Discussion in 'BOARDANIAN ROLEPLAY GROUP' started by Garner, Sep 28, 2006.

  1. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    Ingmar pulled sharp on the control lever and clenched her teeth as the lathe and canvas wings braked hard against the wind. “It is only my imagination… the sinew isn’t snapping and it WILL hold,” she told herself fervently.

    This was her longest test flight yet, taking off from a lumbering, lurching sprint down to climb over the dense canopy of East Wood and then circle out in a widening spiral. In the several hours she’d been airborne Ingmar had made hasty comparisons and corrections to several charts of the archipelago ring, soared low over the brown and lavender crowns of the fungal forest in the Mirelands, and was now arching over the outskirts of the glorious, hive-like web of Alpha Polis’ avenues.

    “Its so… beautiful,” her teeth chattered in the cold high air as she followed the lines of what she assumed must be Mercatoria Boulevard and looked for the bronze and azure spires that were the hallmark of Alpha House. Alpha House, home to the greatest geniuses of ‘Polis, the farthest seeing inventors and, for the past hundred years or more, the finishing school for the most powerful statesmen in the Chambers of Governance. Alpha House, where the original designers of the Ornithopter Ingmar now piloted were most likely quartering the sky with telescopes and looking glasses, trying to find her and follow her progress.

    Ingmar shifted her weight against the clumsy blocks of wood that served as her rudder controls while twisting the axis gear firmly. The Ornithopter waved its right wing in salute while the left ceased its breaking action. Ingmar turned her head to estimate the required turn for her new course and held her breath as she banked sharply to tighten her long, lazy spiral. She’d been up, flying through the air like a bird, for hours now. She’d have to return to the testing grounds before dusk, but it was so difficult to let go of this unique honour.

    She sighted the large clearing in the East Wood, many miles away - days away if she had to travel on the ground! - and stabilized her course. Her arms fought the controls and gears to level the craft, and the shuddering lurches as the fabric and lathe frame settled into its new path once again made her curse the weight restrictions that prevented any sufficient padding. The constant creaking, cracking, and flapping settled into a new rhythm as she turned the axis gear again and pressed hard with her toes to control the tail of the craft… descending gently in powered flight.

    Ingmar was perhaps two hundred paces in height above the canopy of East Wood when she wound the throttle spring back in a steady, practiced motion and heard the horrifying snap of sinew breaking. A strip of the tough cord flailed in spastic panic against the armature of the wing axis joint for a moment before being thrown free and slapping her in the face as it abandoned her and her now crippled craft. “Mage’s Luck!” Ingmar shouted as she tried desperately to lock the wings into glide position with only the strength of her own arms. “Mage’s Luck! I was on my approach to land!”

    The wings locked, but only partially in position for a glide, and Ingmar lifted her knees close to her chest, hugging them tight as she braced for the impact. It was over in the space of a few painful seconds, branches slamming into her craft - angry fists of nature. The delicate cloth and lathe wings were destroyed and buried in the tops of multiple trees. Ingmar clung tightly to the ruined fuselage with her arms as she tried to find a footing on a branch. “If I can just make it down without breaking my leg or my neck… it should only be a short walk through the Wood… I can return to camp by dawn… Oh I hope someone saw me go down…”

    Ingmar never had time to wonder if the cracking, splintering noise came from the tree or the dead Ornithopter before she hit the ground. Her breath, and consciousness, left her in an instant, with her boots and elbows deep in the leaf mulch of the forest floor.
  2. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    Alpha Polis. Worldcity. Layered like an onion, ringed and criss-crossed like a web, greatest city in history, the only city in the world.

    Alpha Polis. To be born there in your grandfather’s grandfather’s day was to be born into a hive, a warren. A maze of streets and alleyways, muddy and scarred by wagon ruts. The homeless and jobless would, driven by desperation, threaten any honest man about his lawful business. To be born there in your grandfather’s day was to be born into a hive, surely, but a hive of paved streets, civic planning, and every week the need for more craftsmen and labourers grew.

    Alpha Polis. To be born there today is to be born into the greatest city imaginable. The only true city in the world. Empires have been raised that ruled smaller domains than Alpha Polis itself occupies. The vast fields and plains and farmlands of our world feed Alpha Polis. The Worldcity stretches from shore to shore, horizon to horizon, and even those wild and untamed islands of the Great Ring have come to know Alpha Polis, have come to do business with Alpha Polis.

    Five generations ago self-termed nobility ruled Alpha Polis, though there was nothing noble about them. Today, the spirit of nobility is embodied by the city itself. The “Technocrats” and “Bourgeoisies,” as the “nobility” derisively named them, have reclaimed and rebuilt the Worldcity for the betterment of all it’s citizens, not for the benefit of some outdated ruling class.

    From the Mirelands to the southeast, from the Mountains of Sleep to the northwest, from the East Wood, from the South Wood, and from the Great Northern Plains, all roads meet in Alpha Polis. Every step a traveller takes upon streets paved with fitted stones is a step taken in thanks to Alpha Polis. Ships with two and even three decks explore the archipelago ring and even beyond. People of all races, of all beliefs, and of course of all coins are welcome to come to Alpha Polis, and there to do business and contribute to the glory of the Worldcity.

    In it’s heart of hearts, Alpha Polis is a living creature, though it has a life that few understand. Alpha Polis grows as we love her and care for her, and as we care for her, so she cares for us, too. From the spired bastion of Alpha House, foremost of the city’s universities of science and engineering, to the low, sprawling compound of the Cerulean Temple, where the most powerful empaths in the world receive their training, Alpha Polis is strong because her citizenry is strong. From the Chambers of Governance where the legislature guides her to the Fora de Curio where the world comes to do business, Alpha Polis is rich because her citizenry is rich. And from the judges and solicitors to the professors and engineers, from the artisans and craftsmen to the builders and labourers, all owe their strength and their wealth and their station in life to the great Worldcity, Alpha Polis.

