he felt only a cool, gentle breeze.
"Son, do you know why I choose to live here, surrounded by the constant storms and the bad window, always interrupted by the burst of lightning and the crash," The air rung as a bolt struck the roof above their heads. "Of thunder?"
The boy looked confused.  "Because you like it?"
"No son, it is because many years ago, before you were born even, I fell in love with the storm.  She is a woman unlike any other; passionate, dashing, graceful, and adventurous.  In all my life I have never met her equal, nor her better.  And like the storm, she has a particular tendency to fall right off of my roof."
"Can we just skip to the part where you meet her, and not hear about how your life was before you met her?"
"You'd be lucky to hear those stories from me.  That was another time for me, and one I'd just as soon leave where it lies.  No, this is the story of how your mother and I fell in love."