Chapter 7 – Page 5

“Lex!” Seven screamed. He was drowned out by the patrons’ screams as they tried to scatter. More heavily armed soldiers flooded in from every possible entrance. From what he could see, a red hatchet marked their left breasts. His eyes widened. He knew that symbol. He knew it too well. His breath came in shallow bursts as he looked frantically around for an escape route. The dark recesses of backstage beckoned him. He launched himself in that direction, only to find himself once more on the floor.

People screamed all around as he struggled up, finally noticing that his neck chain had been attached to a solid ring on the floor at some unknown time. He yanked at it, but it did nothing. He jerked as the first shots of gunfire rang out. He looked up and noticed the soldiers shooting wildly and several patrons falling into puddles of blood.

A bullet whizzed by Seven’s head, and he heard a grunt behind him. The oily, not-so-meek man who had brought him on stage crumpled with a gurgle, blood pouring from a bullet hole piercing right through his neck.

The well-dressed man on the stage barely took any notice of this. He was instead yelling incoherently at the top of his lungs as he waved with wide, angry motions at the men pouring out from the bowls of the auction house. Those men, while not as heavily armored, looked much more murderous than the invading soldiers. The chaos only deepened when they jumped into the fray while the well-dressed man disappeared off stage.

Bullets fired, people scrambled out of the way, and the chandelier broke. It fell like a boulder, slamming heavily into the gilded seating, skewering both armed and unarmed alike under its hulking weight. It brought about a brief lull in the fight, only seconds worth, but it was enough for Lex to make it to the stage with Rowan right behind him, providing cover. (more…)

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Fly West

My world is unsteady,
a living, breathing thing.
Though I’ve lost all control,
it still continues to sing.

It’s still dying, though,
A slow and painful death.
It loses something, something
with each and every breath.

A parasite lives off it,
sucking, slurping up its soul,
every time, a little more,
widening the hole.

With only one option left,
I turned then towards you.
The hope I gathered up
And placed, it slowly grew

And blossom into a savior,
Though, it’s my fault you suffered.
But you stayed strong and steady.
Like a sea wall, you buffered.

My joy, you conquered,
And a hero returned,
Saved all these wounded souls,
Yet your own soul, it burned.

Well done, my dear brave one.
I must now lay you to rest,
Though it grieves me, you
On the last wind, fly west.

Overgrowth

I am not sure what I’m feeling
As I, once healthy,
Walk through the thicket. It
Reminds me of the growth
Defined by overgrowth, of
The cancerous sort, a line drawn
In the sand that marks those
Alive and those even more
So.

I am not sure how I feel.
The feeling rages until it
Is looked for. Then, it all
But disappears, leaving me
Exhausted, confused, and alone.
Well, it has happened once
Before.

Back, long ago, when my hair
Grew past my knees, and
My elbows were always
Skinned from running,
Tripping, falling in glee.
Those were simple days,
Until the day where it all
Came spilling down, and
I was lonely.

I stared at walls,
Washed white like bone dust
And caking like mud in
Those volcanic mud pots.
It smelled like it, too,
Maybe not the rotten egg
Sort of smell, but one just
As stomach turning.

I’d always fiddle with the
Edge of my sheets–tears,
Well, they’d threaten to
Fall as the doctor came and went,
Sometimes sticking needles in
My sore, worn, bruised crook
of the arm. Too many have been
Stuck there before.

I ached. My bones ached.
Everything ached,
But, I hated the nurse more.
The doctor at least was
Apathetic. He would tell me
Directly–no softening of words–
Exactly my plight. She, however,
Tried to cushion it, covering it
With a heavy layer of sugar
And pity.

I would ignore her and stare at
Those powdery white walls, trying
Not to feel for hair long gone,
Like the ghosts that line the
Closets of my dreams, the ones that
Come out to play at night. Instead,
A bare–no, let’s be real–a bald
Head would meet my hand.

I wouldn’t say that I am
Better now. I’ve recovered,
True, but that roller-coaster
Of emotion, I am still strapped
On it. They say the cancer is
Gone, but there is always
That fear, lingering, hiding
In the corner of my mind
In a mocking manner, and
Because of it, I cannot
Sleep.

