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Which story was your favourite?
The introduction 0
Terror of the Deep 1
20.0%
Last Melody 2
40.0%
Lifecycle 1
20.0%
Shaping the Future 1
20.0%
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Abstain 3
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#1 [en] 

Preface
The future in fiction

Greetings, readers of Atys! I humbly come before you today to present a new literary experiment!

Most of you will be familiar with the stories of Atys' past. There are a great many of them collected in the Chronicles, which can be found in every major library. Which homin with a love for reading does not know at least one story taking place during the times before hominkind lived in the New Lands? During the Great Swarming, or during the Kitin War, or during the Exodus? During the Fire of Coriolis or during the siege of Karavia? Or even further into the past, during the founding of the first nations, or even during the times when homins still lived as tribes?

Most of you will also have read stories of Atys' present. During the past few years many authors, myself included, have published stories that take place in the world of today. Some of them stories based on true events that happened in recent times, some of them purely fictional but clearly set in the modern world. My own last two stories, Shining Scales and the Igara Effect, fall in the former category. But what matters is that these stories take place in the world of Atys as we know it today, not in the world as it was several generations ago.

There is however, a distinct lack of stories of Atys' future. I myself can not think of a single one, unless you count the Karavan prophecy about the future return of Jena. The problem with stories about the future is ofcourse that they must always be speculative, as nobody knows what the real future will look like. Nevertheless, I believe stories about the future could be a valuable asset to literature, as just as reading about the world of the past can help one see the world of today in a new light, so too reading about possible worlds of the future can help one see it in yet another light.

Thus, I intend to start filling this gap, writing a story that takes place in one possible future of Atys. Or rather, 4 stories, as this shall be a story in four parts, and each part shall be an independent story on it's own, with all four released separately. Thus each can be read independently. But all 4 shall take place in the same future world. These stories shall by necessity be a little longer than my previous stories, as this time I will also have to introduce the world through the stories, which was not necessary before as previous stories took place in a world we already know.

I hope this increased length will not scare off readers, but will excite them to discover this strange new world. It goes without saying that unlike my last 2 stories, these stories do not describe events that really happened.

....yet.

#2 [en] 

Story 1
Terror of the Deep

"Miss?"

"Yes, Floria?"

"If nobody's seen a kitin for generations, why do we still have to learn about them?"

A few giggles escaped the classroom at this obvious attempt to escape the lecture.

"Well, Floria, just because we haven't seen the kitin for decades doesn't mean they're not still out there. Remember your geography class, our lake is only a small part of the world. And you've learned about the Prime Roots, yes? We have no idea what's going on there. If the kitin ever re-surface, we want everybody to be prepared. And remember your history as well, before the Great Swarming no homin had ever seen a kitin, but that didn't mean they weren't there, and because we were unprepared for them they caught us completely by surprise. We don't want to repeat that mistake..."

Floria sighed as miss Be'Keeer talked on. She'd heard this story before. She turned her attention back to the window and stopped hearing the words of her teacher. It was a very clear and sunny day today. No day to be inside...

It's not that Floria Canan wasn't interested in stories of exotic creatures, or faraway places, or periods of history when the world was very different than it was now. Far from it, she'd always absorbed those stories like a sponge and aced all the tests on it. It's just that she was getting tired of always just hearing and reading about it. She wished she could go out there and see for herself. Specially on a day like this...

And now they even had to learn about creatures that no longer existed? That she'd never be able to see for real, even if she could go out there? Bah, boooring.

---

"Allright children, I see it's time for our lunchbreak. Go on home and I'll see you all back in an hour."

Yeah, as if, decided Floria. She stopped by her house just long enough to grab her binoculars, then ran to the edge of the city. She'd decided this day was too good to waste on school.

The city of Tryhaven was a busy place, specially at this time of day. Like all Tryker cities, it was built on water and made up of floating buildings connected by boardwalks. Unlike the old capital of Fairhaven however, it had multiple levels of boardwalks. The larger buildings in the centre were even connected by underwater tunnels as well. All so that the city would not be crippled if some of the boardwalks were to be destroyed.

Because the city floated on water, and because the rooftops needed to hold the windmills that powered the city, these boardwalks were both the roads and the only places one could reside outside while keeping their clothes dry. So they were always packed with people, wagons, goods, and activity. Floria had to dodge people and squirm through crowds as she handily skirted through the three-dimensional maze that was the city. As a Tryker child who loved to explore, she naturally knew every inch of it.

That was why she dreamed of exploring further, outside the city. But children were not allowed to leave the city, and in fact most of the adults never left the city either. The world outside was too dangerous, so she was told. But perhaps today, she could at least take a look at the outside world.

After a short walk, she reached her destination; a tall building at the very edge of the city. In front of her now were only the guard towers and then the endless shimmering expanse of the lake, stretching out to the horizon were it met a clear blue sky. She looked up at the building, which at the very top ended in a windmill like all buildings in the city. That was what she had come for. She had heard stories from some of the older children that from the top of that building, on a very clear day, you could see the shoreline. And today was a very clear day.

Like most Tryker children, Floria Canan had never seen land. The purple gleaming branches that arched across the sky in the distance were the closest to land she'd ever seen. She had turned her telescope on them many times, but all you could see up there was a long line of equally purple trees growing atop the enormous branch.

Today, with a little luck, she would finally see actual land. But first she'd have to climb to the top of this building, and without attracting the attention of any grouchy adults that would yell at her to get down because it wasn't safe. One could never tell however, which adults were grouchy and which understood that it wasn't an adventure without a little danger. (Fortunately most Tryker were in the latter category.) So she'd just have to avoid being seen as much as possible and hope for the best.

First she went up to the highest boardwalk that connected to the building. This boardwalk was mostly abandoned, as it was all the way at the edge of the city, only leading to this building and nowhere else. And Floria knew from experience she didn't need to worry about the people on the lower boardwalks, as people generally did not look up unless given reason. She decided it was best to scale the building on the side away from the city, so that nobody from inside the city could see her. On that side of the building, only the soldiers in the guard towers might see her, but they generally looked more at the outside world than at the city behind them. Floria could sympathize.

She was in luck, on that side were some crates stashed against the building she could use as a step-up. She jumped on top of them, took one last look around to see if anybody was watching, then flung herself at the flagrope arching down from the roof and used it to slowly pull herself up to the edge. The festoons of flags that decorated every Tryker building did however not reach all the way to the top, and the next part of her climb was over one the diagonal wooden beams that supported the roof.

These beams were almost vertical and not easy to climb, but at least Floria could wrap her arms around them to get a good grip. She wondered how her teacher would feel about her using the lessons from gymclass in this way. As she reached the end of the beam and pulled herself onto the thatched roof, she paused for a small breather. Now came the last part, scaling the roof itself with nothing to hang onto but the wickerwork of thin branches that covered it.

Floria took another look around. Was anybody watching her? It didn't look like it. She felt sure it helped that her clothes were almost the same colour as the building. She tried to pick all her clothes in brown colours for that very reason, and it was nice to think it paid off. After a slow difficult climb, in which she slipped and slid back and had to start over a couple of times, Floria finally reached the highest part of the roof that one could climb without a ladder. To go any further, she'd have to climb the smooth, almost vertical wall of the windmill that the roof ended in, and that was all but impossible.

Now that she'd reached the highest ledge of the building, the base of the windmill, she seated herself on the ledge and took a look around to catch her bearings while she also caught her breath. In the direction behind her the higher buildings in the centre of Tryhaven blocked her view, but in all other directions she could see out across the lake for what must've been many miles. Countless boats drifted in it's waters, of all shapes and sizes, both near and far away. From her lessons, Floria recognised patrol boats, fishing boats, farming boats, cargo boats, passenger boats...

The darker patches of water around the farming boats gave away the presence of the kelp farms, though the kelp plants were impossible to distinguish from this distance. And following the course of the cargo and passenger boats, Floria's eyes found the outlines of some of the Tryker villages that lay further out onto the lake. They all looked very similar to Tryhaven, only much smaller. The same buildings and boardwalks, the same windmills and cranes, the same boats circling around and balloons hovering above. Floria peered at those with a slight envy, she could only imagine the kind of view she would have from aboard one of those blimps.

She knew one day she'd be going aboard one as part of a school trip, but it wouldn't be for several more years, and she couldn't wait. Flying ships were an explorer's dream. Just the view alone would be worth it, but imagine if you could go further. If you could do more than hover above a city, if you could actually travel around in them, high up in the air and safe from anything on the ground, you could go anywhere. You could not only reach the shore, but even cross the land. Currently the balloons the Tryker could build weren't capable of journeys, but Floria hoped they would be by the time she was grown up, and then she could become a pilot...

But being grown up... she definitely couldn't wait for that, she wanted to see land now! Normally Floria might've been enchanted by everything she could see from here, and might've examined everything closer with her binoculars for hours, but today she was anxious to see land, and that was the one thing she couldn't make out.

Maybe if she knew where to look... she scanned the city behind her towards her left until she'd found the main gate, with it's many guardtowers and soldiers milling about. From there, her eyes followed the Dryland Road, the miles-long boardwalk that connected the city of Tryhaven with the shore. As it disappeared into the distance further than her naked eyes could discern, she peered through her binoculars to follow it further.

And then she saw... yes, there was definitely something purple at the end of that bridge! She focussed on it and thought she could make out an arch-shaped construction that could only be the gate at the other end of the bridge, flanked by two shapes that could be guard towers. And beyond that.. it looked to be more purple trees. A forest moving in the wind. Floria felt the excitement at seeing something she'd never seen before, but there was also a tinge of disappointment. Was that all? She'd hoped to see... mountains maybe, or some creatures. But even with her binoculars she couldn't see beyond the first lines of trees, and there was nothing but more water to either side of that small forest either. She remembered from her geography classes that Dryland Road touched the shore at the tip of a long narrow peninsula, which sort of formed a natural continuation of the bridge.

That ofcourse meant her chances of seeing any land animals were slim too. Why would any animals happen to walk all the way to the tip of the peninsula? Floria sighed as she continued to gaze. Still, she had seen the land... most Tryker never saw it until they were adults... wait, there did appear to be something moving there! Tiny shapes appeared from the trees... or did it just look that way? No, there were definitely moving shapes moving out of the forest and onto the bridge....

