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Acropolis 1.0 - Revelations

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:17 am    Post subject: Acropolis 1.0 - Revelations Reply with quote

Describe how you reveal yourself to your prophet and where your shrine is established. Tell me and the other gods who you are, and, perhaps, give us an idea of where you're going.
"It is not the literal past that rules us, save, possibly, in a biological sense. It is images of the past. Each new historical era mirrors itself in the picture and active mythology of its past or of a past borrowed from other cultures. It tests its sense of identity, of regress or new achievement against that past.”
-George Steiner

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Szabad was sixteen years old. Sixteen. And he had been in this cesspool of a cell for nearly a year. Treated worse than a murderer. At least they're put out of their misery. That's what you get for beating the son of one of the city's rulers. Broken nose, a few missing teeth. Never mind that Sten was seventeen at the time, and that he had raped Szabad's thirteen year old sister. The privelege of money. "Throw him in the pit." That's all it took. One sentence from Sten's father, and Szabad's life was, for all intents and purposes, over. It was a life sentence, simply because no-one could survive long under these conditions. Actually, having lasted this long was a surprise.

But how much longer could he go on? Gut-worms; diseases from lack of anything remotely healthy to eat; sleeping in his own filth; total isolation... It had been a long time since he had even had the energy to feel rage at what had been done to him. At what he had become.

But today was different. At noon, Szabad's father had come, hoping for a visit.
"Today's his birthday! Please! Let me say happy birthday to my boy!"
"I'll tell him you stopped by,"
the guard had laughed, as he punched Szabad's father. Bleeding, the man left.

Thinking it would be fun to torment the prisoner with the news that he was spending his birthday (surely his last one) in his own shit, the guard opened the door at the top of the shaft. Just a crack. Just enough to shout down a few (unimaginative) insults. Szabad had heard its hinges groan every night, when the slop was thrown down for him. Always at night. This was the first time it had opened in daylight in longer than he could remember. And, with the sun directly above, the crack allowed a thin shaft of sunlight down. All the way down, where it touched the filth-smeared leg of the diseased prisoner.

And the prisoner felt the sunlight. He felt its warmth. He raised his head to look at his leg.

And he smiled.

"Hey, turd," yelled the guard. (Didn't I say he was unimaginative?) "Guess what today is? It's..."

And before the guard could finish, the door flew out of his hands. It flew. Literally. The guard had no idea how it happened. He had no idea how it possibly could have happened. But the door blasted off of its hinges, and flew up higher than the buildings. From the noise when it landed on a roof a few buildings away, it surely went through the roof, if not the top floor as well.

Then, the guard was blasted away, too. More gently than the door, to be sure, else he would be a bag of skin filled with blood and broken bones. But his impact with the nearest wall was enough to put him out for a good, long time.

Szabad was aware of neither of these events. Other things occupied his attention. Like the full light of the sun that was bathing him. And the fact that, though it was as bright as he'd ever seen the sun, and he had not seen any light whatsoever other than an occasional glimpse of moonlight through the door at night, he was not blinded. Rather, he could see perfectly! And he was standing, marveling at these things, instead of being barely strong enough to lift his head. And he was perfectly clean, and felt perfectly healthy!

"What... is... happening?!??" he wispered to himself.

I am.

Szabad literally fell down in surprise at the booming voice. Or, rather, he would have fallen. But some force held him up. A warm, enveloping force.

"Who are you?? What do you want?? Please, don't punish me more!!"

No, I won't. You have been punished far too long. You have not seen me in far too many months. I can think of very few crimes a human can commit for which I would deny them my presence. Clearly, yours is not among them. You have been punished by savages. But that is at an end.

"What are you talking about? Who are you?"

I am Surya. I am the Sun.

"The sun? On my leg?"

Yes. Szabad herd Surya's smile in the words. Among other places.

"What... What's going on? You healed me? You made me strong?"

I have.

"Why? What do you want? What must I do?"

Nothing is required. Szabad felt himself lifted, and he floated out of the pit, onto the ground. For the first time in almost a year. You are free. That is the end of things, if you wish. Go back home, and be happy.

"Nothing is required of me?"

Nothing. However, I am newly born. Newly manifested, you would say. I need one to tell the world of me. Will it be you, Szabad? Will you help spread my word? Help spread my light and warmth?

"You don't command it. You will let me choose, but how could I choose not to help you? You've given me back my life. Yes, I will spread your Sunshine."

Good. I knew you would. I have bee looking for someone like you for some time. One who would smile at my touch, even after all you had been through. One who loves the Sun whole-heartedly.

Szabad didn't seem to be listening. He was standing with his arms stretched out to his sides, his face lifted, eyes closed, feeling the sun. But after a few moments, he whispered, "I do."

Yes. I know. Go Szabad. Return to your family. You should all be together again. Tomorrow, go to the Gardens. Just outside the easternmost point of the city, where I rise in the morning, is a neglected, abandoned building. Little more than a shack, in truth. But, though many of the walls planks are gone, the skeleton is sound. This will be Nihon, The Temple of the Sun. My priesthood will begin there.

"Okay. Thank you, Surya. You've given me my life. I'll make sure the world knows of your glory."

Thank you, Szabad. We will light up the darkness.

"Light up the darkness."
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Caireen stumbled through the forest, tears streaming down her face. The only thing she could think was another failed marriage! There was only one answer she could think of and all she needed to do was find the right place.

There it was. Her favorite place. It was a lovely glade with roses growing all around. A cherry tree's pink blossoms littered the grass and fell like raindrops when the wind blew. She often came here when she needed to be alone, when she needed to be uplifted, when she needed to cry.

When her only pregnancy ended.

She entered her glade from an entrance only she and the forest animals knew and there in the middle was the small mound of her buried baby. It had been so small and there had been so much blood. But the rain had washed the blood away and the grave lay undisturbed by hungry wolves and badgers.

She laid down next to the mound and cradled it, stroked it. This had been the baby of her first husband. She had been unable to concieve until five years into the marraige. They had both been overjoyed. The happiness had been short-lived for the pregnancy ended horribly after only a few weeks. She felt the sharp pains in the night and they had not abated. She began to bleed and made way to her glade because that was her safe place, her happy place. The only place where the baby could be. She had buried it there and went home to grieve. Her husband divorced her soon after.

Her second husband, now 10 years married was leaving her. She was barren and he wanted a son. Even the great wealth of her family could not keep him. No adopted son, he had said. He wanted his own. But, it was not to be. Caireen was barren and her womb did not quicken for his seed either. She endured the pitiful looks from the other women of the village. She looked longingly at the children playing in the schools and she knew she would never enjoy the treasures of being a mother herself.

Now he was leaving her. Packing his belongings as she weeped in her glade. She grieved over the emptiness of her womb and she was shamed at her divorce. She could only think of one way to end her pain.

She pulled out the blade and let it glint in sun the peeked through the shadows. As she looked at the blade, she was overcome and began to wail her sadness. She fell to the gound and laid her head on the soft grass. She wept.

And as she wept, a warmth came to her cheek. A hand smoothed her hair. Caireen opened her eyes and saw that her head lay on the lap of a woman. Somehow, she didn't care. The woman spoke to her in a soft voice, murmuring soothing words, stroking her hair. Hushing her tears, the woman the woman surrounded Caireen like a warm blanket.

Caireen wanted to tell the woman everything but could not find the words.

