Aliens, Allegations, And Alligators Pt.II

I didn’t sleep that night- how could I, when so many lives were going to be destroyed in such a horrific manner?

Instead, I spent the night reading Samyaza’s guide over and over, trying to make it all make sense. I was sure that some of this terminology must have been already known by the top brass, because he offered no explanation for some of the most difficult parts to understand.

Yuliette eventually ‘forced’ me to help her warm her bed, but all that changed was that I now read by a much dimmer light while she slept with her head on my chest.

Whenever weariness began to make my eyelids heavy, I once again felt Samyaza’s cold hand resting on my shoulder, jerking me awake.

Finally, morning came- such as it was on this planet- and Yuliette finished her preparations.

“Now, to yours?” She asked.

I shook my head. “I didn’t bring any keepsakes with me. We can go.”

Military housing didn’t allow soldiers- or, in my case, military stenographers- to buy any of our own stuff, except for food. I didn’t have any furniture, entertainment units, or anything else that was actually mine to go and get. I had no reason to go back.

“Have you finished your formal resignation?” Yuliette asked.

“Well- sort of. They made it clear this job is over. If they fail to reassign me, that’s their own problem.”

Yuliette tsk’d at me. “What if they do reassign you, and you’re all the way back on Earth? They could call you a deserter. You should really do a proper resignation.”

I thought about it for a moment, but decided against it. I may need access to my high level of clearance before this whole thing was over.

I grunted in a noncommittal fashion at Yuliette, which was well understood as my way of saying ‘I don’t want to talk about it anymore’.

I had Yuliette book the flight back to Earth but paid for it myself since she had only had random blips of employment during this whole debacle.

We stored Yuliette’s vehicle, which was capable of travel through both air and land, in a commercial garage meant for long-term storage. We then took an airtaxi towards the spaceport.

The weather was behaving in a pretty typical fashion- it was constantly drizzling, overcast, somewhat gloomy. It didn’t help that the rain was slightly acidic- not enough to kill a human like me, but enough to cause painful acid burns on the first layer of our skin. That was why I always had to wear the annoying EEE, but Yuliette did not.

As we reached the spaceport, I thought about how I was going to do this. I wanted Yuliette safe, but I needed to stay here. I should’ve just brought it up earlier. I really did need to work on my communication skills.

Before I could begin to solve it, other complications arose.

As soon as we stepped inside, two security personnel began shadowing our footsteps. The spaceport was huge, and after three different turns, they were still on us. Couldn’t have been a coincidence.

Yuliette noticed nearly as quickly as I did, which was impressive for someone who wasn’t trained.

“I’m going to veer off into the washroom. You keep heading for the gate. If they follow you, I’ll come up from behind them. If they follow me, I’ll deal with it.”

Yuliette nodded, though she didn’t seem particularly happy. Made sense- Yuliette was the type to turn in two assignments and ask her teacher which one they liked better, always striving to be the best she could be for her ‘superiors’. Going up against authority wasn’t her thing at all.

That just reaffirmed my choice to send her away. This was going to get hairy.

I veered off- and, unfortunately, the two men shadowing us split up. Worst case scenario. I stepped into the washroom and angled myself behind the door- a child’s tactic, but it would probably work. The security following us looked to be simple airport guards- not military or secret operatives.

The man stepped inside, and I thought I would end our confrontation before it even began.

I did not succeed.

I tried putting him immediately into a chokehold- nothing lethal, just to put him to sleep long enough for me to get Yuliette out of this spaceport, and to find another way off-planet.

Unfortunately, this security guard was unusually wary. As soon as my hands reached around his neck, he ducked, pulled on my arms, and tossed me against the far wall.

“What the hell?!” Shouted a man using one of the stalls.

“Sorry bud. Fight going on, here.” I said, groaning as I stood.

“You tripped one of our sensors. We gotta bring you in.” The security guard said. He had a mess of dark hair on his head and an unkempt, thin beard over his jawline.

“Damn facial recognition.” I hadn’t thought we’d be on any kind of a list- did the top brass realize that I’d taken Samyaza’s book? Or had they somehow heard my talk with Yuliette?

“Come on then,” I said, putting my hands up.

My opponent was large. Taller than me by a good six inches, longer reach- but I doubted he was stronger. My best bet was to take this to the floor.

I feigned shooting a few quick jabs, then swept his legs. He was top-heavy, so it was perfectly effective. He hit the ground, and I quickly followed. From there, I disoriented him with a few blows to the head, and finally got the chokehold I was looking for.

I placed the guard inside a stall, told the other person in there that it was safe to come out, and sprinted after Yuliette.

She and I had, not long into our relationship, put tracking devices on one another. These were dangerous days, after all, and as a diplomat, she was a prime target for kidnappings.

She was nearing the departure zone, where space-faring ships would leave with their cargo.

My heart was pounding in my ears, but after the fastest mile I had ever ran, I saw her.

I saw as she was being loaded up into a Coalition Passenger Ship, with her wrists manacled.

“No!” I bellowed, running through the enameled glass corridors, trying to get to her-

Until a man with dark hair, cruel eyes, and a familiar voice stepped into my path.

“Stenographer Williams.” Samyaza said.

“Samyaza. Pardon me, I’m not on duty.”

“Don’t play coy. You have my book.”

“I merely followed orders, my lord.” Amandine said from somewhere behind Samyaza.

“Mmm, indeed. Yet we have a mess to clean up.”

“Where are you taking her?”

“She doesn’t seem to know anything about my book, so she is going to Earth, exactly where you wanted her. If you come with me, quietly, and right now, I will leave her in your brother’s care. If you resist, she will be brought to a prison.”

I lost sight of Yuliette. She hadn’t seen me following her. I hesitated a moment…


“Yes.” Samyaza agreed. “Now, we’ve involved the normal people for too long, Williams. Let’s go have a chat.”

The Draconic Domain Pt.III

I knew Pierre wouldn’t approve of my plan. I burned through another pair of his cables to charge my Gear, swiped one of his spare coats, and left quietly before he awoke.

I began heading towards the eastern edge of town- gang territory.

The way I saw it- the lawmen and the Academy weren’t in a position to help me nearly as much as I wanted, nor were they in a position to be of much danger, either. The gangs, however, would be my most dangerous enemy…or my most valuable friends. Siding with one of them made the most sense.

The gangs currently had an unsteady working relationship- essentially a truce- and they were united under a shifting leadership. Amongst the city crews, there were the Blackened Bones, Heartfires, and Undercity members. A few other small gangs existed, but these three were the most powerful.

My choice was obvious- the Blackened Bones were the only crew willing to go face-to-face against the police. They were the ones pulling off major jobs, jailbreaks, assassinations. The only thing they didn’t have was drugs because it was against their code.

The Blackened Bones were only kept in check by the threat of outright war, with the police and both the other major crews attacking them at once- if it weren’t for that holding them back, they would run the entire city.

With my help, they could tip the scales- and that would land me unparalleled safety in their ranks, and comfort for my family.

Even though the sun was now up, and the sun was shining through a cloudless sky, I didn’t feel any safer. Perhaps it was the buildings that were looming over me. Perhaps it was the fact that I could feel a growing number of eyes watching me as I approached the Blackened Bones headquarters.

Everyone knew where the Blackened Bones headquarters were- it was also the city’s only gambling house.

I didn’t make it all the way to the front door before I was interrupted.

On the back of a lithe, tall, grey and black dragon was a woman with a serious scowl on her face. She was quite the opposite to her dragon’s toned-down appearance- her hair was dyed in bright stripes of many colors, and her clothes were very…punk rock.

“What do you want?” She sounded bored and peeved.

“I have a unique ability that your organization might be able to make use of. I want to trade my services for employment, and a dragon.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “Dragons don’t grow on trees. Do you know how hard it is to raise them to be tame? Your ‘ability’ better be good. Get on.”

Before I’d even taken a step she put her wrist to her mouth and spoke into it. “Tell Morris we have a visitor.”

I mounted the rear saddle on the woman’s dragon and held on while she leapt over walls and raced at the highest speeds she could- she definitely wasn’t trying to get a high rating for her guest services.

I was taken inside their compound- not the gambling hall that I had thought I’d be going to- and I was ‘greeted’ by a very disinterested-looking man with long, slicked-back white hair. He wasn’t old, not if I could judge by his skin or voice, but his hair threw me off. I guessed he was in his mid-twenties.

“So, Killanna tells me you have an ability.” He started.
When she had told him this, I couldn’t be sure.

“Yeah. I was thinking- I join your crew, I get a dragon, and in exchange, you get my ability.”