An alarm horn sounded, causing Floria to peek up from her binoculars to see where it came from. It looked like it came from a boat that was floating out on the water to her right, some distance away from the city. The next moment, alarm bells started ringing in the city below her, calling all Tryker to evacuate that part of the city post haste and then stay inside. Floria too knew what the alarm meant, as did any Tryker child. It wasn't anything too unusual, happened once every few weeks. It meant some dangerous animal or animals were heading towards the city. Usually Floria hadn't even been near the outskirts of the city when it happened, so the alarm had never been particularly alarming to her before.

Now however, she was not only on the outskirts of the city, but also in a place she could not quickly get down from. She saw the boardwalks below her emptying out as all the Tryker rushed towards the center of the city, and decided it was probably safest if she just stayed were she was. Dangerous animals were usually aquatic or amphibian, she had learned, but never flying, so they'd not be able to reach her up this high. Had she gone to class that afternoon, she would have known some kitin could fly, but she still would never have considered this might be a kitin attack. Kitin were extinct, right? In any case, her decision to stay was probably in no small part because she'd really, really wanted to see some strange animals today. If she wasn't going to see any of them on land...

She peered out again towards the boat that had given the alarm. From the corner of her eyes she saw the soldiers in the guardtowers below move to man their guns, as other soldiers started pouring out into the boardwalks further down. They were clearly expecting something here, coming from the lake, but Floria didn't see anything. Maybe it was underwater? She squinted at the glimmering surface, but it was hard to see anything underwater at this angle... suddenly she saw a large shadow appear near the surface, some 100 meter out, closing in fast. Soldiers shouted and fired their guns, and a barrage of small torpedoes flew in the direction of the shadow, splashed into the lake, and exploded underwater, sending large streams of water into the air and causing a rumbling like thunder across the city.

Then things quieted down again. Was that it already? Had they killed whatever animal it was? Phoey, and she didn't even get to see it. Floria didn't have time to finish that thought before it was interrupted by an ear-shattering crack as something tore through the perimeter boardwalk. The guards who had been standing on it were flung to the sides, pieces of wood flew off in all directions and some whistled just past her head, and amidst the mess of breaking wood and splashing water, Floria thought she saw a row of glistening yellow spikes disappearing back into the water.

For a moment the only sounds were the creaking of wood and the splashing of torn off debris hitting the water, before the soldiers recovered from the shock. "It's inside!" "Down there!" "Shoot it!" Then the crackling sound of dozens of waverifles being repeatedly fired into the water. The miniature tornadoes whistled as they erupted from the barrels and splashed into the water, continuing as tiny whirlpools towards their target. But it didn't seem to slow down the underwater shadow that Floria now saw heading towards her building. Before she could think of getting away, a loud bang from underwater caused the building to shake violently, making Floria loose her grip and slide down the roof. She managed to grab on to a railing before going over the edge, but was very aware she was now hanging right over the water where that... thing was.

The soldiers were now aware of her presence too, judging from the shouting. "Oh shit!" "Save that girl!" One soldier grabbed a large paddle and hurried across the boardwalk to as close as he could get to her position, where he stuck the paddle into the water and began waving it back and forth. "Hey! Over here you big beast! Come get me!" Looking down, Floria could see the shadow under the water moving in his direction, it's increasing size indicating it was coming to the surface, until a huge reptilian head, glistening red and covered in more yellow spikes, emerged from the water at great speed and swallowed not just the padle but the entire boardwalk the soldier had been standing on. The soldier himself had jumped out of the way just in time.

This time the creature was prevented from immediately submerging again, because it's teeth were sunk into the boardwalk, and it took it a second to tear loose. That second was all the harponeers in the towers needed to finally find their target, and powerful shockwaves propelled harpoons larger than pikes with such speed that they seemed to cleave the air itself, before piercing straight through the creature's natural armour and impaling it's head. That was either enough to kill it or just the final straw after the explosions and rifle fire the creature had already endured. With a low roar it's head hit the water and then it lay still, the rest of it's now-dead body floating up from the depths.

Floria was spared this gruesome sight as she, in the meantime, had managed to climb around to where she could safely drop down from the roof. She was immediately caught by another soldier that lifted her over his shoulder and quickly carried her away from the scene. As she looked back over his shoulder, she saw more soldiers arrive from other parts of the city and cordon off the area. "We lose anyone? No? Anybody who received any injuries at all, over here. The rest of you, start burning that creature and everything it touched, rightaway." The voice of the corporal died down as the soldier carried Floria further into the city.

"I'll have to take you to a healer rightaway, little girl," spoke the soldier through his helmet, "we have to make sure you didn't get infected." Floria nodded, even though he couldn't see that. "What was that?" she asked, still a little shaken. "Vorax" replied the soldier "beefed up and mutated to be aquatic. One of the most dangerous things they sent at us, but lucky for us even mutated vorax still haven't lost their solitary nature. Didn't you learn what a vorax is at school? They used to be the alpha predators of the Prime Roots, fabled monsters of the deep, or so I remember from what I learned there."

Vorax... yes, Floria had learned about those, and seen drawings of them. Of what they'd looked like before the world had changed. But she'd learned about so many animals, and this was the first time she'd seen any of them for real. It was so different from seeing a drawing, and she was too excited to really think.

Another bell sounded, coming from the direction of the main gate. "Another attack?" Floria asked the soldier, startled, before she already realised this was not an alarm bell. "Nah, that's the bell to announce a caravan is coming up the Dryland Road." said the soldier, echoing her thoughts. "Most likely bringing another shipment of goods from the Fyros."

A caravan, Floria thought to herself, so those were the shapes I saw moving on the shore before... "Do you think there's any Fyros with the caravan?" she asked. The soldier chuckled. "Haven't you seen enough odd creatures for one day, girl? It's not likely, the Fyros can't come here, no Tryker has seen a Fyros since I was born at least. The only reason we know they're still alive is through the stuff they keep sending us."

And after a pause. "They should've taught you that at school, too. Maybe if you'd actually go there instead of skipping out to hang around on rooftops..."

Floria felt her cheeks turn purple. "Sorry..." she said meekly. The soldier chuckled again. "It's okay girl, a healthy lust to explore just means you're a real Tryker." Hearing that from this soldier, for some reason, instilled in Floria a feeling of pride in who she was for perhaps the first time in her young life, and she chuckled too. "Some day when I grow up..." she said dreamily "I'm going to build myself the best blimp ever and become the first Tryker in a generation to see a Fyros."

Last edited by Hailuan (7 years ago)

#3 [en] 

Closing the book in his hands, Gorran looked at the wide-eyed children staring at him.

"Did that really happen Uncle G?"

Laughing, "No, Luoi. It's only a story but it's one of my favorites."

"Oh, mine too, mine too!" shouted Luoi as she clapped her hands.

(( Fantastic story Hailuan! ))

Edited 2 times | Last edited by Gorran (7 years ago)

---

No guild. No fame.
Gorran is my name.

#4 [en] 

Well done, Hailun. As the first in a series, of course, it raises more questions than it answers. Who are "they"? How are the creatures mutated and sent? When were boats developed, etc.

I look forward to the next three.

---


Remembering Tyneetryk
Phaedreas Tears - 15 years old and first(*) of true neutral guilds in Atys.
(*) This statement is contested, but we are certainly the longest lasting.
<clowns | me & you | jokers>

#5 [en] 

More more more!!

Great stuff! I can't wait to read the Zorai installment of this ;)

---

"We are Kami. We are here to be you. We are many as you are of many minds. We are one as you are one in Ma-Duk."

#6 [en] 

Story 2
Last Melody

"Sir!"

"At ease, corporal Ipalyo."

"Reporting for duty, sir! What shall be my assignment today?"

Captain Arbhor ruffled through his papers. Though he already knew the answer, a man in his position could afford no mistakes.

"Well, corporal, it seems that sandstorm in the western reaches has finally winded down. We're sending your squad out there to scout out what it changed. See if it uncovered anything dangerous, or buried anything important. See how the terrain has changed. Sandstorms of this magnitude tend to alter the entire landscape. The cartographers will go in later to map the details, but I need you to give me a rough picture of what the area's like now. Most importantly, make sure there aren't any threats. We've been blind to this area for days, so we need to re-secure it quickly. Got all that?"

Corporal Ipalyo nodded. He knew what his commander was hinting at. In the worst case, the sandstorm could've uncovered an opening to the Prime Roots. It could also have uncovered a spring or oasis, which would be almost as bad...

He had already expected this assignment. Corporal Xylon Ipalyo and his squad were some of the best patrollers in the army, and anyone walking through the streets that morning could've seen that the orange glow that had been on the western horizon for the past few days was now gone, meaning the sandstorm there had ended. He figured they'd immediately send out patrollers to re-scout the area, and that his squad would be the one they'd sent...

As captain Arbhor dismissed him, he eagerly headed down to the stables. This was what he lived for.

---

"Heya corporal! Got your ride all ready for you."

The stable-attendant was probably old enough to still remember the old meaning of the word "ride". It had changed rather dramatically in the last decades.

The complete infection of every large land animal that could serve as mount had forced the Fyros to devise alternate means of transportation. The result was the contraption in front of Xylon, it's construction based partially on plans for Tryker boats, which had earned it the nickname "ship of the desert". It could alternate between wheels and gliders for traction, and between sails and rockets for propulsion.

"Howdy boss! Your lackeys stand ready!" a voice said behind Xylon. He turned around to see his squad standing behind him, all packed and armed for the trip. "We going to the western reaches?" asked the tall blonde woman. "You guessed it, Kyn," replied Xylon. Kyn Madax had been nicknamed "Mad Axe" in the academy after she almost beheaded her instructor with her axe in her first year. She'd never gotten much better at melee weapons, but she was possibly the best gunner in the empire.

