Poem: A Sin in the Dark

A Sin in the Dark

An experimental poem by Sam Oliver [Eris]

She stands there like stone

 

Still as the moon

And twice as cold

 

Should I approach her

I know what she’ll say

Better to wait here

And hope that she stays

 

Still I might see her

Eyes glance this way

I may’ve imagined it

But who is to say?

She could be staring me

Down from behind

But how can I tell

She pays me a mind?

Her heart be true

 

This much you know

It’s not what she’ll show

 

But what lurks inside

The cold of her heart

Like winter’s first frost

It tears you apart

 

A warm night will melt her

Or force her away

If her soul is too soft

Perhaps she won’t stay

You cannot imagine

She’ll want to conform

Scented with jasmine

Perhaps now she’ll warm

I don’t like his look

 

I don’t like his eyes

Or the way that he lies

 

Through teeth far too white

I watch in his smile

The things I find bite

Are the cunning and guile

 

Can he not see

He’s no interest to me!

I want to be free of him badly

If he won’t away

I swear that this day

I’ll stand here and leave him

Quite gladly

Alone.

 

 

©2012 Sam Oliver [Eris]

——

Oh, hi everyone. Yes, I’m still alive. New poem? NEW POEM! ❤

Experimental 1-2-4-8-1-2-4-8-1-2-4-8 line poem. ❤ Still probably classified as freeverse. I don’t know what I’d call it otherwise!

It’s the Leap Year! Leap Year Day! Happy birthday all of you born today. Comes around only once every four years, so if you were born in 2000 you are now officially three years old! Congratulations!

…No. That’s not how it works. :c

Birthday is not the same as age and anyone who tells you otherwise is a NUT.

<3’s,

-Eris

Poem: Sibling – Soulmate

Sibling – Soulmate

A dual-form freeverse poem by Sam Oliver [Eris]

 

Love sings down

Like a crown

On the field

Rustling through every

Leaf

 

The trees all around

Like grass in the town

Surrounded by buildings

But not really

Here

 

Together in stars

In hearts and the bars

Of light that shine out

From the sky

 

Together in part

By silver and soul

Together and never

Do we die

 

My world is ablaze

Like sunset

Like glaze, the light that reflects

In a silvered soft shine

 

Untouched here by

Slivers of fear

Or sought out by hate

Ridden hard to the gate

That now they will find

Quite closed

 

We don’t need their pain

Or their lust

Or the plainness

The petty contempt that they serve

We just have eachother

Like sisters, like brothers

Like siblings together

 

We cling-

We hope-

We hold-

and we love,

but we

are one

and the same.

 

 

©2012 Sam Oliver [Eris]

—————-

I love poetry.

-Eris

Short Story: And So Space Burns

And So Space Burns

A short sci-fi story by Sam Oliver [Eris]

 

 

 

The red star is immense, filling the space surrounding it with ruddy red light and illuminating a dark metal monstrosity in orbit around it.

Slide in from the emptiness of that space, closer and closer, and you might make out Sirius Station, so filled with memory and regret, ancient and spinning forever through the vastness of space. Watch it turning slowly, and see the lights on the station, beacons to draw in the lost or desperate.

Or, in the case of one man currently slumped against a bulkhead, the vengeful and the grieving.

 

 

Adial Shard takes a long, deep breath, hands squeezed shut tight into fists, eyes closed, heart pounding in his breast. His heavy head aches with every step, every jarring movement he makes. His eyes are open, but they can’t see. Slowly, working from his name up, he tries to make sense of what has happened.

Pain fades from his eyes and his head, but slowly. With its departure, thought rolls in.

It’s too blurry to be coherent.

Am I alive? My body aches. I can’t think right. I’m bleeding!

The messages from his own body all scream at him at once.

“You’ll never get him back, Addy,” A taunting feminine voice jeers. The noise scrapes across his consciousness. That’s right.

Her.

She’d killed his partner. And he’d come back. Why had he come back? He could have just left this section of the station alone He hadn’t had any reason to come back.

He grinds his hands against the deck and then forces himself upright. A horrible stink, of burnt flesh and ozone, reaches his nose. He can’t tell if it’s his or not.

Shard grits his teeth, breath hissing between them as he staggers up.

His eyes are just opening when she strikes him. The blow cracks his ribs, knocking him backward, slamming him against the bulkhead, and dropping him to his knees, agony flaring up along splintered bone and jerking him wide awake. His eyes snap open fully, and catch a glimpse of her, sliding back into the shadows of one of Sirius Station’s many corridors. Her long, bony tail flicks out of the darkness and raps on the metal of the bulkhead near his face.

She isn’t growling or hissing, as he’d been told ferals would do. She isn’t in a horrible wild rage. She’s being cold, calculating…. cruel. A one hundred eighty degree reversal from her usual sunny self– but really he had expected nothing less.

If she’s smart, however… suddenly Adial feels too small, too alone, and too tired.

The licks of fire caress his ribs again as he pushes away from the damn bulkhead, staggering off, away from her, uselessly, helplessly.

His chest is burning, every step sends spikes of pain shuddering across his midriff.

“No,” He whispers, stumbling towards the airlock. He slams one hand into the scanner at its center, and then collapses against the door as the computer processes his request, blaring a warning as his blood is smeared against the metal.

Vital signs at 30% optimal level.  the glowing yellow text flashes in his visor. Suggested course of action: Seek medical attention.

No shit, Shard thinks. Next it’ll tell me we’re in space.

Blood from his hand. Blood from his chest. He’s dripping it. He can taste it.

“Just open the damn door,” Shard hisses. “Before she gets bored.”

Access granted.

The airlock door unlocks and opens forth. Air sucks at him, pushing him forward into the chamber.

“Close it.”

He half-turns, staring back out the door at her yellow eyes.  They grow wide as the door slams shut but even as she pads out it’s too late, and just as the interlocking metal closes, he hears a hiss and the screech of her bony claws dragging down the shiny surface of the airlock’s exterior.

She hadn’t thought he had the heart to do it. Now she knows better.

Shard slumps against the side of the airlock. From here, will the computer even be able to understand him? His hands are shaking.

His whole body is shaking.

Shock. Or poison from her claws. Is that why his ribs feel as though they’ve been filled with molten lead? Is that the source of the burning in his blood? He doesn’t know. It could be either. It could be neither. Perhaps it’s both. It doesn’t matter. Shit.

“Computer, cold trace her for me, will you?”

Insufficient data. No scan has been run on her, Captain Shard.

“Huh. Could’ve sworn I ordered one when she first came aboard.”

Scanners were offline at the time. Your orders were to make sure that scans were done after they were repaired, but I still needed your authorization, and you never answered when I asked.

“When were they repaired?” Shard asks, a sinking feeling added to the burning of his nerves.

According to my memory banks, they were finished being repaired at exactly twenty cycles after her arrival.

“Exactly?”

Yes, Captain. Captain Shard, your injuries are likely to be life-threatening if they remain untreated. You should seek medical assistance immediately.

Adial Shard decides to ignore that. With blood running down the inside of his suit and dripping warmly down the side of a gash in the mesh on his leg, he knows full well just how badly injured he is. Without access to one of Sirius Station’s many medical bays– being in an airlock– his options are limited.

So. This is it, then. Better to die here than to be brought before the Archon, like Tymmet and Fade. Better to suffer the injustice of bleeding to death from an alien slash wound than face Sirius like he was.

Pounding against the door. She must be eager to get at him. Desperate even. If she suspected that he was about to die, she would be even more so, no doubt.

Blood trickles down his thigh. He watches the red mix with the white dimly. Reddish, really, more like purple. Oxygen deprived. When had he last taken a breath?

Shard draws in air, and it tastes stale.

Already?

Captain Shard, the oxygen supply in the airlock is insufficient to support an organism of your size.

“No shit,” he whispers, barely daring to breathe. Which would be worse? Suffocation or laceration?

A howling, screeching cry sounds from the area behind him. He takes what might be his final breath, and just as he does, a warning displays in his visor. He stares at the words for a second without comprehending before they finally burn in his mind.

Brace for boarding procedure, Captain Shard.

Boarding procedure….

….boarding procedure?!

There’s a dull thump and then Shard is thrown onto his cracked ribs, pitched forward as the whole lock rolls. Agony spikes through his nerves, and he writhes, kicking out and smacking his forehead against the metal frame of the floor.

Someone on the outside- the far side!- of the airlock is cycling the door. Shard can make them out as only a shadow as the door slides away and a single boot steps into the lock.

There’s a rush of fresh air blowing over his face and streaming over his cracked and burned arm. Dream-like, Shard pushes himself up onto his knees, and then stands, straightening slowly, staring at the shadow eclipsed by shining, blinding light.

The silhouette resolves itself into a blurry face. An androgynous face Captain Shard knows a little too well.

“Shard,” S/he says, folding he/r arms. “It’s been a while.”

“Mack?” Adial Shard whispers, swaying on his feet. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“You’re injured,” S/he says quietly, moving to stand next to him and taking his arm, inspecting it critically with a calm, matter-of-fact gaze before turning to his damaged ribs and his torn chest. S/he puts he/r hand on Shard’s cheek. Shard opens his mouth again.

“Shut up,” Mack says sharply, before he can even speak. “There’s no time for talk. What I’m going to do is gonna hurt, but you’ll feel better afterwards, so it’s best if you just sit back and try to relax. Just log away all your stupid questions for now.”

Shard closes his mouth again and sits there, staring at his old friend in a total stupor. Mack leans forward, and gods damn it, it all comes back to him. he/r swaying, curved hips, he/r freckled, pale skin. he/r completely bald, genetically altered body- round grey eyes as hard as marble. Mack is all about presentation, and s/he does it quite well. The only glaring flaw, in Shard’s opinion, is the embedded chip- right where he/r navel should be. A chip marking Mack as both a psionic and a Fluid.