Instead, I stare at powdery
Blue walls, and contemplate
Exactly what it is I am
Feeling, until the feeling
Runs away amidst the memories–
Ones between it and I–of a
Time when I once ambled through
The same thicket as I did
Today–a child once blissful.
And now I wonder, was it then
That I lived a life without
Pain? And where did that
Bliss go?

4.2 – The Ikwir

Luyo lxats’ben won diri so Ikwir. While not as dangerous as the Rhew in terms of the environment’s ability to kill, I assure you, the Ikwir is no less deadly. The cold doesn’t dampen hunger there, and no one seems to know why the things in the north grow so big. I did try traveling through the place to see if I could discover the original city of Automaton. You know, Dig and I found on our Yat’al’ that we can hold our own in a fight against almost everything we come across, at least long enough to run away, which is more than most can say. But the wolves there… I’m not to keen on ever meeting them again. That was  too close a call, huh, Dig? I wouldn’t want to run into a Fenrir there.

—  A Yat at his ariyaqori festival

 

[Ambient Aura VIII] –> [Ambient Aura IX]: You’re ability to use auras has almost reached its highest level. You are beginning to realize the truth of auras. Partings do not last forever. Every soul is connected. (Due to the strength of your longing, due to your pain and your loss, you have found a way to connect to the River of Souls using your combined auras to form |Aura of Rebirth|)

 

This… What is this? No, I’m serious. What is this? I can feel it. My hands are starting to tremble. Is this…? Can I really? Is this what I think it is? Will I be able to…?

I take a deep breath and hold it, letting my mind go blank. I sit like that for several seconds, then I let it all out in a massive puff of air. Alright. Let’s try. It can’t hurt, can it? I trigger |aura of rebirth|.

I jolt as the world suddenly goes black.

No, not black. It’s more like I’ve been cut off from the outside world and completely confined within my core. I can’t see anything, but instinctively I know not to panic. It feels different from the time I spent all my mana. That was an overwhelming, suffocating darkness where I couldn’t see, hear, or feel anything. While I can’t see or hear anything, this time I feel… a flow. A current. It moves and swirls around me in a similar way that mana does, only more subtle. If mana was a river, this would be a breath of wind, constantly moving in swirling eddies around me almost like it wasn’t there in the first place.

I reach out and touch an eddy next to me with a tendril of thought. It dodges my tendril and swirls a bit away and then closer again, brushing up slightly against my core before racing out again. I laugh a little. It feels strange, alive, maybe even a bit mischievous. I chase after it with my tendril. It swirls in loops, always dodging my tendril by just a hair. I laugh again.

Then, the eddy stops. I slow my tendril in confusion. I feel it turn and swirl in spot once before slipping next to my tendril. It reaches out and takes a hold of my tendril like it was grabbing my hand, then launches off towards the sky. It moves so fast that my tendril stretches and thins to the point of snapping. I know it. I know it to the bottom of my core that that’s bad. It’s a very, very bad idea to let it break. I can’t let that happen. (more…)

4.1 – The Lonely Sentinel

Farewell, I bid you
Again, like once in a
Random occurrence
Ever so long ago.

This nostalgic scene
Happened by coincidence,
Either that or by fate’s
Ernest, heartfelt wishes.

Wring not you hands, and
End all your worries.
Let us meet anew in
Lands we’ve yet explored.

— Severa of the Adlet; A Song of Parting

Screaming out my lungs really clears the cobwebs in my head. I take a deep breath and slap my cheeks, then step back to take a look at Dial, my new sentinel. Honestly, it’s not my best job, all hard lines and no grace, but at this point, I don’t care. If a strange, massive, armored thing works, it works. Still, he almost reminds me of that type of monkey…an…an ape, except with a tail. A very angry ape thing… But his fierce face fills me with confidence, like I finally have something I can rely on, which is surprisingly hard to come by in this world.