    But in her heart of hearts… amongst the factories and schools, amidst the parks and salons, around the drafting boards and crystal balls, the citizens of Alpha Polis are all living beings themselves… beings that wish to grow as Alpha Polis grows… and the City is not guided by one common vision, but by many visions, many ambitions…

    And it is there, in deserted, gas lit halls, and in darkened cafes with the curtains drawn that the factions among the citizenry, from the Unions to the Technocratic Bourgeoisies, vie for power… as if they could tame or control the great, the eternal Alpha Polis.
  3. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    When she was a young child, Ingmar always wanted a pet gorse-pup. The thick legged, sweet-smelling pups were covered with scintillating hexagonal scales that hardened as they grew, turning into iron-hard plates with a faint sheen at adult age. Whenever a merchant’s stall in the Fora de Curio advertised exotic pets she would plead with her parents to take her so she could at least stare at the tiny animals in their brass or bamboo cages.

    She often dreamed of waking up to find a gorse-pup licking her face, waking up to squeal with joy and delight as she petted the soft, shimmering scales. She revisited those childhood dreams now. Cosy in her soft bed, she could feel the happy pup licking her face… it was such a familiar dream.

    A sharp bite on her cheek jolted Ingmar awake and she slung the small snake tailed barker rat away from her with strength born out of fear more than her physical condition. “Oh, Mage’s Luck… that is disgusting!” “At least I’m still alive,” she thought, “and nothing seems to be broken or bleed-” She dabbed gently at her sore cheek, then sighed as she felt the beads of blood forming from the needle like punctures, and kept pressure on her face. The barker rat twitched its tail animatedly, keeping its single eye on her but not making any attempt to approach or flee. “Bastard,” Ingmar snarled, and stomped down on the thing’s head, crushing it with her heavy boot.

    “First thing’s first,” she thought aloud, “There’s still light, so I can’t have been out for long. The camp and landing site were straight ahead when I went down… If I just head east… So long as I can see my shadow, that won’t be a problem. This isn’t as bad as it could be. Right…”

    Chewing her lower lip, Ingmar looked over the ground and in the branches above at the wreckage of the Ornithopter, though she was at a loss as to what good the twisted ruin could do her now. She picked at a bit of the wing or maybe it had been part of the frame… just a polished length of ash wood, now, with a long strip of canvas hanging from it. Idly twisting the canvas around the end of the wood, she scraped her boot heel against a tree root and gave the crash site one last look-over.

    “Well,” she sighed, looking at her handiwork, “it’s almost a torch… now if only I had some lamp oil and a lucifer, or even a tinderbox. Oh this is hopeless!” She turned and hurled the make shift torch between the trees, then sighed again and walked off after it, muttering “Just in case” under her breath.


    It was well and truly dusk now, and Ingmar reckoned that she had covered little more than a mile, definitely not more than a mile and a half at the best. The East Wood was thick and ancient, but she’d been lucky so far. This late in the year, the foliage was sparse enough to let light in, but the canopy was so dense during the growing season that the forest floor was relatively clear. She knew she was still heading east for now… but if the undergrowth got thicker, or the trees denser, she could get turned around in the night and veer completely off course.

    Then, of course, there was always the threat of finding something big and hairy that had stronger jaws than a barker rat. Her cheek itched, and she told herself over and over that it was entirely too soon to be festering if the rat had been a carrier. She wished she’d taken a better look at its eye before stepping on the thing.

    Barker rats, especially snake tailed barker rats, were notorious in farming villages near the East Wood for decimating shepherd’s flocks. It wasn’t that they were vicious predators, if they attacked it would take an entire pack of the things half an hour or more to kill a single sheep, but they were often rife with disease. Barker rats would bite their prey and lick or suck the wound to promote blood flow, which they would then drink. On its own this would never kill the victims but an infection with Barker Rot could fester for weeks, and spread amongst the flock, before the initial sheep succumbed. The Department of Agronomic Biology at Eastly House claimed that Barker Rot left the eye of a barker rat cloudy and less likely to reflect light from the pupil.

    Everyone on the Ornithopter research and development team had been told about this, but rather than practice animal optometry they simply invested in a number of ruthless terriers to keep the research compound free of the pests. Ingmar had named one of them ‘Gimgiy’, the name she always intended to give the gorse-pup she never had.

    “Focus, girl,” she scolded herself. “Oh, Mage’s Luck! Do I keep on through the dark, or do I make camp… Do I sleep on the ground, or climb a tree and risk falling out again? I have to be sensible about this… do NOT panic.”

    A dry cracking sound of a twig snapping put a sudden stop to her thoughts, and a severe strain on her effort not to panic. She’d come to a stand-still while talking to herself, and it wasn’t her foot that broke the twig…
  4. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    The East Wood once stretched as far as the Mountains of Sleep, completely filling the Great Northern Plains. As Alpha Polis grew, the hardy timber of the northern forests was taken to frame the houses and fuel the fires of the Worldcity. In time, the northern lands were cleared, and the East Wood became the last habitat for a variety of wildlife from the north. Thanks to the implementation of tree ranching in farmlands in and around Alpha Polis and the refinement of construction methods within the city, East Wood was left untroubled by the forester’s axe or saw.

    There are many species of flora and fauna within East Wood. The ancient trees account for the greatest mass of botanical life, and also act as host to a vast variety of smaller plants, mosses, and lichens. Younger hardwoods are usually only found in areas cleared by fire or storms, where they compete over decades with hardy underbrush. The most problematic of these lesser cousins to the great trees must surely be the ivy-thorn shrub. Ivy-thorn propagates itself like a weed, and is just as difficult to eradicate, but its greatest danger to more valuable trees comes from the damage it inflicts on the soil. Ivy-thorn can drain the soil of water and nutrients so completely that precious little else can survive near its root network. Not until the plant dies and returns these qualities to the soil will other plants begin to colonize the area again - and all too often the first plants to take root will be a new generation of ivy-thorn.