S/he’d left without a word, years and years ago. Without a goodbye or a warning of any kind.

Shard reaches out and brushes his fingertips against Mack’s forehead. “Mack-”

“Shush.” S/he sets he/r hand on Shard’s arm, but doesn’t pull away from his touch.

“I’m not hurt there,” Shard protests weakly. “I-”

“Shard, you’ve been injured all over. I can feel your cuts, I can feel your pain, and frankly, I’m amazed you’re even conscious right now. Shut up, lie back, and hold still.”

Mack goes to work. Shard lies back, taking in a deep breath.

Fresh, freezing air enters his lungs. His cracked ribs ache, and when Mack’s hand touches his chest he feels he might just pass right out. Then, when s/he begins to knit his bones back together with he/r psionic power and all of Shard’s nerves scream at once, he does.

 

 

His eyes open again. It’s only been moments, of that he’s absolutely certain, but his chest and his ribs both feel as though they’ve been healing for months. They also feel compressed. He stares at Mack, who lies flat against his chest. S/he probably hadn’t been sleeping very well lately; by the look of it s/he hadn’t since the last time they saw one another, a year or so prior.

Gingerly, Shard moves under his friend, slowly shifting he/r off of himself and taking a deep breath. Sound asleep. How could he fall sound asleep so quickly?

Shard looks down and, in a moment of shock, realizes that Mack’s fingers are red with blood where s/he dug he/r nails into he/rself. S/he’d left stinging tracks all down his chest, too. He can feel the blood welling up under the ragged skin. Adial takes in another shuddering breath, pushing himself up to his feet. He sees Mack stir, but ignores he/r for now, staggering away to the side of the airlock.

“Computer?”

Captain Shard. Are you well?

“Forget about me. Do a scan on Mack for me, will you?”

Certainly. One moment please.

Shard sways a little, curling his fingers against the wall. He feels dizzy. His whole world is spinning. But only a few things are on his mind.

The constant pounding on the airlock door had stopped, which likely meant Morfea had given up for the time being. His body isn’t aching anymore either- though his chest burns where Mack’s nails had touched him. What happened?

The computer gives him an answer after what feels like an eternity.

Lifeform ‘Mack’ recognized as Genetically Altered Fluid. Powerful psionic matrix detected in brain pattern. Type IV. Considered threat to ship: Minimal. Mack harbors romantic feelings for lifeform Adial Shard–

“That’s enough, thank you,” Shard snaps. “What’s her… his… uh… What’re Mack’s vitals like?”

Scan indicates the lifeform ‘Mack’ is functioning at 90% optimal. Scan indicates that Mack is currently conscious, but he/r psionic presence is at present hovering outside of the airlock door. Moderately damaging abrasions have been detected on Mack’s hands.

Source suggests that these abrasions are due to the subject’s nails digging deeply into he/r palms.

Mack has sustained extreme mental stress. It is likely s/he is simply busy attempting to heal he/r mind.

“Very thorough, computer. Thank you. Keep a cold trace on Mack for me, will you?”

As you wish, Captain. Are you planning to go somewhere?

Yeah, Shard thinks to himself. He doesn’t answer out loud. Instead, he walks to the other side of the airlock. “Computer, send a bot to come collect Mack. I’m… going to provide a diversion.”

Captain, that is highly inadvisable. The lifeform Morfea is–

“Yeah, I know,” Shard mutters, slapping a hand against the lock door. “I’ll take care of her. You get Mack somewhere safe. I’m not about to let a debt go unpaid. Hook he/r up to the psyche lab. I’ll deal with he/r when I get there. I’ll be fine.”

Just fine, Shard thinks to himself. It’s not like I’ll be using tranq rounds this time.

Morfea, beyond the lock door as it opens, trills, a low, vibrating sound that rises in pitch into a howl the moment he steps from the lock. Shard stands between the feral creature and Mack, and he’s keenly aware of the situation he’s in. The hairs on his arms rise as the noise turns into something more primal, something darker, edgier.

The flickering lights shining down from the overgrown ceiling overstimulate his eyes. The airlock had been dim, and the sudden transition nearly staggers him. A sickly sweet smell reaches his nostrils– he can feel his heart beating, and it makes him tremble. It’s just as bad as it had been when he first faced her. This time, though, he has a purpose other than simple survival.

“He’s gone, Addy,” That soft, mercurial voice hisses from the shadows. “I’ve gnawed on his bones. I’ve tasted his sweet flesh and made his essence my own.”

Her voice is sending chills down his spine. Adial Shard steps away from the lock door. A sense of powerless terror takes root in the pit of his stomach.

Shard unholsters his pistol. He’d put phosphorescent rounds in it earlier. The clip had been exceedingly expensive. Three whole chips’ worth.

Shard’s finger touches the firing stud as he draws away from the wall. A classic chamber-fired vacuum-capable pistol. The thing uses the first dimensional principle to store twice as much energy as a conventional railer might. Firing it once would begin the storing process, and if allowed to hit the maximum capacitor limit, the weapon could punch a hole three inches deep in solid hullmetal.

They had been banned in the old cycles because of accidental discharges– which, due to the sheer penetration power of the rounds, could in turn lead to the explosive decompression of whole sections of the station.

Shard thumbs the firing stud, checking quickly to make sure the round is in, and feels the gun vibrate in his hand, a slow, steady thrum.

Adial Shard takes one step forward and certain as starlight, Morfea the Feral pads out in front of him and fixes those enormous steel grey eyes on him. Her bony tail slams into the floor on either side of her, denting the metal as it flicks back and forth catlike. She stretches lazily, never taking her eyes off him.  Sharp claws drag screeching trails across the floor, digging in and scraping long tracks, kicking up green and white sparks.

Suddenly, Shard feels like his gun isn’t going to make any difference at all. He fingers the firing stud, gun still pointed straight down. Behind him, the scratched, ancient airlock closes with a screech.

Captain Shard, the scan has been completed. A cold trace is now attached to Morfea. Uploading to Heads Up Display.

Morfea glows in Shard’s vision, outlined in hot white. She opens her first jaw and two of her four eyes glare right at him. Teeth bared, she snarls. “Your stupid little computer won’t help you, and I’m not afraid of some little gun, human.”

How to get her away from here?

Shard’s legs are shaking under him, but his eyes flick to the west corridor, and the welcoming darkness beyond it. It’s a path he knows well. And, he reflects, as Morfea bounds to block it, following his gaze, exactly why he sure as fuck won’t be taking it.

The deck heaves beneath him for a second as the computer throws the station’s spin out of phase. Whether it was for his benefit or not doesn’t matter. He doesn’t really care. He sprints for the east corridor instead, hopping over a sprawling snake briar, wincing as the fangs snap shut next to his toes.

He strides four paces further, whirls and depresses the firing stud with barely a second to aim. The slug hisses through the air and slams Morfea in the shoulder, spinning her around and spattering purple blood across the bulkhead. She barely even slows, leaping, claws raking metal, pushing away and bounding from the wall towards him. Shard thumbs the trigger again, too terrified to swear, turning again, running as the pistol vibrates in his fingers, charging in preparation for a second round. It automatically ejects steam from small slits along its grip as a cooling agent is applied to the dimensional rails. He doesn’t have time to load another slug.

A side passage yawns at him from the right as his feet slap the metal deck. He can practically feel Morfea breathing, bearing down on him, and, desperate, he ducks into it, gasping for breath and swallowing pure terror.

Morfea is too large to follow him, but she doesn’t do anything so dramatic as slap at the hullmetal. Instead, she sits down to wait outside of the slim passage, steel orbs fixed on his retreating back. Shard can feel her there.

Captain Shard, you are bleeding.

Pain doesn’t hit until he has a moment, the passage widening slightly, coming to a small alcove in the station, overgrown with harmless– though ominous– Gameric’s Creeper. Its skull-patterned leaves seem to shift as he walks by.

He blinks at the text for a moment, not registering it, before he leans against the wall and is calm enough to feel the stinging, burning pain all along his right calve. Three long, barbed spines leave wounds as he tugs them out. They aren’t particularly big ones, but they are easily large enough to worry him. The blood-loss could have unpleasant side-effects.

He rolls his thumb against the firing stud absently as he thinks, and the motion triggers its release, causing the gun’s silvered frame to quiver in his grip a moment, almost a mechanical purr.

A dull beep sounds from the hazard symbol at the bottom of his Heads Up Display, the corner of his visor flashing a bright orange and red.

He’d removed the spines. It hadn’t been an intentional, logical action, but one spurred by terror, and now, as he sits here in the calm pool of adrenaline fueled fear, he realizes that it had been an immense mistake. Blood trickles down from the wounds, each little hole streaming it, and even as he drops a hand to cover them, he knows before he touches them and asks for a scan.

“Computer, do a scan on the contents of the blood on my fingers, please.”

As you command Captain Shard. One moment.

He already knows the results, but even so he needs to keep talking, needs to gauge his reactions.

“One, two, three… two… three…” Shard pauses, realizes he’s unable to remember the number after it. “Three…. shit.” He resists the urge to shake his head to try to clear it. If anything, this only confirms his fear. There will be nothing he can do soon. Hopefully he’d provided enough of a distraction for Computer to tend to Mack, but there isn’t any real way to know for sure.

Captain, you have contracted a toxin. The source is suspected to be those spines you recently removed from your leg. As the computer responsible for your safety, I would advise that you make your way to the nearest medical bay.

“Hah,” Shard grunts. “Yeah.”

It’s a mild paralytic. It will slow your reactions and dull your memory.

“Thanks.”

It also appears to have anti-coagulative properties.

“Uh huh,” Shard mutters, staggering away from the little alcove, ducking under an old sign flashing an advertisement– cycles and full spins old. The hall widens into a streetway, long since overgrown with Creeper and Agnes’s Fern. Sirius Station had been full of people once.

Now? Ghosts and memories, augments and ashes.