"Hush," the woman said. "I know you pain. I can feel your desire. You are unfulfilled as a woman because you want so much to be a mother. It is a fine wish to be a mother."

Caireen listened as the woman went on. "I am The Mother."

Caireen looked up at gazed at the woman before her. She was not young but not yet old. She had smooth olive skin and dark red hair with warm brown eyes. Her body was that of a woman well-made for birth - large breasts and hips yet small waist. Nothing on this woman sagged as with other women of her age. She smelled the fragrance of women - musky and sweet. Caireen wanted to stay in the woman's arms forever and be comforted.

"I can make you fertile. I can give you want you have always wanted. But, I must make it happen quickly so that all will know this is the work of The Mother. It may be difficult but I will be there to help you when your time comes."

Caireen was speechless as she nodded furiously through her tears.

The Mother touched her belly and Caireen began to feel a burn.

"The burn will pass," The Mother said, "Now return to your husband's home. I will be there when you need me. Go."

Caireen began to run home, exhilarated beyond anything she had felt before. She could feel the weight of her womb and she ran with her hands over her belly.

John was overseeing his men load the wagons. He had finished writing up his final payment to his last creditor and gathering his final belongings out of his writing desk.

"John, why are you leaving your wife and child?"

He looked up and saw a woman standing before him yet she disappeared as his wife burst in the room. He froze as he saw her. She was positively radiant! He had never seen her so filled with life.

She rushed to him and gushed out her experience in the glade. He was astonished that he could feel already the movement of the baby. Her belly was growing.

Three weeks had passed and Caireen's pregnancy advanced at an alarming rate. The entire village was a-twitter over the miracle. Caireen appeared to be close to giving birth and the village women clucked over her like mother hens, bringing her drinks, adjusting her pillows and fussing over every aspect of her life. They asked again and again about the woman Caireen had seen but she had no answer. She didn't even know the woman's name. John was left to watch helplessly while the women cared for his wife.

Then, the pains began. John was rushed out of the room while Caireen labored. The village women rushed to and fro, bringing water, blankets. Then, the scream stopped everyone cold. Caireen's scream sounded as if it had come from the very pit of hell.

But, then, The Mother appeared from nowhere. She smiled at John and walked into the room. The village women parted for her and she stepped before Caireen.

"Breathe, my daughter," she said, "Just breathe..." Caireen immediately calmed and began to breathe. The Mother gave instructions to the women, softly but with command. They rushed to do her bidding. She talked Caireen through the pains. Caireen became calm and no longer screamed.

As the baby began to come, The Mother took hold and brought the baby through the birth. He squalled loudly as The Mother rubbed him clean and she wrapped him in a soft cloth. She held him and spoke a blessing over him and handed him to Caireen.

She sat on the bed next to Caireen and said, "You have brought forth a beautiful boy. You are witness to my great power."

Happily, Caireen replied, "How can I ever repay you?"

The Mother smiled. "I will show you."

And she was gone.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 2:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Several hours after sundown, Foreman Lou followed his Luggers into the evening house. The men were seating themselves at a table closer to the kitchen as he came in. The oldest one, Jeb, who’d been a Lugger as long as Lou and had came to the team with Lou when he’d formed it, Jeb called out “Lou, you said we could have a bowl of real meat stew each, plus two tankards of ale, yes? On your word?” Jeb was talking to the housemaster, who looked to be in the process of asking the men to leave.

“Yes, Jeb. I made a promise: get the whole lot of Lord Halbi’s stuff into that ship before first light tomorrow, when his Lordship planned on leaving port with those belongings in that ship, and I’d treat you all to a warm meal with real meat and two flagons of good ale.” Lou beamed around at the men. “I’ll not need to remind you all that Master Roberts of the Warehouse was quite put off by the suddenness of Lord Halbi’s last minute request. Leave town in three days instead of 10. The crates were stacked way to the back of the warehouse, and his Lordship’s vessel was not well organized itself. Well, I told Master Roberts that me and my crew could do the job with time to spare, and by all the Gods, you boys proved me right today.”

“You mark my words. From this day forward, when some Lord or fat merchant needs a hard job done right, Master Roberts’ name will come up. He’s gotten quite a feather in his cap over this one, and no doubt. Master Roberts is no fool, neither. He knows it was you boys that gave him this, when no others could do the thing. It’s him as buying you this meal, lads, not me. When he heard what I’d offered ye to get the job done, he said to me that the reputation you earn him by this is worth any coin he can spend on your behalf tonight. So, beyond what was promised, we’re here at a special evening house. There’s to be a bard here later, and then perhaps some dancing girls. Master Roberts expects to get some touch customers coming to him, when no other could do the job. And he expects to call on us again to do those jobs. That means that you’re the best, lads. But being the best means you MUST be the best. He’ll be asking you to perform these miracles over and over again. And as long as you can keep doing it, it’s to his interest to make sure you’ll stick around and keep doing it. There’ll be a raise in your pay for all of you, though you’ll earn it. I’ve seen what he’s looking to give out here, and I think you’ll be pleased.”

“So, to celebrate this hopefully longstanding arrangement between the best loading crew in the Warehousing Guild and Master Roberts, let’s get down to eating and drinking. You’ve earned this as payment, and you’ve earned the new relationship that’s come of it all.”

The Housemaster listened to this speech, then personally brought each of them their first flagon of ale. He had Alexandria, his serving girl, bring them out their bowls of meat stew and wooden forks, plus hot thick bread. When they’re done eating, and talking among themselves, and the first flagons of ale are empty, the Housemaster brings out the second flagons, kept cool in the back.

He wanders over to Lou. “Ah, Mr. Foreman, sir. Might I have a word with you for a moment? I was listening to your speech to the men earlier, and I must say that I’m very thankful to you for choosing my evening house to hold your celebration. And, based on what you’d said about the future of these young men, I get the impression that there will be other celebratory dinners happening in the future. I hope you don’t think me crass for offering this, but… I would be happy to host those meals as well. If I know that such a large group of men is coming in, who would be treated to lavish entertainment for their great achievements, I could arrange for something more spectacular. These men could easily handle a full keg of the high quality ale sold north of the river. I never buy the stuff, because my customers don’t usually choose to drink the more expensive stuff. Maybe a few would, but the rest of the keg would go to waste. But if I know I can sell the whole thing, it’s worth getting the thing. And in your case, I could sell it to you for slightly above cost. Let me make the profit of a regular keg of ale, but your men get some better quality out of it. I could make it a point to schedule the better bards, if I know when to expect you. Make a pot of finer stew….”

The Housemaster stuttered to a stop when Lou didn’t answer him. “My good man, that’s an excellent suggestion. As long as you’re not asking me to send you some graft or anything shady…”

“No, my lord. Much of my business pays well enough, if I can guarantee there’ll be enough people buying a certain thing to make it worth me buying a batch of it. But this many man, all known to show up at the same time… there’s no risk in it for me to go for the premium fare. As long as you can tell me when you’ll be bringing them, I can arrange for a better feast in their honor. That’s all I’m asking… keep me in mind, and give me some time to set something up, and you won’t regret it.”

“Excellent. Perhaps when Master Roberts’ generocity is common knowledge among the teams in the Warehousing Guild, we’ll do this more often with more teams than just mine.”

“Perhaps you’re right, sir. Though, I’m curious how Master Roberts managed to make a feather in his cap out of this, given what happened with Lord Haldi. Having all his stuff on that ship won’t really do him a lot of good anymore.”

