This one came a little faster than expected, but I think I haven’t sacrificed quality for speed. It’s just that I had some more time to write in the last week, or maybe the story accelerating makes me want to get to the end faster. Seems like I have to take care not sacrifice length for speed now 😉
As promised, the third installment is up. I’ve been thinking to do short history type pieces on the three main groups, but I realized that they were not of (real) worldwide significance in the Questioned World due to the extreme fragmentation of humanity at that point in time. Any actual history on the actors in the series would be a spoiler, so I settled for a description of the prevalent cultural properties of the Shamen, Survivors, and Unchainable instead. These are much more general and apply to most such groups, whatever they might call themselves around the globe.
Here’s the link, and I hope you enjoy this part too!
The story triplet for Soulhazard’s vol.3 is ready, totalling about 6900 words. I’ll put together the extra material (a short history of the Survivors and their culture) and the front cover and have the volume published on Smashwords in the next couple of days.
I’ve been publishing what’s best described as flash-fiction as linked, consecutive stories of a post-apocalyptic/urban fantasy world of my own creation (or is it contemporary fantasy? I have to read up on that). They are again on Smashwords, under the name of Soulhazard (a play on words with “biohazard”). Here’s the link to the last one, as well as the front cover I’ll use for the first part of the series at least.
This is the second of my Galaxy competition stories. The style of this one cries for being used for something bigger though, which may become reality one day. Also, keep on the lookout for the English version of my last story, Weeping Tree, here and on my Smashwords page!
I wish you pleasant reading!
The fall of quiet drops of liquid echoed in the underground laboratory. The room was filled with the dim light of thought-candles that reflected the level of mental activity of the sapient beings in the vicinity. A large amount of laboratory glassware of various size, shape and colour was spread on the floor and benches in what seemed a chaotic manner. A small part of them contained colouful liquids – some emitted a weak light, while others bent space slightly around them, which gave them a ghostly look. There were books everywhere, filled with ancient and mystical symbols and bound in the worn leather of exotic beasts. On the wall in one end of the lab there was a complex heptagram containing in its center a chunk of unidentifiable material that looked like volcanic glass. As a whole, the room had the typical markings of being used by someone practicing applied arcanism, and it didn’t in any way betray that, which had transpired only moments before.
The candlelight gradually strengthened, and a low moan came from a dark silhouette that lay on the cold granite floor. It then proceeded to move, the long gray robe that enveloped it making a greasy sound as it came off the messy floor. The figure got to its knees and reached sharply for its head, causing the long sleeve of the robe, soaked in liquids dripping off the table, to slap it across the face. A cry followed, starting quite inarticulate, but then turning to one of the rarer demonic dialects. The figure jumped off the floor if a flash of movement and a strong gush of wind passed through the lab. The glassware rolling on the floor made a tinkling sound.
Tirmn the arcanist, professional alchemist and geomancer, lowered himself slowly back to the floor and looked around. It was obvious that he had lived through a minor explosion. His head hurt like the thirteen hells, and he was starving – two sensations that he rarely felt even separately from one another. Still, his scientific interest was immediately ignited by the piece of volcanic glass on the wall. The heptagram was his, he recognized his style and patterns right away. This, however, didn’t help him remember when he had drawn it, or, as he came to think about it, what he had been doing in the last twenty-four hours. This current situation was turning into a kind of mystery, and those he loved.
Suppressing his hunger, he transferred the headache into his lowest mental layer and started examining the creation on the wall in more detail. A series of protection rings created an impenetrable barrier around the mineral in the middle. He had made them one-way and two-way, creating a complex filter for the energy that reached the rock. But what was the purpose?
The outer layers of the pattern contained identifying and transforming steps and Tirmn followed them with a stare that became glassier and glassier the more he understood the construction before him. A portal to the endless planes of existence with the option to freely choose the entry point and the character of the focal plane. He could syphon energy from worlds made of pure Aether, he could drink water cleaner than the purest mountain snow! He could travel anywhere he wished to, in this world, or any other! He could look for endless knowledge…
He realized he was writing down the possible applications on the first piece of paper he had grabbed while his mind was already structuring his one greatest work. Tirmn blew off the surface of the table the charred remains of some old notes and fell into thought. Why did he need to share the discovery with anyone else? He didn’t need to write it down, or even think about this dusty world any more. He could pass directly to transcendence, transfer himself to another level of existence and leave the petty people to grapple with their limited lives. Tirmn threw down the quill and notes on the table and looked around.
He was low on Dark essences but he could easily make more. The focusing crystals were intact, although strewn all over the floor. He had put a regression curse on them himself, which made them return to the condition they were at the time of the spell. All his glassware carried the same curse, drastically lowering his laboratory expenses. He lovingly stroke the smooth surface of one of the crystals while he was picking them up from the floor. This activity made something stir uneasily in the back of his mind, but he didn’t pay it much attention.