Captain Shard clutches at his calf a moment, applying direct pressure to the three deep punctures, even as he steps out onto the street. His fingers are warm. It’s not from the actual Station temperature so much as the hot blood running around them. His hand– his whole leg– is red with it.

Captain Adial Shard, you need to seek medical attention. Your vitals are far too low for you to be upright. You are pushing your body too hard.

Tell me something I don’t know, Shard answers in his head. Out loud: “If you care so much, why don’t you send a bot?”

Captain, you and I both know that I cannot do that. Shame to you for suggesting it. All bots are sealed in Medical Ward and are under standing, Full Priority One orders not to leave until the quarantine is complete.

“Seems like it’s been a little long since that order was issued, yeah?”

Time means nothing, Computer returns silently– but the text seems almost reproachful. I cannot be released from this order by any but the one worthy of finding the command center. 

“And only one man has that access, yeah, I get it,” Shard says sharply. “I just wish it were easier to get there.”

He brushes against a curious fern, and it retracts back into its stalk to stare at him with a single eyed tendril.

Shard picks his way carefully around each stalk, frowning as his feet crunch unpleasantly on an ancient, brittle piece of hullmetal, worn down from so many maintenance cycles. The whole street feels eerie.

Captain Shard, the target you asked me to cold trace is nearing your position. I believe she has found you. Morfea is not going to let you live.

Blurrily, Shard curls his fingers against his palms. Hazily, he reaches out for a flashing pad, stumbling towards it from the darkened street. His palm meets the pad’s soft, gelatin surface, and it accepts his touch with a hiss and the screech of ancient hydraulics with too little water.

The door the pad adorns slides to the side. Captain Adial Shard takes a step through into the threshold and, breathing heavy and slow, grits his teeth as he slaps the pad on the wall next to him, simultaneously bringing in flickering light and forcing the dilapidated door to close again. Then he takes another two tottering steps into the room, barely glancing at the surroundings– a simple one room prefab, almost empty, as the inhabitants had long since evacuated. Nothing remains but cold and bitter memory. Shard makes it to the opposite wall before he slumps, shivering uncontrollably, but lifting his pistol and aiming it at the door.

He has no doubt that Morfea will find and try to kill him here. Whether or not she will succeed depends entirely on his aim, and right now he doesn’t feel capable of shooting his own foot, let alone the monster hunting him. Still, he thumbs the firing stud, shaking so badly that the barrel of the gone weaves erratically in his grip.

Biting down on his lip, he wrenches his other hand away from his blood encrusted leg– which, in scabbing over, has at least stopped its bleeding– and instead grips the haft of his weapon, locking his elbows together to keep them from shaking and throwing off his aim. His HUD shows, when he commands for it, a calculation depicting an accuracy estimate of about 70%. With the way Morfea is likely to move, Shard puts his odds more at 2%.

He doesn’t care. He is already set.

He takes a deep, calming breath, and turns his mind towards other things for a time. Morfea isn’t here right now. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his mind drifts towards Mack.

Shard had never really understood the entity known as Mack. In all the years that he’d known her– er… him… Shard had been incapable of figuring the thing out. Doubtless she– he– whatever– had been frustrated with Shard for taking so long, but from Mack’s own mouth, Mack had never really expected Shard to understand he/r. S/he wasn’t an androgyn, s/he wasn’t a mutant– Mack was always just Mack, and always would be.

Mack’s body was alluringly alien. To Shard, Mack was beautiful. Is beautiful.

To Shard, such beauty is more than worth fighting for. His fists clench as the gun begins to vibrate loudly in his hand, the hum rising to a roar in his ears.

Mack.

Shard closes his eyes again, breathing in deeply, letting it go, letting he/r go, letting Mack go in his heart and his mind.

Then the door opens, his eyes snap back, his thumb slams into the stud.

A red hot round grazes Mack’s cheek, hissing by he/r ear and making he/r whole body shake a little. “Shard, what the hell?” S/he snaps. “What are you doing?”

Shard stares, openmouthed, as the Computer’s apologetic text flashes an embarrassed pink along the bottom of his visor.

Captain Shard, I was incapable of tracking it. My systems have never been perfect. When Mack left the airlock I lost sight and only now have I regained a hold on where s/he is. I had not acquired the time to inform you of he/r disappearance.

“Mack,” Shard hisses flatly. “What are you doing? You should be sleeping in med bay by now.”

“So your plan was to send me there before Morfea could get at me?” Mack asks, equally flat. “You’re on the right track. Keep it up.”

Shard focuses, his eyes finding the splotch of red on the side of Mack’s pale, freckled face. The angry burn is swollen already. His overzealous trigger finger had touched off the stud, but had also thrown his aim, or Mack would be sporting a cloud of expanding red and pink mist for a face.

“Fuck,” Shard breathes, pushing himself to his feet and taking a step towards his Fluid friend. “Are you alright?” He reaches out, and Mack stares up at him with those blank steel eyes.

“I haven’t been right for damn close to two years now, Addy,” Mack replies quietly. Shard’s fingers brush he/r cheek. Mack winces, but doesn’t draw back. “You know that you’ll need me if you want to beat her.”

Shard closes his eyes, not trusting his voice, barely trusting his thoughts.

You’ll get hurt, He thinks, as plain as can be.

So what? Mack replies, he/r psionic presence overlapping with Shard’s, though s/he is obviously unimpressed. I get hurt all the time. If you don’t have me with you, you’ll die.

You don’t know that, Shard returns. The thought of losing any part of Mack is making him sick to his stomach. He’d been ready before, now he’s sure he can’t handle life without he/r.

Yes, I do, Mack transmits quietly. I know your limits better than you, Shard. If you fight Morfea alone, you will die.

“I don’t understand,” Shard whispers, voice cracking a little. “Mack…”

Oh, stop being so melodramatic, Mack’s voice says into his mind. The Fluid reaches out and taps his forehead lightly, and for a moment he/r face softens. S/he mouths the words as s/he whispers them in Shard’s head.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

Shard closes his eyes.

“Fine,” He says, a little more sharply than he means to. “But stick close to me, and if you so much as feel a pinch from her–”

“I’ll let you know. You act as though we’ve never partnered up before,” Mack interrupts dryly.

“If this goes wrong, we might not have the chance again,” Shard replies, voice tight.

He straightens and, slipping his hand down to clasp Mack’s, lets the Fluid lead him away from the prefab and out onto the wild streets. With his other hand, he gently touches the firing stud on his pistol, priming the charge again. He’s about to load it when Mack speaks.

“Don’t bother, Shard,” Mack says quietly.

“I’m starting the charge,” Shard starts, then replays Mack’s last sentence in his head. S/he’d answered him before he’d said anything. In fact, s/he’d answered him mere moments before the words had escaped his lips.

“Yes, but you won’t get a chance to fire if she attacks.”

“Why, she could attack at any time, right?”

“How good you are doesn’t mean a thing– she’s a psionic abomination with skin and scales. She knows you have a gun– the first damn thing she’ll take care of is that weapon, and the second thing will be you if you play into her hands.”

“I’m a good shot.”

Shard holsters the pistol, releasing the charge with the flick of his index finger and cursing quietly. Too fast. Mack would always be just a little too fast with he/r mind-reading for his comfort. He’d forgotten about that. Even when he got the last word in it never felt like he could get anywhere with he/r.

They continue their walk down the neon streets, past strands of glowing feathered fern. Shard’s hand grips Mack’s tight, as though afraid that he’ll lose he/r. The Fluid isn’t showing anything outwardly. Inwardly, Shard is certain s/he’s just as scared as he is.

Neon streets give way to an immense, softly glowing forest of metal pillars and ribs, prefabs parting and then disappearing to left and right, the path widening out into a long, flat plain stacked with overgrown boxes– in eerie, dormant pillars, covered in Creeper, snake briars. Some Agnes’s Fern stares at the pair as they walk between them, tendrils retracted, watching in solemn silence. Shard follows Mack, picking his way over a snake briar as it lunges for him, envious of the grace with which Mack moves and he/r obvious skill, even in an environment that must be alien to he/r.

“Mack,” Adial Shard starts quietly, after a while. “My computer has a cold trace on her. Couldn’t we just…?”

“No,” Mack replies simply. “The trace won’t work.”

“Computer, do me a favor and tell me where Morfea is, will you?” Shard asks.

Mack gives him a look, but within moments a small display appears at the bottom of Shard’s visor. From the security shot, Shard can make out two figures walking down a wide pathway. One of them is hunched and cat-like with a long, long tail and sharp talons, standing with difficulty on two legs, clutching at the other figure’s hand. The other is himself. He recognizes the dark blood down his back leg.

Shard whirls, spinning around and looking into the glowing dark around him. His heart beats wildly and his thumb slips down to the stud, while his other hand reaches for a slug to load. Surely it was an exaggeration.

Mack reaches out and gently pulls his hand back into he/r own. It feels strangely cold. And not like true flesh, but more like… scale… “Adial! Relax,” S/he whispers sharply. “I need you. Come on, calm down.”

“She’s right here with us,” Shard says hoarsely, tense from head to foot and shaking. “I know she’s there!”

“You saw it on the computer, right?” Mack asks, voice grim.

“Yes!”

“It’s faulty. The information is wrong, the feed is wrong– it’s under Morfea’s influence and has been this entire time,” Mack replies flatly. “Shut it down.”

Shard stops dead. Mack, takes one step more and then turns on him. He/r eyes flash, metallic. Steel… Steel.

“Shut it down?” Shard asks quietly. “And for whose benefit would that be?”

Mack’s pupils glow bright yellow, surrounded by a steel iris. He/r mouth is full of jagged fangs.

A report from Morfea’s dossier comes to Shard’s mind almost immediately.