"It wasn't a very hard guess," remarked the shorter black-haired woman. Lyla Melan was the melee expert of the squad, though her fighting style was unusual for a Fyros. She eschewed the traditional Fyros axe in favour of dual wielding two swords, and had earned the nicknames "Melody" or just "Mellow" for the calm, almost dancing way in which she moved, both in and outside of combat. A stark contrast with the fiery, raging style of most Fyros.

"Let's see what that storm stirred up then," spoke the man, Thenix Daraan, in the booming voice that had garnered him the nickname "Thunder" long before he made it all the more appropriate by becoming their heavy weapons specialist. Unlike Kyn, about who Xylon sometimes wondered if there was any part of her body she didn't have a gun strapped to, Thenix carried only one gun. But that one gun, a huge launcher on his back, could do more damage than the entire rest of his squad.

A little while later, the four of them skidded out of a side gate of the city. About 500 meters out, they reached the firewall, the city's outer perimeter that was quite literally a wall of fire. A meter high and encircling the entire city, the flames of the firewall burned day and night, fuelled by an elaborate system of underground pipes that continually supplied them with fresh acid to burn. In case of an actual attack, the pipes could be opened further to increase the height of the flames up to 10 meter.

The pipes could also be closed to turn off the flames, and the Fyros made temporary 'gates' in the wall by closing off a few of the pipes. The location of these gates was different each day. Xylon's squad followed the firewall to the western-most gate that was open today, where the sergeant on duty saluted them. "Sir!" Xylon saluted back, "Corporal Ipalyo, sir, off on a patrolling mission." Army regulations demanded these formalities, even if patrollers crossed the firewall so often that the wallguards all knew who they were. The sergeant took a cursory glance at their orders and nodded. "Good, we'll all be a lot more comfortable here once you make sure that sandstorm didn't dig anything up. Good luck, corporal."

And then they were off, riding out towards the Fyros' true first line of defence; the vast inhospitable desert. Even more hostile to life than the deserts their ancestors had called home, it was all but impassable for the majority of animal life, as well as for any homin not prepared for it. And dependant as they were on it for their safety, the Fyros had every reason for wanting the desert to stay inhospitable.

As Kyn steered their vehicle west, the others didn't have much to do yet for this part of the journey, so Xylon absent-mindedly looked back at he city behind them as it slowly became smaller. The city of New Coriolis, last hope of the Fyros. Named after the old town of Coriolis that had been destroyed in a blaze when miners uncovered a vein of flammable acid, the city of New Coriolis had been founded when miners uncovered a vein of flammable acid. That acid vein now powered the whole city, as well as the firewall, and even the propulsion of their vehicle. It's discovery had been the only thing that had allowed the Fyros to defend themselves and survive.

After a while, the city disappeared into the distance. But to the left, Xylon could still make out the mountains north of the city, no less important to the city's survival. Though it wasn't visible to the eye from this distance, Xylon's memory showed him what the mountains looked like up close, dotted with mines. It was from these mines that the Fyros extracted all the raw materials they needed to build the city, and everything else they built, forged or constructed. It was also because of those mountains that they were able to mine so deep without hitting the Prime Roots.

"Allright guys, we're nearing the area where that sandstorm hit. Keep your eyes out. Lyla, give me a bearing." Kyn's announcement woke Xylon up from his dreaming. As Lyla turned her full attention to her map and instruments, he and Thenix took out their binoculars and started scanning their surroundings for anything unusual. Due to the flatness of the desert, they could oversee hundreds of meters in every direction, but it was a very big desert. They'd have to do a lot of riding to cover it all.

About an hour passed where all they did was point out the new dunes, valleys and ridges for Lyla to mark on the map. Then Thenix shouted out, "Whoa! Spotted movement over there, guys. About 500 meters that way." Xylon looked as well. "I don't see anyhing yet... Take us in closer, Kyn. No wait, take us to that dune over there." It was always better to approach a potential threat from high ground. After they'd stopped at the top of the dune, as Xylon thought, all four of them had a better sight at what Thenix had spotted. "Is that a herd of ploderos?" Kyn asked. "Looks like it..." Xylon agreed. "And they're heading towards the city," Lyla remarked.

"Damn, where did it get so many ploderos?" Thenix' curse made Xylon stop staring and start thinking. "It must've been saving them up for a long time," Kyn answered before he could, "that could be why we haven't seen any in years." "Yes, it makes sense," Lyla agreed, "ploderos are adapt to the desert, and very big and tough, enough so to walk through a sandstorm, but also very slow...." "Far too slow to reach the city before our patrols intercept them..." Xylon continued her line of thought, "...usually."

The four of them looked at eachother. "You're saying they were using the sandstorm to sneak up on us?" Kyn's question was more a statement than a question. "Lucky for us the sandstorm ended before they could reach the city then," remarked Thenix, "let's take em out." "Allright," agreed Xylon, "take us into position and signal the city."

After directing Kyn to steer their vehicle to the right position relative to the ploderos, Thenix fired their flare gun. Two orange flares flew high up and lingered in the sky for at least a minute, ensuring the spotters back at the city would see them. Two orange meant a request for bombardment 500 meters to the south of where the flares were fired. The guns of New Coriolis had a range of about 10 kilometers, but were only accurate to within about a 100 meters. They remedied this by firing huge balls of the very same flammable acid that powered the city, which simply set ablaze everything within 100 meters of it's impact area.

It was only a few minutes after the flares had gone up that Xylon heard the sound of a thunderclap from the direction of the city. Moments later, the whole herd of ploderos bursted into flame. "Direct hit, nice shot that was," noted Thenix admirably. Xylon nodded approvingly. "Good, these ploderos are tough, if it hadn't hit them directly we might've had to request more strikes to finish them." The squad moved closer to the inferno to get a better view and stayed to watch until they were sure every ploderos had been burned to a crisp, and no risk of infection remained unburned. Then they sent up a white flare to signal that the threat had been eliminated, and continued on their scouting.

The rest of the day was rather uneventful until they finally reached the edge of the desert, and the burned out remnants of the forest that had once bordered the desert, before the Fyros had burned it down. Taking a tour along the edge, Xylon noticed the forest was already starting to recover. Young saplings were sprouting up amidst the old ashes. Xylon sighed. "Allright, guess we're burning it down again," he announced to his squad. "Let's put on our flamethrowers, Thenix. Girls, cover us."

The unnaturally fast-growing forest was constantly, relentlessly advancing on the desert, trying to overgrow the Fyros' most important defence. Since this was outside the range of the city's guns (letting the forest come within 10 kilometer of the city was already way too risky) it fell upon the patrol teams to burn them down by hand.

All except Kyn exited their vehicle and Xylon and Thenix strapped on the acidtanks that went with the flamethrowers. The tanks were rather heavy, which is why the guys usually got this job. Though to be fair, the girls were also simply better at providing cover. Lyla accompanied them to the edge of the forest while Kyn stayed behind with the vehicle. Fortunately, they wouldn't need to burn down every single plant personally, just start enough fires along the edge to ensure a forest fire that would eventually engulf the entire forest. A single shot from their flamethrowers was enough to set ablaze everything up to 20 meters in front of them. They'd torch a few dozen square meters, get back to the vehicle, drive half a kilometer or so along the edge, then repeat the process there. And so on along about 5 kilometer border. That should be enough.

They hardly needed to actually enter the forest, but still even being so close to the edge was not without risk. In the desert, there was not enough plant-life to form networks, so you could safely travel around. But in the forest, the very ground itself was teeming with plant-life. All of it connected, all of it transmitting messages, it was impossible not to step on some tiny shrub, impossible not to be detected. As soon as you so much as touched a blade of grass, your presence was known, and every animal in the area would come for you. This is why they would quickly start a fire, then quickly retreat back into the desert and relocate. Staying in a detectable location for too long was a sure way to get swamped.

Even so, they still risked being ambushed by animals that happened to be already close enough to reach them before they could retreat. That's why Lyla stayed close to them with both of her burning swords drawn, that's why Kyn watched them through her rifle scope from the vehicle, as they moved around showering the fresh foliage in streams of burning acid. And in fact, several times during their work did a lone predator jump at them from the bushes. Gingos, raguses, torbaks, cuttlers. It was hard to tell. All had long been mutated beyond recognition. The old species' distinctions were largely meaningless now. Each time, Xylon heard the crack of Kyn's high-caliber rifle behind him almost before he noticed the movement in the bushes, and saw the predator drop dead in front of them before Lyla could finish her combat stance.

Ofcourse, that was how it should be. Engaging the creatures in melee was a risky last resort that meant something had already gone wrong. Lyla had her own way of thanking Kyn for keeping her swords unbloodied. "Not letting me have any of the fun today, are we, Mad Axe?" she teased as they returned to the vehicle after the third such encounter. "Well, I wouldn't want you to get blood on your clothes, Mellodear," Kyn grinned ear to ear, "it's a bitch to get out." The cheeriness in her voice hid the dead-serious truth of that statement.

It was late that afternoon on the way back that the squad uncovered their most miraculous finding of the day. Xylon was the first to see it, and could barely believe his eyes. Even after they'd driven up to it and were right in front of it, he still could barely believe it. A shimmering black shape gleamed in the sun in front of them. He knew what it must be, and yet... he couldn't... "Is that... a Karavan vessel?" Kyn finally asked what they were all thinking. "It must be..." replied Lyla, just as stunned, "it's definitely not anything made by homins." "It must've been buried beneath the sand for decades until the sandstorm uncovered it," Thenix concluded.

"...should we check it out?" Kyn broke the silence again. They all hesitated. "What if there's still Karavan in there?" Lyla asked. "Don't be silly," Kyn rebutted, "they couldn't have survived beneath the sand that long." "How do we know what they could survive?" Thenix interjected. "They had technology beyond anything we could imagine." "But," replied Kyn, "that technology didn't stop them from dieing out, did it?"

None of them was nearly old enough to ever have seen a real Karavan, but they all knew the stories. How the Karavan had guided hominkind for generations, being halfway between mentors and overlords. How the Fyros had later broke with them and embraced the Kami. And how the Karavan had eventually come to their end.

The Karavan had always demanded sacrifices of resources from the homins, which had always resulted in frictions between them and those homins less devout to them. Famous was the story of when they'd tried to 'punish' a village that refused to provide them resources. But the friction never escalated worse than that, and generally the Karavan were satisfied with the resources provided to them by the portion of hominity that worshipped them.

