Vol 1 chronicles of Nevermind.
Imagine a world where words can hurt, and often do, chained to the past. Change is coming.
The avalanche catalyzed by a single flake. The impurity in supersaturated sodium acetate; a chain reaction caused in a situation where just one is one too many.
Like so many other tales; this one starts with a late riser.
Chapter one: Early worm.
Universes; like everything that can, might, will, did and does exist… they do change depending on your perspective. From within, they may be twice as wide as infinity while when watched from without they remain in appearance, thinner than a skeletons first breath.
From where we're sitting they intertwine stretching away, like thread stretched over the biggest loom that is beyond the capacity of the imagination to perceive; each with its own rules:
Rules, are laws, natural, inherent; Built In. They govern how the gears and cogs of their own slice of reality turn to keep everything ticking over as it should.
Some universes, threads, their rules are absolute anywhere and affect others; depending all on the type of rule and the primacy of the thread.
Thus although the future/past/present/possible Species empire expands through many universes, from their base in the self proclaimed 'home thread'; they are still subject to the might of Centerfold ("non plus ultra"); Perhaps the fifth most 'important' universe.
It's rules can be explained in terms exceedingly simple or incomprehensibly complex; The latter taking thousands of complex equations to add up to the six word version.
Story's written here are made real. There are numerable (If they stand still long enough to let themselves be counted) other factors, but that simple statement is all they add up to.
The world which supports life in this cosmos is barren and blasted. A grey oasis of atmosphere with stormy seas; its residents shut up behind the shining walls of their fortress cities.
Each person whiling away their days screwing around with the casualty of other realities and creating things in their own; with those unsuited or unable to deal with the nuances of narrative set to work, whiling away their days carefully mixing ink, pulping paper and clipping quills from feathers conjured from nothingness. There are no birds left here, not many… and most not of the feathered kind anyway.
The pen and paper is their only invention, it's been the only one they've ever needed.
Those that were of a disposition to be the 'producers' spent their days within the hallowed halls of lectorums, learning the rules and rites of 'ritten narrative. Each carefully coached to conform, following in the path still warm from the passage of the last student. Each lesson with set answers, set questions leaving minds incapable of comprehending that there could possibly be a box to think outside.
And of course there was the final exam; The power of narrative, written or inscribed on material from or of their world is Overriding. The Exam involves two students each receiving a book with all the pages blank but for the first ten, which are identical. They then must rush to write themselves into the narrative and work from within to accomplish a set task directly in opposition to their opponents.
As with everything these contests are judged by set rules criteria and category's.
There is one difference however. You may choose, with the consent of your opponent to have only the victory judged rather than the match itself. In which case the loser is demoted without appeal.
But all of this is about to change. Not a particularly big change, but the butterfly-flapping-it's-wings creating thunderstorms or Errant snowflake starting the avalanche type change.
and as with so many stories, this particular one starts with a late riser.
Calarese, woke to the blare of the post-it note above his bed. He groaned and rolled over, still in that half state of sleep where you don't really want to wake up, but you can still think in a round-a-bout moving through molasses way. However Calarese had a particularly urgent thought that morning, one which sent him from supine semi-sombulance, to fully fledged ninety degree wide awake panic.
With incredible rapidity he disentangled himself from his sheets and marshmallow soft mattress, both as comfy as he could write them. He narrated himself a breakfast from the script menu and threw on his best set of clothes, emerald dusted shirt, sepia pants and a brown calf-length leather coat, heavy with brass buckles, straps and pockets.
He ate the ginger biskut, as round and large as a plate, on the run; Checking his pockets for the umpteenth time to see that yes, he had his best quill and yes he had enough Ink .
He could still make it, he detoured down a side corridor and his feet pattered on the warm stone. If they had rewritten the store room recently, the crates would be high enough for him to run over-
The store room was, depressingly empty. In his mind he weighed up the penalties for being late with what he was about to do. The risk was worth it; so he took out his pen and fished around in his pockets. Drat, no paper. The stone wouldn't hold ink. A flash of inspiration, dropping to one knee he began to write on the side of his coat. He finished the paragraph, drew the glyph, and waited braced for the effect to take hold.
He was kneeling in the corridor only a few meters away from the door of the Trial room.
"Ha, Yes!" He tried to stand up, and that was when the person who'd been until a moment ago, pelting down the empty corridor crashed into him. His head bounced on the flagstones. He fell into blackness.
He blinked; he was in the same corridor. Its indirect lighting, made to come from wherever you weren't looking hadn't changed. He winced as a pulse of pain shot through his scalp, clearing away the fog that had settled on his mind.
The test! He sat bolt upright for the second time that day, ignoring the haze that lingered at the edge of his thoughts, threatening to envelop him if he moved too fast. What had happened? He'd just arrived and then, ah there on the floor.
