Protectors: Prologue

 

 

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By
Kylie Leane

 

The Blessing

 

This fire has been burning for you, keeping warm this aged Tavern.

You have journeyed far to hear this tale woven through time.

Each thread, each character, hero or villain, will tell to you a secret from their soul.

Mayhap you shall leave with courage anew or mayhap you shall linger to ponder the mysteries you uncover upon your own path.

Whatever this tale speaks to you,

May it bring for a time, escape from your journey,

A world to explore and new companions to miss.

So hold fast your flask my friend,

This tale is a rocky road to walk.

Meadows fair, and wind so fine, bring no clouds of dark grey.

To far horizons you wander,

So with you do take the gifts of the land.

May the Mother Deer feed you well,

May the Gold Lion protect your slumber,

May the Sheep of Seasons clothe your skin,

Let the Hawk on High guide your path,

Follow not the Dancing Stars,

That shall lead you astray.

Give the Forests a gift for the wood they provide,

So the blessing of Prometheus’ Fire may be ignited.

And let all know that you have been covered in the Morning Dew,

For no Twizel can touch that which is born of pure love.

Selwyn Ma’to

The Womanizer

 

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Prologue

“In documenting history there are two laws;

What you think you know will be wrong,

And what you do not know will be right.”

 

J.H Gibbles, DA20149ZE, Life, Love and Loyalty, Avalon – Pennadot, Imperial Press[1]

 

Land:  Pennadot

Sundate 8596DC[2]

 

Never had Chans seen the mighty, magnificent ever-green trees that forested the palace gardens bend and bow against the tunneling howls of the wind. It was frightening to hear the groaning and cracking as each towering testament to time bend in agony. Lightning scattered the dark sky-sea. From under his hood he poked out his button nose, daring to watch as strings of the bladed energy tore at the gray coils of the clouds encasing the high-keeps of Palace-Town. It was a vicious storm, lasting endless days, and not even Avalon’s environmental control system could quell the rage. Hesitating at the threshold of light beaming out from the open door, Chans stared at his tiny foot-claws just edging at the shadows. Each clap of thunder spiked his fur and fluffed his neck feathers. Truly, he had always thought himself braver than this. He was a ward of the King, a courageous little sorcerer and sorcerer’s scoffed at storms—did they not?

The tiny wisp of light he had conducted to life within a lantern hung loose by his side, but it did so little to piece the Long Night’s darkness. How he craved for the fabled Sun he had never seen.

It was now that they needed its light, to burn away the nightmare that had fallen upon Palace-Town. In the absence of the king a shadow from generations past had crept through the corridors, striking at the heart of Pennadot.

Chans trembled, searching the long path for the shine of false-dawn. False-dawn that could wipe away the foul mold that had taken root, just for a time. His lips parted in a shout of relief, drowned out by the roar of wind. Leaping about, his wings flapping, Chans scooted down the slippery, wet stairs toward the shining burst of radiance. It ploughed toward him and his small wisp, the rain steaming as it contacted the heat of flaming skin. In a desperate, frantic swing, King Delwyn swept off his diabond[3], landing amongst the puddles. Chans darted up to him, searching for the king’s paladins, or mayhap his knights, or even the handsome butlers that faithfully followed him.

There was no one.

It was just King Delwyn—burning like the Sun.

A false-dawn, a starborn desperate, panicked and frantic enough to awaken dormant blood, dead for centuries. Had the situation been different, Chans would have felt pride in the man.

“Your majesty!” He barreled up against the king’s armored leg. It felt so warm, so comforting. “I received your message! I posted more guards around the Queen’s chamber.”

It would not be enough, he had known that. No amount of guards would withstand what was coming. Not even the Time Master, the great Fairy Queen, could defend against the ancient sorrow to come and she was the embodiment of the very fuel of the world. His chest sunk in defeat at the thought.

Delwyn snatched his claw. “Come! Hurry, Chance, hurry.” The king broke into a run and he barely kept pace with the man. “He is here, in the Palace, walking amongst us. He is after the twins!”

Chans fumbled about behind the king, holding tight to the Human’s flapping cloak as they hastened down the corridors of the palace. The further inward they ran the more brilliant the king’s glow grew, until even the gloss of his pure white hair was too bright look upon.

Delwyn turned sharp around lording pillars, throwing out a leg and Chans bumped roughly against it, looking up in confusion. The king waved his gauntleted hand in a gentle, assuring movement and Chans shuffled carefully behind him, only to aware that he was still a kitten. Through the towering windows, and the clear ceiling, the storm cast dangerous, scraping shadows over large doors ahead. The very air itself felt alive, with channeled breaths and Chans clutched at his chest, shuttering at the heavy, thudding song waffling through the Secondary Realm, resonating down to the tips of his wings. It was ghastly, sickening, the song that ruined the beautiful melody of their world, gobbling it all up!

He had to fight back the urge to flee from the horrors within the chamber beyond.

“Wh…where are the guards?” he squeaked.

“Look under your claws,” Delwyn murmured.

Chans staggered back, stumbling on the hem of his gown. A knife may as well have pieced his throat, gutting out the cry he wanted to call at the sight of strewn blood, gizzards and bones. The pour men he had sent forth, they had not had a chance. Was he responsible for their demise? Shaking his head Chans pushed on though the blood, ignoring the squishing under his foot-claws as he chased the king who snatched hold of the double doors before he could call out in warning. The enchantment cast on them activated upon touch and Chans winced as a crackle of Rune forged lightning burst out, sending the king staggering backward, cussing at the Sun and waving his bloodied hands.

“Gwenhwyfar!” The king charged once more. “Gwenhwyfar!” Delwyn stumbled as the doors gave way, opening inwardly to reveal the russet tinge of the chamber. The torches strung upon the golden pillars lit in flare, swirling forth in a formation of a triangular wyrm.

He had barely moments to act, and his action was swift, unrestrained and violent. Chans threw himself in the path of the inferno, bringing up both claws and wings in a circled halo, forming a conduction circle as the tips of both appendages linked.

Blood rose from the slain guards, spiraling up his arms, igniting in runic symbols, forming a incantation to complete the conduction fusion and he heard the crack as the Secondary Realm split and a crystal shield erupted forth from the bloodied lines scorched into his flesh. The firestorm of flames struck the glistening surface, dispersing in a splattering of colors. Chans staggered at the force. Whoever had commanded the fire, had done so with complete control over the elementals within the flames—it was no mere conduction.

“Chans, stay here!” Delwyn shouted, diving into the choking smoke and green rising mist spilling from the chamber. It overwhelmed the man’s luminous skin, choking the false-dawn and without his glow, the world seemed so much fouler.

Chans squawked in protest. “Your majesty, you atrocious fool!”

Had it been a command from his king, or a command from his foster father? Chans narrowed his eyes. If was a command from his king, he had to obey it, but if it was a command from the man who fostered him…well…he could disobey and not suffer to harsh a punishment. Chans snarled, clutching his conductor.

“Oh, Sun Curse us all!” He marched into the thick mist. Each step felt as though he was clawing through dozens of pine-needles, scraping at his flesh, leaving shredded thread-thin wounds, dribbling his blood. He commanded the small droplets into a gradually increasing ball, spinning softly in his claw, poised for a moment of fusion and swift conduction.

He caught the tail-coat of the King’s tunic, scooting up behind the proud man. The Starborn was trembling, though Chans was unsure if it was from rage, fear or even pain. His strong, rough fingers that had so often comforted him in his times of need folded about the hilt of his sword, drawing the historic weapon free of its sheath. Chans blinked back the blinding light as it ignited down the glass blade, refracting with the royal’s radiant skin. The shrouding mist scampered away from what had once been a dull, blunt blade and like a cloak about his foot-claws the murk became a sludgy bog.

Chans twirled about, startled to find himself within the domed chamber of the King’s courters. The milky bog about his foot-claws leeched from a figure standing aloft by the crackling warmth of the fire-fit and Chans felt his blood chill at the gangly creature, frocked in the ripples of black tar. It slowly turned, revealing mutated features of a long dead corpse. The sound of crackling and popping maggots turned his insides, even its stench, he realized, was the foul scent in the misting air. It raised a bony hand, pulling threads of flesh away from its jaw to free its mouth into a leering smile that split its features. Out of its lips trickled fresh blue liquid, catching on the edge of its chin.

Chans gasped, covering his mouth. His heart fluttered.

The Queen’s blood—its color was unique.

“Dragon!” Delwyn spat, “How dare you enter my home.”

