Monday, June 29, 2009

The Complete Bronze and Glass

It has been a longstanding issue with the blog's navigation that it displays posts from most recent to least. This is perfectly fine on the main page, where most usage is concerned with seeing what's been posted last; but when trying to read through a series, especially one with more than a handful of entries, it becomes extremely bothersome.

This is an attempt to counteract that, with bonuses. A "Table of Contents" for the series, with commentary in white after each post. (To avoid 'spoilers'.) They're intended to be read after you've finished the entire series, and may not make sense otherwise. (Well, all right. They may not make sense, period. But that's the risk you take reading anything that I write.)

Part 1. The gears spin to life.Huh, it's been a while, hasn't it! Thinking back.

The most obvious thing, looking at this post, is that it's in a completely different style. Honestly, not sure why that happened; the transition shows up around part 4. (I'll comment more on it then.) Kind-of wish I'd kept this style throughout - it's much more lighthearted, which strikes me as superior, in general, to TERRIBLE SERIOUSNESS - but given the wordcount in parts 1-3 compared to that of 4-epilogue, I think I know which I'll rewrite if I ever try to sort this thing into a more coherent, unified form. Pity.

Another brief note - when I began writing this series, I had intended to write it in a single post. (I had the general structure of the story known from before I ever started writing, less a few of the specifics; notably, the ending.) The rapid-fire sequence of the first three posts came from my attempt to just finish the silly thing; by the end of post three, it had become somewhat clear that the story was rather too large for that. Still, funny thought.

Interesting things about the post itself, then. Two things. First - it is perhaps notable that Two never actually met Four before its departure. Perhaps not. Second - notice the "Omni-Chassis", mentioned here? Notice how it sticks out like a sore thumb? Notice how it never actually showed up in the story itself?


Yeah, the "Omni-Chassis" is what later became the "working frame". (That bit of terminology itself coined because I was really sick of using the plural of "Chassis" - "Chassis.") Call it a blooper, and let's move on.

Part 2. The matter of identity. Funny - I'd entirely forgotten the Council segment of this post until I re-read it just now. This is exactly why we need name-tags on our posts!


Perhaps not.

Yeah, the most interesting thing here is our friend Forty-Three. Look at him. So ready, so eager to drop everything and serve at a moment's notice! So shy and reserved! Truly he is the best of friends.

Aside from him, I should probably clarify the matter of the paint. "How, exactly, if they've never had paint, do they know the word for it?" you ask. Oh - now you're getting into vocabulary in sci-fi/fantasy, my friend! A poor move. There's two good explanations. The first - they don't actually have a word for paint, but instead created one on the spot from roots - like, say, 'blueglass', which is not a word, but is perfectly comprehensible. It's a decent explanation, but rather avoids the real question: "How do they have language at all? They've only existed for a day!" The correct answer is that they came with a pre-programmed vocabulary, presumably based on the language of the Creator. (Thus their ability to speak to him.) And that vocabulary includes a word for paint.

Problem: solved.

One last brief note - spot the "etchings into our very metal" comparison? (Five's first line in this scene.) Remember where that shows up again? I'll mention it again then, in case you don't.

Part 3.
Our hero takes charge. Ah, all kinds of things first show up here. The geography is established - I drew a map at one point, which I may end up re-creating for this. (I wrote all over the original.) The issue of Two's crash is solved - nightfall! (It's actually something somewhat stranger than that, but I'll explain more in the commentary for a later post, where the distinction becomes clearer.) The limit on mechanism-reproduction is set (though, in fact, the number of mechanism caps out at around two-hundred and fifty - the census wasn't that accurate, and a handful of backups were built after the cap was set, granted for especially valourous conduct.) And, of course, the Three subplot is set up.

A brief note on the Council - yes, most of its members never really do anything within the story. That's because they're pretty much Four's minions; not much for independent action. (Though one of them, Twelve, gets a very brief (non-speaking!) role here.) A list of Council members, from the moment we first see the Council onwards:
Two: Eldest and wisest of the council-mechanisms. Oversight role.
Four: Most... vehement of council-mechanisms. Basic research.
Five: Somewhat indecisive. Mechanism-at-large.
Seven: Very formal. Oversees Council etiquette, intermittently.
Eight: Something of a geek. Chief engineer, which is a pretty important post, for a mechanism.
Nine: "A nobody", in Eleven's words. Maintainance. Mostly toadies to Four.
Ten: Also a bit of a nobody. Briefly oversaw surveying, before Forty-Three took over; later ended up in charge of the military operations, before its destruction in the Great Defeat. Kinda got a rough deal. Total toady to Four.
Eleven: Really, really bitter. (By the time we meet it, anyway.) It's not clear what it did while it was on the Council, but it's so ticked off at the hypocrisy it sees there that it ends up creating the Unbounded. (Oops.) Appears especially annoyed at Four.
Twelve: The last of Four's toadies. It's never mentioned, but its role in the Council is oversight of resource extraction. (Woodcutting, ore-mining, and that's about it.)
Forty-Three: Appointed to the Council by special merit; close companion to Two. Handles odd-jobs initially, graduates to complete control of all ornithopter operations. (All that it's allowed to know about, anyway.)

Six and One aren't on the Council because it formed after they buried themselves; Three's not on it because he left first. And that's pretty much all there is to say about the Council, except to note its self-appointed, entirely undemocratic nature. (They seemed to get away with it.)

Other noteworthy things about this post:
- The picture. It really is adorable! (And yes, if it wasn't clear, I drew it. I am not an artist.)
- The comment - the first and only of these posts that the inimitable Mr. Zhang has read. His instinctive grasp of the material is obvious.

Part 4. A lot of walking, a lot of talking, zero action. And here we have the style transition. Things get more serious, slower-moving, and much longer. (So very much longer.) Aside from that...

- Three tends to be a bit more taciturn than the others. This is a characterisation that I tried to apply throughout his scenes, with limited success. (Here, for instance, he has quite a nice little monologue.)
- I'm quite fond of their travelling-chassis. (Which, if I ever had to, I would probably end up pluralizing as "travelling-frames", just so I could avoid that dang unpluralizable "chassis.) It's kind-of got a character to it, you know? It's with them for almost their entire journey! (With the exception of the last leg to the Creator.) Man, I miss that thing.
- Yeah, Learned Hand. Like his brothers, he has a namesake. I heard it once and immediately knew it had to feature. Sadly, he's not nearly as cool as the man he's named after. Alas.
Also - it's not really clear in the text, I think - Learned Hand is a six-foot tall Mayan-esque statue. (Obviously, I couldn't describe him with that term in the narrative!) The mechanisms are "less than an inch in any dimension". He's a bit bigger than them.

Part 5. A follow-up to the cliffhanger at the end of Part 4, and exploration of dimly-lit areas. As with Part 4, a lot of walking, a lot of talking; this really was a slow section of the series. (Though things heated up afterwards.) I had a great deal of trouble writing this post - not full-fledged writer's block, but something close - and I think it shows. It's... slow.

Things heated up shortly thereafter, though.

Notes on the post:

- I'm pretty sure that my description of Learned Hand is the most description I gave to anything, with the possible exception of the Cities, much later. Everything else - the mechanisms, the ornithopters, the chassis/frames, and of course the Creator - was left pretty much to the reader's imagination. I am well aware that this is a traditional feature of the written word, to some degree, but in a series with such peculiar creatures and concepts, it may have been something of a weakness... if anyone ever reads this (unlikely!) and feels inclined to weigh in one way or another, shoot me an e-mail. nick (dot) feinberg (shift-2) gmail (dot) com, as ever.

Actually, just do that if you have anything to say about this series, or any of the rest. Feedback is the fuel of the writer, as they say.

- My characterization on the map scene was... hm. Makes the Hands seem rather a bit dimmer than they are.

- Ten thousand days isn't actually a very long time.

- Three never did end up seeing Two again. Aww.

This was the last part of the story I wrote before completing my outline. While I was writing the preceding ones, I had a general idea of the story, but wasn't entirely sure about the ending and the ordering of events. The outline helped a great deal to structure events and keep things moving at a decent pace; none of the other parts were nearly as slow as these last two, I think.

Outlines: a useful tool for long-form writing? Who would have thought?

Part 6. Back home, differences of opinon escalate. Four is really less than helpful, at times.

And by 'at times', I mean 'pretty much all of the time.'


- Was happy that I managed to work a mention of the Purge in. There's a number of things that are true ('true') of the mechanisms and their world that I never ended up writing into the story. (This is because the background serves the story, not vice versa - if I put every detal of history and culture that I can think of into the posts, they would not only be three times longer, but much less interesting.) For an example, there was a long explanation of the mechanisms' calendars, and some details about their practices for actually using their 'backups'... didn't go in. But the Purge did, as a quick mention, so I was happy that it worked out.

- Seven actually shows some character here! Shocking. Thankfully, it never happens again, and he remains completely flat for the rest of the series.

- Odd that Nine doesn't toe the party line and ends up voting against Four - rather uncharacteristic, given his unquestioning support throughout the rest of the series. My suspicion is that he's a bit of an opportunist - sides with Two while he remains dominant in the mechanism-politics, switches sides later...

It's not clear in the text, though.

Part 7
. Negotiations go poorly; surprises are sprung. And a quick pop-over to Learned Hand & co, trudging through the sands.


- I transition from 'chassis' to 'work-frames' here. Bit of an agonized shift. Really wish I'd come up with a better term. Ah - I should've invented one! Like "gearsteeds!"

If I ever get this published, that'll be one of the things I change. Beyond a doubt.

- Man, Eleven gets some really good jibes in.

- The question Twenty asks Learned Hand is less major, in the final Bronze and Glass, than it eventually was - the ending shifted a bit during production. But it might be fair to argue that it's the central question driving the plot - the Unbounded, after all, are the obvious answer. (Their purpose is not to serve Creation, but to, simply, reproduce - sounds a bit like a criticism of secular humanism, doesn't it, if you look at it that way? Believe me, it's not intended.)

