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!
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…