    Ivy-thorn is a staple in the diet of various herbivores indigenous to the East Wood. The unique species commonly referred to as ‘antler-boar’ is gifted with strong teeth and a tough hide, allowing it to pierce the woody bark of ivy-thorn and resist the inevitable spines that give the plant its name. As you can see from these illustrations, the antler-boar’s curiously pronged head growths are often used to keep younger branches out of its way, allowing it to feast on the richest, juicy heartwood. Farmers who live along migratory routes from the East Wood often have domesticated antler boards to keep their fields free of stray ivy-thorn shrubs.

    Antler-boars are not the only unique animal species in the East Wood. A subspecies of barker rat, marked by its scaled tail and abnormally large eye, is a common vermin on the forest floor, and a similarly sized creature known as the fur-spider can be found lurking amidst the branches of the mature trees. Fur-spiders subsist chiefly off of eggs stolen from birds’ nests, but supplement this with insects found on or in the tree bark. The chief predator of the East Wood is a distant relative of the common bear. The clairen is slightly smaller than black bears in size, and has a grey fur broken by large, leathery pads at the hips, shoulders, and knees. Despite their bulk, they are stealthy predators, and chiefly hunt antler-boar, wild boar, and deer. Clairen cubs prove to be remarkably adept hunters at an extremely early age, and have been observed to hunt barker rats and fur-spiders in small groups. I believe the last plate in your booklet of illustrations depicts just such a scene.

    - Excerpt from the introduction to Professor S. Bodynn of Eastly House’s lecture, “Ecology of the East Wood, a Children’s Primer”
  5. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    The fat creature leaped out from under the scrub and paused, as if it had to catch its breath from the effort of moving. It looked like a cross between a toad and a gorse-pup, but it certainly didn’t smell as sweet as the pups! It had a number of loose octagonal scales or plates on its body, and it rolled its large, watery eyes towards Ingmar before the legs flexed and the creature leaped forward again. It completed another two hops with pauses before Ingmar was aware she’d started breathing again.

    Whatever it was, it was almost certainly native to the Mirelands, Ingmar thought as she followed it in a slight daze, her heartbeats still thundering in her chest. She pushed a growth of bracken out of her way with the unlit makeshift torch and followed the toad creature, observing it. She realized this was only a diversion to keep her mind from facing the decision of making camp for the night, but she was thankful for it. Every pace she walked may cost her that much light in the sky, but it took her that much closer to the research team’s camp.

    A cloud of leaf mould erupted into the air. Something grey and hairy had crashed through the undergrowth at the same time the toad jumped, colliding with it as the toad landed. Ingmar screamed involuntarily as she nearly fell backwards, her first thought just a primal urge to run. It took her a moment to even call the word ‘clairen’ to mind, but by that point the cub had already lost the advantage of surprise, and the toad now squirmed free and swivelled its watery eyes to track the bear’s every move.

    She watched in amazement that gave way effortlessly to horror as the toad’s flesh, visible in the gaps between octagonal scales, flushed a dark, unpleasant violet. As fast as the clairen bear cup had pounced, the toad now lashed out with a long, sinuous tongue the dark yet faded colour of the sky during a partial eclipse. Ingmar had a faint impression of old memories, distant snatches of songs from childhood, but nothing she could pin down. The toad took its leisure, swallowing its tongue back into its mouth inch by slow, steady inch. The bear cub was gone. There was no blood, no fur. The only sign that it had ever been there was the disturbed leaf mould of the forest floor, and the look of uncomprehending terror on Ingmar’s face.

    The toad rolled its eyes to her as it swallowed the last of its tongue and then waddled for a moment, as if unsure how it had previously been able to hop. With a slight, almost growling croak the creature bunched the muscles in its legs and hoped into the bracken, no longer heading to the east. Ingmar squatted down for a moment and poked at the leaf mould with her torch before touching it with her hand. It didn’t feel warm; it didn’t feel like much of anything other than perfectly ordinary compost.

    She willed herself to stop biting her lower lip. “Mage’s Luck,” she breathed as she stood up, “definitely from the Mirelands… Definitely.” She knew it was pointless trying to make a camp tonight. Even if she could get to sleep now, she was quite certain that she didn’t want to. She pushed a tiny sapling of an ivy thorn shrub out of her way and marched on through the East Wood.
  6. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    Hiegal opened his eyes slowly and with a surprising amount of difficulty. There was a painful ringing in his ears that he could not understand, and the back of his head felt hollow and swollen. The only thing he could see was a blurry, indistinct field of blue. He blinked twice, wincing from the effort this took. The blue field resolved itself into the folds of expensive fabric. He looked up. There were diamonds suspended over the fabric. Rosy pink diamonds, carved from soft quartz. That meant something, but what?

    Hiegal felt himself lifted up, but not anything touching him to do so. Pictures, images, floated before his eyes as his shoulders were dragged up a stone wall. There, dividing the blue, a line of silver from left to right. Round disks of silver, with small diamonds of rose in the centre. What did that mean? He was lifted higher, the back of his head thudding painfully with a wall sconce. The fabric smoothed its folds. Now there was a large silver disk, suspended on a fine chain. This disk had a diamond, too, but laying on its side… What does that mean?

    Hiegal squinted. Through the pain, he could see a smaller silver disk in that diamond, and inside it a smaller diamond, also on its side. A glint caught his eye, and he trembled, suddenly certain that the disk and diamond and disk would repeat on forever, but he had no idea how he knew this. He continued to rise.

    Now, there, an end to the fabric and pale skin. Then short, thick, black hair. Chin… beard… face. Hiegal shut his eyes and moaned. Eyes. He knew those eyes. “Why?” His voice sounded distant, as if it had to cross the greatest desert to reach his throat, and even there could not find a drop of water.

