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Everything posted by Blurble

  1. Blurble


    Lakely tried to go after her. But he couldn't. Not in some metaphorical sense. Not out of respect for her privacy or the sad look in her eyes or whatever. Those were all well and fine, but she had just admitted to killing him so he didn't particularly feel they were his problem. No, he just. Couldn't. Had she done something to him? To make him stuck in place? Because if so he was beginning to wonder if he should reevaluate his assessment of her as his absolute ideal dream girl. Absolute ideal dream girls do not erect invisible walls in front of their true loves. (Well. There was also that bit where she had killed him. That was a minor obstacle as well. Not insurmountable, though, not like if she was a fan of Caris Esprerbright, which he was sure she wasn't. He somehow imagined that pink sparkles and unicorns in pyramids were not really her thing.) By this point she had disappeared. The emergency crew had arrived. He didn't really understand why none of them had noticed her leaving-- seriously, where were the police? Standing over there, being useless. "Hey!" He said. "A girl just walked away from here! Shouldn't you arrest her or something? Maybe investigate if she's the culprit? Because she is, you know, she just told me so!" None of the policemen so much as glanced in his direction. It took him a moment to remember that this was because he was dead. Well, there had to be some advantages to that. He made faces at the policemen as they poked and prodded at things. After a while he started insulting them. "Hey, fatface! You wouldn't be able to convict a mosquito! You have the total eptitude of a dried frog trying to be a pumpkin!" At some point this became boring too. --- Three hours later, Lakely was going, slowly and steadily, out of his mind. Well, at first it had been slowly and steadily but by now the speed was picking up rapidly. In fact at this point he rather suspected that if you extrapolated the graph a bit further he'd be losing twice as much sanity by the minute now. Eventually there would just be small radioactive bits of his mind left, perpetually dwindling into infinitesimally smaller sizes. Also, something was a bit strange. In his first few minutes of being dead he had been thoroughly distracted by the-- well, being dead, first of all, but also by the girl, and as a result he hadn't been paying much attention, but it was fairly clear that the blast zone had not been limited to him, Well, he had been the epicenter, sure, but where were all the other dead people? Shouldn' there have been more of them? But there they were, talking to the police. Since this was now three hours later they were starting to be irritated, as well, although Lakely rather sourly suspected that they had no right to complain, since other people such as the polive could actually hear them, which went a long way towards preserving a man's sanity. "There was a big boom! I wasn'ty really paying attention," the man in the bowtie and the bad haircut was saying. "No, I didn;t see what happened beforehand." "Poor bastard," he added, carefully not looking at the pile of what had once been Lakely. "But listen," he said, "I have a wife and three kids waiting for me at home, they must be worried sick, surely you could let me leave...?" "No one can leave the crime scene," the policeman insisted. "The culprit could still be here." "No, she isn't!" Lakely shouted, completely uselessly, into the polceman's ear. "Because you let her walk away! You incompetent buffoon!" But eventually, even the police had to admit that there wasn't much more to be done. Someone gathered up the bits of Lakely and put them into some sort of container. Dusk began to fall. "I'm so bored," Lakely said. "When do the reapers get here?" As he said it he felt his mouth tingle. Dusk, somehow, fell faster. Despite himself he trembled. Music played, in all directions, music that wasn't music so much as sheer sound. None of the remaining people in the cafe seemed to have noticed. The edges of the world turned white. "Ohdratdratdratdratdrat," Lakely said, and wished he'd had the vinegar to use a more proper curseword (childhood traumas ran deep. Lakely's mother had not been content with using mere soap). The music was beautiful, in a way that the word "beautiful" didn't really capture, and it was tragic. It was the music that told Lakely that he was going to die. It was odd, that he was already dead, and yet it hadn't really hit him. These past few hours he'd twitched and fidgeted and it had never really occured to him, that he was going to disappear. That he'd be gone. That it was over. He was only seventeen, for Real's sake. "I didn't mean that!" He said. "I don't want to die!" "Really?" Someone said. Today was clearly a day for general all around police incompetence. There was no way the woman standing right behind him had been authorized to enter the crime scene. She... she... She just looked like a walking malfeasance, that was all. Possibly it was the hair. Or the way she stood. Or just. Just. Everything. "Um." Lakely said. (He was feeling very coherent today. Positively verbal.) "Are you sure?" The woman said. "Because I hear its quite nice, actually. Eternal bliss and happiness... and peaceful truthy joy, or something like that." "Th-that is?" Lakely said, gesturing at the encroaching whiteness. "There's no point in pointing, I can't see it," the woman said. "Right. Of course. Because you're alive," Lakely said. He thought he was starting to get the hang of this tedious business. Pity, too, since it was clearly reaching an end. "Don't be ridiculous, of course I'm not alive," the woman said. "How else do you think I'd be talking to you?" Lakely blinked. "Sorry?" He said. "Oh, no need to be," she said. "I've made peace with it long ago. But let's not talk about me-- Would you really rather not die?" "Um," Lakely said, again. It was suddenly not an obvious answer any more. "W-what would I end up losing as a result?" he said. "You wouldn't die." Right, I get that, but-- look, I just had a fairly traumatic once in a lifetime experience and now you've suddenly appeared and I don't see any reason to trust you and my point is-- is this one of those things where you con me into selling you my soul or something?" "Not in the slightest," the woman said, cheerfully. "Good." Lakely said. "Because I'm not entirely sure I have one, but if I do, it's mine. Okay? Right?" "If you can keep claim over it, sure," the woman said. "But I think the more pressing question now is whether you would really rather not die. Because you don't necessarily get to decide again." "I." Lakely said. The white pressed in on the corners of his vision. He was, he realized, starting to cry. Not really from sadness, just a sort of steady leaking, from ghostly eyes. Because apparently ghosts could cry, too. "I'd really-" he said. He was seventeen. The greatest achievement of his life had been winning the largest drizzball competition in fourth grade. Somewhere the world was beautiful. Everything would be okay. Wouldn't rest be lovely. Life was so long. There was lightness all around. It was going to be okay. He'd never be a spiremage. He'd never visit Kalatea. He hadn't even been able to make a proper confession to a girl. The world sounded like warm cinnamon swirls. "I don't want to die," he whispered, but he couldn't hear himself. There was white choking up his lungs. "I don't want to die!" He shrieked, in a sudden panic, and he was flailing, and-- Too late, too late, he thought, fighting the dizzy whirling softness-- Someone grabbed his hand. "Run," said the woman, and they did.
  2. Blurble


    "CONFESSING WON'T KILL YOU," his sister's latest excessively pink-and-glossy magazine had declared. "Fifteen reasons to confront your crush today!" Like most things written in that particular dishrag, it had been a lie. Lakely, admiring his view of the sky through the newly blasted hole in the cafe's ceiling, was slightly saddened by the thought that Relia would surely be upset if she discovered what part her magazine had played in his untimely demise. Fortunately, this would never happen, because: 1. There was zero chance Lakely would ever admit to having so much as noticed the thing's existence and 2. There was zero chance of Lakely admitting anything, since he was dead. The mystery, Lakely thought, as he pulled himself up by the elbows from the gross, sticky mess that he carefully avoided looking at, was not why he was dead. This was quite adequately explained by the gaping hole in the celing, the scorch marks, and the part where his body mostly wasn't there any more, or rather was there, but in far too many pieces. No, the mystery was why his crush was not. The part where Lakely was dead did not appear to have made any real dent in his conviction that she was totally his type. She had this slightly rounded face and the most incredibly soft-looking short wavy hair. She was small and cute and adorable. Also, in an unrelated observation, she was currently covered in Lakely's blood. She looked terrified. This was a perfectly reasonable reaction, in Lakely's opinion. She had her hands clasped over her mouth, her eyes wide, and she kept repeating "Oh my god. Oh my god," in a frantic sort of whisper. He felt a rush of pity for her. He, after all, was pretty much fine other than the being dead bit. She looked like she was about to have a total breakdown. "Hey," he said, softly, and tapped her on the shoulder. Of course she couldn't hear him, since he was dead, and she was-- She whirled around, if anything looking more frightened than before. For a moment. And then, in the most disconcerting way, her face smoothed over. "You're still here," she said. "D-wh-I-buh," said Lakely. He paused, his brain trying to collect itself into something coherent. "Er," he said. "This is going to be a stupid question, but-- Am I not dead?" He hesitated. "Because. You know. I was pretty sure-" At this point he made the mistake of glancing back at his body. His no longer relevant or even technically existent digestive system was apparently still insufficiently incorporeal to handle the sight. Ghostly waves of nausea lashed through him and he doubled over. "Scratch that last question," he wheezed. He waited a few moments, while his not-body stopped heaving. He straightened up. He smoothed out his hair. "Why can you see me?" He said. He was hoping the answer would be something along the lines of "Because we're soulmates." In fact, preferably it would be "Because we're soulmates, and as a result of our love being so excessively true you are, in fact, not dead. Also you have superpowers." "Because I killed you," the girl said. Her voice was still completely calm, but she folded her arms over her chest like she was hugging herself. "...Oh." Lakely said. "Um," he said. "So," he said. "...I didn't think I came across that strongly," he finally ventured. "What do you mean?" The girl said. What Lakely had meant was that he hadn't thought that sitting down next to her and saying, in as carefully casual a tone as he could muster, "So, um, what brings you here on this fine Tue--" was quite sufficient grounds for being dead. But if she didn't know what he was talking about, he didn't feel like reminding her that his very last words in the fragile mortal fastness of still breathing had not only involved an "um", but also his voice cracking in the most humiliating way at "brings". "I mean. Well. Why?" he said. "It was an-- an accident," she said. A beat. "I'm sorry," she added. "Well." he said. "You should be." There was an uncomfortable pause that was uncomfortable because, well, there was absolutely nothing else it could possibly be. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "I have to go." "Wait-- what? Why? I mean-- What happens to me?" Lakely said. "The reapers will come and take you to After," the girl said. "Since for some reason you haven't gotten there by yourself yet. Just sit patiently and wait." "Oh, that is not going to happen," Lakely said. The girl bit her lip. "You- you're barred from After?" she said. It seemed to him she went a bit pale. 'I don't even know what that means," Lakely said. "But I just died, and you just killed me. And I don't even know your name!" "Why does that even matter?" she said. "I don't know!" Lakely shouted. "But I just died! And you just killed me! And I think I'm entitled to be unreasonable right now!" "...Cielle," she said. "What?" "Cielle. That's my name. Okay?" "No," Lakely said. "But you just said--" The both turned, at the sound of voices. Sirens wailed. About time, Lakely thought. Well. Not that the ambulances would be particularly helpful at this point but it was high time that they arrived, anyway. "Goodbye," Cielle said. "Good luck." She muttered something softly. The air around her-- shifted. Then she began to walk purposefully away.
