Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Her Brother's Keeper

On the other side of the tent city, Sessus Nodoka allows only the faintest hint of disapproval to cross her face as she looks down at the semi-conscious form of her brother, Lahor.

There he lies, splayed out drunk at the entrance to his tent in the arms of two of his concubines. One of them - a beautiful, pale, twenty or so year old woman from the north, stirs and looks up as Nodoka approaches, and has the grace to look embarrassed by her situation. The first concubine nudges the second, who comes to with a start, and neither meeting Nodoka's disapproving gaze, the two of them rise, collect their discarded clothing, attempt to brush the dust of the campground from themselves, and depart for the pleasure tent.

Nodoka does not react until the concubines have been gone for at least a minute. Only then does she allow the mask of professionalism slip, and the face of the worried sister peak through. She sighs. "What am I to do with you, Lahor?"

Lahor stirs at last, looking blearily up into the eyes of his sister. "... nndoka?" he murmurs.

The professional soldier snaps back into place as if it had never been gone, and she meets her brother's gaze dispassionately. "Go to bed, Lahor," Nodoka says.

Bleary and still more than a little drunk, Lahor clambers to his feet, and immediately staggers, and would have fallen but for the sudden presence of Nodoka at his side: she catches him.

"Come on. Lean on me."

And he does, and she helps him to his bed, tucks him in, and then leaves his tent, shaking her head as she surveys the circus that her brother has made of the Wyld Hunt. In her hands she holds the compass which even now points towards the Ashadar encampment, but she knows as well as anyone else that her resources alone would do little more than rouse the might of an Anathema: it will take the full hunt to bring the monster down. The hunt which her brother has steadily eroded.

"How did it come to this?" she murmurs.

The night has no answer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Day in the Life

He didn't remember his name. Not anymore. Names weren't much use, here, anyways. You either worked, or... well, it turns out there really ARE fates worse than death, and most of them were known to the Overseers. He'd been here, working to build the war machines of some conquerer to the west since... he wasn't sure. Time had a way of blending together, here. The ebon whips of the overseers kept them at their task, but he wasn't sure what else they'd do even if the whips stopped. Building these abominable machines was the most important thing in the world. He knew that now. More important than making sure his daughter grew up to be a good woman... yes, he remembered now, he had a daughter. Funny, but now that he thought about it, he couldn't remember who he'd fathered her with.

The land was the colour of ashes, and above, the sky was filled with strange stars.


Fear shot through him. He'd dropped his pick. He'd dropped his pick! In a panic, he snatched it up and went back to work with redoubled effort, hoping against hope that the attention he'd just drawn to himself wouldn't doom him. For a long moment, it seemed to have worked.

Then, just as he was daring to hope that the danger had passed, cold, powerful hands seized him from behind, and a voice spoke aloud, pitiless as the mouth of the void itself: 'Here's one we can spare.'

He screamed, and he flailed, but to no avail: the Overseer had him, and there was no escape from that. Even as the Overseer, resplendent in dark robes and a featureless ivory mask, carried him shrieking towards the furnaces, he caught a glimpse of the new slaves which had arrived. Supply and demand. It was that simple. A certain number of them were required to keep the forges at optimal capacity, and a certain number were required as fuel for the unspeakable processes which were involved in the actual forging of the raw material out of which the war machines were made. And now he had been chosen.


There were more of them around him now, strapping him down on a metal frame which held his body suspended over ... over... he didn't want to look. He was strapped in now, and he tried not to look, but one of the overseers turned the crank, and the metal frame turned, forcing him to look down upon his destiny: a dark liquid metal which, though so hot that it scalded his corpus, produced not light but darkness visible.

"No, no, no..." he moaned, "Please, I'm useful! I'M USEFUL!"

The cold voice of the Overseer whispered a reply: "Yes. You are."

It poured over him, then: alchemical substances which dissolved his corpus in a blaze of agony beyond anything he had ever experienced, and sent his soul screaming into the vat of unforged soulsteel below. All his fear and pain, all his love and hope, all his joy, all his sorrow, all his trials and every fond memory, all that he was or ever would be, sealed forever, screaming in agony, within.

Behind the mask, the Overseer smiled pitilessly.

"Send in the next one."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Episode 1: Of Falcons and Falconers

Summary: Our story opens upon Ashadar Shan and his expedition heading south along the road from Nexus even as Cathak Yuusuka rides east along the guild road, both heading for the old, untended House Cathak holdings in the southern Scavenger Lands. But they are both about to discover that nothing is simple in Creation, and unfriendly forces are on the move...