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.