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Tuesday, 12 June 2007
Thursday December 1st 2016
The ASBO terror sweeping the Sandfields culminates in a tragic fire. Thousands injured, hundreds believed dead.
Fire services and The Authorities reacted quickly, moving in to combat the fire and help evacuate the survivors. However, due to recent population fluctuations they were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people and a pile-up was inevitable. Thousands were crushed as they tried desperately to scale the illegally built ‘shanty’ houses.
Almost at the last moment, the Elementals made their arrival and led the rescue operation, combining all of their abilities to stop the fire and get everyone out. An official spokesperson for the Elementals revealed that the organisation has been restructured. “We wanted to make it clear that they are of the people and for the people,” the Spokesperson revealed at a press conference later, “This is why they have had their uniforms redesigned and why they now have badges. To all intents and purposes they are part of the Police.”
Their three week absence was noted by many critics in the Council and this led to anxiety that they were being disassembled. “We never had any intention of disassembling the Elementals; we merely felt that after the incident at Dyfatty their effectiveness could be strengthened.” When asked about the events at Dyfatty on November 5th, the Spokesperson declined to comment.
The police are issuing warrants for their arrest and wanted posters are going up all over the city.
Self was an open and generous supporter of the Elementals. His twin son and daughter, Swelter and Elixir (15), both members of the current line-up, are said to be devastated.
The question of privacy is one that has raged for decades. In many circles this photographic image has been deplored as political pornography and propaganda. Other, more liberal parties believe that the right to take photographic images should be extended to everyone.
Beacon: “Always the handsome leader, he looks very smart and grown up in his new uniform. The cut of the jacket and the more mature colours make him look older and lend weight to his authority. Oh, and that haircut makes him look ten times more dishy!”
Elixir: “A petite, slip of a girl has blossomed into a young woman with her new look. The fitted jacket and leggings are straight from the catwalks in Milan and Paris, and in six months they’ll all be copying her look.”
Swelter: “Sensibly they’ve kept his uniform similar to Beacon’s and Elixir’s, tying in with the more streamlined military look for the team. His new haircut makes him look every bit the bad boy.”
Siren: “The exception to the rule, it seems. They’ve kept her in a much more feminine costume, all in a gorgeous, angelic white. The cut of the cloak and the skirt over leggings and boots will have her on posters in every young boy’s bedroom. Divine!”
With a tumultuous heave Bark lifted the telegraph pole up onto his shoulders and plunged it into the hole in the pavement; then, just for good measure he channelled his strength through the wood until it sprung roots.
"Hippy." Arc-Light muttered. They were standing in broad daylight on Argyle Street repairing telegraph poles and the electricity supply. There was no one around. "So much for over-crowding." Arc-Light hovered in the air, concentrating on reconnecting all the wires, around her they waved like snakes in the wind. The street might have been empty but they knew they were being watched. Malady was behind them, going from door to door, window to window, drawing out their illnesses and swallowing them like sweets.
"How are you doing Mally?" Bark asked, moving broken pieces of pavement off the road and onto one of the many piles of spare rubble he'd built.
"Pony." Malady replied.
Bark nodded, scattering seeds in the cracks. Cars hadn't driven on these streets since before the Walls went up and all that remained of them were the rusty hulks in old gardens, since reclaimed by weeds and blackberries. Bark was keen to encourage life to return to the streets and turn the Sandfields into a Wood; in his wake, grass and flowers were springing up in the dead earth.
"You know, they use this road as a playground. I used to play here with my brother."
"Probably the safest road in Swansea." Arc-Light replied, descending. It was a bright November afternoon, a crystal clear sky and a sharp breeze from over the sea wall. They walked on to the next pole and Bark began to lift. Malady peered in through the boards covering a sash window. The room was filled with eyes.
Suddenly, she gasped and reeled backwards, tripping over the remains of a fire. The other two lifted her up and propped her up against a wall. Her skin had turned blue again and she was struggling to deal with something her power really didn't like.
"AIDS again?" Arc-Light asked, her voice a whisper. Malady nodded.
"Pony." She replied, her eyes bunched closed and her body quivering with the concerted effort, "Pony, pony, pony, pony, pony, pony, pony." Arc-Light rocked her back and forth as her body digested the infection and broke it down. When the convulsions stopped Arc-Light breathed again and cursed the day they'd got a twelve year old girl to cure Swansea on the strength of getting her a pony.
"What?" Arc-Light returned.
"Her name is Seren."
Arc-Light laughed. Malady had just cured AIDS for the second time today and probably for the fiftieth time since they'd started and still, all she could think of was the pony.
"You've got a nerve of steel, kid," David Self muttered, his eyes invisible behind a pair of red, shaded glasses, "I'm impressed. If you were doing anything other than trying to blackmail me I'd probably be offering you a job."
"Gutted." Squeeze replied, standing half in darkness on the other side of the grim office above the factory. Outside the window, the refurbished Vetch field glimmered in the cold winter light. Practising on its emerald surface were the Swans and watching them from all around were the members of committees, business-men, Self's friends and acquaintances. On the other side of the wall were the slums and not even the roar of the crowd could block out the smell on match day. Squeeze was pretty certain all slums smelled like that but he liked to think it was the smell of injustice.
"So," Self continued, leafing through the photos on his desk, "You've got one of me meeting this gentleman here, my aide, no less; you've got my aide, then, in several locations speaking privately to key members of the union. No prizes for guessing what about, eh? If this got out, I'd have a riot on my hands. Why on earth would you want to disrupt the infra-structure; something I've worked very hard to maintain for the past twenty years? The Spice, after all, must flow."
David Self, the oft titled Self-Made Millionaire, one of the richest men in Swansea, and, as it happened, one of the most corrupt. Then again, they were all corrupt.
"Because this isn't infrastructure, this is exploitation. This isn't a victory for the people, this is the reason you hold so much power at the council. These people are your tools." Squeeze had considerably less control of his temper than Self did and it began to unravel every time he opened his mouth.
"Ah yes," Self's anger seemed to dissipate at Squeeze's vitriolic outburst. "You're one of those pampered little boys who likes to think he's aware of what's going on; likes to think that he isn't pampered or lucky or well brought up; you see suffering around you and you feel guilty, so, of course, you don't blame the people who's fault it actually is – you blame your parents, you blame the people who've looked after you. You blame everyone but the guilty."
Squeeze had heard this rant before. It was one of his father's favourites.
"Had it ever occurred to you that the system we have today was brought about by a landslide victory; one which was fuelled by the votes of the poor, suffering people you claim to love so much? Had it ever occurred to you that perhaps your parents and their generation, the ones who could see what would happen, people like myself, voted against our current system?"
Squeeze hadn't heard that. It normally ended with a haunted 'Count your blessings', which he'd always assumed was as empty as the argument that preceded it.
"Boy. I love Swansea. I loved what it was before the Walls and I love it now, even though it took me a while to see how I could repay the injustice that had been dealt me and my family." Self said, standing up and walking to a case of medals. "Civic Duty, Civic Justice – awarded for National Pride and Influence." He continued, knocking the photos over. "Are you a nationalist, boy?"
Squeeze nodded, without thinking. Self laughed.
"When I was young, calling yourself a nationalist was tantamount to declaring you were bigoted. Now it simply means 'I care about my country'. And why shouldn't we, boy? Why shouldn't we? After all, we both care about our country. You seem to think that blackmailing me, because I'm 'obviously' corrupt, will solve all your problems. It wont. I'm not the guilty one. You are. The complacent generation who are being brought up to believe that Civic Duty is a bad thing because you've read some boot-legged copy of an old politics textbook and you think you know it all. You don't. If you just did what you were told, then we wouldn't be having this conversation.
"You know what annoys me more than anything else? You think I'm not trying to get more people into work; you think I'm exploiting my work force. In an ideal world the people of the Sandfields would all work in my factories because there is a place for everyone. It's not my fault they're lazy and ill and a waste of humanity. Definitions are changing boy, look at yourself for example, you are a prime example of what humanity is capable of. Physically, you're an evolved form and in spirit, you have the potential to achieve greatness. It makes me sick that people like you aren't fulfilling that potential."
Suddenly Self tore off his glasses and Squeeze's vision filled with bright light; it was too late to jump out of the way so he took the blast full in the chest and was propelled backwards into a shelf of glass. Dazed by the pain he sat there feeling the skin-suit searing into the flesh on his chest. All Others were kids, Squeeze thought, how on earth -
"I wonder," Self muttered, his eyes glowing, "If you know about how they breed chickens. It's an interesting, if sick little process where, in order to breed the best chicken, they encourage them to couple with members of their own family, thus producing a pure, 'better' chicken. Now, fortunately, I haven't had to couple with any of mine, but thanks to a little known process called the Euryale Cascade, this little ability I've picked up, well… let's call it a present from my son. I could've had water beams coming out of my eyes too, but let's face it. Fire is just cooler."
This time Squeeze managed to dodge the blast by propelling himself upwards. He was across the room and standing by the door in a single bound. Self returned to his table and picked up the photos, in a flash they were gone. "Next time you try to blackmail somebody, make copies."
Squeeze smiled, "It's a good thing I gave all your workers some before I came to see you. They've probably dealt with their moles by now." Self's face dropped and before he could open fire, so to speak, Squeeze threw his arms across the room and gripped Self by the collar, tearing him from where he was standing, through the door and down the steps, into the hands of an angry mob.