Every single one of her victims had been killed in the same way. Disemboweled and left to die a slow, horrible death. The kicker, the thing he hadn’t understood, was how she’d managed to get close enough. True she was fast, but the victims had seemed to have been in placed without any real cover for her to hide in. It was as if she’d simply pranced up to each of them and they’d been completely unaware of her presence until they were dead. Occasionally one had been found in a room near covered with mildly radioactive burn marks from the civilian-issued gamma pistol, as if he’d been firing randomly in the hopes of hitting something.

Shard’s heart pounds in his chest again, and he pulls his hand from “Mack”, backing away as before his eyes, s/he changes.

Shard loads the slug and taps the stud, then whips the gun up as Morfea materializes where his partner used to be.

Her voice, however, is still Mack’s when she speaks, and after a split second of confusion, Shard has just enough time to process those words before a roaring presence shatters his mind and he blacks out:

“Shard! What are you doing?

 

 

Mack kneels over Shard where he lies on the floor, one hand on the pistol at his side, the other on his forehead. Beside he/r s/he can feel the presence of Morfea, who, frozen in stasis, is completely motionless, mid-swipe, claws extended and mere inches from Mack’s back.

For he/r part, Mack concentrates almost solely on keeping he/r at the edge of containment, working a double-sided battle, tending to the awful red wounds on Shard’s chest and fighting off Morfea’s attempts to break free at the same time. He/r mind shudders under the strain, and he/r breathing quickens as something similar to panic gathers in he/r heart.

Shard can’t be moved. That much is absolutely certain. S/he needs more time to deal with those wounds.

That much is also certain.

More time…

Mack stands and steps back, but not before taking the pistol up and holding it in an awkward ready position and what s/he sincerely hopes is the right way. Then, trying not to faint, s/he reverses the stasis while he/r thumb mimics what she saw Shard do, stroking the stud near the top of the grip. It seems to work– she can hear the charge being primed.

As soon as Morfea is free of her private time-bubble, Mack hurls the remnants of the energy towards Shard, freezing him in a similar state, bluish lightning crackling around him and then fading, sparks leaping around him. S/he can’t afford to keep him like that long.

But maybe- just maybe s/he’ll be able to finish this before that becomes a problem.

Morfea lands on her claws, digging them into the hullmetal to stop her momentum and gain complete control of herself. Mack would be impressed if s/he wasn’t terrified. The creature’s psionic strength had been much better than s/he had expected.

But unfocused. Morfea is, after all, an adolescent. Though given raw power by her recent advancement to the second phase of her life-circle, Morfea hasn’t had enough time to learn control.

Mack straightens shakily, the pistol primed and charged, aimed at the alien’s head, held in both hands. “Easy there,” Mack whispers. “Come on now, why are you even here?”

S/he’s glad Shard isn’t awake to see he/r trembling. She knows where it comes from. Any stage past child– from adolescent up– would release pheromones. Unique ones, specially crafted for mammalian types, to fill them with overwhelming fear. They are immensely powerful, this close. Mack is finding it difficult to remain standing, and he/r aim is anything but steady. The charge in he/r hand– the pistol’s dull hum slowly rising into a roar– as the gun shakes is not helping at all.

Morfea sits and begins cleaning herself, but her glowing eyes are fixed on Mack’s. Daring the Fluid to fire.

Mack is so startled when Morfea speaks, s/he nearly drops Shard’s pistol.

“Adial is mine,” She hisses, voice low, smoothness gone. “Find your own.”

For a moment, for one moment, Mack sees a flicker, a glimmer in Morfea’s mind, as the walls part for a moment to reveal jealousy and… and something else. Mack strikes at it, diverting some of he/r remaining psionic energies to launch a cautious bolt. It stretches the distance between their minds, but the gap is gone before he/r bolt can even land, and in the time it takes for the bolt to rebound and slam into Mack squarely, Morfea is moving, lightning fast.

Mack stumbles backwards from the force of the mental blow, and then, suddenly, is jerked right off he/r feet as a snake briar snaps around he/r ankles. He/r head slams into the deck as s/he falls, and there’s a brief sense of something immense bounding too far, over he/r. Even so, the movement is so fast that before s/he even hits, s/he feels a raking pain across the top of he/r head.

Mack catches he/rself, years of training flinging he/r into a roll. A roll which would have ended in he/r immediate death, if not for the snake briar wrapped around he/r ankles. S/he is yanked back towards the maw of the plant as Morfea’s razor claws dig into the deck where s/he would have been if Mack had been allowed to complete he/r maneuver.

The snake briar has time to start latching onto he/r ankle, and searing pain lances up Mack’s leg. Mack jerks the pistol around, points it at the briar’s general mass, and taps off the firing stud. Hastily, almost as an afterthought, s/he uses some of he/r energy to erect a quick psionic barrier.

The discharge is like thunder as it shudders through he/r, but the briar disintegrates in a flaming mess, seeds in letting out eerily human screams as they burst from the heat of the slug’s passage. The overcharged round explodes on contact with the hullmetal of the ship, and Mack is peppered with tiny fragments of superheated metal. He/r barrier holds, but can’t stop the shockwave from tearing the pistol from he/r fingers and flinging it across the deck towards Shard’s unconscious body.

Mack rolls away as the toothy vines of the dying snake briar unlatch from around he/r legs. Precognition flares in he/r head. S/he stops midroll, and Morfea slams into the deck beside he/r. In a flash, the creature leaps on Mack.

Somehow the barrier repels Morfea’s attack, literally returning the force of the creature’s leap tenfold, sending the psionic monster hurtling away.

Mack brings he/rself up to he/r knees. Morfea, staggering to her taloned feet, lets out a roar of rage.

For one, blessed moment, she leaves her mind completely open.

Mack unleashes the entirety of he/r psionic strength in one blow, putting everything s/he has into it. S/he cancels he/r shield and wipes he/r own mental defenses in the process of gathering he/rself, and then flings it all at Morfea’s unprotected psyche in one overwhelming burst.

Morfea’s mind shatters and her body reels, but she isn’t down. Now nothing but a mindless monster, she coils and leaps towards Mack like a murderous spring, unheeding anything but raw, primal fury. She is an unstoppable force, and Mack, who lifts up he/r hands weakly in futile defense, is about to be crushed. The Fluid closes he/r eyes.

A shot thunders out.

The round slams into the side of Morfea’s body and tumbles her through the air for a good fifteen feet before she slams into the bulkhead. She leaves a trail of blood on the wall before she rolls back on her belly and lies there, unmoving.

Shard, from where he propped himself up on the deck, lowers the pistol and slumps against the hullmetal.

Mack comes back to he/rself after a moment, eyes opening, snapping to Morfea, then to Shard and the steaming, vacuum-capable revolver in his hand.

“No,” S/he breathes. S/he can’t stand– s/he just crawls over to him, putting a hand to his shoulder and rolling him over on his back. “Shard…”

How had he broken he/r stasis?

His eyes are closed. His breathing is shallow, but, as s/he leans over him, putting a useless hand on his chest, he smiles. Mack gulps down he/r feelings for a moment, and takes quick stock of he/r options. S/he’s out of energy. S/he could pull some from reserves, but to do so would risk losing control and becoming like Morfea. A feral.

Mack takes Shard’s helmet off. It can’t be doing him much good right now.

S/he finds, as s/he strokes Shard’s short black hair, that s/he could bear it if it meant s/he could save him…

Mack closes he/r eyes and opens a door in the back of he/r mind, slowly at first, letting just a crack show…

An alarm breaks he/r out of he/r semiconscious state, startles he/r from he/r trance. It’s a dull beep, but sufficiently disturbing enough to make he/r pay attention. S/he searches, spending precious seconds attempting to find out where the noise had come from. Following it to its source, the Fluid finds a short, black panel on the wall. S/he doesn’t recognize any of the symbols on it. Whatever it’s written in, it isn’t Standard. S/he catches sight of a terminal, set in just above it, with characters s/he can read.

Adial Shard’s lifesigns are critical. Dispatching medical assistance bots. Do not apply psionic pressure to Captain Shard’s wounds. The cuts created by Morfea’s claws are filled with a toxin that reacts violently to mental command. Scans indicate that Morfea is still living. Do what is necessary.

The computer’s words end there. No more seem forthcoming, though Mack waits a few seconds just to be sure.

Mack turns, walks back to Shard, tears strips of he/r simple white suit away, wraps them around his wounds, and finally turns to Morfea’s unconscious form. Her breathing is ragged and the creature is lying in a pool of its own blood.

She’d killed Shard’s partner, attacked Adial Shard, and nearly killed Mack he/rself. To leave her alive would be the most dangerous thing Mack feels s/he could possibly do.

Mack retrieves the pistol from Shard’s unconscious hand and does exactly what she feels is necessary.

 

 

“It’s not a perfect universe,” Mack whispers quietly, much, much later. S/he kneels next to Captain Shard’s medical bed, hands folded on his arm. “I think we can be sure of that.”

“It isn’t,” Shard agrees. “If it were, these beds’d be a lot more comfortable.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah.”

Shard sighs, closing his eyes a moment. He opens them again and stares at the ceiling.

“You loved her,” Mack says softly.

“She was like a daughter to me, Mack,” Shard says, voice breaking a little. “I helped raise her, you know that. You shut yourself down to these thoughts when you’re on the job, but…”

“I know.”

Shard is silent a while. Then he takes a deep breath and lets it out in another sigh.

“Well, I’m sure you made the right choice.”

“We’ll see,” Mack replies lightly.

Quiet descends again. Captain and Fluid lock gazes, then let them fall away, eyes drifting elsewhere, neither one willing to bear witness to the pain of the other.

“Archon will pay for what he made her into,” Shard says suddenly, fiercely. “I’ll punt him out the nearest airlock.”

“Archon is out of our reach right now, Shard,” Mack’s voice is matter-of-fact. “Besides that, I wouldn’t want you to kill him so fast.”

“Why not?”

“There might be a way to reverse it.”

“Reverse…?” Shard starts, then it hits him. “Morfea? You think she can still be saved?”