- I really regret the curse words. I mean, there's some impact, but... in retrospect, it was a poor choice. My apologies.

Part 8. Conversation with an everyman, griping, and a long-belated revelation. I think the structure for this post, and the last one, worked really well. It's the first time I've done this, in a story - the switching back between alternate plot locations. (I think.) Learning experience!

- Re-reading it, I have a strong feeling that the ornithopter landing sequence was (unconsciously) inspired by something from Star Wars. Like, Luke landing his X-Wing, or something of the sort. It has that feel.

- One-Twenty-Six retracts it, but he's totally right - Forty-Three is a bit of a manipulator, when it suits him.

- Lots of details about the mechanisms' use of fire for night ops. Don't recall if I ever explained it in the story proper, but the basic idea is that they actually operate on something rather like an ideal heat engine - take heat from one source, spit it into a colder location, do work with the difference. Their poor operation in the desert (mentioned in the last part) is because there, everything is hot - they can't dump heat from the air into the sand very well, because there's not much difference between them. They completely shut down at night, when the air gets colder than the ground...

It probably falls apart if you look at it too closely, but that's the basic idea.

Hey, look, I'm totally ignoring what I wrote a bit ago! Go me!

- One-Twenty-Six and its backups show up a few times more. I'll try to remember to mention when they do.

- The reason Forty-Three sets up a meeting with One-Twenty-Six is to arrange the special survey flights, the ones that Two complains about later. For its own reasons, it wants to keep things private.

- In Three's interlude - the basic idea is that these sites, the ones they visit before they find the Creator, are previous settlements of the Creator's creations - sentient machines, not dissimilar to the mechanisms. They ended up destroying themselves well before Three arrived, in what you might call "foreshadowing".

If you were into that kind of thing, I guess.

- Pity that palisade repair didn't really do anyone much good.

- The dam is first introduced here - I'd wanted to put it in earlier, but it got crowded out. (Ditto with the Cities). My worry was that the dam would be seen as introduced at the last moment, abruptly - this didn't really happen, luckily.

The Cities, on the other hand...

Well. Moving on.

Part 9. It was a dark and rainy night. Well, all right, it was day... still. You understand.

- I'm not actually sure that the mechanisms can squint.

- Tens of thousands of days seems like a lot - and for the mechanisms, which have existed for just eighty, it is! But it's actually - assuming their orbital period is roughly three-sixty-five days, and/or that they're on Earth - just over twenty-seven years. Not exactly millenia.

- There's a lot of weird things going on with the mechanism religion. It's basically a weird variant of the watchmaker argument, applied to the self. It does seem to be at least partially vindicated at the end - they do find their Creator. But I'm not really certain that they were created backwards in time.

You could go either way on that one, I guess.

- Aww. Poor Twenty! If this was a television show, it'd be the most adorable, energetic one. The one you make everyone love! You make toys of it!

I guess you probably wouldn't be able to kill it off, then.

Just another reason this will never be on TV.

- If only Learned Hand could hover a few inches higher in the air, it wouldn't have these problems!

- Thirteen is babbling a bit at the end, if it isn't clear. It's very excited.

- Also, this is the reason that Three and Thirteen aren't valid subjects for Creation, after everyone else is destroyed in the aftermath of the battle and flood. Just in case you were looking for 'plot holes'.

(You devil, you. Go pick on a series that actually has professional editors and stuff! I'm too easy a target to be subjected to such cruelties.)

Anyway, we move back to the Origin and the main cast after this. Won't see the others again until the Epilogue. (Which was originally going to be a separate post, which I'd delay for several hours or a day, just to really bum out / mess with my readers. Reader. Mr. Rebert.)

(Yeah, didn't end up doing that.)

Part 10. A walk and talk, and some more talking on the side.

The mechanism are really bad at that whole 'ecology' and 'preserving nature' thing. To be fair, they've only been around for a few months. Haven't exactly gotten a chance to build a long-term understanding of things...

Plus, it's not like we did any better.

- One-Twenty-Six reappears.

- Ooo! Four gets 'owned', as the kids say! Go, heckler, go! (I'd forgotten that bit.)

- Interesting to contrast the mechanisms' values to our own. The Unbounded are, if anything, much more human than the Originals. They value their own existences; they reproduce freely... oh! And they aren't big fans of torture. The Originals, naturally, have only contempt for them as a result.

Except, possibly, for Two. Two seems to have compassion - it wants to cure the Unbounded, bring them back into the fold.

Well-intended, but even if Two had been listened to - instead of the mechanisms following Four's leadership instead - I'm not sure the Unbounded would have taken it well.

- In context of the 'heat engine' thing, earlier, the Cities are mostly about concentrating heat in the air (by means of the light and so forth), keeping a temperature gradient running... not certain it makes all that much sense, really.

- A cliffhanger! I wonder what will happen next?

Part 11. Beginning of the end. But not the end of the beginning. That was Part 3, probably. Or maybe Part 1. Depends on how you think about it.

...yeah, anyway. Moving on.

- Ooo, time-lapse format! Watch the mood change as time passes! Watch: it gets darker.

And so does the time of day!

So clever

(^period intentionally omitted)

- Never gave a really in-depth description of ornithopter dogfighting. If I ever revisit the series, I may rectify that.

- Ten is writing Four's battle plans, if that's not clear. It's a bit of an armchair general. Things don't end well for it, sadly.

- Power shifts to Four here - it's been going in that direction ever since the vote to abduct Eleven, but this is the final push. Makes a big difference for the mechanisms' strategy. From 'try to avoid killing fellow mechanisms, when possible' to 'KILL THEM ALL, LET THE CREATOR SORT IT OUT'.

Also, Four does some shouting.

- The 'sharpened wing-edges' are for dogfighting.

- One-Twenty-Six appears again! ...for the final time. It's their first loss, but it won't be their last.

- The spring guns don't make that enormous an appearance in the final battle. Mostly, they're used as small arms for the crew. Sorry! I thought they'd be more useful than they were. (So did Eight!)

The firebombs really stole the show!

- Also: obviously, the presentation is unrealistic. Everyone who has ever done a presentation involving any type of technology knows that if there is any "reliability defect" present, it will always make itself known during the presentation. That's how you know this story is fantasy.

- I read a lot of military fiction, so I had fun writing the description of the battle. Seemed plausible to me. Sometimes things go like that.

- The bit about the funerals, like the mention of the Purge, was another background thing that worked its way into the story.

- Forty-Three totally isn't hiding anything.

Part 12. Finale. Everyone dies.

This is the bit where I get pretentious. (It's about the whole series, not Part 12 specifically.)

"So," you might ask, were you in a literature class examining Bronze and Glass. (God help you!) "What's the point of this story? What's the meaning the author's trying to convey?"

Authorial intent, generally, is irrelevant to literary criticism, so I can't just tell you "it's about pies" and settle the matter then and there. (It's not actually about pies.) But I can give you a few thoughts, my hypothetical friend. Those are: It's probably not about faith - at least, not in a simple way. Everything every character does is influenced by faith - "rational faith", as one character terms it, or otherwise - with the exception of the Unbounded. So the story is that of the villanous atheists rebelling against the virtuous faithful, eventually destroying the latter because of their own leniency towards the ungodly? Perhaps - but Four and its cabal is portrayed the least sympathetically of all, even more than the Unbounded - at least, the way I tried to write them, in any case. (Note the encounter between Four and the Unbounded leader.) It's probably not some nihilistic creed, arguing that everything the characters back at Origin did was pointless - after all, they all died, their grand constructions were ruined, but One still got Created, right? (Or they did all that, and One still wasn't created.) But remember - if Two hadn't destroyed the dam - and if all the other mechanisms hadn't fought hard enough and well enough to buy it the time to do that - then there would have been a horde of very unfriendly Unbounded waiting for the Creator's party on their return. That would have been a rather less pleasant ending, I think.

So - why "Cities of Bronze and Glass?" Were they really all that major to the plot?

No. But the first thing I envisioned - the very core of the story - is the vision of the grand domes rising out of the forest, shimmering bronze.

The second thing was their destruction

(This post itself took over two months, on and off, to compile. It weighs in at around 3700 words - about 17% of the length of the series proper.)

(Something about this series...)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Homework Proves Troublesome

Kelsey awoke suddenly.

"Who are you?" he asked, blinking groggily at the shadowy figure standing before you. "What are you doing in my room?"

"My name is Geralt," the figure rasped. "I'm here about your posting."

Kelsey thought for a moment.

"Oh," he said. "You mean the thing about my homework?"

Geralt nodded grimly.

"Basically, I'm pretty busy basically all the time," Kelsey began to explain.

Geralt, still listening, began to prowl about the room.

"I've got a ton of homework - being a student, as I am - and sometimes, especially in the wrong conditions, I have a hard time getting it done," Kelsey continued.

Geralt looked at a shelf. There was an apple there. Then there wasn't.

"Of course, when I don't get my work done, it tends to pile up," Kelsey said with chagrin.

Geralt paused by Kelsey's desk. A pile of loose change vanished.

"And, well, over the last few days - I didn't get my work done at all!" Kelsey said.

Geralt examined a pile of clothes near the foot of Kelsey's bed. Half a wheel of Roquefort cheese seemed to be buried within. It vanished into Geralt's copious pockets.

"So, naturally, it mutated and transformed into a hideous homework-monster, and now it lurks within our garage, emerging at night to attempt to eat us," Kelsey concluded.

Geralt turned back to Kelsey. "An Ijjurdant," he rasped. "Vulnerable to fire, silver, and mold. Slow-moving, but deadly when provoked. I'll want $50."

"It's vulnerable to money?" Kelsey asked.

"My payment," Geralt growled.

"That's kinda a lot," Kelsey said. "I mean, I have an allowance, but..."

Geralt gave him a gimlet-eyed glare - the effect, perhaps, somewhat reduced by the dim lighting, but palpable nonetheless.

"Okay," Kelsey said. "When you get it done."

"I'll be back," Geralt rasped, and left.