    “I have more than sufficient evidence to convince the Master Empath, Hiegal,” the other man said. “You’ve been collaborating with those deluded fools, those meddlers who hope to undo the world!” The last words were a bitter, deadly hiss.

    “It is magic,” Hiegal replied slowly, every word costing him the little strength he had left.

    “There is no magic, fool. Your mind has become closed.” The other man reached out, towards Hiegal, and he tried to dig into the wall with his shoulders. He couldn’t look away from those eyes. He saw, then felt the hand reach onto his chest, and there was a burning in the back of his neck as something snapped free. “This,” the other man held up a silver disk, with a rose diamond on its side set into the centre, “is denied to you. As is your life.”

    Hiegal tried to speak, but there were no words he could form. He tried to think, but his head felt unbearably hollow, and much too light. He knew that, somehow, he was floating. Floating over the Mountains of Sleep, over the farming village where he’d been raised, over islands of the Great Ring. The sun set, but no stars came out. He felt, very distantly, his body convulse.

    The other man waited until the heels of Hiegal’s boots stopped beating against the wall, then released his concentration. The body, now nothing but empty, spoiling meat, collapsed in a satisfyingly limp pile on the floorboards. The Master Empath must be informed, but first a servant should be found, to dispose of the remains.
  7. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    The alley terminated in a sloping pile of rubble and detritus, but just before the foothills of that mountain there was an alcove in the left wall. A small sputtering flame danced in a blue and red glass bowl above it.

    “You see? I told you he’d know the score. He never lets me down!” Miter stuck his thumbs in the back of his trousers and stood with one foot turned out in front of him.

    “We still don’t know that this is the place, Miter. What if they’ve moved on?”

    “Only one way to find out, Sim,” Miter clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Come on then, let’s see who’s home.”
    Miter ducked his head into the alcove and rapped on the door while Sim idly kicked fragments of shattered masonry back onto the pile. A small hatch in the door opened and a small pair of eyes looked through at them. A faint, hollow twanging drifted out into the alley.

    “Ah… a good friend told me that Aesh might be home?” Miter ventured. The hatch slid shut instantly, with a precise click.

    “Mage’s Luck,” Sim growled, “Let’s get out of here before a Knight passes by.”

    “Language, Sim,” Miter chided as he knocked on the door again. The hatch reopened, and the small pair of eyes looked out, impassive. Sim looked over his shoulder sullenly, and suspected they were a child’s eyes. Miter held up his hand and with practiced dexterity folded a Creditor’s Note into a small paper butterfly, which he balanced on one finger in front of the watching eyes. “Aesh?”

    “Aesh,” a child’s voice replied in the affirmative. Sim spat onto the pile. It was a girl child. The hatch slid shut, slowly this time, and bolts could be heard drawing back. Miter gently pushed the door open, and the hollow twanging drifted out to fill the alley.

    “Well my boy,” Miter said as he smoothed his leather waistcoat free of wrinkles, “let us venture inwards and onwards!” Sim tugged his felt cap low, and turned the velvet of his jacket collar up around his neck while nodding, a hungry look in his eyes.

    They stepped into the doorway and the girl child, perhaps no more than 12 and small for her age at that, closed the door quickly but politely behind them. She slid the bolts into place and pointed them through another doorway into a long, low ceilinged room. The twanging sound was more audible, accompanied by faint, jangling beats. Miter bent to proffer the paper butterfly to the girl, but she just waved the two men on towards the other room.

    The low room smelled strongly of pora leaf smoke. The room was filled with tables long and short, benches and chairs. Sporadically spaced lamps flickered, the flames enshrined in red and blue globes of cheap glass, the quality produced by apprentices and trainees. Maybe half of the seats were occupied, but everyone in the room had a steaming cup of a dark, pungent tea. The scent of pora smoke seemed to come from those cups of tea.

    At the far end of the room on a small raised platform, two young girls in loose, scarcely concealing robes played the hollow twanging music that resonated in the room. The taller one held a snakeskin tori, and her hands moved like poetry over the three fat strings as Sim watched and frowned. The shorter girl beat a small daja, an instrument that appeared to be the child of a tambourine and bongos, in time with the tori’s haunting notes. As Miter tucked his thumbs into the back of his trousers and set off towards the stage, the tori player drew a large rounded bow from beside her seat and drew it across the strings. Sim clenched his teeth as the keening filled the room, and followed Miter without taking his hungry eyes off the girl.

    Miter stopped near the stage and bowed his head to a short older man already spreading to fat, and sporting a thick woolly beard. He held out his hand with the paper butterfly offered in his palm. “A friend, a very good friend, told me that Aesh might be home?” Sim watched Miter and the short man intently. Without realizing he did so, Miter wet his lips with the tip of his tongue.

    The fat man blew softly onto the butterfly, causing it to rock side to side in Miter’s hand. He grinned widely, and then looked into Miter’s eyes. His pupils were dark grey, a grey that seemed to swirl like clouds to Miter. His voice was husky, and pitched in key with the tori, “Aesh is always home,” he chuckled. “Aesh is always home,” he added with sudden finality as Miter began to grin. Sim jerked his head back to the stage. The girls sat as still as statues, hands neatly folded in their laps.

    Sim felt the hackles on his neck rise. He never heard the music stop.
  8. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    FYI, i've changed Ingmar to Ingred, which is the name i meant to use all along. anyway, here's todays Teasers!

    Hitek Nom paused on the high marble step to the door of A119 Bastion East and fumbled for the silver chain leading to his key ring, safely tucked away in the front pocket of his kidskin waistcoat. The sea spray was up this morning, and he wanted to get into the comfortable dryness of his office quickly. He let himself into the building and nodded a passing greeting to Puola Nom as she entered the foyer from the other end, carrying the morning’s tea on a tray.

    “Good morning to you, Puola Nom,” he called cheerfully.

    “Aye sir, good morning to you, Hitek Nom,” she called back with her usual warm yet respectful tone.