Squeeze found an obliging window as his exit but not before he listened to the screaming. With a feeling of grim satisfaction he stamped an ASBO flyer to the wall and left quietly, before the fireworks started.
Bark, Arc-Light and Malady were eating lunch. They hadn't spoken in half an hour and they were keeping their eyes exclusively on each other. Up and down the street the people were starting to emerge. They were talking in whispers, watching them in awe.
"Where's Squeeze?" Malady asked, voicing the question that had been irritating the other two for weeks. Bark shrugged and Arc-Light looked miffed. "Oh."
Malady looked between two of Bark's branches and saw someone stumbling over the uneven ground. Behind the man, his family were standing together pleading to him to come back.
The man stopped a short distance from their circle and knelt in the dust. He was facing Malady. She watched him move, his body was drained of its strength, his cheeks and eyes were drawn and sunken, his hair lank and greasy. "Thank you." He muttered.
Malady stood up and approached him. He looked ancient to her but he couldn't have been older than thirty. He was the man who had AIDS, one of the many she'd cured. She looked back at his family and knew that she'd taken the HIV from them too, they were standing in the dust, holding hands. "You've saved my family." She nodded, uncertain of what to say. In her mind she saw Seren in a field and felt her heart swell with joy but it was nothing, compared to how she felt that this man and his family were free. They were like lost souls, found after years of wandering. Uncertainty was gone, fear and ultimately their blight banished.
"You're welcome…" She said, taking his hand and lifting him to his feet. With his arm draped across her shoulder she walked him back to meet his family.
"Where's she going?" Bark asked.
Arc-Light watched the girl's gait change. She was walking slowly, assuredly. The skipping, bouncing, excitable little girl she'd met had become something else.
Then they heard the explosion.
Bark and Arc-Light were standing in an instant; Arc-Light launched into the air and saw a cloud of smoke and flame towering into the sky over the Vetch. The explosion set off a chain reaction in other buildings and like a scene from and old movie they went up one after another in quick succession. From here she could see Bark's little forest, the amount of wood on the streets and the tightly packed terraces. It wouldn't take long for the fire to spread.
The Wall around the Sandfields was circling them like a noose, she spun around to see where they could go. The farthest point from the fire was the Cwtch, a narrow shanty town built by the homeless. It was an old Welsh word that had since lost its meaning. From here she could see how the Walls narrowed together and formed a point at the farthest end. It was a bottle-neck and the fire would drive them into it. She descended and broke the news to to the crowd that had gathered around Bark.
"What can you do?" Someone shouted.
They shrugged silently, uncertain and scared. There was nothing they could do – neither of them had any control over fire.
"Bark! Arc-Light!" They heard a voice shouting in the crowd. It was Squeeze, lumbering over heads on legs like stilts. His face was white and it didn't take either of them long to figure out that this was his fault.
"What have you done?" Arc-Light demanded. Squeeze looked at her, scared and stupefied. He shrunk down to the ground and began stammering.
"I went back and tried – I did!" He began, nonsensically, but assuming they understood. "I didn't want this! This isn't what I –"
Arc-Light gripped him under the arm and gave him a look that could curdle milk. "Pull yourself together." He nodded. "These people need to be led to safety and we need you to help. Got it?"
He nodded again and wiped his jaw. "Right. Come on!" He shouted, turning to the masses, extending his legs so he craned over their heads. "We have to get out. Follow us and we'll lead you to safety."
This was his mess. He had to deal with it and bear the burden of the consequences; his pride had got him this far and now it would get him and everyone else out.
"Follow me!" He bellowed and began walking above the crowd.
COmE ONe! coMe aLL!
CeLebRaTe PRiNcE DYLANON’s 18Th BiRthDAy
SEE the AMAZING SIGHTS!
SpEcTaCLeS from ALL OVeR the WORLD!
24th - 26th IOJENRY. PALACE SQUARE.
“I can’t believe I’m actually going to get to watch the Maoniong Circus at last!” Elile burst out with a laugh.
“You're so excited anyone would have thought it was your birthday.” Dyl smiled back wryly, shaking his head.
“Well at least you got to see them last time. I was still in Arrozale if you remember?” she replied tartly, with a slight pout.
She turned to look at Dyl when he didn’t reply and noticed that he was pulling at his shirt sleeve, a habit she’d noticed he did when he was nervous.
“Everything alright?” she asked, slightly concerned. He flinched a little bit at the question and mumbled.
“Sorry what was that?” she asked again.
“Well, nothing, it’s just… I wish I didn’t have to leave!” he finished in a rush.
Elile nodded in sympathy, putting down the drink she was holding. She had been expecting this, but she had been waiting for him to say something first.
“But won’t it be nice to be back amongst your family? To see Dirdarn again?” she asked gently, lightly touching him on the shoulder.
“As far as I’m concerned I have no family in Dirdarn,” he spat vehemently, jumping to his feet.
Elile was a little taken aback. She had known that Dyl was not happy with his parents, but she had never seen him this angry before.
“I hate them! I wish I never had to return. I just want to stay here!” he shouted, smashing his glass against the wall.
Elile shrank away from him slightly, made nervous by the violence of his temper. Dyl threw himself down into a chair, his brows knitted in a dark and brooding expression. Elile shifted uncomfortably in her seat, trying desperately to think of a way to break the atmosphere.
Eventually, Dyl sighed and ran one hand through his hair.
“Sorry about that,” he said, turning guiltily towards her, “I’ve been trying to get that off my chest for a long time. I didn’t mean to be so aggressive.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she replied with a gentle smile. “We all need to vent our emotions at some point.”
Dyl propelled himself to his feet and started to pace in an agitated fashion, his body tense, muscles sliding powerfully together with lithe, effortless grace. Elile watched him silently, noticing he was beginning to loose physical definition, as his body began to lapse into his Primary Shift. Suddenly, he snapped back into focus and turned to stride over to her chair, gripping the arms of it in his hands and leaning down over her. She glanced up at his face and at his eyes, which were blazing with emotion, seeming greener than usual from his recent Shift.
“There’s another reason,” he began, his voice rippling with a slight growl. “I think you know what I’m going to say, but I have to say it anyway.” He paused, not breaking his fixed stare, from which she dared not flinch.
“I know,” she replied softly, her voice purring in reply. She had been so focused on him that she had not noticed her own form, glancing down at her hands that were slightly curled and tapering into sharpened claw tips. With a slight laugh she refocused and Shifted back into her full human form. Looking back up at him she smiled and drew her face closer to his, until her lips brushed delicately against the edge of his.
“And can I just say,” she murmured lightly. “Me too.”
“Will you have your fortune read, my dear?” the harsh voice cackled in her ear. Elile turned to see a short, brightly-spangled woman, clutching at her elbow.
“I’m sorry but I’m in a bit of a hurry,” Elile replied, edging away.
The woman froze, her yellowing eyes wide and staring and she began to chant, her mouth wide and distorted,
“Beware, my dear, I see a cloud rise dark,
And thick around your eyes. You see the mark!
It passes close, so close, but none shall hear,
But She, the one whom all that lives must fear"
“Sorry, but I really have to be going,” Elile insisted, pulling her elbow out of the woman’s grasp.
“Take this, my dear. Take it!” she screamed, her hair flying out wildly, her clawed hand offering a card. Elile reluctantly took the slick, shiney thing and started to walk away.
“Beware! And mark that card!” the woman screamed after her, as Elile disappeared amongst the crowd.
Fortune Teller’s Tags: Truth or Fiction? Item 3.14.1
Elile slid through the heavy wooden door into her father’s study and padded softly across the carpet.
“Ah! My dear Elile, what can I do for you?” Penry exclaimed exuberantly, carefully placing his pen beside a piece of parchment, still glistening with ink.
“I have something I want to talk to you about. It perhaps would be better if Mother was here as well,” she replied, regarding her father slightly nervously.
“Ah! In that case I think I know what this is about.” Penry leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers and regarding her with a contemplative look. “It is about that young man of yours?”
“Yes, Father,” she replied, blushing and not quite meeting his eye.
“Well, what is there to say? I am certain that your mother and I would both agree that it would make a most fitting match.”
Elile’s eyes widened in surprise, not quite believing what she was hearing.
“So you don’t object?” she replied, her tone betraying her astonishment.
“No, of couse not, my child. I feel almost hurt that you would suspect otherwise of me.” He inclined his head and winked, making her feel even more uncomfortable than before.
“What about my Aunt and Uncle? Do you think they will feel the same?” she asked hastily, to fill the awkward silence.
“Ah! Here I feel we hit upon a little snag. I find it highly unlikely, need I say extremely improbable, that they would allow any such union. But don’t you worry about those details! I’ll send word to Vinthia myself. I’m sure it will all work out for the best.” He smiled at his daughter, who was still giving him a slightly disbelieving look.
“Thank you!” she eventually stammered. “I’ll tell Dyl what you said. Maybe if he spoke to his parents…”
“No,” he interrupted her curtly, with a sharp gesture. “It is in my hands now. You must promise you’ll leave it to me.”
Slightly taken aback by this change in tone, Elile just nodded mutely, scared of provoking another change in her father.