Lou’s face froze. “What do you mean? What news of Lord Haldi?”

The Housemaster frowned. “You hadn’t heard?” Lou shook his head in dissent. “Oh dear. The Lord Haldi was thrown from his horse last night, racing home to the Haldi estates. I hear his Lordship’s father, Baron Haldi, has taken sick now that the summer has left. Lord Haldi went to his side, but himself died in the going. They say that the old Baron’s grief is making his sickness worse, and he might also be at death’s door.”

Lou realized his jaw was hanging open. “Lord Haldi dead? Baron Haldi dying as well? How can this be?”

“I had thought you knew, sir. It’s all the news about town, today. Now… while I myself don’t believe in the rumors, but there are those who say that the Baron’s younger son Randall Haldi stands to gain quite a bit if his father passes. And that knowing that, it’s hinted that he might have… arranged… for something to happen. Nobody knows how Lord Haldi was thrown. It was dark on the road to their estate and none were around to see it. The body was found this morning, neck broken. His horse was found half a mile away, calmly foraging on the side of the road, saddle still on and otherwise unharmed. But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”

“But… Lord Haldi and his brother both came to the warehouse yestereve to see how we were doing. Master Roberts himself came out to speak to them, and to praise our speed for getting the good loaded onto the ship. C…. could I have been speaking to a murderer?”

“Oh, I certainly doubt that, sir. Even if these rumors are to be believed, and I assure you sir that *I* hold no value to them. I’ll not have it said that I’m slandering the next Baron Haldi, may his father’s reign continue for quite some time. All I’m speaking of is the fact that someone is spreading rumors about young Lord Haldi. But, even if these rumors are true, it would seem to me that young Lord Haldi would have arranged to be somewhere conspicuous during the event, and then hired some hiding murderer to do the actual deed. Many witnesses to say ‘Oh, he was with me the whole night.’ And no silly knife-wounds to give the lie to statements of it being an accidental horse throwing.”

“There are such men? Men who would kill a person just for another’s coin? I’ve heard of men killing for the coin of the person killed. The worst kind of thieves, are those. But… this is… this is evil on an entirely different level.” Foreman Lou turned to the housemaster. “I believe that I’ll have some more ale myself.” And then turning to the men around the table, “And since Master Roberts is paying for this meal as you’ve had it, I find that I have not repayed my own promise to you men. So… three more flagons of ale to any of you who’ll stay here and drink it. But every drink will be toasted to Lord Haldi and his father the Baron.”
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2009 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The fleet of tiny fishing vessels bobbed rhythmically in the ocean’s tide.

Barely larger than dories, the Nydam boats of the Acropolis fisher-folk seldom held more than two, and could just as easily be crewed by one. In the mid-morning sun, the boats stood at even distances apart from each other, the men and women aboard them hauling in long woven mesh nets that held the previous evening’s catch. Across the water, a voice calls.

“Hoi! Grayling! How fare thy nets?”
“Can you not see for yourself, Iason Catspaw? Do your eyes fail you? Perhaps it is time to hand on your oar to another.”

A quick burst of laughter skimmed the waters, the gruff fisher-folk appreciating this barb from the youngest man in the fleet. But it changed nothing – all could see that Grayling Day’s nets were light, yet again.

Iason reddened under the laughter, his voice becoming a cruel taunt. “It is your time that is over, not mine! Your nets are unfavoured, your family goes hungry! Where now is the God of your fathers?”
Grayling stared iron at Iason, the laughter falling silent so that the only sound was the calls of the gulls and the slapping of the current against the sides of the vessels.

“You would dare? You would dare to mock Her, Iason Catspaw?” Grayling asked.

Iason swallowed hard, casting about him for support. “Aye, I would dare! It is I, the Catspaw, that leads the Nydamis. It is I who takes the sea’s bounty with the sweat of my brow and the strength of my arm! It is I, not some God we have never seen!”
“My Father-”
“Your father is old, Grayling. As is mine. If there ever was a God, perhaps She is old, too. The sea is for the young.”

The other sailors grunted in acceptance of this truism, and Grayling was left silent. But then a gull’s strident call shattered the tableau, and Grayling dropped his gaze in shame. The crews returned to their work, leaving just Iason standing, his balance sure and steady on the choppy sea.

“Your God has forsaken you, Grayling, if She ever existed” said Iason not unkindly. “How else can you explain Her absence? How else can you explain your nets?”
“I…cannot.” said Grayling, straightening his shoulders. “But I will find the truth of it, this I swear by the Waters of my Father.”

Iason shook his head tiredly, stepping down from the prow of his Nydam and returning to his nets. Grayling Day also began hauling in his net, empty though it was. Unlike the others, he did not examine them prior to recasting, but stored the meshwork for’ard, and made ready to sail.

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

Many season’s had passed since Grayling’s father had shown him the way to the Spit, but Grayling had not forgotten.
There was a school of tricky rips to negotiate, any of which could have a boat and crew out beyond the Heads by sunset. There was a hidden reef, submerged rocks like the teeth of a shark waiting to consume the unwary. There was a steady nor’ easterly wind that required tack after careful tack to make headway against.
But Grayling picked his way across the seas, his face a mask of concentration, till the waters grew calm and still about him and he knew he had found it, even as light began to leave the world.

The Spit was a permanent sandbar that left the beach like a promontory, thinning as it made its way out to sea in a giant arc, almost a half-circle. In its lee a natural bay was formed, an area sheltered from the full force of the ocean, from current and riptide. At it’s tip stood the Shrine of the Goddess, a simple altar of basalt and porphyric rock that his father had brought him to after his coming of age.
Grayling made sail directly for the tip of the Spit, running his Nydam ashore in the hard sand and securing it against the weak current with the anchor. He walked to the Altar, noting the sand piled against the windward side of the structure, the deep scoring on the basalt surface.
Approaching it, he could see a bowl-like impression in the Altar stone, the passage of time having filled the depression with fine-grained sand. Grayling scooped the sand out with his hands, brushing the surface of the Stone clean. Then with a bucket fetched from his boat, he filled the hollow with water from the ocean.
Garyling felt a warmth in the still air as the water held in the Altar Stone began to glow, a deep cerulean blue.

“Who is it that calls?” said a voice, the glowing water vibrating with the words.

“I – I call. Grayling Day, Annointed of Allód” said Grayling, finding his voice.
For a moment, silence was his only reply. Then the voice returned, as bitter as salt water.

“What do you want?”

Remembering the shame he’d felt at Iason’s words, Grayling spoke strongly.
"I want –nay, I demand to know why my family has been forgotten and abandoned? Why does the God of the father, ignore the son? Why are my nets empty, when those that doubt your very existence grow fat?”

The voice answered like the crash of an angry tide against tireless rock. “You demand? You don’t approach along the sand, in the steps of your fathers and mothers. You sail across sacred waters, in your arrogance, and demand succour. Infidel!”
The boom of sea on stone grew deafening, and Grayling stumbled, falling to his knees. He held his hands against his ears to ward off the voice, but it availed him naught.
“When was the last time you asked – when you did not simply take? You plunder the Sea’s riches like a rapist, with neither care nor love, and you wonder that the gifts that were bestowed upon your family have been rescinded? Fool!”
Blood began to fall from Grayling’s nose, tracking down his cheeks like tears. He fell prostrate before the Altar. “But the-the others…all the Nydamis behave such. Why am I alone punished?” he stammered.
“Because you are the Annointed. Into your care was the Faith given. It is you, and no other, who have failed the Sea.”