    He climbed the stairs leading to the private offices, his hand stroking the ivory banister as he mounted each step. At the top of the stairs, he could see a faint green light crawling out from under the door to Office 3, giving a slightly repellent cast to the rich carpet ran the length of the upper hall floor. Corten Nom was in already, as always. Hitek Nom took a breath and eased the door back on it’s well-oiled hinges.

    “Morning, Corten Nom,” he said as he stepped in and dusted drying salt from the brim of his top hat on the side of his blue velvet trousers.

    “Is it?” his partner replied without looking up from a ledger book, the injured survivors of his breakfast scattered on a plate on the edge of the low desk.

    “Well, yes, I rather think it is. I never said it was a particularly good morning, however.” The morning ritual was now complete.

    Corten Nom grunted in reply through a last mouthful of toast and ran a finger down a column in his book. Hitek Nom winced, as always, at the thought of crumbs slowly filling the cracks in the spine of their precious ledgers. Clearing the thought from his mind, he hung his hat and jacket on the rack, and went to his own low desk where the previous day’s ledger awaited him. He took a repeating lucifer from his top drawer and lit the loqua lamp on his desk. Replacing the yellow glass bowl on the brass lamp stand, the blue flame now cast a soothing green light onto his work surface.

    While he looked over his notes from the evening before, Puola Nom entered the room with her tray and set a cup of strong tea on both desks. She left without a word, taking the plate of crumbs and streaks of egg yolk that had been Corten Nom’s breakfast. Hitek Nom occasionally scratched his weak chin, or thumbed his bulbous nose while he audited the reports of income for their East Harbour Dock. Booking fees were down, but this was only to be expected at this time of year. Tariff fees were up. That was highly unusual, but a welcome blessing if it proved not to be a simple error. Hitek Nom happily busied himself for the morning double-checking the tariff figures, more watchful than an eagle on the hunt and never trusting the human dock foreman to be able to count higher than ten. Truth be told, Hitek Nom was always surprised that the man seemed to be able to count even that high.

    Shortly past noon Corten Nom stood up from his desk and stretched, then donned his blue velvet coat and left the office without a word. He never took lunch, but enjoyed a stroll about the district each day. Invariably, his stroll would take him near one of their holdings or businesses that he had been auditing recently. Like any Nom of means, Corten Nom did not quite believe anything in his ledgers until he had verified them in person.

    A quarter of an hour later, by the ornate clock on the mantle, there was a timid knock on the door and Puola Nom let herself into the office. She gave a polite bow of her head to Hitek Nom and said, “There’s a gentleman here to see you, sir.” Something about her tone when she said gentleman made him uncomfortable.

    “Please tell him I’ll be down to the foyer in a moment.”

    “Ahh…” Puola Nom began hesitantly. Hitek Nom looked up in mild surprise at the hesitation in her voice, and then let out a soft gasp as the large figure lumbered into the room behind her.

    “That will not be necessary, Hitek. I think it best if we talk away from prying eyes.”

    Hitek Nom swallowed in a suddenly too dry mouth and nodded. “Please return to reception, Puola, I will handle this matter myself. If Corten gets back early, will you please ask him to wait downstairs?” Neither Hitek Nom nor his company’s secretary noticed his lapse of protocol. Puola Nom was visibly shaking as she nodded and left the room, her face struggling between worry and relief.

    Hitek Nom stood up to his full three and a half feet height and rapped his knuckles on the desk in a nervous rhythm. “Well, what is this about,” he asked in a voice that surprised him in its calmness.

    “Oh, I think you know, little Nom. I think you know very well,” the intruder rumbled.
  9. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    “When I was little,” Ingred told herself, “I always used to beg mother to let me stay out past dark. We lived in a nice neighbourhood. The streets were safe even if they weren’t lit. Dark never scared me.” A bush next to her rustled as she drew near it, and she flailed at it with her makeshift torch in a rage that would be properly aimed at her own fear.

    She caught her breath after a moment, leaning against a tree and looking up into the dark night sky. No stars penetrated through the canopy here. “I wasn’t afraid of the dark then, and I’ll be damned for a Nom’s Beard before I start acting the child now.” She pointedly ignored the bush she had attacked, but in the back of her mind she felt the leaves and branches glare at her reproachfully. Ingred took hold of herself and fought down the urge to say, “Sorry.”

    She continued speaking aloud as she walked on, praying that she was heading in the right direction but refusing to waste the entire night sitting still. “This has got to stop. I’m a grown adult. I studied at Alpha House; I passed the physical training for the Ornithopter Pilot project. I’m rational, resourceful, and,” there was another shaking in the undergrowth, somewhere behind her, “as frightened as a snot nosed child!” she finished weakly.

    Ingred bit her lower lip hard enough to notice the pain, and debated her options. Run, stand still, or carry on as if she’d heard nothing. So far she’d seen nothing worse than a rabbit or once a badger, but the memory of that toad creature was never long from returning as soon as she felt safe.

    “You argue with yourself a lot, you know that?” The calm, self-assured voice was more frightening than she would ever admit possible.

    “Who’s there? Who are you,” she demanded angrily. Then hope leapt into her voice, “Are you from the research team??”

    The brush rustled behind her again and she turned to peer into the darkness. A darkshade was lifted from a cold-lantern, and Ingred shut her eyes against the sudden, painful light. “Alo Berni, forest patrol. You’re a long way from anywhere, miss.”

    Still squinting her eyes tight against the cold-lantern’s glare, Ingred felt her body flood with relief. Forest patrol! Thank the gods! “Oh mercy, I can’t believe you found me! Listen, it’s vitally important I get back to my base camp as soon as possible. We’re in region GH-12, can you get me there tonight?” She felt the light move down slightly, and risked opening her eyes, but the glare still hid everything from view except for her boots, and the boots of her rescuer.