Until the world began to change, and the homin nations needed all their resources to fight for their survival. The resource-flow towards the Karavan had slowly dried up. Far from understanding the homins' plight, the Karavan had aggressively demanded that the less pious homins fill the gap, even though this meant turning resources away from hominkind's struggle to survive. It wasn't long before this led to an all-out war between the Karavan and hominkind. Even most homins that had previously believed in the Karavan defected in the face of this cruelty. Only the Matis kingdom and some of the most fanatic tribes remained loyal to the Karavan until the end, though a lot of the Matis population also joined the other side. At least, so told the Fyros stories.

The war pretty much ensured that hominkind lost it's chance of preventing the change. But they did beat the Karavan in the end... sort of. "We don't actually know they died out," Xylon said, more to himself than to his teammates, "they just disappeared." "Exactly," agreed Thenix, "all the stories say we didn't stand a chance against their technology, and the entire war was just them slowly grinding through our superior numbers, until they just disappeared." "But it's obvious they died out because they ran out of resources," Kyn wasn't one to back down easily, "why else would they be so stupid to turn all of hominkind against them, unless they really desperately needed those resources to survive? So they died out when they stopped getting them. A logistic victory is just as good as any other." "Or perhaps," Lyla added, "they died out when their home base too was affected."

"You know," Thenix proposed, "some of the generals believe they didn't die, that they're still out there, masterminding the attacks on us." Kyn replied with a dismissive gesture. "Pfft, the fantasies of old warriors who long to have a tangible enemy to fight against." Xylon sighed to himself. She might be right about that, and if so he understood those generals completely. Every Fyros grew up with the stories about the old times, the glorious battles of the Fyros of the past, against Karavan, Matis, kitins, marauders... very different enemies, but all enemies that consisted of armies of individuals. Individuals that could be cut down. Just cut down enough individuals, and the army is no more. Today their enemy was a mysterious ungraspable force that seemed to have no heart or brain to strike at, and which did not weaken no matter how many of it's soldiers were killed.

"So boss, what should we do?" asked Kyn when nobody replied. Xylon pondered this for a moment. "This is a huge discovery," he thought out loud, "since we've made sure there's no immediate danger for kilometers around, this is now more important than the entire rest of our scouting mission." Everybody nodded, and he continued. "We need to report this find immediately and get a team out here to secure it before it gets dark. But we can't leave it unguarded either." He looked at his team. "Kyn, you're the best driver, and Thenix, you're the best navigator. You two take the ship and race back to the city to tell them what we've found, then lead the team back here. Lyla and I will stay here to guard the vessel."

Xylon looked at his team expectantly. They seemed reluctant. "Ehm, boss," Kyn began hesitantly, "sending both rangers away? What if there's trouble? I mean, it's not like you and Lyla can't drive or navigate." In the regular army, a superior's orders were absolute and a soldier would never question them, but things were a lot more lax for the patrolling teams. Each patroller needed to be able to operate independently. "And shouldn't you be the one to deliver the report?" So Xylon generally had to convince his team of his decisions, rather than stand on his stripes. "There's very little risk of any danger, we already know there's nothing around for kilometers. Our biggest worry is that you can't get a team back here before it's dark, which is why we need the fastest driver and best navigator to do this. It's not like Lyla and I can't shoot a gun either."

Kyn seemed convinced, but Thenix still had another suggestion. "We could just send a flare up for back-up, couldn't we?" Xylon considered this. "We don't have a flare for this kind of situation. Via flares we can only request another patroller squad or an assault battalion. Neither would bring out people who'd know what to do about this vessel, so then we'd still have to sent someone to the city, the only difference being they wouldn't make it before dark anymore. " Thenix could only agree, but still suggested: "We could at least request the other squad so that you're not out here alone so long."

That was reasonable, Xylon had to concur. "Allright, let's do that."

A little later, the ship of the desert carrying Kyn and Thenix sailed off into the distance, as Xylon and Lyla sat down on a dune across from the strange vessel, next to all the equipment they'd unloaded for their stay. It should only be an hour, more or less, but as patrollers they'd always make sure to be ready for the unexpected. They sat in silence for the first ten minutes or so, their eyes and minds on the vessel, which Xylon had to admit made him nervous even if it seemed clearly long abandoned.

"Do you hear that?" Lyla broke the silence of the desert winds. "Hear what?" replied Xylon. "There is a sound coming from that Karavan vessel," Lyla continued, "a repeating sequence of strangely hollow noises." Xylon stood up and instinctively reached for his weapon. "Think there's still someone in there?" He couldn't hear what Lyla was referring to. "No, I think it's automated," she said calmly, "it's repeating too perfect, probably some device left running." Reassured, Xylon sat back down. "Amazing that it'd still run after this long," he mumbled. Lyla nodded. "It sounds almost like a sad song, but perhaps that's just me."

Lyla sighed, making Xylon shift his attention from the vessel to her. "What's wrong?" She looked up at him sadly. "We can't go on like this, you know, we can't keep pretending." Though vague, those words were also ominous enough to make Xylon more nervous than the strange vessel could. "What... what do you mean?" he asked, trying not to sound too alarmed. Lyla replied: "Can you tell me with complete honesty that you didn't divide the tasks just now so that we could be alone?" Xylon was silent, stunned.

"I... didn't..." he slowly recovered his voice, "I had logical reasons for that decision, I explained them and you all agreed. If you think it was wrong, why didn't you say anything?" Lyla shook her head. "You weren't wrong, in this case. It was the best choice. But can you say for sure your heart didn't factor into it at all, even subconsciously?"

Xylon felt suddenly exposed and vulnerable. He was out of diversions, and felt he couldn't lie. Come on, he told himself, don't run away from this, you are a Fyros corporal, you are supposed to posses courage. Mustering this courage, he decided to pierce straight to the heart of the matter, as this uncertainty was unbearable. With difficulty he managed to ask: "You... knew?"

Lyla looked away from him, up into the sky, and nodded. "Kyn and Thenix know too, at least on some level, though maybe not consciously. They had no reason to doubt your order just now, I saw their uncertainty, I think their reluctance was because a part of them felt you might have some ulterior motive." She turned her head down. "It's hard to keep secrets in a group so close as ours."

"I have tried my hardest... to push it aside. To not let it affect my judgement, not let it affect my performance or behaviour." "I know you have," Lyla replied kindly, "you'd not do anything less for your duty. But it's not something you can just push aside, is it?" He shook his head, still feeling guilty. She added, "Sooner or later it will affect our performance. You know we can't let that happen." He nodded. He'd been trying to push his feelings aside to prevent this from being necessary, but he knew she was right. "After we're back I'll request a transfer to another squad."

She turned her head towards him with uncharacteristic fiercety. "No, I'll request a transfer to another squad." "But that's not fair, it's not your fault that I...." Lyla's look made the words freeze in Xylon's mouth. "No argument on this, Xylon, you know very well that our squad will suffer worse from losing it's leader than from losing me." He wanted to disagree, but he couldn't. All he could say was, "But you'll be a terrible loss too, the 4 of us make a terrific team. I wish I could've prevented this... it feels like a personal failure that I couldn't." He looked out towards the horizon. "What will Thenix and Kyn think?"

Lyla moved closer and put her hand on his shoulder. "It's not your fault anymore than it is mine. But yes, it's very sad to think this was my last mission with this team. We have worked so well together." A short pause. "And perhaps it is even sadder for Kyn and Thenix. At least you and I might get something in return." Xylon looked at her with such a puzzled look of nonbelieve that she couldn't help but smile. "Well, if it's going to cost me my place in the team, I might as well see if I can't get something good out of it," she concluded with a wink.

Xylon felt a knot in his stomach and a glow across his skin. He thought for a second Lyla was rolling her eyes at his inevitable blushing, but then realised she was looking at something behind him. "What is it?" he asked, turning his head around. "Just a flare in the distance, as purple as your cheeks, corporal," she said as she removed her hand from his shoulder and moved away again. The moment was over, there was nothing left to be said.

Purple flares were used to announce the arrival of a trading caravan at the border. "I wonder what's it like for them," Lyla said, apparently glad for this opportunity to change the subject. "On the one hand, it must be nice to be able to travel through the forests at all. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'd want to spend all my life in that treacherous place." Xylon nodded. Though he was still shaken, he was also somewhat relieved to be able to talk about something normal with her again. "Yes," he said, "I have wondered before what life could be like for the Zoraï."

Last edited by Hailuan (7 years ago)

#7 [en] 

*applauds* Keep 'em coming!

---

"We are Kami. We are here to be you. We are many as you are of many minds. We are one as you are one in Ma-Duk."

#8 [en] 

Story 3
Lifecycle

"Mom?"

"Yes, dear?"

"When we set up camp this evening, can I go play with my friends?"

The boy smiled down at his mother from atop the mektoub he was riding.

"First you need to help unload the packers for the night, dear, and set up our tent. Then we're going to eat dinner together. Then I'm going to test you to see if you've been doing your studying today. After that, if you've studied hard today, you can play. But not too long, it's important you get your sleep. Only until sundim, okay? And remember not to ever wander out of the camp. You should have learned by now how to sense when you wander outside the perimeter, so no excuses. Is the spell on you still active?"

Shi-Zun stretched out her hand to touch her son's forehead. She could sense the proximity spell there, alive and active. The spell allowed her to always sense how far he was from her, and alerted her if he ever wandered out of camp. But like any spell it withered over time and had to be refreshed every so often...

She sighed quietly as she walked on alongside the mektoub. Sometimes Shi-Zun Fuio disliked herself for being so strict on her child, but she knew she had to be for his own safety. Zoraï children did not have the luxury of growing up in the protected environment of a city. From birth, they travelled along with their parents in the caravans, trekking dozens of miles a day through ever-hostile territory. They had to learn to stand on their own feet quickly...

When she looked again at her son, he'd already turned his attention back to the scroll he was meant to study today. At least he didn't seem to consider her strict.

***

"Shi-Zun, you should come quickly, the Elder has said that tonight shall be his last night."