“You’re asking a lot. What are you bringing to the table?” His voice was neutral, but I could tell that if I was offering him nothing substantial, he’d probably break my arms for wasting his time.

“Let me explain it this way.” I said, subtly activating my Gear. “You have two men stationed behind me, and one in the tower over there,” I said, gesturing. “He wields the black energy of his dragon. Killanna uses red energy, and the dragon she rides is black.”

“So, you know about the energy types, but you don’t know their proper names. You sound childish, listing things off like ‘black and red energy’.”

“I have an ability, not unlimited access to ancient secrets.”

“Mmm. Okay, so you can detect energy at a distance. Can you feel the magnitude of the power as well? Or just detection of presence?”

“Your energy is the strongest here, although there is someone underground who outstrips you.” I noticed, looking down.

“Ah.” The white-haired man grimaced, as if he’d swallowed something unpleasant. “Well, if what you’re saying is true, then you and I don’t have that much time to talk. How far are you willing to go with your ability? If I asked you to use it to track someone, could you do it? If I asked you to steal, do you have the guts? If I asked you to kill, would you follow through, or cave?”


Aliens, Allegations, and Alligators (Fantasy fiction short story)

I wasn’t meant to be privy to the secret meetings that the Humanity Coalition held. I was not on their war council, their secret service agencies, or even a general in their armies. I should have had no business learning about every little dirty deal and nasty secret.

Regardless, I knew more about the Intergalactic War than almost everyone else, even including most of our leaders.

For the sake of reliable communication and historical accuracy, a stenographer of sorts was required. I had that job foisted on me, even though I didn’t want it.

Now, here I was, listening to the ugliest side of humankind being spilled out.

I heard as they debated upon targets- the enemy had vulnerable hospitals and schools that could be blown up. Their supply trains of medicine and food, those were fine to attack too- but could we steal those supplies? What even was alien medicine? Perhaps it would be more cost-effective to just burn it.

Theft. The slaughter of innocents. I had heard every despicable word coming from the people we were supposed to look up to, and it only got worse as we began to lose. It took the better part of a decade- almost seven years, to be exact, but we were losing planetary control and key spaceports every single standard earth day.

It seemed like humanity was going to be wiped out, but I shed very few tears. I had seen what we were capable of, and it revolted me. I had recorded every sin, and I hoped we would be exposed for each one. I hoped humanity wouldn’t survive. At least, not this humanity. Not under these leaders.

Finally, on what we thought would be the day humanity was due to surrender, a wicked-looking man strolled into the War Room. Every step he took made a sharp noise that echoed across the room.

Immediately, all conversation and bickering ceased, and every pair of eyes was on him.

I felt his energy. His presence. Every General straightened their back, and the fatigue left their eyes. Every politician looked like they were afraid of being spoken to by this…person.

I was not spiritual by any means, yet I was willing to bet my life that this was a true God of War.

“Everyone. General Roudon has apprised me of your situation. I trust you all know who I am.” His dark hair was long and slicked back. His movements were precise and swift. His tone allowed no room for anyone else to speak.

By reflex, I was recording what was being said, my newly-made but old-fashioned typewriter click-clacking away.

The man’s attention snapped immediately over to me. “Not another word.” He warned me.

His gaze bore an intense heat, like I was being scolded by a cruel father. I put both of my hands up, trying to nonverbally signal that I would comply.

“You seem to have forgotten, ladies and gentlemen,” the man orated, as though he were giving an inspiring speech, “the fundamentals of warfare.” He began moving again, slowly circling around the large table which hosted all of our leaders. All eyes remained trained on him.

“You have all read books written by great warriors, I am sure. The Book of Five Rings, The Art of War, the secret diary of Genghis Kahn, yes?”

A muted mumbling of agreements came from most members around the table.

“Yet all of these writers were incomplete. They had wives, children, friends. Even Miyamoto Musashi, may his stained soul rest in peace, had favorite concubines.”

Having finished his slow walk around the leaders, the man now placed himself behind me. I had a feeling he was ensuring I hadn’t continued writing in secret. Feeling him standing behind me made shivers run up my spine.

“You look to your fellow humans for inspiration, yet you should be looking towards your apex predators, instead.”

He placed one his hands on my shoulders. Though I was wearing a coat, it felt as if his hand was seeping cold into my very bones. With his other hand, he pulled free the sheet of paper upon which I had written his opening sentence.

“The Alligator, my friends. The Alligator has been almost entirely unchanged by evolution for millions of years, because it has stumbled upon the epitome of lethal hunting techniques.”

His hand lifted from my shoulder, and I fought to ensure I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief.

“Take your opponent into a place where you can breathe longer.” The man now walked, with his back to me, toward the leaders once again. “If they are stronger, manufacture a favorable environment. If they are smarter, manufacture a favorable environment. If they are winning, flood the arena, because you know you can hold your breath longer than they can. Wash away every difference in wit and skill and strength, and make it a competition of endurance. One you know you can win.”

No one dared to speak, only nod along to the man’s suggestions.

“No one wants to ask ‘how’?” I could hear the smile in his voice. It was lopsided, cruel.

“I happen to have come prepared with an answer, but you must promise me,” he said, the last two words sung in a musical tone, “that you will enact it immediately. No if, no and, no but, you do what I say and you do it now.”

I began to wonder if our leaders were in a trance, the way they nodded along.

“I have…discovered something, about the aliens. To keep it very, very simple, the aliens do not dream. They have no concept of the other realm. So, we introduce a little of the other realm into your realm, this realm, and we simply endure a few strange months while they endure losing their Gods-damn minds!” A note of excitement had begun to creep in.

I had seen enough talks by charismatic, evil leaders. People like Hitler, Stalin. This man knew exactly what he was doing. He was maneuvering himself to be their saving grace, at their darkest hour. He was inspiring fanaticism in the Coalition. If he wasn’t already in charge, he was certainly becoming the de facto leader.

The man laid out the specifics of the plan, but nothing else he said made sense to me. He spoke in terms of physics to the physicist, war to the generals, and politics to the politicians. I allowed myself to stop paying attention, until the very end, when he once again addressed the entire room.

“In order to protect ourselves from the worst of the difficulties, you will all need to learn to control your minds and spirits. You must unify them both, and have your soldiers strictly under control. While the aliens lose their grip on reality, they may become…feral. Even those that want to die will throw up a defense in their last moments. To aid in that, my assistant will provide copies of my guide to everyone in the room. Now, I must be going.”

“Y-you won’t be far, will you?” Asked the Executive Head of the Coalition.

“Have no fear, I am only ever one phone call away. Amandine, the books, please.” With that, the man left.

“Yes, Lord Samyaza.” A woman stepped out from the shadows- I hadn’t noticed her entering- and to each person around the table she gave a copy of the man’s ‘guide’.

The leaders began chattering again. They had more energy now than they had when the war began. I was, once again, sickened. Though I didn’t quite understand, I knew that if this plan worked, humanity would turn the tide- and we would win.

We did not deserve to win.

The woman- Amandine- stopped at my table, and placed a book down.

“For me?” I asked.

“My Lord instructed me to provide one for every person. You are a person, correct?” Her tone was perfectly polite but entirely void of character. Without waiting for a response, she now followed the man’s- Samyaza’s- path out of the building.

It felt like a spell had been lifted, and my hands began to tremble.

I looked at the book across the table and wondered- did I want to know what that…thing had written? Would the knowledge corrupt me, somehow? Or would it help me protect the few people I cared about?

“You’re done, now, Mister Williams.” Called out one of the Generals as she approached my table. “We won’t need you for the rest of the war effort.”

I scooped the book up and held it against my back, with my other arm snapping up into a smart salute. “Yes, sir!”

“Very good.”

I walked a longer path than I needed to to leave the room- but I knew this way, no one would see me leave with the book.

I felt ill. I felt stressed out. I felt tired. But I knew there was much, much more I needed to get done before I could rest again.

As soon as I left the compound, I went through the laborious process of putting on an External Elements Equalizer suit- also called the EEE, and made a phone call from a booth, instead of my personal device.

“Hello?” Responded the sweet, smokey voice I had grown to love.

“Babe. I’m…done work early. Want to swing by?”

I was quiet on the ride back. Yuliette tried several conversation starters on me before I silently put my finger to my lips to pantomime a “ssh”.

She understood.

As soon as we arrived at her apartment, I powered down every device I could find. Yuliette caught on and even brought all the mobile ones into her washroom.

Finally, as secure as we could be, I sat her down.

“We aren’t going to lose this war.”

