The Black Freres had not prepared him for such an unreasonable foe!

Whilst those hoary old monks, despite being the most highly prized cartographers in Mithradom, had a reputation for secrecy, he had assumed they would have mentioned something as abnormal as the shuddering, transparent morass of a creature before him during their previous dealings. The fact that they had not yielded but two possibilities: the first that they did not know of the creature’s existence, an idea that, even to him seemed absurd, or secondly, that they had deliberately withheld knowledge of the creature’s existence from him.

He cursed loudly, stepping further back along the cobwebbed, narrow corridor that had led into the ruinous central chamber where his commission had been waiting for him, or any other thief or adventurer, to stumble upon.

The chamber, one of many hidden workshops once belonging to the famed blacksmith and inventor Shemaiah ben Nethanel, had long since fallen into ruin, like many of Shemaiah ben Nethanel’s other hidden locales. Such buried enclaves were not unusual per se; every alchemist or inventor of note had left a similar den behind during their short tenure amongst the living. It was the way things worked and if they didn’t work that way, then there would have been no cause for a freelance adventurer like himself to venture into the depths – for a small commission, of course.

The dungeon was old, damp and swarming with the varied and multifaceted life that the darkness of the soil, shielded from the sun by the lush grass and cold rock above, attracted. Like all other such darkened dens, it had enticed monsters as well as insects into its dark embrace. Purple worms, hell hounds and bugbears and other ambling abnormalities, all had been attracted to the embers of fading creativity and light. This was par for the course; he had not expected to delve into the depths of the earth without fighting off a kobold or two. Such reasoning had been why he had first hired Garon, the noble half-Orc companion who now travelled everywhere with him, a man who whilst once having been hired muscle, he now considered his closest friend.

He had expected monsters… and yet still the slithering, liquid creature before him had taken him by surprise.

Continue reading

Tournament Armoured Hero #1

Destronger cultists had held that time was a desert, a liminal realm into which the souls of immortals passed when they had exhausted themselves on Earth. In reversed binary code they had carved their litany and proclamations onto steel and flesh alike, inverted the normal operational pattern of code sequencing and turned it inside out to better express the perverse manner in which they gazed upon the universe.

The steel plates they had slid inside his head, the knotted metal of his spinal column and the burning imagination engine that replaced his heart, each one bore the embossed string of ones and zeros representing the Destronger belief in time as a destination that may be reached by immortal travellers.

Standing beneath the overhang of the jagged red mountains, the man formerly known as Yamamura Joji found the notion strangely comfortable, the precept more palatable than it had been following his rebellion against the cult.

Running alongside the litany of belief was the oft-suppressed counter argument that if time was a desert, then reality was a vast and tremulous ocean lapping at sandy shores.

During the golden age of the Destronger faith, when their temples had risen up upon the grassy plains and jagged cliffs of every nation in the world, the priests would occasionally anoint kaijin worthy of veneration and dispatch them in conical craft across the seas and into different worlds.

They referred to these kaijin, praised for their bravery in life and venerated as heroes following their departure, as heronauts.

Yet the age of the heronauts had long since passed and the Destronger cultists that had rebuilt his body following the death of his son were now in decline.

Looking out over the endless desert, the warmth of his motorcycle at his back, the man now known to the world as MONARCH found a strange calm descending upon him. It was a peacefulness he had not known in a long time, a respite from the sorrow that had besieged him following his child’s demise.

Slowly he allowed his eyes to drift across the plain taking in the three figures that stood at various points before him, their own motorcycles clustered far to his right as each rider explored the desert terrain. Each of them was dressed in the same simple black uniform devoid of both insignia and symbol, identical in every facet to his own clothing.

The tallest of the three, a wiry young man in his late twenties, uniform jacket open to reveal a plain red t-shirt beneath, approached from the horizon, a phone clutched to his right ear and his head bowed.

“No,” he said softly as he approached, lifting his head and revealing sharp blue eyes, “no, we haven’t found any trace of her either.”

The younger man nodded in the direction of MONARCH, who simply inclined his head by the merest fraction but gave no other indication that he acknowledged the gesture.

“She was here though,” the other continued, “Sun thinks she might have spent a considerable amount of time here, she says that the sand is rich with recollections of her power.”

He paused, a slow smile crossing his face as he listened to the words on the other end of the phone.

“She’s doing a lot better now, thanks. Since Star joined us, she’s been a lot calmer about the nature of her power. It’s almost as if she’s come to terms with what nearly happened during that time distortion deal when we were younger.”

Still smiling, he turned to look back over his shoulder at the young woman, her pale blonde hair spilling out over her shoulders and her arms stretched to the blue skies above. A short distance off from her stood a young boy, no older than 13 or 14, his hair dishevelled and the same colour as his own.