“Good. Then we are agreed,” he said pleasantly and picked his pen back up. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“No. No, that’s all,” she replied hastily and with a quick curtsy, turned and slid quickly from the room.
The smile fading from his face, Penry clicked his fingers. Klint materialised from the shadows.
"Have this delivered to my sister,” he said, folding up the now-dry parchment and handing it across to the man.
With a bow, the man silently slid back into the shadows and was gone.
I require your presence here in Silvetera as a matter of utmost urgency. I expect to see you before dawn.
“I have other children- and who am I to stand in the way of such a touching example of young love?”
Vinthia raised her eyebrows in astonishment and for a moment was totally nonplussed. Of all the reactions she might have predicted from her brother, this one was the least probable.
“But you do realise that whoever marries our son will have to be the Queen of Arrozale? We have no other children and Dylanon is our only heir.”
“Yes, I do. I most clearly realise that, sister. But think- I have half a dozen children, including some very reliable ones, who will make most excellent Kings or Queens.” Penry was sitting back in his chair, with an air of relaxed ease.
Vinthia shifted uncomfortably, giving her brother a very narrow look. She didn’t know what he was thinking and this worried her more than anything else.
“But consider, brother,” she began after a pause, “They are close cousins- it is highly unusual for such marriages to occur in these days. What will the public think of it?”
“Oh, I don’t think we need to worry about the public, do you?” Penry replied in an indifferent tone, waving his hand dismissively. “They love this kind of romantic thing. They also look very aesthetically pleasing together, don’t you think?”
“But what about their children? If their totems are too close, doesn’t it risk a chance of, well, you know…” Vinthia trailed off, not wanting to finish the statement.
“I assume, dear Vinthia, that you are alluding to Werserkism?” Penry queried softly, his face an impassive mask.
“Well it is a risk,” she replied hastily, her voice sounding a little bit hysterical, even to her own ears. “You know there’s evidence that marriages between close totems risks genetic difficulties in Shifting capabilities.”
“Well, well. I’d never thought you’d be one of the Anti-Serkist movement,” he whispered, with a small tight smile. “Klint. Would you be so good as to step forward please.”
Out of the darkness of the back of the room, a shadow moved and solidified until a tall, muscular man stepped up to the King’s side.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” he replied in rumbling voice, that resonated around the room.
“Have you met Klint, sister?” Penry asked lightly, gesturing to the man bristling by his side.
Vinthia froze where she was, eyeing the Guard warily. She had heard that Penry employed some in his army, but that didn’t make her feel any less uncomfortable.
“No? Well, let me introduce you,” Penry continued when it became clear Vinthia wasn’t going to reply. “Klint, this is my favourite sister, Queen Vinthia of Arrozale.” He paused, noticing her flinch at his choice of words. “Dear Vinthia, this is Klint, Leader of the Shadow Guard of Silvetera and as you so delicately put it, a, what was it? A ‘genetic difficulty’ I believe, although maybe a ‘risk’ is more appropriate.”
Vinthia sat completely still, not at all reassured by having her fears confirmed. Her eyes were fixed on those of the Shadow Guard, whose face was blank and masklike.
“It is a great honour to be introduced to you, Your Highness,” Klint boomed in his deep, husky voice, drawing one of his massive arms across his chest and bowing down before her. Vinthia barely managed to suppress her flinch backwards.
“It is a pleasure for me to meet any person worthy of an introduction from my brother,” Vinthia blurted out the standard reply.
“Excellent! Excellent!” Penry replied, sitting up and clasping his hands together in a show of delight. “Well, if you have any further objections you’d like to raise, now would be the time, sister. I am sure that Klint would be more than happy to oblige you with an answer to any questions you may have on the subject of, shall we say, his condition.”
“No, no. It’s alright,” Vinthia added abruptly, cautiously eyeing the Guard still. “It would be a great honour to both Kingdoms to reaffirm the close bond between our nations. I can see no genuine objection to the marriage.”
“I’m sure our children will be most delighted by the news. Your son, in particular, I know would be most disappointed to hear of your disapproval. I earnestly hope that he does not get to hear of it.”
Vinthia paused and looked directly at Penry, uncomfortably aware of the fact that she was probably not fully understanding the implication of this statement.
“No, maybe not. But perhaps it would be wise to make sure they are both certain that this is what they want? They are both still young and if this proved to be a passing fancy, then it could prove most disastrous. Remember when Falos became heir to the throne of Arrozale? All the trouble that that caused, especially…”
“If you really so wish, sister,“ said Penry, cutting her off. “I will speak to both of them. But I doubt this will change their minds. To me, they seemed to be the most determined young people I ever saw.”
The Merchant Rebellion of 4245: A Study of Sibling Bonds.
It has often been observed that the importance of Kinship bonds was of paramount importance during the Merchant Rebellion. However, what is very often left unsaid, is that this trend still shows true in Silveteran social culture to this day. One of the most striking examples of this comes from the original Monarchal Charter, the exact wording of which is still maintained to this day. It varies greatly from the original Charter that was upheld during the Arrozalan occupation and even now Silvetera operates under a notably different system to that of Arrozale. The most key difference to the topic of this essay is the favouring of the sibling bond relationship above that of the parent to the child. In this way, the siblings of the Monarchal Duo take precedence as an heir over that of their children. Indeed, when the Charter was originally written it was assumed that Silvetera would not be ruled by a Monarchal Duo united by marriage, but rather a sibling blood-bond pair. This has caused some difficulties in the interpretation of the inheritance laws, with a small adendum to the Charter that discounts the siblings of a King or Queen who has taken their throne through marriage, rather than blood relation...
From: The Merchant Rebellion: A Critical Reader.
“I’m sorry boy,” Penry said to Dyl, his voice modulating to accommodate a rare touch of sympathy.
“But why? I don’t understand why they are so opposed!”
“Well, you see, they seem to think it morally wrong,” Penry paused as he observed a slightly guilty expression cross Dyl’s face. “But I think they are more concerned for the future of their Kingdom. They have to think about these things you know.”
Dyl didn’t miss the patronising touch in the statement, but remained quiet.
“They are not entirely unreasonable. They offer you two choices: Remain their son, and the future King. Or Marry the girl and renounce your place.”
Dyl gave him a sideways look, unsure whether the irony was intentional.
“I take the second option,” Dyl replied quietly, pulling himself to his feet, so that his frame loomed over the King.
“Well I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but I can’t let you do that,” the King interjected smoothly. “You see, there is the fact of my own consent. And while I am more than happy for my daughter to marry a Prince, I’m afraid I would have to prevent any union between an untitled, unemployed drifter and a child of mine.”
“Is there anything I can do?” he asked, sitting back down heavily, his tone resigned.
“Not with things the way that they are I'm afraid. But I could help by breaking the news to my daughter, if you would you prefer?”
“No, I would rather tell her in my own way, if you don’t mind,” Dyl replied, slowly rising to his feet.
By the time you will have read this, I will already have returned my parent’s verdict to you.
I will not dwell on this anymore than to say that I love you and to ask you to meet me tonight at midnight. Today is my last official day as a guest of your parents and at the turn of the clock I am officially free.
I will be by the exposed passageway in the North Quad Cellar, our last and most recent Secret Room.
All my love,
“That passage must run parallel with the outer strut of the Palace Wall,” Elile called back to Dyl, who was lagging slightly behind, investigating a drainage grate.
“I think you’re right. But you’d never know it was there unless you were looking for it,” he replied, straightening up from where he’d stooped over the grill.
“Do you know where this alley is?” she asked, looking apprehensively up at the towering black walls.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think we’re out in the main city yet. It looks like part of a disused barbican.”
“It does look like that,” she replied musingly, running her hand across the roughened stone. “I’m glad we’ve found such an exciting old piece of the Palace. It’s much more fitting for our final adventure than that time we found ourselves in part of the laundry shute.”
“Don’t say that,” he replied sharply, turning away from her.
“Say what?” she asked, genuinely surprised at his response.
“Say that it’s our last adventure. It’s not like we’ll never see each other again.” As he said this, he kicked a chip of loose stone, which cracked into several pieces as it hit the wall.
“I think it has to be, don’t you?” she replied in a sad, but resigned tone.
“No. No it doesn’t!” he snapped back. “Come away with me! We can go anywhere- leave all this behind us.”
Elile blinked and looked away, her head down. Glancing back again she saw the disappointment emanating from his expression, washing over her with guilt.
“I just can‘t…” she began, before trailing off into silence. Total silence.
“You don’t…” Dyl began, but she cut him off with a gesture. She quickly scoped the grounds, Shifting her ears to try and pick up a trace.
“Do you feel that?” she whispered softly to him, still looking around them. Dyl looked confused for a moment, his mind still focused on their conversation, until gradually he felt it begin to seep into his mind.
“It doesn’t feel right,” Elile continued, her voice even more hushed than before. “It’s so quiet. Too quiet.”
He didn’t like to admit it, but she was right. He knew they would have to return to the safety of the Palace, but he had so much he so desperately still wanted to say to her.
“Come on, quick, we’d better head back,” he said eventually, his tone resigned.
“You don’t think its her do you?” Elile replied, a tremble entering her voice.
“She is a fairy-tale told to scare children at festivals. But still…” Dyl glanced up the blackened walls that leaned imposingly over the alley, “I think it’s time to leave.”
