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Posted: Aug 7 2012, 05:15 AM
Member No.: 50697
Joined: 11-May 06
Steuben opens his eyes to the darkness only available in the deep outposts of the stone labyrinths. He feels around in his pockets and pulls out a small crystal. He cups it in his hands and blows on it gently. A pale blue light lights the surroundings.
He lies on a stone bed in a room. It is carved out of the rock itself. There is a wooden chest of drawers on one wall and a curtain hangs in the doorway. Both show the signs of extreme age and unused. The air has the feel of air that has not been used. A thick unmarked layer of dust covers everything.
He sits up. His feel stir up small clouds in the unbroken dust on the floor. He walks over to the curtain. He tries to push it to one side. But it disintegrates at his touch. He steps into the main room. The table and chairs have long since crumbled. His backpack and two of the three swords he was carrying are sitting near the door, uncovered by the dust.
He remembers when he first came through the curtain.
Steuben bolted upright in the bed. The flickering light of an oil lamp caused shadows to dance on the walls. Voices drifted through the curtain from outside. He got out of the bed, and stumbled the first few steps to the curtain. He quickly regained his stride as he walked. He pushed the curtain aside. Light from outside streamed through the windows. The family of ynnwn looked up from the table.
“Ah, you’re up.” The head of the family said. “Come, sit, eat. I’m Joroch. This is Rhakori.” he gestured to the female ynnwn to his right. “And our kids Janun and Rakana. She was the one who brought you in.”
Steuben nodded towards Rakana. “Thank-you.” He sat at the table. “I am Steuben Viscosa. Thank-you for your hospitality.”
“Thank-you for visiting,” Joroch said. “We don’t get many travelers out here. We’re pretty much self-sufficient as a community.”
Steuben picked up a glass and took a drink. “Where am I?”
“Our community is called Pasur. The last survey put us at about 200 kilometers from the azure sun, at about 15 degrees above. Though it is closer to 350 kilometers, I think, to travel it. So it has been many years since anybody has been into Yliakum. So what brings you out this far?”
“I got lost. I was returning to Yliakum. I had heard a legend about a forge that could tap the very fire of the planet, and give a sword great power.”
“Did you find it?” Janun said. “What did it does it do?”
“Perhaps,” Steuben said.” I found a forge heated by a flow of molten rock. As far if it did anything to the sword,” Steuben shrugged and took a drink. “You can’t magic iron.”
“So a wasted trip?” Joroch said.
Steuben shook his head. “No, just not as profitable as I would have liked.”
Joroch chuckled, “a better take on it I guess.”
“How long was I out for?”
“A couple of days. Though at the beginning it looked like you wouldn’t make it at all.”
“I owe you a fair bit then. “
“Wish we could take credit for it. Rest a while though. Regain your strength before you head off again.”
“I would like that. The labyrinths are a dreary place.”
“Since he’s up,” Rakana said. “I’d like to show him around. “I know it isn’t as glamorous as Hydlaa, but it’s home.”
“Sure,” Steuben said as they both stood up.
Steuben pushes the door to open it. It falls out of the frame and crumbles on the ground. He picks up and shoulders his pack. Stepping out into the street his footsteps raise small clouds of dust in the undisturbed street. He blows gently on the crystal to refresh the light. Walking through the streets he passes posts mounted with milky crystals with shadowed centers. He heads for the fountain at the center of town.
Rakana gestured around them. “This is the fountain square.”
Water splashed and flowed over and through the several layers of the fountains. Jets of water flowed from the bottom basin to several different levels. Steuben walked over, cupped his hands and drank a couple of mouthfuls of water. He sat down on the broad stone rim.
“It’s a nice place you’ve managed to build here,” he said.
“Thank-you,” she said.” It’s probably nothing like Hydlaa, Ojaveda, or any of the other cities in Yliakum”
“It is smaller, but those,” he gestured to the crystals mounted on the posts around the square and elsewhere. “Aren’t something that I have seen before.”
“Those are the lamp crystals. They were built decades ago. They let us light the streets, and the bigger buildings without torches or lamps.”
“How do they work?”
“I don’t know,” Rakana shook her head. “Some kind of magic driven by the central plant on the edge of town.”