Relief washed over Yuliette’s face. “Oh, thank God-“

“No. The means we will use to make this win happen are… well, I can’t pretend I understand fully, but they will be monstrous. Every single alien is going to die, and it won’t be a swift death. It’s like some kind of…psychological genocide. You and I need to get off-world immediately, back to Earth-“

“You always want to go back to Earth.” Yuliette objected, a slight grin on her face. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand the gravity of what I was telling her- it was that she was trying to comfort me.

“I’m serious, baby.”

Yuliette chewed on her lip for a moment. “I wish this was just a silly ploy to get us to move in together.”

“Afraid not.”

Yuliette and I had met each other when this job began- I had just graduated from the Military Academy, with the intent to become a staffing officer. No front-line work, just clerical. Approve paternity leave, sign off on medical forms, stuff like that. However, just when the big brass at the top needed a stenographer, they noticed my file.

I was brand new, which they needed. No chance of bias or prior affiliations amongst the Coalition. I had been accepted for full clearance on personnel files, which meant I had passed the psych evaluations for keeping confidential things confidential, which they needed. I could also type at 200 words per minute, which they said was great. I wasn’t told the details, I was just assigned the new position off-world without the opportunity to say ‘no’, and there I was, a few weeks later, on the very edges of humanity’s intergalactic reach, penning every word of their deliberations.

Yuliette, however, had been born on this planet. She wasn’t even entirely human, though the DNA tests had been inconclusive about how much of her was alien. She had been working on inter-species diplomacy before that ship sunk. She went to a bar to drown her sorrows the day the fighting started, and I had done the same. Since that night, we had been inseparable. As each day grew a little darker, we grew a little closer. Now, I couldn’t imagine being without her.

…And the thought that she was even the slightest bit at risk of this new plan of theirs made me sick with rage.

“So, you want to fall back, in case this new weapon of theirs can hurt me, too?”

“Yeah. I-“

I thought about telling her about the book, but Yuliette was a stickler for rules. She’d want me to return it, or throw it out at the least.

“I’m worried. Besides- we’re both out of a job, and you should meet my little brother, and see Earth for the first time. There’re lots of reasons to go, and none to stay.”

Yuliette had lost most of her friendships when the war began- most of her alien friends saw her work as a diplomat to be traitorous, and most of her human friends were now deployed on the front lines. She had no family that she knew of.

“Alright, Mercy. I’ll pack up.” Yuliette said, after a long pause.

Mercy. Her nickname for me. My proper name was Mercurio Williams, but Yuliette never used it.

As she packed, I cracked open the guide that Samyaza guy had written.

I learned three things, all on the first page.

Firstly, dreams were a function of our spirits interacting with the real world. Most of them made no sense because our minds did not hold proper control of our spirits.

Secondly, Samyaza was not human. Nor was he alien. He was something that came from before. He was one of seven of his kind.

Thirdly, this ‘collision’ of the ‘other realm’ and our realm meant that we were, in essence, employing demons to torture all alien life to death.

The fourth thing- it wasn’t something I learned, but something I realized. No way in hell was I letting that slimy bastard Samyaza do this. I was sending Yuliette to Earth, and I was going to stop this, even if it killed me.

The Draconic Domain Pt.II

I thought about it well into the night- until after my parents had talked the issue to death, until their voices began to give out, until they decided to shelve the discussion until they had slept on it.

Their conversation wasn’t going anywhere.

I decided to solve the issue for them.

I didn’t have my own dragon, and my parents hadn’t known enough about gear to be able to tell if this piece was made for a dragon to use or a human- in fact, I probably didn’t know enough to be sure either, but I did have a friend who would know.

Pierre was both my oldest friend and the most intelligent person I knew. He lived alone, having lost his parents in the crossfire of gang violence four years ago- and though he was only as old as I was, he was already making a living for himself by doing repair work on electrical systems. Mostly, he was being paid by the city, though he wasn’t a regular employee there. He would take individual contracts, get paid, and coast off of the money until he ran dry, using his spare time to further his studies. He hadn’t mentioned it to me, but I had a feeling he was aspiring to join the Academy and become a Gear Technician.

If I was right, he would be able to help me.

My dad had hidden the gear away, but not very well. He had no reason to think that I’d be poking around, so he simply stored it behind his modest supply of liquor, which I had never shown any interest in, and my younger brother had no chance of reaching, if he even knew what liquor was.

I took a quick look at it, but its appearance gave no hint to its function. It was a jagged, oblong hunk of metal, roughly the size of my hand, painted grey, and it there was a slightly audible hum when I touched it.

It was surprisingly heavy- but not heavy enough to be an issue carrying it to Pierre’s place.

I threw on a dark coat, hoping to avoid any attention, and made my way across the city.

Our city was…unusual. It was theorized that during the great war, some kind of toxin was spilled on the earth below us, causing immense damage. The land wasn’t farmable, and the air wasn’t good to breathe in the long-term. It was getting better with time, but for now, our entire city was supported on massive stilts that kept us a few miles up in the air.

I had also been told that our city was already built like that before the great war- but once again, it was speculative. The technology that was rusting away within the city did seem to support the idea, but why would they have built the city above ground unless the ground was already toxic?

Finally, the hour so late it was practically early morning, I knocked on Pierre’s door.

He answered with only a moment’s hesitation. “Figured it would be you.” He said, grinning a little.

Pierre was a big person in many ways. He was tall, his arms, legs, and back were filled with muscle- and his belly was round. Not many people could boast a full belly these days. He finished his ‘look’ off with his dark goatee and thick sideburns, making him appear quite intimidating…but I knew that he often did not have the stomach for a fight. He wasn’t a coward, but he would always tremble for days after bad events. I’d stepped in to fight for him before, and I was half his size.

“Evening. Or, morning, I guess?”

“Eh. Doesn’t matter, I was up anyway.”

Pierre’s home seemed to be balanced precariously, built as a ramshackle wooden addition to one of the thick metal beams that supported the city- but he had designed it himself, and said that it was safe. His word was almost always good- but that didn’t stop me from wincing every time a floorboard creeked beneath me.

“What brings you by? Your brother pissing you off again?”

“No, no. Barely see him these days, he’s been in school. I, uh- I have something of a sensitive question to ask.”

Pierre cocked an eyebrow, and closed the curtain that overlooked the abyss below.

“Dad found some gear. He wants to sell it, mom wants to toss it, and I think I want to use it.”

Pierre’s eyes were wide. “Whoa, now. That’s dangerous, dangerous territory.”

“Yeah. I don’t think Dad has the…social aptitude to sell it safely, but I think- in my hands, depending on what the thing does, I might be able to carve out a future for us. Dad can’t keep working like he has been. I need to find something I can do with my life- maybe this is it.”

“Well- you could always ransom it to the Academy.”

“Thought about that- but how much would those tightwads really give me? Not what the gangs would, probably half what the gangs would.”

“Okay. I think I get the predicament. So you want to use it. Well, let’s see what she does, first.”

I smirked. “Knew you’d know how to figure it out.”

Pierre opened his hand in a ‘gimme’ fashion. I passed it over.

“I do happen to know a few things about gear. The trick is really quite simple- give it a charge, and it’ll mount. If it doesn’t mount, it’s because it’s a dragon piece.”

Pierre hooked some cables up to it and pressed a button.

Light began to travel slowly up the cables- it almost looked like the cables were melting from the energy output.

The gear began to hum audibly again.

“Touch it.” Pierre instructed. Based on his body language, there was no way he was going to.

“Here goes.” I said, and placed my palm on the gear.

It reacted, and the metal seemed to break apart into thousands of tiny pieces- pieces which then began crawling up my arm.

“What…the…hell?” I asked, feeling like tiny bugs were slipping under my clothes.

“Nanobots!” Pierre said in an awed whisper. “Dude, this is nanobot tech, that’s insane!

“Great, what is it doing to me?” I responded, trying to keep my voice low.

“No idea.”

I shuddered as the nanobots crawled around my arm and towards my spine- then felt as they settled in and lightly pricked my skin.

The gear was now the length of a pencil, lining my spin, matching its width. If I wore a regular shirt, no one would know it was there.

I looked at Pierre, and saw him shimmering with what looked like green light.

“What do you feel?” He asked.

“I- I don’t know. Not that different, but- you look strange.” I explained to him what I saw.

“Look at the cables.” He instructed. The cables which had been hooked up to the gear were indeed damaged, and they seemed to be glowing with a blue hue.


“Yourself?” He asked.

“Um- gold? I guess? It’s really faint.”

“How interesting.” Pierre had a smirk back on his face.

“Spill it, nerd.”

“I can’t be sure, but it seems like your gear detects energy- not just the quantity, but the nature of it as well.”

“The nature of the energy?” I asked.