    “GH-12? No can do… the Knights told us that area was off limits, and I’m afraid I can’t violate orders. Not with the way things are right now. Why don’t you come back to the lodge with me, and in the morning my Sergeant will send word to the Knight Commander’s office-”

    “No, you don’t understand, I have to get back to the research team as soon as possible. There’s too much riding on this! They have to know I’ve crashed by now, they’re probably looking for me as we speak, just take me near GH-12, you won’t have to go in.”

    “Crashed, did you? So that wreckage in the trees was your handiwork?” Ingred fleetingly wondered at the forester’s question, particularly his curious tone, but there were more important things to deal with right now.

    “Yes, I’m lucky I survived, but that’s why I have to get back. Listen, whatever orders you have to stay away from our camp, I can assure you I have the authority and clearance to override them.”

    “You know,” the forester spoke slowly, thoughtfully, “it’s an awfully good thing that I found you. People are almost tearing these woods apart right now, from all over, hoping to find you.”

    “Then take me to them! What’s wrong with you? I have to report back to my camp!”

    The cold-lantern swung up in the forester’s hand, causing Ingred to slam her eyelids closed again. After everything tonight, after nearly being killed or worse more times than she cared to consider, now she had to deal with a petty, trumped up police officer? “If I didn’t need this man, I’d tell him to get back to arresting elk for shitting too close to the river,” she seethed to herself. Then cold ice gripped her spine as he spoke up before she could.

    “You’re really the best Alpha House could muster? A girl child who ought to be tied to her mother’s apron still? No wonder you crashed that failure of a flying machine.” Ingred couldn’t believe it. She told herself that the tension had gotten to her, that the night was playing tricks. “It’s a pity that there wasn’t much left of your craft, but I think we’ll find enough pieces in the morning to get a head start on repeating the work. Well, with your help, at any rate.” The man chuckled softly; to Ingred it was the worst sound she’d heard all evening, worse even than the sinew belt breaking in the Ornithopter. The glare against her eyelids lessened as she heard the darkshade slide back into place. “And after we’ve razed your camp in GH, twelve was it? After that Alpha House will be a long way from finishing their flight project.”

    Ingred screamed as she lashed out with the makeshift torch, then barked a laugh of savage satisfaction as she felt it connect with her would-be abductor. Three more frantic swings and the cold-lantern fell from his hands and the darkshade separated as it rolled away. Backlit now, Ingred had a good look at the man. She’d caught him in the face, ruining his eye, but there was also a bruise on his throat already. He wheezed for breath, glaring up at her with hatred in his good eye and she met his gaze unflinchingly. His belt buckle, she noticed, bore the sigils of Bessel Shipping, one of the largest trading and transport companies in Alpha Polis, and a key rival to Alpha House in their efforts to develop heavier than air flight.

    She kicked the man’s hand away as it struggled to reach his belt knife then picked up the cold-lantern and aimed it’s brilliance into his face. She drew her foot back for another kick, and spat the word “Spy!” at him as it connected with his face. Spy! Nothing but a human barker rat, biting and stealing the lifeblood of honest Technocrats!

    He groaned loudly and retched. She looked into his eye as he managed to open it again, and cursed herself for a fool. She’d told him entirely too much; never matter that Bessel Shipping had probably already stolen the wreckage, this man knew where the camp was now, thanks to her. Thanks to her, her teammates, her mentor… her friends… they were all in danger if he lived to tell the other rats in his nest.

    Not looking away, she stepped closer to him and raised her foot. “Bastard,” she said, though she didn’t know if she meant it for him or herself. She kicked down again and again until she felt his skull shatter, but she’d had the sense to aim the cold-lantern away by then.

    She shook slightly as she scraped her boot heel in the earth. “Mage’s Luck. Mage’s bloody Luck.” She wanted to cry, to vomit, to relieve herself… but most of all she wanted to get a hold of herself and stop, as she put it, acting like such a child. “I have a light now,” she thought, “so stop cursing the dark, girl, and get back to camp!”

    She began making much better time, but Ingred refused to let herself realize that she was running in panic and terror.
  10. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    The fat man had taken the Creditor’s Note and, after holding it up to the light and tasting a corner of the paper with the tip of his tongue, nodded and grinned widely. He clapped his hands in a strange rhythm that was echoed from behind the stage. A door, concealed within the panelling of the wall, opened and another slim young girl appeared, dressed in a white robe and carrying a covered tray. Sim stared like a dog on point.

    “Aesh welcomes you into his house. He is home to you, and bids you take your ease,” the fat man said while grinning evilly at the men. Miter grinned back with the same near-rictus. The girl walked slowly towards them and the fat man removed the cloth covering the tray without looking at her. On the tray were four cups, a pot of the smoky smelling tea, a long stemmed pipe, and a covered brasswork bowl. “Aesh trusts that this is to your… satisfaction?”

    Miter delicately extended his hand and reached over the tray to pluck the lid from the brasswork bowl. Inside was a small mound of oily crystals, like sugar rock dipped in syrup. Sim hissed venomously beside him, and the fat man laughed, his belly and beard shaking. Miter took the tray and bowed his head to the fat man. Then, kicking Sim gently in the foot to prod him along, Miter carried the tray to a table with empty seats facing each other. Sim sat opposite him, and took the pipe while Miter poured tea.

    As Sim slotted one of the oily crystals into the pipe and lit it from the lamp on the table, the drummer girl struck up a rhythm similar to that which the fat man had clapped to summon the serving girl. Sim sucked deeply and passed the pipe Miter, which seemed to be the cue for the tori player. Finishing the pipe, the two men held their pora tea and stared distantly into space.

    For Sim, this was the hardest moment, holding Aesh without the release that it seemed to give Miter. Miter could shut his eyes and smile, listening to the music that now sounded so natural, so tantalizingly peaceful. Sim knew he could never close his eyes. Not now. Maybe when the pora tea had cooled enough to drink, but never before then. For now, he glowered at the performing girls, occasionally licking his lips with the tip of his too dry tongue. Miter watched his friend, and considered gesturing for another crystal, but decided against it. Sim could never seem to find release, not properly, and an overdose was a poor substitute. Seeing them set the pipe aside and cover the bowl again, the serving girl glided over and knelt by their table. Miter nodded with a grin while Sim glared at her, and she rose gracefully before taking the tray with the brasswork bowl, pipe, teapot, and two of the cups.