“Do not think that just because you hold a little toy sword at me, King, that I will fear you.” The corpse cocked its head to one side.

“Where is my wife? Where is she?!”

Chans bit his lips, tasting blood in the back of his throat as he worried the bloodied skin. The tension was rising, he could feel the energy of two Realms colliding bursting down his wings and it was agonizing, and thrilling, thrilling to be inside of a whirl-wind of intensely building fury between two opposing forces.

A chuckle from the shuttering dead man swung his attention about and he gulped back bile as the Dragon made a shrugging movement as it shifted on skeletal legs. The action caused the floor to ripple and Chans stepped back at the disturbance of the very fabric of the Primary Realm. His stomach twisted into knots at the sight of the shifting plates of light impacting each other, breaking away and shattering as information was lost and eaten by the monster within the room.

Something cold and wet dribbled over his nose. Chans’ wings rattled. His chest heaved out a rasping gasp. Every inch of his fur stood on end as a droplet of thick, shining blue blood slopped over his claw and he stared at it, agape in mortified horror.

“It is said that Ra shall fall to the great serpent…” The Dragon’s chuckle was distant in his ears as his head whipped up and he stared at the ceiling far over his head and he shrieked.

Pinned to the ceiling of glass the Fairy Queen was frozen in a horrified state, her arm and hand stretched out toward them as if in warning. Her blood, crystal blood, dribbled down her arm, catching on the tips of her fingers, from a torn bite in her neck.

“Gwenhwyfar!” Delwyn cried. “No!”

“Oh yes, dear little king.” The Dragon grinned, “Not even a golem can survive my bite.”

“You Sun-cursed beast! What do you do to her?!” Delwyn charged, blade igniting in a flare of starlight. He skidded to a halt as the Fairy Queen’s body fell, landing in a clunk of heavy, limp metal. Chans cringed, squeaking in fright as Delwyn twisted in a rush for her side. He felt the rip of gravity come a moment after the snapping crack of the king’s knee from the force of the throw that hit him. He was thrust across the room by a simple hand movement of the corpse.

Chans flung out his conductor. His ball of blood splattered into a circle around his palms, burning bright as he caught the king a swirl of wind. The Dragon whirled upon him and Chans ducked the blades of thrown air, dodging behind a pillar, panting heavily. He peered out, franticly searching for the king.

“You stupid little king!” The Dragon stalked forward, snarling as he thrust a foot into the chest of the Fairy Queen. Chans cringed. “Do you think you can wave your little sword at me and win! You are not even a true starborn! You are a throwback…and this…this fairy is a vile intruder, vermin that swarms the stars!” With a inhuman screech the creature slammed his foot firmly into Gwenhwyfar’s chest, leaning into her.

“Get up and fight me, Ra of Time, or I will kill your pathetic Human!”

“Leave her alone.” Delwyn struggled back onto his feet.

The Dragon’s head titled to one side. The corpse stared at the flaming sword in the king’s trembling hand. It must have seen the starborn as nothing, surely, nothing but another meal amongst many. Chans clutched at his skull, whimpering. Of all the memories he had stored within his mind, not one of them wanted to surface now in aid. His body felt like water, runny and impossible to move but if he did not move—

He would loose again.

He never wanted to loose again.

Scampering out from behind the pillar he snatched out his bladed pendent, slicing the palms of his claw’s and scrawling swiftly circles across the marble pillar. His gaze flicked back and he winced as the Dragon dragged the Fairy Queen up by her hair, letting her dangle painfully.

“Tell me Ra, was it worth it…becoming Human? Do you like these mortal pigs that much that you would lower yourself to bare their young? I am disgusted with you…my greatest adversity, reduced to this! Fear not, I shall put you out of your misery.”

His hand moved to thrust through her chest. At its speed, Chans knew not even the queens exoskeleton would survive. She had told him that much before. He gasped, staggering back against his scrawled bloodied fusion circles as her eye’s opened with a sudden, red flare. With a mechanical whirl her arm lifted, smashing a fist into the face of the Dragon. He dropped her as he faltered backward. Her leg swung up, collecting the skull and shattering the brittle bones.

“I put you in your chains, Dragon.” She spat blue blood, “Go back to your dungeon and rot!”

“This isn’t the end, Hazanin,” it slurred.

Chans ran swiftly forward, throwing out his arms and casting his wings in a full, wide curve. Blood conduction required few words, and necromancy ever fewer. A Batitic’s conductions were of the intent behind the fusion, and he desired to rip the Dragon out of the bag of flesh it inhabited. Ripping was easy. He did not need to be gentle. His memories told him it was like throwing his soul forth as a hook, letting it latch and then snatching it back.

“Activate,” Chans whispered. The surge through his wings as the blood rings on the pillar behind him burst was invigorating and he barely had a moment to realize he had thrown the conduction forward. The slimy, foul taste of something tarry and sticky filled his throat and it took considerable effort not to retch. A physical manifestation of touching a spirit was unexpected and new.

The Dragon twisted toward him, broken, splintered face contorting in pain. Chans breathed in deeply even as the beast reared up to strike him. Delwyn suddenly lunged, taking the corpse down in a tackle.

“Keep going Chans!” the king bellowed.

Chans thrust a foot-claw forward, rooting himself in a firm hold. He sent forth a ripple through the ground and he listened with a feeling of satisfaction as the Dragon shrieked. With a backward heave, both mental and physical, he tore at the foul sensation. Laughter would have erupted from his lips had he not been taught to withhold it, but the sheer delight of feeling the Dragon tear into a scattering of shreds upon impacting his web of fusion energy was beyond satisfying. Then it came, the exhaustion and it was overwhelming, like a wall struck him from behind and he wavered, landing hard upon the floor, snatching at his chest. The pain burned as fire in his veins, impossible to quench. Tears leaked over his cheeks and he sobbed as he reached out a claw, catching the final, weak little shred of the soul he had torn from the corpse. It was unlikely the king could see it, the silver little thread, but it was so beautiful and precious in his claw. It was not the Dragon at all—it was—

“Necromancy…” he choked, clutching the silver thread to his chest. “No Batitic has tried Soul-Weaving in centuries…my little…sibling…my…my little sibling…Zilon…he…he killed my little…sibling…”

Delwyn’s heavy hands clasped his cheeks, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “It’s alright, Chance, it’s alright. It’s over.” The king crawled toward his wife and Chans gasped, scrambling up and dashing for the collapsed lady. His claws brushed the bite marks running over the thighs, arms and the brutal gash across the neck, revealing mechanical insides that still whirled and clicked at her weak breathing.

“It…it bit every artificial artery in her body.” He gasped.

“Wh…what?” Delwyn gathered her into his lap. “But her metal hull, it should have obstructed it.”

“Papa,” Chans beseeched, “a Zaprex cannot fully sustain their hull in a golem. You know that. Hazanin-sama is only ever vulnerable in this state. This was the perfect chance to kill your offspring.”

“Sun…no…please.” Holding Gwenhwyfar’s cheeks Delwyn kissed her pale blue lips, brushing away her soiled hair, “I am so sorry love, I am so sorry…I was too late.”

Her body whirled and an arm lifted loosely and a hand touched the king’s lips. Chans glanced aside, unsure of what he was doing, intruding upon their beautiful love.

“Stay with me, Hwyfar, please,” Delwyn whispered, “please, stay with me.”

Her alien eyes clicked as interior, robotic lenses focused on their features and Chans frowned. She was studying him. Her voice was monotonous, strained through her shattered, voice-box, causing it to ring with a metallic twang. “The babies…they are dying, the Dragon injected me with a…toxin…my body…cannot process it fast…enough…in this form…”

Gwenhwyfar reared back, her body twisting. Grapping for her Delwyn struggled to hold fast her jostling frame.

“Oh Osiris…Osiris…make it stop, please!”

Delwyn snatched his claw and Chans jerked back, eyes wide in fright.

“Chans! Do something.”

Do something! What was he supposed to do?

“Save them. Chance! For Sun’s Sake! Do something, anything!”

“I don’t know what to do!” he cried. “Even if I could draw out the toxin, I don’t have anything that will replace it in the fusion. The magical black-lash will kill us all. You cannot just take something…you have to…you have to have something equal of it in a fusion…my blood isn’t equal!” He would have done it, if he could, he would have given all of himself—all of his blood—to save the Time Master, the one who loved him despite what he was, who told him he was special.

“Use my starblood.”

“No!” Chans squealed. “Never! I would never do that!”

“They are my sons, she is my wife. I am ordering you to do this.”

Chans flared his wings. “I could kill you.”

“I am ordering you!”