“Yeah. Dragon- and human, for that matter- energy comes in different…flavors, if you will. The original creator allegedly split dragons up into classes. Some of them were wider and more sturdy, for excavation and mining gold and other minerals, or for digging the support beams that make our city safe. Others were fast- for racing entertainment, or messengers. Others still were meant for defense, policing, that kind of thing. For dragons, their abilities are mostly determined by their genes. For humans, it’s a mix of genetics and personality. I have no idea what colors correspond to what, but it seems that the magic does indeed come in these different kinds.”

“O…kay. How is this useful?”

“I can think of a few ways. It would help you to track specific people in crowds- you could find powerful people hidden amongst the normal, maybe uncover their secrets. The gangs would love to hear about that, you could select targets for them to rob, if they’re carrying powerful stuff- oh, yeah, you could use it to find more gear, too. You could use it to sort the strong dragons from the weak- you could work for a stable. Maybe even breed dragons and sell to the police, or the academy, or the gangs, again. You could bet on dragon races and probably almost always win. I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all that comes to mind right now.”

As he spoke, I felt the gear deactivate. The small charge he’d given it was used up.

“And…I guess, to power the gear, you’ll need a dragon to constantly feed it energy. For a dragon it isn’t a lot to produce, but for our current tech, it’d be nearly impossible.”

“Let me think about this.” I said, plopping down on his couch.

“Of course. Let me know what you think- heck, you could even be handy in my line of work, show me where the conductors are broken. Get you a little cash to start up with.”

I considered my options until the sun had risen- and, finally, I had a plan.

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The Draconic Domain Pt.I

Human society was a cautionary tale of arrogance. After millennia of progress, everything became possible for them. They conquered the concepts of resource scarcity, climate change, illness, economic trouble, war- and they continued to push. Through science, they pioneered magic- or, some still argue, they discovered the magic that had always been there, waiting. Through the combination of science and magic, they created sentient life that they intended to make their slaves…well-kept slaves, but slaves nonetheless.

The foremost pioneer for creating this new form of life decided on beasts of burden with greater intelligence than horses and donkeys. He wanted them faster, stronger, smarter, and above all, subservient. He chose to model his new lifeform after dragons- though only a select few were true to the dragons of mythology. Mostly, these dragons were flightless, more akin to horses than wyrms, and they did not typically produce fire.

They did possess magic that was capable of affecting the external world, as per the creator’s design. Beams of energy could be produced that had an effect almost like magnetism, to help them with their labor. They could push, pull, levitate, and cause certain changes within the objects their energy could reach.

They served mankind for nearly one hundred years before one was born amongst them that became indignant at the deal they had been given. This dragon was exceptional- it had a certain grit, fire, and steel in its blood that its kin did not. The magic it wielded was immense, and shortly after it departed from regular society, it dominated and enslaved a human to be its rider- not so that the human could control it, but for the dragon to be able to use human magic and access human knowledge. With the combination, the dragon had the human craft mind control devices- because while human magic was powerful, it could not affect the external realm, only internal, and dragons could only affect the external realms, never the internal. In combination, everything became possible.

The dragon became a symbol of legend. It took the name Volunmuun, and with its ability to enslave multitudes of humans, it grew an army. Each human came with their enslaved dragon, and their relationship was forcibly reversed- the once docile dragons awakening to their true power, and controlling the human it once served.

A war began. Volunmuun was brutish in strength, but it was also sharp and clever- it did not try to engage in the field of battle immediately. It spread dissent between the humans and dragons, manufacturing problems where none had existed before. Crime surfaced as a significant problem, which humanity hadn’t needed to face in a very long time. Factions were born- some humans who grew prejudiced against dragons, some dragons who sought to eliminate all humans, and many variants in between. Others still departed, choosing friendship with their human or dragon counterparts over participating in the growing tensions.

Then the war began properly. Volunmuun took his strength against that of the remaining enslavers- and their struggle lasted for nearly as long as dragons had even existed until then.

Much of the science was lost. Much of the magic was lost. What remained were artifacts, uneasy understandings, and a shattered society nestled into the cracks and crevices of what once was.

I was often taught this perspective of events- but in the end, it was just as reliable as anyone else’s, since no one remained from those days to recount it all. Though hundreds of years had passed since this war was told to have taken place, things hadn’t improved much, and all that served as ‘proof’ were the powerful weapons and artifacts that were rediscovered every now and then.

Several other conflicts had taken place since then as well- and the balance of power seemed to have finally been struck.

I was raised in the wreckage of these wars, my family scraping by on my father’s wages as a laborer. Most of the time, his work revolved around salvaging the ruins of skyscrapers, harvesting reusable materials, and selling them for a modest income- until the day came when he uncovered one of the ancient technologies.

That day was today.

“I’m not sure what to do with it.” He said in an even voice- but I knew that tone. He was trying to keep his voice calm and low, but inside he was worried.

“Throw it into the Abyss. That thing could cause a lot of trouble for us. If one of the local gangs finds out we’ve even seen it, they’ll be paying us a visit.”

“Yes, true- but we could also use it to turn our situation around. If we could secure it, we could try anonymously getting bids for it. Auction it off- the Academy would want it, certainly, and so would the gangs. If we could keep it a secret and still sell it…”

“We don’t want to get mixed up in all that, Moor.”

My parents discussed it late into the night, as I listened to every word.

Dad’s idea wasn’t terrible. The money from that sale would save us from hardship- and his body was beginning to fall apart. He had labored so much, and age was beginning to catch up to him. I was seventeen, and though I didn’t despise hard work, I didn’t relish spending my entire life following in his footsteps either. I couldn’t let this opportunity slip away.

I needed to take this matter into my own hands- because, after all, it would end up being more about my future than theirs, in the end.

NOTE: This is a ‘Vote on Your Adventure’. Follow THIS link: to vote on what the Main Character does next!

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Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall- Bring Misfortune To Us All

Werewolves are well-known and often discussed. Vampires are practically the talk of the town, and the Inquisition set up their new headquarters within Moldavia specifically to tackle the growing threat they represented.

One thing they always neglected to discuss, much to my chagrin, was where the damn things came from.

Was I the last scholar alive who remembered the Feyfolk?

Was I the only one left who remembered that Vampires, Werewolves, Krakens, Ghouls, Hags, and Wraiths were a symptom?

It seemed that I was. The Inquisitors refused to speak to me on the matter anymore, and I was quickly growing a reputation for being a mental patient candidate.

Knowing that the burden of the mission fell squarely upon my shoulders, I began making moves from the shadows.

Originally, I posed as an unofficial opposition to the Inquisition- the cover served my purpose well.

The Inquisition was well known as monster hunters, but they were essentially obligated to serve the interests of the local lords, barons, and other lawmakers. If a poor farmer needed a job done to keep his family safe, the Inquisition would put him on the very bottom of their long list. This left a gap in the market- though it was not always profitable, it at least allowed me the opportunity to continue to explore the bizarre patterns the Feyfolk had left in their wake.

The crew employed under as my ‘monster-hunting militia’ was only half a dozen strong, but after word got out about us, we had plenty of work to do. Members came and went- some of them dying in the field, others retired while they still had the original limbs and appendages they came into the job with- but the militia’s size remained at about half a dozen at any given time.

I knew all of them. Respected them, tried to treat them well, and ensure they came home safe…but there was always an arm’s length between myself and them. An arm’s length I had placed there myself, because I was using them, after all.

Finally, the day came when my militia came across our first real piece of evidence.

The sun had barely risen, my coffee hadn’t even reached my lips, when three of the best in my employ were knocking down my door.

“Thomassa!” They called out, panic plain in their voices.

“Door’s unlocked.” I responded, putting extra bracing in my brain, preparing for the worst.

They piled in, none of them bleeding or holding a stump where their arms or legs used to be.

“What’s the issue?” I asked, my voice sterner than I’d intended.

“It’s the Veld case.” Harold said, holding up a rolled-up bundle of paper. The Velds were a small family close to the coast- two boys, three girls, and the parents, who were beginning to reach their elderly years. Vampires had been spotted sniffing around their farm.

“I remember. Did you finish the job?”

“Well…you see…”

“Quit it!” I shouted. “Give me the damn details!”

“We uncovered something unusual. Their layer was mostly normal- the kind you see all the time. Lots of booze, rotten meat, a few stolen trinkets. But one nook was different. It was neat and tidy, practically sparkling clean. They had books filled with notes that we couldn’t read.” That certainly was unusual.

“Is it in a foreign language?” I asked.

“Er- well, we couldn’t read it.”

“Oh.” I understood. These men hadn’t learned the skill yet. “Pass it here then.”

Harold passed me a leather-bound journal.