Grayling’s eyes grew wide, his skin paling beneath his deep tan as understanding washed over him ‘I have failed the Sea,” he said, broken. ‘I am nothing.”
Another pause crossed the Spit, the seas quietening on either side of the sandbar as if considering the depths of Grayling’s despair. Then a gentle sea spray enveloped him, cooling and soothing his fevered brow.
“You need not end your days thus, Annointed. But the way will be hard. Much trust must be rewon.” The voice said, lapping at Grayling’s ears like a gentle ebb-tide.
Tears now mixed with the blood on his face, as Grayling raised his eyes to the altar with a gasp of hope. The he immediately prostrated himself before the crude stone Shrine again, renewed vigour in his movements.
“What must I do?” he asked.
“Listen. Listen to the Sea that flows through your veins. Listen and learn…”
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 09, 2009 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The small boy darted past shops and shacks, racing for the safety of Shantytown. His footing was sure, his running fleet, and he quickly outpaced his pursuers chasing and yelling after him. Isaiah let out a hoot as he jumped in elation. The undersized chest he carried wrapped in his arms was heavier than he had originally anticipated, and had slowed him just enough to be seen for a brief flash by the Civil Watch. He could feel his heartbeat racing. It took an entire year of planning to infiltrate the High Court's treasury. Even now he wasn't sure how he had managed it. So many times the guards had suddenly bent to retie an unlaced boot, or moved to take a sip of water. Each time, Isaiah had been able to move further and further, undetected, into the Court. The race back through the streets of the Civil District was frantic and swift, again blessed by an unseen force moving carts and night-travellers into his pursuers paths, each time causing them to fall back further and further, until they were gone. Well...never look a gift horse in the mouth. It took only a few deft turns, a dark alleyway, and he had returned to his home. He waited in the dark until he was sure the pursuit was well gone, he walked across the street to the Silver Fountain.

Set back off the beaten trail between Shantytown and the Bathouses, the Silver Fountain had laid abandoned for a long time. It's most recent use was as the boy's new hideout. It rose up out of the night fog like a grey skeleton. The years of neglect was evident. Stone pillars and marble busts walled the front of the old building, each pock-marked, scarred and covered with dark soot. The front entrance had long been boarded over, and various birds had made their new roosts in the eaves. Isaiah surveyed the empty street before he crossed to the back of the Fountain. Deftly twisting the hidden catch, he squeezed into his home.

The decrepit outside of the Silver Fountain was matched only by the splendor of the inside. Fine carpets lined the floor and walls, displaying bold patterns and bright colors. Numerous fine beeswax candles were lit, reflecting off of silver and bronze platters and dishes. Ceramic crockery and vases were set on footstools, furs and cushions littered the floor. It was the haul of the last two years of Isiah's career. He smiled at his plunder, and kicked over the rug in the corner. Beneath was the trapdoor leading to his small hold.

The rickety steps wheezed and creaked as he scrambled down into the dark. Mostly filled with foodstuffs and small barrels of wine and spirits, the Hold was as cold as death. Isaiah surveyed his storeroom, and picked out the southwestern corner. He set his small chest on the ground, and knelt before it. Wild thoughts raced through his mind as he picked the small lock on the chest. The boy had trained two years for this moment. At first practicing only the smaller skills; pickpocketing, begging and especially gambling. He mastered his art, and progressed to larger jobs. The Carpet Crimping was what inspired the robbing of the High Court. Such luck as to find an abandoned draft cart to haul his colorful load home had convinced him of his chances of escaping the Court with his life. And he was right! The chest opened and his heart stopped. Silver and gold glittered in the light from the trapdoor. A few small gemstones resided in a vellum pouch, along with a tiny rod of orichullum. Riches enough to eat like the King himself! Isaiah quickly relocked the chest, and began digging a hole in the dirt. Hiding such wealth was necessary for a week, until the heat from the Civil Guard had passed. With such riches, though, a scant seven days without work would be little problem. Isiah's mind was already watering with the thought of hot roasted boar when he fell through the gaping maw that collapsed beneath him.

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

It must have been an hour later when the boy woke on his back, head throbbing and blood in his eyes. Dappled light reflected off of the stone ceiling, shifting like water. Surprise shone in his eyes as Isaiah rolled to his stomach and lifted himself to his feet. He stood in a tiny square room hewn from the bedrock, and polished to a mirror sheen. Thirty feet square, it was dominated by the massive Fountain in the center. Ringed by a low stone wall and surrounded by benches, the fountain was made of huge boulders deftly balanced atop one another in ways that defied mind and gravity. Gradually shrinking in size as it moved upwards, the fountain was topped with a golden sphere the size of a fist. As Isaiah moved to sit by the fountain, a man stepped from around the fountain. He was clothed in a golden toga, and wearing a silver helm topped with a red and black mane. His smile shone like the sun as he smoothly walked towards the boy.

The man bent slightly as he inspected Isaiah.
"I've been waiting a long time for you, boy."
"For me?" Isaiah's brow furrowed in confusion. "How could you have been waiting for me?"
The man only smiled broader.
"Pour your riches into my Fountain, Isaiah, and be blessed with wealth ten-fold what you give. It is your lucky day, Isaiah, for I am going to make you very, very rich."

At once, Isaiah was struck with the feeling that this man was the cause of all his success these two years. Each purse cut, every gambled coin doubled, every carpet snuck from under the nose of a watchful proprietor; they were all blessed by Isaiah looked into the man's eyes, and was overwhelmed with the joy of success and victory. Tears in his eyes, he spoke to the man.

"Who...are you?"

The man bent to one knee and embraced the boy.
"I am called Luck by some, Fortune by others. You may call me Aeon."

The man rose and walked to a bench by the Fountain. He watched as a small waterfall of gold and silver fell into his well by the boy's own hands. "What you give to luck, luck will return to you. We begin your training tonight, Isaiah."

The boy bowed low to his new master.
From a single Acorn, a mighty Oak
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 11, 2009 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Birds sang in the colonnaded courtyard, perched on the vines that twined between the columns and pierced wooden screens that divided it into many small squares, open to the sky. Clouds scudded across the azure depths above, casting brief shadows before the wind whipped them away, mingling with the billowing smoke that it drove straight east against the mountain tops, as it rose from the roofless courtyard.

Hard against the south bank of the river, the large shrine lay in what could be considered a relatively prosperous part of no man’s land. If any part of that dubious quarter could be described as prosperous. To the east, it faced the bath district across the road that formed that districts boundary, although at this time of day, there were few who could spare the time for leisure.

In the alcoves of the courtyard stood square platforms of wood built in layers on the granite pedestals that rose from the floor, aromatic cedar wood for those who could afford it, and pine interwoven with sage, for those who could not.

From the single occupied platform rose the swirling smoke caught by the brisk wind above, the scent of the sage not quite masking a sweeter, almost wholesome, smell. Gathered round the pyre, weeping softly, the bereaved family paid their last respects. To one side, robed and hooded, stood the shrine’s single priest, quiet prayers rising from the shadowed cowl to blend with the smoke.

The prayers ended, and the priest stepped forward.