    Soon, the song had changed and the room was full of red and blue light, shining from all around them. Distantly, as if echoing through water, Miter was aware of a loud knocking at the door they’d entered through. He could feel the sweet release building as he let his body drift on the notes of the tori. Sim seemed troubled, or more troubled than usual. Miter tried to focus, and then Sim was standing, leaping onto the table. Miter focused on Sim’s rage twisted face, tried to hear what he’d shouted. He thought it might be “She was just a girl,” but he couldn’t be sure.

    Then the rest of his senses started clamouring for his attention at once. There’d been an explosion, from behind him, towards the door to the alley. Sim was running that way. Miter spun up from his seat, reflexes enhanced even while his senses were struggling to come to grips with what was happening around him. The other patrons of the Aesh den were diving for cover, he saw. Three men had entered the foyer, long leather coats, low brimmed hats; one held a smoking Dragoon in his hands. Miter tried to fly over the intervening table, drawing his own Dragoon. Sim was tunnelling through the earth, his Repeater out and levelled.

    Sim bellowed, but Miter wouldn’t hear it for a few seconds at least. He knew what his friend was saying, however. Street Rangers, vigilantes or raiders – it didn’t matter which. They’d picked the wrong den tonight. That was all that mattered. Miter just hoped it was the rangers, not he and Sim, who’d picked the wrong Aesh den tonight. Miter heard Sim’s roar of ‘raiders’ as he saw the first flash of light from his Repeater. Miter flew level with Sim and reached forward, over his friend’s kneeling head. His Dragoon barked, and the mix of shot scoured the wall on either side of the doorway. The recoil was too much for his current condition, and Miter saw the ceiling with his back on the floor. Sim was standing over him, shouting at him.

    “Patience, Sim,” he wheezed. Sim’s lips moved briefly, two crisp, sharp words.

    “Get up, through the back door! There’s another way out! Knights are coming.”

    “Help me up, Sim!”

    Sim reached down without a word, and pulled Miter to his feet as Miter heard Sim say “Mage’s Luck!” with a hint of cotton and fine parchment to the words.

    They were not the only patrons rushing for the door, but the fat man intended to deny all of them a chance at freedom. He was swinging the door closed as Sim charged it and shouldered the door inwards, splintering the hinges free of the frame. Miter started to laugh as he realized Sim had found his own form of release this night. Sim smashed the fan man’s nose with the handle of his Repeater, and pulled Miter through the concealed basement in search of stairs for the house that must be above.
  11. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    Hiegal Dessi Moris, Brother Empath, Seer of the third Order, Judge of the Courts, Very Reverend of the Azure Shrines, was born to very humble origins. His parents were farmers, their parents were farmers, and their parents before them were farmers.

    Hiegal was destined for greater things. As a young child, he was perfectly normal. Perhaps a bit taller than other children of his age, and possessed of a keen mind that learned things quickly, but he never caused comment or stood out as unusual. Things changed in his teen years. Hiegal manifested the first wisps of empathy talent. By the time his parents were ready to take him to the Midnight Temple of the Divine Mind, Hiegal was well on his way to unlocking his potential.

    He was taken in as a novice within the temple, and performed admirably. He was keen to learn, quicker to master, and surprisingly gifted at unlocking new secrets: talents and espers that were rarely comprehended by adepts of far greater study. Hiegal was loyal to the temple, and dutiful to his superiors. He was watched by the Hierarchs and expected to rise far.

    By his middle years, Hiegal was a respected Hierarch himself. He had entered the inner sanctum of the Midnight Temple, and held a junior seat on the Intertemple Council of Minds. He was invited to audiences with the Master Empath on numerous occasions.

    At the time of his death (officially attributed to cerebral haemorrhage while visiting the Parafont’s Quarter of the Alpha Polis Midnight Cathedral of the Divine Mind) Hiegal was rumoured by some acquaintances to be seeking a path to sainthood. Hiegal himself denied this, claiming he had no desire to manifest an Avatar. No matter the truth of the rumours, Hiegal was known to spend more time in research and meditation than usual in the last months of his life. Speculation on the matter was ultimately put to rest, with the sainthood theory being accepted by the majority of the temple Actives.


    There were fifteen chairs in the room, arranged in two pentagons on the floor, one inside the other. The five chairs of the inner structure sat on nexus points of glowing lines on the floor. The lines themselves appeared to be only light, having no source at all. The ten remaining chairs were arranged in pairs separated by lines of polished quartz floor lamps. The lamps burned a strange fuel that gave off a sweet violet smoke and produced a pale blue light. In the centre of the arrangement was a low table, really a single massive slab of marble the shade of lapis, and struck through with silver-bearing quartz.

    In the inner seats were Hiegal of the Seers, Mobesh Nom of the Telepaths, Marcus Cerebite of the Empaths, and Ashby of the Kineticists. The fifth seat stood empty. By long standing tradition, the hooded men seated in the ten seats around this meeting were unknown to each other, and unknown to the representatives of the gathered temples. Of course, every man there had his suspicions as to who the watching attendees were, but they could be drawn from any temple recognized by the Council of Minds and there was never any guarantee that they would be selected from the churches gathered here in assembly.

    On this occasion, Hiegal and Mobesh Nom wore third eyes, as was fitting for their station. Marcus Cerebite wore a long crystal mask that hid his well-known features from view. The mask itself bore a slot for a third eye, but this was fitted with a silver ornament that had no other function. Ashby had elected to sit this assembly wearing a living tattoo that pulsed across his face from time to time. He was known as a vain man, even for the normal arrogance that was typical of the Kineticists.