“I think it’s already too late,” she replied softly.
Dyl turned sharply to look more closely at her, where she stood, fixed immovably as before. Something was making his senses tingle, something he desperately did not want to consciously admit. In the corner of his eye he caught sight of a pipe, from which water was oozing down its length and sliding onto the stone floor with a repetitive slapping noise. With each drop the sound hit his senses, driving his attention forcibly to only one conclusion.
He could hear it.
“Lile!” he called out as he leapt forward to catch her crumpling form.
“Dyl?” she whispered, her eyes meeting his. Her knees buckled and Dyl was forcibly dragged down by her weight as she collapsed fully.
“Lile, what is it? What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice desperate.
“I…” she began, her voice barely audible. Still looking at him, she smiled, sinking backwards with a sigh as her eyelids fluttered closed.
“Lile?” he shook her gently, her body rolling loosely in his arms.
“Lile?” he cried, his voice breaking, pulling her closer to him, rocking her in his arms.
Collapsing suddenly backwards, he lay beside her tangled form, covered his eyes with his hands and screamed. Drawing his hands down over his scalp, he froze where he was, his eyes staring straight up, refusing to see, refusing to think.
And as he lay there, a small red jewel glistened, welling from one corner of Elile’s eye, and streaked down her cheek, tracing a red track against the whitening skin.
Monday, 11 June 2007
I am so excited I can barely write! Tonight is my last night in Arrozale and tomorrow I’ll be coming home! It has been so long- so long I can barely remember my old life in Silvetera. And to see you again! I doubt we’ll even recognise each other.
That’s not to say there aren’t many things that I will miss in Dirdarn. I have some good friends here and I don’t think I will ever know a place as well as I know this old Castle. Our Secret Rooms List is now more like the size of a novel! I sometimes worry about that someday someone will take advantage of our work. I’ve been tempted on many occasions to throw it into the fire, but something has held me back. Perhaps it’s because I don’t feel like it’s really my decision alone. It’s ours and that what we do with it should be a decision between the two of us.
Ah! But, to be back in the excitement of the big city! And to be back with my real family! I haven’t stopped dreaming of this day for eleven years. Eleven years! I’ve lived more than half my life here in Dirdarn- my memories of Silvetera- what if I’m wrong? What if its not what I’ve been dreaming of? Sometimes I’m so worried about what it will be like to be back. To actualise a dream that I’ve had for so long.
This is the last letter I will be writing to you- and in many ways I regret this more than anything else. Letters have been so much a part of my life.
But for once in this life, I won’t ask you to send a reply, but rather to wait and tell me to my face in ten days time!
All my love,
Princess Elile: Epistles.
“You’ve got a letter, Dyl,” Flo said, handing the envelope across the table to him.
“Really?” he replied eagerly, jumping up to take it from her. “I thought she’d be too busy with the Leaving Ceremony to have time to write.” Flo rolled her eyes, smiling archly across at her cousin.
“Too busy to write? Maybe. After all, I’ve not had a letter. Too busy to write to you? Hardly.” Smiling at his obvious discomfort, Flo continued to flick through the envelopes on the table.
“Well, maybe there’s something in here for both of us,” Dyl added diplomatically, looking at the letter with a slightly guilty expression.
“I really don’t mind. Look, sorry for teasing you, it’s just been a tough week,” she sighed and dropped the pile of letters back onto the table. She was right. There wasn’t a letter for her.
“She’ll be here soon and we’ll all be able to catch up properly then,” Dyl added awkwardly, patting her shoulder. Shaking him off irritably, Flo cast him a withering glare.
“I already told you, I’m not bothered ok? Why can’t you listen?”
“Sorry, I’ll umm… well,” he trailed off, slightly nonplussed by his cousin’s unusually acerbic reply. “I’ll be in my room if you need me.”
Dyl walked out of the Breakfast Lounge cautiously, not wanting to provoke her even more. Flo sat still, a stubbornly fixed expression on her face, until she was certain her cousin was out of hearing. Then folding forwards gently onto her outstretched arms, she began silently to cry.
28th Hepti 4375
I do not know why you have stopped writing and I wish I did. I will risk myself no more than to say I hope that you are well and that this letter reaches your own hands.
All the best,
The Letters of Princess Flora of Silvetera, Age 16.
“Princess Elile!” King Penry exclaimed loudly, his arms wide and inviting. “Welcome home!”
The crowds cheered and threw confetti on the Princess as she gracefully alighted from her carriage. Looking across the expanse of blue fabric that lead up the steps to the foot of her father, the woman broke into a broad smile. Resisting the temptation to call back, Elile curtsied elegantly, before sweeping along the path that had been laid for her. The crowd roared its appreciation with a renewed shower of flower petals sprinkling down upon her from all sides.
Marvelling at the colour and beauty of the spectacle, Dyl looked down on the scene from his place amongst the siblings, who were lined up behind the King and Queen. He had never seen so many people of the city in the Palace Square before, nor so many people decked out in such an array of colour and finery. The whole crowd rippled like a multi-coloured wave, the noise emitting from them like the breathing of an ocean in a storm. He squinted down at Elile, trying to draw a line of recognition between his young, blurry memories and the face of the woman approaching him. Eventually he sighed to himself and realised that it was just too long ago. He didn’t recognise her and he was certain she wouldn’t recognise him.
“Your Majesties,” Elile murmured gently to her parents, curtsying for the second time.
“Welcome home, daughter,” Queen Aleyn replied emotionally, her hand outstretched to Elile. Taking her mother’s hand, she smiled, tears threatening the corners of her eyes.
“Come and greet your siblings,” King Penry added, gesturing his daughter towards him.
Dyl watched Elile as she first approached her two sisters and gave them a restrained, but joyful hug. He couldn’t help but feel irritated. He knew Lile and Flo were close and that Tusani looked up to her eldest sister, but he felt overshadowed somehow. The outsider, in this scene of family reunion. He edged slightly away from the brothers and looked down at his scuffed shoes. He glanced up again as he saw her approaching Rhonen, leaving only one brother standing between them.
“Lian! I’m so glad to finally meet you!”
The voice cut through him like ice and he looked away, scuffling his feet even more. He felt the shadow of a presence passing close to him and he dragged his eyes around to face her. For a second they both stood, eyes locked on each other. Then in a flash of movement she engulfed him in a tight embrace, squeezing the breath out of him. He snaked his arms around her back in a return of her hug, when she leaned down to whisper in his ear, her lips lightly brushing against his cheek.
“I have looked forward to seeing you the most.”
With the faintest twitch of a wink she withdrew her arms and turned back to face her parents. Dyl struggled to keep his expression neutral, his breath tight in his throat.
“Come, we have made up a room for you to take some rest. You must surely be tired after the long journey?” Queen Aleyn asked her daughter gently, taking her hand and leading her towards the Palace entrance.
“Yes I am a bit,” Elile replied gratefully.
Dyl stood where he was, watching her weave her way into the Palace. He subconsciously moved his hand to touch his cheek, when suddenly he sensed the prickle of eyes staring at him from behind. He turned around sharply to see the King giving him a appraising look.
“Your Majesty?” he asked, trying to keep his voice, deep, level and neutral.
“As you were, my boy,” the King replied, with a sardonic smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.
Dyl edged cautiously away from the King, a nervous smile playing about his features. Noticing Rhonen and Lian had started walking into the building, he took his cue and hurried after them, not daring to glance back.
Penry watched until the boy had passed out of sight, the smile dissolving from his features to be replaced by a hard, tight look.
“We shall see,” he muttered to himself, clenching and stretching his fists, before turning and entering the Palace himself.
Flo. Sorry not written sooner. Communication broken. Find new way. Still with parents. Going to Kyro soon. Love you always. Arkan.
The Messenger Pigeons of Daiiroda: A Secret Story. Entry 2.1.18
Elile stood looking at herself in the floor-length mirror, attired in all her ceremonial finery. She was exhausted and could trace the lines of it in her face. She stepped closer to the mirror, her slate-blue eyes an inch away from the glass. Her breath clouded the image and she drew back irritably. She felt hot and confined in the aquamarine construction she had been siphoned into and began to feverishly pull at the strings, bows and clasps that were holding the thing together.
When she had finished the ruined fabric crumpled uselessly to the floor and she kicked it away from her. Noticing her feet, she tore the silken slippers from them, so that her toes could sink deeply into the matt of the rug beneath her. She glanced up again at the mirror and saw herself barefoot, left only in the remnants of her simple green undergown. At that sight she immediately felt so much more free and clear. With a deep sigh she began to pull at the pins and ties that were keeping her hair up in those stylish twists and coils, until that was likewise hanging around her face like a chestnut-brown curtain.
She jumped at the sound of a gentle knock at the door. Glancing guiltily at the ruin of her outfit that lay scattered on the floor, she momentarily hesitated over what to do. With a sudden rush of irreverent confidence she strode over to the door and pulled it open. Leaning against the doorframe was Dyl, who seemed to jump even more than she had when she’d first heard him knock.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to intrude…” Dyl trailed off, looking away from her guiltily and stepping away.
“What are you talking about? You’re not intruding! Come on in!” she replied with a laugh, stretching one of her hands out to him.
“Umm… No, I think best not. Well, I would, but you know… you know, your father...” he stammered in reply, glancing slightly nervously over his shoulder.