  3. Blurble


    Well, this is something different. I've been going through a bit of a down period and one of the reasons was feeling like I'm a total creative failure. So I decided to try writing something. By "something" I specifically mean original fiction. I could skip all the self deprecating "this is terrible and a first draft yadda yadda" insecurity stuff, but I feel compelled to stick it in, so here it is. BLABLABLA. Can we move on now? Great The story is called Dulce PS: omygoodness i just hit 1000 gold Edit: Will not be updating here. Am going to try posting this on goodreads... we'll see how it goes
  4. naghaithya is easy to summon because he makes it easy to summon him. i bet you he answers non-technically binding summons just for the fun of it. he probably allows nicknames.
  5. they were in this verse throughout. they were sparring in the daeva world. yes, rhen was summoned right in the middle of doing something. daevas are a species so some of them are friends, some of them coworkers, some of them enemies, etc. all the aveyond 1 daevas including dhavea-rhen know each other, in part because they are probably among the elite, most powerful daevas (rhen certainly is quite powerful even by daeva standards). so they have a vague sort of coffee-club type relationship. except for the ones actively disliking or actively dating eachother or all the shades in between. i mean. they've known eachother for hundreds of years. so things move slowly. but yeah. they're friends/whatever. libertarian-chaotic means daevas are all to independent free-agent to form a properly coherent government. there's in theory something, which could come into play if it was really needed, but nothing more than that. (also, less powerful daevas leave more powerful daevas alone, or pay the consequences) --- you poisoned my mind in the sense that, if not for you: 1. i wouldn't have thought of daevas as characters with personalities (i pretty much stole all the daeva/druid personalities directly from you, and consider your (old, not the revamped) take on them my canon. 2. i wouldn't have specifically paired rhen and agas if it hadn;t already existed. out there. in your brain. --- the old version isn;t defunct since i see no strong reason for there not to be more than one but i'm probably not going to write this one ever anyway. (it's just a slightly spun off take of the old one) (even though i kinda love some of the character set-ups... once i started thinking about it, female ahriman + te'ijal friendship started to seem really sweet in a, you know, dysfunctional way.)
  6. okay... nope, posting it did nothing for my writer's block in this AU. sigh. ah well. anyone want to adopt it (or suggest something intriguing enough that it sparks more ideas in my head)? feel free. The basic information I know about the story: relationships: 1. it probably does not feature rhen/lars. maybe as friends, eventually. i find it too hard to think of non-squicky ways to work around the bit where : a. while he's in control he can order her to do anything and she really has no choice but to obey b. if he ever loses control she would probably eat him. i mean, once upon a time this was sufficiently obvious as to not need saying, but post-Twilight I'd like to remind everyone that dating your supper is not a good idea. c. they're different species and both of them are aware of this. 2. it definitely features agas/rhen (they're not-yet-officially dating right before the story starts) and probably develops lars/elini (...she's totally interested in him). 3. elini possibly summons agas on a frequent basis. win-win on both sides-- she gets access toa powerful daeva, he gets to visit rhen 4. since rhen/lars is almost definitely not happening, i feel even more comfortable finding SOME way to introduce saurva/eithera into the story worldbuilding: 1. daevas can see, speak, and much more effectively use raw magic. Humans can only interface with magic in two ways-- through contracts with daevas or via some form of magic tech 2. a familiar contract with a daeva includes multiple unclosable loopholes wherein the deava is allowed to eat you. as well as many other complications. deavas find familiar contracts incredibly annoying and over the centuries familiar contracts (once extremely common) fell out of use in favor of shorter, safer summonings. 3. to summon a daeva you need to know their name. some daevas are more... profligate... than others. i cut this part out of chapter one because it didn't work with the flow but naghaithya is constantly getting himself summoned, and also he's the one who ended up giving out rhen's name. she will probably beat him up the next time she sees him. 3. two hundred years ago the demon Ahriman (not daeva... not sure exactly how they're related though, if they even are) nearly destroyed the world till talia maurva sealed him. it was understood at the time that the seal was temporary and a chosen one would be born who would re-seal the seal. 4. Daevas don't breathe oxygen. Actually, a la primordial life on earth billions of years ago, oxygen is poisonous to them 5. Daevas probably have a roughly libertarian chaotic society. 6. The Empire in the human world covers more than half the known world and is distinctly corrupt. 7. There are probably people who think daevas are evil and try to kill them. there are only limited ways this is possible to accomplish, but it definitely can and has been done. Dameon might be one of these people 8. Daevas are probably somewhat near immortal, or at least very very long lived 9. daeva senses work differently. (one part of the familiar-contract serves to adjust daeva sense to be roughly human-world compatible) plot: 1. lars is the chosen one 1a. one sign of his chosen status is his ridiculous hair color. He cannot dye it if he tries. 1b. Daevas can have ridiculous hair colors all they want, but humans who are not Lars all have normal hair 2. I have a crazy idea that ahriman is rhen's mother. ...yeah, lately ahriman has been distinctly female in my head, just wait till i post the aveyond HS AU where she's the cheerleading captain. 3. Elini also joins the party 4. I have no idea where Galahad and Te'ijal fit into all this, plus there aren't vampires in this universe so I'm not sure what they'd be
  7. P. Rhen lunged forward, arms rising for the swing. In the adrenaline of the moment it was as if the world froze, Agas's arms moving almost in slow-motion, the wind, the ground-- And then, suddenly, just like that, she was elsewhere. Air, acrid, burning of oxygen, suddenly filled her lungs, and she choked on it, suffocating. She bent over in pain, her stomach was liquid fire in her throat, and her head was all sickly acid bubbles. Suddenly, the pain began to dissipate. She opened her eyes, which had screwed tight from pain, and discovered that her head was surrounded by some sort of clear, blue glowing bubble. As she watched, the bubble contracted and molded itself to her face. She panicked, reaching her arms up to remove it, but they clawed uselessly at her face. More importantly, the bubble-mask didn't seem to hurt. In fact, as she waited, chest heaving, the pain all over her body seemed to subside slightly. Enough so that she could begin to try to take stock of her situation. This presented a challenge. Everything was so over-saturated, it was hard to properly assign shape and form. And her sense of smell was overpowered by the abundance of confusing new odors, too many for her to process at once. "That mask will evaporate immediately if you attempt to step out of the circle," a voice said. "You will get another, longer taste of the symptoms you just experienced. Which, I should add, would also prove fatal." Circle? Rhen blinked, trying to bring the world into focus. Yes, there was some sort of glowing shape around her. More importantly, Rhen now had a pretty good idea where she was. She fought back the urge to curse. "In addition," the voice continued-- Rhen could tell she was going to be hating this voice very much-- "I can remove the mask at any point that I wish, with the same results." Rhen closed her eyes, to fight off the headache from all these godawful colors, and also to hide her eye roll. Humans. So bloody scared. Perfectly fair, though. If she could have crossed the circle boundary she would have ripped the voice's throat out. If only to stop it from talking, ever. But if she could have crossed the circle, this stupid mask would have been meaningless. She would just as quickly have voided back home. But unfortunately this circle was, clearly, properly constructed. Which meant, naturally, that the mask bit was superfluous. But nasty. How in the hell had they gotten hold of her Name? She hadn't been summoned in over four centuries, and then she'd made pretty damn sure all the relevant scrolls had been burned. She wasn't like some daevas, prancing around waiting to be captured. She didn't like humans. They tasted oily. "You have called me by my name, human," she said, in the same pretentious, loud and booming voice. The "official demon voice", as required by convention. "By law, this gives you the right to request a contract with me." So what would it be? Find something, fix something, kill something, enthrall something... There wasn't usually very much variety in human requests. "I would bind you to my contract," the voice intoned. "Rhenaiat Dharzon-Ishtal Kaniana, known as the Sword-Singer." "Yeah, yeah," Rhen muttered. "I bind you as my familiar till such time as I choose to terminate this contract." D- What? Clearly she was not merely dizzy and disoriented and not yet adjusted in terms of sights and smells. Obviously the human world also distorted sound waves in some subtle, bizarre manner. ...Familiar?!? What was this, the Altonian Era? "Um... excuse me?" She said, momentarily breaking proper demon-like character. "The clauses of said contract are, in broad, those of the Attensy-Erist contract as given in the year 767, but changes can be made as per %G-178, &c, &c." Rhen felt her mouth fall open. She wasn't sure what left her more shocked-- that someone was contracting her as a familiar, or that said someone was apparently capable of saying, with a straight face, not merely "&c, &c", but "%G-178". As if that was a word! "...Human, I feel obliged to remind you of the conditions of a familiar contract," if only to save your dumb and probably terrible-tasting skull, she thought, but did not add out loud. "You were not given permission to give reminders. Also, do not refer to me as 'Human'," said the voice. "May I ask what exactly I am allowed to do?" Rhen said, through gritted teeth. "You may obey my orders," the voice said. "I'm afraid my ability to do so will be rather limited while within this circle," she said. And now he would release it... she thought, body tensing. "I'm afraid I can't release the circle until you accept the contract, demon," the voice said. Well. Damn. So close. Not that she'd really expected that to work. "I don't suppose I have any choice, do I," Rhen said, cheerily. (She wondered what the voice looked liked, and more importantly what it would look like dead). "Accept the contract," the voice said. "I dunno," Rhen said. "Maybe I'm not in the moo--" She doubled over, gasping. Dammit. The mask. Dammit. After a few fractions of a moment that lasted forever, she could breathe again. "I see you're not willing to be reasonable," she said. "I take no responsibility for the consequences of this contract." Maybe he wasn't going to taste good, but she'd probably enjoy eating him anyway. "I'm waiting," the voice said, softly. "@#$@%#$^$&^(^#!