“It is only the shell of this man you bid farewell to,” he said softly. “His soul stands even now in the halls of Antaka, to be judged as his deeds deserve. By the judgement of Antaka shall it be rewarded or chastised, or rebound to the wheel.”

The family seemed scarcely comforted, looking across at the tall priest, his face still hidden, his deep calm voice issuing from the shadow of his hood. The loss of their loved one left little room for unselfish thoughts, and few thought overlong or cheerfully on the taker of souls or the funerary services offered by the shrine. But all thought of them eventually.

Kavya knew that today his words meant little to them. But he knew also that it was the worldly concerns of mortality that weighed them down. They could not see the final act of the natural order played out before them here. Only their own short lives, ephemeral as the morning dew.

Though cold, he knew that Antaka was never other than fair. And he knew that Antaka’s love brought comfort to all those who embraced her. As all that was mortal must finally do.
For death begins with life's first breath.
And life begins at touch of death.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The storeroom resounded with curses as the man sought to shift the ponderous length of ceramic pipe. Sweat made bright runnels through the dust and grime that coated his muscular body. Encouraged by an almost imperceptible movement, he put all his strength into another heave. With an almighty crack, the pipe imploded rather than shift from its bed, and a torrent of water burst forth.

The man sat against the wall, looking down in despair at the dirt and debris of ages, washed up against the dam of his outstretched legs. It could be that he wept, but the tears were lost amid the light mist that still swept the room from the broken pipe. His eyes gave no clue, for they had been red and bloodshot for more than a month, from worry and sleepless nights.

Gradually he became aware of colours playing across his hands and legs, and looking up he gasped in surprise. Ribbons of rainbows rippled through the storeroom, light glittered off surfaces freed from grime for the first time in years. He sought the source of the illumination in confusion. A mirror to one side reflected the light through the room, but where did it originate?

He lurched to his feet, gradually regaining his focus by squinting through the colours and the drizzle and the dazzle.

An awareness came over him, the certain knowledge that this light shone forth from a better place, through the mirror from a higher plane. Calmness and well-being flooded his every fibre as he approached the frame, and a dark figure rose up towards him.

The voice, when it came, was crystal clear and precise. It defied misunderstanding and scorned misinterpretation.

“Will you listen with an open mind?”
I will.

“Will you speak with straightforward purpose?”
I will.

“Will you strike a deal for mutual benefit?”
Above and beyond.

“Know then, that your late uncle’s bathhouse will thrive under your guidance”
In return, it will be your temple, dedicated to fair dealing. Above and beyond.

I will endeavour to spread your creed. I will be your Facetor.
“In return, I will be with you always, encouraging and supportive.”

“I will create the perfect environment for mutual understanding and the advancement of commerce.”
In return, I will gather the tokens of respect and sacrifice them to you, with due ceremony.

“Above and beyond.”

Above and beyond.

A hand emerged from the light, jet black and perfectly formed. The handshake is heartfelt and firm, and the scene is set….
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Midday had not yet arrived, and already this was one of Orden's busier days. Tensions ran high throughout the city's poorest district, for no reason he could think of; never before had he seen so many petty squabbles break out at once.

After helping to settle yet another argument between neighbors he took refuge in his shack; a solid, single room structure he had claimed for himself some months back. Setting his boiled-leather helm down upon the broad desk, he settled into the small chair and sighed.

"Do you ever regret your chosen profession, Orden?"

His eyes snapped open. A young woman stood in the room with him, with hair flaming red. She watched his reaction with a smile in her eyes, and playing lightly upon her lips. The door had not moved.

"It must wear upon you, sometimes. The only one who cares enough to come here."

He had stood at the sudden appearance of the woman, and his hand twitched instinctively toward the brass-bound cudgel on his belt. "How did you get in here?" he blurted.

"Wrong question," she answered with a dismissive wave. "Does it weary you? Knowing that you hold this post only because none of the others think it worth holding? That these people do not deserve their protection?" Her eyes shifted to the pallet in the far corner of the room, and when she continued her tone had changed. "When was the last time you spent the night in your own bed, Orden?"

Orden flinched, and his hand moved to the cudgel again. He felt as though each question battered down some portion of his guard. He could not understand what was happening. He tried to make himself relax - the woman did not seem to be threatening him - but something was holding him tense, yet unable to act. "Why are you here?"

"Too soon," she pouted. She stepped closer to him; he noticed now that her feet were bare. "Do you care more for these people than your own family?" In an instant her face transformed, twisting into a wicked grin, and she barked a laugh. Then, just as suddenly, she vanished.

"Oh, but it's never that simple, is it, Orden?" Her voiced crooned darkly from behind him. Soft hands reached slowly around his sides and across his chest; her face nuzzled closely against his ear. "I know what you fear," she whispered.

"What can you possibly--," her fingers on his lips stopped his words. She pressed closer against his back and whispered, softer still, "If you return to your home right now, you will find her with him." Her lips brushed lightly on his earlobe.

A sob escaped his lips, and in a great rush all of the tension left him; he collapsed back down into his chair. The girl was in front of him again, and she seemed to be dancing, twirling and spinning across the dirt floor. He stared, incredulous - she was laughing.

"Who are you?" he shouted.

"Yes!" she squealed, still spinning, still laughing, "Names, names and more names, age after age, so many! Kai, Khaos, Tiama, Daughter of Discord, Sister Chaos, Lady of the Endless Maelstrom, so many names." Her twirling ended and she faced toward him, grinning as she spoke. "But in this humble form" - she curtsied, bending low - "I am but a Maiden of Strife."


"Strife! Contest, dispute, discord, affray! Combat, quarrels, rivalry - strife!" She barked each word at him with perverse glee.

The question fell from his lips like a stone: "Why are you here?"

"Got it!" she yelled, and spun on her toes another time. "My time comes round again. I come to claim this city, to bring the people my gifts."


"Combat quarrels rivalry strife!" She laughed again, clear and bright.

Orden pressed his face against his palms, rubbed tears out from his eyes. "You would bring these, these gifts to the people of this city - to the people in these slums?"

"Yes," she hissed, "there is your passion. There is your resolve." And indeed he could feel it, building inside him, an ember stirring to life - anger began to burn through his form.

"You would bring more pain into their lives, when they suffer enough for living?" he grated.

"Yes!" she answered, her tone defiant.

"You are-- you are monstrous." His hands had tightened into fists by his sides, and he rose slowly to his feet. "I will not allow you to do it."

"You cannot prevent me."

"I will stand in the way of your every movement."

"I will simply dance around you."

"I will arm these people against you. I will find whatever power I can to keep you away. So long as I stand, no action of yours shall go unopposed."

"Do you swear it?" Her voice was steady, calm, the laughter gone.

"I swear." He spat these words at her filled with venom. A searing ball of rage was now held within him, where before had sat only grief and self pity.

"Then begin your work." With these last words a grin once again broke across her face, and she vanished.

From outside the hut voices were suddenly raised, as a dozen new arguments sprang up at once. As he rushed out to face the challenge, he failed to notice that the door to his hut had opened without him touching it.

Last edited by Herald of Sataniel on Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The amphitheater in the Arts District thronged with spectators, abuzz with expectation. The most renowned story teller/orator in the known lands was expected to hold forth on the hard packed earth field below the tiers of stands rising towards the heavens. A drummer and piper stood ready a little to stage left on the dirt field, the story teller’s personal lyre in its stand awaiting its owner next to them.