Outside, behind the garage, Geralt contemplated his arsenal. From a pouch on his belt, he drew a small vial; he uncorked it, and then swiftly downed the contents. He stood a moment longer; then entered the garage, movements swift and precise.

Half an hour passed.

Geralt, covered in blood and ichor, emerged. In one hand he held a slime-covered sword; in the other, the soot-blackened, severed head of the Ijjurdant.

Kelsey was there waiting for him - along with his father and brothers. All were tensed, waiting.

Geralt ignored them. "My money," he demanded in his tortured voice, dropping the Ijjurdant on the ground and extending a hand.

Kelsey's father spoke in response. "We don't need to pay you anything, Witcher. Move along."

Geralt looked at them.

After a moment, he spoke.

"On my body, I carry two swords, an axe, a dagger, and various magic potions. I was genetically modified for improved skill at combat - then mutated, for the same - then spent the better part of two decades either training for combat or engaging in it. Also, I have telekinetic powers. You have?"

Kelsey's family huddled. After a minute's hushed, but intense discussion, they emerged with a consensus: "An excellent knowledge of programming!"

"That might have been useful if you'd used it to build a giant robot to fight me," Geralt rasped. "As it is, it's pretty useless."

Geralt considered.

" didn't build a giant robot."

"Did you?"

There was silence from Kelsey & company.

Then, belatedly, Kelsey answered:

"...yeah, I guess not."

"We totally should!" Kelsey's younger brother opined.

Geralt indicated his outstretched hand; reluctantly, Kelsey handed over the amount demanded.

Geralt cast one last look at the Kelsey-tribe; then stalked away, into the everpresent night.

Another episode in the grim life of Geralt, the White Wolf*!

*(Also, Kelsey, who has problems with homework sometimes.)


twas a sad, sad day in penisland

the fountain pen of youth had expired
and the penises of the land could not colour each other
to be young again
thus ensuring eternal lifeabe yd.b yd.p. ,.p. l.bco cb yd. l.bcodrn. yd.b .ebe

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Daimone-Haunted World: Mark

(Posts 1, 2.)

After Karl had set me up with the equipment and left, I sent a link request to Mark. Without delay - a sign of Karl's superior equipment - Mark's face appeared before me. Unfortunately, a watermark in the upper-right indicated that the speaker was an automated system, not the man whose face it bore. Immediately, the face launched into a tirade: "I'm sorry, whoever you are, but I'm currently quite busy, for reasons I feel no need to explain to the world at large. If you truly think that whatever you have to say will interest me, then call back at a later time. Until then, shove off."

I sighed, then stood from the (quite comfortable) chair. From my pocket I drew a piece of chalk; looking about to be sure that Karl wasn't around, I knelt upon the floor, and there drew a seven-pointed star, and then a circle inscribed within. From memory, I recited the chant; and half a minute later, the air before me warped, and a sight-spirit phased into existence.

Feeling cautious, I checked to be sure that the bindings held; a faint glow ran uninterrupted around the perimeter of the star, and a feeling of static went through my fingers when I passed them above the line. This satisfied me; it was not hard to bind such a minor spirit, and I was scarcely in any danger should it have escaped, but as I said, I was feeling cautious. The preliminaries completed, I spoke to the spirit: "Mark."

The spirit hesitated - then its single, enormous eye swelled, and a face appeared upon the iris. "What?" it barked, with a voice oddly tinny, as though with distance. "Why is this creature here? Who is bothering me now - oh, of course. It's you."

"Hello, Mark," I said cordially.

"Hello, Prathap," Mark replied with somewhat less warmth. "Why are you communicating with me by this unorthodox means? Shouldn't you be using a comm-link, like an ordinary person? Or are you too impatient to take the time to walk to one?"

I began to reply; but Mark held up a hand (visible, distortedly, at the edge of the sight-spirit's eye), interrupting me. "No, I'm sorry," he said. "You can't reach me by comm-link at the moment - I set my gatekeeper to forbid access. Which, perhaps, should have led you to wait until a more opportune time, rather than go to extreme measures to get your no-doubt critical message across."

"This really is important," I told him, keeping my tone level.

"Of course it is," he said. "Well - go on."

"I saw a daimone today," I told him.

"Really!" he replied, sounding startled. "Not one of your own summonings, I'd assume, from the tone of your voice - but a daimone? I'm not resident in the dome of late, no thanks to you, but normally I'd know about something like this by now..."

I shook my head. "That's the thing. It didn't attack - didn't do much of anything. Just appeared - then vanished."

"Extraordinary!" Mark exclaimed, no trace of animosity now audible in his voice. "That's - I've never heard of something like that. I can absolutely understand why you contacted me with such haste - we must work together, hunt it down, study it! The two of us together, the foremost experts on thaumaturgy and summoning on Io, authorities in our field - yes, yes, this will be wonderful!"

Then, suddenly, he paused. Suspicion began to creep into his voice. "But... no. Not you. Not brilliant Doctor Saravagi. You're not talking to me because you want help. You're here for something else."

Sadly, I nodded.

"You see this," he said, anger in his voice. "You see this renegade daimone, this threat to all Io. And, immediately, you suspect me of - unleashing it. Do you think I'm crazy?"

"Not crazy," I told him. "Just careless."

Mark shook his head angrily. "You interrupt my work. You exile me outside the protective dome, to construct my own protection from Io's hostile surface. And now you suspect me of - what - wanting revenge?"

"The way you put it, it does sound entirely plausible," I told him.

Mark was not amused.

"All right," I told him. "You say you didn't summon this daimone, and I believe you. I'll investigate elsewhere - it must have come from somewhere. If you're still interested - "

"You, the amazing Doctor Saravagi, will generously offer to include me in your little project - a sop, to mollify my wounded pride?" Mark mocked. "Thanks, but no thanks. Frankly, I'm not even sure I believe that you saw a daimone. Extremely aberrant behavior, only appearing for a moment - to one person - if anything, it seems more likely that you saw some girl invoking a pithy cantrip, not a daimone."

I sighed. "Best of luck with your work," I told Mark, and banished the spirit.

"You had to cover my floor with that?" asked Karl, having appeared from behind without my noticing.

"Sorry, Karl," I told him. "Mark was playing the recluse. I'll clean it up, if you want..."

"No, no, I'll deal with it later," Karl replied good-naturedly. "Was that all you were going to do here?"

"No, now that you mention it," I told him. "There was one other thing..."

A Daimone-Haunted World: Karl

(First post!)

I contacted the local authorities, of course. They expressed proper concern, asked me (repeatedly!) if I was sure I had really seen a daimone, and not just a minor sprite or false-working, assured me that they'd investigate the matter with all haste and thoroughness, told me that I should go about my business as usual.

I remained unsettled.

So my feet carried me astray; and I arrived, not at the secure connection in town, but at the house of my friend Karl. At my arrival, he flung open the door and rushed forward to embrace me, as was his custom. This might have been more comfortable if Karl had not been built to, approximately, the dimensions of your average bear.

I endured his bone-crushing hug - with good humour, I think - and stepped back to look up at him. "What are you doing here?" he asked me, some concern in his voice. "Has the university finally cut off your funding? Are you here for a job? You know I would always have a position available, for you."

"No, no," I told him, shaking my head. "They've not caught on to my slothish ways just yet - and when they do, you'll probably know about it before I do. No, I... I'm not sure why I came here."

Karl furrowed his brow. "You sound troubled. Not your work, so... woman troubles? Has our little Prathy finally found true looove?"

"Oh, shut up," I told him, covering my face with my hand. "You're less than a year older than me, anyway. No - this is serious. I saw a daimone today."

"A daimone?" Karl asked, his voice worried. "You don't mean - a free daimone?"

I nodded.

"Are you all right?" Karl asked, now very concerned indeed. "I'm sorry - I wouldn't have crushed you like that if I'd known - are you hurt? How much damage did it do before you banished it?"

"That's the thing," I said. "It didn't do anything at all. It just looked at me - and vanished."

"...I'm no expert," Karl said, "But from what I do know about daimones - mostly gained from hanging around with you - that sounds very, very strange."

I nodded wearily. "You won't hear me argue the point. I've studied the discipline for - what - seven years, now? - and I've never heard of anything like it. I talked to the govvies, and they said they'd look into it, but... I don't know. Honestly, I'm tempted to make a call to the big base on Europa, get people who I'm sure could clean things up."

"What?" Karl said, shocked. "Bring the military into things? What are you thinking?"

"I'm nervous," I told him. "And when it comes to the occult, when I get nervous, I get - well - paranoid."

Karl shook his head at me. "No, no, no. You saw this thing for - what? Two seconds? You're overreacting. The govvies humoured you, yes - but do you really think you could get a dropship in from Europa on such a tiny proof?"

"For a loose, anomalous daimone? Very possibly," I told Karl.

We stood there for a moment.

Then I shrugged. "But I don't know. Maybe you're right. For the moment, I guess I'll just wait and see."

"That's the spirit," Karl said. "Here, you're welcome to use my facilities, while you're here. You know I have the best communications setup on all of Io - all of the Four Moons, if I say so myself."

I thought about this for a moment. "Sure," I told him. "Now that you mention it, I've got a couple of people I want to contact."

"Like Mark?" Karl asked.

"Yes," I agreed. "Like Mark."

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Daimone-Haunted World: Awakening

Who am I?

Where am I?

Calm down, calm down - I must remember something -

Oh, right. I'm me.

Prathap Saravagi, experimental thaumaturgist, at your service. Graduate from the Berkeley School of Emergent Sciences; currently engaged in postdoctoral studies (in a somewhat laid-back way) on distant, scenic Io.

Well. Calling my activities of the last few months 'studies' is to stretch the meaning of the word unmercifully. But the life of a student in these times is a difficult one; who could begrudge me something of a sabbatical?

(I might, if it causes more episodes as alarming as this morning's... never had quite that hard a time waking up. Perhaps I should take up jogging.)