$#$^&@#![}}"|," she said-- not exactly, of course, that was a rough transliteration. Something, hard, cold, wrapped itself around her wrists and arms and neck. And once again she couldn't breathe. "Mrrmfr," she said, through something that felt slimy, over her mouth. It was the mask, but suddenly instead of protecting her it was suffocating her. Take this off, you idiot,, she said, but it came out as muffled, moist blubbings. She reached her hands up to claw, once again, futilely, at it-- And it came away, globby, in her hands. She stared at it, lungs heaving, breathing in-- oxygen oxygen oxygen-- it didn't burn her insides it felt good-- The mask was dribbling slowly out of her hands. It was blue. Underneath it, her hands were some sort of tan-pink. Underneath them the ground was green and underneath that-- For a moment her vision skewed, brown brown black red yellow white WHITE white yellow-- And then the world tilted back into balance. Green. Tan. Blue. And standing in front of her, The Voice, that she could finally see. A boy! A tiny little welpling boy! And she had thought her humiliation couldn't possibly get any worse. She glared at him, not wasting effort to mask her hatred. Why bother. His seals were on her, cold metal on her throat, on her hands, on her arms. She was sealed, sealed, sealed... "Thank you for making an effort to remove the mask before I suffocated," she said, glaring. "No big deal," he said, easily, "it was designed to melt away when no longer in contact with a demonic force." "How clever of you," she spat. "Well, I am that," he said. "Now then, Rhenaiwhatever... your name is way too long to remember, you know, we shall have to come up with something else." "Rhen," Rhen suggested. "Nah," the voice said. "I'll think of something, don't worry." "And what am I supposed to call you, hum-- master?" Rhen said. "Master Lars would do nicely," said the voice.
  8. So. On the one hand I find this idea intriguing. On the other hand I'm not really sure where I'd be going with it. So I'm posting the beginning, and maybe responses will help trigger my brain juices or something. --- Please note the letters AU in the thread title. (Also, hopefully I will eventually come up with a title for the story) --- Pairings: =D
  9. author's musings 2 years later: well i finished this fic september 5 2010. so it's been over two years. (three since i started this fic) wow. kay. ...re-reading this with a bit more emotional distance from the actual process of writing it I: 1. desperately want to re-write it to smooth over the myriad flaws and make certain things flow better (seriously considering doing this. 3 years away from the story makes certain solutions to certain problems really stand out) 2. rather like it despite the flaws. i think it's my favorite thing i've written on the site (of course i invested exponentially more energy in this than any of my other projects, but... yeah)
  10. He walked. It took a lot of walking but one of the side effects of falling forever was that you became very patient. One of the side effects. --- The impact of the fall hadn't been quite as, well, fatal as one would have expected. It probably helped that there hadn't been gravity in limbo, so the only part of Dhacian's fall that had involved accelerating velocity was that final bit, the part where he suddenly went from falling in nothing, endlessly, to falling from the sky, in a manner that was certifiably not endless. Nonetheless. The final bit had indeed involved velocity-- quite a bit of it towards the end-- and he'd fallen out of the sky in a position that had not lent itself to getting his wings properly spread or gaining any sort of fall-breaking traction. The impact had several things going in his favor. For one thing, there were worse places he could have fallen onto than the Caladori desert. Places more filled with sharp pointy rocks. As it was the sand had gone a long way towards cushioning the fall. Most of the cushioning, however, had been done by his left wing. The result was that he was alive, and also that several bones in his wing were broken. Hence, he walked. It took a lot of walking, but one of the side effects of falling forever was that you became very patient. --- If you'd asked him, he wouldn't have known why he was walking, or where. There was a reason, he just hadn't found it yet. It took Dhacian three weeks until he reached Nordenwald Forest. He was surprised to discover that New Ark had been rebuilt and was in fact flourishing. It was at least five times the size it had been when he'd set it on fire. The place was positively overflowing, with humans and-- halfbreeds, scores of them. But people didn't pay very much attention to his wings as a result. He got his first proper look in a mirror since landing when he visited the town medic to have his wing checked on. It was something of a shock. He looked different. It was hard to put a finger on what, exactly, it was that made the difference. Three weeks of steady walking outside had given him a dark tan but there was also something-- something-- something different, that was all. He almost didn't recognize himself. Even though he couldn't point to anything specific that had changed. The medic told him he'd done a good job setting the bones himself and that they were coming along fine and he'd be able to fly within another week and a half or so. Then she said "We don't get very many skyborn coming through here." "Mhm," he said, ignoring the implied question. "I suppose you've already seen the statue?" she said, with the same inquiring tone. "No, I haven't had the chance," he said. He had no idea what he was talking about but figured he might as well play along. "Well, you absolutely should. It was a bit of a controversy putting it up, sure, but I think it reflects our hope to put the past behind us and move forward," she said, with a cadence as if it was a phrase she'd said many times before. "Always an admirable goal," he murmured. Her mouth twisted slightly. "Yes, well. If only everyone thought that way-- I understand, you know, why folk like you are rare here. Of course we have a reputation. I can't deny it being justified, either-- but it's not like we're all voting Red. There are plenty of us in New Haven who vote Coalition. We understand what it means to let bygones be bygones. Even the statue-- you know we're the only ones, with a statue of the Empress." "The- The Empress?" "Well, she did push for us to receive reparation money and fought for us to have full inclusion in the census vote," the medic said. She paused and looked at him suspiciously. "Don't tell me you're from New Direction." "I'm not," he reassured her. So long as "New Direction" didn't refer to "endless void" it was an honest answer. But he hadn't understand a word of what she had just said. At this point she seemed to finally notice his restless shifting. "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know what I'm doing, talking politics to you like this. I suppose it's just nice to see someone like yourself, willing to be openminded about it all." As he left she called out "The statue plaza is two streets down to your left!" And because he had nowhere else specific to go, he followed her directions and arrived face to face with his reason. --- The truth be told it wasn't actually a revelation. Which was to say, after spending forever hearing her, seeing her-- and almost nothing else, really-- it wasn't as if there was any further revelation a mere stone statue of her could produce, except a sudden resignation to the inevitable. It was a resignation. After all, in three weeks of trekking he hadn't actually verbalized in his mind the intention, the absolute imperative to see her. But it was simply. He had spent such a very, very long time. Running away from her, running after her, who knew. Falling and falling and falling. --- Surprisingly enough Dhacian didn't actually spend very much time thinking about the part where she had somehow gotten herself made Empress. It was somehow very irrelevant, at least it seemed that way at the time. He didn't have a drop of money on him to afford an airship ride so that left walking, again. By the time he'd arrived at New Stormrook his wing had finally healed and he was able to fly up to the highest level immediately. A more stunning vision of how much had changed while he'd been gone would have been impossible to imagine. Gone were the elegant white marble palaces, gone the fountains, gone the gardens. And gone were the skyborn. Half the place was overgrown with weeds crawling amidst crumpled ruins but amidst the low brick houses that had sprung up around the sole remaining fountain there was not a skyborn to be seen. He landed by the fountain, trying to come to grips with his surroundings. It was inconceivable that things could have changed this drastically. What in Eia had happened? And as he was contemplating this he became aware of the humans surrounding him. There were five of them, all male. They were also all wearing bright red bandanas. And they were smiling, but not friendly smiles. Not friendly at all. "What have we here?" said the one standing closest to him, a swarthy dark-haired man. "Why it seems to be a skyborn who's gotten a bit lost," said another one (blond, with a broken nose). "You