A figure in a white flowing toga strode purposefully across the field, his face serene with the inner focus of recalling thousands of orally memorized words. Bardsley gave a nod of recognition towards the two instrumentalists next to his lyre, then bent to lovingly cradle the stringed instrument in his embrace. The drummer started beating a stately 4/4 cadence, while Bardsley paced the perimeter of the field to the beat, the circling of his path spiraling inward until he stopped, facing the audience from center “stage.”

In the stands, a family watched with rapt attention. All of them…except for their seventeen year old daughter, Sande. Sande’s thoughts were elsewhere, for her twin brother, Poro, had left during the week to be inducted in to the city Watch and she felt the sharp severance of separation intently.

The audience’s rustling stilled when the story teller suddenly plucked his lyre and the words of an ancient legend of battle and glory for the city began magically unfolding. As he told this saga, Bardsley punctuated the telling with plucked and strummed chords from his lyre. The drummer added tension with the different rhythms he beat out, and the piper’s trilling notes lended poignancy, joy, and other emotions throughout the tale. The story was one known among the citizenry from the cradle; yet it was as if they have never heard it before. The story teller’s reputation was well deserved; he held his audience in the palm of his hand from the start. Eventually even Sande’s attention was diverted from her musing, and she became enraptured by the tale.

Slowly, quietly, perhaps even seductively, a woman’s voice intertwined itself among the words of the tale. It didn’t distract; Sande found it enhanced everything else that was happening below. The deep contralto voice offered a melodious descant to the higher pitched trilling of the piper and by listening, Sande found herself transported outside of the amphitheater to a memory she cherished. She and Poro were entering adolescence; they could not have been more than twelve years old. Together they wandered the streets of the Arts District, watching various performers ply their trade. The atmosphere was relaxed and the two children ran and hid, strolled peacefully, and absorbed the sun together. Sande smiled to herself; her pain at Poro’s leaving lessening as she experienced again the joy of this day spent with him.

Song will do that, you know,” came the soft contralto voice of the singer from behind her and Poro, as Sande’s reverie continued. Poro did not react; he continued on as Sande remembered the day proceeding. But Sande was intrigued and turned to address the woman. The woman surprised her, for she was unlike many in the city. Her skin glowed with a burnished hue, her dark brown eyes liquid with secrets of wonder and power. “Song?” Sande asked. “What will Song do?”

The darker woman laughed. “Song has the potential to lift one up to Eternal Moments. Such as the one you are experiencing now. Your brother, who is with the Watch cadets in another area of the amphitheater, by the way, is reliving the same moment as you. Although he is unaware of me…” she mused quietly to herself.

Looking the young woman in the eye, the brown skinned woman assessed her. “I felt your pain at the separation from your brother over the last week, and decided to give you both an Eternal Moment to ease your suffering. Song can ease sorrow, distract from pain, enhance joy and celebrations…but it needs someone here in the city who will encourage its evolution and use. Your brother has his calling for now; you need one of your own.

“Your appreciation of the musical enhancements to the performance tonight tells me you will appreciate and enthusiastically embrace the growth of Song. The city needs one to encourage Song’s evolution. I choose you.”

Sande was taken aback by the offer of the woman. Yet she agreed with much of what was said. “I have felt at a loss since Poro left, and my parents are preoccupied with our younger siblings and their own endeavors to notice. My station within the city would make it difficult for me to leave home, but it can be accomplished.”

Sande looked at her twelve year old self in the memory, and ahead at the twelve year old Poro wandering on through the Arts District of a few years ago. “Will I remember you and our discussion when this Eternal Moment ends? How am I to begin to promote Song in the way that you desire? By what name are you called?”

The contralto voice laughed quietly. “I am known to those who have received me in many lands as “Virelai.” I am newly come to the city, although one fairly close to you right now has learned of me in his travels. He is not a resident of the city, but will make himself known to you ere he leaves.
“You will take on a new name when you do my work. Right now Song is in a primitive state, more improvisational and free than structured and unifying in purpose. You will be called Melody, High Priestess of Virelai, the Mistress of Muses and Singer of Song. Those who will choose to follow shall know you as MasterHarper…”

The deity of Song smiled at the young girl before her. “Go after your brother and immerse yourself in this Moment. It will only last a short time…”

With those words the glowing deity slowly faded from sight, and the young girl ran after her brother in the memory within her mind.

Several hours later, Bardsley brought his recitation to a close with a flourish upon his lyre as the drummer and piper each ceased their own playing. The famed story teller spiraled his way back out from the center of the field, coming to a stop in front of the stands where Melody and her family were sitting. He stood and gazed upward into the audience, as if his eyes were measuring up each individual who came to listen. As his gaze fell on to Melody, whose immersion in to the Eternal Moment ceased with the end of the performance, he once again plucked his lyre and called out, “Virelai!

The audience stirred, unsure of what was happening. “Verily? Verily what?” they mumbled to each other. Melody sat stock still in her seat, awareness slowly dawning on her. The story teller struck his lyre again. “Virelai!” he shouted, with a grin and bow towards the audience (or was it towards Melody?). As he rose from his bow, his gaze once again connected to Melody’s and in an exaggerated fashion, he winked.

With that, the white toga-clad bard strode from the field, chuckling as he went. “She appears a good choice, m’lady.”
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Madame Serena saw the last of the night’s customers to the door, patiently bidding them farewell. Already the sun was peaking over the hills, coloring the Red Light district with its golden hues, and streaming into the windows of the Acropolis’ most esteemed brothel. Serena observed the city sprawled out in front of her, and for a brief moment her mind was empty of schemes and plans. She let her gaze drift to the palace grounds, and without warning the politics of survival enveloped her once again. Exhausted, Madame Serena turned to face the group of women that had gathered behind her.

“Well done, ladies,” said the raven-haired temptress. “Now, get some rest! It has been rumored that tomorrow night the King himself comes to visit.”

Eyes darted to and fro as whispered voices filled the halls of the brothel. The King himself! Of course his majesty has needs, but imagine the scandal! If word gets out…

From among the restless women, a young girl shyly approached. Curtsying she asked, “Madame, if I may. What are your plans for his majesty?”

Serena continued to look out the window, “I am going to kill him, of course.” The women stopped their gossiping and stared at their mistress. Serena withdrew a dagger from the folds of her dress. “When he’s passion-drunk, and alone.”

Serena turned to face the silent crowd, “Have no fear, ladies. This is the only option we have. The royal house won’t be able to cover up how the king died; the public will know he visited the Brothel. Who amongst the nobles could threaten us again? No, with their vocal figurehead both dead and shamed, they’ll lose all support.”

Serena looked down at the floor, “Our survival will be assured.”

A young courtesan jolted at these words and blurted out, “But yours will not, my lady! You will be arrested and executed!”

Serena appeared surprised and said, “Do you think your Madame had not planned for this? Rest assured; your lady will be safe. Now leave me please, and get some rest!”

As the women left to their quarters, Serena felt a pang of regret for lying to them. She would not be safe, but they would understand her reasons in time. Laying down in her bedchamber, she fell into a restless sleep.