Emory was lying there, having not yet recovered from the collision. Well filled figure, with a plainly pretty face which had been dusted with freckles, probably written on;
She was in normal circumstances nigh unbearable, for the simple reason that after any length of time around her you go the feeling that you somehow weren't good enough.
Not at anything in particular, just in general. Ah well tough biskut's on her if she missed the test….
He turned back round and began to shake his fallen fellow trainee Danm guilty conscience.
She groaned "Where Am I?" "Not in a book yet Emory, think of something more constructive for the test."
" It's standard practice when unexpectedly losing consciousness, to say 'where am I' when the protagonist or unsuspecting victim is unexpectedly knocked out."
"Which are you? Anyways, Are you moving or not? You ran into me, now we're both late." He offered his hand impatiently.
"Where were you Cala?I didn't even see you." Emory asked him frowning.
"Tying my shoes, I expect you were so focused on the test you didn't notice me." He lied.
Emory, whose mind was, although irritatingly accurate in detailed recollection, relatively slow to recover from both sleep and unconsciousness. Which is why she didn't realize the crucial flaw in the explanation; namely, that in general they didn't wear shoes inside.
Before she woke up enough to notice the lack, he managed to get them both through the door of the Testing room. "We had an accident, we apologize profusely for our lateness…." Calarese realized he was speaking to a room which was not full, as it should have been, of students.
Only seven older men remained. It was customary for men to populate the three of the seven sevens supervising and overseeing the teaching and testing of student's. The accepted explanation was that they were more suited to it than the more senior females who oversaw the production of the cities essential supplies. More than once it had occurred to him that they could just write more pens, ink and paper, but for some reason that was highly disapproved of.
When something is highly disapproved of, getting caught means the most unpleasant punishment your imagination can devise. So at least the justice system wasn't quite so harsh on the hard of thinking… But it was conceivably cruel for the creative's caught in the act of illegal prose-creation.
The councilmen glared at Cala and Emory "You are three minutes early"
Thank the word! My clock must have been wrong!
"Had you been one hundred and seventy seconds later, you would have missed the test entirely. As it was you are only going to receive the second most severe punishment."
Cala and Emory exchanged worried glances. "You will both take your test under normal conditions" Relief " However you will be jointly facing one of the members of our group in accordance with Tradition. You may choose who and the manner in which you are judged, you have the remaining two minutes to decide."
Calarese and emory went into a huddle "Which one?" "Maybe the guy on the end, he looks pretty out of it, maybe he'll be easier." "Yeah, but we have to win outright, they'd Never judge us fairly now!"
They straightened out. "Uhm, We'd like to have our test conducted against the person on the end of your table. Judged on victory only."
"Then you will be against senior councilman and defense overwriter Ash sycamore…. Word help you."
The man on the end straightened out, to his full and rather impressive height.
"I will endeavor keep this short, as I am sure that my fellow judges are as eager as I am for their evening meal.
The match will be a contest of conquest; Two side's, one will prevail. All standard rules and conventions apply. Should your capital be taken you will lose. Should all of your forces die, you will lose. May the best narrator win."
There was a pair of thick tomes on the council table. Ash merely walked up and grabbed one, immediately beginning to flick through the pages.
Both Cal and Emory unfroze and moved quickly towards the table. The trick of these matches was that the first ones to enter the playing field by writing themselves into the story would have distinct advantage as they could choose which side they wished to support.
Chapter two: History is written by the Winner(s).
They stood atop the Dread Spire, looking out over the bleak and blasted black expanse of the ashy planes that completely encircled the City of the Danmed. The entire place was constructed from iron and black marble, the latter quarried from the rock of the towering volcano whose smoke cast an almost permanent state of twilight over the barren land. Around the city were the encampments, their fires appearing as pinpoints of light from atop the dread tower; A miniature galaxy ruled over by the everlasting sunset glow of the volcano. Dedicated and loyal the troops within the camps were formed of the city's population, conscripted and armed for war.
At the edge of this, there was the far-off pass to the green lands. An ancient wall had divided the two nations, where on one side the ash and darkness spouted from the volcano was blown by the winds was populated by its grey skinned and scaled short-lived inhabitants; While on the other noble kings of great lineage ruled over cities now united against their ancient foe.
Even now their allied army, tiny in comparison to the innumerable legions of the forsaken approached for a final confrontation.
It would be a massacre. Emory and Calarese sat despondently atop the dread spire, named thus by Sycamore. From the moment they'd entered, he'd harried them; each time they mustered a show of strength they'd been massacred by him as he unleashed plot twists or climaxes that he'd been carefully constructing the entire time.
Each action by their side was turned into an advancement of his own goals.
Now his side was in narrative terms, the good guys. The good guys always win, especially in heroic last stand style, million-to-one climaxes.
It really didn't matter how big their army was now. Totally Screwed.