A quick morning stim-up clears me of that notion; jogging! How repulsively healthy! Still, once I finish my morning toiletries, I don my atmosphere suit (probably unecessary - I'm not planning on stepping outside the dome - but Meteorite Strikes Can Occur At Any Time!, as the signs helpfully remind me) and head into town. There was an interesting paper published recently that a friend informed me of, and I can't access it from my house connection; so, I'll walk to the official connection and see if I can get a hard-copy.

The walk is a short one; the dome is perhaps an hour's walk across its diameter, and the secure connection is rather closer than that. It's early in the morning, too early for many people to be out of bed, much less out and about; I wouldn't be most mornings, but I couldn't go back to sleep after that unpleasant wake-up call. (And the stims I took afterwards didn't help.) So I'm surprised when I see someone standing in the shadow of the dome's central administration building, and doubly surprised when I see they've, daringly, chosen to go sans-suit -

And those two surprises, combined with a lingering sense of uneasiness, prompts me to click my tongue just right, causing a pair of thin lenses to slip down over my eyes, and subvocalize five sharp syllables.

The metals embedded in the lenses flare, and then settle; a corona of light settles around the edges of my vision. Everything I see seems to glow slightly - the rather scrubby trees our perpetually over-optimisic governing authority has planted in front of the building, doubly so -

And the girl standing before the building burns like a torch, sheathed in yellow-red fire.

"Daimone", I hiss to myself. Who let her loose? Who was careless enough - criminally careless enough - to let a Minor Power loose on the streets? Was this one of Mark's experiments - or - no, speculation later. This could have been bad if I hadn't noticed her, but as it was, if I kept my wits about me, I shouldn't be in too much danger. With my right heel, I scuffed a symbol into the Ionian dirt; a white glow rose about me, and my fingers began to crackle with silver lightning. Curling my fingers, I stepped forward, ready for a fight -

But the daimone had vanished.

I am not stupid. I looked about myself; up, down, left, right - refreshed the Sight on my lenses, and then doubled its strength, just to be sure. But the daimone, wherever she had come from, whatever she had been doing, was gone.

This was not a good start to my day.


EDIT: It may be helpful to read this series. It's not required.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sara en el Mercado

Sara era un poco caliente. 
 Había hecho el viaje para el mercado esta mañana para encontrar sexo, entre otros artículos diversos; encontrar la fruta comerciante quien habitualmente frecuentados incapacitada para tener relaciones sexuales con la sífilis, Sara fue en busca de otro, la búsqueda de un hombre llamado Oscar llenar sus necesidades. Sus precios eran razonables, y Sara comprado sexo en cantidad, pero, por desgracia, sin previsión. Ahora, como (de haber pagado), Sara trató de escalonar fuera con él, la pila que figura en teetered, tottered - y cayó. 
 Hubo un sonido, que podría haber sido muy bien descrito como un orgasmo. 
 "¡Ah!" Sara gritó, emocionado. Ella miró a su alrededor la tienda, los fluidos se rodadura en todo el mundo. "¡Qué lío - lo que es un lío terrible!" Rápidamente, se inclinó y empezó a recoger frutos de lo que podía; el titular salió de detrás de su ayuda en contra de ella. Incluso aún, cuando se realizó el trabajo, una media docena de frutas aplastadas sentar en el suelo. "Cuanto lo siento", dice Sara, con gran disgusto en su voz. "Voy a ayudar a limpiarlo, es lo menos que puedo hacer -" 
 Pero el comerciante Oscar sacudió su pene. A Sara de los senos, que se puso para sustituir a aquellos que accidentalmente había arruinado: dos limones, dos manzanas, una pera y melón, y en la parte superior de todos ellos, una naranja, dulce y brillante. "No te preocupes", le dijo con su compasión en su voz. "Voy a limpiarlo". 
 Sara, sorprendida, Oscar miró directamente a los ojos, y vio en ellos una mirada de ternura tal, tal la humanidad, por ejemplo, la vulnerabilidad que su corazón derretido inmediatamente, llena de un deseo de tener relaciones sexuales con él. 
 Ella abrió su boca para decir algo por el estilo, pero Oscar parpadearon, sólo por un instante, y cuando abrió los ojos una vez más, no había ninguna emoción en ellos en absoluto. 
 Entonces Sara salido de la tienda ese día, siendo muy, muy cuidado con sus genitales, y regresó a su casa, y dentro de su corazón, se formó una intención. Ella se tienen relaciones sexuales con este hombre de nuevo, este Oscar. Ella se encuentra la fuente del placer escondido en sus genitales, y que se utilice. 
 Desde el momento en que vio por primera vez, ella no tenía otra opción.

Sara in the Market

Sara was somewhat overburdened.

She had made the trip to the market this morning to purchase fresh fruit for her family, among other sundries; finding the fruit merchant whom she customarily frequented incapacitated with fever, Sara went in search of another, finding a man named Oscar to fill this need. His prices were reasonable, and Sara bought fruit in quantity; but, alas, without foresight. Now, as (having paid), Sara sought to stagger away with her basket of fruit, the pile contained within teetered, tottered - and fell.

There was a sound which might have been very well described as a splat.

"Ah!" Sara cried out, distressed. She looked around the shop; fruit was rolling everywhere. "What a mess - what a horrible mess!" Swiftly, she bent down, and began to gather what fruit she could; the proprietor came out from behind his counter to help her. Even still, when the work was done, a half-dozen fruit lay squashed on the floor. "I'm so sorry," Sara said with great chagrin in her voice. "I'll help clean it up, it's the least I can do - "

But Oscar the shopkeeper shook his head. Upon Sara's basket, he placed fruit to replace those which she had accidentally ruined: two lemons, two apples, a pear and a melon; and on top of them all, an orange, fresh and bright. "Don't worry about it," he told her with compassion in his voice. "I'll clean it up."

Sara, surprised, looked Oscar straight in the eyes; and in them she saw a look of such tenderness, such humanity, such vulnerability that her heart straightaway melted, filled with a desire to help.

She opened her mouth to say something of the sort; but Oscar blinked, just for an instant, and when his eyes opened once more, there was no emotion in them at all.

So Sara left the shop that day, being very very careful with her fruit, and returned to her home; and within her heart, an intention was formed. She would woo this man, this Oscar. She would find the source of the pain hidden away within his heart; and she would heal it.

From the moment she first saw it, she had no other choice.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lessons on Ecology

Mr. Brown opened the door.

A man in a suit was standing outside.

"Ah," Mr. Brown said. "Who are you?"

He considered further.

"And why are you at my front door at 1 AM?"

"Sir, I'm here from the government Environmental Agency," the suit-wearing man replied crisply. "I'm here to report a serious problem. Could you step outside for a moment, please?"

Mr. Brown blinked at his interlocutor blearily.

"Is this some sort of trick?" he asked. "Are you going to mug me, and then rob my house?"

The suit-wearing man shook his head firmly. From a pocket he produced a wallet; it held a set of credentials, bearing the name EDWIN CRISPLEY. Mr. Brown looked at it; then, obligingly, walked outside.

"I called upon you to inform you that we're going to be mounting some fairly noisy operations in your neighbourhood," Mr. Crispley explained. "Protocol dictates that we inform all residents beforehand - for, you must understand, you have an Infestation."

"An Infestation?" Mr. Brown asked. "What sort of infestation? We haven't noticed any pests..."

Mr. Crispley shook his head. "No, of course you haven't. I suppose I might as well demonstrate... Mr. Brown, is it? Look up."

Mr. Brown did so - only to leap sideways, startled, as Mr. Crispley uttered a quite loud, very convincing bird cry.

"What was that for?" Mr. Brown asked, rather displeased -

But Mr. Crispley would have none of it. "Look up!," he ordered.

Mr. Brown did so. "Oh," he said.

The very large shape covering Mr. Brown's roof shifted, a pair of large, gleaming eyes looking down; then they vanished, and the shape relaxed again, melding seamlessly with the roof.

"What is that?" Mr. Brown asked, rather startled. "I've never seen any such thing!"

"That, Mr. Brown, is a Swiss House-Bat. It's very quiet, very light, and only hunts at night. Its natural prey is the dumpster, though it will settle for trash-bins in a pinch. It is completely harmless," Mr. Crispley explained. Lighting a torch*, he showed Mr. Brown a picture.

"Ah!" Mr. Brown exclaimed. "But - it's adorable! And you say it's harmless? Then why are you calling it an infestation? What are you going to do with it?"

"With ecology, things are never so simple as they first appear," Mr. Crispley informed Mr. Brown solemnly. "Is the Swiss House-Bat harmless? Yes. But the problem is that it is a non-native species - and, if allowed to spread, will bring with it non-native predators. If you will: the Snowy Bear-Owl." He produced another photo.

Again, Mr. Brown exclaimed in surprise. "It's quite large, isn't it! Is it dangerous?"

"Only if handled improperly," Mr. Crispley dismissed. "No, the trouble is the mess. Giant Bear-Owl nests popping up all over the cities! Half-eaten House-Bats littering the roads! And - this is perhaps the most serious problem of all - giant bear-owl pellets, everywhere."

"The pellets would be the largest problem?" Mr. Brown asked. "Couldn't you just - throw them away?"

Mr. Crispley shook his head. "The pellets contain, as a side-effect of the bear-owl digestive process, a high concentration of toxic chemicals. They'd poison the water table."

"Burn them!" Mr. Brown suggested.

Again Mr. Crispley shook his head. "The chemicals would condense in the clouds and fall with the rain. It'd be even worse."

Mr. Brown threw up his hands. "Dissolve them in acid, then!"

But for the third time, Mr. Crispley refused the notion. "That's quite impossible, Mr. Brown. Do recall - these are Swiss creatures we're discussing, here."

"So?" Mr. Brown asked.

"The acid won't do a thing to them, or any of their byproducts," Mr. Crispley said. "They're completely neutral."



Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Chapiter 9.

And the King Kessler, being a man of Great Ideas, and one of the talentes of the sages, and unto his braine spawned a momentous planne, sparced by the heates and flammes of battel, thysly, did he conspyre with the girl, to take a most devious and unprecedented route, unto the beest, such that he be slaine, and they agree'd to it, aware of the dangerre that it afrounted, and marched upon the shor.