Well, enough of that. I’d better look through my screens since I’ve put them off long enough. With all the commotion and crazy stuff happening, I just haven’t had the time or the mood to actually look through them. In retrospect, that might not have been the best idea…

I shake my head as they all flicker into view at once, and I’m reminded why I didn’t want to do this. It’s a wall of text several screens thick. Ug… not to mention, they’re all jumbled together. I’m not even sure what order they’ve popped up now. It’s been a whole month, after all. Let’s see… I wonder if the contents will clump together if I…There! (more…)

3.10 – Encroaching

Hm? What is this? A lizard? There’s something weird about it. It looks funny. Why are its eyes yellow? Is it… It’s crying! But a lizard crying? What in the world is going on? There must be something wrong with it. Wait a second. Let me get a bit closer. Is that… is that blood? Ug. What’s that smell? It’s horrid. Urg. I feel sick. No, stay back there. Don’t come down here, Dmetr. Something’s weird. I don’t like it. We need to get out of here. 

Ban, at Fare Caolan 

War. It’s been coming steadily. I can feel it as I gaze at the at the setting sun. Something far to the south is building strength. But then, so will I. I’m no longer hesitating. I decided that needed to get as big as I could as soon as possible. And by big, I meant my forces. I needed more people at my back. The only way to do that is to expand, open more rifts to strange places no matter the danger involved.

War is coming. Of that, I have no doubt. There have been little signs. The gwisin was the first real sign, like the first snow of winter coming much too early. He wasn’t the last. This month has been war, only it was just the beginning of something that is frightening.

It’s not just the things I consider little now, like the increasingly frequent eira attacks. Two days ago alone, there were four separate waves that invaded my territory. They had been attacking consistently as far back as when Namena appeared, only they would get lost and subsequently most often fall in the lava pits. I hardly noticed them until one of them managed to break through almost all the way to Harbor. They’ve been learning. If only it had just that.

I look down. My hand trembles. Too often. Too often I’ve taken lives now. A disaster. I clench my fist. It wasn’t just the eira that I pierce through with projectiles. It was the lives of those things, and of my own.

The first came through shortly after I planted my next dimensional ice tree, not long after Namena left–the first step of gathering more under my cause. It was little. A small, almost fox-like thing with sandy fur and large, bat like ears. I only had a glimpse at it as it entered before it launched itself at my face. A projectile later, it was writhing on the ground with a hole through its lungs. It was then I got a good glimpse at it. It was frothing at the mouth, bleeding from its eyes and ears and nose. A strange smell wafted up from its flesh. It was sweet, like roasted almonds, but sickening so with hints of rotting plum. I gagged. Even my sliver fish wouldn’t get near it, and they’re carrion eaters. I cremated it in lava and cut off the connection to that ice tree. It swiftly withered.

(more…)

3.9 – South Pass

Vermis Harenae, the common sandworm, most often found in the deserts of Suon Kiin. Legends often characterize sandworms as massive worms bent solely on eating man (or caravan). There has only been one known case where a sandworm has ever attacked a caravan. This was due to several reasons including a severe drought, being driven out of its own territory, and idiotic provocation on part of the caravan. Rather than caravans, the main diet of sandworms are rocs from the Milana Mountains, which come down to eat cicada foxes of the desert. Sandworms and cicada foxes have a unique, symbiotic relationship. Cicada foxes have a distinctive call they sound when attacked by rocs. It vibrates at a distinct frequency allowing it to penetrate deep into the sand. Sandworms will pick up that sound and come to eat the rocs, often rescuing the cicada foxes in the process. Sandworms themselves are solitary creatures. It is rare to see more than one at once except for annual mating migration, a three-month long process which redefines their territories. As such, sandworms do not raise their own young, leaving them out in the desert soon after birth. Cicada foxes will often take it upon themselves to raise the sandworm larvae (often called cicadas) to adulthood. 

– Compendium of Monsters, 778

 

South Pass? That mean big wall? We take long to walk across much grass to it. It big, strange. Long wall packed hard sand. Tall as Home tree. Wide as many, many Home tree. Air dry. Not like. Make scales rough and thirsty. Group walk up to wall. Something make ring sound from inside wall.

“Who goes?” Man at top of wall shout.