"I wish we could have some extra help" Cala commented.
"If we tried to make ourselves an allied nation right now he could just dispel it. The plots at the wrong pace and stage for any outside intervention." Emory commented despondently.
"I meant like another writer… Hey, maybe we could write ourselves a teacher to use against him!"
"Wouldn't work, they wouldn't help us….But maybe." Emory's eyes widened as the thought struck her.
"We could summon someone; Just a simple single page job, but Ash wouldn't be able dispel it because the person wouldn't be important enough to his story to warrant a mention from his viewpoint!"
Cala and Emory got up and scrambled to the middle of the spires flat roof, where a stone desk with two chairs sat. Cala opened the red leather-bound book in the middle, as Emory dipped her quill and began to scribe furiously.
"I'm not going to make a person, we don't have the time or the skill to do that well enough, but to bring someone already in existence somewhere else to help us out should be much easier; even if he gets Nulled then he should just snap back to where he left."
"Right, So we want a someone whose young enough to want to help us and wont freak out-"
"-Old enough to be of use-" "-The best natural author Anywhere, any when-"
"-Who is excellent at improvisation-"
"-And ingenious-" "Creative" "Devious" "dedicated."
They continued on through the list until near the bottom of the page, Emory scribed the Summoning Glyph with a flourish of her own.
"In about three seconds. We should see-"
Light shone through the letters in narrow slits, as though the sun was shining though holes left by the black ink.
There was a soft thud behind them. Emory and Cal turned to find a small child. Pale white with shimmering white hair that was long and straight, his bangs tucked behind his ears reaching down to his cheekbones and his fringe hung halfway over his dark blue eyes. He looked more than a little confused. Shaking his head as if to clear it of fluff, his eyes focused and he noticed them both.
"Please tell me that you know where this is, because I haven't the faintest shadow of a clue."
Emory coughed "Okay, here's the summary…. No the summaries too long. Here's the short, short version. I am Emory this is Calarese. We are currently in an examination where to win we must use a strong narrative to guide our forces to victory. We are losing, as our opponent has a better version of events. We summoned you for help. Can you prevent a tiny force of good honorable men from killing our entire dark horde?"
The boy thought for a while.
"I need the rest of the story, and the rules."
Cal frowned "What do you mean by rules?"
The boy raised him an eyebrow and doubled it "I need to know how exactly I may inhibit your opponent. I postulate I cannot merely drop rocks on his force from the sky."
Emory smacked her forehead in exasperation "You don't know? What good are you then?"
"As I understand it, you don't have anything better to do but explain." He held out his hands, palms up, unworried and reasonable.
How to compress several year's learning and theory into a matter of minutes?
Cala pitched in "If it feels right as part of a story, then it works. Think of it as magic. But anything you do write or do can be dispelled by someone else writing a statement directly opposing yours; unless you have back-story or foreshadowing to give it primacy. So pretty much, you need to make something which to anyone reading would seem like the only way events could have gone and for that matter the best way. While making sure that this side is the obvious victor."
The boy had closed his eyes listening intently. "That's not how it works!" Protested Emory, pained by the oversimplification.
"It's close enough." Commented Cal handing the tomb to the boy.
"You've got about two hours because we stopped him from time-lapsing, so he can't jump event's forward. He has to follow their trek to the City in minuet detail and real-time."
The boy examined the text. "So whatever I write will come into effect." "On a small scale, yes. Large scale workings and creations require a narrative or plot to support the effective suspension of the laws of casualty." "But if I were to create say a sword, would I be able to?"
"Yeah, I guess so?" "A clock?" "Sure." "A ballpoint?" "What's a ballpoint?" the boy began to explain but then gave up. He wasn't interested in just using a pen anyway.
He began to write, shakily across the page pausing occasionally to re-ink the quill, half listening as Emory and Cal tried to continue his on the spot training. The quill scratched and wobbled, occasionally blotting, but writing all the same:
"And from the firmament it came, drawn to its owner by bonds transcending time and space; his tool, the noble lap-top returned to a place it had never been… But, since its construction; a process which had involved minerals and rare pure elements drawn from a hundred different locations to create a single master work, was fated to enter this stage, it could not merely take form from the empty air. Thus so it came to pass, the tome which within inscribed the history of a battle yet undecided was transformed; with all of its awesome and terrible power imbued within the Cin-clair XVIIXVIII as its very digital spirit was pulled from the Aether….
He continued in vivid detail until unexpectedly, the ink refused to continue forming on the page.
The pages of the tomb began to flap, flicking past at a tremendous rate until it snapped shut upon the boy's lap. The thunderclap of its closure caught the attention of both Emory and Cal. They tried to speak but, the air had turned to the consistency of granite. The book upon the boy's lap shivered, like a confused kitten finding its legs and making its first steps on stone.