“B…but…I…blood conduction is forbidden! That is why pap—Zilon…locked me up!” He coiled away.

Delwyn held his shoulders, his grip was vice and painful, like the shackles that had once bound him.

“You trust me, do you not, Chance? Do you trust me when I say to you that you were given to us as a gift, and your Soul-Weaving is a gift, the Secondary Realm flows in all of us differently and it is the way we choose to use it that makes us good or bad…”

“Zilon chooses bad…yes?”

“Yes, he does.”

“But…I can save people?” he whispered.

Trembling hands, stained with blue, cold philepcon liquid wrapped about his claws. Hazanin-sama looked to him, and the shine of her golem’s eyes was despairingly weakened from its usual vibrant, mechanical burn, but the smile he loved, that had first captivated him, that was always there to send him to sleep met his gaze. “Chance, you will save millions someday.”

If she said so, he had to believe her, for she was a fairy and they spoke truth.

Breathing in deeply Chans clasped at his conductor, dragging the sweet sound of the Secondary Realm’s song through the crystal infused within and with a twirl and flick he slashed cuts across the king’s arms, pulling free threads of the king’s burning, ignited blood. Despite how weak his wings felt, he flared them, circling them into a halo, allowing them to catch the sweet, beautiful song of the Secondary Realm flowing about him and he swung his conductor, searching for the foul scent of the toxin, gently reweaving it with the warm, glittering blood.

The king slumped down and Chans caught his head before it cracked on the cold ground and carefully lowered it. He soothed over the painful cuts. They would scar, and the king would forever be left with the memory of the night the Dragon found his way into their home. Chans wiped away tears.

“Hazanin-sama…”

“Yes child?” The whirl was painfully weak.

“I think I only saved one.”

Hazanin-sama’s head dropped back against the king’s limp arm, her chest inflated sharply. A single tear rolled down her cheek. Outside the chamber he heard the calls of confusion from the butlers and the maidens but he could not look up, the magical exhaustion was beginning to cloud his vision. Chans slumped forward. His wings were just too heavy and they flayed loosely in the bloodied circle surrounding them.

The king’s glow grew ever dimmer and beside him, the Fairy Queen’s breathes were fragile, pained and terrifying. Chans clutched his conductor.

He had to get stronger.

He needed to be the greatest sorcerer ever born if he was to protect his family.

Blood was never going to be enough.

He needed something more, something stronger than blood.

 


 

[1] DA: Dawn Age – ZE: Zaprex Empire

[2] DC: Of the Dragon’s Conquest

[3] A hound used instead of a horse by many of the higher class due to their elemental shifting and ability to move through dense forest regions of Pennadot. Acutely intelligent, a diabond will form an attachment to its master, and will protect whom its master wishes upon command.

 

I can’t upload anything more than the Prologue from Book 2 because if I do I’ll completely give away everything that happens in KEY: Book One
But you’re more than welcome to join in the journey.
There is a Kindle Amazon version available and the Paperback version has illustrations!

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KEY: Chapter Three

 

Map 1 Pennadot

Chapter Three.jpg

 

A Kelib’s fist is strong but his vengeance is far stronger still.

Tangle with a Kelib and you risk the fury of not just one man, but several generations of men.

Their women, however…

Well…

I assure you…

Their women have but one agenda…

To take back what was stolen from them:

Their freedom.

Dustin, Sundate 1223, Between Kelibs and Humans,

First Edition, Alya – Pennadot, Scrolls for Sale.

 

Zinkx gripped the diabond’s mane with one hand as it bounded through the undergrowth. With his other arm he held Shanty tightly against his chest, feeling her hands on his thighs stiffen with every leap of the creature over the hill-like roots of the evergreens. He could feel the moisture on her skin from the dark mist, the wind of their escape leaving kissed chills on his bare arms. In the gloom of the forest the diabond shimmered with fire-spots from its elemental shifting.

Their pursuers had no hope of entering the forest with horses; the tangled loops of the vegetation were too dense for anything but a diabond to navigate. Humans and Kelibs were as minuscule as insects amongst the mammoth flora, and, at the pace they had set, Zinkx was sure they were well away from the village. Content with the distance, he lulled the beast under him into a canter. The solar-fungi, filled from the Sun that had long set, lit their way with a ghosting reflection of day.

The diabond’s large paws made mats of the surface growth atop the roots it pounced across. Strings of foliage and glittering moss swelled back to life, covering the tracks. Zinkx glanced behind them, frowning as he noted the resilience of nature.

“Amazing,” he whispered, causing Shanty to stir in his arms. “The people of Pennadot are dying and being carted away to be processed by the Dragon, and yet nature is thriving beyond control. This shouldn’t be happening. If it keeps up, the forests will revolt and consume everything. No one is holding the earth back any longer.”

“You speak as though you believe the forest lives. That is not Human of you. Humans think not of such things.” Shanty twisted in his lap, and Zinkx winced as the movement pulled at his shirt, tugging at the wound across his back.

“Maybe it does bear some life, but it shouldn’t live enough to cover our tracks like that.” He pointed behind them. “A diabond is in tune with the forest; it can manipulate the flora around it, but no diabond can command the leaves to grow…still, I suppose I can’t complain. No one can follow us this way. I can get us to my camp quicker.”

He shook his head and groaned at the ache in his stomach. “After all this fuss and bother, I didn’t end up getting any food. I’m utterly famished.”

“You’re thinking of food after escaping from—” Shanty suddenly gagged herself with a hand over her mouth. She turned away from his face to stare ahead of them as the diabond plodded further into the eeriness of the fluorescent night.

Zinkx raised an eyebrow, making a guess as to the reason she had broken her sentence. “Shanty…you don’t need permission to speak in front of me.”

She did not respond.

He sighed, tilting his head to the unseen stars above the canopy in silent plea.

“Khwaja is going to have a good laugh out of this one. I just know he is.” He squinted as they neared the camp, a pocket of space surrounded on all sides by the roots and saplings of the immense evergreens. His trained eyes noticed the almost imperceptible signs of Denvy’s presence. The light of a fire leaked through a hole in a mass of roots and ferns, warding off the soft starlight glow of clustered solar-fungi. A trace of the day’s warmth lingered in the air but Zinkx watched his breath fog from the plunging temperature.

He slid from the diabond’s back, landing in the damp moss. Shanty gave a weary bob of her head, making a move to follow, but he stalled her with a soft touch. He led the diabond by its shaggy mane as he plotted a way through the ferns that clustered over the camp like a hut, bottling up the fire’s heat.

Denvy was crouched by the flames, playing a stick in the hot coals. He glanced up at the sound of their approach, amusement wrinkling his brow. “So, you brought a diabond and a Kelib woman instead of food. I didn’t think five skins could get you that much in Pennadot these days.” The giant beast’s powerful baritone rumbled as the lordly being tilted his head.

Zinkx groaned at the note of ridicule. “Please, Khwaja…” He held out a hand, helping Shanty slide down from her perch. He sensed the weariness in her touch as he lowered her to the ground, shifting his center of gravity to bear the brunt of her weight.

Despite her obvious fatigue, she managed to stand upright in awe as Denvy rose to his full towering height beside the fire. A carcass of a pve’pt was sizzling over the coals.

“Why didn’t you tell me they’d snag me for hunting on the Lord of the Provinces’ land?”

“You should be intelligent enough to consider it yourself, lad. Your stomach usually does all the thinking. I am trying to teach you to use your other brain, the one situated in your skull.” Denvy strolled forward, his elongated legs carrying him gracefully, the leather of his rustic, patched-up pants folding over thick fur.

“Why is it that your teaching methods usually end up with me almost dead, Khwaja? Sometimes I wonder if you even love me at all.”

The elderly beast’s pale green eyes glimmered with mirth as he rubbed a hand-paw through his air-gills, tugging the knick-knacks strung up in the thick mane. “Oh I do love you, son. So much it hurts.” The Kattamont touched a paw pad to his barreled chest, giving his two hearts a pat. “My ancient hearts ache whenever you rush off on your adventures.” He switched his focus, looking down at Shanty.

“Hello, my dear.” Denvy extended a paw, slipping it under her chin to tilt her head upward. He stared into her eyes. The folds of his bushy eyebrows rose in warm cheer.

Shanty flushed. “You’re a forest god?”

Denvy chuckled, shrugging as he lowered his paw from her chin. “One of my many names, dearest. Actually I am just a very old, very tired being…”

“Of immense power.” Zinkx waved a hand in the air and rolled his eyes.