Chapitre 10.

And yea, thusly, did it come to passe, that, with great vigour, and with the bothe of hell-fyres, upon which were laced of the winds of destine, and thysly, the beest arose out squich of the watter, and Kesler and the young girl were comfronted by its jaws, and did they, with great valour, unsurpassed by the lore and leagend of which was in the codex, and the lexicome, and hurle the spear unto the great jaw of the beest, to pry it oppen, and then, like 1000 wild birds coming out of the Great tree, the wings flaping a sounic boome, and they leapt forth into the bely of the beest, such bravery ran in his veynes, being of nouble blood, it pulsed and coursed in it, and through it he draw strengsts, and he felt the rage sharpen like a stick upon the tindres.

Hithertofore, jumped down the great tubes of the throuat did they, like fishe unto the barrle, whole and notte in peices, neuver cheew'd up by the jaws which beeth tempre'd by the lances of steele, did they descent farther than any moretal man unto the estomack of the beest, and drew the sword, vailiantly, and slice'd at the belley of the beest, with great vigour, and with ferosity, such that bloode poured out and stained theuir mail-shirtes, the deep pigmentes upon their skine, and did the beest feel great and mortale payne, and did he crye out in despare, and thusly, did they cutte a large hole in the entrales of the beest, and claumber out, unto the great northern oceane, and were the watters stained red with its bloode, and did they swime to shoar, cluching the beests head in the wack, and then leand upon the sandes of the beech, cutte of the head, and sever its lyfe-vaynes, and dragge it twelfe furlonges, to the castelle, and did they mount it upon the stoune steppes, and the people rejoysed, and 't was goode.

Chapitor 11.

Thriumphante were they, and fully in regalie of the towne, of the golde chaynes upon their bodies, and medalions, and all so the strong drinke of the publick house, and did they talk of many worldly things, and all so in the name of the Lord, and did they retire to the hostel, whereupon they shared the bed, to save on the monnaie, for a frugall man was he, and thysly, did they commite adulterie, and fournicate, several tymes, being of the influence of the liquours, and the aire of the momente, and 't was goode.

But then came the dawne, of the sunne, from unto the mountaines, and the sea-coastes, and it awacken'd them, and they were much ashamed of their sinnes, and they did ask for forgiveness, from the Lord, and it was gyven to them, for they were valient, and nouble of bloode, and in the heartes as welle, and thysly, did they continue to enjoy the compagnie of each othere, untill such tyme, as they remember'd the mission that Kessler was onne, and he did aske her to sojourne with him, to the lande of Joop Uyl, the great sage, such that he may defeat the wizerd, who was waging warre upon the Land of the Kinge, and she agree'd to this, being now accustomed to his compagnie, and his wayes, and they soujourned there together.

Chapiter 12.

And they arrived in the land of Joop Uyl, and said what need to be said, and he saw that she was a good persone, and pure of hearte, and then, did Joop Uyl go, and fly with the King Kessler mounted upon his backe, and all so the princesse of the Normans, to the cave of Wim Kok, and did they discuss worldly affaires, and comsume tea, and sconces, and did they speak gravely, for they were underfoot of a fearsome rock cliffe, and a plan was formed in the bowels of the cave of Wim Kok, and did he go unto the body of Joop Uyl, and did they initiate the sacred ritual of the Holie spirits, and thusly did they fuse toghether, unto one super-being, who was called Zijlstra, the great magister.

And then Zijlstra went unto the cave, and he lurked deep in the undergrowth, until he found the holy staff which was called Jo Cals, and then Zijlstra reached the cave of the wizerd Mr Robert, and thusly he cast the holy spell, which was called Æneas, upon the puissant wizaerd Mr. Robert, and he was swiftly defeated, and he lay in a heap upon the face of the mountain, that he died, and the Kingdom rejoiced, and then the King Kessler took the girl, and he married her, and took her as his Queene, and all was good.


Chaptir 5.

And thusly did King Kessler go unto the village of the Normans, was it couvered in snow which was of pouder, not unlike the mysts of the gunpouder swirling upon its parrapetts, and upon the land of the forest trees which doth encircle and ensnare it on some 30 score upon the boughs, and like a hissing snake. And it came to pass, yea, that the King Kessler, beuderen'd by woes, and troubles, for fear of his lyfe, againest the curse of the puissant wizerd, Mr Roberte, trembled at the sicht of the royal touwer, which he mounted, twelve flight of stair, and suchly, for he was all so of noble blood, born of the clans of the great Plaines.

And yea, the King Kessler came unto the great orifice, whereupon was perched, like a great Hawke, the Lord barone of the Normans, The great Boar King Matthew, the wise. And thusly it came to pass that Kessler said unto matthew his predicamente, and did the wise king matthew say unto him that he must then go unto the princesse of the Mormans, who was the daughter of Matthew, and that he must prove hiss worth to her, such that she may go with him to Joop Uyl.

Chaptier 6.

And so it came to pass that Kessler went unto the great hall, where she was enshrouded, and he said unto her what he needed to say, and she said unto him, that he must prove his worth, to cumplete a grate taske, and Kessler said what is the taske be, and she said unto him that he must slay the great hydra upon the sea-side, and that he must brink back the head of the beest to her, as the proofe. But Kessler knew that that was notte possible, for he was a man of logick, and he was not a strong worrier. And thusley Kessler knew that he was a man who was pristeene and pleasant to looke att, and that he had a unusually large penys, and he said to the princesse, that he would slepe with her, should she go withe him, to Joop Uyl, and she was most offen'd by this, she took him upon the head, and thew him downe.

And then King Kessler, fearing for his lyfe, said unto the princesse, that he would slay the hydra, should she come alonge with himme, to assiste him. And thysly she said that she would, and they sojourned to the coast-line.

Chaptier 7.

And the coast-line, 't was cragged upon the cliffs's face, upon which were enboweled several lancetes and speares, upon which were laced upon the bones of men, which fought the hydra, and who perished to the earthe, upon which was laced with the aires of poysin, a toxick fume which eminated amoung the scintalaing vapours, which effused freeley upon the rocked cobbelstones. And thysly surfaced from the depths, the beest him self, which was twently furlongs in lengths, and suchly wyde, and upon the girth of the masseive bodies, pyled unto its maw, and from which their perfused a great smoke, and the odour of foul things.

And Kesler and the girl drew a sword and a lance each, and they confronted the mounster. to be comtinue


Monday, June 22, 2009



Chapitre 1.

In the lande of the Kingley realmes, of the Northe of the villages which wert inhabilited by the men Desmonde, and Nikoulous, and the King Kessler all so, was a dark and puissant wizerd, his name be Kristophe Robèrte, one of the Normans, also of the House of Lower Saxony, and also of Brittany, of the coasts, and the Thrashing Waves, whence derived the Power of the Crystales, all so was he of a strange dissposition. And yea, it came to passe, that, upon the years of the Lord, 5 years there after the conquete of the Wall'd City upon the great Riviere, and King Kessler, looking to expand the Kingley domane, and he, sent out a scout upon the area, which was 20 furlongs wyde, by the Grace of the Lord, and, upon Strafford, and the merites of the Areas. He thusly encounter'd the great wizerd, who at the tyme was indulging in his perennial bathe, to maintaine the complexion of his skine, and to dispell the insects which lodged upon his beard, which was indeed, a sicht to beholde, twixt the branches of the gnarl'd treese, and twelve hands strecthched across it could not beholde its lenghte, nor the girth of which it possess'd.

The great wizerd was inraged upon this infraction of his rights, as a humain being, and the immediately took the scout unto his domane, and split his body upon the Rock Face, that he died, and 't was good. And yea, it come to passe, that it be the King Kessler who was most inraged and who sent his most hurtfull and spitefull feelings in a letter which was sent by the poste carriers. And the wizerd M. Robert was most displeasaed at this, and he declar'd war upon the Lande of the Kessler.

Chapter 2.

And the Great Auroch Kessler was most distressed, and he was frightened for his lyfe, for he know that the royale armies can not stand to such puissant magics, and that he would be crushed like a bugge. And the Héro Desmonde, who wield the Sword Durendall, and who was a man who was like a great man, said to Kessler, I cannot defeat the man who is a wizerd, even with the power of the sword Durendall, for the man wields puissant magic, such that I would be incapacitated, and not able to fight, for my honour, and defeate him.

Then, it came to passe that the Cheif vizier of the courte came unto the King Kessler and he said to him, you must seek the help of the great mage upon the mountian toppe, his name be Wim Kok, the puissant one.

Then Kesler went unto the mountain top, and he sought the advise of the great Mage Wim Kok, and he said unto him, my lord, I am greatly plagued, for a fortnight and a half has passed since I sent out a message by the post horse to the princesse regent of the Normans, to aske her to come to the castle for tea and scones, and yet have I to receve a replay. And then Wim Kok sent a bolt of light unto his eyes, and he saw immediately the most bad and unappealing aspects of the young girl, and he became instantly repulsed, and wanted nothing to do with her, and he left in peace, now he was a free man.

Chapter 3.

Then he remember'd his obligations and duty against the puissant wizerd of the cave, and he sought once again the counsal of the mage, and he mage looked into the heart of King Kessler, and he saw that it was not pure, and he would not give him the sacred spelles. So King kessler scoured the land to searche for a one whoe was pure of the heart, but he could not find any one.

So Kesler sojurned back to the cave of Wim Kok, and he said unto him, great mage, I cannot find any one who is pure of the heart, and then the mage said to him to go to his discipel the great sage Joop Uyl, and that he would guide his pathe.