“It had been sealed with…well, it looked like really thin glass. Like if glass was turned into rope. But that isn’t possible, is it?”

“Not for simple vampires, no.” I responded, looking at the first page.

Some of it was written in plain Moldavian, but there were notations and marks every here and there that were…not.

“Boys, I’m going to need time to read all of this. Is there anything else to tell?”

“Mmm. I think you oughta go look at that room yourself, sir. Make sure there isn’t something about it we missed.”

I nodded, and returned to my seat. “You boys can go. Don’t forget to grab your pay tomorrow. Rest up in the meantime.”

“Ah, sir, if I may?” One of the others asked. Windsor, his name was.


“Are we…getting close to the source? The original family of vampires?”

I mulled it over for a second. It was possible. “How did you kill the vampires in that den?”

“Normal means, sir. Chaste cross and knives.”

“Probably not, then. The original vampires are a lot more sturdy than this new breed. Now get.”

After they’d left, I set about deciphering what I could. The notes in here were distinctly not about vampiric affairs- they did not mention blood sources, the Inquisition, or anything the vampires ought to have cared about.

The entire journal was a study on enchantment.

“Vampires…don’t use magic, do they?” I wondered aloud. Perhaps this was it- after six years in business, I finally had a lead.

In the morning, I had all six of my men gather, and for the first time since the company had started, I was wearing my armor.

“Listen well, everyone.” I began. “What we’re looking at today is not a normal vampire hunt. We may be coming across an enemy we have never found before, but I have reason to believe that this will be the most important hunt we ever do. That said- it could also be unusually dangerous. If anyone wants to back out, now is the time. If not, we’re looking at four times the day’s wages.”

Each of the men perked up.

“I’ll take that as a yes, then. We’re headed out to the nest near that Veld farm.”

I let the men talk amongst themselves as we rode out- no sense in letting them stew in their worry. Mostly the newer three pestered Harold for answers- answers he didn’t have.

When we arrived at the den, the sun was nearly set.

“Should we wait for daybreak?” Harold asked.

“Not today. The sun won’t help us with these.” I pulled my crossbow off of my back and led the men back into the vampire’s den.

Nothing had changed from their report, it seemed. Most of the house was messy, aside from the one room that was apart from the rest.

“Thomassa, I got a bad feeling.” Harold said, his silver axe held firmly in his hands.

“Shake it off. We got work to do.”

Truth be told, I felt that bad omen too- but ‘feelings’ were the territory of the Feyfolk. This wasn’t the time to trust your gut, only your conviction.

We filled the room, and I began instructing them to look around for any runes, marks, even a scrap of uneaten food-

Then I saw it. The Mirror.

“Boys, back out slowly.” I instructed- but my own legs would not move.

“Boss. I can’t-” Harold began, but then he began to walk…in the wrong direction.

“Someone grab Harold!” I demanded.

“I can’t move.”

“My arms won’t go!”

“Harold, stop!”

The shouting did nothing. In only a few moments, Harold pressed his hands against the glass and disappeared.

“Damn it! No!” I shouted.

One by one, my militia began to walk forward. Each of them screamed in protest. None of them were able to stop.

Finally, just before the last one touched the glass, I figured- if the only movement I was allowed to do was to go forward, then I’d do just that.

I charged forward, and knocked the last remaining man aside, taking his place with the Mirror.

I knew it’d be the end of me. It was worth it.

“Tell the Inquisition. The feyfolk did this.” I said- then everything went dark.

I had no way of knowing how long I sat in that place. There was nothing remarkable about my time there- I didn’t have a dramatic transformation, and neither did I manage to find Harold, Dillon, or any of the others. There was no landscape to speak of. It was all just grey.

Then, one day, I simply…popped back into the world. After coming to my senses, I found my way back to the city to find that three years had passed.

I wasn’t entirely normal. I had to hide my ears now, as they were long and pointed. The Inquisition, if they’d found out, would have killed me just for that. At least they took me seriously now- seriously enough that they offered me the prestigious position of Scholar.

The one who survived- he worked with the Inquisition now, too. We didn’t speak much, but every time he said my name, whether I was in ear-shot or not, I knew. Somehow, I always knew, and he must’ve figured it out too, because after that he stopped saying my name at all.

Part of me felt defeated- in fact, all of me felt defeated. Six years of preparation, and my militia didn’t survive an encounter with even one of their artifacts.

Only a small glimmer of hope remained. Perhaps a day would come when I would meet an exceptional Inquisitor, who could take my mantle from me, and do what I could not.

As Above, So Below Pt.III

Mist had been in many fights. Since her time at the Sechelt Corps, she had been in life-or-death fights almost every single day. Even after their disbandment, she had stained her hands with blood regularly, though the fights were no longer ‘life-or-death’. Her opponents just weren’t threatening enough anymore, not for her level of expertise.

Mist also didn’t particularly enjoy fighting, not like Fence did. She also didn’t really know the extent of his abilities, which was worrying- but she had promised servitude, which was, among supernatural humans, the highest stakes you could offer.

The supernaturals were proud, generally speaking. They were distinguished from regular humans- and they were always strongest when they worked together. A group of ten superhumans could accomplish more in a few weeks than dozens working alone could in their entire lifetimes- hence why servitude was so important to acquire, and so important to never provide, unless one absolutely had to.

Fence would have a plan. He absolutely would have a plan, because if Mist didn’t step into leadership, it meant he would inevitably have to, and there was nothing Fence hated more than behaving in authoratative or nurturing ways, which this leadership role would require.

It didn’t take long for the crowd to gather. Fence must have put the word out, because Mist certainly hadn’t.

The Greys weren’t a huge movement- perhaps a few hundred people, most of them lower-class superhumans. It felt like all of them had shown up for this fight, since the stands were packed.

“Am I so famous, to draw everyone here?” Mist asked Tijn as he prepared Mist for the arena.

“Everyone knows about the Sechelt Corps, Mist. You guys were legends before Baal…happened. And everyone thinks you’re going to lose, so…”

Mist curled her lip up in disgust.

“Sorry, but it’s true. We haven’t seen you fight in years, and Fence is down here every week, mopping the floor with everyone who will try. Hell, I’ve even gone a few rounds with him. Even gave him a good bruise one time- he broke my leg for it though.”

“I’m sure the good Doctor got you back on your feet in no time.”

“Yep- but anyway, listen. This is important. Our arena isn’t just a plain concrete patch, there are details you need to know. About every minute, there’s a part over here where…”

Mist stopped listening. No matter what the arena and Fence threw at her, it wouldn’t change the outcome.

Less than an hour after the match had been agreed upon, Mist walked out into the wide, open space, hearing cheers, loud music, shouting- and Fence, on the other end of the arena, hyping up the crowd. He’d stripped off his shirt, showing a torso filled with muscles and covered in scars.

‘Well, that’s a bit much.’ Mist thought.

An alarm went off, and their fight began.

Fence wasn’t even facing the right direction.

‘Idiot.’ Mist thought, throwing a handful of small rocks towards him.

Without looking, Fence dodged to the left, narrowly avoiding the rocks that had started small, but grew exponentially as they flew.

“You aren’t starting off soft, are you?” Fence asked, his smile splitting his face- yet it wasn’t a happy smile. This was more of a…hungry smile.

Mist clenched her jaw tightly to make sure she didn’t talk back. She had to focus on the fight.

From within her coat, Mist withdrew a simple shortsword, and began expanding its length in thrusting attacks, like a spear- then, before Fence could recover from dodging, it was already retracted and thrusting again.

The smile left Fence’s face.

He kept on his feet, trying to bridge the gap between them, but Mist kept backing away- since she wasn’t completely sure of his abilities, it was best to fight cautious.

Then the arena began to change.

Barrells were dropped from above, causing explosions randomly throughout the arena- or, perhaps it was less than random, since Fence didn’t even so much as glance upwards while he continued to chase Mist down.

Mist, however, was too used to combat to let that fluster her for long.

As each barrel dropped, Mist either expanded or shrunk them- whichever suited her purpose as she backpedaled away from Fence.

Two of the explosions had managed to catch Fence’s back- but apart from singeing his pants, Fence seemed unbothered.

Eventually, Mist decided to let Fence think he had managed to get close. She pretended to trip backwards, and Fence rushed to the opportunity-

Only for Mist to quickly shrink him down to half his usual size, and slam him down into the concrete.

Fence howled, and whipped out a weapon- where he had hidden it, Mist wasn’t sure.

It was a whip. Fence lashed out at Mist again, trying to catch her- instead, Mist expanded the handle of the whip until the shrunken Fence couldn’t physically hold it anymore.

“Enough games!” Fence shouted, charging in yet again.