In an hour the solutions were ready, the crystals were set and aligned, while all that he would need in the next world was transformed into its essential form and stored in the ring on his hand. He was going to use the energy of the target plane to recreate any needed item. The hunger was slowly eating away at his mental discipline and Tirmn started the spell with the thought that he was never again going to feel hungry. He had found that oftentimes the most basic of desires were the most easily visualized, and thus provided the needed starting motivation for the incantations.
The piece of volcanic glass on the wall slowly started changing its colour and shone with an ever growing light. At some point its luminosity surpassed the brightness of the roaring thought-candles, each of which could easily temper steel at the present moment. Tirmn hadn’t felt that kind of excitement from his work in a long time. His long years of study were finally paying off, he was going to be all-powerful, unique, magnificent! Raising his voice even higher, he opened his arms wide and stepped closer to the pulsing beacon in the center of the heptagram. His eyes could already make out the fantastic shapes on the other side.
Then the protective rings around the portal couldn’t bear the enormous pressure and released the accumulated power in controlled bursts, that were designed to cause minimal damage. The first pulse took the form of a half-second hurricane gale, aiming to clear the space around the portal for the next stages of release. Tirmn, along with all books, crystals and glass on the tables, was shot back with unstoppable force. His trained mind automatically went into subjective time and was able to evaluate the work of the protective layers, as well as everything else that was happening, even though his body couldn’t react as it was travelling with enormous speed towards the far wall.
The first thing that made an impression on the magician’s mind were the focusing crystals and more precisely the fact, that they were going to smash in the walls more or less above the places that he had found them. That could only lead to the conclusion that a similar explosion had happened before. This brought forth the question of his amnesia. The answer became evident in a split-second (subjectively for him – several seconds) when the second energy release mechanism triggered, creating a spherical fire wave around the portal. Tirmn’s satisfaction from the effective use of the barriers was quickly clouded by the realization, that all solutions in a radius of several meters were immediately vapourized and created a misty cloud filled with active reactions. A quick mental inventory of the solutions and their reactivity led to the conclusion that the predominant component in the air of the lab after the end of the mayhem was going to be an effective, although weak Elixir of Oblivion, which explained the lack of recent memory.
Just as the arcanist thought he had gotten away easy his mind made the last connection. He was going to hit the wall and lose consciousness, breathing in the Elixir and forgetting all that had happened. And when he woke, he was going to be very hungry. When had he eaten last? How old were his last memories really?
Icy terror gripped his thought and his command on subjective time slipped. Tirmn tried calling for help, but he had now reached the wall and the impact knocked him out instantly.
The sound of smashing glassware died down and the room dived back into the dim light of the candles. They never went out, not while there was a sapient being, even unconscious. And in the darkness started the quiet tinkle of glass that was putting itself back together.
The fall of quiet drops of liquid echoed in the underground laboratory…
So, after a couple of days work I finally got out my very own self-published story. It will be followed by others, the wheels are in motion now. The Smashwords platform is great and true to its creators’ words – it’s made to help authors get their words to the readers, and not to sell anything to anyone. (on second reading the word “words” seems to appear quite often in that sentence…)
I will not post published stories here, only the links to them for those that read this blog first. Here it is, the first official story out of the box:
It’s completely free, as most of my planned work will be. You can find my author profile here:
Now I’m off to fill out that oh-so-desired interview on the site. Sounds a bit egotistical to interview myself, but who knows, someone might read it and then go read a story. And that is what it’s all about, isn’t it?
This is my first story for the “Galaxies” competition. The desire to make it available to the wider public sparked the creation of the blog.
His breath and sweat were beginning to condense on the cylindrical glass wall of the helmet. With all the tech crammed inside there was no space for cooling or dessication, and the two hour oxygen supply made them pointless anyway. Still, the Operator was cursing silently the engineer, manufacturer, and his own boss for having to spend two hours in the sweaty vacuum of the suit.
He raised his hand, clad in a hard and impermeable anti-rad glove, and moved the mechanical wiper. The leaded glass became a little clearer, but his vision stayed as blurred as before. The pressure gauges of the reactor in front of him were still barely visible half circles, their needles – pale phosphorescent spots that appeared when he swiped the UV lamp on top of them. Everything looked normal, with an accuracy of about fifteen percent, just as the protocol required. The Operator turned towards the wall of the reactor on the left and continued his silent litany towards the ones responsible for putting him as close to hell as possible.
In the control room the temperature was much lower, but everyone was sweating like they were personally in the anti-radiation suit. The heavy breathing of the Operator could be heard from the speakers around the room – constant radio connection was required. Actually the word “radio” was not properly used here, because the radiation made actual radio contact impossible. There was a hyper-conductive plate on the floor of the control platform of the reactor core that acted as a communication point. The left boot of the anti-radiation suit was placed on it and transmitted the signal from the helmet microphone, along with the other information from the suit. This was also how the proper position of the most important member of the team was ascertained.
The Technical Overseer was looking at the image received by the camera on the Operator’s helmet conscious of the fact, that he was seeing the reactor ten times better than the Operator himself. He often had to open the feedback channel and guide the hand of the man in the suit if the situation required it. Right now he was considering such an intervention, and he reluctantly pressed the com button.