Denvy clapped him smartly over the head. He addressed Shanty. “I am Denvy Maz, Dream Master of the Northlands.”

The Kelib female dipped her head in response, hobbling forward a step in obvious pain. Zinkx grimaced as he caught a glimpse of raw wounds on the soles of her feet. They had been made worse by their escape, healing scabs now swollen and bleeding.

Denvy’s brow furrowed in concern and he led her to the fireside to sit on a makeshift futon in the flattened moss and roots. “What’s your name, dear?”

“I’m Shanty…” She paused. “Just Shanty, now. Formerly of the Eighth Clan.”

“Ah, Eighth Clan, heh?” The beast rubbed a paw over his wrinkled brow. “That explains your injuries and the tattoos.”

Shanty looked up in surprise. Warily she touched her exposed shoulders. The faintly glowing tattoos imbedded into her green skin were clearly visible.

“You’re a breeder.” Denvy crouched, studying the markings marring her flesh. “And a milker…a rare combination.”

Her lips opened to speak, but no words escaped.

The beast smiled and gave her head a small pat. “Don’t worry, little one. You’re safe here. That I can assure you.” He gave a small groan as he stood once more.

Zinkx tethered the diabond to a nearby tree, aware of Denvy following. The Kattamont reached out and gave the hound’s muzzle a fond stroke. Its eyes gleamed red, a simple shine revealing its true nature as an elemental shifter.

“A fire diabond[1], Zinkx, lad. Good pick.” Denvy chuckled as the creature butted him playfully. “She is grateful to you for freeing her and promises in return to carry you well.”

“She’s welcome.” Zinkx pulled his shirt over his head. Pain flared as the fabric came unstuck from the fresh wound across his back.

Behind him he heard Denvy click his tongue in disproval at the sight. “Zinkx…” The Kattamont dusted away the little buzzing pin-lizards that nibbled at the blood around the wound.

“I know, Khwaja…it’s just been a while since I tangled with mortals. They fight differently to the Dragon’s fiends.”

Denvy sighed. “Yes…yes…I know. I’ll wash the wound out for you. The pin-lizards should be enough to sterilize it, but you’re doing your own laundry.”

“Yes sir. When will the food be ready?”

“Thinking about that waistline of yours again?” Denvy smirked, raising his voice as he turned toward Shanty. His jovial attitude eased the remaining tension in the atmosphere. “It’s all he ever thinks about, I swear…”

Zinkx saw her hide a smile at the lord’s playful tone, watching as he poured a bowl of steaming water into a basin.

“Still,” Denvy played a rag through the liquid, turning it blue, “between you and me,” the beast leant forward in a secret whisper that was far too loud to be anything but a joke, “I have no idea where it all goes. Look at him; he’s a scrawny little twig.”

“I can hear you perfectly Khwaja.” Zinkx collapsed in a heap. He buried his head into his hands.

Denvy faked innocence, bearded face showing nothing but honor. “What? Did I say something?” He stood, passing Zinkx the fabric he had soaked. Seriousness touched his tone. “Get the war-paint off your face, lad, you’ll feel better. Let me work on your back, and then I shall see to the food.”

“I’ll serve.” Shanty promptly rose to her feet.

Zinkx twisted in her direction, hand outstretched. “No, you should rest…you’ve been through a lot.”

“I will serve.” She insisted with a glare, no sign of the intermittent fear of his male, Human presence as she headed to the fire-pit with a proud arch to her stout back. Zinkx masked his smile, her defiant streak an amusing sight after the exhausting day.

Food was a welcome relief and they ate without conversation. Instead the forest spoke eerily in whispers, groans, and shifting hollow winds through the glades.

Afterwards, through gentle insistence upon Denvy’s part, the aged beast had tended to Shanty’s wounds. He bound her raw feet in linin before settling her to sleep were she had been sitting. Fatherly he tucked a blanket tightly around her, warding off the night-time temperature plunge.

Zinkx settled himself carefully on his sleeping mat across the fire-pit from her. He felt his wound pulling at every movement and decided to leave it bare, hoping silently that the gathering school of pin-lizards would have done their deed by morning and eaten away any infection, sealing the wound with their saliva.

He took the chance to study Shanty while her attention was on the Kattamont. The respectful awe she showed his master surprised him. It was clear she viewed him as something akin to the forest gods of ancient myth. Pennadot was an enormous land; Zinkx doubted that Shanty even knew of the Kattamont race of the Utillia deserts. Those of the Southern Provinces would very rarely, if ever, learn of the northern land beyond Pennadot, since travel there was a long solar-cycle[2] journey.

“Zinkx, lad…”

He turned his head.

The beast’s pale eyes were narrowed in scrutiny. “I’ll keep watch tonight. You rest your back. We’ll need to travel out of this region by late tomorrow.”

“But sir…” Zinkx frowned darkly. “We haven’t searched long enough for the Key in this region.”

The Kattamont poked at the fire, cracking the wood into pieces, the embers sparking. It burnt softly, radiating enough heat to warm them, but not enough light to reveal their position in the murky forest.

“We have stayed long enough.” Denvy eased back on his foot-paws. “Fear not my aiv’a, we shall find the Key. Things will work out in the end.” Zinkx settled his head across his arms. His mind drifted to the battle-fields he had left. His nose still smelt the burn of sulphur. He could taste

the acidic rain and hear the echoing cries of death. “Tell that,” he whispered, “to those dying tonight.”

 

Chapter Break1

 

Her first deep sleep in many weeks had been peaceful, safe in the warmth of the fire burning through the crisp night. She had sensed the forest god wandering within the cocoon of roots, back and forth between her and the Human.

She stirred. The Human man was shaking her shoulder.

“Shanty…” His deep voice was hoarse with weariness.

She blinked. Her vision blurred and she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. He was trying to keep enough distance despite touching her. His Human skin was icy.

“We’ve got to go, hurry. We’ve been discovered.”

“My husbands?” She blurted out the first thought that brushed through her mind.

The Human gave a small smile, reassuring, the humor genuine in his blue eyes.

“No…something far, far worse. Come, get up.”

Shanty stood cautiously, watching him hurry around the camp in the weak sunlight that scattered through the canopy. The forest god pushed through the shrubbery. The giant creature smiled kindly at her, though she noticed it was a forced expression, worry straining behind the wrinkles. “Here—” He threw her a red dress that felt heavy and woolen. “I dreamed that up for you last night. Put it on.”

“Dreamed it up?” Taking heed of the urgency in his voice she pulled it over her body, tucking it around her robust frame to find it a perfect fit. The Human brushed past her, belting hip-bags around his waist. She saw a momentary grimace on his face as he added the straps of his twin blades over his shoulders.

“Khwaja is Dreamathic.” The Messenger glanced over her outfit. “He dreams things into existence. Come, we have to hurry.”

Shanty gave a gasp as the creature hoisted her off her feet, his large paws under her arms. With ease he set her onto a saddle strapped to the diabond’s back. She ran her fingers over it, wondering if it had been dreamed into existence along with her dress. She had not noticed anything like it amongst the gear. The Human leapt up in front of her and grasped the reins.

Shanty looked around. The camp had not been struck. What had been packed onto the diabond seemed to be the bare minimum of what they should have been carrying.

“Everything…” Shanty gasped as the diabond reared into a run. “Everything is still there?”

“We have no time. They’re not far behind. Hold on. We’re going to try and outrun them.” Zinkx spoke over his shoulder.

The diabond picked up speed until the forest was a nauseating blur, its pounding rhythm making quick work of the dense undergrowth. Shanty caught glimpses of the forest god’s golden fur in the emerald sea. He kept pace with the diabond, moving as though he owned the very land.

Only the glints of flaring sunlight through the canopy betrayed the passing of time. They had been fleeing long enough for the Sun to find its way high into the sky’s arc. Yet whatever was pursuing them was faster than they were.

The Messenger pulled on the reins and the diabond swerved to the right. Shanty curled up, giving a cry as he released the reins. His blue eyes flared green with rage as he twisted in the saddle.

Overhead a pulsing, vomiting shadow swelled. In the sunlight that filtered through the canopy, the humanoid appearance of a province guard’s corpse was visible for just a moment. As soon as it passed into the shadows, the image of the decapitated Human vanished, revealing the snarling beast that hid within the dead flesh. A cloud of shadowed tentacles fused together with plates of boned armor, acidic liquid of the underworld secreted out between the gaps to taint the undergrowth.

The diabond backed away. The monster tipped a head of rippling shadows toward them, a wide cavity forming a mouth full of foaming liquid and blades of putrefied teeth. Web-like strands of rancid saliva hung between open lips and dribbled down its chin.