“I think if anyone knows how, it’ll be that bastard Archon. In the meantime, stasis isn’t that bad. It’s like… a long sleep. When she wakes up, maybe she’ll be right again,” Mack smiles a little, then shakes he/r head.

“I told you about her when I woke up, I know, but I’m still curious,” Shard whispers, leaning over onto his side and wincing. “How did you know I didn’t want her killed?”

Mack rolls he/r eyes. “You shot her with a tranq, Shard. You had phosphorescent rounds loaded the entire time, but you never shot a single one at her. Under the effects of her pheromones you were trying your damnedest not to kill her. Even when she screwed with your perceptions and made me start to look like her, you still hesitated. If you really had wanted her dead, you would’ve fired at the slightest hint of her.”

“Ah. Well, when you put it like that, it sounds perfectly obvious.”

“You’re an idiot, Shard,” Mack says affectionately, and runs a hand through his black hair. He opens his mouth as if about to protest, but closes it again when he sees he/r expression. Mack grins down at him.

S/he leans forward until h/er lips graze his forehead.

“But you’re my idiot.”

Adial Shard, his body on fire in many more ways than one, pushes past the pain to embrace his Fluid friend. They cling to each other, lost, desperate, and certain of only one thing.

 

 

Pull away from Sirius Station, so filled with memory and regret, ancient and spinning forever through space. Watch it turning slowly, and see the lights on the station, beacons to draw in the lost or desperate.

See them as they are dwarfed by the star which they orbit, an immense red star that seems to set the entirety of the system ablaze.

With hope.

 

©2012 Sam Oliver [Eris]

 

—————

 

Well, here it is after forever. Sci fi, this time! You can tell because of the space. I hope you all enjoy it, because it took me quite a while! Questions, comments, criticism? Slap it down here! I’m always looking for advice and thought out comments!

-Eris

Poem: On My Own

On My Own

A freely structured poem story by Sam Oliver [Eris]

 

Like the lines all dancing down

Through the black

Through the rain

 

Like the fires raining stark

On the grasses

On the plains

 

Like the lightning strikes the earth

All the soldiers

All the men

 

From these walls they do defend

Like the guardians

Of their hearts.

 

Yet while they fight I sit and wait

As the war now nears my gate.

 

I’m the one who stands

On he/r own

On he/r own.

I’m the one who stands

On he/r own.

 

Like a rhythm in the heart

Forever after

Forever now

 

Like a drumbeat in the dark

Somehow silent

Somehow mine

 

Like the world with its light

Growing flowers

Growing trees

 

Like the sky, a dancing night

High above

High below

 

Descend now angels, hear them sing

Of the souls

Of the songs

 

Below them shouts of hope do ring

From the soldiers

From the darkness

 

Hope that’s thwarted by heaven’s hand

The angels flight now does demand

A price for splendor we observe

Warriors’ lives spent from our reserves

Silence falls like hammer silver

While I wait inside my room

Blessed winter comes too swiftly

For the soldiers and their doom.

 

The men who fought for me now die

In the hundreds, in the thousands

Watch them flee while I deny

This isn’t real

This isn’t mine

 

In the quiet I am broken

But I stand-

On my own

And I stand

On my own.

 

Stone-shod window with its claws

Like a demon without laws

See the fires flung through fear

Hear the astral spirits cheer

For the victory of my foe

For the coming dark and row

They’ve had with me and mine so long

I know that even if I’m strong

I will die

Where I stand

On my own- now

Alone.

 

 

©2012 Sam Oliver [Eris]

—–

 

 

 

Just a poem that I wrote. Good to cut these darker feelings off, yes? Probably. I’m sure it’s absolutely chock full of meaning. It certainly meant a lot to me as I wrote it, even if the end result feels a little thick. Perhaps I could’ve confined myself to some form or rule or something, but sometimes I feel like I’d rather just tell a story. Grim as it is.  walp. enjoy as always. Comments, critiques, etc? Drop me one as a reply. I’m always up for hearing thoughts and I usually try to get back to them.

Er. Not to be a downer or anything. Poetry is, after all, a raw expression of feeling and emotion. Maybe I ought to do something about how totes depressing my poetry can end up being :3?

Then again, maybe not.

 

-Eris

Poem: The Spade For Me

The Spade For Me

A poem by Sam Oliver [Eris]

 

 

I am not afraid

Of the man and his heart

Where he stands

Far apart

From me

His folded set face

The fingers in place

At his sides

Threatening

Me

 

When he comes close

I drift back

Shadows at my heart

Certain- shaken up- at

Me.

 

I am not afraid

Of the way his hands move

Of how his eyes dart

Over body, over heart

Over me.

 

His mouth as it moves

Says how ‘it behooves’

Who does he think

That he is to

Me?

 

My fragile, frail life

Stretched thin before that knife

Which shines in his hands

And shines in

Me

 

I am not afraid

Of the worn ruddy red

A hymn for the dead

Through metal-

Through me.

 

Life slips through

Fingers slick, askew

Like glasses that slide

From my nose

From me.

 

They shatter on the floor

Their noise I abhor

But distant now how

Can I see

Past me?

 

I am not afraid

Of this man standing now

Above and within

My worn, torn heart

In me.

 

He cuts without his knife

With words thickened by strife

His fingers wrapped tight

Round my throat

Round me.

 

He’ll choke out my life

Like the other cut with knife

While my heart beats it’s last

I’ll see

Just me.

 

But I am not afraid

No, not of this man

Who thinks he has me

Controls me

Is me

 

I break free of his grip

Flutter heart, faint quip

Brought to mind by years of abuse

“Your end is nigh,” Slips from lips

Dry as bone

But me

Part of me.

 

A hand reaches out

Mine or his, spell is shout-

-ed like thunder raging forth

From me

It was me.

 

The years I was his slave

I will take to the grave

Like dreams that haunt

Forevermore

In me

 

Now I am not afraid

Of this man

In his grade

Of soil’d earth’s grip

Met anew

 

For I am she- who cut him down

For what he did to me

With spells and light and song I came;

His crime is now repaid

Tenfold, now with spade

It is me

Who sets him

To rest.

 

No I am not afraid

Of this man

In his grave

I am not afraid anymore

I told myself my fears

Washed clean by my tears

I can’t take back

What he stole and he sold

 

But I am not afraid

Of his heart that now beats no more

and I am not afraid

of the cold

and the filth

that settles on my skin like mold

I’ll shrug it off now

Free of pain, freed from how

Dirty one man

Made me.

 

Because in my heart

While lonely from the start

In forests that I once knew

My hands thick with soil

My eyes set unspoiled

I know that I’ll start

Anew

 

I know now I’ll find

Something new

 

i know that i need

someone new…

Short Story: Black Feathers, White Heart

Black Feathers, White Heart 

A short story by Sam Oliver [Eris]

The grass is as cloud underfoot, parting like soft silk. The woman in the trees knows that it’s wrong, though, as she takes steady aim. She knows even as her finger clutches the trigger of her crossbow, knows as the bolt flies.

It’s a trap.

There’s a thrum, and a shout, a boy’s cry of pain. A cry for aid.

The trees around the woman shake with a soft breeze as men step from behind them. The sentry, fist clenched around the bolt in his shoulder– and still a hundred yards distant– is probably doing his best not to scream. The markswoman, for her part, takes one step away and feels the point of a spear against her back. How had she missed so many of them? What black fortune led her here?

Her hands shake as she puts down the crossbow, her lips pursed, locked tight, the bolt she’d had ready dropping from nerveless fingers to join the wooden stock on the ground. Still, no one will approach her. They eye her warily from a distance, not a man among them prepared to take that first step towards her, for all their threatening posturing. If anything, they seem solemn as she raises her arms above her head, so slowly.

Karen of the Black Feathers doesn’t hiss, snarl or shout as, finally, one of the men steps forward and, slowly, as if barely daring to believe it, reaches out to touch her hair.

Her red, silken hair, which is dirty now after but two weeks on her own with no hold to rest in. Karen’s stone gaze falls on the man’s own as his plated fingers brush a few strands from her face. She can see him behind his visored helmet. His piercing blue eyes seem sad.

A number of the men surrounding her seem impatient. Truth be told, Karen herself is impatient. If this is to be her grand defeat and her ultimate humiliation, why in the gods’ good graces would any of them hesitate?

She looks the man over, taking special note of the centurion’s insignia on his breastplate– carved into a falcon’s head. His plate armor is expertly crafted– and to Karen, seems like it might even be dwarven work. There’s no way to know without asking, though, and she’s reluctant to so much as open her mouth with these men around. He has a sword at his hip, and it too is a masterpiece of steel, with a talon-style pommel and a silver-gilt hilt. The pommel itself has a single talon extending down and out, with a sharp tip. It glows faintly, and seems much too thin for a broad blade. Perhaps a longsword- albeit a thin one.

The man runs gentle fingers through Karen’s hair one last time and then simply stares at her for a while with that intent, unwavering gaze. It goes on far too long before one of his subordinates coughs and breaks the spell.

“Centurion Alpha?” The man– no, boy, freckle-faced and younger than anyone in the army has a right to be–, asks quietly. There’s a bolt in his shoulder, with her black fletching. How is he still standing?

The captain gives a start, and turns to face him. “Yes. Ah, thank you, Mark. I’d rather lost myself for a moment there. Bind her and take her along with us.”

“Centurion,” The boy replies, and he seems strangely grateful for the order. Karen had assumed they would get the barbaric ceremony over and done with, but evidently they would be saving her for later. She grits her teeth, but allows the men to step forward and bind her. With a half-dozen spearpoints on her at once, she hardly feels confident enough to do anything about it.

The ropes chafe as they are drawn tight around her wrists. Her thumbs, should she be a witch, are covered, and in keeping with tradition, a hood is drawn over her face.