This news didn't come completely unexpected, as the Elder had been close to death for some time now, but it still startled Shi-Zun a little to learn tonight would really be the end.

The Elder, she thought his real name was Mu-Cho Yao, but amongst their caravan he had been known as just "the Elder" for many years now. He was a good deal older than any other member of the caravan, and he was the last amongst them who still remembered living in the old civilisation. Perhaps the last Zoraï who still remembered seeing a Kami, and who still wore a real mask of kinship. His death would be like the final extinction of all traces of the old way of life.

"Thank you, Mi-Kho, go on ahead, we'll go find Rin before we join you." The woman who had brought the tidings nodded and walked on towards the next tent to bring it's inhabitants the same news. Shi-Zun and her husband got up from the campfire in front of their tent, needing no more communication than glances between them, as they set out to retrieve their son. It had been several hours since the caravan had arrived at it's campsite. Everyone had already finished their evening's chores and the camp was ready for the night. The tents were set up, the animals set to rest, and the freight containers set down.

Finding their son should have been easy, thanks to the proximity spells. But like any tracking spell it was only accurate to within a few meters, and even after arriving at the location where he should be, they didn't immediately see him. "What a time for him to be playing hide-and-seek," Shi-Zun concluded, slightly annoyed though outwardly calm as ever. The spell never failed, their son was around here, and a bit of searching should reveal him, but she didn't want to lose any time in seeing the Elder. "Go on ahead, love," spoke Nat-Sun, "I know you don't want to miss anything, I'll find him and join you."

Thankful for her partner's understanding, Shi-Zun kissed him quickly and set out towards the healer's tent. Though any Zoraï would want to be there for the Elder's farewell, it was more important for Shi-Zun than for most. She was an avid student of history and had not only been one of the Elder's favourite pupils, before he became too old and frail to teach the young Zoraï, but she had continued to visit him afterwards from time to time to hear his stories of the past. Though after her son had been born, she had had less time for that anymore.

The camp was becoming empty around her now, as most people had probably already gathered around the Elder. Only those whose duty required them to stay at their post remained, like the perimeter guards. Shi-Zun was alone with her thoughts as she navigated through the tents and freight containers of the camp. Perhaps because she was thinking about the Elder's stories of the old Zoraï civilisation, when they had still lived in cities of marvellous buildings, it struck her as sad that today the Zoraï used their 'buildings' to carry freight while they lived in tents.

Not quite buildings ofcourse, but the freight containers were certainly the closest thing that remained of the old Zoraï architecture. House-sized rectangular blocks of wood and amber, with pictograms carved on all sides, the containers were able to levitate under their own power, due to a clever manipulation of magic and magnetism. Though to move them still required beasts of burden to pull them along. They used many of the same construction principles that had once been used in Zoraï buildings.

At night they were anchored in place, still floating several feet above the ground to prevent any contact, giving the camp the look of a small city, if a very dull one. The animals that pulled them during the day had been released from their harnesses and tied up in makeshift stables to rest for the night. Shi-Zun recalled from the Elder's stories that originally the freight containers had in fact been designed as living spaces, moveable buildings for mobile cities, but today all of them were needed to carry freight, so all had been converted to containers, and the Zoraï lived in tents.

It wasn't that they couldn't make more of the floating constructions, to use some once again as living space, it's that they couldn't take more along while on the move. Not without more mektoubs to pull them, and there weren't enough Zoraï to control more mektoubs than they already did...

Suddenly Shi-Zun heard a furious roar coming from her left, and turning her head towards the sound, she saw one of the mektoubs had awoken, and was angrily trying to break out of it's restraints. Two of the guards were already rushing over, but Shi-Zun was closer, so she immediately stepped in and blanked her mind.

Reaching within her mind, she found the place of total silence, and ignited a light there. She then reached outward, into the world around her. She sensed the souls of the guards, the minds of the sleeping mektoubs, the spirits of the trees, the flows of sap. A little later, she would've sensed the mass of Zoraï gathered around the Elder, but she didn't need to reach that far. The chaotic mind of the angry mektoub was right in front of her, and as soon as she'd found it, she let go of everything else and focussed only on sending the calm within her piercing through the world into the mektoub's mind. After the channel was open between her mind and the mektoub's, she sent through it tendrils of thought that quickly encapsulated the beast's mind.

When Shi-Zun was young, and had learned how to do this, she had had to go through all those motions slowly, step by step. But today, she was an accomplished mentalist, and went through the motions as naturally and quickly as breathing. Within a second after she had stepped forward, she had the stun spell fully woven, and the rampant beast frozen.

"Well done," said one of the arriving guards, "it must have broken free from it's sleep spell." Shi-Zun felt the remnants of the sleep spell on the creature. "It is not very well woven," she concluded. "Likely one of the newer mentalists was in a hurry," remarked the guard, "worry not, we shall get it under a proper sleep. You were probably on your way to the ceremony." Shi-Zun nodded and moved on after one of the guards took over her stun spell.

As she neared the healer's tent and saw the crowd around it from a distance, Shi-Zun was brought back to the reality that her mentor would die tonight. During her walk it had still seemed somehow far away and unreal. Only now did sadness start to well up inside her, but to her horror, she also felt a bit of excitement. A death in the caravan would mean that a new child could be born in the caravan, and Shi-Zun had been hoping for another child. She immediately felt guilty at this selfish line of thought, and hesitated to go further. She couldn't attend this ceremony if even part of her welcomed his death...

It is natural to feel both sadness and joy about a person's death. For just as death is an ending, a goodbye, it is also a new beginning, a new hello. Something dies, and something else is born. Whether it be a tree, a person, a friendship, a habit, a period of time, or a way of life. Everything dies, just as everything is born. Without death, there can be no birth. Such is the cycle of life, that life exists only as long as it is in flux. You need not feel guilty about your friend's death, as if it weren't for his death, he would never have existed in the first place. And for him, too, death shall only be a transition to a new way of existence.

The voice that resounded in Shi-Zun's head calmed and steadied her emotions, as it had always done, and once more she was thankful for it.

Thus calmed, she was finally able to join the crowd gathered around the Elder. The Elder was sitting upright in his bed, supported by a healer and surrounded by his grandchildren. The caravan leader stood at the foot of his bed, and Shi-Zun heard him speak: "Then tell us the story one last time, Elder. The story of the Kami's sacrifice." Good, Shi-Zun thought, she had arrived just in time.

Everybody present already knew the story, ofcourse. In fact every Zoraï did. It was the most important story in their society. But this was the last Zoraï who had actually been there, their last chance to hear the story, one last time, from someone who had seen it happen. The Elder began to speak.

"It happened after all of the Witherings, our homeland at the time, had already been overrun by the Goo, except for our cities, the Cities of Intuition. A tiny island in a sea of purple. Already our nation had suffered many losses combatting the Goo year after year, as had the Kami. By this time, all the Kami and all the Zoraï who still existed in the world had answered the call and were gathered together inside the Cities of Intuition for a desperate last stand, and our entire society worked tirelessly to prevent our cities from falling."

"We might still have succeeded, had not the Karavan War erupted then. We inside the Cities of Intuition didn't notice much of the war, isolated as we were from the rest of the world. But we were already strained to breaking point just holding off the Goo, and the extra front prevented the other nations from sending supplies to aid our struggle, which was a shortfall we could not accommodate. By the time the war was finally over, our cities had been overrun by the Goo."

"The last of our people still held out in Zora, our capital. Only a handful of Kami remained to guide us. It was clear to all that we no longer had the numbers to prevent the Goo from overrunning all of the jungles."

"Our Sages considered a second exodus. The Kami who still remained could teleport us out of our encircled capital to rebuild elsewhere. But the messengers returning from the other homin peoples confirmed that their lands too were now rapidly being overrun by Goo, and that the Tryker, Fyros and Matis were already abandoning their cities. It was clear to all that running would only delay the inevitable. With not enough homins left alive to combat the Goo, it would sooner or later overrun all of Atys."

"It was then that our Grand Sage, after speaking with Ma-Duk, gathered us all to reveal what would be done. The last Kami, he said, could weave a spell that would protect the remaining Zoraï from the Goo. The magic would become a part of each and every Zoraï, rendering them immune from the sickness and madness that the touch of the Goo inflicted on homins. But to keep this magic alive through the generations, the Kami would have to pour their own essence into the spell, and cease to exist."

"And so it was done. It was a grand ceremony atop the city hall. All that remained of the Zoraï population was gathered around, and on the roof of the city hall all of our Sages, including the Grand Sage, performed the spell along with the Kami. I was too young to really understand the magic, all I remember was watching them chant and wave their arms around for a long time as glowing lights gathered around them, and both fear and hope grew within the crowd. Then a blinding flash, and then they were all gone, and the roof of the city hall was empty."

"We, the Zoraï people, stood there for a moment, in complete silence. The Kami and our leaders were gone. We were on our own now, with nobody to guide us, left amidst our crumbling city, the Goo already encroaching on it's outskirts from all sides and set to overrun all of it in a matter of days, and we had no idea if the spell had worked. No idea if this would be end. Suddenly it seemed, we all as one got up and, all holding hands, simply walked out into the Goo. We were scared, but all of us felt we would rather face our destiny together, with our chins up and our faith strong, than sit and wait for it like scared little yubos. Even if that destiny was extermination."

"That is really the end of the story. As everyone here knows, the magic had worked, and we reached the edge of the jungle, traversing miles of Goo, without a single one of us showing any symptoms of Goo infection. And so the Zoraï lived on to found a new society."

As the Elder finished his story, there was only deep reverent silence. During the story, Shi-Zun had noticed her husband and son joining her side, but had only welcomed them both with a quick brush past their arms, as she did not want to interrupt the telling. Talking would have to wait until it was all over. And the Elder had apparently not finished speaking yet, as he spoke again.

"But do not think this story tells everything of how our current society came to be! The sacrifice of the Kami was certainly a historical event of the greatest significance, but all too often homins simplify history as if that one momentous day determined everything, forgetting the years of work that preceded and succeeded it. Just as important were the turbulent and exciting years following that day, as we learned how to live in a Goo-infected world, as we formed new social institutions and prepared to build a new society amidst the Goo."