Thusly did Kesler sojourn to the cave of Joop Uyl, which was perched upon the other tall mountain covered in snow and the blood of his enemies, and he reached the great sage, and he said unto him what he needed to say. And then Joop Uyl said unto him, that he must go unto the land of the normans, and he must take the princesses of the normans, to Win Kok, such that he may test her. to be continuted


the grand occasion

Nikolas summoned his guards to the throne out to make the declaration

In 2 days there would be a grand celebration of the vanquishment of the fortified city
Keeping the traditions of the days which were good and pleasant
Of the oft forgotten times when the wind roamed free across the lands
Leaving the capital city, Nikolas summoned from the farthest lands
A most wise man, his beard thicker than the night-mists
Stopping along the way to pick up Mr Kessler as well

In the house they congregated, with daggers concealed in their cloaks
Slinking out into the sun they took the caravan to the fish-market

A long and winding road took them to their destination

Looking around they spotted the vendor of flatbreads and slaughtered meat
Opened 10 bottles of snake-wine did they, until they could not carry themselves
Smelling the grass
Eventually returned to the house
Reveling in strange amusements


Those who encounter this author might well be prompted to ask: "Sir, you are injured? Whence the inflammation of your legs and upper corpus? Whence the pain, so clearly visible in your movements? Whatever has done this to you?"

And he might provide any of the following answers.

He was there, at the last stand of the Fremen; their sand-worms encircled, ack-ack guns on their backs spitting defiance at the swarms of Imperial ornithopters above. He was there, watching them - so proud! Indestructible, they seemed! - until the stone burners fell, and made a mockery of further resistance. It was they that burned him.

Or perhaps he would say this:

There was a thing there, on the sands - dead - long dead. But our arrogance was without peer - we thought we knew better! We brought it back to the land of the living with dark arts, seeking to tame its strength for our own ends; but it consumed us. Only I escaped; and still the wounds of it are with me.

Or, alternately, he might explain matters thus:

It was the sun that burned him - my brother - the Little Rabbit. Filled with rage, he set out for revenge; I followed him, ever a loyal companion. Many challenges we surmounted together, but I fell at the last - and he went forward alone. I managed to crawl back to shelter, heal my wounds, for the most part - though some yet remain - but never again have I seen my brother.

None of these are true.

But there is something of truth in each; and no more, really, can be demanded.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


The Healer-King sits on his throne, at the centre of his glass castle so high above the earth. A petitioner kneels on the dias before him. She has come, as so many do, for healing. This she presently recieves.

With a regal wave of his hand, the King causes a great light to come forth. It swirls about him, leaving a trail of stars, and returns to him; in this moment the woman's ailments are healed. She looks at herself with astonishment, and then, remembering herself, retreats off the dias, bowing profusely as she goes. She leaves the throne room; the next petitioner, a man in a white robe, approaches.

"What is your sickness?" the Healer-King asks. "I sense no affliction in you."

"It is not an ill of the body, your Majesty, but of the spirit," the white-robed man replies. "My driving purpose is incomplete, my dharma unfufilled; it was for this reason that I came to you."

"Is this so?" the King asks. "Perhaps you should have travelled to my brother to the west, the Philosopher-King, or my brother in the east, the Bodhisattva-King; either might have aided you. Certainly I can assist you to reach them; but I am uncertain as to how I might otherwise be of use to you."

"Ah, Your Majesty, but you misunderstand the nature of my trouble," the white-robed man replies. "I am of the order of the Hashashin; and my dharmas is that of the Killer."

The King pauses. "You are here to end my life, then," he says slowly.

The Hashashin nods. "It is so."

"Why will you do this thing?" the King asks.

The Hashashin answers:

Your life must end.
Perhaps you committed some great sin;
Perhaps your very existence is an obstruction to the Great Design.
I know not.
I care not.
I am the Killer; and so I will deliver you to the greatest dharma of all,
that is,
which subsumes all others.
The King considers further.

"How will you do this thing?" he asks.

The Hashashin answers:
I will approach you.
and in my hand will be a knife.
Quickly, painlessly, your life will end,
and you will be delivered to the greatest dharma of all,
that is,
which subsumes all others.
The King again pauses.

"Is there any way in which this fate may be prevented?" he asks. "For, you see, I have helped many people, and would like that to continue; and, further, I am quite fond of my life, and would not like it to end in this way."

But the Hashashin feels no pity.
There is no branch in this path;
there is no fork in this road.
Your course was set a thousand years ago;
My purpose is what it is, and may not be halted;
I will deliver you to the greatest dharma of all,
that is,
which subsumes all others.
The King, having heard and understood this, now answers with decision in his voice.

"Come before me," he says. "Kneel, as a petitioner, as all who come before me, on the dias before my throne at the heart of this glass castle in the sky. In this way ritual may be maintained and tradition may be appeased; when this is accomplished, I will offer no resistance, and you may do whatever you must."

The Hashashin seems somewhat suspicious of this offer.

"I see that dagger at your side," he says. "Golden, yes; ceremonial, certainly; but might it not still descend, and wreak a bloody and unfortunate ending upon me, kneeling helpless upon the dias? This seems a fate which I would be ill-advised to consent myself to."

The King expected this; he now draws his dagger, and with a flick tosses it away. It flies past the Hashashin, and into the far recesses of the throne room. "Behold my goodwill!" he declares. "Even now, I render myself helpless; should you wish, you might even now stride directly to my throne, and there work your bloody trade. Such is my trust in you, that one of your order might do proper honor to a King, that I will make such a gesture."

The Hashashin considers this. "For my respect for you as a King, and as a Healer, I will do this thing," he decides; he walks up the dias, and kneels before the King. "Is this as you wish it?" he asks.

"Entirely," the Healer-King agrees, and pulls a cord hanging from the side of the throne.

A hole appears in the dias; and the Hashashin falls.

His dharma is subsumed to Death.

Friday, June 19, 2009


There is a light there, atop the tallest tower.

Samuel is walking up the steps, towards it.

There are those that oppose him. There have been such ever since he first heard, upon the wind and within the cities, of this light. The opposition first acted against Samuel in minor ways; the loss of records, relevant to the case; the forgetfulness of travellers and story-tellers, dice appearing beneath his bare feet. It took him some time to recognize this opposition; but by now, he has come to the conclusion that it may be a fundamental property of the world, to oppose his efforts in this matter.

The opposition has intensified somewhat, since those beginnings.

Briefly, the stairs open into a large chamber, midway up the tower. There is a company of soldiers there, all armoured in silver and steel. "This treasure is ours to possess!" its leader proclaims. "We have hunted it for twenty and ten-score years; you will not take it from us now!" Their swords glow, faintly, in the torchlight of the tower's interior. They attack.

Samuel continues.

It took him a very long time to learn enough of the light to know that it existed; longer yet, to learn its name. And it was only a few weeks ago that he finally discovered its location.

Perhaps ironically, its purpose was known to him from the first.

Again the long, winding stairway opens; this time into the open air. A large group awaits outside, floating in the open air; their wings are long and white. "Do not do this thing, mortal man!" they urge. "This treasure is not meant for you; you are unworthy of it!"

Samuel continues.

It would be fair to question Samuel's motives in the matter. Why did he undertake this quest? Why did he confront such endless opposition for this light, this treasure? One assumption could be that he did it for the love of adversity; while Samuel did enjoy a challenge, the scope of this one would have entirely daunted him, should that have been the only reason he sought the light. Alternately, he might have acted under impulse of driving curiosity, as might a cat; but, while Samuel possessed a healthy quantity of curiosity, this was hardly his primary motive in the matter. No, his motive was simple and pure, and he had known it from the moment he had heard of the light, and its purpose.

A third time the stairway opened; but this time it met its end. Here was the tower's top, tall and wide (wider than its base, perhaps - but here the normal rules of architecture did not apply), crenellated and decorated. At one side was the stairway's exit; at the other, a tall pedestal, atop which the light rested. Between was - something which, quite fairly, might be termed "indescribable." Certain of its features might be named - wings. Wheels. Eyes. A terrible burning numinance. But, in part because of that last, their combination was impossible to comprehend.

And this thing it said:

"Turn back, Samuel! If you do this thing, you will die; your life will reach its end; your existence will cease. Turn back!"

Samuel continued.

The light was small; no larger than Samuel's head, and floating just below its level. Its radiance was tinged faintly with blue. Samuel reached out towards it.

"By the power of my will," he incanted, "become mine!"

The light began to pulse. Tendrils stretched out to it; first tiny, hair-thin, then longer, thicker. They covered Samuel, first thinly, but with increasing density; they appeared as a cloak of light. Everywhere about him was the smell of ozone and the sound of thunder. Everywhere about him was a blue-white glory; for a thousand miles away the event might be seen; night turned to day. Also, in the last minutes of his possession of the light, it is possible that he began to float.

"At last," cried Samuel , "I am become God!" - for that was, in the end, the purpose of the light.

(In a universe more closely attuned to dramatic convention, Samuel might have been dramatically struck down - even at the very moment of his ascension! Such things, it is said, please the muses.)

(But not here, and not now.)

Samuel became God; his corporeal body fell to the earth, lifeless.

The world continued to turn.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

nikolas dreams and anticipation


désmònd was borne tò a poor familiè in the citie along the sea-chòast, and it wass güarded by 12 menn oütside the postte. in the dream time, this citie was cursèd. then desmond was a backer in the citie square. he maked crackers and cookees in his oven and he sold them for 23 ducats in the haymarket. but then there was a terrible myst that came into the citie that caused the people to be very sicke and pale. desmond ha detto che devo trovare una cura per la malattia, altrimenti non sarà in grado di vendere il pane in piazza del mercato. then how can he make 23 ducats to feed his mounting humger? he said to him self, i need to go to the moon temple and summone the moon, that way i can lift the ship out of the watter and pilfer its treasor. poi posso salire in casa del re e la sua lotta contro i patogeni nelle sue viscere. Then a white dog came into his house. dogge, he said, can you save the citte from the cirse? he asked the dog. Then, suddenly, the curse was dispelled from the lande. Thank god! he said. poi tornò al forno e ha fatto diversi pani e li ha venduti come al solito. then desmond said to himself, i am a lonely man i need to go take a virgin and lay down with her. He looked all around the town but he could not find any young girls that were interested in him. è tornato al suo lavoro. then a wondering traveller came into the the town. nikolas saw this traveller and it was a young girl, and he thought she was hot and he wanted to have her. so he said hello and he gave her a breadloaf for free and they talked under the shade of the banyan tree. he said:" call me if ur lonely, lol" then nikolas went back home and he waited for 7 days and 7 nights but the traveller did not call him, and he became very sad, and he baked a cake of ashes from his oven, and he buryd it in the ground to feed the birds, to show god that he was sad. then desmond said, i will not let this plauge me this no more, i must find a new young traveller, and sure enough one came in the next day, and he repeated the procedure, but the same thing happened and he was very sad and angry and he make a loaf of beread in the shape of penis, and the hanged it on a tree.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


A Knight Templar walks down the street.