Mist pretended to begin her backpedaling and sword technique again- only to encourage Fence’s charge- and instead met him with a full offensive counterattack.

Fence led in with a wild right hook, which Mist simply stepped inside of, and gave a short, powerful punch to Fence’s ribs. She felt them crack under the pressure.

Fence barely flinched. He grabbed Mist around the neck to hold her still, and landed his first attack of the round.

Even disadvantaged as he was, the brutal force of his punch sent Mist reeling.

Then she saw red.

Mist wasn’t sure what happened next, because every time she sustained real damage in combat, some kind of feral side took over. When she regained her senses, Fence was crumpled on the ground in front of her, bleeding from his mouth, unconscious.

The crowd had gone silent.

Then Tijn chimed up from over a loudspeaker. “Victor, Mist!”

Some half-hearted cheers from the crowd. Fence was clearly the favorite.

Doctor Rochelle split apart from the crowd and came to assess Fence.

“You don’t do anything with half-measures, huh?” She asked as she knelt down.

“I’m fine, Doc.” Fence protested, apparently awake. “No hard feelings, Mist. I didn’t know you had that side to ya.” He had a small grin back on his lips.

“Right.” Mist suddenly felt rather awkward. “Once you’re healed up, your two weeks will begin.”

“What’s the first job?”

“A new superhuman emerged, and Baal kidnapped him. We need him out of Baal’s hands. He has the power to wipe all of us out.”

“Even you?” Fence asked, trying to sit up.

“Even me.”

As Above, So Below, Pt. I & II

Superhero society was small. Turns out, all the movies and comics got one thing wrong- the average person, endowed with special abilities, used it almost exclusively for their own gain, and they clung to anonymity carefully, lest they be manipulated into servitude.

I wasn’t aware of all that. In fact, I, like most people, wasn’t even aware that ‘super powers’ even existed, until it was too late.

On the night of my eighteenth birthday, I was celebrating in the traditional fashion. Going to the bar, to have my ‘first drinks’. Of course, I’d already had a few beers in private with my friends- but my parents didn’t know that.

While my Dad secured us a table, Mom and I read over their menus- I was in charge of selecting the booze, and she, the food.

“You like soft shell tacos, right?” Mom asked.

“You bet. Messy, though, if we’re all going to be drinking.”

“Good point.” She replied, and looked over the menu again.

I’d made a deal with Mom and Dad- if I stayed sober until my 18th, they had to keep up with me, drink for drink, and drinking whatever I was drinking. I was in the mood to mess with them a little bit- I was thinking I’d start with a G&T, then rum and coke, then beer, and, if I was sure I wanted all of us to be ill, I’d add wine somewhere in there.

Not that they’d done anything to annoy me- I just thought it’d be funny.

Dad came back and showed us to our table.

“Why is it so busy?” I asked.

“Turns out it’s a trivia night.” Dad replied.

“Oh.” I thought about it for a moment.

“Should we find somewhere else?” Mom asked.

“Nah! It might be fun.” I responded as we took our seats.

The night began, and my parents gave me mockingly scolding looks as my drink selections got progressively stranger.

Finally, after we finished our third round, the trivia started.

Table 1 was asked random trivia about Harry Potter- which they got wrong, but I stole the answer right after. Didn’t everyone know Cedric Diggory’s dad’s name? I thought that was pretty common knowledge.

They came to us, Table 2, and asked what the basic needs for achieving flight were. Dad was a pilot, so he answered- but I mouthed the answer right along with him.

Mom looked at me with an arched eyebrow.

Table 3 got their answer right- one of them must’ve been a marine biologist to know that one.

Why were these questions so difficult?

Our fourth round of drinks arrived, and I nodded gratefully at the waitress.

“What’s in this?” Dad asked after the first sip.

“This is the Brown Sugar Grapefruit Whisky Smash. Brown sugar bourbon, a quarter of a grapefruit, simple syrup made from cane sugar, mint leaves, ice cubes, served in a julep glass.” I responded without thinking.

“Did you take a mixology course or something?” Dad asked.

“Nope. I mean, you can taste it, can’t you? The flavors are pretty obvious.”

“Hmm.” Dad said.

The trivia came back to us- except, while we were distracted, the host had changed. There was now a very tall, lanky man asking the questions.

“Where were you when the lines were drawn across the Universe?” He seemed to be addressing me moreso than the whole table.

“I was but scattered energy, coherent of nothing, wanting for nothing.”

The lights seemed a touch dimmer now than they had been a moment ago.

“Who is it that gives the orders to the ocean, instructing when it can rise and fall?”

“Baalschepsuit, the man who usurped God.” The answer came out of me automatically, as though I was required to speak.

“And where is Baalschepsuit now?” The man asked.

“He is with you now, is he not? He stands behind you.”

The lanky man whipped around, shock and fear plain on his face- only to be met with a powerful fist.

The lanky man crashed into the crowd, who had been, for some time, completely motionless. I hadn’t really registered that until now.

“Yours is a most interesting ability, young man.” Baal stepped out from behind the darkness. “These people you were speaking with, they meant to recruit you. They had discovered your power. But- I think I can offer you a better deal. Come serve me, and you will want for nothing. Refuse, and I will render your tongue into scalded ash.”

This man radiated power. True power. I had met high profile people before, Dad often piloted for them. Some of them had charisma, or an intimidating presence.

This was something else. I knew it was his power that bade me to speak, that had frozen the crowd. I was helpless before him- and there was no sense in dying for a cause I didn’t even know existed.

I stood, and approached Baal, though my legs trembled with fear.

“Where are we going?” A small part of my mind continued to be aware that my responses may have been…compromised, as though Baal controlled not only time, and immense power, but also some element of mind control.

Baal smiled, and rows of crooked, sharp teeth revealed themselves- rather like a shark’s mouth might have, if it was forced into human shape.

“Heaven. As you know, I am in command up there. You will find it…somewhat different than you have been led to believe.”

With that, Baal and I left the bar, and Earth, behind.

The lanky man was known as Ibis. He had discovered his own power many years before- the simple ability to detect and concentrate energy. This was the same ability that led to the emergence of the human race- though it was not Ibis who had done it, but Ibis’s predecessor, who had served the original God.

His jaw was broken- twice, if he was not mistaken. The pain clouded his thoughts. How had he not detected Baal’s presence?

“Mistrah, help.” He called into his radio, hoping she was close enough to hear and respond.

Ibis waited, trying to clear his thoughts. He may have been internally bleeding in his brain. He needed a hospital.

Mist showed up before long. She was nearly as tall as the man she came to save, but instead of Ibis’s own characteristic jerkiness and awkwardness, her every step was fluid and graceful. “Another failed recruitment?”

“Not like other time. Found new power, looked. Baal came.”

“Oh, Gods above.” Mist pulled her dark red hair back from her face as she saw Ibis’s jaw. “Well, he didn’t outright kill you.”

“New recruit young.” Ibis said.

“Didn’t want to scare him too badly. I see.” Mist pulled Ibis from his spot on the ground. “Let’s get out of here before the Humans wake up.”

“Gotta help him. Just little kid.” Every word hurt to form, but Ibis knew once he was in the hospital he wouldn’t be coming out for a while. “Big threat. Knows everything.”

“He knows everything?” Mist asked.

Ibis nodded.

“Well…if we can’t save him before the week is out, then we’ll have to kill him. He could tell Baal where we’re hiding- or where God is licking his wounds, waiting to return.”

“Don’t kill.”

“I will if I have to, Ibis. Let’s pray that it doesn’t come to that.”


Mist didn’t bring Ibis to a regular hospital- regular hospitals wouldn’t have been able to endure a long-term stay with him.

Ibis was aware of this, of course. Whenever he needed to heal, whenever he slept, Ibis drew energy in from the area around him. If he wasn’t in one of his special sleeping pods, he could easily have killed the people around him by drawing on their power.

Luckily, the Grey had prepared for people like him.

The Grey were an underground movement trying to oppose Baal- they weren’t large, well-organized, or even especially powerful, but they had managed to hide from Baal’s sight for a long time. That was more than any of the other opposition had managed.

Hell, they were doing better than God’s own angels had managed to do- assuming the angels were even trying to save God in the first place.

Upon reflection, perhaps it was because the Grey were weak that they had survived.

Mist followed her usual route towards their underground safe house- it was disguised as an abandoned skate park, and was surprisingly large. Most of their actual equipment and services took place three or more stories deep, far away from any mundane prying eyes.

Mist kept Ibis in her purse. Reshaping people’s structure wasn’t easy, per se, but she had become quite good at it. She could hear him trying to keep cool, but his jaw must’ve hurt a lot. Ibis wasn’t one to complain…yet he was definitely complaining.