"It took many years of work before we learned to build structures that could withstand the Goo. Many years of work before we learned we could still communicate with the remnants of the Kami that now existed as part of us. Many years of work before we learned to harness the new, far more powerful magic we could now wield. Many years of work before we discovered some rare areas the Goo could not reach, and found the Fyros and Tryker had not all been turned into Goo-zombies that would haunt us, as we feared, but had managed to survive by retreating to those areas."

"Those were exciting years. We were immune to the Goo, we could live amongst it. We had magic so powerful we could control the minds of even Goo-infected creatures, which allowed us to have access to beasts of burden again. And we could profit greatly from facilitating the trade between the Fyros and the Tryker, as the former dug ample materials from their mines but lacked food and water in their desert, while the latter gathered abundant food and water from their lakes but had no way to obtain raw materials. Only we could cross the blighted lands between them to facilitate this trade. Given all these benefits, we thought, our future looked bright, and we would rebuild the Zoraï nation greater than ever."

The Elder was interrupted for a moment by a lightning bolt flashing across the horizon. It's horizontal path made clear it was a spell fired by one of the perimeter guards at some creature that had stumbled onto them. Though the Goo could not detect the Zoraï, and thus could not actively send creatures to attack them as it did against the other races, the Goo-creatures that wandered the blighted lands were still a danger if they stumbled onto them by chance. The crowd awaited in anticipation for a moment if more lightning would follow. When it did not, the Elder continued.

"Ofcourse, just as important to our current society were the years of setback that followed. We found that although our immunity to the Goo did prevent the Goo from detecting our presence, it could still deduce our presence if we lived in the same place for years. Our first new cities suffered heavy attacks, forcing us to devise moving cities and live as nomads. We found that we could not expand our population, because the magic that protected us from the Goo was limited in power, and could not protect more Zoraï than had been present at the ceremony. Many Zoraï babies were born unprotected and died immediately of Goo exposure."

This hit a little close to home for Shi-Zun, reminding her of her earlier thoughts, but she recovered herself quickly.

"Eventually, the Fyros and Tryker populations grew while ours did not, so that more and more of our population was needed to keep up with their demands for trade. Yes yes, don't think I can't sense you're getting bored and thinking you all know this already! This might not make as good a story as the Kami's sacrifice, but it's just as important to who we are today, and never forget that! If it takes my death to get the attention of those of you who never gave it in history class, I'll at least leave you with this!"

Some embarrassment went through the crowd, and the leader of the caravan quickly spoke to salvage the situation: "We appreciate your final words of wisdom, Elder. Do you have any last advice to share with us for the future of our people?"

"I do, that's exactly what I was getting at." The Elder paused to give his words extra weight. "We have reached the point where our entire population does nothing but peddle goods and back and forth, and still the demands of the Tryker and Fyros grow. So it is imperative, absolutely imperative for the future of our people, that we finish the canal."

These words send some murmurings through the crowd. Ah, the canal, another lovely example of how history repeats itself. How even the life of civilisations goes in cycles. "Sssh, I know," thought Shi-Zun, "they did something similar before the Great Swarming." Indeed, I remember seeing it back when I was whole. The voice inside her was not so much a Kami anymore as a remaining fragment of one, no longer sentient on it's own, borrowing her brain functions to retain it's mental faculties. The other fragments of the Kami it once had been were scattered around all the other members of the caravan, while other Kami were scattered around the other caravans. Apart from the company and the Goo immunity, the Kami fragments were what gave each Zoraï their vastly increased magic skills and longer lifespan. But the Zoraï did still die of old age, and after a Zoraï's death, their fragment would move on to the next Zoraï baby to be born in the caravan.

"Now shush," thought Shi-Zun to her fragment, "I want to hear this." The Elder continued as the murmurings subsided.

"This is also a lesson learned from history. The Tryker and Fyros remember well the prosperity that the canal between their nations brought them in the Old Lands, which is why they seek to repeat that success. But ofcourse they shall need us to dig it. Right now their civilisations can only survive because we act as merchants between them, and they cannot grow further because our number is fixed, and thus so is the number of goods we can carry."

"The canal is the only chance for prosperity for all of us. Once it is complete, goods will be able to go through there. The Fyros and Tryker will no longer be held back by how much goods we can carry, and their civilisations will be able to grow. And how will it benefit us, you ask? Because our entire people spend all our time peddling back and forth between the lakes and the desert, we have been stunted in our development as well. True, we cannot grow in number like they can, but once the canal will free us from our peddling, we can once again focus on developing further our spirituality, our technology, our architecture, our magic, our arts. We can rebuild our containers into the most magnificent mobile living spaces, libraries, and temples. We can regain the rich culture we once had."

"I know there are some who are against this plan. Some say that once this canal will be complete, the Fyros and Tryker will decide they no longer have a need for us. Others ask why we should devote our entire civilisation to keeping them alive in the first place. I say to them; the homin people share their fate! Once already we Zoraï isolated ourselves from the other homin races, and as a result our lands were overrun by the kitin. Twice were we more concerned with inter-homin squabbles than with fighting the Goo, and as a result we were overrun by the Goo! Let us not make the same mistake a third time, for it already decimated our populations twice, reducing our culture to a shadow of what it once was, and a third time may leave nobody left alive."

"Build the canal! Let all homins rebuild together or not at all! Let those by my final words to our people."

The crowd remained silent as the Elder was carried inside the tent, then it erupted in hushed murmurings amongst eachother. Shi-Zun knew this was the end of the dying man's public speech, next would be the personal goodbyes, and then he would be carried outside once more for the entire caravan to pay their final respects. As for the personal goodbyes, his family would be first, then his friends and former students. She'd have to get in line soon.

Now that they no longer needed to be silent, she turned to her son. "So your father found you, I was afraid you'd miss everything." The boy didn't answer, but looked at her with a guilty face. "Oh, don't worry, you couldn't have known this would happen today, and we said you could play as long as you stayed inside the camp, you didn't do anything wrong." Still the boy remained silent. "He'd found a small cave to explore," spoke his father softly in his stead, "the scouts must've missed it when they chose this camp location."

"A cave!?" Shi-Zun smacked her son across his face before she'd really realised it. "You know NEVER EVER to go into caves!" The startled boy started to cry. "It was just a shallow hole in the bark, love," her husband spoke soothingly, "there was no passage into the Prime Roots." "Then we were lucky this time," Shi-Zun spoke again calm but determined, "but it doesn't change that he shouldn't go in there."

She looked down at her son, who seemed to be silently begging for her forgiveness with teary eyes, and one cheek turning purple where she'd hit him. She hugged him tightly. "I'm sorry, dear, I didn't mean to do that, but you startled me so. You know how dangerous it is to go into caves." She could sense the boy's head nod behind her shoulder. "Caves could lead into the Prime Roots. Not even Mommy and Daddy go down into the Prime Roots. It's too dangerous there even for grownups."

The boy sniffled his agreement as his mother tried to instill the appropriate dread into her voice.

"The Prime Roots are the home of the Matis."

Last edited by Hailuan (7 years ago)

#9 [en] 

Story 4
Shaping the Future

"Noble!?"

"Fine, one."

"Your actions could lead us to civil war, are you really willing to go that far for your ambition?"

The small crowd of reporters, quills and scrolls at the ready, went silent in anticipation of his answer.

"Nobody wants a civil war. There is a disagreement within our government and within our people about what course to take. We will resolve this disagreement through lawful and peaceful means. As representative of the people, it is my duty to push for that course of action that many of our people, including myself, believe best for our nation. If we are unallowed to ever have disagreements because it *might* cause a civil war, all politics would be meaningless. This is not about me, I only push for what many of our people want, and I will achieve it for them through the proper proceedings."

Noble Vadera briskly stepped on through the crowd as the reporters once again erupted in a barrage of questions. They wanted to know about everything, from reports of Kitin being sighted to rumours that he was having an affair with another Noble...

Such was the life of a politician. By now Vichi Vadera had gotten used to the strange combination of duties his function entailed. On the one hand the deeply serious decisions regarding the lives and deaths of thousands, on the other hand the shallow obsession with his personal life and all the vanity and rumours that came with it. Every question was as much an attempt to entice him into saying something scandalous as it was an actual request for information...

He had no choice but to play the game along, ofcourse, if he wanted to keep his position. But that was fine. After all, he was good at it.

***

"This session of the Chambre of Nobles is now opened."

The chairman rang the ceremonial bell and the murmurings in the huge room grew silent, both amongst the Nobles in the centre as amongst the audience seated in the balconies all around.

The audience balconies were packed today, noticed Vichi from his seat near the podium. That was to be expected, ofcourse. The discussion today concerned no less than the future course of their entire nation, and the Matis population was divided roughly 50/50 on the issue. Vichi had noticed in the past weeks how the topic had dominated every conversation on the streets like no political issue ever had before.

"The topic of today is known to all, it is the discussion we've been anticipating for weeks now", the chairman continued, "whether our people should return to the surface or venture into the Deep Roots." The entire room, already silent, seemed to somehow grow even more silent. Or rather, more serious. Having it laid out so plainly made everyone aware of the gravity of the issue. "But before we begin the discussion, let us renew our oaths to our great nation and the principles on which it was founded."

As all Nobles rose from their seats and the Royal anthem began playing from an unseen orchestra, the chairman turned around to the wall behind him. On that wall, in front of the entire assembly, hung a large family portrait of the last Royal family, flanked on one side by a ragged banner of the old Matis Kingdom, and on the other side by an old banner of the Karavan. Artefacts saved from the destruction of Yrkanis City. Above it all hung the modern banner of the new Matis Republic, it's flawlessness a stark contrast to the inevitably weary look of the antique items.

Each session of the Chambre of Nobles began with this brief ceremony, the purpose of which was to remind every Noble of their duty to the nation. To be precise, it was supposed to remind the Nobles of who they were standing in for. After both the entire Royal Family and all Karavan had disappeared in the chaos when the Goo overran Majestic Garden, the Matis survivors had nobody but a few surviving Nobles left to lead them. But traditionally the Nobles had been nothing more than glorified advisors, and they took up the leadership of the fledgling new nation only "until the King or the Karavan return".