“Members of the King’s Guard of Seven Cities,” Shiny say. Small door opens in big, big gate in side of wall. One. Two shiny men rush out and push group inside.

“Better hurry,” one man say. “Storm’s coming. Nothing good happens if you’re outside when it hits. We’ll check your documents inside.”

Group walk inside wall. More shiny men inside. Too many shiny men now. Can’t tell apart! How will I know my shiny men from new shiny men? Fish Tail! Help! Too much shiny. Make I dizzy! I slip from Fish Tail head, but he catch so I alright.

“Hey, what’s wrong, little guy? Excuse me, could I ask for a cup of water?” Fish Tail ask.

“What is that?” Big shiny man say. More shiny men follow him. He wave man to poor water into weird bowl and hand to Fish Tail.

“I believe it is an evolved sliver fish.” Fish Tail slide I into bowl. Water feel nice. Skin much to dry, but it soak water now. I feel better. Thanks, Fish Tail.

“A sliver fish? This far south?” Big Man say. He lead group down hall and to door.

“Yes. Strange things do happen from time to time.” Big Man laugh.

“Here, you can have your men rest here. If the leader of this group would follow me. Yen, you too.” Much of group go into room. We not follow them? No, look like Fish Tail and old friend Shiny follow Big Shiny Man into different room.

(more…)

Qwerty

Quarter staff in the mind is no simple timid thing.
Wallow in the rind of the water’s tepid gleam.
Ever you will take the hollow breaker’s fright
Right from the drake and the early morning light.
Tender is the pine of the elk and spittle short;
Yonder comes the silk from the spider’s sodden port.
Up in the rafter reigns the queen of dungeon be
In quiet softly sheen to take the wilted patterns three.
Often breaks the morn under blood red moon undone
Privy to the horn of the ship of glory none.

As to seven brides that right what once was wrong,
Seven deadly sides to ponder all along.
Do not go asunder in the murky after thought;
Forgo the sudden plunder of the wicked and the rot.
Grand burnt daydreams fill the city’s underbelly
Holding silver in the seams and gold within the lily.
Jitter poster-boys deep within the well
Kill time and ploys while lauding the padded cell.

Let not hidden rings turn toward bidden doors.
Zap and topple kings in the mists of molten moors.
X-ray certain windows from the long begotten souls
Coming from the willows and the fighter of the holes.
Verily I say to the woman in the sea:
Burn down the chapel and raise up the tree.
Never shall I walk down that dark turned placid lane.
Muster up the sound of that callow gritty pain.

3.8 – Island Oasis

Hallowed souls,
We see thee,
Struggling on the edge of decay.
How may we free thee?
Like broken bowls,
We mourn for thee,
Shattered into dust at the end of the day.
How must we save thee?
Oh hollowed holes,
We hold thee,
With trembling hands to rest we lay
Thy fragmented body.

— The Lament, Hymn of the Temple of the Sun

It… What? How?

I have no idea what’s going on right now? There’s a… but dead? No, wait, I must be dreaming. There’s no way a skeleton can move. No way this thing in front of me is a skeleton. It’s just a really nice person, in a creepy mask, smiling, holding a hand to help me up. Yeah. That’s it. That’s what it is.

The figure leans down further, its hand stopping right in front of my nose. The glove on its hand does nothing to cover up how freakishly bony its fingers are. Nope Nope Nope! This is not happening right now. I don’t do skeletons. I can handle ghosts. Mummies and skeletons are just nope! I struggle in vain to scramble away from the skeleton, still not able to move a muscle. I want to cry when I notice it’s because my [golem creation] skill is on cool down. As a result, we’re stuck in this awkward situation where neither of us are moving. We just continue to stare at each other.