“Stay on the diabond.” Zinkx hissed the command at Shanty.

“Wait…no!” Her shout choked in her throat as he shifted, loosening her arms from around his torso.

He pulled his twin blades free from their sheaths with an echoing twang of vibrating metal as he lunged from the saddle. With a crackling of coiled energy the Messenger commanded a bolt of lightning, controlling it with a swing as he hit the contorting shadow and sliced downwards in a swift motion. The lightning danced, cracking like whips as they shattered the air like shards of glass.

Shanty covered her ears as a high-pitched screech of pain echoed throughout the forest. The monster shifted into the light, for a moment reforming into its Human appearance before it disintegrated in the shadows of the trees to expose the vile beast once more. She wanted to wretch in revulsion from the foul odor its rotting flesh exuded. The fumes of burning sulphur emanating from the beast killed the plant life around it as it moved back and forth in what seemed to be some degree of enjoyment.

It roared and swung its inflamed eyes toward the Messenger who waited in the thick undergrowth. He twirled his blades; the metal hummed as they coiled through the air. The beast moved and he leapt, blocking with both blades as a claw lashed at him. The force catapulted him backwards, slamming him into a tree root with a ferocity that reverberated through the ground.

Shanty watched his limp body drop like a heavy sack.

“No…” She froze as the shadowy beast turned its attention her way. The diabond beneath her responded instantly to the threat; it backed up, snarling, as it readied itself to fight. Shanty cowered into the saddle as the shapeless shadow stretched clawed fingers toward her. Its jaw dropped in a lonely howl. Something in its maroon eyes, hollow like the void of death, betrayed visible lust. Her skin went cold as the foul monstrosity leered at her with an all too familiar expression, the eager anticipation of rapine.

The diabond backed away until a large trunk blocked its way. It began to bark madly in warning, splattering magmatic saliva that hissed where it seared vegetation. Shanty screamed as the shadow lunged toward them. She did not see the blow that struck it down. The sword’s movement was far too swift for her tear-filled eyes to witness. The aftermath was a wave of cascading water as a giant liquid blade flowed through the gaping wound it had sliced in the shadowed form. Water sprayed, freezing the monster in place amongst the foliage. Shanty watched in astonishment as the frozen shadow shattered into pieces, scattering and seeping away into the earth as the water melted. Denvy landed firmly beside the diabond.

The forest god held a gleaming blade easily three times her height. The enormous sword was crafted from ever-moving water, curving through the air in waves that continuously iced over as the air touched it. The water swelled around the god, only to be batted aside as the beast flicked a paw through the droplets. He turned to Shanty.

“Sorry, dear.” He tweaked her chin with a giant paw. “I had to deal with another before I got here. Zinkx!”

Shanty squeaked in surprise as the young Messenger dropped back into the saddle from above. She dared not stare at his back nor touch the blood that pooled against the leather of his vest and shirt. The stance he took upon the saddle was pained.

“There are four more, Khwaja. About a mile back. We’ve got minutes before they reach us. Your orders, sir?” The young man’s tone seemed dark.

“Then—” The god dug his sword into the ground. The plants around it iced over from the water it dribbled. “—you shall run. I will stall the Twizels[3] long enough for you and Shanty to get ahead. Hopefully they’ll find me far too much of an appealing playmate that they won’t go after you.”

“Khwaja.” The Human fingered the diabond’s reins and the hound shifted on its large paws with pent up ferocity. “I can’t let you fight four Twizels alone.”

The god snorted, pointing his paw at them. “Zinkx, it is far more important that you find the Key. Do what you are ordered to do. Run, now, from this battle that we cannot win…as you have done many a time…and don’t you dare look back for me!”

“You’ll get yourself captured!”

“Silence you velb-lep[4]!” The ancient beast snarled unexpectedly. “Don’t you disrespect your High General with excuses! I raised you better than that. Obey my orders and move!”

Shanty heard the Human curse under his breath. “Khwaja…please…” he begged softly.

“Zinkx, if you don ’t go now they’ll sense you. Go, run…like a Messenger.

Run and don’t look back.”

“Just don’t die on me, you old man!”

The giant lord gave a deep, gruff laugh, clapping the diabond firmly on its flanks. Shanty clung on as the hound bolted. The glance that the Messenger cast back chilled her to the core. His eyes betrayed a depth of sadness, as if in leaving the god behind, they were leaving him to death. She heard his growl and the twirl of his great blade, the sound of water splattering, the screech of one of the creatures, and then the awful sounds faded as they raced away.

The Human man was weeping.

She could feel his chest contracting with heavy breaths as he forced the diabond to speed its flight. Somehow, she wished her eyes would shed the same tears. The kindly old beast had been as swiftly and ruthlessly torn out of her life as he had entered it. Shanty sunk her chin onto Zinkx’s shoulder. The echo of the great being’s voice was a strange sensation in her ears.

She gave a startled gasp of realization. It was not an echoing memory.

The voice whispered softly in her mind like a lingering thought. Unconsciously she looked behind, her eyes locking with the flickers of the forest god’s haunting gaze even as they vanished with the rush of the diabond’s flight.

Look after him. Please.

The fleeting touch was gone, leaving her devoid of emotion until the weight of what had been asked dawned upon her. Her arms tightened around the Human man she held.

“I will. I promise,” she whispered.

 


 

[1] There are six Elemental Categories for the diabond breed: Water, Fire, Air, Stone, Light, and Shadow

[2] Solar-cycle (sol-cycle) is one Pennadotian-Year, the equivalent of two Earth-Years

[3] First Class of the Dragon’s minions – they must take a host body to exist within the Primary Realm.

[4] Insolent brat!

 

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Key: Book One of Chronicles of the Children on Amazon Kindle and Illustrated Paperback

KEY: Chapter Two

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Chapter Two.jpg

The cycle is for Eternity,

 Eternity is the cycle.

The cycle was broken,

And we wept for Eternity.

Extract from the Song of Sorrows

 

A negative Zaprex darted through the city’s clogged metal boulevards. Despite his crippling age, Borukoshu maneuvered expertly around the large rolling machines that transported Black Fuel to the city’s ancient turbines. His visual circuits scanned the reflective, wavering, polychromatic glow of the force-fields, the inky black water sloshing lethargically against them. The secrets that kept the interlinked shields from collapsing under the weight of the sea above had long been lost. Even he, a Zaprex who had survived the eons since the Sinking of the Cities, had forgotten the songs of appliance communication.

Eerie artificial light smoldered a sickly emerald as it blended with yellow clouds of smog hanging over the vast underwater cities of Cal’pash’coo. Surrounded by the toxic sea, towering iridescent skyscrapers dwarfed tiny scurrying forms far below as the homebound crowd swelled in the tight streets.

The constant presence of the rusted, robotic carts chugging down the slug-riddled under-streets had simply become part of the unchanging environment. Those who dwelt above in the glorious tops of the skyscrapers knew naught of the muck and filth of those who were cast below in the foul network of forgotten alleyways and rusted pipelines.

With brittle fingers, Borukoshu tightened his overcoat around his frail form, protecting himself from the toxic world with the thick leather. The air might have been super-heated but acidic droplets from the air-ventilation for the upper-heights would eat through the green protective film over his fragile metal plating. At his age he could not afford the damage to his cybernetics.

It had been sol-cycles since he had bothered with a robotic upgrade of his systems and long ago he had lost the ability to regenerate philepcon liquid, the life-blood of a Zaprex. He was aging as his body dried out; rust from decay was creeping between his gears and circuits. Yet, oddly enough, unlike the endlessly young and beautiful residents of the crystal skyscrapers, he had discovered the wonder of growing old gracefully. In the journey of aging he had found a last, wonderful adventure in unchartered territory, for aging went against the Zaprex philosophy of eternal existence.

His race had been immortal in the eyes of the world, the gods of information and technology, rulers of time and space. Through songs, their supremacy and omniscience had developed: songs that morphed, reformed, and created with the ever-flowing energy of Livila’s magnetic field. They had named it the Data-Stream, the source of all things with a code, which they had cracked and woven into songs to build a vast empire.

Their gift to the aboriginal inhabitants of Livila had been to save the crumbling planet. For centuries, his race had used its technologies to weld together the fragments of the shattered world, and, with their machines, they had linked not only the lands together but also the many races that dwelled there.

Only the Zaprexes could do such a thing.

Once, they had carried the knowledge. Once, they had sustained the manpower, the strength in billions to stretch their resources to such a massive extent. Yet none of them, blinded by their prominence, had foreseen the awakening of deeply buried horror.