“Jim, there is a crack forming in the upper right corner of the wall. You have to seal it. I’ll mark the spot on your display.”
The reactor wall formed surface cracks every other month and their removal was a routine procedure by now. Still, the whole team was usually shaking with fear while the Operator on shift sprayed the spot with liquid sealant that solidified from the radiation and kept almost a hundred percent of it back. They shook because, while the repairs were done, the Operator had to move away from the com plate and the control room was “deaf and blind”. No one had anticipated the frequency of cracks on the reactor wall and there was no other com point in place, and there was not going to be one until the regular maintenance shutdown ten years from now.
While in the control room the TechOv was marking the crack on the active screen, down in the reactor the Operator was watching the lines appearing on the helmet display with silent horror. He cleared the glass one more time and the glowing lines became almost sharp. This time the region was big – he had to spray almost half the reachable surface of the wall to ensure protection by the protocol. On one hand this made the task easy and he wouldn’t fret over whether he hit the right spot. On the other hand, however, if that kind of crack was not covered well, it could lead to the wall breaking down in a week, before the next regular maintenance round. In that case everything in a few hundred kilometers would go to hell, and he would be responsible.
The Operator waited for the “Ready” signal from the control room and prepared to disconnect from the com point. Being left alone in the heart of the reactor was a terrible ordeal, and the operators had regular psych exams every other time they had to do it. A lot of them took long breaks after such an occurrence, and they often did not come back to work.
The heavy boot cleared the com plate with a crack of static electricity and the red “No Com” sign appeared on the display. The TechOv’s map of the crack kept blinking in blue and the Operator tried to imagine the invisible lines on the wall in front of him. After several clanking steps along the platform he came close enough to activate the sealant spray. He tried not to think about the terrible energies that raged on the other side of the wall, and measured the surface temperature. Then he set the heater for the sealant and the auto-stirring container started humming lightly. He had to wait for the thick goo to temper to five percent of the degree. Differences in temperature could impede complete coverage and drying… and he would be responsible again.
Suddenly bright light in the colours of the rainbow burst in his eyes and the darkness in the reactor was split in two. The temperature sensor started a high pitched squeal and the mist on the front glass of the helm started drying out so fast that the Operator saw the core on the other side of the wall before he could react. For a moment he stood stunned by the colourful glow and then the alarms going off one after the other wrenched him out of the trance and into wild panic. His hands had already pointed the nozzle of the spray gun forward when the most important task of the operators in case of a breach flashed in his mind – “Quickly close the hole!”. The pressure in the sealant tank shot out a jet of sticky goo at the speed of fifty meters per second, the figure repeated many times during the training flashing like a tiny fish in the ocean of his terror and disappearing again. In front of him the flowing protuberances fought with the sealant and it looked for a second as if they would win. Then the light slowly died down and he realized that his hands were moving in the standard regular area coverage shape. The more conscious the movement became, the more his hands began to tremble and after a while the Operator’s strength betrayed him and he let the heavy spray gun fall down, willing his stiff fingers off the trigger brace. In front of him the wall looked the same as ever, gray and slightly rough. The Operator took a few faltering steps back without taking his eyes off the spot where the colourful lights of the core danced a minute ago, while his vision slowly accommodated again to the darkness of the reactor. He realized his breathing was deep and ragged and his throat was sore, as if he had been screaming. He probably had been.
Unexpectedly the voice of the TechOv sounded in his ear and only the heavy suit prevented the Operator from jumping in the air.
In the control room the tension was building with every second and when the no-com counter reached two minutes it was clear that the repairs were not going as planned. Thirty seconds later all responsible personnel was called on emergency, and fifteen second after that the Director of the power plant was calling the Nuclear Safety Agency to report a possible problem.
Three second later a crack announced the restored communication channel to the Operator. Reports from all stations started raining down on the TechOv, covering the vitals of the Operator, the environment in the reactor, the condition of the suit. On the screen in front of him the wall looked as strong as ever, but the speakers filled the room with the patchy breathing of the Operator, and the TechOv thought with regret that he was up for another psych report and an extended, possibly permanent leave.
The pressure, however, had left the control room like a bird, scared by a dog’s barking, and was rising up towards the blue sky above the plant.
The Magister of the Third Layer scalded the Mentor responsible for the emotional balancing of the departees. This was the most dangerous case since the start of the spiritual transformation program and he was not going to let something like this happen again. Still, the Magister was delighted by the self-control of the Traveller during the meeting with the organic carrier. Most of the denizens of the Layer would burn through the object immediately, and would thus destroy the link with the other Layer. The Mentor’s work was showing promise, but he had to work on the impatience of his subjects. The ways between the Layers could not be opened so quickly and directly.
Finished with his duty, the Magister focused his attention on another part of the Layer where he was needed. On the spot of departure only the colourful protuberances of the Third Layer remained, flowing through the colours of the rainbow, and so bright, that they would vaporize instantly any liquid, should they enter the physical world…
October 15, 2013