    One of the men in this room would betray Hiegal and his research. One of the men in this room would hold the candle of Hiegal’s life in his hand, and snuff it out with a thought.
  12. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    just a couple of short ones today. work isn't very conductive to writing this week, but i've got some better stuff in store.

    Jag was well dressed for a Goryn; his divided robes were tied off around his legs in what Gorynmen referred to as ‘city fashion’ and he had woven his long hair into a crown on his head. This was formality approaching ritual purpose for a Goryn. Hitek Nom swallowed in a bone-dry throat as he tried to meet the tall man’s steely gaze. Jag reached into the folds of his robes and produced a small glass vial, loosely filled with a greyish ash-like powder. Hitek Nom flushed a shade of pale green that clashed horribly with his trousers.

    “My suzerain was most pleased when I told him of our deal, little Nom. He laughed boisterously when he called me Jag Surif. Now my suzerain rages like coastal storms. When he calls me Jag Surif, I hear in his voice that I am blamed for our shame. And now I am here… a merchant like you, little Nom, to sell that blame for its rightful price.”

    Hitek Nom sat down as the Goryn finished. He reached for a drink of tea but his hands shook so much that he nearly dropped the cup twice and spilled most of the contents onto his desk. He abandoned that venture. He gestured randomly with his hands, looking wildly about the room, but all the while Jag held him in a steady, level measure.

    “What is the matter, little Nom? Have you finally lost the power to speak; have your lies robbed you of your talents?”

    Hitek Nom swallowed hard on the bile that rose in the back of his throat. His entire mouth burned as his voice croaked before he finally mastered it. “Jag Surif, Jag Surif there is no need for this. No need for you to come all this way. I… I assure you if goods our traders sold you were defective-”

    “Five thousand arms for the warriors of my suzerain. In return, five hulls loaded with gold and craftswork of my people. And highest price of all, little Nom, was agreeing to your ‘monopoly’.” Jag sneered the last word with a sarcastic hatred. “Five ships came. One brought your arms,” his face impassive, his voice mild, Jag hurled the flask of ash onto Hitek Nom’s desk. The powder drifted up in a lazy cloud, sizzling and smouldering when it settled into the lamp globe. Hitek Nom covered his wide nose and mouth with his hands. “Four brought more lying, cheating, thieving Noms like you.”

    Terror had already frozen Hitek Nom before the huge man reached into his robes again, yet he managed to find his voice one more time. “A- a most unfortunate accident, Jag Surif! The humidity of your isles, perhaps a storm during the crossing… the powder was contaminated with salt! We will be happy to send our next ship loaded with more!”

    “There will be no ‘next ship’, Hitek.” Jag withdrew a clenched fist from his robe and then opened it, dropping the contents onto the ornate rug of Gojo Noma Import/Export Office 3. Terror now loosened Hitek Nom, and the little strength left to him was devoted to keeping his bowels closed. The small, leathery purses that littered the fine rug each bore the distinctive curly patch of hair that was so vulgarly known as a ‘Nom’s Beard’.

    A pathetic snivelling escaped Hitek Nom as the Goryn advanced towards him slowly, patient as a glacier. Hitek moaned in shame as he realized that was not all that escaped him, and the last of his strength had faded.
  13. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    The girls cowered in the corner of the chamber, flinching every time Sim so much as turned in their direction. There was a furious pounding on the door leading to the concealed sub-basement which Miter answered with a mocking knock of his own, occasionally punctuated by the last giggles of the Aesh release. The fat man and the rest of his customers were locked out, Sim having bolted the door behind them. They, and the rangers, were no longer any of their concern.

    Miter strolled over to Sim lazily, his thumbs tucked down the back of his trousers and the butt of his Dragoon plainly visible over his waistcoat. “Upwards and onwards, friend Sim?”

    “What about the girls?”

    “Best if you leave them, friend Sim. This is not the time nor is it the place.”

    “The rangers-”

    “Will never get through that door. The girls would have all the time in the world to escape before that could happen. They must live around here. Come on, Sim, upwards and onwards, before this night is truly over.”

    Sim extracted a slim metal wallet from a pocket of his waistcoat and opened it, offering the Pora cigarettes to Sim after taking one for himself. Sim declined the offer, and Miter lit his own from a wall lamp while returning the case to his pocket.

    “It’s not as good as the tea, sure, but you should take Pora after Aesh. It sooths the soul.”

    “What street do you think this house fronts on, Miter?”

    “Mind only knows, Sim. Hazel Waystation? Could be…”

    “If it is, we’re getting a shuttle. First one going anywhere. This has been a bad, ugly night.” Sim stalked to the stairs leading into the house proper, and held his repeater at the ready. “Don’t stay mellow, there could be others home.”

    “More than likely the house belonged to that fat fellow with the flattened nose, Sim. Besides, I’d only the one load of shot for my Dragoon.”

    “Mage’s Luck,” spat Sim as he wrenched the door leading into the house open. Miter followed lazily, winking at the trembling girls as he passed. The tori sat between them, it’s long, slender neck broken savagely in two. Miter tossed them a small, milled edged coin and exited their lives.

    The doorway led Miter to a stairwell that ascended in darkness. An arm’s length ahead he could make out the shadowy form of Sim, paused tensely. “There’s someone moving,” he whispered.

    “Lord of the house?”


    “Quite like, then. But quickly, too, Sim.” The shadowy form in front nodded, and the two men crept up the stairs and into the child’s nightmare of a domestic room lit only by the faint lights of the stars and street outside. Then there was the tell-tale sound of a darkshade deftly spinning open and the two men quickly ducked to the floor, still hidden by the stair well but shielding their eyes all the same

    “Knight-at-Arms! This house is seized under the authority of the Carnelian Order. You dogs picked the wrong jurisdiction for your fun,” an authoritative voice sneered.

    “Mage’s Luck,” cursed Miter.

    “Language,” Sim chided ironically as he drew his Repeater.

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