Now, they were only a shadow. A slowly rotting core of atheistic tendencies, for none now believed in the existence of other races or the lands beyond their sunken cities. Their society had become self-obsessed in their endless lives. They had forgotten, in their grief, the cycle in which they had once so fundamentally believed.

Sparks flashed through Borukoshu’s body in painful recollection of the reason he had hidden himself from the aristocratic culture far above. He grasped his bag of supplies to his thin chest. He still believed. Never had he forgotten the cycle, because he had been blessed with a gift.

A child.

Of all the things that could have been their civilization’s greatest weakness, it had been the inability to reproduce that had brought their downfall and the ruin of the world they had loved and protected like faithful wardens.

The aged machine skipped as the high-heels of his spectator boots threatened to dip into the holes of the wire meshing over the road. His long ears balanced him and he twisted, turning down a tight alley and barely avoiding the whirling spin of a robotic cart. He tipped his bowler hat to the driver as he glanced back, the exchange customary between dwellers of the under-levels. Words were very rarely spoken; secrets were easier to keep when one minded one’s own business. Borukoshu trotted down the alley, pausing only when a soft buzz vibrated from the hand-device beneath his coat. In the toxic rain he shuffled about, finding the slim hologram pad.

The lenses of his robotic eyes flickered, zooming in on the alert symbol. The flickering blue hologram swelled with pixels, forming numbers running down in a sequence.

The negative Zaprex hissed. His time was running out.

“Never enough time,” he whispered, and scampered up to the porch of a small apartment squeezed between the giant iron foundations of two colossal skyscrapers. He placed his free hand against the metal of the rusted door and watched as an azure glow scanned his biometrics.

He heard the whirring sound of the door’s mechanisms unlocking. The iron slab ground its way open. A rush of frozen air slapped into the aged cyborg and Borukoshu sighed in relief at the tantalizing chill. He scurried indoors, giving the iron door a boot. It swung shut, locking solidly into place to keep the hot, toxic world outside, and to confine within what needed to be kept safe.

From the upper room of his poky home, a harmonious, sweeping voice lifted in a tantalizing song. He could feel the melody down in the core of his soul. The song was just as familiar as the home he had built. He dropped his bag and slung his hat onto a rack. With a spark his antennaee sprung free, uncurling into the iron-rich air.

It was a rather stagnated dwelling, clean and neat as all Zaprexes characteristically desired a residence to be, but he had tried his best to give it a comfortable homey atmosphere. The floor was cobbled stone, but at least he had found a rug to cover the acid-damaged granite. The upper-floor was made entirely of metal, a frame welded together and fitted into the high domed ceiling to make the additional room.

“Semyueru! Tadaima![1]” Borukoshu called out sharply, voice scratching through his aged metal voice-box.

The singing stopped. There was a loud thump from upstairs that caused his ears to twitch backward as he opened a slot in the wall and shelved his overcoat within. The humming of an anti-gravity drive filled the small abode. Borukoshu twisted on his heels as the tiny hatchling[2] appeared over the upstairs balcony of the sleeping quarters, leaning over the rickety iron railing. A brilliant smile lit up like a gasoline bulb between cheeks still rosy with red blood that had yet to fully integrate into the cybernetic philepcon liquid.

“Biri!” The voice chimed out like a clanging bell.

Borukoshu chuckled at the affectionate abbreviation of his name. Semyueru’s phonological processing had yet to be fully programmed. Hopefully in time—time Borukoshu knew he did not have—Semyueru would grow out of his stuttering. Yet, for now, it was nice to be fondly dubbed a peculiar version of his name, for with it came the memory of his ancient cycle-companion who had suffered the same development issues as their child.

Hazanin.

The aged cyborg dashed aside the tangential thoughts. He had no time to think of Hazanin and the distant past.

Okaerinasai![3] Biri!” Semyueru squawked. He was pixie-sized, as delicate and beautiful as ever a hatchling could be. There was nothing unnaturally striking about the child; his cheeks might have been rounded, his hair a darker shade of raven, but overall he retained the lean humanoid form of a small cyborg, with green liquid skin covering still-forming metal plating. Large round eyes, like bright neon orbs sunk deep in pits of space-black, sparkled with inquisitive glee. The child’s antennae bobbed about freely.

Borukoshu felt his liquid lungs swell, the fleshy appliances inhaling far easier at the sight of the wonderful juvenile tearing down the spiral stairs with arms held high in exuberance.

“Careful down the stairs, Semyueru,” Borukoshu chided, dusting off his brown robe. “Your gown will get hooked in your anti-gravity and you’ll roll all the way down.” He bent; his hip replacement popped, but he ignored the sharp pain and gathered the bag from the floor.

Semyueru’s little form whizzed past, his home-spun gown a blur of blue, his voice a raw mechanical squeal as he skipped and looped through the air in a dance.

Out of millions of Zaprexes who had once lived, their declining society had produced one minute hope; this perfect little fairy was the only hatchling to emerge in centuries. Borukoshu touched a hand to his slender waist, recalling the months he had spent jailed up in his abode bearing the egg that had held his precious gift. Even if no one but he knew that his tiny hatchling existed, at least the Zaprexes had a legacy that would live on to save them.

A fusion child: neither a negative nor a positive Zaprex but both combined. It was a terrible burden for such a tiny creature. The sheer existence of a fusion hatchling went against the principles of the Assembly. No matter how shambled their society had become one ancient belief had been fed into the hard-drives of all Zaprexes; a hatchling would bring the fall of their safe cities.

And oddly enough, this one bleeding concept was the only one that had any truth to it and for this reason he had left the lavish palaces of the upper-levels to protect the only hope of the world—the product of his own programming, his egg, his hatchling, his little Semyueru.

Borukoshu hauled his bag to the main-room table, punching the cooling unit with the toe of his shoe as he passed. With a heave he dumped the contents of his trip to the upper-levels onto the iron table and pulled out the bottles of cold glucose liquid.

His weakened form tipped as he was hit roughly by the speeding Semyueru buzzing around in the air. He chuckled. It was always the same; Semyueru’s smile never seemed to fade. Though it was a joyful sight to witness, his heart never ceased breaking from the overwhelming emotions his cybernetic mind was not programmed for.

His time was running out.

The day of disaster was coming.

“Guess…guess what I..I…learnt…t’day!” Semyueru clutched his elder’s robe, fingers playing with the beads that weighted the fabric.

Picking out two bowls from the bench top Borukoshu flicked the lenses of his eyes downward at the child as he poured the glucose into the bowls.

The child’s eyes were enlarged by giant holographic glasses upon the tip of his nose. The spectacles glittered with moving cryptograms, still scanning data.

“What did you learn today, ne[4]?”

“The land of Pennadot…you…you know…the land with the Star-Kings! It…it once had de…dense gravity but the…the…the Zaprexes came and used machines to change it!”

Borukoshu raised his eyebrows, scooped the child up with one arm, and hooked him onto his bony hip. “I’m guessing you finished the data-pad on gravity-wells then, ne.”

Hai[5]! Hai! Is that dinner?”

“Correct assumption; this is indeed dinner. Did you learn anything else today?”

He considered it one of his main purposes in life to keep Semyueru’s mind filled with data from the long-forgotten archives. There was no telling when the hatchling would need to call upon information to solve a problem, and there would be many problems to solve.

Semyueru blinked, the soft click of his eyelids breaking the silence. “In our database there is information on only ten lands. Why are there so few?”

Borukoshu carried the child over to the small table, set him down in a high-chair, and placed the bowl in front of him. “Others could exist; our data-base has been corrupted over time, but ten is a nice, logical number.” With crippled fingers Borukoshu traced lines upon the table, drawing a holographic map. “Each land is connected by a border—”

“The tectonic plates, I know that…and they…are…falling apart because Livila…lacks a gravitational pull of her own. She is a half-planet and is collapsing into space. Our cities…will fall into the underworld soon… because the Black Sea within…which… we reside… is connected to a border…that has been breaking…a…a…apart.”

Borukoshu gave a sad nod, passing the child a spoon. “Hai, this world is dying…”

The hatchling’s attention was like the switch of a circuit, suddenly centered entirely upon a building rumble in the distance. Semyueru’s long ears twitched rearward. His face lit up as their abode’s dim blue lights fizzed. Through the air a shattering crack echoed as thunder vibrated the iron scaffolding.

“Smog, smog, smog storm! Yay!” With a spark of energy, Semyueru flew from his chair, around the spiral staircase, and up to the second floor with a high-pitched squeal.