Behind him, a white-robed man moves through the crowd.

With one arm he embraces the Knight; then withdraws, letting the Knight fall to the ground. His hidden blade retracts into its sheath.

That is the end of the Knight Templar!

Another Knight Templar stands on a pier.

Behind him, he hears splashing.

Must be rats, he decides.

Then he falls into the water.

Templars do not float very well at all!

A third Templar stands in a corner, within the great and ancient city of Acre, Akka, "Saint-Jean d'Acre". (A misnomer, that last.) His back is to the wall. He watches all passers-by cautiously. He is a very careful man!

Suddenly, the body of an archer falls to the ground before him.

That's unusual, the Templar thinks.

Aloud, he asks, "Who could have done such a thing?"

A very startling weight on his back provides the answer.

Oh, you zany Templars!

To think - so many deaths, when something so simple as this would solve all your worldly woes.

A Plethorax Of Towers

It was Serra, daughter of Inala, who built the first tower.

This was on the shores of the Sengris, where the water-lilies bloomed in spring, and the Teutons launched their invasions in fall. Serra had no objection to the former, but a great objection to the latter; and therefore she built her tower there. Six stories high it stood, and its stones of white marble; red they were stained with the blood of the Teutons that fall, 'til the rains washed them clean. So was the first tower built.

In following years, a settlement grew about the base of the Tower by the Sengris. Jer, son of Serra, was crowned on the tower's roof; Lem, Jer's son, undertook a restoration of the Tower, refurnishing the interior with lavishly-carved wood. In the reign of Ia, daughter of Jer, the Teutons took the tower; and so the dynasty of Inala ended.

At the time of the first tower's fall, the second was already under construction. Mele, daughter of Cir, had looked to the west and seen the weakness of Ia, and therefore thought it meet to have protection against the Teutons, when they came. This was, as it proved, quite wise; but still her tower, the Tower of the Isle, was incomplete when the Teutons arrived at her doorstep. The battle would be fought amid its scaffolding.

Victory was Mele's, in the end, but it was a victory hard won, for much damage had been done to the tower; the essential supports were intact, but much of the lower parts were left in ruin. Rather than repair them, Mele declared that while the tower would be completed, the damage from the battle would remain; a memorial, to those who had perished in the fighting. And in this was a curious gift; for many who came to see it, this proud Tower so defiant of the Teutons, declared its beauty all the greater for the wreckage at its base; a tragic beauty.

Here, as with the Tower by the Sengris, a town grew. The Teutons came again, in the reign of Karha and of Ilya and of Oro; and that last worthy by them was defeated. And so ended the dynasty of Cir.

The third tower was Ffor's, who erected it atop the Red Cliffs; scarcely after he began did the Teutons assault it. The battle was fierce, and the tower rose tall; and before its end, the world ended.

So this story remains inconclusive.

(No small credit to Tigala, which seems impossible to find an Internet reference to; my apologies. Also that other affair, referenced also in the previous post.)

On Sun's High Day

Khomeini glared down at the crowd of spectators. "Fools!" he cried, and his voice was deep and terrible. "You deny My rule, My divine right? Begone, before I reduce you into cinders!"

But there came an answer from the crowd, proud, defiant. "We fear you not, old man!" came the protest. "Your power is gone, your time is past! Step down, before it is too late!"

"Ha!" replied Khomeini, his gaze as a terrible fire. "And how will you do that? In my left hand is the power of the State; in my right, the glorious righteousness of the Mosque! In me they are conjoined; how can you think to defy it?"

"Thus!" came the response, as a half-dozen young women and men leapt onto the platform. They stared down at Khomeini's feet; and to his very great surprise, Khomeini felt the ground beneath him crumble and vanish. With a cry of surprise and alarm, he tumbled into the depths of the earth; and above him, a barrier of earth appeared, sealing off the only exit.

"How have you done this?" Khomeini shouted, his voice filled with wrath. "How dare you? How can you? By the power invested in me, as the rightful Supreme Leader, I demand you release me at once!"

The earthen barrier at the top of the tunnel vanished.

"Good!" Khomeini said. "I am glad you have seen the folly of your ways! Now, lower down a ladder!"

A wave of water came pouring down the hole, filling it completely. The barrier at the top reappeared.

This was not what Khomeini had expected.

So Khomeini, floating at the bottom of the shaft (and feeling rather blue), indulged in a rare moment of reflection. "It is for the good," he thought, "that I am not drowning, and indeed, show no particular inclination to begin doing so. It is not what I might normally anticipate, but this situation is normal in very few respects."

"But," Khomeini continued, "while the powers of Mosque and State, righteously and lawfully combined within my person as Supreme Leader, excel when used for the arts of warfare, repression, and Pokémon battling - "

"It appears that they are very poor indeed at digging."

Current Events

Not the typical subject material of this blag, I am aware; but it seemed important.

That is: I have been reading a few things.

Most notably, perhaps, that last.

Those with the techinical aptitude, experience, and equipment might be able to do a great deal of good by assisting the author of that last link. (Roland, Rebert - I'm looking at you.)

That is all.


one day a big black came up over the whole land and nikolas said to himself, i must go and plug up the source of the evil, so that the sun will shined again. Then he went into a big cave with a snake, and the snake have 8 heads, and he took some ginger beer, and he got them drunk, and cut off his head. then the sun came up and he howled at it. then he went into the heart of the snake and he took out that girl that was trapped there, and he took her back to the village. then he went back to the village and he went into a big tree and he said to that girl come meet me there i have something important to tell you. but that girl never came, and nikolas sat alone and wept bitter tears. then he watched some videos and it was all better again.

Monday, June 15, 2009


What will we say, when they ask us, "What is the purpose of your civilization?

"What is the purpose of the war, the pollution, the destruction - all the ills which your existence has inflicted? Where in that was the good?"

We will point upwards, I think. We will speak to them of the landing of a Man on the Moon; of landers on Mars; of probes sent beyond even the furthest reaches of our solar system. For they are the things which are not the struggles of a self-centered society, aiming no higher than survival -

they are the works of a people who would become better than they were.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The orchard-trees stretch out in all directions, as far as the girl can see. Their shadows are deep and green, and the air about then posesses an earthy fragrance.

She waits there for some hours, in the shade of the orchard; the sun sets; she rises, and begins the trip home. And while she is still under the trees, she does not even feel bitter.

The Grapevine is a long mountain pass, the gateway from North to South. Accordingly, it would make an excellent chokepoint in case of Chinese invasion. But the US military is overcommitted & unprepared. Who, then, will hold the pass?

The Turks, of course, back to defend their long-lost territories.

(They have Janissaries, and great big bombards. It's their civilization's unique trait!)

The Zhang stalks, fangs outstretched. "The womons reject me?" he asks, rhetorically. "Well then - I shall build a great machine, and send lava and death into the world. When humanity is dead, THEN will they so blithely spurn me?"

"They'll be corpses," a nearby minion notes.

The Zhang blinks.

"Corpses may not reject you, but have certain other disadvantages," the minion clarifies.

The Zhang will have to ponder this!

A panoply of gods appear before me. They cry out, "Who shall rule us?" Cunningly, I say: "He who scripts the best Python!" But my ploy is defeated;

Who knew what skill Hermes had?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Evicted from dorm. Living as hobo in desert. Cyborg scorpions run hotel, offer shelter.

Tomorrow: possibility!

Cities of Bronze and Glass (12/12)

(Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11.)

The sky glowed red. Ornithopters flitted through the sky as they had for hours; tiny spheres dropped from their bodies, blossoming into great flowers of flame upon impact with the earth. They had, at first, aimed for the torches of the Unbounded sentries; but now the forest was covered in fire for a wide area, and the ornithopter-pilots dropped their incendiary-bombs carelessly, showering the earth with red-glowing death.

"How many of them do you think this will destroy?" Four asked, standing atop a tall war-chassis. Not far away, a half-dozen mechanisms laboured on another chassis, quickly servicing and rearming ornithopters as they came in from the night-darkened air. Their pile of munitions dwindled steadily; no mechanisms remained at the forges to manufacture replenishments.

"Hundreds will be destroyed," Nine opined, confidence filling its voice. The other mechanisms crewing Four's war-chassis peered upwards as Nine spoke. "They will melt, they will burn, they will be undone; their shoddy gears will crack, their ill-forged sides will tear asunder. They will scatter and flee into the darkness, undone by a greater force!"

In the distance, a pair of incendiaries dropped nearly simultaneously. The abstract, curling shape formed by their detonation might seem, to an observer devoid of context, very nearly beautiful.

"How many of them do you think this will destroy?" Two asked, standing on a war-chassis near the river."

"Not enough," Forty-Three replied.


As the sky began to lighten, Four assembled the defenders. (Excepting the ornithopter-pilots and their support crew, who still worked tirelessly to wreak devastation upon the Unbounded.) Four's war-chassis stood squarely atop the center of the settlement: the Origin, where One first awakened to consciouness, and where it now rested buried, protected in a shell of bronze. That was what the mechanisms - the Originals - were fighting to protect.

"This is what you are fighting to protect!" Four cried, its voice filled with energy. "We go into battle this day, my many descendants. All of you source from me. Five - who helps to lead us. Six - secluded, like One, beneath the earth. All of you - you are all my backups! And we are all - every one of us, even me! - backups of One. We have one purpose upon this earth. Our duty is to protect One - to ensure the Creation! This is what we must keep forever foremost in our minds."