It began to glow, with a soft white light, growing stronger and stronger till its glare was a beacon across the gloomy plains.
Abruptly it snuffed out, leaving the boy holding not a book and a quill, but a laptop computer. He'd made a few changes; the case was of cut crystal, sparkling black opal, its key's highlighted with ruby inlay's. Neither Emory or Cal had even heard of a fountain pen. The device held by their summoned savior was simply bizarre to them. "What did you do?" Emory asked, slightly awed.
"Where the hell is the book, it's our ticket out of here and the only way we can control this place!"
Cal was furious.
"This is where the story will be entered now. It is called a lap-top. Keys are pressed to produce letters on the screen… Or they would have, had I not also modified it to be in-tune with my very thoughts. An extension of my own mind…. Not that I needed the extra capacity, heh." His chuckle was met by silence.
Both Calarese and Emory tried to understand this new development and promptly gave up.
Neither could really comprehend, the idea was the wrong shape. It gave the finger to tradition and convention, sped past protocol and practice and cub-stomped continuity on its way past; as well as being based on principles and aspects of natural law never even noticed by the inhabitants of their own plane of existence.
"I know neither of you really get it so I will explain. This device is what I write on and with. I now know its contents and the story so far. And because you are both cheaters, you'd better listen while I explain where you've gone wrong."
His fingers danced across the key-board and a lackey emerged from the spiral staircase of the tower-top to place a high stool at the table. For the first time, both Cal and Emory realized that their new best friend was half their height and slim to boot. Which he was wearing. Outsized, with the blue denim of his jeans tucked into them; an interesting look when combined with a grey hooded jumper, with drawstrings ending in round fuzzy spheres.
"Both of you sit down and listen. I know how to help you win, but you should really learn from this."
Cal and Emory both pulled up chairs as he hopped onto his own stool, laying the laptop on the table.
"Firstly, Hello my name is Sept Singlecross. Secondly, you are both inexperienced unimaginative and ill at ease in your writing. I haven't finished." He held up a hand to stem their protests.
"You have a measure of talent, but it's diluted by layers upon layer of dull dreary and depressingly droll dross. You're following protocol? Screw protocol. Protocol is whatever you can get away with!
You let your opponent walk all over you, focusing on material advancement and hardly any subplot. Your detail is superb but there's no need for it.
Your Eloquence is elegant but it's effectiveness is wasted.
You both have been doing the opposite of what you'd be doing to entertain your reader at every single juncture! Now listen close, here's our example number one-
The supply train stretched along the valley, the hardwood wheels creaking as they were pulled by the sweating beasts of burden inevitably upwards. The third man along in the string took a swig from his water-skin, a present sewn for him by his first daughter who'd caught the demirabbi herself.
An arrow whistled down, driving right through the leader of the war trains neck. His yellowing canines were bared as he cried out in his death throes.
From every quarter arrows rained down on the ill prepared and overconfident forces of the forsaken drivers. A hunting call sounded from va'roces ancestral horn as he lead the charge, hacking with Igni's long blade at the fanatical foe. His comrades fought beside him, routing the last of the monsters and losing the binds on the beasts left by the demise of their cruel masters.
-Now I can tell that it was your opponent who was victorious there; but what in the blazes were you doing? Once he started the attack, you didn't do anything to muster a response!"
"Now hang on." Said Calarese, fuming "It's not like we can respond until he's finished his piece!"
"Give me strength!" Singlecross threw his arms up, making him look for all the world as though he was waiting for a lightning strike or divine intervention. Why not!" He asked, with more force than volume. "Uh, it's… just… Because!" Calarese was taken aback by the diminutive boy's temper as much as the sad realization that he could not for the life of him figure out why he had not attempted to actively hinder the senior.
"That isn't an argument or an excuse. Interrupt him, refute him; Have your people conduct their own ambush or counter attack!"
Emory sided with Calarese "How, when we don't know what he's doing?" She folded her arms with a look of finality about her. Sept just brushed it off.
"Guess! Take a chance. It's like the way you've let him name your people, your capital; Hell even this spire!"
"Well…" "I don't know if my summoning and all that will show up in his book. If I were him I'd kill me at the first possible juncture. Will he?"
"They won't because they don't directly affect the plot of where his version of the narrative is focused on, otherwise it would just be silly and confusing."
"Whichever. As soon as possible I am going to anchor myself here, I like this world particularly because it's probably the only place in existence where I have power. Firstly though, it's time to break up his ridiculous attack." His fingers began to dance across the keys as both cal and Emory stared.
"Wait… You want to stay?" "You can't!"
"Both of you realize you aren't in a position to make that call. Firstly, I am the one with the laptop. Secondly I have the requisite skills to beat your earstwhile opponent. Thirdly and really firstly, I Have the Laptop. Formerly your book; I can do whatever I want." He motioned matter-of-factly to the device on his lap with a free hand.