No sooner has the world gone dark then light floods her senses again. She catches sight of the Centurion tossing the hood away, his gauntlet catching the sun.

“I want her to be able to see. Take her weapon, and those blasted bolts, though. Can’t have her somehow shooting us in our backs, now can we?”

Karen is mildly surprised at that, but the Centurion calls for a march a moment later, and, with a spearpoint lightly jabbing her in the back, she hardly feels like she can afford to stand around and daydream. She stumbles a little, then manages to find her feet, trudging forward with the rest of the column. It’s a tightly packed one. The forest widens out further in, of course, but for now it’s far too close for the column to march in much order.

Her feet lift themselves and set themselves down again, sure now, even if the rest of her body is not. Her feet always seem to know where they want to go.

She wonders why the Centurion would let her keep her sight. As a crossbowwoman her eyes would be her best asset, and as a prisoner, even if she were to be executed it would be folly not to have her eyes put out, for a rescue could come at any moment– and if they lost her, she would again be another enemy for them to worry about. With her reputation, it’s amazing to Karen that she hasn’t been mutilated already. Unless, of course, the Centurion was just saving that for when he had a chance to get her alone.

Karen hadn’t pegged the leader for the ‘I-want-her-for-myself’ type before. She does so now. She isn’t sure whether she should sigh in relief or not, but after a moment decides against it. After all, the man could be a monster, for all she knows.

It wouldn’t do to tempt Fate. The bastards at the tower in Hellhaven had warned her before. This is where listening to them had gotten her so far.

“You cannot escape your Fate,” The Archmage had said. “There is nothing in the world that will allow you to avoid what is to come.”

She’d not believed him at first. Slowly then, as things had started falling into place– from the wolves howling at dawn to the lone sentry surviving her first shot and shouting out an alarm– she’d come to realize that the fat, smug cretin had been right. She’d played right into Fate’s hands without even trying.

Her feet snap twigs, iron soled boots digging into the dirt. No real point in stealth now, of course.

Funnily enough, Karen had found over the years that sentries paid less attention to snapping twigs and the like if they were near constant. To move in a way that suggested a small, meatless animal was difficult, but she had prided herself in her ability to make her footsteps fall in such a way, and in her ability to move like one.

She wonders idly about fate, as she’s marched forward, staring straight ahead but not really seeing it.

Would she be in this predicament still if not for her bloodlust? She’d been prepared to kill the sentry– was this some form of divine retribution for her life of killing?

Perhaps. Karen had wanted to believe that Fate did not apply to her. Now…

She stares at the back of the soldier in front of her. Without her crossbow or bolts, what can she do? She is entirely at the mercy of the men around her.

Will any of her contacts miss her?

Probably they’ll miss her skill. No one cares about another broken little woman pretending to be a soldier.

Hours of trudging through the forest pass. The sun starts to fall in the shaded sky. Karen is more than a little perturbed. They should have reached the camp by now. She isn’t exactly impatient to be tortured, raped, and killed, of course, but she feels as though something at least is wrong. The Centurion’s face, however, is metal, and tells her nothing. Even though he rides beside her, everything in his manner is composed. She’d killed so many of his men before. Surely he felt something.

There’s a collective sigh of relief that even sweeps up through Karen when they finally reach a clearing. Not just any clearing, however, but a plains clearing- near devoid of trees- and one that the Centurion seems to decide would be a good place to stop in.

He calls for a halt, raising a hand. “Everyone, rejoice! Not only did we defeat the Eight’s own mercenary dogs, we’ve captured the queen bitch of the lot!”

The soldiers around her cheer and laugh, and someone’s mailed palm slaps against her leather clad rear with enough force to make her eyes water. She doesn’t say a damn thing though, just stares ahead.

“Set up camp, boys, that’s far enough for the day,” the Centurion says quietly- but everyone seems to hear him. “Leave the bitch where she is. I’ll deal with her later.”

Karen doesn’t give him the satisfaction watching her squirm. She stays perfectly still, her face a stone mask.

The tents are up, it’s dark out now- but for the moons, hanging in the sky, both full and bright like lanterns- and though no one is watching her anymore, she can’t sit and can’t move. She’d been tied to a stake for the night, ludicrously, they had chained her to it even though her hands and feet had already been bound. Even if she could get her hands free she would have a chain tying her to the damn stake.

Her legs ache with the effort of keeping her upright.

She grits her teeth. No one had so much as looked at her funny for the entire day. What had the Archmage said? Something about despairing in the dark?

When would he come for her, then? Would the Centurion cut her free first? Would she have a chance to run?

Karen of the Black Feathers twists her slim hands in the ropes. She isn’t sure how much more of this waiting she can take. If the Centurion was saving her for himself, he was taking too damn long about it. The mere anticipation of that man trying for her seems so much worse a prospect to deal with. Her hands and feet are numb and her eyes ache from the effort of keeping awake for so long.

A voice chills her blood.

“What have we here?”

She can’t turn, but she can feel an immense presence behind her, and she could recognize that voice anywhere. The Azrae Legate’s tone is making her legs shake, and only one voice in the world could possibly do that to her.

An immense scaled hand reaches around and draws a clawed finger up along her armored belly. She can feel the heat of the creature’s scales behind her, can hear its demonic heart beating.

“If it isn’t the third incarnation of Angus Traveler,” The monster’s voice whispers in her ear, and it echoes around the camp. No soldier seems to pay it any mind. No one even looks up. She struggles against the ropes and the chains, shivering uncontrollably. If the demon had a name other than Legate, she never learned it.

As to what it might be going on about, she hasn’t the faintest.

“Thy blood has yet to pay its due, Traveler. Shall I take it now?”

That scaled finger’s claw slowly starts cutting through the leather armoring her body, and Karen, helpless to stop it, still makes no sound. She isn’t sure she could if she tried. Her stake lies outside of the Centurion’s tent. She’d been watching it for as long as she’d been here, and there hadn’t been a movement, not a stir from within.

The beast’s claw draws an x on the leather, cutting it apart, and, still leaning over the stake from behind, takes a flap of leather- the tip of the claw cutting through the tunic underneath and grazing her skin, drawing blood- between two claws and slowly peels it away.

Karen stays silent, not daring to try to move.  Cool night air touches her partly exposed belly.

This isn’t happening.

Karen of the Black Feathers curls her toes as the monster Legate grips another flap of her armor, this time the tip of its claw tearing little more of her skin away with the leather, and whether it’s on purpose or not doesn’t matter- she can’t help but yelp.

A soldier- who had been standing guard by the Centurion’s tent- seems to notice her for the first time, blinks, then shouts suddenly, standing upright. She recognizes him. He’s the sentry she shot!

He runs over to her, to the stake, and in one smooth movement, cuts through her wrist and ankle bonds. All the while, the fool shouts the same thing.

“Centurion! Centurion! He’s here! He’s here!

Karen feels the demon draw back a moment, hears its intake of foul air, hears it let it out in a soft, menacing hiss. “What-”

Karen pulls away from the stake, numb feet and wrists stinging as they are released, not supporting her weight, dumping her on the ground. The sentry runs to the stake and fumbles with the padlock. Karen, watches, dumbstruck, as the boy reaches into his pack with his good arm and pulls loose a key, then, shaking, glancing back at Karen, he fits the key to the lock- just as the demon Legate rears up and back, one clawed hand drawn up and away, a hideous snarl on its lips.

“Look out!”

Karen can’t believe the words come from her mouth. She can’t believe she gets up- with the chain around her neck still attached- and dives, catching the sentry about the waist and bearing him down. He stares up at her as she shields him, and feels the demon’s hand come to a halt in midswipe. She can hear the Legate chuckle, then, and turn towards the Centurion’s tent.

“Centurion? A mortal leader for mortal men.”

It takes a step towards the canvas, one earthshattering step, leaving Karen on top of the sentry, who stares up at her in terror.

“Miss! I’m not trying to hurt you!” the boy shouts. “Get off, Miss! I’m letting you go! I need to warn the Centurion!”

“You idiot!” Karen snarls, surprised at herself. “The Centurion is-”

The tent explodes outward in an immense fireball, lifted a good twenty feet into the air on currents of heat and raining down in a cloud of embers.

“Dead,” She finishes, rolling off of the sentry, scrambling to her feet as the demon turns to her. The ground sways in her vision, and around the demon the air shimmers with heat.

“Now… Where were we?” The Azrae Legate asks, in a voice like thunder.

The sentry is standing next to her, wincing, rubbing his shoulder, staring in disbelief at the Centurion’s tent- or rather, where it had once stood.

“Where did he go?” The boy whispers to himself. “He said he was preparing…”

The monster stares the pair of them down, and then grins a slow, horrible grin, jagged teeth all flames. An insidiously sweet scent reaches Karen’s nostrils- like cinnamon and spice, carried to her on the breeze. That something so monstrous could smell so- good- is a disconnect, and to her, makes it all the more terrifying. There’s something alien about the way the beast stands.

Its form is like that of an immense scaled bull on two enormous legs, with taloned feet and hands- but the talons extend from the ankle, then, and it also has a hoof to go with it. Its hands are huge, four fingered things, shaped like a dragon’s with claws at least as large. Two curved horns curl down from its temples, a third spiraling outward from the center of its forehead, and it has two deep, predatory eyes that burn red. The black scales covering its body are grotesquely misshapen, twisting this way and that with no discernible pattern. No wings, like legends of old portray. At its side- for the creature somehow has armor that is fitted to it- it bears a deadly blade blacker than utterdark, of an unearthly steel. The armor itself is of an unnatural shape, black and pounded from darkness itself.

“Miss? You can see it!” The sentry hisses.

“What?” Karen asks, shaking on her feet, unable to pull her eyes away from the creature before her.

“The demon!” The boy replies sharply. “You can see it! You’re shaking all over- you must be able to see it!”

“Of course I can see it!” Karen snaps. “Are you blind, man, it’s right in front of us!”