lost, skyborn?" The first one said. "You need help finding your way?" There were sniggers. Dhacian gave them his broadest smile. "That's so kind of you to offer," he said. His eyes flicked over them quickly, assessing. At least three of them had knives. Possibly all five of them did. The smile on the dark-haired one's face faded. "That wasn't an offer, scum," he said. Dhacian held up his hands, placatingly. "Now then, gentlemen." He couldn't quite keep the sarcasm out as he used the title. "I don't want to have to use magic--" They began to laugh. "Magic!" The blond one said. "Listen to the brainless thing!" "I'm not sure why you're laughing," Dhacian said, coldly. "You can't think us stupid enough to fall for that bluff," the dark haired one said. He took a step closer, knife gripped firmly in his hand. "Your kind's time of tyranny is over, birdling. Now? Now it's time to pay." And he lunged forward. Dhacian instinctively reached for his magic. Nothing happened. The shock-- the sudden horror-- was so great that Dhacian did not dodge the knife in the slightest. It slashed down, tearing through his shirt and leaving a bloody gash down his chest. Dhacian stared at the blood, and at the knife, his mind barely processing what was happening. The magic. The magic was gone. The humans, encouraged by the sight of his blood, were smiling again, circling. Suddenly, two of them lunged forward simultaneously. Dameon tried, again, desperately, to reach for his magic. He scrabbled at the place in his mind where it was, where it should have been, where it-- wasn't. This time he tried to dodge, and the knife aimed at his heart struck a rib and bounced back, the other knife leaving a trail of blood down one wing. But the chest wound was hurting, a lot, and he felt dizzy. The humans were licking their lips, sensing a kill. And then-- suddenly-- it was slow motion. A strange numbness came over him. The same numbness, when he was falling through nothing and everything was instaneously forever and-- It was as if the assailants were frozen, their arms moving like pudding being poured through a sieve. Dhacian stepped to the side. Time snapped back to normal. The blond human brought his arm down on nothing and turned, surprised, to gape at Dhacian who-- was no longer there but behind him, and the knife was suddenly-- not in his hand anymore, but in Dhacian's. --- It didn't take very long after that. When all five of them were unconscious, heaped together in a pile, Dhacian ripped a strip of cloth from his anyway ruined shirt and tried to use it to staunch the bleeding from his chest. He had no idea what had just happened. He was wondering if he was going to get used to that feeling any time soon.
  11. i'd love to see your canon notes. even just reading them over might help me come up with ideas. yeah, his name is rhyler dhacian, he just drops the ryler part for all his post-alda career. (and essentially adopts dhacian as his first name, instead of his family name, and pretends not to have a family name at all) (which is why in the game its such a BIG SHOCKING REVEAL that his first name is ryler.) well, at least in my head-canon. --- some more authorial explanations even though they're really cheating because i should be working on making this stuff clear in the story itself: 1. the purpose of book one was to help me get a better handle on how ryler goes from shy awkward sweetie of alda's flashbacks to the nasty jerk he is in game in addition, it tries to explain WHY ON EARTH ryler is loyal to the Empress who ORDERED HIM AND HIS BEST FRIEND TO KILL EACH OTHER. i mean ridiculously loyal! he protects her to the end! and... probably other plotholes that bothered me at the time but i don't remember them anymore. honestly at this point i'm working off of the notes/outline i made when i initially had the brainchild for this story. so even though i had a reason for everything i included i don't necessarily remember all the reasons anymore (and i no longer have a copy of skyborn to play through again because i've gotten a new comp) 2. i left out a bunch of scenes i was planning on including and didn't develop the plotline as much as i wanted (let's just say-- chapter 2 was initially planned to be chapters 2, 3, and 4, making book two more like a proper mini-book) because i didn't find aforementioned purpose interesting enough. basically ryler without alda isn't a hugely interesting character for me... (post-fall ryler? different story. =)) --- explanation of the interlude: okay so this is one of those giant gaping plot holes in the end of the game that i mentioned. ryler falls into eternal limbo-space and... somehow ends up by alda's statue. that makes no sense. (ALONG WITH SO MANY OTHER THINGS) so the interlude, which okay possibly was going to be explained in story anyway but I'll explain now, solves that problem along with another one... basically does chaska seriously got locked away for all eternity? the game implies that maybe they try to find a solution. so i went with her trying to construct nets of nothingsness that she can use to poke holes in limbo-land. there are side effects from this that will definitely be discussed in story, but the important one is that her first successful actual portal falls. onto ryler. (this is posible because there isn't really time in limbo-land). so he falls through the hoe in the limbo-universe and ends back up in the real world. anyway since there's no time in limbo-land his falling takes forever but doesn't actually take time at all. which is why the moment of the actual fall lasts forever, in a sort of stretched slow motion. and the moment that he falls, alda screams RYLER while crying so that's what happens for the entirety of the not-millenia that he falls. he just hears her screaming his name while crying. (okay technically it should have been rylerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr if it was just one instant but i decided to cheat and let it be a particularly long instant so it could inlude his entire name) --- did that make any sense?
  12. Interlude He fell. At this point his life should have flashed in front of his eyes. But there was no time here, just the single, endless, instant. So what he saw (endlessly, instantly) was her face, crumpled, as she cried-- but she never cried-- and what he heard (endlessly,instantly) was her scream-- R R and he fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y and fell Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y and fell Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y and fell Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y and fell Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y and fell Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y and fell Y Y Y Y L L L L L L L L Land fell L L L L L L L L L L L L Land fell L L L L L L L L L Land fell L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L Land fell L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L Land fell L L L L L L L L L L Land fell L L L L L L L L L Land fell L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L Land fell L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L [interlude: After she had decorated her new home with flowers and bright poisonous mushroom and rainbows and kittens and everything else she found beautiful, Chaska turned her attention to the question of occasionally getting to leave her new, beautiful home. Sunrises and waterfall were exquisitely lovely, but they weren't Corwin Elenthir. It took a rather long time for her to even start creating little rifts in her little world's time-space fabric. A very, very, very, very long time, actually, but luckily there wasn't actually such a thing as time here at all. So she worked for millenia-that-weren't, humming to herself. Eventually she was making them like little bubbles, floating away from her all dark and lovely. They had a tendency to pop with a frightening silence, though. She set about stabilizing them, making their nothingness be a bit more... nothing, and they formed dark gooey strings that burned through her fingers as she set about trying to weave them. Finally she had one all set up, a perfect net, and then to her dismay it slipped through her fingers and fell, down and down, into the deeper nothing below. She watched in dismay as it disappeared, and then with a little shrug and a smile she set back to work. She was very patient. She could start again.] L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L Land fell L L L L L L L L L L L L L E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E E E E E E E E E E E and fell E E E E E R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R R and fell R R R R R R R R R R and--
  13. Book One, Chapter Two: Old Stormrook When he woke up there was someone holding his hand. Alda, he thought. His eyes filled with tears just at the thought but it was okay because she was here and he had just woken up from a very terrible nightmare and he was so, so relieved. "You have been a very bad boy," said the voice by his bed, and it wasn't Alda's voice at all. His eyes snapped open. The Empress was holding his hand-- The Empress was-- The-- And at that exact same moment a massive, overwhelming, indescribable pain finally managed to overcome the censors in his brain and his entire body was screaming and he was screaming and he blacked out again. --- When he woke up again the Empress was gone, and he was incredibly thirsty and wanted a drink of water. The nurse said he couldn't and he didn't understand until he followed the line of her gaze with his hand and felt the bandages wrapped around his chest. There was a giant hole in him and anything he put in would just come right out again or at least that's what he thought, fuzzily, but anyway he was already slipping back into unconsciousness and Empress, unconsciousness was just wonderful. --- Consciousness sucked. There were a lot of tubes going in and out of him keeping him alive and then there were a lot of healers throwing nauseating healing spells at him (literally nauseating-- the painkillers kept the horrible fiery stabby pain down to a barely survivable minimum and yet all those painkiller seemed to do nothing for the constant greenish-colored dizzy swirly gross feeling the over-dosage of healing spells was giving him). But the worst thing about consciousness was, well, being conscious. They were dialing down the painkillers and the healing spells as his recovery