“I see,” Elile replied, still amused, glancing down at her disordered appearance. “But if you won’t come in, is there anything else you want?” Dyl blushed slightly, but managed to look up directly into her face.
“Well, I was going to say that I’ve been meaning to investigate a door, to which I’ve finally found the key and well… I was wondering if you wanted to come too. You know, for old time’s sake.”
“Of course!” Elile whispered back excitedly. “But you’ll have to wait here while I get dressed.” With which she swiftly pulled the door shut with a muffled click.
“Nothing ever changes,” Dyl muttered to himself with a smile.
Saturday, 9 June 2007
Red dots with a yellow centre: capital cities
Red Dots: Towns/ cities
Tiny yellow dots: sand/ desert
Tiny pale blue dots: Snow/ tundra
Tiny dark blue dots: Ice- no land beneath- eg. Arctic.
Green dashes: plains
Green bumps: dales
Green squiggles: swamp
Green tree-shapes: Jungle
Green lollipop stick: Trees (there's only two of these on the map. There are obviously more trees around I just haven't decided where- definately in the green zones though.)
Brown triangles: mountains
Blue lines: rivers
Other useful info:
Months of the Year in the Standard World Calendar:
Rough information on the Kingdoms:
Callania (Britain- yes I am that sad and obvious as basing my main characters in a country similar to my own.). A temperate downs kingdom. Capital city is Geveny. Minor town is Ystia.
This is the main continent in the world- although it is not the only landmass. The people who live on the continent are not interested in what lies beyond the Unchartered Oceans and it doesn't feature in the plot that I am writing.
Friday, 8 June 2007
Omen, suspended in water and staring up into the sky, watched the stars as they swam in and out of the clouds. This wasn’t his dream and he knew it. He didn’t need to pinch himself or pick up a book to know where he was, his dreams had always been a staple part of his identity – but now he was slipping into other people’s and he didn’t know why.
“I’m glad you came.” Said a voice. He looked up and saw a girl in a dark skin-suit. She was standing in silhouette, the light pollution from the city behind her glowing like a halo. She was standing on the surface of the water. He floundered and splashed to get nearer to her and she laughed. In the same way that he knew he was dreaming, he knew that he wasn’t dreaming her, she was real.
“Who are you?” He spluttered.
“I am…,” She began, “You wouldn’t know me.”
“Are you the voice? The one who speaks to me? Are you Pantheon?!”
She didn’t answer for a time, she just stood and looked down at him as he wasted energy treading water. Eventually, earnestly, she replied. “No. Follow me.”
She began to sink under the surface and as she went she took his hand. He held his breath for as long as he could and he heard her laugh, the sound echoing in the gloomy waters. Finally his lungs exploded and he inhaled a lungful of Swansea bay. At first it hurt, then he began to savour the taste of the sea, the power it seemed to give him.
“Good,” she said, her hand releasing his, “We’ve passed through. You’ll start thinking like him now.”
“Who?” he garbled, but all that came out was bubbles. She smiled and pointed. He followed her finger, his eyes adjusting to the light. Up ahead he could see a form in the water, swimming in barrel rolls, up and down, around and around for sheer joy. It reminded him of –
“Spout.” She said, watching him like a ghost.
Omen reeled back and tried desperately to swim upwards but he was caught in a downwards current. The girl grabbed his wrist again and they followed after Spout as he swam. Omen didn’t want to be seen, he didn’t want to be recognised. This was an invasion of privacy – to see someone else’s dreams! It was bad enough that this girl was in his, but for him to be in someone else’s, a friend’s – it was repulsive.
The girl’s face hardened as they swam onwards, their pace increased as she led them on, faster and faster. The environment changed, they passed a wall in the water, the roots of the dark stones rising up out of the sand. Spout swam down to the sand to inspect something – an anchor from one of the static ships – they were in the marina now.
There was a splash from above, muted yet distinct. Spout cast it a cursory glance then ignored it. The girl seemed to fade, her hand gribbed Omen’s like a cold clamp. Omen watched as the shape fell silently to the bottom of the marina and sat there. It was long and wrapped in plaster strips, weighted at one end. Spout swam over to investigate, running his hands along the bone white surface. Soon, there were more splashes and identical forms all hit the sand one after the other. Curious, baffled, scared – Spout began to investigate further, with his sharp nails he began to tear at the plaster and peel it apart.
Omen could feel the girl shaking, he was compelled to watch but the sense of horror and expectation grew with each passing moment. Ten, twenty, thirty; he lost count as the sand bed filled with cocoons. Desperately Spout’s fingers bit into the plaster and tore away at the shell until it burst apart in a cloud of watery dust and debris. Omen grimly squinted into the cloud, his eyes morbidly desperate for details, for closure.
“They lied to us.” The girl said and she seemed to speak with a chorus of voices, all the same but magnified by ten, twenty, thirty…
Spout reeled back and tore open another cocoon. Omen caught a glimpse of his face, frantic and fixed in an expression Omen had never seen. Soon the water was clouded with white smoke and everything disappeared. The girl held Omen’s hand and they began to rise, up and up until they were out of the water and standing on the quay-side. Figures dressed in dark clothes were scouring the water with long poles, they were speaking in raised whispers. Bubbles were rising from the water – something was happening beneath the surface that wasn’t meant to and they wanted it to stop. Omen looked up at the girl and for the first time he was able to see all of her face, each of her mousy features set in an unreadable mask of stone. He turned back to the water and watched as black shapes bobbed to the surface; the men dragged their nets desperately through the water as more and more black shapes appeared. One of them shouted – he’d snagged something. In an instant they were all struggling to pull whatever it was out of the water.
Like a tug of war, the men on the quay-side pulled and pulled until the surface erupted in flurry of splashes. They’d caught Spout and he was struggling with every ounce of strength he possessed. They dragged him up the side of the marina and over the cold stone and bundled him, kicking and screaming into the back of a van. Within moments, the vans were gone and the only evidence that remained were the black forms in the water.
“They lied to us,” the girl said again, her voice hollow and drenched in sorrow. Omen mustered all the strength he could to turn his head one last time. He had to know, he needed to know…
The oily skin of the marina’s filthy water lapped against the wall and Omen held his breath as he poured over every last detail. Forms became distinct. He saw limbs, he saw hair and ultimately he saw faces. But not different faces, the same face. Every body was identical and all of them looked like her.
“They lied to us.”
He was awake. The sound of water exploded somewhere behind him and he heard frantic footfalls on the floor of the caravan. The door slammed and Omen opened his eyes. The smells were familiar and all that was different was the layer of sweat on his skin. Omen tore away the quilts and sat up. The terrible truth burned in his chest like a molten stone, sitting on top of his stomach, smouldering away and eating him up. He stood up and paced for a moment, walking backwards and forwards aimlessly, his mind racing, unsure of how he could go on knowing what he knew. He looked over at Spout’s tank and the watery mess on the floor. He’d gone.
Omen slammed the door open and peered into the darkness. There was no one. Watery footprints led off into the moonlight but were soon dry and indistinct. Lost. Omen knew that he had to find him and fast or no-one would ever see him again. He felt like he’d committed a terrible crime. What he’d seen was beyond personal, it was an affront to everything he understood to mean right and good. He’d gone, unwillingly, but he’d gone into the place where everyone was truly alone. Something had changed, so much had been flipped on its head that he had to run – just run until he found Spout.
Luckily, it didn’t take long for his power to kick in. Omen ran out of the Circus field and onto the main road that ran up against the sea wall and led, eventually, to the Mumbles. Spout was lying at its base, all of his strength gone. Omen saw the chipped stone, how he’d try to scale the wall and escape to the sea. Spout shook in the tall grass, his blue scales glimmering in the moonlight. Omen could see now how much younger he’d been when he was captured, the boy they’d pulled out of the marina wasn’t this gangly wretch.
“You don’t want to go back there.” Omen muttered, his voice shaking.
Spout shook his head. It was true, the sea wasn’t the answer.
“It was all real, wasn’t it?”
Spout nodded. Omen was once accused of having seen something he shouldn’t have, something he hadn’t understood, but this – he wished more than anything he hadn’t seen this. He kneeled down and put his hand on Spout’s back. Through his hand he felt the shaking; unrelenting, unstoppable…
“I didn’t want to see – I didn’t mean to – ”
Spout spun around and for an instant Omen thought he was going to hit him, but he just wrapped his arms around Omen’s neck and wept.
Weeks passed by and Squeeze barely noticed. Some nights he’d come in smelling of bins, other nights he’d be covered in paint again. If he closed his eyes and pretended the last year hadn’t happened he could almost see himself as he was before. He wasn’t the same person though and that was becoming clear.
“Today,” he began, standing in front of his friends in the basement holding a piece of paper left by Gwen, “We’re going to the Sandfields.”
Without the Elementals around the public had become jumpy, so initially they’d taken advantage of the gap with a spate of good deeds up and down the city. Cleaning up had been the order of the day and this included apprehending criminals the police couldn’t catch and tidying up the city. When he’d been told that he’d be painting over his old graffiti the others had clearly expected him to lose his temper. Collectively they’d held their breath waiting for his reaction, but in truth, he felt nothing, in fact, he welcomed the opportunity to do something good for the city. It was penitence. Armed with a can of paint, a brush and a wad of flyers he’d scoured every inch of the Uplands and beyond.