The boy stares at her a moment, and then bolts, dashing away so quickly she barely has time to react. “H-hey!”

The demon is taking its time. It stalks towards her slowly, almost… cautiously.

“Thy line ends here, Angus Traveler. With this incarnation,” The Legate hisses softly. “No trick can save you. This camp of humans was a valiant attempt, but one that will prove worthless in the end.”

It takes another earthshaking step towards Karen.

She backs to the end of her chain, nearly stumbles and chokes herself. She can feel blood dripping down her belly, soaking the cloth of her tunic. The wounds ache and burn dully in the night air.

The Archmage had told her that she would kill a demon before the year was out, and that it would take something precious from her. Something far more precious than gold. That she would find herself. Fat old bastard. Perhaps he had been right about the demon, but Karen can see no way out of this.

What makes this different from your Fate before? A voice whispers in her mind. Just accept it. Get it over with. Obviously he was wrong- how can you survive this?

Karen narrows her eyes and shoves the thought aside. With her hands free, at the very least now that she isn’t being watched she can defend herself.

Still shaking, she reaches down into her boot and tugs the knife free from its sheath. The soldiers hadn’t taken it from her- had they even found it?

The demon laughs at her tiny weapon, advancing on her slowly- and still, strangely, with caution. It could incinerate her just like it did the tent. It could have clawed her to pieces any number of times. What is it doing?

She slips her hand down to the pommel of the knife. It’s a long, plain thing, an inch or so short of a dagger, meant more for throwing than for fighting. It doesn’t have the balance of a fighting weapon. Its steel is sharp, though. She contemplates flipping it up into her fingers for one shot as the demon approaches. She’s sure it wouldn’t do more than make the creature furious.

Then, without warning, there’s a flash of light strong enough to draw a yelp from her lips. She backs away, eyes stinging, screwed shut against what feels like a sunflare directly in front of her eyes. After the dark of night it hurts, like needles jabbing at her pupils, even behind closed lids. When she dares open them again, the Centurion stands before her- in his steel and leather armor, with his helmeted face covered and his sword unsheathed. Once free from his scabbard it appears to shimmer with golden light, like a piece of legend, like a piece of the heavens themselves made into the shape of a blade.

Runes flare on its lightwrought edge. They seem to sing at her, in a tune only she can hear.

As the Azrae’s bare hand clenches into a fist and thunders down, the sword seems impossibly small and fragile, thin light gossamer. It’ll shatter, or be torn away in an instant. Karen is sure of that. What could stand against the power of the Legate?

The Centurion, however, doesn’t parry as Karen had expected. Instead, moving faster than she can credit, he dashes forward, ducking under the earthshattering blow and flicking the tip up. The demon jerks to the side at the last moment, but the tip still taps and then slides through the monster’s side. The Centurion withdraws, fast as lightning, ducking away as the Legate roars and swipes for him.  A gout of steaming blood follows the blade away, drips down over foul scales, soaks the grass at its hooves. The Centurion’s sword, however, is free of the creature’s fluid. Even so, the Centurion flicks it, as though out of habit- and water flies from the tip.

But it isn’t water. It’s something else, something silvery and at once not, a corroded liquid metal that dissolves in midair. Suddenly the camp is alive again.

Soldiers rise to their feet in shock, spears raised, spell broken. A few draw swords, one or two ready javelins. No one is running. Karen just stands. Stands, chained as she is, and stares.

“Threadcutter blade,” She whispers in sudden realization. Whatever dark magic had kept the demon from the legion’s sight is now gone. The sword had sliced through magic as easily as a knife through parchment.

The stream of blood hisses and stops, the wound- a dark, but clean cut- sealing itself. The Azrae Legate snarls at the Centurion, raises one scaled hand, fire gathering in its palm. Karen shouts a warning at the Centurion, but she needn’t have bothered. The demon’s target is the poor javelin thrower, not his leader.

The demon sweeps its hand forth, fire flickering black and red. The Centurion steps between it and its intended target, and, with a deft flick of that gossamer light-blade, cuts the ball of flame in half. It dissipates almost immediately, but not before embers of the foul fire touch the man’s steel-clad arms and legs.

She hadn’t heard the Centurion make a sound before this, and even now, she can only hear him groan, watch him sink to his knees, blade sliding into the dirt. The Azrae Legate roars in triumph, starting for him with arm outstretched and sickle claws reaching, taking two steps, bearing down over the fallen man.

The Centurion’s blade flicks up and out, taking a pair of the demon’s scaled fingers off at the base knuckle. The demon Legate bellows, taking a cautious step back, clutching at its hand.

The Centurion’s armor is corroding away under the influence of the baleful flame flicking on his limbs, but he’s taken a defensive stance, light blade held in a loose ready position, even from his knees he seems prepared to fight to defend- her. Karen.

Why?

The stumps of the demon’s fingers are healing slowly, dripping as its severed digits twitch on the ground. The creature’s blood is turning the grass black.

Karen looks around for a weapon. If she hesitates, the demon will go for the rest of the soldiery, then come back to finish him. Or worse, hurl more flame….

She can’t find anything. There is nothing nearby, nothing on the ground. Not a rock, not a spent arrow or javelin.

The demon snorts, as if in disgust, gathers those dark flames in its uninjured hand, drawing its arm back…

A silvertipped javelin streaks through the air and drives itself into the creature’s chest, digging in, sliding through scales and sticking there.

The Azrae Legate rocks on its feet a bare moment, then howls in rage, stumbling away from both Centurion and stake.  A spearman- no, two- run up to the fallen Centurion, one patting the awful flickering flame away from his arms, the other, from his legs, both lifting him under the arms and dragging him away from the creature- she can hear him protesting.

“No- not me, you fools! Free- Karen! This creature is too- strong for any one of us. Take Karen to the castle- if anything happens to her- Light and ruin, where did that blasted sentry go? He was supposed to have done this already! Let me go you idiots-!”

A thunderous voice, the Legate’s, surely, shakes the clearing and darkens the skies. “Insolent filth! Such mortal trash! This will not go unpunished! The host of Azrae will hear of your affront, and-”

Something rather more insistent nags at her. Karen feels the steel butt of her crossbow nudging her hand. A black feathered bolt is set in her other palm. She half-turns, and her eyes meet those of the boy from earlier. By the eerily bright light from the Centurion’s unsheathed blade, his face is alive, but pale.

“Traveler be praised,” the sentry whispers. “Don’t lose the hope the Centurion had in you. Maybe he forgot, but I haven’t, Angus.”

She hasn’t the faintest what the boy might mean, but it doesn’t matter to her at all. She shoves him back, taking both bolt and crossbow as the Legate continues on.

“-tear the meat from your bones, mark my words! Now, taste the true wrath of the Azrae!”

With that, the demon Legate stretches up one hand and, with loud roar, cuts a hole in the air- a tiny slice that expands rapidly into a flaming, hellish gate.

A horde of horrible little humanoids leaps forth, brandishing small, sharp weapons like jagged daggers, clubs and small spears. They hiss, red skinned maws open to reveal sharp fangs, hands curled into claws and tails that flick with spade tips.

Shouts travel up the assembled soldiers, of fear or determination. One or two bolt outright, but as the line of spears closes and the Centurion is dragged away from the field of battle, Karen is still behind the monstrous demon. She watches it rear back and roar again as its horde of Azrae imps charge towards the assembled soldiery.

Karen pushes the crossbow against the dirt and cocks the string back one handed. Screams, human and demon, sound. The Legate seems completely distracted.

She grits her teeth, sets the bolt to the string, and suddenly, in that single moment, everything falls into place. The world seems to slow, her heart sounds a ponderous drumbeat in her chest. She can feel the air sliding past her teeth, can feel the wind around her caressing her skin, every hair as it’s brushed back by its passage. She can feel muscles tensing in her body, nerves blazing as she brings the crossbow up to a ready position, cradling it up near her eye. Her finger is on the trigger as she sights down the quarrel to her target. The Legate is roaring, his voice like slow thunder, echoing over- and over.

Wildfire runs in her veins, filling her to the brim. Karen feels a sudden fierce, overwhelming joy, at once alien and known to her, at once hers and other. Her toes curl with it, her eyes flutter shut for a moment, and the moment is hers. She can still see the Legate, can see it clear as day in her mind’s eye, in the blackness behind her lids, can see the back of its skull, its horns raised to pierce the sky.

I am the Traveler.

I am the Traveler.

This is my journey.

Victory is my destination.

Karen of the Black Feathers, her spirit ablaze, pulls the trigger, lets go of a breath held an eternity.

The crossbow jerks in her hands, light as a feather. The bolt leaves the strings, and it seems, in this moment of timelessness, that it hangs in the air. And it does, hovering there.

The head, Karen whispers to herself. Put this bolt between his eyes. Silence him forever.

For an aeon it stays there. And in an instant, time flows back, at once, time returns.

A thunderclap sounds, there’s a blur and a tiny explosion just in front of the crossbow. Karen staggers back, shielding her eyes from the flash and the heat.

A trail of dark smoke rises hazily between her and her target, the Legate, who sways for a moment, and then collapses, a puppet without a puppeteer, losing balance and collapsing, flailing uselessly only a moment before falling on its back.

All who had been fighting before turn to face the fallen Legate, whose titanic form had seemed unbreakable. Soldiers and demons alike stop fighting to stare as the giant falls. At the center of the Azrae leader’s forehead, a small, pointed, shiny object, shimmering wetly in the open air protrudes directly between both of the monster’s eyes.

The demonic host, with its leader dead, scatters to the four winds, some taking off, some running right onto the swords of waiting spearmen, others running past Karen. She doesn’t make a move to stop them, unable to believe it herself. What had just happened was nothing short of magecraft. She stares at her crossbow dubiously. An imp screams right next to her, moments before a javelin cast in silver erupts from its chest.