progressed and what that meant, other than being in constant pain but also being increasingly less and less likely to die any minute, was that he could think. And there was absolutely nothing he wanted to do less. The Empress came back, once he started being conscious for more than five minutes at a stretch. The Empress sat by his bed and spoke to him, in a calm sweet voice. She told him that he had been a bad disobedient boy but that she loved him, that she would even forgive him, maybe, if. When she told him he'd been bad the pain always somehow increased to the point that it would bring tears to his eyes, and lately just when she said he'd been bad that was enough even without the pain to make him tear up. When she told him she would still love him, if only he was good, he'd feel a lightness, a sort of ecstasy, wash over him. For those moments and those moments only he didn't mind being conscious. He'd grasp at the happy feeling, that the Empress-- The Empress-- The empress would forgive him and love him again and everything was okay-- and then feeling would leave and he'd be left gasping with the need for it, and with the pain, and with the consciousness. The consciousness was Alda. It was always Alda. Nobody spoke to him about her. So he never spoke about her either, not to himself, not even in his thoughts, he blanked her out, she didn't exist and everything in the world was Alda and the pain. --- It took six months until he could walk around freely again, and a week more than that before he was officially called before the Empress. "I am giving you a second chance," she said, and his heart leapt into his throat. "I am sending you to Old Stormrook". "Yes, your majesty," he said, awash with the glow of The Empress-- The Empress-- sending him on a mission, trusting him, him, undeserving worm. The Empress giving him a second chance! Only later, when he was packing and discovered that he was shaking, shaking without realizing it, did he suddenly remember what it meant to be assigned to Old Stormrook. --- But it was different. It was different this time. As the airship landed in the familiar-- too-familiar in the airdocks that he hadn't seen in years, he reminded himself of that over and over. He wasn't a poor boy with one parent of not nearly noble enough birth. He wasn't helpless. He wasn't a nobody. He was Soldier Dhacian and one of the Empress's own. And if you belonged to the Empress your class was unimportant. It was skill that mattered, and Ryler-- Dhacian-- and Dhacian had plenty of skill. He felt himself straighten, stiffen proudly within his uniform. Then he slumped. He wasn't a soldier, he was a soldier-on-probation. And he was being sent here to prove that he was worthy of the shorter title. Still. Just the fact that he was being considered for the title made him better than every one of these backwards, backwater yokels. He forced himself to believe that, believe that utterly, so that when the Immigration and Procedural Officer-- wearing the markings of a noble third line-- asked for his papers he didn't bow to the waist like his entire childhood had trained him to do. Instead he nodded stiffly. Respect for an equal or almost-equal. "Soldier Dhacian?" The official said. "No family name?" "I belong to the Empress," Dhacian said. On Old Stormrook family names were the first, second, and third steps in determining how you were treated. But he was above that now. (He felt no need to correct the soldier's assumption that Dhacian was his first name. He had intended for the error to occur) The official smirked. "Always so patriotic, you people." "I hope that statement wasn't meant to disparage patriotism," Dhacian said, meeting the man's gaze fixedly. The smirk wavered and then disappeared. Dhacian felt a flush of power fill him. He might be a soldier on probation but he had the Empress behind him and they knew it and they were afraid. He finished the remainder of the paperwork and let himself be directed to the police station. --- The policeman's body language radiated hostility. Dhacian wasn't feeling all that friendly to the man either. The man smelled of drink and was dressed like a slob. if this was the state of the police force then the Empress had been right to send him here to shape things up. With that in mind he allowed a drop of condescension to slip into his tone as he extended his arm. "Soldier Dhacian," he said. "I've been sent by the Empress. And you...?" "Commander Boyce Tiernan, although that will just be Commander to you." "I follow the rank of the Empress," Dhacian said. "Well then, you will be happy to know that you have been assigned to work under me, by your precious Empress, Dhacian," he said. Dhacian felt his stomach drop to the vicinity of his toes. He wasn't expected to supervise this... useless slob. He was expected to be supervised by him. And the dismay and the shock of that had already registered on his face, he saw, as he saw a nasty smirk spread widely across the commander's face. "Your first duty," the commander said, "will be to polish my boots". --- He polished the boots three times before they met the commander's satisfaction. By that point, "seething" was too kind a word to describe how he felt. The man was an incompetent boor. And the sooner Dhacian got out of here, the better. He had not been expecting the Empress to assign him a superior. Nonetheless, his mission had not changed. The Empress must have had some reason to place him here initially, but the need to assert control over the increasingly insubordinate old stormrookian police force did not require him to stay. His brooding was interrupted by a tap on the shoulder. He turned to see a young skyborn in police garb-- a plain-looking woman who was smiling at him, reassuringly. "He can be pretty awful but you get used to it," she said. "I'm Minna Keata, I've worked here for ten years. You must be Soldier Dhacian." He returned her salute, which made her smile widen. "It's a pleasure to have you here," she said. He decided to smile back, and managed a small one. "Would be more of a pleasure on my part if I hadn't just wasted so much time polishing boots," he said. "Tiernan can't make you polishe shoes forever," she said. "He needs you on patrol." "Patrol?" he said. "We're short-staffed," she said. "Most of our district is slums so there's not much interest in giving us proper funding." "I see..." he said, hesitantly. "In fact I'm headed out on patrol right now," she said. "Come with me, I'll show you the ropes." --- Patrols were meant to be done in pairs, but Minna Keata's previous partner had retired several months ago. Dhacian was probably going to be assigned to her once he got an official assignment. She was from a low-ranking family and worked in the police force because it paid, but her dream had been to be a teacher. She had an on-and-off-again boyfriend and didn't expect to ever get officla approval to have children. All this and more Dhacian learned while on patrol with her. Patrolling made Minna nervous and she fought the nerves by talking, which was why losing her partner had been so frustrating. He had been mostly deaf in the last few years before his retirement but that just made him better suited to her constant babble. "I'm sorry," she said, after saying that. "am I overwhelming you?" Dhacian shook his head. After a paragraph or two he had succeeded in mostly tuning her out, while still paying just enough attention to remember anything useful she might say. Patrols used to be done very thoroughly but lately Tiernan had decided that it was wasteful to keep patrolling every area every day. He also decided that randomizing the patrols was too much of a bother. So now there was a schedule, and on each day of the week certain areas were patrolled. The stupidity of this method was galling, but Tiernan was right about one thing-- no one in Old Stormrook actually cared. No one in this district ranked higher than sub-sub-com-duke-- plenty of them had scandalously no rank at all--- and so it didn't really matter if any of them got robbed or stabbed. So thus far nothing had happened to raise scrutiny of the patrol system. Thus far. If there could just be once incident big enough to cause a fuss, Dhacian was certain he could get Tiernan the disgrace he deserved. He just needed to keep his eyes open. --- Opportunity came vastly faster than expected. It was the third day of the week which meant patrolling the Dinge Quarter. The Dinge quarter was, hands down, the worst, most miserable part of Old Stormrook. For one thing, it was located on the shores of Ol' Yellow. Ol' Yellow flowed from the leakage of the sweage treatment plant, and no, it was not named after its high content of gold. And it was there, curled up in the ragged crumple of a box, that Minna spotted it. She didn't realize what she had spotted. She simply said "There seems to be something somewhat wrong with that poor man's wings," in her sympathetic voice. But when Ryler had turned to look he realized that whatever was wrong was quite a good deal wronger than "somewhat". "Minna," he whispered, urgently. "We need to capture him." "But why would you need to capture him?" she said. Not in a whisper. "Shhh!" He hissed but it was too late. The-- thing-- began to take off in a shambling run. "After him!" Dhacian shouted, taking off. But the man had disappeared into a network of alleys. "We'll have to split up," Dhacian said. "Head left, I'll head right." Minna shook her head, wide-eyed. "I- I've never gone into the alleys alone!" she half-wailed. "well, you'll have to," Dhacian said. "Didn't you see that man? He was a half-blood!" Minna gasped. "A h-half blood? He couldn't be!" she said. "They don't-- that's illegal!" "Exactly," Dhacian said. "We can't let him get away." She glanced back at the shadowed entrance of the alleway into which the man had disappeared. "But I can't-- I'm s-scared," she managed to say. Dhacian glanced at her, frustrated. They were letting his chance get away. "I'll stay close by," he said. "If you need me just scream." She didn't seem particularly reassured by this but after he took a few steps into the alleyway she followed him, shivering. He turned right and didn't manage to get very far away when she screamed. He flew back to her as fast as he could. "He was here!" she said, frantically. "Here? Where?" he said, looking around. "He jumped at me! I was s-so scared!" "You let him get away?" Dhacian asked, sharply. "He might have killed me!" she