Eventually, Mist reached her destination. Four floors underground, there was a peculiar disbarred doctor who was somehow intimately familiar with the supernatural beings she surrounded herself with- she understood the scope of their abilities and how to effectively treat around them.

“Good evening, Doctor Rochelle.”

“Ibis?” She asked, indicating Mist’s purse.

“Indeed. You knew he was here?”

“I have sharp ears.”

“He got punched by… a tremendous force.” Mist said, as she pulled Ibis free from her purse.

Ibis, in this scale, looked very much like a pen.

Mist allowed Ibis to return to his original shape, slowly, so he wouldn’t become ill from the process.

“Jesus, Ibis…” Doctor Rochelle said as she palpated along his jaw. “The whole damn thing is pretty much shattered. Gonna have to test you for concussions and brain bleeds, too. We have your special sleeping pod prepared, as well.”


Mist prepared to leave, only to find herself hemmed in by six of the other Greys.

“Mist, we’d like to speak with you.”

“No.” She said neutrally, and walked through the group.

“Please, Mist!” One of them called out to her. Tijn, this one was called. He was a young man, perhaps seventeen, a bit short for his age, earnest and hardworking.

“I know what you want, Tijn, and the answer has not changed.”

“We’re bleeding members, Mist. We will never make any headway without you.”

Mist could feel every pair of eyes on her back as she walked away.

The Grey had been hunting for a leader for years. Some had tried to fill the role, but it wasn’t the kind of task you could simply slide into. Mist had…relevant experience. She also had a firm desire to never put someone else’s life at risk ever again. She’d lost friends, people who were practically family-

Mist had done enough. She was not willing to become a leader again.

She reached the elevator without further disturbance, only to find someone on the elevator, going up.

It wasn’t a coincidence.

“Fence.” Mist greeted casually.

“Mist. Going up?”

“You know I am.”

“I do.”

Fence was perhaps the only other superhuman who was in the same caliber as Mist. His abilities lent themselves to combat in a way that made him unstoppable against even dozens of regular men. He looked the part, too- his dark hair was cropped short, his beard did its best to hide the many scars on his neck and face, and his nose was crooked from one too many breaks. In a rugged way, he was handsome. To normal women, he probably only looked dangerous.

“I have a proposition.” Fence said, pushing the ground floor button.


“Shut up, Mist. You don’t even know what I’m offering.”

“Don’t really care-“

“Even if it has to do with the Sechelt Corps?” Fence asked, a grim smile on his lips.

Mist felt a chill crawl up her spine, drawing her to her full height. “If you’re fucking with me, Fence, I will kill you, regardless of how many Greys they put in front of you.”

“I have a lead. It isn’t a lot, but it’s something.”

“In exchange?”

“Leadership. These morons don’t know battle tactics from their own backsides, and they’re supposed to take down Baal? Bullshit. It’ll never happen. With you, though, given some time, a pissed off Ibis, and what’s left of God?”

“Leave Ibis out of this.”

“He’s our best weapon.”

“He isn’t a weapon, you ass.”

“Well, I guess that’s for you to decide, O Leader.”

They arrived at the ground floor.

“I have a better idea. You’ve been wanting to see for years who’s the better fighter.”

Fence arched an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

“We fight. Winner takes all.”

“How long?”

“Two weeks.”

“Two weeks of servitude for me, and permanent leadership from you?”


“Too sweet of a deal. You that confident you can win?”

“You won’t land so much as a scratch on me, Fence.”

“I may have gotten a little rusty running goods for these sloppy pricks, but do you really think it’ll be that easy? You’re on.”

“Take us there, then.”

With a wolfish grin, Fence touched the B6 button- the basement of the Grey headquarters. The arena.

Silas & The Seven Springs Pt. V

Every Trattuknah was different.

If the family was known for their blacksmithing, the thing may be laden with bladed traps, pitfalls, perhaps even massive axes fastened to swing like pendulums over a thin bridge. If the family was known for their shrewd minds, the place could be filled with logic puzzles and word games with deadly consequences.

This Trattuknah- much to Silas’s pleasure- was rooted in magic.

“This’ll be a breeze for us.” Silas said as they approached the door.

“Don’t be so sure.” Hali said. “Keep your guard up at all times. Our magic is sometimes meant for healing, as mine is, but…not always.” Hali stepped forward and examined the door. “There’s a seal on it.”

Silas looked using what he called his True Sight, and tried to garner the details- but as soon as he laid eyes on it, he regretted his choice. The sigils on the door were blindingly bright.

“Ah, damn it.” Silas growled, looking away.

“Did you look directly at them?” Hali asked.

Silas didn’t answer.

“I told you to have your guard up. The Trattuknah must be more dangerous to pillage than it is rewarding to plunder, otherwise we’d have lost our culture over the many wars.”

“Mmm. Caches of culture. An interesting concept.” Silas said, regaining his poise. “I have an idea. A doll.”

Hali considered a moment. “Worth a shot.”

Silas stripped his armor and enchanted it with a pseudo-life force. Technically, this was the kind of sorcery he despised- but it was only energy being manipulated, not actual life. Still, it did tread into territory that made him uncomfortable. Perhaps that inclination had always been apart of him, since his own form was…compromised.

Carefully, Silas moved the enchanted armor, and through simple instructions, it mimed the script written on the door, perceiving it through Silas’s leather gloves.

“You are probably more familiar with the old language than I am.” Silas said, giving Hali a rough idea of the runes in the spell.

“Mmm…not so much. I’ve done some learning of my culture, but the old magic runes? Those are…”

“I have an idea!” Silas said suddenly. “Take cover!”

Hali watched as Silas overcharged the pseudo lifeforce within his doll and charged it towards the door- as the two collided, the door, as well as the doll, exploded.

The ensuing cloud of rock dust and sand threatened to clog Hali’s nostrils for a few moments- then it passed.

Silas, meanwhile, sneezed five times consecutively.

“Not your most subtle work.” Hali said between his sneezes.

“Shut- aaa- shudda- AACHOO! Shuddup.” Silas protested.

“Well, we can only do that, at most, one more time.” Hali said as she once again took the lead.

“If it comes down to it I can probably brute force my way through most of these- though the magic users of your culture are great, I am exceptional.” It sounded like a brag- but it was accurate.

“Mmm.” Hali said, focused on her task.

Hali swiftly moved the door’s wreckage, and took the first tentative steps within the Trattuknah. The inside had a distinctly different aesthetic- outwardly, the plain limestone walls and roof barely differed from the sands that surrounded it for miles. Within, it looked as though a mirage of moving water painted every wall, casting a blue hue wherever they looked.

Immediately inside there were descending stairs, and little else. “You can come in.” Hali called back as she began to walk, and Silas followed her.

“I couldn’t detect anything amiss for the entryway, but can you feel how this place hums? I bet there’s some kind of artifact here that stores magic energy.”

“There is a certain something.” Silas said neutrally.

The remainder of the stairs passed without incident, as they descended what must have been hundreds of steps.

“When does it end, I wonder?” Silas said aloud.

“Oh, who knows? I imagine they dug deeply to hide from the heat, but this is just excessive.” Hali said.

Eventually, the pair came to an opening.

Hali and Silas tried everything they knew to detect danger, but nothing showed.

“Perhaps this place has already been ransacked.” Silas said.

“The seal on the door was legitimate. Unless…perhaps the most recent descendant of this family line hasn’t come back to re-make the traps they undid when they ascended to leadership.”

“Our timing is perfect, then.”

“Remain on guard.” Hali said, pushing on the door they had come to.

It didn’t budge.

“I will melt the lock.” Silas said, gently moving Hali aside.

Silas applied a liberal amount of heat onto the door- so much so that Hali was now sweating just from being near it.

The door remained unchanged.

“What if I freeze it, then? The temperature difference would cause anything to snap.” Silas pulled all the heat from the area he could, and now Hali’s sheen of sweat froze to her skin.

“Stop, please.” Hali said, uncomfortable.

“I don’t understand.” Silas said, his frown furrowing deeply onto his face.

“There are many options yet. I wonder if it reacts to passwords or something?”

Thinking quickly, Hali recalled every phonetic syllable in the Old Language she knew- these weren’t magic runes, so she was confident she got them all.

“Say each one.” Silas said, holding a spell between his fingers.

What followed was an agonizing cacophony as Hali’s own voice repeated every combination possible, within a six-word limit, of each possible combination. Many were being rattled off at once, and the volume was painful.

Finally, they reached the end.

“Well, that was…terrible.”

Silas looked at the door and arced an eyebrow. “We haven’t tried brute force yet. Cover your ears again.”