"But…." Emory was angry. He had snapped up the power as if he was born for it while they'd taken years of study to get to even handle a proper book.
"So, narrative; how does it affect your control, tell me."
Cal was smug "You don't know everything after all then"
"I was merely wondering how him being the 'good' side can contend with your superior numbers and position."
The smaller boy expertly arched an eyebrow, while sending its opposite number into deep recession.
In the face of the browbeating nonverbal assault, Calarese gave up and spoke, for fear of having further brows raised at him in anger.
"That would be because your degree of control over reality is determined by narrative patterns."
"Elaborate please" "Mostly, commands are made in seal-time, with glyphs-" "Glyphs?"
Cal and Emory, both eager to display their knowledge to the diminutive person both recited the rote answer "Glyphs are signs of meaning. They symbolize the effect a premade master narrative which after you have read, by being represented in meaning by said glyph. In essence, this makes them spells whose potency is derived from your remembrance and understanding of the text that you have mentally linked them too in meaning."
"I understand; it's like tacking on a very well written and explained treatise but without the hassle of writing it on the spot." "Exactly, there are stories, explanations for all the basic things, summoning and conjuration and combustion, but there are appropriate counter signs which we aren't privy to."
"I see. So you can perform them but you have neither defense against a person who can draw up a counter sign on the spot and write 'The attack failed because 'glyph' nullified the beam of light'. Or something like that. Very well. Tell me, why narrative patterns for the large scale?"
He idly tapped his white teeth with the nail of a single digit.
"It's to lock in plans ahead of time. Though it might be impossible for you to direct every soldier on the field at once, a strong narrative backing can allow you to merely write out the scene and end it with 'though battered and bruised, against all the odds, they were victorious' in advance. Unless you can come up with something of a similar strength, that is the events are supported by all that has been written and occurred previously, there is no countering it. Mutually assured destruction."
The words on the screen of the laptop paused in their rapid journey across the screen.
A grin spread out across the face of Singlecross.
"The good guys you say...."
Athirekar, son of gronbelinveni'r (Custom dictated that the more difficult to pronounce in name the more important a person was.) Lead the attack; they'd been marching three days through the godforsaken hell hole, that was the homeland of the forsaken themselves. They had eaten well in anticipation of the battle; their own homeland was green and in harvest season so they had no shortage of essential supplies from salted meat and game to the all important ale. Strong and long fermented, the ale fortified them against the blasted landscape of the cursed ashy plains and their poisonous air.
There was the capital gates; -For the briefest microsecond of a moment, there was a sound akin to the biggest knife in the universe in mid-slice / They were going to ride in, but the land was treacherous, with pockets of feather soft ash concealing narrow holes. They'd lose more than half and half their mounts again before the battle even started. As it was a bad number of his own men had twisted their ankles or otherwise injured themselves on the way to the field of battle.
He sighed. He'd Be victorious, but at what cost?
Quite suddenly, the ground dropped away; The apparently flat plane had a drop of several feet around the city; and there, crouched silently, shields over heads was the enemy.
He yelled, all thoughts of battle plans and strategy flew from his head as he drew his sword ready to leap down and hack at the monstrous forsaken. His men were about to follow his example when a booming command stopped him in his tracks "Wait, Parlay, stop!"
The leader of the opposing forces had two unexpected things in his hands, The first, a large conchlike horn. The second was a white flag. These monsters were surrendering? They never surrendered!
"Before we fight I wish to have audience with your leader!" The booming voice resounded across the otherwise flat planes.
Athrekar Bit his lip. "Do you have honor or not?" came the sonorous shout.
That clinched it "Aye, You'll have your audience. Come here and speak on equal grounds!"
The leader advanced slowly through the ranks of his men waving the flag slowly, having abandoned the megaphone.
Clambering up the sloping trench that had concealed the forsaken, the leader stood, face to breastplate with his opposite number.
"To what do you wish to negotiate with me Forsaken? I thought you already made it clear that ye aren't interested in any more than conquest."
"How Dare you! This is the first civil discourse You've granted us!" The Forsaken spokesperson's voice was harsh and grating up close.
"We ne'er had the chance!"
Sycamore was puzzled. This wasn't what he'd written. Every convention, every hint, every battle till now had been leading to the final heroic confrontation and rout of the inhumane Forsaken.
He frantically flipped through his book. What he'd written was being erased and remade, fading and reforming. He tried to altar the new version. The ink ran off as though he'd tried to write on stone. Reading the rapidly appearing revised edition of events, he swore severely and redoubled his efforts in adapting and changing the areas that had not been rewritten so that he could somehow combat the changing version of events.
"For instance, The moment the wall was felled by the Quaking Earth, your kind were witnessed running from the gap by our scout's, screaming and yelling, brandishing wicked blades!" 'sli|ce!'