“We’ll keep you posted if anything turns up, until then, keep in touch,” he paused, careful not to look back towards the older man before adding, “Oh, and Hao? Take care of yourself.”

Before the other could reply, he closed the phone’s shell and swiftly slid it inside his jacket pocket.

There was silence for a moment and then, with a bemused, arch of his eyebrows, MONARCH reached up and removed his sunglasses.

“Getting to be quite the sentimental type in our old age, aren’t we, King?” the older man asked with a wry smile.
Continue reading

Breakfast Serial x.10

This is it.

This is also it.

This is the archive.

The massive mound barreled through three streetlights — tearing steel from concrete, shattering glass, severing wire — before rolling to a stop.

Black and blue and gray burbled beneath a translucent tan shell. A shell that had cracked, leaving a streak of slime across the evening pavement to mark its trail.

Fastened to the fissured hide with gelatinous ribbon was a parcel. Black and white and cooing a lullaby. A soothing sonnet to pacify. The parcel slipped to the sidewalk, landing on two battered feet. She rested a gentle hand across the shell. “You saved me.”

But, the mound was unresponsive.

His emotional display was fractured and vacant.

Dammit!” The Ten-Second Rule, decked in his AFTA Black uniform, killed his call with the snap of his cell. “Mr. Popular’s line is still busy.”

“And, Grasshopper 1’s homing device is offline.” Deadlift, wearing the same, twisted the dials next to the air conditioning vent with her left hand and steered with her right. “I can’t find a signal.”

“Set a course for Adams’ Orchard.” Gregor perched himself atop the dashboard, his glowing eyes scanning the night sky. “And call Caduceus.”
Continue reading

It’s Clear to See That I Love You More Than You Love Me

She stood anxiously before him as he sat on the step, her head bowed, warm almost strawberry hair hiding her expression. Around her neck a red winter scarf trailed despite the summer heat and over her shoulders she wore a nondiscript grey hoody, almost Jack Wills but not quite.

Her feet were awkward in trainers, box pleat skirt moving gently with her movements as she shifted her feet and diamond patterened Tabio tights unwillingly drawing his eyes down.

About his ears, the curl of his dirty blond hair, he felt a burning sensation of pain, a quiet fire of a truth that could not be denied.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “I just can’t.”

Reaching out, she took his hand and placed within it the sole token of his misguided affection and then rushed past him, the imposing white front door of her house slamming behind her.

He sat quietly for a moment, token in hand and skateboard at the bottom of the steps and then, his limbs like dead weights, lifted himself up.

Turning he saw an older man at the window of the neighbouring house, reaching with spider leg fingers to push open the window, his blue eyes full of embarrassment and cruelty.

Their eyes met and the boy offered only the gaze of someone caught up in events beyond his understanding, the victim of a natural tragedy.

In the other’s face was a sense of cruel tragedy, a rejoicing in the failure of youth’s tender affection, the reminder of an old scar opened once again and the keen desire to see his own suffering reflected on the world around him.

He turned away and the boy, with nowhere else to go, placed one foot upon his skateboard, pulled his hood up closer around his ears and allowed forward motion, the same sensation that had not carried him forward into the absent girl’s heart, to carry him away with the cracks in the pavements and the setting sun.

The white door of her house remained silent and imposing.

Evening Tea Society: A Caucus of Martyrs 0.1

“A Caucus of Martyrs”

The Year 19xx,

Heavy clouds stagnated like swamp water across the sky; a scummy grey skin settling over the surface. The traveler had watched the skies curiously since he exited the steam engine. Secretly he plotted for rain. Were he much for the folly of his religious youth, he might pray to god. Instead, he left it the hands of science – meteorology to be precise – and diagnosed the symptoms; surely it would rain. When he was proven correct and gaps were punctured through the thin jelly overcast, spilling a gentle tide of dihydrogen monoxide, he craned his neck upward; his lips splitting, satisfied.

The air in his lab was always a suffocating blanket of thick, stifling steam and swarthy, metallic blow off from the messy graveyard of machinery he was known to birth and then frankenstein later; left operating in some crippled existence. It stunk of fried metal and boiled electrical components, no doubt cooked too long.

The world after a virginal rain was a most sweet perfume, something he cherished more than the fragrance of any flower. To say rain had a unique smell all it’s own wouldn’t be true. Instead, it smelled as if all everything had been soaked in a soapy bath with a concentrated extract of Mother Nature; everything fresh, more pure.

He had never been this far north nor this far west, but it reminded him of his compound in Colorado. How he wished to lament his grandiose notions, his damnable tower, which invariably forced him to scuttle the compound and sent him back to New York, for good. Nevertheless, the city and society, sadly, had its conveniences for a man like him. Irregardless, he was determined to enjoy his sojourn completely and spare any moment he might to just take a deep breath.