It hadn’t taken long for their good work to be noticed. Their well-meaning message fell on deaf ears and each was torn down and replaced with a wanted poster. All criminals who were bagged by the ASBOs were claimed by the Police without a mention of how they’d been caught. But the people knew and somehow the word got around. It didn’t take a genius to notice that the council wasn’t painting over the walls and the Civic Repair groups were crippled by their own corruption and how on earth had the police suddenly become 250% more efficient. Word got around.
“Gwen has left us some stats,” Squeeze continued, “Since Townhill and Mayhill were demolished, over 25% of the populations were reabsorbed by the Sandfields. In the seventeen years since the Walls were built the population has more than doubled, but it goes without saying that no new houses have been built to accommodate the new people.”
Bark was nodding, “We share our house with another family.”
“Obviously, we can’t build houses, it just gives us an idea of the problem we’re up against. The Council likes to think of it as a success story. The Vetch stayed in the Sandfields after all, says they, there are still jobs, they claim. But football and a few factories aren’t really enough. Half of the streetlights don’t work, buildings are unsafe and what was once a relatively nice place to live has become a slum.
“So, we go in. Arc-Light, Bark – you two are on repairs – Telegraph poles; electric wiring, etcetera – Gwen wants them back up and running. The police presence there is non-existent so we can walk around in broad daylight in the suits, we can show our faces, so to speak. Malady – Gwen has a specific op in mind for you, but it kinda needs you to be really happy.”
Malady looked up. She hadn’t been the same since the bunker, despite the fact that her ability had gradually expanded to react to a whole new spectrum of emotions. It was the same with all of them, their powers had swollen beyond their original abilities. Bark had started planting the seeds from his back in parks and within weeks they grew to full height. Arc-Light had begun to see what she described as energy patterns; she understood how electricity worked, how it moved, how it behaved and Squeeze could now stretch his body to more than double its original length.
Malady understood. Happiness and pain were still her most potent emotions and everyone knew it. Squeeze didn’t feel comfortable with making her heal people; it felt too much like they were using her to change their image, and even though she was helping people it didn’t make him feel any better about asking her in the first place. But, if they managed to change the system then she’d be able to go back and have a normal life.
“Which is why we’ve got you this…” Squeeze handed her a wad of papers. Malady looked down the page and for a moment her expression didn’t change, then it shifted gear and the magnitude of what she’d received dawned on her fully. Laughing, crying, she skipped around the room hugging everyone before darting off upstairs, no doubt to show her parents.
The others smiled and Squeeze continued grimly, “With any luck she’ll be able to start curing people tomorrow. Everything from nits to cancer.”
“What will you be doing?” Arc-Light asked, her tone was off-hand, but the question was loaded.
“The same thing I’ve been doing for the past four weeks. Cleaning up.”
That night Squeeze lay back in bed and thought about what he was doing. Gwen had asked him how badly he wanted things to change. He’d told her that he was prepared to do anything. Was he, she asked, prepared to break the law and risk a lengthy prison sentence in order to do this? Was he prepared to, potentially, take the fall for everyone else? Was he prepared to keep this secret for the time being in order to start a revolution? He’d said yes, and with that she’d handed him a digital camera.
Possession of a camera was illegal. More punishable than drugs, arms or pornography. Beneath the pillow Squeeze held its cold, metallic surface and pondered how he was going to get the next picture.
Thursday, 7 June 2007
[Downtown warehouse: grim and simply lit by a single bulb, flickering overhead.]
HERE. TAKE THIS. KEEP IT SAFE AT ALL COSTS.
[a small package is handed to Shift. She uses her morphing power to absorb the parchment into her skin, to hide the information.]
TRUST ME. I WILL DO.
[With a loud thud a door behind the two bursts open and thugs pour into the room. Shift realises they'll have to run and grabs the arm of the insider, dragging him behind as she leaps for safety.]
COME ON! FOLLOW ME!
THERE SHE IS!
[Pulling out a gun, one of the thugs shoots the Insider. Realising, Shift turns back, bristling in rage.]
[Using her morphing power, Shift transforms into a leopard and pounces on the man who shot the Insider, knocking the gun from his hand. More thugs turn up, including a man who is clearly the boss.]
YOU'RE TOTALLY SURROUNDED. YOU MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP NOW.
(thought bubble) THAT'S WHERE YOU'RE WRONG MR SINTARO
[She uses her morphing power to turn into a tree, punching through the concrete floor with her roots to hold herself upright. Mr Sintaro glares at her, the thugs mark her with their weapons.]
[Meanwhile, in the Scribblers HQ, Finesse and Amity are sitting in the lounge.]
SO HAS CHRONAL SAID WHERE SHIFT'S GONE?
NO. BUT IT'S APPARENTLY PART OF SOME BIG SECRET DEAL.
[Suddenly Amity jumps up, grabbing her head]
IT'S SHIFT! THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG!
WHAT IS IT? WHAT'S HAPPENED?
I'M NOT SURE... I FELT A SUDDEN JUMP IN EMOTION... BUT NOW SHE'S JUST GONE, TOTALLY GONE.
I'M NOT SURE.
[Finesse stretches out her arms and uses her catalytic ability to reinforce Amity's power.]
HERE- I'LL USE MY POWER TO BOOST YOURS. THAT WAY YOU MAY GET SOMETHING.
[Amity concentrates harder, screwing her hands up against her face.]
YES... FAINT... BUT DEFINATELY THERE. IT'S LIKE SHE'S UNCONCIOUS OR SOMETHING.
WE'D BETTER TELL CHRONAL.
YES. DO YOU KNOW WHERE HE IS?
OUTSIDE LAST I SAW.
[On the terrace, Chronal stands with his hands behind his back, looking out over the land in contemplation. Enter Finesse]
AMITY'S PICKED SOMETHING UP. SHIFT'S IN TROUBLE. SEEMS SHE'S STUCK SOMEWHERE. POSSIBLY UNCONCIOUS.
OK. YOU AND AMITY GET THE TRANS-JET READY. I'LL GO GET LYRIC AND WRAITH AND UPDATE THEM ON THE SITUATION.
[Lyric and Wraith are practising their powers in the Control Room when Chronal enters.]
YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO PUT WHAT YOU'RE DOING ON HOLD. WE HAVE A SITUATION.
[Wraith and Lyric stop what they're doing and walk over to talk to Chronal.]
SHIFT'S IN TROUBLE. SEEMS THE DEAL FELL THROUGH. WE'LL HAVE TO GO IN NOW.
WHAT'S HER STATUS?
CRITICAL. WE'LL HAVE TO MOVE FAST.
[Using their lovely and entirely aerodynamic and environmentally sound super-jet, the team set off for the down town warehouse. They arrive, park the jet and scope the building.]
THIS IS THE PLACE. I'M SURE OF IT.
OK TEAM, HERE'S THE PLAN: AMITY, I NEED YOU TO TRACK SHIFT'S LOCATION. FINESSE, KEEP BOOSTING THE SIGNAL AND US THREE WILL KEEP ANY TROUBLE OFF YOUR BACKS.
[The Scribblers burst into the warehouse, Finesse and Amity in the centre, tracking Shift. Chronal, Wraith and Lyric on the outside ready to pick off random thugs that attack them. A handy bunch of thugs gets in the way in preparation for the gratuitous fight scene.]
IT'S THE SCRIBBLERS! SOUND THE ALARM!
[Much fighting is afoot. Chronal zipping around using his power over time; Lyric throwing words at people; Wraith punching people from behind his veil of invisibility. Finesse occassionally throws out a boost to aid in the fighting- she mainly concentrates on helping Amity, who is walking through the middle, tracking Shift]
THE VIBE IS STRONG HERE. WE MUST BE CLOSE.
[there is a door in front of them. They burst through it with no thoughts of the consequences like all good superheroes.]
I THINK I'M GOING TO BE SICK.
[in the middle of the room, Shift's tree is still standing, but trying to get information out of her, the baddies have been torturing her quite nastily. some branches have been sawn off, some bark stripped away and she is on fire in places. Mr Sintaro is standing nearby.]
I WAS WONDERING WHEN YOUR SHAMBOLIC CREW WOULD MAKE AN APPEARANCE. UNFORTUNATELY FOR YOU, YOU'VE WALKED STRAIGHT INTO MY TRAP. GUARDS!
[Loads more baddies turn up with nasty looking weapons and such. Time for more gratuitous fighting- never get tired of that.]
FINESSE CAN YOU TRANSFORM SHIFT BACK?
THERE'S SO LITTLE OF HER LEFT... IT MIGHT BE POSSIBLE. BUT THE SHOCK MAY KILL HER.
WE HAVE TO GET HER OUT OF HERE THOUGH! WE CAN'T HOLD OFF THIS MANY PEOPLE FOR LONG.
OK, I'LL TRY. BUT YOU'LL HAVE TO HELP ME BY BALANCING HER MENTAL STATE WHILE I PHYSICALLY CHANGE HER. WE NEED TO CONTROL HER PAIN, TO STOP HER FROM GOING INTO SHOCK.
OK. HOLD ON.
[Using a combination of their powers, the girls manage to change Shift back. It was a gruesome and graphic process- there was not enough strength in Shift to allow to repair any of the physical damage she has sustained. Thus her human form is also burnt, bleeding and missing a few fingers and such like. Finesse and Amity pick up Shift between them.]