The tip of Karen’s crossbow is red hot with heat- and the wood haft of it hisses as it cools. With one shot, she had ended a demon whose flesh was more than a match for ordinary steel. Her bolt had broken the laws of nature to reach her target.

She shivers slightly, but not from cold, from tension, from fear and worry released in a breath, and from the trials she is certain will still come. The chain, after all, is still heavy around her neck.

The sentry approaches her and twists the key in the lock to her chain. It falls free, but the iron collar remains attached, and the sentry makes no move to cut that free. Karen is still too stunned to react to this newfound freedom. Surely she should be running by now.

She finds she simply doesn’t have the energy. After being tied up for so long, with the sun gone and night falling about her, she can’t find the strength to stand much longer, let alone attempt escape. She rocks on her heels, then collapses to her knees, fists clenched, eyes clamped shut. The joy won’t let go of her.

Her face is wet with tears she barely recognizes, her breath coming in short, sharp gasps. All the tension burning in her nerves is released at once, and she’s left a sobbing wreck. She feels as though she hasn’t cried in an age, in an eternity, and that it must all be rushing through her at once now.

Trying to gather herself is impossible.

After a time, however, a hand on her shoulder makes her look up. A man stands there- the Centurion!-, bald without his helmet, gazing down with a mixture of sorrow and pity, blue eyed gaze piercing her through. She stares back, breathing heavy, arms weak as though she hasn’t slept in months.

With the sword sheathed and the Azrae gone, the only light is from the full, bright moons and the stars above, burning in the black sky. It’s enough.

“I’m sorry,” the Centurion says flatly. “While we needed you to kill the Legate, your crimes to my people are still unforgivable. Your execution has been mandated by the Emperor.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to change it,” Karen replies weakly. “Nor would I expect you to if I did.”

The sentry, standing nearby her, doesn’t say anything. The boy’s eyes are blank, and his expression is completely emotionless. To see it in someone so young is disheartening. Karen feels like she should apologize, but she can’t bring the words from her lips. She’s simply too tired. She bows her head and waits for the killing stroke.

The Centurion cuffs her shoulder lightly. “Not here, and not now,” He says, his voice rough with emotion. “Not this day, not the next.”

Karen raises her head and stares up at him, cradling her crossbow.

“When?” She asks. All the strength has run from her.

“When the Emperor finds us and convicts us,” the Centurion says, cracking half a smile. “For sheltering you.”

Karen sits there in stark shock, then slowly smiles back, reaching out  to take his hand. He pulls her up to her feet, demonstrating strength she doesn’t quite understand, but fully expected after watching him fight the Azrae leader. Her legs quake under her. The sentry is grinning wide as can be, and the entire camp of soldiers is gathering about, spears lowered, swords sheathed. The Legate’s corpse smolders.

Karen of the Black Feathers frowns, eyeing melted armor plates and red, swollen skin laid bare by the Legate’s dark flames. Her gaze hovers on every little detail of the Centurion’s armor, and the rough, wild features of an otherwise calm face- from the scars, small white lines on tanned skin- to the clean-shaven chin and his sad smile. But he still stands, despite the pain in his limbs. Truly the man must have inhuman endurance.

“Where to now, Traveler?” the Centurion asks quietly.

“I’m not this- Traveler- that you seem to know,” Karen says haltingly, doubtfully. “But I do follow my heart. My heart says I should be gone as soon as possible…”

The Centurion shrugs and smiles, eyes hiding his pain, but not from Karen’s sharp sight. “We could help you go wherever you need.”

“If you can keep up,” Karen replies lightly. “I’m not sure how I feel about traveling with those who once did everything in their power to tie me up.”

In fairness, she had killed several of their men. She doesn’t really mean it- mostly she finds that she just wants to see how far he will go, and realizes that she actually feels guilty about it as well. Karen is about to take it back when she sees Centurion Alpha’s expression.

“Karen of the Black Feathers, we are indebted to you- no, that’s wrong. I am indebted to you,” the Centurion whispers, voice choked. “If you do not wish to take advantage of our hospitality, if truly you wish to run, then that is how you are. I swear to you now that I will not follow.”

He reaches up and, gripping the iron around Karen’s neck, snapping the metal with a groan and a crack. The jolt isn’t as shocking as the iron shattering under his grip. A strength unnatural- and she feels a kinship, at that. A hunger to learn more, tempered by natural cynicism. Even now, though, she feels the shell begin to crack.

“Go, if that’s what you wish,” the Centurion says thickly, not meeting her eyes any longer.

“You’re smitten,” Karen says, surprised at the levelness in her voice.

“The Legate slew my family- my brothers, sisters, my mother and my father,” the Centurion replies, and a whisper of rage threads through his voice now. The sword, sheathed at his belt, hisses and crackles. There’s a brief scent of ozone in the air. “You have done what years of searching could not. I knew the Azrae wanted something from you. That you could draw the Legate. The Emperor’s command- that, as I’ve told my soldiers time and time again- has been nothing but a cover.”

Karen somehow still feels the tightness in her heart. It softens at the mention of his family, and she draws in a breath. The shell cracks further. “I don’t know what the Azrae want with me, and I’m sorry for the loss of your family. But they might continue to attack me if I journey with you. I would not subject you to that danger.”

The soldiers who surround her murmur amongst one another at this. Several look around apprehensively, as if worried the demons might approach from a flank or appear from thin air. The sentry, however, gives her a grin, and the Centurion shakes his head.

“That will not be a problem. The Azrae took from me my entire family. Let them come and be defeated, it would be no worse than the Emperor’s law to die by their claws.”

Karen pauses, thinking for a while. Finally she nods as though satisfied. But another question nags at her.

“And your men?” Karen asks quietly. “What do they think of it?”

“They all left the Emperor’s service willingly. I told them my plan from the beginning. None will leave that will be missed,” The Centurion replies firmly. “I will not force men to stay and travel with us, but I will shed no tears if the few who do not have the courage to proceed leave us. Anything else, Traveler?”

“You’ve thought of everything,” Karen admits ruefully. “I can’t think up any real reason for you not to come along. But don’t call me Traveler. Just Karen will do.”

“As you wish, Karen.”

She stands there a while, glancing around, taking in the people around her, the plain and the forest she’d left behind. Off in the distance she can see the mountains, and she knows that through them, a pass leads away from the Empire. She takes a deep, deep breath, steadying herself. She knows where she needs to go.

Her eyes find the boy, the sentry. She doesn’t even know the names of the soldiers around her, or understand their hopeful, hungry expressions, as though her words, her movements and actions are those of some legend.

There’s a warmth in the boy’s brown eyes though, as he murmurs something. The wind blows through the clearing as the word echoes in her mind, echoes among the soldiery surrounding her, just once. Just once, she feels she can forgive them for it.

“Traveler.”

“Well,” Karen murmurs quietly, to no one, to everyone. The soldiers around her straighten and stand, the Centurion looks at her expectantly. She feels a brimming fire gathering in her again, and her limbs feel light as feathers. Perhaps it doesn’t matter right now. What are names, after all? They can be learned and forgotten.

She shifts in her leather armor, frowning for a moment as the torn material twists oddly around her belly, but deciding that it can wait.

“Let’s travel,” she says softly. To her, her words seem to echo around the clearing.

Her grin is as bright as the stars, a flicker of the fire from before, and as her heart leaps into the air, her feet set themselves down one after the other as she leads the soldiers away into the new night. The grass is like soft silk cloud, and the cool air feels familiar around her, with her.

Like home.

©2012 Sam Oliver [Eris]

Write from the Heart

Write from the heart. Write from your soul, write from your mind, write from the very core of what makes you- you. How can you plagiarize if you do that? How could you possibly take something from someone else and compare it with something that defines your very essence?

Well, long story short, you bloody well can’t. Everyone’s essence is different, despite surface similarities. What you do, who you meet, who you are- your writing will reflect all of this if it’s yours. Even if you take another person’s work and just copy/paste it- IT’S YOURS. The difference is that in the reflection, you show yourself to be lazy. As a reflection that’s not bad or good- at least not from my perspective. You might get in trouble with the police or law, but that’s their prerogative.

Stealing my work changes the portion of my work from mine to yours- but the reflection is different. Whereas I worked and poured sweat into the creation that you now feast your eyes on, the portion of stolen work may shine in a different light when viewed alongside someone elses’ name. You do no one but yourself harm when you decide to steal- the original author knows that it’s their work, and, if they’re like me, they’ll feel that it doesn’t matter.

The work itself doesn’t know exactly what it is, who it belongs to. And to me, someone who draws from a calm center, from an unknown place, from the heart, to recognize that no work is truly my own is something fundamental to writing it in the first place.

Where do I draw inspiration? Can a work really be mine if it contains so much of another person’s heart and soul? Ah, but who works it? Who creates, who finishes the product of that mind and that heart? Is it me? Yes.

Is it, then, that my work is a product of the hearts, souls, and minds of those I meet, of the essences of everyone, forged and brought to fiery life in myself, in my own– in part, a work of magic. A work of magecraft that no story character can match alone.

I make my stories, and they are pieces of me, but they are not truly mine. Credit for them goes to everyone I meet, to the unknown people I dream of, to the people I talk to and listen to and hope one day to be. My work is a collaboration on a grand scale, and I think in part, to be a writer is to be a weaver. To be a writer is to be one who forges tales and fashions fantasy from fact, then ties the two together to create something more. But the credit is not our own.

Who are we without material, without inspiration? We are nothing but ourselves.

I suppose in a roundabout way, this is a thank you. I love my readers. I really do. I love that I can pop on here everyday and see that people have been reading– if not necessarily appreciating– my work. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that someone reads that which I craft. As much as I enjoy writing it, I enjoy having it read even more, terrifying as it is.

So thank you, everyone. If you write, write from your heart.

If you read, find yourself in part.

We are the whole of everyone we see, hear, touch, feel and meet. The characters we write are an expression of that.

Expression is life.

-Eris