Serena opened her eyes to see stars peering back at her. She sat up in bed, and to her surprise she noticed that her bed was moving through environs unknown! (Either that or her bed was stationary and the scenery was moving by her; she felt no breeze so it was hard to tell.) Surrounding her was a desert landscape, over which was scattered a number of ghostly images. Serena looked to the right, and gasped in surprise at the familiarity of these displays. Look there! - a couple making love for the first time. And there! – a husband and wife celebrating a new child! On and on for thousands of miles, as far as Serena could see, these ghostly shadows acted - each scene new and yet hauntingly familiar. Serena drank in the radiating warmth and security of the images in front of her.

Turning to the left Serena witnessed the landscape transform and distort, and the warmth and security she felt became replaced by heartbreak and despair. The shadows’ acting became sinister, and the scenes malicious. There. – the pain of divorce. And there… – the death of a loved one. On and on for thousands of miles, as far as Serena could see, these ghostly shadows acted - each scene new and yet hauntingly familiar.

Tears ran in streams from Serena’s eyes as she ripped away her gaze and placed it firmly in front of her, in the direction the bed was heading. She could feel the energies competing in her; warmth on her right, despair to her left. The conflict threatened to overwhelm her.

“Hello, darling. Having a good time?”

Serena gasped and turned to look in the direction where the voice came. Lying in bed next to her was an odd man with an amused grin, dressed in purple regalia. Most striking, however, were his golden eyes shaped like a cat’s. Serena stammered, “Who… who are you?”

The stranger replied, “Me? I’m every desire, action, and motivation you’ve ever had. That anyone has ever had, for that matter. I’m the source of all pain and pleasure. You can call me Love, for short. God of Love, that is. I make this little world of yours go round! Hehe, that I do!”

“You’re a… god?” asked Serena.

“Not just a god, dearest, a God! Call me Libidinal.”

“Well then, Libidinal, why am I here?”

The stranger stood up on the bed and danced over to the edge. Motioning off into the distance, he answered, “Why, to show you all of this, my dear! To show you Love! You have a lot to learn, because you are going to represent me on the mortal plane. Those shadows out there are Love in all its forms.”

Looking forlorn, Serena replied, “This can’t be love! It’s too conflicting, too maddening. It’s too much!”

Libidinal shrugged, “What can I say? Love is heavy stuff. But I learned long ago that a sense of humor is absolutely necessary when dealing with Love. Don’t worry yourself too much dearest, for in our time together we’ll be dealing mostly with a very common form of love – and I know you’re very familiar with it.” Grinning, Libidinal says, “Hehe, yes, when the God of Love needs to accomplish things in the mortal world there’s really only one effective way to reach you mortals.”

Serena sighs, “I should have known…”

Libidinal shrugs, “Hey, the God of Love knows what works, alright? Every 5 seconds I get swamped with the prayers and thoughts of mortals, and they’re always about the same thing. Gods are like politicians, dearest, to stay alive we have to give the people what they want. Luckily we’re in a damn good position – what mortal doesn’t worship Love?”

Libidinal sits back down next to Serena and puts his arm around her, “Now, you’re going to have to forget these ideas about killing the King, dearest. Love has other plans for the Acropolis.”
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The High Priest, also known as the Kronotarch, stood at the base of a barren hill. Apart from the low marble altar at the upper southern side, it was completely devoid of any objects or life. Although, if one counted dust and sand particles, the low hill was certainly not empty. It was surrounded by a crowd of people, to the left and right of the priest. The heat of the midday sun battered their faces and exposed arms, and the altar gleamed brightly in the hot light.

The High Priest smiled to himself, despite the bitterness in his heart and the pain in his worn, arthritic limbs. "We ascend the hill, my children," he said in a quavering voice. "Forgot not to make ablutions before you walk upon this holy hill. Tread not upon the holy sand with soiled feat. Mark not footprints into the sand with blasphemous actions. Words may vanish in the wind, but the hill remembers if you do not bow before Ageless One."

His followers - a poor, unbelieving lot who only came to worship so that they would age more slowly - kneeled and dusted their feet with the scouring sand that collected at the base of the hill. After the head priest had finished doing the same, they followed him up the slope and kneeled again when he reached the altar. The priest then pulled from his tattered robes a sandtimer and placed it so that the sand was collected at the top and drained into the lower bulbous end.

"Mark the passage of time," he said emptily and the crowd began rubbing their hands into the dust and smearing it into their skin. The old, vain and greedy rubbed insistently, hoping the holy sand would stop their ageing. He sighed inwardly and knew that they did not deserve it, and thus knowing it would not work. It never worked for him, which only made him more bitter, and doubtful of his own belief.

The trouble was, however, that he was not sure who he believed in.

"Mark soon the Holy Second and the passage of the Sun into the zenith. Mark the machinery of the heavens - the celestial bodies and the passage of the seasons - and leave no doubt for the wonder of the Ageless One - He who maintains the clockwork of heaven."

Interesting observance, Kronotarch, said a whispering voice tinged with derision.

The High Priest flinched in shock and knocked the sandtimer from its perch atop the altar. It shattered as it hit the hill. No one moved.

"Who said that?" he said with a shaking voice.

Your god, fool. Bow before me lest I grant my gift to another.

"My god?" The priest turned around looking for the speaker. He could see no one. "Where are you? Stop this now."

I am everywhere, priest. In the light, seeing how the world shrinks and slows down, and stops. Moving with impossible speed - so fast that the world is ageless - each of your 'seconds' lasts an eternity.

"I-I do not understand; you speak in riddles. Hiding in light . . . seconds lasting forever. A second is a second and there are sixty every minute. Moments divisible by units of time."

Nonsense, the voice laughed. Time is not made of units. Time is. Time is a progression. Order collapses into disorder. The world decays with entropy, the way this hill wears away into sand and dust, or the way your followers turn grey and then decay when they die. That is time. You proved yourself to me when you shattered the hourglass, showing me that no timepiece is as accurate as entropy. Time has progressed as the glass shards do not reassemble.

"Is not the world part of the great celestial mechanism? Do I not see the progression of time in the mechanical movements of the bodies?"

The voice laughed dismissively. Simple and incorrect. The bodies move at varying speeds, which only distorts their impression of time. Time depends on the observer. The Holy Writ of the Relativist, my work, is necessary reading if one is to worship me. Nevertheless the only certainty we have is that everything turns to dust. The world succumbs to entropy.

I sense in you doubt, of your beliefs and your integrity to worship me. Prove your worth, and I will give you the greatest gift of all - eternity with me. First, build me a temple and gather more followers. Then I will begin dispensing my wisdom and other gifts.

"You are then the Ageless One?"

Ageless, yes. But know me as Nakhetemet, Lord of Time. There is no greater proof of my domain then what you see below and around you. I will have you tell these people of what you have heard and seen. Now, I must leave, but I will return soon.

The High Priest looked down at his people, who were standing still. He then noticed that some had their hands raised to their faces, trailing dust that hung still in the air. His vision was distorted, as objects appeared stretched or squashed as though he were looking through a lens. The sun's light had changed, too - becoming redder. The sun had not moved either; he had counted four minutes passing during the time that he spoke with Nakhetemet.

Moments later, although it felt like an eternity, the distortion vanished. The people looked up at him strangely, seeing the triumphant expression on his weathered face. The priest sprinkled dust on the altar and began sketching out the floorplans of a temple.