wailed, and burst into full-blown sobs. The sun was beginning to set. It galled him to admit this, when his prey was this close, but they would have to head back, especially with Minna too hysterical to be anything but a burden. "We'll head back," he said. "But we can't!" she said, frantically. "We can't-- I'll have let a halfborn get away! What will Tiernan do to me?!" "It probably wasn't a halfblood anyway," he said. "I'm just being paranoid. Boredom from the patrol. Just don't say anything." She stared at him. "You're not going to report this?" He smiled at her. "You've been so nice to me since I got here," he said. "I don't want you to get into trouble." "Thank you," she said, starting to cry again. "Don't worry," he said, and helped her back to the station. --- when they got back, late, dirty, and exhausted, Tiernan made nasty comments at both of them and then sent Dhacian-- only Dhacian-- to scrub the toilets. Overwhelmed with the disappointment of his lost opportunity, Dhacian didn't think the day could possibly get any worse until he walked into the decrepit food hall to find the other officers playing a holovid. "What's this?" Dhacian said, casually, as he settled into his seat and reached for some food. "The Spring tournament from New Stormrook," Galen, one of the policemen told him. "Just got the rec today. Powers, isn't she stunning?" Dhacian looked to see what he was referring to and froze. It was Alda, Alda slicing her way through a battlefield, Alda Alda Alda. He looked back at his plate of food and fought the urge to vomit. "They say she's the best the Academy has ever had, she might be promoted to general soon, youngest ever-- What's wrong?" Dalen said, looking back at him. "Nothing." he said. "Not hungry." He staggered back from the table and stumbled into his room. --- He was trapped in Old Stormrook. Pathetic backwards excuse for a town, lost in delusions of its own former grandeur. He was trapped here. He was nothing here. He needed to get out and he needed to get out now. He grabbed his money and went to a store that sold lights (among other things). He bought the brightest portable he could get. From that point on he stopped returning straight to the station from patrols. Instead he waited till Minna left and winged it straight for the Dinge Quarter. He didn't tell Minna about this. As they had agreed, they hadn't mentioned what had happened on the patrol. Minna had seemed happy to forget. It took him three weeks before he found the creature. The halfborn's eyes were bloodshot and he drooled constantly. He also couldn't get out a coherent word and was clearly deranged. Dhacian did not take him to the station. He did not take him to Tiernan. Instead he brought him straight to the High Commisioner. --- The entire staff of the Fourth District police office was arrested and placed on trial. Tiernan was eventually exiled. Minna had a nervous breakdown. Dhacian, on the other hand, had been invited to the halfblood execution. It took place a week after the capture, by which point all his coworkers had already been jailed but none of them had been put on trial yet. They postponed the execution for a week because it was quite the gala event. Executions were rare and exciting events and everyone wanted to be able to enjoy it as much as possible. He sat in the seat of honor at the dinner and ate generously from the massive piles of delicious food passed his way. And then they brought the half-blood on to the stage, and apologized that they couldn't produce the parents as well-- genetic testing and a database check had confirmed that both mother and father were, unfortunately, already dead. The crowd booed. But they cheered when Dhacian ascended to the steps to the stage, ornate ceremonial knife in his hand. He was shaking but they couldn't see that from a distance. The halfblood, in chains, grimaced at him with toothless gums. When he saw the knife, however, he began to cower. He was a disgusting thing. He smelled like sewage. Dhacian closed his eyes and tried to bring the knife down on the man's neck. He couldn't do it. He couldn't kill him. It was true. He was soft. He was useless. He was a disgrace-- "Orders are orders," Alda said, as she lunged for him-- He brought the knife down, made a clean slitting motion. Blood burst out of the man's throat and spattered on Dhacian's clothing and face. He calmly wiped it away. "I'll need new clothes," he said. The crowd cheered. Afterwards he vomited up every last scrap of the delicious dinner. Two days later he got official word from the Empress that his probation was over. He was a full-fledged soldier now. --- Considering the six-month interval that he'd been out of commission, he was one of the fastest-advancing soldiers in history. In fact, he probably would have been breaking records. Except that someone else was breaking them before him. He felt nothing when he heard her name, now. He could eat just as heartily when holovids played. He didn't care. He didn't care. He didn't care. There was talk of her becoming the youngest general in history. Not yet, of course, but if her career proceeded at the pace she was already going-- But he didn't care. Why should he? He didn't. So he ate and he worked and he waited, waited until he would finally be transferred back to New Stormrook, waited and didn't care. --- It took a bit more than a year. It had been a total of two years from his humiliating failure at the final exam. But finally, finally he received word that he was needed back in New Stormrook. As he packed his bags-- his greatly expanded wardrobe, his much increased supply of cash--- he thought of honor and pride and the Empress and opportunity and advancement and not once did he think of Alda. As he boarded the airship and waved goodbye to the crowd that had come to see him off-- it wasn't a ridiculously large crowd, but he did have quite a bit of a following-- he didn't think of her. In fact he was so utterly and totally not thinking of her, of her face, of her face when she saw him again, that it was a shock when he heard her name. "Alda Kims?!" someone said, incredulously. "That makes no sense!" "Well, read it for yourself, then--" He turned and saw a crewmember shoving a newspaper into the hands of another passenger. Probably the latest news of her great success. He fought the urge to roll his eyes. "I-- I don't understand," the passenger said. "She can't just have disappeared!" "I heard rumors that she's dead and they're covering it up," the crewmember said. "But she was going to be the guest speaker at the Morale Rally!" The creewmember gave a short laugh. "Well, she clearly isn't going to be anymore." "I'm sorry," Dhacian said, stepping up behind them. "May I see that?" They took in his appearnace at once-- uniform, lapel pin-- and stepped away immediately. "Here you go, sir," they said, and fled. --- He read the article-- a front page spread. He read the other, shorter article on the same topic. He read the editorial. He read them all, in fact, about a hundred times each, before he finally managed to fall asleep. That night, for the first time, he dreamed. He was in the practice room with Alda and he was watching her fight the marionette practice soldiers and he was realizing, for the very first time, that he was in love with her. No that was wrong that was wrong that was wrong. He was in the practice room with Alda and she was so beautiful and he was in love with her and it hurt he hurt why did it hurt oh right because his chest was ripped open and he was a bloody mess and he was dying. He was on the practice field with Alda and she said "sometimes I feel like no one understands me but you" as she stabbed him in the chest-- in the chest-- he was bleeding-- They were sitting together in the corridor leaning over a single book and her hair was in his face except his chest was a bloody mess all over everything because he was dying because she had killed him because-- This was all wrong all wrong all wrong-- "You broke me!" he screamed. "you broke me, you broke me, I'm going to break you!" He was bleeding and he was stabbing her and she was bleeding bleeding bleeding and as her wound widened his closed-- except it didn't, it just got bigger and bigger as her breaths came, slower, she was dying he was dying she wasdyinghewasdying. "I hate you I hate you I hate you," he said, he stabbed her, he burned her, he kissed her, he strangled her-- --- He woke gasping in the middle of the night to absolute darkness. He stumbled to the bathroom-- he had a private room, the perks of privilege-- and then to a sink to gulp down a cup of water. He did not want to go to New Stormrook anymore. He did not want to go because the only reason he had ever wanted to go was to see her again. Not for the Empress. Away from her presence, her importance also managed to somehow fade. Thinking of disobeying her made his chest ache but he could have stayed in Old Stormrook and been fine, and instead he hadn't been fine because he needed to not be there because he needed-- And he had refused to acknolwedge it, all along, because it was so ridiculous, and because he knew that it would make the Empress angry, and because-- what would he have done if he saw her? Tried to kill her, maybe. No. She was important. They wouldn't have let him. Proved that he wasn't a nobody, for her to use and throw away. He wasn't a stepping stool. He was-- He could make her respect him, he could make her lo-- Stupid stupid stupid thought she killed you or at least tried to and you hate her you hate her you hate her. She was winning, all over again. He was letting her win. No, dammit, no, he wasn't going to let this change anything. She had no power over him. He was just as worthwhile without her around. He didn't care. He didn't care. He would just rise, and rise, and no one could stop him anymore.
  14. It does have really lovely art, that's what drew me in at first (that, and I thought there was going to be significantly more development of the characters and world... I mean, the first five minutes were genuinely promising) Aisling doesn't want me posting intensive spoilers in-thread cause it might ruin the game for people who want to play, but I could PM you if you want. (I'm probably not back for that long anyway, so don't feel too guilty about not filling the request. I'm having a lull in my life this summer but after that things will go insane and there's pretty much no way I'll have time to visit much.)