Steuben nodded. “It’s a different colour then the azure sun. But if it works, I can’t complain too much.”
The lights dimmed and brightened twice.
“Oh. It’s supper time already,” Rakana said. “We dim the lights like that about an hour before dark.”
“You shut them off completely at night?”
“No. we just dim them down. It takes about a day or so for them to light up fully if we turn them off.”
Steuben nodded, “well we’d better get back then.”
They arrived just as the food was being placed on the table.
“There you are,” Rhakori said. “I was wondering when you’d get back.”
They sat around the table and ate. The lights outside dimmed. Rhakori lit an oil lamp and placed it on the table.
“So what do you think of our little town?” Joroch said after they had finished eating.
Steuben said, “I am impressed with what you have carved out here in the deep labyrinth. I am especially impressed with those lights. There are many in Yliakum who would pay richly for them.”
A flicker of emotion crossed Joroch’s face. “We have considered it. But the open labyrinth is a dangerous place, as you know.”
Steuben nodded, “especially with the payment.” He took a drink from his glass. “Since you’ve thought about it I won’t push it further. However, come the morning I should be off. I have imposed on –“
A scream broke through the air. It was a scream the kind of great pain that fortunately does not last long. Steuben was out of his chair and half way to the swords on his pack.
“Wait” Joroch said. “You needn’t interfere. It isn’t your concern.”
“The guards will handle it?”
“No. it isn’t their affair either.”
Another scream like the first occurred. Steuben dashed to his pack. He took out his sword in its sheath. He pulled it out. The sound of leather on steel was like the sound of a great hunting cat readying for the kill. He snapped it back and hung it over his shoulder.
“Stop!” Joroch said. “You mustn’t interfere. You don’t understand.”
“No. I don’t,” Steuben said flatly. The door banged closed after he ran out.
Another scream of terror rather than torment allowed Steuben to locate it. He ran through the darkened streets. He ran towards a house whose door had been smashed out into the street. Through the doorway and one window he could see the light from the flames of an overturned lamp. In the shifting light were what looked like deep shadows. Entwined in the shadows was someone.
The shadows shifted and squeezed the person within. Steuben ran through the door. He swung his sword through one of the entwining shadows. The blade struck it like a rotten apple. One of the pieces of the shadow fell to the ground and splashed. The remaining shadows shifted to compensate. He swung again. Again the shadow parted like a rotten apple. He swung a third time.
The shadows released their victim, and reached for him. The victim fell to the floor like a rag doll. Steuben stepped back. He kicked aside an overturned chair. As the shadows approached they took on a more human shape. He stood facing them, sword held ready.
They reached for him. The arms and fingers on the hands stretched grotesquely. He stood still. They got within a foot of him. He swung the sword. The severed limbs splashed on the floor. The shadows swarmed him. They surrounded him in black ball. The ball exploded outward in a spray of black giblets.
Steuben sagged slightly and then straightened. He walked over to one of the bodies that was still alive. He held his sword over the body for a quick killing strike.
Rakana appeared in the doorway, “no. wait!”
Steuben looked over at her.
“You don’t know,” she panted
“Then tell me.”
“They’ll be fine in the morning. But you won’t. The shadows will keep coming until you’re dead.”
Steuben looked around. “I’ll need more space.” He walked out the door towards the fountain square. They arrived at the fountain. He turned his back to the fountain and waited.
“So, explain it to me,” he said.
Rakana sat on the edge of the fountain. “It all started 134 years ago. When we built those,” she gestured at the lanterns. “We didn’t know or suspect it, but somehow those shadows creatures were drawn to it. Each night they come. At first we fought them. But we soon gave up.” She sighed.
“But after so long how is there anybody left?”
“Every morning those that have been killed are whole again, except for those who fought back. They stayed dead. Every night a house at random. Every night killed in horrible ways.”
“Then we shall end it.” Steuben said as the shadows began to ripple and move.
Steuben arrives at the fountain. It is dry and the bowls are filled with dust. He runs his fingers through the dust. He surface is smooth and unmarked. He turns towards a large building, built into the wave of the cavern. He walks towards it. His footsteps are the only marks in the dust.