Borukoshu laughed softly and scrubbed a hand through his graying hair.

“Guess dinner can wait…” He sighed, pouring his bowl of liquid into a mug and carrying it carefully up the stairs. As he reached the upper-level he noted Semyueru typing a code into a holographic screen over a crystal console. Shelves of data-pads lined the walls of the room, many of which he had saved from ruin on his trips to the upper-levels where the care of history was non-existent.

Semyueru darted away from the hologram and back toward Borukoshu, giving a whirl of delight as he clutched his guardian in glee.

The metal-encased ceiling folded back slowly, the iron blinds rolling away to reveal clear shield-glass and the sight of the expansive network of the glowing upper-levels experiencing the dimming of lights at night-fall.

“I love smog storms!” Semyueru let out a giggled shriek as thunder jolted the foundations of their small home.

Borukoshu snuggled into the cherished embrace, holding Semyueru tightly as lightning danced in the pollution far above and acidic rain clawed at the glass.

A sharp, blinding crack of lightning lit up the dimness and a roll of thunder vibrated the glass and walls to make the world sing. Semyueru bared his fangs, grinning in wonder at the results of the destroyed environmental systems of their cities.

“Biri? Why…why do each of the…lands…have…a…song?” Semyueru whispered. Innocently he looked up at the negative-parent to whom he clung.

Borukoshu settled himself into a swinging anti-gravity chair, Semyueru upon his lap, and brushed the child’s mop of hair aside from his holographic glasses. “The songs of each land speak of their individual splendor.” The elder held out his hand.

Semyueru grasped it with his tinier fingers and the spark between their green skins lit their faces with the passing of energy.

“Each land is unique. Just,” the aged cyborg poked Semyueru’s nose in play, “as each race is unique and each person is unique. Things are not the same twice. Once you understand this you will move mountains, my ko[6].”

“But when…I sing the songs, Biri, something…weird…happens!”

“Your voice is special, Semyueru. Someday…you will understand.”

The negative Zaprex gave a heavy sigh. “I’ve had a long day, how about… you sing me my favorite song, ne?”

Semyueru nodded, his antennae bobbing back and forth, and with an energetic spring he leapt into the air to spin through the emerald glow emanating from the sickly, drab world outside. Borukoshu settled back in exhaustion, loosening each tight metal limb into the weightlessness of the anti-gravity chair.

In the pocket of his robe he felt his hand-device vibrate in alert. Time was running out.

Borukoshu took a deep gulp from his mug. In the background, the song Semyueru sung as he danced in the air soothed the loneliness his soul felt. He studied the lines of the lightning, running in vectors through the yellow smog. They reminded him of the data-ways his people had once networked across the lands above.

Tomorrow’s dawn would be his last.

Time was running out.

The day of disaster was coming.

He sipped his drink in contentment, and smiled.

 


 

[1] I’m back! (home)

[2] Zaprex offspring of the equivalent of approximately ten Human years

[3] Welcome home!

[4] Usually found at the end of a sentence, and similar in meaning to ending an English sentence with “ , yes?”

[5] Yes

[6] child

 

Key: Book One of Chronicles of the Children on Amazon Kindle and Illustrated Paperback

KEY – Chapter One

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There is always a Key to a Door 

You just have to have the resilience to find it

 

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Chapter One.jpg

 

A Messenger does not deliver a message,

Without bearing a sword with which to strike,

A shield to hide behind,

And a friend to lean against…

When both sword and shield have failed.

Messenger Proverb

 

 

Land: Pennadot

High Moons – Sundate 8611DC

 

Zinkx gripped his bow between fingers calloused from welding armaments. The gloves that encased his worn palms squeaked against the wood of the fine weapon. His clothes, though intended for long, hazardous travel, were tatty and dirtied by battle and constant exposure to the elements. Olive-green paint ran in striped patterns over his tanned skin, mimicking the shadows cast by the canopy of the giant trees, their glittering leaves fiddling in the dawn zephyr. The chill of the night still lingered, and he could see his breath fogging before him. His slow inhalation matched the forest’s mesmerizing melody.

Every ounce of his lethal body moved with the forest beneath the twisted roots of the colossal evergreens, damp vegetation nibbled by fungi hiding his Human scent. Twigs nicked at his leather armor and caught in his long damp hair.

The pve’pt[1] he had been pursuing darted past him.

He gave chase, weaving through the mammoth ferns and leaping gracefully over roots. From childhood he had been trained in the art of gravity-control, manipulating the law that bound other creatures. Easily he kept pace with the creature, his feet tapping the moss-covered surfaces over which the animal raced.

Their chase stopped as suddenly as it had begun.

The high-hoofed mammal paused atop a large flattened root. It flicked its long ears, large black eyes observing the shrouded ferns.

Zinkx sunk into the murk, watching as the pve’pt waited. He eased himself forward, his boots leaving imprints in the dampness of the moss. Carefully he shifted his weight, making no sound as he slipped an arrow from the quiver across his shoulders. He raised the bow in line with the hunted animal’s neck. The cool breeze of the morning nipped his fingers as he drew back the bow-string. He took a deep breath, tightened, and fired.

The arrow buried itself in the flesh of a tree.

With a startled leap the pve’pt skittered away into the lifting mist. “Interesting…” A deep voice announced. “You’ve let it live.”

“I see no sense in killing it.” Zinkx lowered his bow. “There is a village half a day’s walk away. If I take the skins we’ve been collecting I can trade them for food.”

“I see.” A golden beast leapt from the blanketing ferns, landing gracefully on its hind legs.

Zinkx glanced at the overbearing form of his Khwaja, Denvy Maz. The creature towered higher than six feet, an average height for male Kattamonts[2]. His feline features had an eerie quality to them that was still disconcerting. Even after sol-cycles of being raised by the aged beast, Zinkx found it somewhat baffling how the Kattamont seemed to switch with unnatural ease between walking upright and his far more natural four-legged state.

“If I trade the skins, the pve’pt can live in freedom another day.”

With humanoid fingers, the Kattamont tugged his shaggy air-gills, draped over his shoulders like a crowning tousled mane. “Its freedom will be short lived…and your compassion will come to naught.” In the sunlight, graying hairs could be seen throughout the creature’s fur, his tangled beard glistening with silver beads.

“Allow me to trade the skins, Khwaja. What harm is there in this?” Spreading his hands, Zinkx implored.

A deep bass chuckle purred from the beast. He tilted his head to one side, folding broad arms together pensively.

“All right, Zinkx, you may do as you wish. I warn you though…” He turned, blending into the shadows. His long tail flicked through the undergrowth, fan-tip alight with ignited freckles illuminating radiant patterns through golden fur. “You’ve been away from Pennadot for many long sol-cycles. Customs could have changed.”

“I’ll be careful,” Zinkx called back.

The old lion smirked. “I fear that word isn’t in your vocabulary, my aiv’a[3].”

 

Chapter Break1.jpg

Brightly colored prayer flags fluttered between the tightly clustered thatch-roofed houses. The Pulza region of Pennadot was a vast forest province, back-dropped by smudges of gray mountains. Since the dawn of Human memory Pennadot had been guarded by a circumference of highlands known as the Ovin-tu. The beastly-shaped pinnacles were the silver crown for the mammoth land of rolling plains and carpeted forests. Zinkx breathed deeply the air of his birth-land, its sweet taste a marvelous change to the toxic fumes that swamped the Trenches of War[4] he had been raised in. Eight months he had travelled, ordered by his superiors to leave the House of Flames. The Dreamathics Who Dreamed had said the Key could be found in Pennadot. Now he and his Khwaja wandered the ruins of long forgotten technologies in search of the illusive object that would aid in turning the tide of their war and mayhap even save the lands of Livila.

His dreams were haunted by the rumbles of distant thunder, the cries of the earth as the borders between lands were gradually torn asunder. A magnetic pull had once kept the Northlands welded together in the vague hope that as one continent they would be enough to create a physical spin. The continuous rotation was needed to sustain the existence of life upon Livila. He understood little of the incomprehensible technical analysis of the situation, indeed, he doubted anyone truthfully did. Undeniably, though, he knew that the world was dying.

Part of him missed war, the addictive adrenalin of battle and the companionship with his brethren. Beyond the Ovin-tu Mountains a battle was being waged, played daily like a game of gods. Pennadot had been safe, its people left to grow ignorant of the suffering war brought. Yet one could almost feel it in the air; the time of peace was slowly ending. The Overlord of the Dragon was gaining political power, manipulating events within Pennadot. Refugees were secretly being sent over the Ovin-tu alps to be processed into the Dragon’s armies.