  15. Politics won't even really come up (much) till I get to book two... if i ever get there.... I loathed Dhacian in-game. He was such a stereotypical sob-story antagonist, and he looked like Dameon. But basically the ending of the game left HUGE GAPING HOLES the size of the universe and I started imagining ways to fill them... (suffice it to say, Alda being empress means something very different when the entire skyborn control has crumbled) Initially the protagonist was still Claret and then I realized I needed the tone to be a lot darker than Claret could handle (she's basically a tsundere softie who loves helping people, she doesn't do dark). Chaska was obviously out of the picture, and also she's crazy. I could maybe have done Sullivan (he's darker on the inside) but I didn't really think of it. And Ryler's scene at the end makes no sense. Where did he go from being viciously angry at Alda, pushing himself to his (in theory) eternal entrapment in limbo just to avoid having naything further to do with her, to saying he still loves her? Huh? And when I asked myself that question a bunch of ideas started to flow into my head and it made sense for ryler to be the one telling them.... --- edit: also, chapter one is complete!
  16. Chapter One [complete] The entrance hall of skyborn academy was, objectively speaking, quite large. It was seven stories tall, with entrances from top to bottom through which skyborn cadets, skyborn professors, skyborn researchers, and, well, everyone (everyone who counted, i.e. had proper full-blood wings-- the lesser species were not allowed anywhere near the academy) flew in and out in a complex dance of air traffic. Down on the floor was no better, as newly arrived students wheeled oversize luggage carts determinedly towards some unseen destination. It was objectively speaking large, but to the young skyborn standing just inside the entrance it was monstrously enormous, gargantuan, many times the size of any building Ryler Dhacian had ever seen before, in all fourteen years of his life. He had no luggage cart-- just one piece of baggage, an old and rather frayed leather suitcase whose handle he was gripping on to so tightly his knuckles had gone white. He was supposed to go to the Triumph hallway. He had no idea where that was, but suspected it was probably all the way on the other side of the hall. In which case he would have to go through the roiling mass of people around him, and if so he was going to get crushed. Even standing here, on the edge, he had already been bumped into very painfully by three-- three!-- luggage trolleys. Stacked with four oversize suitcases or more, they did not give very clear visibility to the panting students pushing them. And that was just the edge of the room. Towards the center the scene disintegrated into sheer chaos. Ryler breathed in deeply, closing his eyes, trying to gather his nerves and courage. He was going to have to make a mad dash for it, that was all. He opened his eyes and found that his legs had not moved. In fact, they appeared to rapidly be turning into jelly underneath him. Something bumped into him, for the fourth time that day. But it wasn't a luggage cart, it was another skyborn, who looked to be about his age. She had blond hair, braided neatly around her head, and a resolute, determined, and above all busy expression. "I'm sorry!" she said hurriedly, turning to continue on her way-- and then she paused, and turned back to look him over. "You new here?" She asked. "Y-Yes," he said. "I'm-- supposed to be starting as a new c-cadet," he said, and internally cursed himself for the pathetic stutter. He'd never been good with new people. "You're not from New Stormrook, are you?" She said, standing there opposite him, oblivious to the traffic swirling around them. "No," he said, wondering how she could tell. Was it that obvious? As if she could read his mind, she smiled and said, "You had that shell-shocked look that newcomers get when they first see the Entrance Hall. Don't worry, after a while it's not that bad. Where do you need to get to?" "Um. Triumph hallway," he said. Her face lit up, making it even more attractive than it already was. "Triumph! Oh, that's fun, it's cross-girding from my hallway. Come on, then, I'll show you where to go," and saying that, she pried the suitcase from his fingers and carried it off, leaving Ryler no choice but to follow her as she expertly wove her way through the room. A few minutes later, panting, bruised, but otherwise only slightly the worse for wear, they arrived in the Triumph hallway, two turns off from the main hall. The entrance to the hallway was all guilded gold, a carved depiction of Skyborn soldiers beating humans in battle (a small explanatory plaque on the door explained that the battle depicted was the Ralley of New Denquist). Inside, the hallway was painted deep blue, white, and gold, the colors of New Stormrook. The hallway was a slight improvement on the chaos outside, but it was crammed from end to end with newly arrived cadets and, of course, their suitcases. Several people were complaining loudly about problems with their keys, and somebody's luggage had somehow come open and strewn clothing and toiletries all over the floor, causing several others to trip and curse loudly. "Which one's your room?" the girl asked Ryler, as they surveyed the scene before them. "7... 7A.." He said, as he fumbled open the paper he'd been carrying with him near non-stop since he'd received it in the mail a month previous. She made a face. "That's pretty much the other end of the hallway..." And then, with a shrug- "Oh well. Follow me!" she said, and walked onwards. "Excuse me, coming through, excuse me," she said, wielding his bag in front of her like a shield. The crowd of students seemed to part in front of her. Many of the students seemed to already know her-- they laughed and greeted her as she passed by. Ryler, following behind, felt overwhelmed and embarrassed. The door to 7A was already open, and a pile of suitcases next to the bed in the far corner of the room made it clear that his roommate had already arrived, although at the moment the room was unoccupied. The girl settled herself down onto the other bed, as yet bare and unmade, and placed Ryler's suitcase down next to her. "That should do it," she said, and stretched her arms above her head with a yawn. "I need to get back to the office, but you should probably start unpacking-- speaking of which, where is the rest of your luggage?" Ryler flushed. "There is no 'rest'," he said. "That's all I brought." "Really?" she said. "You pack really light, then." She sounded, oddly enough, a little impressed. "Well, in that case," she continued, "I could probably stay and help you unpack." "Don't you need to go to the office?" he said, confused. "Well, I was going to offer to help-- they're always drowning in paperwork this time of year-- but it's going to be lunch in six minutes anyway, so it's not like by the time I got there I'd be much help anyway. And you'll probably need help getting to the lunchroom, so I might as well stay." “Oh,” he said. “Thank you.” There was a moment of silence, and then he said, hesitantly— “I’m sorry, but— but could you just tell me what your name is?” She began to laugh, as he flushed yet again, bewildered. “Alda,” she said at last. “Alda Kims. I’m sorry for not introducing myself properly, it’s not the sort of slip-up I’d usually make. And if you don’t mind, what is your name?” “Ryler,” he said. “Rhyler Dhacian.” “Nice to meet you, Rhyler Dhacian,” she said. “Nice to meet you too,” he said, completely heartfelt. ---------- "The Duo," people called them. Ryler and Alda, Alda and Ryler... People started slurring their names together, AldandRyler, like the two of them were just two halves of the same person. Since the first month of school they topped every score board, every status sheet. Ryler was the more magically gifted, but it was Alda who excelled in the battlefield. It wasn't just that she was talented. It was that she was terrifying-- driven, single-minded, and so fast your eye could barely follow her. In theory they could have been rivals, but instead they were friends, close friends. Ryler had never been very extroverted, and once he started topping the charts he found it even harder to distinguish between "potential friends" and "people who just wanted to use his help to get better grades". Overwhelmed by the attention, he'd retreated into an even quieter, shyer version of himself-- except around Alda. And Alda was popular and well-liked by everyone, but when you're friends with everyone you don't have much opportunity to be close to anyone-- Ryler was the exception. They studied together and they practiced together and they ate together and they stayed up late at night in the hallway adjoining the boys and girls dormitories talking to eachother, arguing about politics (Alda was a hard-line Imperialist, who thought anyone guilty of harboring a half-breed should be hanged. Ryler, with his "squeamish non-city outlook", as Alda put it, was more inclined to thinking justice should be tempered with compassion) or historical interpretations (Alda thought there were clear signs of censorship in coverage of the Hurstley campaign, and she was obsessed with trying to figure out what had actually happened, whereas Ryler didn't really see why she cared when the real point of studying the campain was grasping Legaulie's brilliant usage of the pincer technique) or the best way to disarm an opponent wielding a hammer (Alda thought relying on magic was for sissies. Ryler thought it was more practical, and efficient). On nights when they stayed up particularly late the talk sometimes tended towards the personal. Ryler had been roomed with someone else from old Stormrook, but his roommate, from an old and wealthy noble family, considered Ryler beneath his notice. They hadn't exchanged more than two sentences since the start of the year. "A snotty, derelict antique," Alda called him. "He's just jealous that you're so much better than him. Relics like him should just stay in Old Stormrook." "That's what I like about New Stormrook," Ryler said, "It's a system based on merit. If you're good enough and you try hard enough, you'll make it to the top, no matter where you come from." "Yeah," Alda said, "the Empress even encourages people from non-standard backgrounds to join the Academy." Her voice softened, as it always did when she mentioned the Empress. Over their months in school Ryler had gradually pieced together bits and pieces of Alda's story. She'd been orphaned very young-- both her parents had been killed by a renegade half-breed. But the school head, a younger sister of the empress herself, had taken her in and raised her. It was no wonder Alda was so absurdly talented at fighting-- she'd been practicing it since she was three. As for