It would stand here, on the hill.
"I am Nakhetemet, Lord of Time. We each measure our lives by the days, the movements of the Celestial Bodies, and by the seasons. What if I were to measure time by the dissolution of everything? What if you were to count your days by how much you have aged, by the number of grey hairs on your head and the wrinkles on your skin? Time is measured as the world turns to dust."
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Mother in the Night

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 4:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The children ran. Some of them, the larger ones, carried the sacks of food they'd stolen. Others ran alongside them, lookouts from earlier in the plan. Jenny had blown it, this time. She'd stumbled and cried out in surprise. Nothing major, but enough for the Dead Boys to notice them. Ron and Sue had grabbed what food sacks they could as they all bolted for the exit. The Dead Boys were in persuit, though. Even though they were the smallest gang in the area, the Dead Boys were still a gang. That meant, in the Shanty Town, that they were better fed than most. And they got exercise while beating up other children. So, they were catching up. You could hear Puppy at the back of the group, starting to cry. "Theresa, help! He's almost got me." Puppy was only 5, and hadn't figured out not to use names in front of the enemy.

Theresa slowed down a bit, to let the rest of the kids pass her. She muttered "go right at the Silver Fountain" to Ron as he pulled next to her, then she simply stopped right there in the street. Don't turn around. If you see them coming, you'll lose your nerve.

Puppy sprinted past her, still dragging the beat up toy dog that was his namesake. As soon as Puppy was past, she turned around, hunched down, and lowered her shoulder. She'd seen a grown up do something similar once, and hoped it would work. The grown up had been about the same size as his attacker, but she was only 14. On the streets, a 14yr old girl didn't weigh very much, certainly not as much as the 16yr old directly in front of her.

The boy looked surprised to see her there. He slowed his running a bit, but didn't realize what she was doing until too late. The impact was jarring. He was knocked off balance, but didn't fully stop moving. After two steps, he tripped over a slop bucket by the side of the road and tumbled into the wall behind it, finally coming to rest in a puddle. "Aww. Damn, that hurt!" he shouted.

Theresa was simply shoved straight back. Amazingly, she managed to get her feet under her before landing back on the ground, though once she landed, she flipped over onto her back anyway. Once again, she wished she was bigger and rounder like the grown-up women. They had enough padding on their bums to withstand a fall. Theresa felt that fall in her bones, but she scrambled to her feet again.

Seeing the lead couple Dead Boys helping their fallen comrade back to his feet, she turned and started running again. She noticed that her left him was a little achy, now. Her steps were uneven, but she had to keep going. She'd never heard of the Dead Boys actually killing anybody, but she'd seen some of them eying her in the streets before. If they caught her, she was in as much danger from their affections as their anger.

So, she ran on. When she got to the Silver Fountain, she went right, as she'd told Ron to do. A few blocks on from there was a smaller alleyway, with a wall across it. It had no door unless you went around the block, but the pile of garbage against it could be scaled if one was in a hurry. She hoped the Dead Boys wouldn't be so interested in catching them as to attempt it. As she rounded the corner, she saw all the other kids running back towards her. She looked past them, and... someone had cleaned up the garbage? When did that happen? Who in the Shantytown CLEANS?

She tried to get the children's attention as she ran towards them, but only managed to get them to stop running to look at her. "Theresa, where do we go? What now?" asked Ron. Puppy just started crying, as he squeezed his toy dog close to his chest. She looked around for someplace to hide, but tonight was a full moon, and it was almost directly overhead. With the trash gone, there weren't even any boxes to hide behind. They were standing in this dead end alley, with nowhere to go.

Theresa felt a moment of dread. Then, she shook her head in defiance. No! I won't let them hurt us. She couldn't explain it, but she knew somehow that this voice in her head, her own voice and her own thought, was their only escape from a serious beating, or worse. She stepped in close to Puppy, and held him close behind her. In as loud a whisper as she could manage, "Everyone, stand close to me. Be very very still, do you hear?"

Puppy looked up, "I'm scared." He also needed to learn when not to speak at full volume. Theresa winced again, and held a finger to her lips. "Shhhh Puppy." she whispered. "Everybody be very quiet. Don't let them hear you."

"But they'll SEE us." said Ron.

"Trust me, Ron." said Theresa. A calmness settled over her then. She lifted her head proudly, like she imagined a mother sheep would when protecting her young from wolves. One hand was on Puppy's chest, protectively. The other was clenched into a fist at her side.

The Dead Boys came around the corner, then, full tilt. They ran a full block, but then saw the wall blocking the alley. They stopped running, and looked around for signs of the children. Some of them even took off down some side streets to scout. But they seemed confused. One, the one that Theresa had knocked down, walked right past the children to the wall, to inspect it for some way of climbing. Sue almost made a noise when he walked past her on the way out, but Ron managed to cover her mouth first. The Dead Boys cursed some, then ran off to the North, trying to figure out where they'd gone.

When they were out of sight, Theresa put her hand down and unclenched her fist. A sigh of released breath seemed louder than anything they'd ever heard, and all the children started. Ron looked down, then backed away from Theresa slowly. "How did you do that? What are you?"

Theresa was confused. "I don't know. I don't think it was me."

"You don't think? But you did it. You told us what to do... you knew."

"I knew what was going to happen. But... like if I told you that at sundown the King's guard would shut the door to the palace... and you were standing there at dusk, you'd know to look at the gate. I just knew, like someone had told me."

Sue gasped. "Who told you? Are you haunted? Is it the Sleeping Princess?" The bard at the tavern where Sue sometimes begged for food had told the story of the Sleeping Princess last week. "Where is she?" asked the impressionable girl, looking around with awe and fear mixed evenly in her expression.

"All around us? It's not the Sleeping Princess, Sue. It's... the night? No, that doesn't feel right. The darkness?"

Puppy chimed in, "But Theresa, I'm afraid of the dark."

"No. Don't be afraid of the dark. Be afraid of the bad things in the dark. But there are bad things in the light, too. Be afraid of bad things. But the dark... yes... I can feel it. The dark loves you, Puppy."

Puppy stomped his food, and made a stern face. "No. The dark is scary."

Theresa kneeled down in front of the boy. "Puppy, think of when it's time for bed. Remember when we climb under the covers, and it's all nice and warm?" Puppy nodded, though the stern look was still there. "And do you remember how you felt safe there, with me or Sue holding you close under the covers?"

Puppy held up his toy, "And Robert. He's holding me tight, too."

"Yes, and Robert. But do you remember how you felt then? Warm and safe and nice? Like somebody loves you, and is watching out for you?" Puppy nodded, this time smiling.

"That's the darkness that loves you and keeps you safe. None of the bad things can find you there, because the darkness keeps you hidden and safe. And just now was the same thing. The darkness kept us hidden and safe from those Dead Boys, even though we were all standing right here."

Ron asked, "How do you know that? Are you talking to it?"

"It's a she, I think. I don't know how I know it. But I do. She's not TALKING to me... but I know things now. Her name is... Nox? Nyx? Nyx. She's a..." Theresa gasped, then looked up at the sky. "She's a goddess, Ron." It came out as barely a whisper. "A goddess is talking to me, Ron. She loves me. She loves all of us." Theresa collapsed to the ground, hugging Puppy close to her. Ron and Sue looked on with concern, but when Theresa started laughing, they relaxed. "A goddess wants to protect US, Sue. I'm so... relieved. It's like this fear and dread... all the badness in the world, and I was carrying it without knowing it. But now she's lifted that from me. I feel so light, now... like there's hope again."
To seek the breast of darkness and be suckled by the night.
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