"Are you so insensitive? Those were not worriers nor emissaries, but farmers! The ashey wastes on which we subside require tools a far cry from your simple and delicate hoes and rakes. As for Screaming and charging, that is not a battle cry! The creatures that prey upon us out here, they attack silently and without warning. Tales tell of a great tragedy, two great friends and hunters of legend; however one espied the others back one day and approached him without speaking. His friend, hearing a noise when he was working alone, leapt up and loosed an arrow without thought. Since then we greet each-other from a distance and loudly, before running to the fellow with great commotion, to prevent such mishaps. Would you deny us our culture, our traditions hallowed out from a land which beats us back at every turn?"
"So, Ye do desire our land. You and your forsaken kin wish to leave this place where you've been trapped and imprisoned! You wish to subjugate us! Well, even If I die trying-"'sli|ce!'
The forsaken leader fell to his knees "I will not beg, but I must pray that I may still yet reason with you to stop this senseless slaughter. We are pacifists at heart. Our short lives are made ever shorter by the ever falling ash and the inclement air. We are ever beset by the problems of food and perpetual drought. When we walled ourselves here an age ago, it for reasons selfish and greedy; Our land was the most fertile, our beasts the most prized. But the volcano that gave us this wealth in food and fertility saw that we sought not to share her gifts. The punishment was for her fury to become implacable; although at first we were slow to realize, slowly, ever so slowly we believed this was our fate and that as such it should be accepted, embraced and understood.
Though our lives grew ever shorter, though the water in the great tower; built not only to hold the life of our city but to gaze past the lands of our penance, began to run low and stagnate. We did not submit to despair or hate. Then, the wall fell. We thought that our time in purgatory was over, that we might leave to a new city and travel to tell others of the wisdom we have gained from this dark plane…. And then, as they set their first foot outside the ash… you killed them. Farmers…. Pacifists.
I cannot describe the anger at you I still hold, but I will not let it cloud my judgment. We have killed no one. You have slaughtered us.
At first I thought it was another part of the punishment, to believe that we could atone for our misdeed, the sin of greed so easily.
Now I know. The reason we have been released… is so that we might stop you. –"sli|ce!'Prepare to di-"'sli|ce!"
-cide what the fate of your people will be. No matter what the outcome, what we must do, I wish to end this slaughter and prevent your people from following in our footsteps and suffering the same fate as we have. You must listen to us, heed our words!"
The forsaken leader looked up pleadingly at the figure above him SPLI/CE!
The forsaken leader closed his eyes. The Leader of the men from beyond his Planes drew back his sword with an oath, "NO More! NO MORE OF THESE LIES FOUL CREATURE! Prepare to breathe thy last and pray to meet your pagan gods."
"There is no god left for us." He threw his arms to the sky "I Tried; now my soul can go fulfilled…. And my people defend themselves with clear conscience; for you ignored me and-" The leader paused, almost puzzled as the length of dull steel sliced through his unprotected chest He gripped it hard, black blood trickling through his scaly fingers to splash on the ashy earth where it glistened darkly. He did not gasp or stutter. He slowed as though he had all the time in eternity to say his piece "… Now… Accept… the… Fate… You've… Earned."
His grip loosened as he fell back both into the final embrace of the sweetest and most lasting sleep he'd ever feel and bodily over the precipice of the steep cliff. The men in the front ranks of the forsaken army, bowing their heads in reverence were about to retrieve their leader when their vengeful opponents advanced.
Ink splattered to the ground in fat drops. It rolled off the page like water off stone. For a few brief moments he'd managed to break through, but each time the invisible hand of his opposite number sliced across him and the story returned to the path laid out like nothing had even happened. Now this. Parts of his own narrative had remained the same, while others reformed. There were no glyphs he could null, no plots he could dispute.
Nothing. Like writing on glass and air; while before him events once certain now twisted beyond recognition. These juniors could not be allowed to pass. They'd gotten lucky in this battle, but he still had an entire continent, entire world to plumb for heroes, farm boys and blacksmiths lads; courageous and handsome. They wouldn't win. Even if they had, they were far too dangerous to be initiated into the secrets of the profession.
Only those marked to it could become freelance writers and duelists; they were merely an anomaly that could be filed, Ignored and forgotten. His gaze returned to the now full page. His eyes widened in shock and he stabbed his pen down so hard that it shattered on the now glassy smoothness of the unblemished parchment. "No…" His hushed voice was full of horror.
They each wept, for they knew that with all other avenues exhausted, they would slay many this day. These men, though misguided, each had a tale, a story held about them. Someone would mourn their passing, family, siblings, cousins…. And their killer's.
In unison as the entire incursion force charged to fight against the odds, they did pray for the souls they were about to free; for no creature that thinks deserves to lose their life so needlessly.