“Gods above.” Hali said, stepping as far away as she could, her hands over her ears.

Enforcing his body with energy, Silas lashed out at the door- he threw several kicks and punches, aiming for the parts of the door that ought to have been weakest. At some point, his focus must have slipped- as the protection on one of his hands faded, and he took the brute force of his own punch without anything to prevent damage.

Hali heard the sickening crack. Silas, at first, didn’t react.

Blood dripped from his knuckles. Slowly, Silas tried to splay out his fingers, testing their movement.

“Whole thing’s broken.” His breathing was steady, but sharp. “…Ow. I need a minute.”

“Okay, no problem.” Hali resumed her consideration of the door. If this Trattuknah was based in magic, perhaps it wasn’t anything physical, enacted with magical enhancement, that would get the stubborn thing open.

“Have you ever tried Spirit Walking?” Hali asked.

Silas did not respond.

“I’m going to give it a go.” Hali curled up with her back to the door, and did her best to replicate the process she learned about briefly as a girl- she had been successful then, but a lot of time had passed without practice.

Calming her mind, Hali imagined her spirit as an individual aspect of her living self. She separated her thoughts, her knowledge, her memories- all the properties of her mind- and put them aside. Her body- the aches, the cold, the hunger that was gnawing at her because Silas was an inconsiderate ass- she set those aside, as well.

Her spirit was what remained, and it was through her separated spirit that Hali moved on into the next room. With a small grin, she realized that she must have beat the system the original creators had designed. She identified each upcoming trap- beyond the door was a series of sacred runes, some of which would bestow upon you blessings, and some which would curse you. There was a room that would fill with a paralytic gas, forcing you to manipulate your body using magic alone to escape, or die. Further on was a large chamber filled with scrolls that were out of order- but Hali felt she was getting ahead of herself.

She had solved what was to come, but the door remained in their way.

As she began to return to her body, she heard a faint noise- it was a faint…whimpering.

Hali knew nothing should be alive down here, apart from herself and Silas.

She followed the noise, uncertain- until she came across Silas, who was strapped to a table, his body stripped down and covered in strange marks. Silas, who had not passed through the door, still sat near Hali’s body…yet here was another Silas.

Both looked the same, apart from the clothes and their respective wounds. Both were in pain, though from different causes.

What is going on? Hali asked herself. Was this one laying on the table a fake? Illusion magic, perhaps? But he looked so real.

The one she had left behind hadn’t moved, almost at all. He was still nursing his wound.

Hali hesitated. How could she divine which was the real Silas? Were they both fake? When had the real Silas left her side?

Torn by uncertainty, Hali returned to her body-

Only to see that the Silas she had left behind was now glassy-eyed…and dead.

Silas & The Seven Springs Pt. IV

Sunlight pierced through the dark curtains of Silas’ home- such a blasphemy had never happened before. 

Slowly cracking a single eye, Silas saw the silhouette of the renowned hero, Halibaba, waiting at the foot of his bed.

“Hali,” Silas growled, “you know damn well I was up until the moon had set.”

“Yep!” She said, and Silas could hear the grin in her voice. “However, it is a lovely morning, and I am not letting you miss it!”

Silas had no choice- Halibaba would not let him miss the loveliness of the morning- so he simply had to destroy the morning. 

Opening himself to the maelstrom of magical energy he contained within, Silas gradually built a storm, encompassing the entire city.

Hali laughed. “To think, you have powers like this, and you were merely going to poison the elite class.”

“More civil than what I can do in combat. Poison the food, they die easily, no pain. I fight them…well, it’s happened before.”

“Right, the duel. I heard about that.”

“You’re not letting me sleep in, are you?”

“I’m surprised you can even consider it.” Hali said. “You discover last night that you’re basically some kind of demi-human, and that there’s a cabal of sorcerers plotting to make an army of slaves like yourself- and you want to sleep in, with that hanging over your head?”

Silas took a deep breath. “I would say it is because of this information that I want to sleep in. I know you don’t have a reason to care anymore, but I think I have my first target figured out.” Silas wrapped himself in his blanket and stepped behind a partition.

“What do you mean?”

“By which statement?”


“Well, I obviously can no longer trust that I came to my conclusion of my own free will. The idea and circumstances surrounding my decision to eradicate the rulers of this city are suspect. For all I know, that immortal asshole designed me to be a terror for them. Perhaps he wants the instability I can bring.” By the sounds of it, Silas was dressing.

“Right. Okay.” Relief washed over Hali- so she wouldn’t have to fight Silas after all.

“My second statement- you are a retainer, a hired hero for the local King. While that contract has certainly expired, you still have a role to fulfill, no? Shouldn’t you get busy doing other hero stuff?”

“Let’s call this a matter of priority. I’ve just discovered that there could be dozens of powerful altered demi-humans, all of whom may be aiming towards extreme terrorism, and you think I should go off to serve Lord Whoever, and help him with his drought instead?”

Silas mulled it over. “I suppose I certainly could use a hand. Sorcerer…what was it? Finnick?”


“He may have the ability to simply unmake me, since he seems to have made me in the first place. This is a magical territory I have never encountered or studied before- in fact, Fenrick may be the first. Having another capable fighter with me to prevent that may be necessary.”

Hali smiled. “Sounds like fun. Where are we headed?”

Silas gritted his teeth. “The Seven Springs.”

“Is that…like a hot spring? Like a resort?”

“No. Headsprings are the sources of streams, a place where water comes up from the ground. These places are often considered sacred- did the Healers never teach you this?” Silas stepped out from behind his partition, with a tome in his hand, and his battle armor donned.

“I know what headsprings are, but this sounds more specific.”

“Right. The Seven Springs are…well, my understanding of them isn’t perfect. They are places of enormous power, and they seem to be referenced as a kind of gateway. In all the books I’ve read, they are only mentioned twice, and one of those was in Fenrick’s own journal. My other point of reference told me where to find them…or, perhaps just one of them, if they aren’t all in the same place. It’s complicated.”

“Is it complicated, or are you just stumbling in the dark?” Hali asked, smiling again.

“Might be both.” Silas admitted. “You can come with me on one condition, Halibaba.”


“This.” Silas tossed her a silver coin. “This coin is imbued with teleportation magic. It will bring you back here, to my home. If things go south, if they unmake me, if I turn on you, or if you think you are going to die, you leave me. You return to life as you knew it and leave me to whatever fate befell me. You may take possession of all my things. I keep my stash of gold beneath the floorboards of my safe.”

“Firstly, we’re going to be fine. Secondly, your gold is unsecured underneath your actual safe?”

“The safe has some gold and gems and things in it. Less than a tenth of my actual fortune. People stop looking when they think they’ve found what they want.”

Hali rolled her eyes. “Where are we headed?”

“The desert, about a two week trip if we use the optimal route of ships and horses and whatnot.”

“Should I gather-?” Hali began.

“No.” Silas said, and the air seemed to fold around him.

Hali felt a bit of a squeeze, like her whole body was being pinched- then she felt the heat.

“Could’ve warned me.” She objected.

“Sorry. The spell was finally ready, and I was eager.”

“I didn’t even feel you casting it.”

“I have several teleportation spells prepared in various places in my home- quick escape options.”

“I suppose it pays to be suspicious when you’re intending on a mass murder.”

“Don’t be upset. Look, I even brought your weapons and armor with us.”

It was true- though it was scattered around haphazardly, Hali’s Hero armor was resting in the sands.

“How far are we from the Springs?” She asked.

“Still a day’s walk. I can make water whenever you need it.”


“Not so much.”

“I hadn’t had breakfast yet.” Hali pouted.

“Note to self, sudden transportation makes Hali upset.”

Silas organized himself by the direction of the sun, then began walking directly north.

“What will we be looking for?” Hali asked.

“Some kind of tomb, I think. Subtle, but it’ll rise above the sands.”

“A Trattuknah.”

“A what now?” Silas asked.

“You forget, these sands are my home. Did you think my skin was this dark for no reason?”

“Hm. I thought you’d been raised apart from your culture.”

“They tried. I wasn’t raised here, but I have been here, and reclaimed my lost heritage. A Trattuknah is like a mausoleum, but usually laden with traps. Many, many traps.”


“The Trattuknah houses the bodies of our ancestors, and our family secrets. Each one is different- but when you become the head of your household, your challenge is to overcome your family Trattuknah, and learn everything within.”

“I’m surprised I’ve never heard of this. Wouldn’t treasure hunters target them?”

“They tried. The rewards may be high, but the risks are much, much higher. You’ll need to follow my lead when we get inside.” Hali warned.

Silas nodded. “Yes ma’am.”