WE'VE GOT HER!
[Fighting their way out, the heroes make it back out to their jet and sail off into the sunset. Hooray!]
Dyl is leaving today to go and live with mum and dad in Silvetera. I wish I was going instead, its so boring here in Dirdarn. It’ll be even more boring without Dyl’s jokes, especially if they don’t let me out of this court more often.
In her last letter Flo told me that there is a circus coming to Silvetera, all the way from Maoniong! That’s the other side of the world from here. I wish I could go visit there, but Aunt Vinthia says that it’s a very long sea journey and I get sea sick. I could Shift and swim there, but I’m not very good at water Shifts. I’d probably get stuck in the middle of the ocean and drown. Perhaps I could fly. I can do a good owl shift, but I don’t think I could fly that far without a break.
I suppose I’ll just have to stay here, as usual.
Excerpts from the Diary of Princess Elile of Silvetera, Age 9.
“Have you heard?” Srynia eagerly asked her sister as she rushed into the stables.
“Hmm?” Riarna replied dozily from where she was carefully brushing her horse’s tail.
“Apparently there’s a circus in Silvetera and its all the way from Maoniong!”
“Really? How interesting.” Riarna replied apathetically, earning herself a disapproving huff from her sister.
“Aren’t you at all excited? This means we’re going to get to see them when we go with Dad to the Silveteran Horse Market next month!” Seeing her sister shrug indifferently, Srynia pulled a face behind her back.
“I saw that,” Riarna remarked reprovingly.
“Well, then. Stop being so boring! Come on, lets walk into town- that way we might get a chance to meet up with Mina and that lot.”
“I don’t know,” Riarna replied unenthusiastically. “Mina’s really quite annoying. She doesn’t stop talking. And its not like she ever says anything remotely interesting.” Srynia giggled and gently pushed her sister on the shoulder.
“You’re so mean sometimes. But come on, lets do something. It’s not good being stuck in this place all day.” Riarna stopped brushing her horse and turned to smile at her sister.
“You’re right. How about we go out for a ride- like we always used to when we were little? A proper adventure with a picnic and a camp fire and everything?” Srynia paused contemplatively for a moment.
“Yeah, why not? We can make a proper day of it. Mum and Dad won’t mind- they’ll probably be glad to see us out riding like we used to before…” she drifted off briefly, “well, just before in general,” she finished quickly. Noticing her sister was upset, Riarna quickly intervened.
“It’ll be great! Come on, lets go to the kitchen and see what we can pillage from the larder.”
“Sure!” Srynia replied laughing, as the two girls dashed off towards the house.
Wer·serk [wâir-sûrk] noun, adjective.
1. Noun, a human that loses social, moral and emotional control when assuming a Shifted form. Usually characterised by extreme rage and violence.
“The Werserk slaughtered the livestock.”
2. Adjective, used to describe a Shifted human in an uncontrollable emotional state, usually characterised by irrational rage and frenzied violence.
“The shark was werserk when he bit through the boat.”
“Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Srynia asked her sister, slightly alarmed by the fright in her voice.
“Howling. It’s like wolves howling. But why would they howl at this time of day?” Riarna replied nervously.
“I can’t hear it,” Srynia replied, glancing around the clearing cautiously.
“I’m going to try Shifting to see if I can hear it more clearly,” Riarna replied as she stood up and began to focus on the Shift. Stretching downwards and out, she gradually assumed the shape of a wolf. Sitting down she tilted her head and focused on the distant sound.
“What can you hear?” Srynia asked her sister, still looking nervously around herself.
“So there is something?” Srynia added, looking directly at her sister, her voice edged with panic.
“We’d better head back. Pack up the stuff, get on the horses and go,” Srynia poured the rest of a can of water over the fire and started kicking up some loose soil to spread and stamp on the sizzling ashes.
No time. Go now.
“We can’t leave our stuff here- we’ve got to put this fire out properly.”
No time. They are coming. Go now.
“What about you? You are coming aren’t you? Quickly, you’ll have to Shift back and help me.” Riarna focused on her sister through her wolf’s eyes and tried to concentrate. Her instincts seemed to be rebelling against converting back into her defenceless human form. With a great effort of will, she gradually managed to stretch back out into her human shape.
“Come on! Let’s go!” Srynia called to her, leading the two skittish ponies into the clearing. Shaking her head to regain her focus, Riarna grabbed her reins and quickly jumped astride her jittery pony. The howling was clear enough to distinguish in her human form now and the undertones in the sound were unmistakable.
“Werserks,” Srynia stated. “Come on. We might still make it back if we hurry.”
The ponies broke into a fierce gallop without much need for encouragement and disappeared between the trees.
Arrived in Silvetera today. It really is as big as you told me! And so busy! I can see why you thought Dirdarn was so boring.
I got to meet my other cousins today. Flo says to send her love and to say that she’ll send you a souvenir from the Maoniong Circus. Your family is being really nice to me, but I do miss the beaches and rivers of Arrozale. There are so many people and buildings here. It feels so crowded.
Uncle Penry was very nice to me. He gave me a bow and said I could go practice on the target range whenever I liked. I’m really excited- I always wanted to learn archery but my Mum said I was too young.
I think everything is going to be fine here- although it would be better if you could come too. It’s strange being in a place where you don’t know anyone.
Write back soon and let me know how things are going. And don’t forget to try that locked passage in the back of the Armoured Gallery- I think it might be another secret way down to the cellars.
Assorted Letters by King Dylanon of Arrozale.
“Alarm! Alarm! Raise the alarm! Weserks approaching from the north!” the crier ran through the town banging a drum and shouting at the top of his voice.
“Weserks?” Willan exclaimed with a groan. “That’s the last thing we need. Come on, Del, we’d better get back quick and bring in the horses.” They hurried back to their farm, accompanied by the sound of slamming doors and locking bolts. Sprinting back into the yard, Willan ran directly to the stable block and started to grab head collars. Deleha rushed into the house but stopped dead at the sight of a note pinned to the wall.
Gone picnic riding in the wood.
Back for dinner.
Love Sryn and Ri.
“Willan!” she shouted, ripping the letter down and dashing back into the yard.
“What is it?” he called in reply.
“The girls! They’re out riding in the woods! What’ll we do?” she replied in a panic, running over to her husband. Willan frowned and ran a hand through his hair.
“We’ll have to go after them,” he replied, “Never mind the horses. We’ll have to get out there and track them down.”
With that the pair both quickly Shifted into their strongest form, Deleha as a horse and Willan as a wolf. Willan quickly picked up his daughters’ trail and started loping off in that direction, Deleha trotting after him. They had just reached the border of their land when they both heard a sound that chilled them to their hearts.
WESERK WOLVES ATTACK YSTIA
Weserks attacked the town of Ystia today and reawakened fears about the growing threat of Weserk Wolves in the region.
Weserk Syndrome is a relatively uncommon affliction, which seems to predominantly affect people who have a totemic predisposition. There is generally believed to be a strong link between Weserks and people who are born to parents whose Primary Shift is a strong carnivore. However, others dismiss this theory and believe the condition arises following certain virulent diseases, that may inhibit the genetic Shifting that occurs to allow the human to control the mental and emotional capacities of their body.
However, there is no answer as to why the most common Weserk Shift is the wolf, nor why the Weserk Wolves never attack each other. Weserks in other forms have never been seen to distinguish between other Weserks and unaffected humans or animals. There is some speculation that it is possible that the strong pack bond of the wolf overrides the insane rage of the Weserk, which in more antisocial species will turn against everything around it and eventually upon itself.
FURY. HUNGER. ITCH.
“Come on Ri, we’re nearly back now,” Srynia called over her shoulder to her sister, who was lagging behind.
“I can feel them. They’re so close now,” Riarna replied faintly, wobbling slightly on her galloping pony.
RAGE. THIRST. ITCH.
“We’re nearly there. I can see the border of our land. And look! There’s Mum and Dad! They’ll save us! Come on!” Srynia yelled in reply, digging her heels hard into her ponies side, darting forward with a sudden spurt of extra speed.
TRACK. SCENT. HUNT.
“Mum! Dad!” Srynia called out desperately, turning to see her sister lagging back even more.
Coming. Nearly there.
“Ri! Kick on! Just a little bit more!” Srynia shouted back at her sister.
COMING. NEARLY THERE.
Charging at full speed, Willan shot past his daughter’s galloping ponies and leapt straight into the path of the leading Weserk Wolf. Deleha turned and flanked her daughters, nipping their ponies to drive them on. Struggling with the Weserk, Willan was locked jaw-to-jaw, each tearing and snapping at the other. The Weserks stopped and circled around Willan, each one trying to leap in and snatch a bite. He looked desperately around himself and realised he chances of escape were now minimal unless he changed Shift. Thinking quickly he realised there was only one form that might work against them. Concentrating through the pain and blood, he Shifted and leapt onto the back of the lead Werserk, disguised in the form of a flea.
PAIN. HUNGER. ITCH.
5th Nuinch 4367
Thanks for your letter. It cheered me up in a really dull day. I’m so jealous you’re learning archery! I wish I was doing something that fun. Today I learned how to add up the accounts book for a plot of entailed land. It was less than fun.