Ofcourse, the years passed and they did not return, and eventually a new system of government grew. Effectively the Matis nation was now an aristocracy, and nobody expected the old rulers to return anymore. But the tradition remained.

After the music stopped, the chairman turned back around to face the room. "I give the podium to Noble Anicho Stagno."

All other Nobles sat down again as Anicho Stagno walked up to the podium and turned to address the assembly.

"Matis! My fellow Nobles! The ceremony with which we begin our sessions is meant to remind us of our glorious past! Of the greatness and the beauty of the old Matis Kingdom! We repeat it every session because we know we must never forget what we lost, and what we must rightfully reclaim! And yet apparently this is still not enough reminder for some people! To my great sadness, even amongst the Nobles there are those who would have us forget our past, toss aside our rightful place in the world and dishonour the teachings of not only generations of Matis, but those of Jena's representatives!"

Some angry murmurs arose amongst the Nobles due to this surprisingly accusatory speech. Vichi suppressed a smile, which due to years of practice he could do perfectly. If the old man jumped straight to attacking his opponents in the Chambre, it could only mean he was getting desperate.

"The current state of our people was born out of necessity to survive, nothing more! After the other homin races turned on the Karavan, the King saw that it was inevitable that the Goo would eventually overrun all of Atys. The methods to tame and control the Goo, that our scientists were working on alongside the Karavan, would not be completed in time to safe us, now that the war had left our resources depleted. Our only hope for survival was to infect ourselves with modified Goo! Mutated Goo our scientists had invented, that allowed the infected to retain their mind. This was the only way to safe our people from being consumed by the Goo entirely, body and mind!"

"But our salvation came at a terrible price. The mutated Goo left the mind intact but still ravaged the body. Only 1 in 10 Matis survived the infection. Those that survived found their infected bodies could no longer tolerate sunlight, forcing our people underground. No longer could our people live in the beautiful forests and magnificent gardens that they had called home for generations. From now on we would live in the darkness. But perhaps that was even a blessing, for at least in the darkness we could not constantly see our final sacrifice: Our people's own beauty, long the pride of the Matis, now ravaged by our self-inflicted Goo infection!"

To underline his argument, Anicho Stagno stripped back his sleeves and raised both his arms in front of the Royal family portrait on the wall behind him. In the bright lights illuminating the podium, everybody could clearly see the skin of his arms, rough and pockmarked, permanently covered in boils and pustules, and shaded in hues of purple and gold - the same as the skin of every Matis in the room. There could not be a greater contrast with the Royal family on the portrait behind him, showing Matis as they had looked like before, their skin smooth and fair as the finest fiber.

"All this was just out of necessity to survive! Our infection, our appearance, our life underground! It should never be what we strive for! It is not our rightful place in the world! Due to our tenaciousness, our people have courageously thrived in this horrible situation, but we should not tolerate it any longer than we have to! We should always strive to undo these curses and restore our former glory! We have lived like this only in preparation for the time when we could do so, and that time is now coming!"

"Our society is once again strong. No longer lost refugees in the Prime Roots. We have built cities, roads, industries, armies. We are well established. And now our scientists have perfected a treatment that allows us to once again live in the sunlight. With this treatment, a few scouts have already returned to the surface, and they have reported it is open for the taking. The kitin are gone, and the other homin races are reduced to isolated pockets of civilisation. Nothing stands in our way of reclaiming the surface. We can return to our forest, rebuild our civilisation as it once was, and in time find a way to restore ourselves as well. We can recapture our former glory and more, as this time we shall be greatest of all the homin peoples, not even needing to fear alliances of the other races anymore!"

"Therefore, I urge you all to vote for directing all our efforts and funding to the project of returning our people to the surface!"

As Anicho Stagno stepped down from the podium and returned to his seat, the room erupted in hushed conversations, which the chairman allowed to continue for a few minutes before calling for silence once more. "I now give the podium to Noble Vichi Vadera."

Vichi slowly rose from his seat and stepped up to the podium, receiving some cheers and boos from the audience. Though officially there were no parties in the Chambre and every Noble spoke and voted as an individual, like any collection of people the Chambre naturally split into factions, each with their de facto leaders. Anicho Stagno was the de facto leader of the faction that sought a return to the surface. Vichi was generally considered the leader of the faction that opposed it.

"Matis! My fellow Nobles! Much of what Noble Stagno has said is true!"

"It is true that we should never forget the glory of the old Matis Kingdom, and that we should always strive to restore that glory in the future! It is also true that our current situation was not freely chosen by our people, but born out of a necessity to survive!"

"But what Noble Stagno forgets, is where that necessity comes from: It comes from a changing world! When the world changed around them, our forefathers had no choice but to adapt or perish! To carry on as they always had would have meant their annihilation! Adaptation comes at a cost, but our society thrives today because our people were willing to pay that cost, because we adapted our ways to suit the new world we live in, and did not stubbornly cling to a way of life that was no longer possible!"

"Has the world returned to how it used to be? No, it has not! The world is still entirely covered in Goo, from the deepest Roots to the Canopy! Then how can we think we can return to how we used to be? The forests that Noble Stagno would have us return to will not miraculously transform back to the green gardens we see in the old paintings, they will still be a purple wasteland. The world is forever changed, returning to the old ways of life is nothing but a dream that is simply impossible to realise."

"But adapting to a new world does not mean giving up on our ancestral values. It simply means recasting them in a new light. Once our people took pride in the beauty of the environment they lived in, the lustrous forests and majestic gardens. To abandon those for a life underground was horrible to them, their new environment looked cold and alien. But the new generations of Matis have learned to see the beauty of the Prime Roots. One need merely look outside, at the luminescent Topha's planted along the streets, the patterned gardens of Dziku and Plumash, the well-tended parks of Rotoa and Lumindra, to see that our people once again take pride in the beauty of our environment."

"And so it is for our own beauty as well. Our forefathers considered a smooth and fair skin the epitome of beauty, and by their standards we would be monsters. But look around in the beauty shops today, see how they are full of products to turn pockmarks into intricate patterns, to change the shade of purple or to enhance the golden glow of one's skin. See the modern books on how to turn your skin into a work of art. See how the young ladies use these products and once again flaunt their beauty."

"As for the greatness and glory of our nation... Today our nation is larger than the other 3 homin peoples' combined. And it is because we live down here while they remain on the surface, not despite. Reclaim the surface? What is the surface? It is a single layer. Down in the deeper Roots, there are hundreds of layers. A hundred times more space. A hundred times more resources. If we truly wish to strive for greatness, we should be claiming those. We could build down there a nation a hundred times larger than any nation could be on the surface."

"Some say that this is to forsake the values of our ancestors, I say this is to adhere to those values while understanding them better than our ancestors did. I say it is natural our people gain a better understanding of these values with each generation. Our people's definition of beauty and greatness was once limited to what they observed on the surface, but we now know..."

A movement on the audience balcony caught Vichi's attention. A row of guards at the front of the balcony separated the audience from the assembly, and in a split second, two Matis at the front of the audience moved forward and each pushed a guard aside, faster than the guards could react. A third person immediately took advantage of the gap by jumping down off the balcony and landing in the back of the assembly room. With a yell of "traitor!", he raised a small pistol he must somehow have smuggled past the entrance checks at Vichi.

Vichi was already scanning the room for any other attackers. This man was not a real threat, he was too far away to accurately hit him with such a small pistol. And he was now surrounded by Nobles. In the present-day Matis society, Noble positions were given to those Matis who had shown exceptional skill. Some had earned their position by being exceptional scientists, philosophers, artists, and such. But the Noble assembly also included the best warriors, and unlike the audience, the Nobles were permitted to wear weapons during the assembly.

The fastest to respond was Noble Kiaera Lirgia, sitting in the back. She had earned her position as Noble by being the best of the scouts that Anicho Stagno had mentioned earlier, the ones who had explored the surface. She had her own pistol out and a poison bullet in the assassin's head before the assassin could fire a second shot. By then the guards up on the balcony had already wrestled his two accomplices down on the ground. The whole commotion was over in seconds.

The chairman quickly called for everyone to remain calm, and suspended the assembly for half an hour. Vichi quietly returned to his seat. This wasn't the first attempt on his life and it wouldn't be the last. And as far as attempts on his life went, this one was pitifully inept. He decided this one could not have been orchestrated by any of his political enemies. They would poison his drink, or assassinate him at home alone. They would never be so stupid as to attempt killing him in the middle of a speech in front of the whole Noble assembly. No, this had to be the work of some lone fanatics. Big on symbolism, not so much on reality. Annoying but mostly irrelevant.

Later that day, as the assembly resumed, the debate continued. Now that the de facto leaders of both major factions had held their opening speeches, other Nobles from both factions took the stand, mostly repeating the same arguments, with some calling for somewhat alternative solutions. Both factions were internally divided as well. Those that wanted a return to the surface about whether to subjugate the other homin races or peacefully coexist and trade, and about whether to move all Matis back to the surface or to maintain their cities in the Prime Roots. Those that wanted to expand deeper underground, about whether to stay away from the surface entirely or to at least open a few outposts and perhaps engage in trade with the other homin races.

After all the speeches there was the opportunity for "questions" back and forth, which in practice was always more accusations back and forth. Again it was more of the same arguments, though one of the smaller conservative religious factions still brought in that the Karavan had forbidden going into the Deep Roots.

Finally, the assembly moved on to the next topic - at least officially. Vichi was to present his trump card, the report from his scientists about the recent kitin sightings. Officially this was a new subject for the assembly to discuss, unrelated to the last. In practice, he'd use it as another argument for his agenda.

The report was the final conclusion of the Matis' research as to what had happened to the kitin when Atys was covered in Goo. Why they had disappeared and not been seen anymore since - until now. What had been found was that as the Goo overtook the surface of Atys, several nests of kitin had become infected. The un-infected kitin nests deeper underground had responded to the threat and waged war on the infected nests. Thanks to the greater numbers of un-infected kitin, they were able to wipe out the infected nests, at least initially... but ofcourse, every un-infected kitin who struck down an infected kitin became itself infected. And so even as the kitin wiped out every infected nest, they could not prevent that nest after nest became infected in turn.