Death. The forsaken were compassionate and cold, Logical and spiritual. With unbreakable discipline and a total lack of fear or hesitation, they fought. The men that fell down the cliff would stumble forward, regaining balance and momentum as they fell on the first rank of forsaken foot-soldiers. The overlapping shields of the defenders turned blows, while their counterattacks were precise and without anger. Only purpose.
The men were legion, but the forsaken comprised a force of a size many times that of their aggressor, for every citizen knew his or her duty. With Compassion the third and fourth ranks loosed arrows into the descending forces, while the front row fended away the fanatical fighters who attempted to use bezerk fury to batter their way through the battle-line.
For every forsaken that fell, two would take his place while yet more would carry away and succor the wounded of both sides.
This last act of kindness came at the expense of many, for all but a precious few honorable men refused to stop fighting until they were put to rest and released from this mortal coil.
The attacking force was slain with all but seventeen forsaken unharmed. Nine of those by the very men they tried to save.
The funeral pyres burned bright as the forsaken and their new allies of the recuperating men, left the ashy planes. They kept their name in remembrance of their past, but knew that the future could be changed.
Only twice more did they fight, each time with fewer casualties than the last as the resolve of the men who resisted their spread waned. After centuries of barren soil and stagnant water, Ash, rock, fire and darkness, a new life began to spread amongst these self made refugees.
With unheard of care, resolve and patience, it was they who created this our greatest city.
We live surrounded by life, sustained by our respect and care for nature and creation; now we are joined by those who wish to learn and truly share our vision.
Together we have created the City of Great-wood. Hollowed from within the greatest tree ever to grow of the Giants Forest, we protect the tree and care for it as it protects us. We expand with the Tree and now We protect other Trees, preparing them for the day when we will one day be able to cherish them fully through inhabitance.
However, this utopia emerged from the ashes of greed and needless death. To remember that we cannot lose empathy for anyone or anything, even those who would wish to destroy us; we remember not only the tale of our own victory but also the men's own tales created during their crusade against us. Through Diaries and accounts we have pieced together this, the single history and truely balanced account of both our and their misdeeds.
To remember the past, for our sins and those of others; while cherishing the future and the promises of bright and harmonious progress that it holds, that is the fate of the Foresaken…
And though we keep the name: We are no-longer alone.
The last line burned into the page, as though the ink were the hole in a sheet of paper blocking out the sun in a dark room. Light shined and you could almost hear the power crackling.
Sycamore fell to his knees. His everlasting stylus was leaking, forming a puddle of black ink around his legs. He had lost. How? How had they done it? After years of working to Dull creativity, blunt mind's, set patterns of thinking and rote memorization; action without understanding and understanding without ability…. After all that effort to leave them as useless drones of protocol, they so easily turned the tide. They had Defeated him. Utterly.
"I am the king of the world. Admit it." Sept brushed away an errant strand of his white hair and grinned toothily. Cala and Emory had to smile. Cala shrugged "Okay your majesty. I admit it. That wasn't just a victory. It wasn't a total victory, it wasn't a total rout or conclusive victory. It was an inclusive victory, the first I've seen; because through one victory, one switch in perspective where it counted, you were able to consolidate it into a springboard where you walked all over his entire race."
"It was with his help." Sept chuckled and Emory looked puzzled. "I noticed that. What was it near the end that happened?"
Sept blinked. "Couldn't you tell? Your teacher person was spoiling for a fight and I wouldn't give it to him. So he tried harder. Which meant that when his moral high-ground was reversed, I stopped resisting and started the conflict…. Not sure what happened after that. It felt like I'd synchronized the 'present' of both versions of events, when I used his story against him.
He couldn't create a strong enough plot point to null me… and well- It was like I was writing with both books at once. Weird. Anyway; what now you two?"
Cala and Emory Exchanged glances, unwrapped them and found the same conclusion hidden inside.
"Uhm. The return glyph at the back; It will take you to a place that you've been before, but…"
"Right then… One moment while I see if I can modify it to fit my purposes."
Cala was the first to speak, a little uncertainly. "I don't think you can do that. Mostly because… well they only work with people who've read the story they represent."
"Which you have. I don't need to know anything other than its function and that there is a master explanation model behind it. However, I'm currently working on the symbolic equivalent of a footnote.
When I'm done It will take you somewhere you and those near you have been or want to go to. Just give me fifteen minutes or so."
Emory peered away from the bough of the tree she was perched in.
"May not have that long. Here comes trouble."
Sycamore approached, staggering. His clothes ripped and torn and his body not much better.
He saw them and redoubled his stumble, yelling.
"How! How did you do it! Even my own tome turned against me! Now, week later you are here in this forest, waiting to mock me before you return? Hah! You must have… Must have…." He paused, Unsure what they must have done to win "Youuuuuu must have done… Something…. You. Cheated, yes that's it, you cheated! Liar's, unfair and un-wordly… You'll all suffer for this!"