discipline-- well, unquestioning obedience to military orders was the bread and butter of her upbringing. She had it engrained into her bones. Ryler admired that about her. Her principles, her self-control. When Alda stepped onto a practice field her opponent knew she'd have no mercy--- whereas Ryler, more often than not, would lose points for being "too soft" when an opportunity for a killing strike arose. And people liked that Alda never went easy on them, always respected their abilities, they admired her the way they never would Ryler, not even if he got highest scores in everything. It was the sort of thing that could have made him jealous, if he hadn't know that he was the person Alda trusted most, the only one she'd ever told about her one memory of her mother, singing a lullaby whose words and tune Alda had been searching for for years, with no success. He was the only one privy to her weaknesses, her secrets. "I never cry," she told him, once. "I can't. I think I might have been a crybaby as a toddler-- I think I remember that-- but ever since my parents died, I... It's like a-- a physiological disability, I mean, even when I cut onions my eyes sting and sting but they just-- my tear ducts are blocked, I think, or something." "If you were fighting someone and they threw sand into your eyes, you'd be in trouble," he said, for lack of a better response. "If I was fighting someone..." she said, musing. Then smirked. "I'd probably cut his arms off, if someone tried to do that to me." There wasn't really much to say to that, so the conversation proceeded to an animated discussion of how to fight with one's arms cut off. --- When the news came that his father died Ryler retreated to his room to cry. But his roommate was there. His roommate had never bothered hiding his dislike for Ryler and Ryler wasn't willing to have to deal with him now. He wandered the halls without really thinking clearly. Somehow or other he found himself in Alda's room. "What happened?" she said, as soon as she opened the door. "My--" he said, and his shoulders began to shake. "My father--" "Oh." She said. "Oh." She hugged him, tightly. He got snot and tears all over her shirt but she didn't let go. Later, they sat up together and he talked about his father, talked and talked and talked. Later, he realized it was the first time she hugged him. --- "I do not think the girl means any harm," the school head protested. She was careful to keep her voice humble, reverential. She did not want to upset her empress. The empress's eyes narrowed. "She is too curious. It will need to be dealt with. But at least she is compliant, as far as you can tell. The boy..." "He's not used to blood," the school head said. "Stop making excuses for your failures," the empress snapped. "If he can't obey orders he is useless and a traitor." "He has a strong sense for magic-- he could be a scholar--" "If he cannot kill when commanded to do so, he has no right to belong to the Empress." "Still, it is a waste," the school head said. "Indeed," The Empress smiled. It was a terrible smile, all cruel white teeth and cold eyes. "He deserves a chance, don't you think?" --- Ryler was having difficulty deciding what to buy. There were all sorts of gifts you were supposed to be able to buy for a girl. Flowers. Jewelry. Cute stuffed animals. Trying to imagine a combination of Alda and any of those items caused small painful implosions in Ryler's brain. No, it would have to be something a little less... pink. Something practical, maybe. Except how did you make something practical into a romantic gift? "Here, have this screwdriver, you never know when one of those will come in handy, and also I like you. Like, like like you." It was kind of ridiculous. He tried imagining Alda's reaction. Forget the screwdriver for a moment. "Hey, Alda, I'm so happy we're teammates for the final exam, especially because I think you're the most amazing person I've ever met and I'm in love with you." No, that was coming on way too strong. "So, um, after we pass-- wanna go out with me?" He tried to imagine saying it casually, leaning against a wall. So he wouldn't fall over if she said yes. He crammed his face into his hands and gave a little moan. It was hopeless. But what could he get her, at least? Something meaningful. Something suited to her. Beautiful and deadly ...He stared at the wall for a moment and began to smile. ---- "Thirty-six thousand," the shopkeeper said, firmly, after a half hour of haggling. His jaw was set. Ryler could tell, with a sinking despair, that it wasn't going to get any lower than that. He looked the blade over longingly. Double-edged, evenly balanced, and gorgeous. It was perfect. Utterly perfect. But thirty-six thousand was his budget, for six months. And Ryler lived on a very tight budget by necessity. It wasn't like there was anything he could cut. It was food and school supplies, pretty much. He couldn't do it. Couldn't buy it. Couldn't... couldn't afford it. As always. It was okay. Alda wasn't the type to care. She'd be happy, she'd be happy with a cheaper present, one he could actually manage to buy her. She'd never have to know, how he'd gotten this ridiculous idea into his head, to buy her this... this perfect, perfect sword-- He closed his eyes, breathed in deeply. Thirty-six thousand. He'd have to live on nothing but porridge. For two years. His hand clenched around his moneyskin, involuntarily. It was painful just taking the bills out, feeling them between his fingers, soft and defenseless. "Done," he said, placing them down on the counter like they burned, and he walked out of the store more impoverished than he'd been his entire life, but walking on air. --- They staggered into the final room, panting and out of breath. All the color-locks had been cleared. They were done. He looked around and realized, with sudden joy, that they were the first ones there. "We're first!" he said. "We passed!" she said, grinning at him. "Congratulations," the Empress said. "You've made it all the way here." Alda flushed. Ryler grinned wider, awash in adrenaline and relief. "There is only one more test," The empress said, softly. Alda stiffened, her back straight, chin up. Standing to attention. "What- what do you mean?" Ryler said. "We passed all the guards--" "The most important trait in a skyborn soldier is loyalty," the empress said. "You have proven your prowess, but now you must prove this as well." Her eyes narrowed. "I command each of you to kill your partner," she said. They both gasped. Well, Ryler gasped. Alda gave-- a sharp intake of breath, but she also whirled-- to face him, taut, circling. There was fear in her eyes. "Alda--" Ryler said, stumbling. "Alda I can't-- I--" His staff had clattered to the floor, by his side. He made no move to pick it up, his throat dry. "Orders are orders," she said, voice high-pitched, hysterical. Then she lunged for him and-- It would have been nice, maybe, if at that point it all went black. It didn't. The weapon he himself had bought her tore into him and it took only fractions of a moment for the pain signals to reach his brain, but the blood welling up in his throat kept him from screaming, and somehow more than the searing fire in his chest-- which felt, somehow, miles away-- he felt vividly the warm blood, the salt of it, his head spinning for lack of air, and he could see the blood spattered across her face, and she ripped her arm back and he fell and he fell-- and then, only then, there was blackness.
  17. notice: the forum move broke my table of contents and my on-site list of fics. my fics have been backed up to AO3. link in signature. Welcome back, me =) This is a story based on Skyborn, a steampunk-based game I played recently (I found it for 3$ on Bigfish Games). Since this story is written by someone who already played the game all the way through, it might be hard to follow if you haven't. Most game-relevant info only applies in book two, though. For book one, you just need to know some basic world-building information--- There's a species called Skyborn, basically humans with wings, who had a war with the humans and won (decisively). They rule the upper part of the city, and humans live (relatively peacefully, except in the slums) underneath. There's a third type of people, the half-breeds, i.e. children of skyborn and humans. They are illegal and hunted down by the skyborn. The Skyborn look down on all non-skyborn. In New Stormrook (the city in which the story takes place), the Skyborn command structure is very militarized. Rank is based on military merit. Obedience is highly valued. At the top of the totem pole is the Empress. This story consists of two books, although the first one is more like a prologue, and an interlude which bridges them: Book One: Dhacian Chapter One: New Stormrook Chapter Two: Old Stormrook Interlude Book Two: Ryler Chapter One Chapter Two ((Note: For people who played the game: I'm mostly following game canon. However, I never got to the Venom Depths so I'm just going to pretend they don't exist, and I'm retconning Sully's father to be much more evil (I don't know whether it will even show up explicitly in the story, but my background personal-canon for him is "evil", so if he does get mentioned you've been warned in advance). Also, since I did not save at crucial points in the story (crucial for fact-checking purposes, that is) I'm pretty much paraphrasing things from memory, and may also get lots of minor details (names etc) wrong. You can feel free to point those out to me and I'll correct them, but I don't care enough to worry about it myself. Also, I like making politics complicated, so... it will be.))
  18. ouches... but in its succinctness its quite powerful
  19. ironic that i wrote things will burn if they were ruined.... and then they kinda were. D=
  20. my, it's been a long time since i've been here. ...i'm not interested in having my last couple of posts on this site be in the village sqaure for all perpetuity. HBT is firmly my home on aveyond, thanks very much.
  21. kfdfdhjdlkjgsdljslkdgj. well, at least I've figured out a major reason WHY so much of this stuff bothers me. previously I simply knew it bothered me, and didn't have a clear distinction why. (of course it's not really that clear cut, since there are plenty of pairings where the girl is passive and I'm fine with that. Heck, I really really like Ed/Mel but-- at least in my interpretation of it-- it's fairly clearly Edward takes the active role. (I'm wondering if using the expanded 4-type or 6-type paradigms might explain that away, though. E/M it probably would. But some other pairings I like, it might not...) So figuring out exactly what is the distinction between "pairing that bothers the heck out of me" and "pairing I enjoy" is clearly somewhat more complicated... ;fllfklhfljk)
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