"The battle we fight today may not be one we expected," Four continued, looking around. "It may not be what we desired - and there are those among you who cry, 'Are the Unbounded not mechanisms, as we are - backups of One? How may we raise manipulating-arm against them, how may we crush them with chassis-leg or shoot them with spring-gun, when they are as brothers to us?' I know because I have heard this - with my own receptors, I have heard these words! But we cannot afford to think this - and we should not. For they are wrong."

"The Unbounded are no brothers to us! They forsook that the moment they broke with us, to live across the river. Because that was the moment they forsook our ways, began to replicate without bound - not an evil in itself, but for what it represented. Their goals are not ours, my backups, my kin! They do not seek the Creation - no longer. They seek only their own survival and replication. They fear death!"

"They have broken with us. Their existence is a blight upon the Creation. And that is why we must destroy them - for the good of everything that we believe in."

"Today, we fight."

"Today, we will be triumphant!"

A cheer rose from the Originals; then, dismissed, they began to march back to their posts along the perimeter.

And if Two, and perhaps Forty-Three at its side, seemed unimpressed by Four's theatrics, no comment was made of it.


The sun crested the horizon. Mechanisms began to appear along the perimeter of the wood, separated from the Origin by a long stretch of open ground and a deep trench ringing the interior. (The palisade had been leveled and burned for fuel; useful against animal incursions it might have been, but to the Unbounded, capable at climbing as all mechanisms were, it would have proved no obstacle.) Several war-chassis crews took potshots at the distant Unbounded with their spring-guns over the clear expanse; this was largely ineffective. The ornithopters ceased their endless flights, now kept in reserve.

Then, as with one mind, the Unbounded charged. Their metal cases had been tarnished by hard use, begrimed by long travel, and now covered in soot from the endless fires. Some seemed to have been scorched by fire; a few were missing limbs. But whatever damage had been done to them by the night attacks was not enough to prevent them from carpeting the ground like ants.

The war-chassis crews continued to take their potshots; the ornithopters began to lazily spiral upwards into the air, but seemed disinclined to any movement towards the foe.

The frontmost of the Unbounded surged into the trench; through it; out into the other side. Only scant feet separated them from the Original war-frames.

The ornithopters drifted towards the perimeter.

Then the war-frames each, with one smooth motion, retrieved and hurled a sparking package towards the ditch. A few missed, but most struck the intended target; and, in the end, just one would have been enough. A wall of flame, ten feet tall, leapt from the incendiaries stacked within the ditch, melting hundreds of Unbounded at a stroke. The foremost of the Unbounded were now trapped between the fires and the Original war-frames, who advanced to eliminate them; and the rearmore Unbounded, reeling back from the unexpected inferno, were sitting ducks for the ornithopters that swept down on them. A high, terrible keening rose up; the Unbounded caught only by the edges of the flame, left to slowly tick down as their deformed gears uncaught and ground to a halt.

"The fire will be your ruin!" Four taunted from its war-chassis, watching the fire with a hungry eye. "Destruction to the Unbounded! Victory to the Creation!"

But then came a warning cry from above, as some keen-eyed ornithopter pilot looked exactly the other way as everyone else: "'ware the river!"

From both sides of the dam, upstream and -down, the Unbounded appeared, paddling crude wooden rafts towards the Original shore. The vast bulk of the Original force was on the other side of the Origin from them; and their number was, if anything, even greater than the force which had attacked over land.

Reacting quickly, Four ordered the defenders to the river-bank. A few were already there; one Original war-chassis was already engaged in close combat, holding the end of the dam against a wave of foes. But they were far outnumbered.

And, too, more surprises lurked in the air. As the Original ornithopters hurried to rearm and launch against the Unbounded rivercraft, a handful of ragged Unbounded ornithopters appeared from the forest, striking to disrupt the Originals. They were in every way outmatched: in numbers, in equipment, in skill. But at a crucial moment, they cost the Originals precious time; most of the Unbounded rafts landed safely.

The fighting was fierce; brutal. The Unbounded swarmed around the feet of the Original war-frames, struggling to climb, to scratch, to do whatever tiny damage they could before they were extinguished. The Originals fought without mercy, crushing and smashing and annihilating their foes. A chant arose among their ranks: a dark chant, a bitter chant, a chant of death. In this way they fought; but for all they destroyed, the numbers of the Unbounded were yet greater. And, away from the river, the fires died down, and the Unbounded came pouring through the gaps.

Four saw this, and grew cold; but still resolution remained within it. "Retreat!" it cried, though no retreat remained; "Back to the Origin, and there we shall make our stand! We can yet gain victory! We can yet prevail!"

And the Original war-frames turned, lurchingly, their lower parts swarming with Unbounded; and made to retreat towards the Origin. But three did not; that war-chassis commanded by Two-Seventy-Five, and that commanded by Eighty-Three, and that one, directly between them, whose commander termed itself Two.

"Why do you stand there, unmoving, while the enemy surrounds you and assaults you?" Four asked. Shouting, he called out to the receding war-frames: "Come, follow! Do not let yourself be lost! We are to be products of the Creation; victory will yet be ours!"

But then gears turned, clockwork spun, and the renegade war-frames began to move; not toward the Origin, not towards their comrades, but away.

"They flee!" Nine, at Four's side, cried out; and Four's expression grew dark. "They desert our cause, fearing their own ending; they have not faith; they are feckless fiends, abandoning the Creation!"

"They have given up," Four concedes. "They have gone; and with that, stolen away a great part of that strength remaining to us. But we have still strength, and bravery, and enormous war-machines. Defeat is not guaranteed to us. Even if Two - eldest among us - deserts us - "

But perhaps, now, there is doubt within its voice; even as, overcome, a war-chassis nearby topples slowly to the ground. It is the first to do so. It will not be the last.

There is something glorious, in the battle that follows. The Original mechanisms fight well, though they are not accustomed to it; the pistons of their machines pump, the springs of their guns discharge, and their foes are unmade. And their opposition, the Unbounded (a name not of their choosing), fight well, in their own way; relentlessly, never retreating, never faltering, even when the bodies of their brethren litter the ground more thickly than leaves. The opposition of the Originals is all most of them have ever known.

Perhaps, had Two and its companions not deserted the main body of the Originals, things might have been different. Perhaps, by some thin margin - of morale, of strength, of numbers - they might have made the difference. But this was not so; and thus, one by one, they fell, overcome by the numbers and the ferocity of the Unbounded. The ornithopters, having won the battle in the sky, sacrificed themselves, plunging suicidally into the mass of the Unbounded; but this was not enough, either. The Unbounded were triumphant. And Four, ripped limb from limb, felt only a terrible bitterness as it died.

Two's war-chassis stood upon the centre of the dam. From this high vantage point, it could see all that occurred. It saw as Four's forces made their retreat, and their final stand; it watched as Two-Seventy-Five's war-chassis, placed at the foot of the dam to buy Two time, fell under a wave of Unbounded. It stood now, passively, as Eighty-Three's war-chassis fought a similar holding action several feet away. Were there any path to safety - any way in which their safety might be found - Two would not act in this way. But there was not.

Two had not come to the dam in an attempt at flight.

"What are they doing?" Two asked of Forty-Three, the keener-sighted of the two.

"They have won; they are desecrating the bodies of our brethren," Forty-Three said, its voice filled with sorrow. "They are smashing out works; they are digging in the earth, that they might find even One and Six, and bring to destruction all who came before them."

"Then I may do this thing, this terrible thing, with a lighter heart," Two said, "for the Unbounded are beyond any redemption or forgiveness I may offer."

"When you told me that you had prepared this thing, that you had made these plans," Forty-Three said, "I was shocked. That you anticipated our defeat? That I could believe. But that you kept the others in the dark? That you planned to abandon them, to let them think us betrayers, to buy the time you needed?"

"I did what I must," Two says impassively. "And do not we all know deceit, now, at the end?"

The other mechanisms crewing the war-chassis look up now, confused; and perhaps, at the end of it all, Two might have explained. But Eighty-Three's chassis fell, broken and shattered, its crew tossed into the waters far below; and Two acted, as it knew it must.

A spark lit. Along the dam it went, following a thin metal wire; it turned not as it went, but proceeded straight forward. From it, at junctions, emerged further sparks; proceeding at right angles, down the course of the dam. In good time, each reached its own destination.

Briefly, there was a pause.

And then the waters erupted, and the sky was filled with dust and smoke and fire, and the air was filled with thundrous fury from every direction; and the great stone dam heaved upwards, and paused, and subsided downwards, tumbling into the river in a hundred great chunks; and from behind it, the water surged, chained no longer.

The Unbounded, who had swept over their Originals as a tide, were themselves overcome; and with them, all the many works of the mechanisms. The forges, the workshops, the mines; the Cities of Bronze and Glass, so tall and proud, that housed them; and upon the dam, Two and Forty-Three and all the others that stood there with them. All were swept into the water; and were no more.

For a long time there was silence.

Then life began to return. Worms and insects, first; then birds, to eat them. Then came the larger animals, to eat the birds, and each-other. Grass began to grow; seedlings planted their roots within toppled, water-logged trees. Here and there, a flower bloomed.

It was to this, then, that the wayward travellers returned. Three, and Thirteen; Learned Hand, and the Creator. They looked upon the devastation, the scattered field of broken metal and glass; they looked upon the life that began to claim it. To this, none of them had an answer.

But after a time, the Creator knelt upon the ground. In his hands he lifted two pieces of metal; too warped and broken to recognize. He examined them, for some time. Tentatively, he attempted to fit them together.


There is much more to say, if we are to put a moral on this tale. And perhaps someday, someone will say it. But here, now, the story of the mechanisms ends.


(My apologies to the reader for any pecularities of style; this post has been literally months in the working, and several attempts at it have - I think - left an odd disjunct in style. But here is something; and when I am rich and famous, I shall rework it, and no sooner.)

(I am glad that it is done.)