Cala gave a lopsided smile. "You're sounding a little insane, It hasn't been weeks….." "Actually it has Cal, I time-lapsed a few while you weren't thinking. To give this fellow a chance to walk to our beautiful city.
Can you believe that; Weeks in moments; Going to the future reterospectively. Isn't time fun to play with!"
Scyamore pointed, first at Emory, then Calarese and finally at sept. His lips moved.
"One, all for one, and one for you; two can be as bad as one, one in the bush is as good as two in the…." He seemed to visibly shake himself and straighten. "There are three of you. You have revealed us to the natives."
"I'm not a native and you're the one shouting about losing. I think that we are less conspicuous, however now that you are here; I wish to ask. Will you concede defeat?" Sept's question was sharp and abrupt, while being almost totally idiotic.
Calarese prodded the boy gently, "We don't need to make him concede. We know we've won; that's why it's called winning."
Sept almost pouted "In reality there is no such thing as absolute defeat while you still draw breath. Defeat is a human concept and therefore only extant when admitted or conceded by one or more parties to a dispute. Defeat cowardice and courage all come from the heart…; that is in fact total crap but it sounds esoteric so I'll use it another day anyway. Let's go. We'll take this lump with us."
Emory dropped down and grabbed his shoulder. "Before we go, I should warn you there may be… There will be one hell of a fuss kicked up over this. We didn't create you, we pulled you from some other reality. That kind of thing isn't allowed… and they may decide to sic you and us."
Sept visibly drooped downwards as he closed the laptop with a snap.
"Next time tell me before I write the return glyph, just a thou-" His drily worded comment was interrupted as the four of them were immediately no longer in a lush forest on a world which industry isn't even in the vocabulary of the native inhabitant's, instead appearing about four feet above the flagstone floor. Sept landed lightly on his feet, while Calarese, Emory and Ash all dropped in a heap next to him.
Sept bit his lip and looked embarrassed "Oops… I was playing that one by ear, forgot to specify your orientations… and altitude for that matter. Thank goodness this place has high ceilings."
The three person pileup groaned. Sept tore his eyes away from them as he felt shapeless hands grab him bodily and drag him across the room to a bunch of older guys who'd flipped open notepads and now held pens to them in a manner that sparked recognition from several places in his mind, but was despite that, still difficult to put his finger on.
The first man spoke with his words clipped and terse, turning his voice into a staccato bark.
"Who in narrative's name are you? Why in the word are you here?"
Sept opened the laptop. "Stop! Or else we will erase you." Pens scratched into paper with the barest hesitation.
Ah. That was what they reminded me of; they had the same sort of stance as most civilians do when holding a handgun, overconfidence in their armed state combined with an acute fear of their own weapon.
Sept spoke, choosing his words carefully.
"Notice I have no pen. Nothing. You are the men with the notebooks."
"Answer our questions or we take them by force." Although well into his fifties, the center spokesperson was game and confident that he could underwrite this whelp out of existence if necessary.
Sept grinned. Out of sight of the councilors, the screen facing him had rapidly begun to fill with type in response to his own internal orders. .
He cleared his throat, "I am here…. To tell you that uh…. What'sizname lost. Calarese and Emory beat him fair and round. Also, Is this the right place to visit about citizenship?"
The councilors almost as one began to write the Glyph for Seven-Fold erasure on their pads; the spokesperson taking the time to inform Sept in no uncertain terms that he was apparently a truant knave who'd teamed up with known troublemakers to attack a respected official.
With that six of the seven councilmember's, the seventh obviously being the currently incapacitated sycamore, dramatically drew the last slash for their all-purpose, personal, philosophical and philanthropic problem solver.
Sept, Emory and Calarese quite suddenly had always been wearing earplugs.
The council, for just a moment, could have been universally described with the words 'dumbstruck'.
All six were blown backwards by individual pulses of force that rippled through the air.
The shockwave's knocked them all off their feet, slamming them into the wall behind their table.
Six men, slid down to flop onto the floor; ear's ringing and the best of them barely conscious.
Let's watch that again in slow motion:
They each finished their glyphs. Ear-protection was suddenly in use by their intended targets.
Six notepads were broken down to their component molecules, converted into raw energy and then recombined into matter; this time as a macroscopic ball of oxygen at a pressure about two thousand atmospheres greater than the air around it.
Let's speed up time. Sept is still standing, Calarese and Emory were disentangling themselves from sycamore.
"What the hell happened?"
"I took care of them, this is tote's awesome." Sept commented happily as he surveyed the destruction, snapping his laptop closed with one hand.
Want me to keep going or shall I divert my time to other projects?
I mean was it good or should I go and hide in a dumpster.