What am I supposed to do in this situation? I know I’m an idiot already! There’s no need to keep making me confirm it! I mean it’s like I open a window to my house and a swarm of wasps fly in, like I find a diamond and suddenly every thief is after me, like I wander in the woods only to get lost and run into a mountain lion, get on a boat and it sinks! It’s not fair! Nothing like this ever happens to anyone else! How was I supposed to know something would walk in right when I opened a door–er planted a tree. It’s not supposed to work like that! Why is my luck so awful? Why am I stuck with a skill like [karma]. I could really do without it! I don’t need it! If it weren’t for it, none of these horrible encounters would keep happening! Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

My train of thought freezes when the skeleton suddenly cocks its head. It pauses, then it shakes its head in a weird way, clacking its jaws together rapidly. The clattering sends shivers across my core. What a creepy sound. The skeleton stops chattering and continues its staring contest with me. I don’t think either of us will win at this point. The skeleton has no eyelids and I…well, I’m pretty much just a frozen block of ice. My eyes aren’t blinking any time soon. The awkwardness of the situation increases. It is beginning to feel more surreal than anything else, like it’s a dream. What am I supposed to do?

Finally, I couldn’t stand the silence any longer.

“Um…Ah…Hi?” I say with a weak voice.

Claclacclalaclacllaclaaccllaclaaak. The skeleton shakes its head again, its jaw clacking as it does. I get the strangest feeling that it’s laughing when it does that. I could have sworn a glint flashed in its eye sockets. The skeleton makes another gesture with its hand to help me up. (more…)

3.7 – Way Point

Yeo’ena Bay. Locals call it Lost Bay. Area wise, the bay is small, yet somehow, every year people manage to get lost wading through swamp and the cypress trees. As of yet, the death rate is rather low, unlike many other ominous places people have managed to find themselves lost in. The bay only claims those of low health, most others find themselves wandering around for a few days, perhaps weeks, before finally finding their way out again. Not many monsters live in the bay. The ones that do are hardly a threat to an armed traveler. Because of this reason, many choose it as a tourist destination. Great interest is placed on unraveling the bay’s mysteries. That said, be wary out those running from the law. Many seek refuge in this mysterious swamp.

Ashton Delan’s Travelor’s Guide

 

“Ouch! Really, stop biting me! You can stop now. I’m trying, so be patient. Timp! Come scare these stupid things off of me!” I call as snowdrop dragons swarm over me. I’m trying to concentrate on making a snowdrop plant, but they keep messing me up.

I figure the plant is in their name, so maybe they’d like them better than the roses. Though, they do seem to like the roses, or more specifically, the rose hips that have started growing. That, I don’t like so much. They eat the rose hips, but spit the seeds at everything, including me.

“Will you stop it! I don’t need more seeds in my hair! Ow stop! Will you listen to me?! Timp! Help!” I swat at the pesky dragons buzzing around my head, little seeds hit me like bullets. I had asked Oroesi for help earlier. He’s hiding from them now because of it. He tried. He really tried. Only it wasn’t long before they were chasing him around hitting him with seeds. He was bawling his eyes out when I finally managed to get them away from him. Timp on the other hand, enjoys chasing the white dragons. She’s not so easily intimidated by them. Only, she has such a short attention span that she forgets she’s supposed to keep them off me, so I have to keep calling her.

The banana palms seem to sway in amusement at my predicament. Ever since [green thumb] leveled, all my plants feel more alive. I swear they’re laughing at me right now. I glare up at the trees as Timp launches herself at the dragons. The little things shriek as they scatter. Sighing, I turn back to the pebble in my hands. After a minute or so, I finally have it. The pebble gives a little pop as my aura grasps onto my image, and I have a snowdrop bulb.

I make more and scatter them throughout the valleys along with a blanket of concentrated |aura of warmth| to get them started. Almost immediately they start popping out of the ground like daisies–er… snowdrops. They’re cute. I finger the pale glass-like flower. Reminds me of little white tears. The dragons launch themselves at the flowers. Timp trails after them, occasionally nuzzling the new snowdrops.

Watching them, I chuckle a little. The dragons use the snowdrops to make strange little nests, weaving the flower’s leaves into domes. You almost can’t see the nests unless you look for them.

I smile. Well, they’re out of my hair now, so now I can concentrate on more important things. Namely, my paths, but more importantly, the disconcerting state of my health, which hasn’t regenerated at all since the stupid gwisin came. And there’s a little thought which has been bugging me that I want to try out, even though it may be dangerous… (more…)