"We speak of the war between kitin and homins as the Kitin War. But if any event is deserving of being called the Kitin War, it would be this. Imagine it. It is estimated that the huge swarms of kitin that wiped out the old civilisations were really no more than a few nests, no more than 10% of all the kitin on Atys, with the remaining 90% remaining hidden in the Deeper Roots. Now image that entire population of kitin engaged in a titanic, apocalyptic war against itself. Billions of kitin slaughtering eachother, healthy against infected, throughout hundreds of layers of Deep Roots, and spanning all across Atys. It is a scale we can sparsely imagine. And it all happened beneath our feet, unbeknownst to us. But our Deep Roots explorers have found the remnants of these giant battlefields."

"They believe this war raged for decades. It ended, unavoidably, when the last nest was infected. With nearly all kitin wiped out, and but a few infected remaining. Perhaps even just a single last nest, somewhere so deep underground that no homin has ever come close. This is why we have not seen a kitin up here in generations. It would take the infected kitin time to rebuild. But rebuilding they would have done, from the moment the war ended. The fact that there have been kitin sightings again can only mean they are now sufficiently rebuild to venture this far up again. It is inevitable that we will soon face a new Swarming, this time of infected kitin. There is no question the Goo would try to use them against us."

And then came the debating again. Vichi's opponents argued this was all the more reason to get out of the Prime Roots before the kitin overtook all of it. But Vichi knew their argument was hollow, even they knew deep down the kitin would not leave them alone on the surface. They would have no choice but to fight. And, he argued, it was a fight they could only win by eventually expanding into the Deep Roots to push the kitin out, and definitely not by getting into a possible war with the homins on the surface, which would only force them to fight on two fronts. His opponents were then resorted to attacking the credibility of the report, which they argued had been researched at Vichi's own request to begin with.

At the end of the day, ofcourse, neither side had attained a majority in the assembly. So the Nobles had no choice but to enact a compromise that divided funding equally between the project to return to the surface and the project to expand underground. But as Vichi walked home that evening through the streets of Matia Prime, he knew he had once again gained ground today. It was only a matter of time until he would have his majority. The times were simply on his side. Though the older generation of Matis yearned to return to the surface, the younger generation of Matis increasingly felt the Prime Roots were their home.

And Vichi perhaps felt this strongest of all. One look at the city around him, the capital of the Matis, filled him with pride at what his people had accomplished down here. Matia Prime, built in an intersection of Prime Root tunnels, it's buildings giant branches that reached from the floor of the cave to the ceiling, and from wall to wall. Up close, every part of every building was decorated, while from faraway, the buildings themselves formed an intricate network that was itself a work of art, as much as a fortification. From the bustling main streets atop the wide horizontal branches, to the countless small walkbridges and spiralling staircases that connected the different branches, everything was at every level designed with defence in mind and yet shaped to aesthetic perfection. Each part of the city was in it's own unique style of décor, and everything was lit up in intricate colour and shadow patterns by genetically engineered luminescent Prime Roots plants. Vichi could not imagine why anyone would want to abandon this city.

Arriving at one of his apartments, he left his guards in the hall and retreated to his bedroom, which doubled as his study. As he sat down at his desk to write his summary of the day and make his plans for tomorrow, he suddenly realised there was somebody else in his bedroom. His hand instinctively moved to his pistol. "Such a futile gesture," spoke a voice behind him, "I'm quite sure I'm faster than you." Vichi recognised the voice, belonging to spy-turned-Noble Kiaera Lirgia. "You never thanked me for saving your life today, I think I'm owed something for that," she continued. Vichi turned around to face her. "How did you get in here?" Her only response was a knowing grin. "A lot of people want me dead, Kiaera, and this is a serious security flaw, it's just a good thing you're on my side."

"Oh no, Noble Vadera, I'm quite sure it's you who's on my side." Yes, he supposed that was true. The rumours of his affair with another Noble were all designed to hide his real relation with Kiaera. Using a minor scandal to hide a bigger secret was a tried and true technique, it gave people an explanation for secrecy. The truth was that although everybody considered Vichi the political mastermind behind the movement to expand into the Deep Roots, it was really Kiaera. She gathered all the information, made all the plans. Vichi had never met a Matis more devious and cunning than she. But she worked best in the shadows, and needed him to divert the attention. She lacked the charisma and oratory skills that he did possess, and that were needed to lead a political movement.

Kiaera crossed the distance to his chair and wrapped her arms around his neck. The affair part wasn't a lie, although Vichi sometimes wondered if it was possible for people like them, their entire lives made up of appearances and lies and manipulation, to feel real affection. Did she really love him, or only need him? Did he really love her? He had no doubt that regardless of her feelings, she'd toss him aside the minute he was no longer useful. But he also knew that would never happen. She would never find another Matis both as skilled in politics as Vichi, and as willing to play second string to her.

After placing a kiss on her cheek, he stared into her eyes, coloured red by the treatment that made her immune to sunlight, set into a face that was remarkably round for a Matis. Vichi knew she had some Tryker blood in her, and though he'd never admit it, that was deep down why he didn't want war with the surface races. Vichi had never seen a Tryker, but if this woman with some Tryker heritage was the most magnificent Matis he had ever met, he had a hard time thinking of them as inferior. Kiaera herself had seen Tryker, and Fyros and Zoraï, when she'd been sent up to the surface to spy on them. Vichi suspected she'd grown fond of them while observing them. She often spoke how the cultures she observed up there were so different, that the world would be a poorer place without them.

That thought reminded Vichi. "You never had the chance to tell me about your last trip to the surface yet. I heard you discovered the homins up there were building a canal?" He always enjoyed hearing her stories of the surface. "Indeed," she said, "why don't I tell you all about it in bed?" As she dragged him along to the bed, he was still staring at her face, fascinated by the patterns of black dots and purple stripes, the pink patches and golden lines, and the large purple stain starting to form on her cheek where he'd kissed her. He really did not understand people like Anicho Stagno, who considered skin like hers repulsive and longed back for the boring fair white. Vichi felt he could stare at Kiaera's skin forever, while listening to her story. "So, it all began when I was exploring the borders of the Tryker..."

Last edited by Hailuan (7 years ago)

#10 [en] 

Epilogue
Uncertain worlds

And so my literary experiment comes to an end. It turned out to be a project whose size exceeded my expectations. I hope you readers have all enjoyed the resulting saga.

Despite it's length, many questions are still left unanswered, and many facts dubious. The Kami nobly sacrificed themselves? Told by a Zorai. The Karavan waged war on hominkind? Told by a Fyros. The Matis nation is larger than the other 3 combined? Told by a Matis. How accurate then are these assertions? And many other facts about the world are never revealed at all. This is all quite deliberate on my part. Just as in the present era we find ourselves with many unanswered questions about our world, and many versions of history that are heavily disputed, so I believe it would not be any different in any future era.

I have written from the perspective of the homins living in that future era, so that we only know what they know. My purpose was to tell a story, not to write a detailed account of a fictional world. And I do not think it would be a very realistic story, nor a very realistic world, if the homins in it knew everything.

For despite the fact that this future world I have created is merely fictional, merely speculation, I have done everything I could to make it as realistic and as feasible as possible. I have spoken at length with the sages about what kind of technology they expect to be invented in the near future, how they expect the world would change under the catastrophic events I have described, how they expect the races to react and adapt. Creating an entire new world was the largest challenge of this project, but I believe I have created one that is a very realistic future scenario, based on our current knowledge. A future that may very well come to pass.

And ofcourse, it is also a cautionary tale. Though I have used this future world as a setting for what I hope are enjoyable stories, hopeful stories even, I think it is safe to say we would not actually want this future. Though I do not make it out as a bad place, that is because telling a story was my primary goal, and to do so I had to make one large assumption that is probably not so realistic: That each race will actually find a way to survive. So it is also a warning to us to prevent this future while we can.

But it was primarily intended as something new in Atysian literature, and I believe it has succeeded in that. Though the project took much more out of me than I anticipated, I have greatly enjoyed working on it.

Now that it is over, I am anxious to hear from you, my readers, which of the stories was your favourite, and why? Which was your least favourite, and why? I have tried to write each of the 4 stories in a different style, not only because I believed variation between them would improve the saga as a whole, but also to experiment with different styles and see which would work the best. But I cannot know which worked the best unless you, the readers, tell me. Also, do you enjoy longer stories in multiple parts like this, or do you prefer shorter stories like my earlier works? Your input will help me decide what kind of story I will work on next.

#11 [en] 

2 & 3 actually...I loved the emotion in the second story and the mystery of my beloved Zoraï. Also, it ties so nicely into the third story. I love 3 simply because it was the Zoraï, I'm a little biased that way. :) 1 was also fantastic for the sense of excitement in the young Tryker. 4 was my least favorite, but still a good read, and was definitely true to Matis preponderance and treachery in Royal politics.

---

No guild. No fame.
Gorran is my name.

#12 [en] 

A very worthy experiment, Hailuan.

I would point out that your experience that it got away from you is common in new writers and prevalent in those with experience. Combined with world-building, the amount of work can be very large.

I thought 1 and 3 were the best. The capturing of the Tryker free spirit in the young girl mixed with the enforced seriousness of the guards was very good. The hints at the basis of the story were well handled. In three, the care of the mother for her child and the casual acceptance of their numbers being limited by the number of Kami fragments made for very good story telling. The other stories were good, but those two were my favorites.

---


Remembering Tyneetryk
Phaedreas Tears - 15 years old and first(*) of true neutral guilds in Atys.
(*) This statement is contested, but we are certainly the longest lasting.
<clowns | me & you | jokers>

#13 [en] 

Hailuan,

Thank you once again for the great read! We've spoken about this before, but I believe 4 is my favorite. Due to its moral ambiguity and darker tone. Of course anything with Zorai in it will interest me as well, so 3 is also great!

---

"We are Kami. We are here to be you. We are many as you are of many minds. We are one as you are one in Ma-Duk."
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