I tried the passage you suggested. It came to a dead end where the tunnel had collapsed. I think it may lead directly to outside the Castle! If I can dig my way through, we might have another secret exit for our list. Although I don’t know what use it’ll be without you. It’s not as much fun exploring on my own. I wish you had some brothers and sisters I could take with me. Or at least any other kids. Its so unbelievably dull with just grown-ups.
Keep in touch to let me know how things are going in Silvertera.
Letters of Princess Elile of Silvetera.
Wednesday, 6 June 2007
Case no. 1302.
In my initial assessment of the patient I determined her case to be one of critical urgency. Her lower torso and legs were trapped beneath the body of the horse, which was euthanized on scene after it became apparent that there was a negligible chance of recovery. Fortunately, the horse had not struggled on the ground, possibly due to spinal paralysis, so the girl’s injuries seemed largely confined to the initial impact.
Having supervised the safe removal of the animal, I was able to more fully examine the patient. She seemed to be in a state of delirium or semi-consciousness, yet there was no external sign of damage to the cranium. The abdomen was swollen and distended and my first suspicion was the rupturing of an organ in the region. The pelvis seemed also to be displaced, possibly extending back as far as the vertebrae. There was a protrusion from her left thigh, which I suspected to be a fractured femur.
At this point I sent for Dr Kar, whose expertise in repairing internal organ failure would aid in the treatment of the potential rupture. I then administered a dose of Endormedol to aid in the release of her Shifting capability, before beginning the process of setting the bones. The girl had an unusually diverse Shifting mechanism, which made the process of unlocking and healing the bones unusually fast and accurate. I remarked on this unusual gift to the patient’s father, who informed me she had always been a quick and proficient child.
I encountered a difficulty in the healing of her bones at about the same time that Dr Kar arrived. At this point my priority was to assist Dr Kar by stemming the internal blood flow, while he worked on repairing the spleen. With two Medics on hand the process worked particularly quickly until Dr Kar pronounced he was happy with the level of internal health that the girl had acquired.
He offered to help with the setting of the bones and the clearing of the inflammation from the site of impact. I asked for his particular assistance with the femur bone, which was causing an unusual level of concern. There seemed to be something inorganic wedged into the bones that was hindering the ability to Shift the bones back together. I could see no external signs of an entrance wound for a foreign object. Cutting away the trouser leg over the site revealed faint traces of an old scar wound, which lead me to suspect that she had suffered an injury in the past, which had not been treated by a Medic. The only option was to reopen the leg and perform investigative surgery.
I administered a dose of Lepodon to the patient to keep her calm and still, before proceeding with the operation. The surgery revealed an unusual foreign object twisted around the bones of the femur. It was a gold chain, partly fused into the exterior of the bone, with some ossification occurring around the links. Attached to the chain was a narrow pendant of some kind, but calcification had largely obscured the design. When I asked her parents if they knew how this object had got there, both seemed unusually shocked and upset. I do not think they could have known about it, but it seems likely that this could only have been placed there by deliberate design.
The Medical Journal of Dr Rosse Murnagh, Volume VI, Chapter XXI.
“Lile? Hey Lile! Are you up yet?” a voice whispered urgently between the crack in the doorway. The girl sat bolt upright, casting bleary glances around the room.
“Who? What?” she muttered, rubbing her hands over her face, trying to concentrate.
“Its me- Dyl- by the door,” the voice whispered back.
“Dyl? Do you know how early it is? It’s not even light yet.” Elile grumbled back and started to curl back up into her bed clothes. The door flew open and a young boy entered and marched up to the side of her bed, puffing himself up into his full and diminutive height.
“Don’t be so boring. Come on, before the grown-ups wake up and stop us going.” Elile rolled over and looked at her cousin curiously.
“Go where exactly?”
“Down to the lake. I’ve got a boat. But we’ve got to go before the grown-ups wake up because they’ll make the Minder go with us. The Minder is so boring. He doesn’t let us do anything.”
Elile was intrigued. She’d been in Dirdarn for nearly a month and was increasingly bored and homesick. Plus, Dyl was right, the Minder never did let them do anything.
“Ok. I’m coming,” she replied, scrambling out of bed and grabbing some clothes out of the wardrobe. “But you’ll have to wait outside while I get changed,” she added, gesturing him out of the room.
“Great!” Dyl replied enthusiastically and dashed out to wait in the corridor. Changing quickly, Elile joined her cousin in the hall and the pair padded quietly down the stairs and out of one of the side entrances to the Castle.
“We made it!” Elile whispered excitedly to Dyl before the pair disappeared through the long grass and into the wood beyond.
Sil·vet·era [sil'vět'ěr'ər] noun.
1. City of, the capital of the Kingdom of Silvetera and one of the oldest and richest cities in the world. Founded under the control of the Kingdom of Arrozale, the city passed into independent self rule during the Merchant Rebellion of 4245. The city is generally understood to be the International Trading Capital of the World.
2. Kingdom of, founded during the Merchant Rebellion of 4245 and named after its most prominent city…
“What do you mean, ‘missing’?” the Queen demanded angrily of the Minder.
“Just that M’m,” the shivering man replied, twisting his hands together nervously in front of him. “I went in to check on the Prince this morning and I found his room empty. I then went to check if he had gone to see the Princess, but she wasn’t there either.” Queen Vinthia narrowed her eyes, clenching and unclenching her fists.
“So what have you done to try and find them?” she asked acidly; the Minder flinching at every word.
“I came to tell you directly I noticed, M’m,” he paused nervously, noticing the Queen’s increasingly tight expression. “I don’t think they can be in the Castle or one of the staff would have reported it to me.”
“Do you have any conception of the potential consequences of your incompetence?” she snapped furiously at the man.
“I, uh,” the man began to stammer in reply, before the Queen cut him off with a curt gesture.
“Enough! Just find them,” she replied caustically. The man hesitated, casting a furtive look at his Queen.
“Now!” she shouted violently, causing the man to scuttle hurriedly from her presence.
Arr·o·zale [ār'ō'zāl] noun.
1. Kingdom of, founded 1366, the Peninsula State of the West. Capitol city: Dirdarn.
“I have found them Your Highness,” the Minder gasped as he rushed into the Court. Noticing the King was sitting by his wife, he paused and bowing murmured, “Your Majesty.”
“Found who?” King Falos asked the flustered man, frowning in curiosity.
“The young Prince and Princess, Your Majesty,” the Minder replied quietly.
“What?” the King shouted suddenly, leaping to his feet. “Where have they been?” The Queen shifted uneasily in her seat, but managed to maintain an air of apparent calm.
“I found them down by the lake, playing with the Prince’s boat, Majesty.” The man was visibly shaking now.
“That boy!” the King exclaimed angrily and began to pace the room. “Why must he always cause so much trouble?” he turned to ask his wife, who met his troubled gaze with a soothing steadiness.
“He does have a streak of mischief in him,” she replied pensively, “But I am more concerned about young Elile. We must be very careful of her while she is in our care. My brother is not likely to forgive any mistake on our part that we make which affects his child.” Falos sat back down, furrowing his brows and rubbing his chin broodingly.
“Send the children in,” he said to the Minder, who had calmed down once the focus was directed away from him. The man hurried out of the room and returned quickly, leading one child by each hand.
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself, boy?” the King asked his son sternly.
“We were only playing,” the boy replied sullenly.
“You know you’re not supposed to leave the Castle on your own- let alone to go all the way down to the lake. Do you have any idea how dangerous that could be?” the King stood back up and began to pace again. The boy stared at the floor defiantly, clenching his one free fist.
“And dragging your cousin along as well,” the Queen chipped in, “Did you think about how much trouble you were getting her in?” The boy shifted slightly uncomfortably before resuming his stubborn stare.
“I think you need a lesson in respecting the privileged life you live,” the King added, sitting back down again. “If you can‘t use a boat responsibly, then it can be sent back to the Shipyard.” The boy snatched his hand away from the Minder and stamped his foot.
“I hate you!” he shouted before turning and dashing out of the room. A sad expression flickered briefly over the King’s face and he sighed and rubbed his face with both hands.
“I never seem to get it right with him,” he said mournfully to his wife, who also looked slightly anxious. “I did do the right thing, didn’t I? I wasn’t too harsh?” The Queen looked thoughtful again, drawing a deep sigh.
“We have to be tough. How else will he ever learn?” she replied after a pause. “He reminds me of your brother. He was always very wilful and daring. I can’t help but worry that our son will come to a similar end.” The King put his hand on his wife’s soothingly, looking straight into her face.
“What happened to my brother was a tragic fluke of nature, even though my parents would never accept it.” He paused as a deeper look of grief drifted over his features. “It was a terrible end for such a magnificent man, but it was just one of those freak accidents.”
“I know you’re right. It’s just hard not to be protective over our only child. I sometimes worry how he’ll cope away from us in Silvetera.” She paused, noticing that Elile was giving her a thoughtful stare. Raising her voice, she turned to give a command to the Minder, “Escort Princess Elile to her morning tutor and then find our son and bring him back here.”
“Yes, M’m” the man replied, bowing out of the room and pulling the girl along behind him. Just as she passed through the doorway, Elile cast a long look behind her, her eyes fixing briefly with the Queen’s , before she passed out of sight into the shadows.