Steuben stood breathing heavily. Sweat, blood and black ichors dripped from him. Black ichors dripped from his sword. He turned and started to wash his sword in a stream of the fountain Rakana sagged to sit on the edge of the fountain. Water and black ichors stained her clothes. She had stood watching transfix through the night. Steuben gently rubbed the sword. He frowned. There were several nicks in the blade. Towards the end the sword had been glancing off the stone of the fountain. It had taken several chunks out of the stonework.
“H-how?” Rakana said, “no one has lasted the night.”
“A little longer and I wouldn’t have,” Steuben said as he washed his hands. He placed his mouth in one of the jets. He drank deeply of the water.
He looked up at the lights. “Their power source drew them didn’t it? Where is it?”
Rakana pointed to a large building built into the wall of the cavern.
“Let’s go.” Steuben turned and walked towards it. Rakana followed.
They walked up to the doorway of the building. The guards looked up at their approach.
“Halt. No entry by order of the mayor,” one guard shouted.
Rakana paused. Steuben kept walking.
“Halt I said.” The guard pulled his sword. The second guard pulled his sword as well. Steuben kept walking.
When Steuben still didn’t stop both guards ran at him swinging their swords. Steuben dodged then. As the second guard went by Steuben grabbed him and swung him head first into the door frame. The guard collapsed to the ground.
The first guard came back around. Steuben stepped into the swing of the sword. He blocked the sword arm. He threw a punch at the guard’s head. The guard stumbled backwards. He fell when Steuben released his arm.
“Come on,” Steuben said.
They opened the door and ran down the hall. Behind them an alarm began to ring. The sound of running footsteps began to follow them.
They ran out of the hall into a large brightly lit cavern. Nearly filling the cavern was a machine. They stopped and looked at it.
It was large, complex, and intricate full of silver crystal and steel. Sections of it moved. Some of those sections moved in what looked to be impossible ways.
“I never thought it would be this beautiful,” Rakana said.
Steuben jogged into the machine. He climbed he ladders and moved along the catwalks to the center of the machine. Two guards ran out of the hallway. They grabbed Rakana. They shouted at Steuben. Two more ran out of the hall. They ran into the machine after Steuben.
He reached the center and drew his sword. He looked out and saw Rakana held by the guards. One of them noticed and pressed something into her back. She winced. Again they shouted at him. She looked at him pleadingly. She said the word, please.
Steuben drove his sword into the crystal. It shattered in a flare of multi-coloured light. He swung his sword. It cut through several supporting rods. The equipment they supported shifted and broke fee. It smashed into other pieces. The sound and flash of large electrical arcs filed the cavern. Steuben swung a third time. His sword smashed a small crystal. It shattered outwards then collapsed down to a point and vanishes. His sword twisted in the space that the crystal was in.
There was an explosion. Steuben was blown out of the machine. He landed on the floor and rolled several times. His sword landed beside him, twisted and burned. Another explosion tore through the machine. It blew Rakana and the guards against the wall. A sword blade poked out of her stomach. They slid to the floor.
Steuben walks into the cavern. The bits of the machine revealed in the pale blue light show it to be twisted, burned, rusted, and covered in a thick layer of dust. On the floor around the curve of the room near the edge of his light lay his sword. He walks over to it. It looks like the day it was forged. He picks it up and puts it in its sheath.
“They said you would come for back for it,” a voice behind him says.
He turns around. Standing there is Rakana. She shimmers slightly in the light. The wall and some of the wreckage can be seen through her.
“An old lemur and a xacha woman. They also said that you would want to know what happened.”
“It would help. But I can guess.”
“They said it twisted time and space, and opened a hole into a world that should never have been opened. When it was destroyed that hole was closed. But, when you destroyed the machine, it was also destroyed shortly after it was finished. “ She pauses. “We have all been dead for over a hundred years.”
“Don’t be. You ended our fear and suffering.”
She steps over to him. She tries to take his hand in hers. It slips through. He holds his hand out. She clasps her hands around it.
“Thank you,” she says. Saying that, she fades away.
okay... becuase i know it will come up. the change in cases is deliberate. past tense is flashback, present tense is present. i'm trying to figure out a less subtle way of marking the change.
as well anything else that is needed. missing details, confusing sentences, general mucked-uppedness.
This post has been edited by steuben on Aug 7 2012, 05:18 AM