He had his appointed task.

Even if no one knew what it was, or whether it was a tangible object, he had to find the Key before the Dragon and his minions did. If they gained control of the technology it would allow the terrible creature to spread his dominion over all the Lands of Livila, and there would be no hope.

Zinkx slid his hands into the pockets of his hip-bags as he joined the caravans and traders moving toward the opening gates of the village ahead. Sodden walls had been carved out of mangled roots surrounding the perimeter of the town. Trees grew to unimaginable heights and breadths in Pennadot, due to its low gravity and thin atmosphere, creating a world within a world, Human civilization was lost in the enormity. Yet, Humans and their internal drive for conquest had penetrated the mammoth forest with sheer determination.

He glanced around, admiring the work that had been achieved by hands alone; Humans had an inability to admit defeat. Streets had been crafted into thick roots, leading to small pockets of houses and market areas.

Color was abundant, the village bright and festive as he strolled into the welcoming hubbub of an established trading network.

Through large fungi sprouting between lavishly decorated stalls naked Kelib children, their green-skinned bodies painted in tribal oils of reds and yellows, darted after glittering sky-dragon kites. He had missed the sound of laughter; in the Trenches they were too deeply engaged in a war to find time to laugh, but here the children could squeal with glee. There was no fear of a death doomed upon them; unlike the children of his homeland who grew up knowing that their conscription into the armies would lead to dying young.

Zinkx scrubbed at his bristled chin and looked up toward the more obviously Human stone dwellings. Far up the twisted roots that twirled around each other in a spiral of roads, the sturdy castle of the region’s province lord loomed over the smaller, muddier homes of the Kelibs.

While Humans stood out like weeds, the aboriginal Kelibs naturally blended with Pennadot’s rich colors, their emerald skin and woven clothes mimicking the hues of their vast land. Though Kelibs were humanoid, they were shorter and stockier than Humans, yet far stronger. Their stalwartness stemmed from the naturally occurring high density within their skeletons, their near unbreakable bones often used in clan weapons after death. Effectively Kelibs were heavier in Pennadot’s weak gravity; unlike Humans they walked without a spring to their steps. They were a race of warriors, their Nine Clans in a constant state of war.

It was rare to see Kelib women in village life, yet he glimpsed a few wandering in their robes of threaded gold. Prized for their beauty, yet herded like cattle, Kelib females were a sad example of repression amongst the proud race. They were born for breeding, kept for their milk, and sold as prostituted slaves. It was distasteful to know they were considered no more intelligent than a mere animal.

He turned away. It was impossible to change a society deeply steeped in its beliefs and values. For now, the society worked, and it kept itself from civil war, even if peace had a price. He should not complain. It was, after all, still peace.

Bartering was a subtle skill, and Zinkx, being a commander of war used to bellowing out orders over a battlefield, found his communication skills rusty. The Kelib men behind the stalls gave him strange looks and refused his skins, despite their high quality. Dishearteningly he approached the final booth amongst the markets. He gave a warm smile to the young Kelib boy behind the counter and placed the cleaned skins upon the wooden surface. The boy blinked at him then gave a sudden wave and shout of alarm.

Zinkx froze as he felt a bag cast over his head, and his twin blades pulled from their straps. He went slack at the angry voices despite his body raring to move in swift, practiced action. He dared not cause a scene in the middle of the village; it would draw unwanted attention and possible deaths of civilians. Pain exploded in the back of his head as a swift blow brought him to his knees. He felt blood trickling down his neck and he cursed inwardly as his arms were bound from behind and he was dragged by the ropes along the muddied road. He heard Human voices, speaking Human tongue, and he could only presume that he was under arrest.

Typical.

His Khwaja always had to have the last laugh.

With ruthless vigor he was dragged through the village. Slowly he sensed a change. No longer was he outdoors but within the solid walls of the wealthier Human dwellings. Two men hauled him down into underground cellars that smelt of rich wines. A door was unbolted, and the bag ripped from his head as he was thrown into a dark cell. He slid over the sodden ground. Laughter sounded from outside as the door was slammed shut.

“The Lord will deal with you later.”

Groaning, Zinkx rolled in a puddle of foul water. “Wait…” He pounded the pad of his boot upon the metal door. “What did I do wrong?”

A roar of amusement made him cringe.

“No one hunts on the Lord’s lands, boy!”

“Should have seen that one coming,” Zinkx muttered. He pealed himself off the grime-encrusted stones. His skin burned as he brushed dirt from the bloody abrasions where the ground had shredded his threadbare clothes. He sat up gingerly, pressing his back against the surface of the damp wall. Slowly his racing heartbeat calmed, allowing the dizziness from the influx of blood to drift away.

The air was muggy, the cell clearly one that was rarely aired out. As his eyes adjusted, small phosphorescent fungi became visible in patterns across the walls. He focused on them, grateful for the meager light. It was the silence, though, that revealed just how far underground he had been carried, the layers of dirt and limestone causing an eerie sensation of lifelessness.

But he was not alone. In the stillness he noticed the fluttering of wings. A tiny flying pin-lizard whizzed past his nose and he watched it dart away. The little creatures that infested the forests were clustering around something in the darkness of the cell. Their brightly glowing wings made a faint halo around a figure. The pin-lizards were drawn to the salty sweat and blood of whomever the poor soul was.

The figure’s ribs were cracked, he realized, hearing breathing that was pained and shallow. It reminded him of a traumatized child he had once found, long ago. He gave a sharp breath as the pin-lizards’ glow brightened, giving him more than a shadow.

He caught a glimpse of her.

She sat, bound to a stake rising from the floor; her robust arms raised high above her head. Her long black hair, with blue strands that coruscated in the light from the pin-lizards, was tangled and matted. Someone had ruthlessly beaten her. The coppery scent of her blood was in the air. He could see the red gleam of it on her naked green skin. The pin lizards’ were nibbling at the fresh liquid.

“Kelib…” he whispered, and she cringed at the sound.

She let out a whimper, yet, despite her obvious fear, she glared at him in stark defiance.

Zinkx clicked his tongue, stumbling over the Kelib native language. It was rough and rubbery on his lips instead of smooth and slick like Human dialect.

“I won’t hurt you.”

“Liar,” she hissed back. “And you dirty your tongue with my foul language, Human.”

“Your language is not foul.” Zinkx managed the sentence with slow ease, “Just difficult to manage. I haven’t spoken it in a while, that is all.”

He gave a small bow of his head in the customary greeting of the region. “I am Zuksk[5].”

She raised an eyebrow at the oddity of his name. In Kelib tongue it sounded muddled but it was the best he could provide.

Shan’ta’lee[6] Shir-Hara of the Eighth Clan.”

“Shanty…Eighth Clan.” Zinkx repeated slowly. He eased away from the wall. Of the Nine major clans of Kelibs spread over Pennadot’s Human provinces, the Eighth was the largest and produced the best quality female Kelibs in their Breeding Farms[7]. They were usually prized highly in the markets, and treated with care for fear of damaging their beauty and productivity.

So why had one been savagely beaten and locked deep underground? Zinkx watched a tear trickle down her cheek. The glow of the blue strands of hair reflected off bruises and wounds now carved into her strong features. Even in the dim light he could sense that the strength that had kept her alive was beginning to wane.

“I have prayed to the gods for another to join me in my solitude. Yet I find you, Human,” she scoffed. “They have not answered me.”

“No, wooden gods usually don’t…” Zinkx muttered, looking down at the chains around his wrists with some disdain. “Still, I think a deity has heard your prayers.” He shuffled over the muddy stones toward her. The closer he crawled, the worse she appeared in the muted light. His throat dried at the sight of her mangled body. Such beauty in heavily-boned limbs and silken, emerald skin, long beaten into submission. Cuts lined her inner thighs and ran up her arms, joining tattoos engraved into the flesh with poisonous ink that shined in the darkness to display her as someone’s property. Up close, the sheen of the ink was breathtaking, enhancing her curved form with the twists and twirls that enveloped her entire form.

“Do you want to get out of here?” he asked.

She curled her upper lip. “Aye, but why should you care? You are Human and Humans have no care for Kelibs.”

Zinkx struggled to his feet. “Yes, it would appear that way to you. You’re right. Most Humans don’t care, but I’m not from around these parts. Things are different for me, and no one, Human or Kelib, should be tied up in the position you are in now. Let me help you.”

She snorted derisively. “I was cursed with this body. If I had been born thin and sickly like a Human female, mayhap I’d have been better off.”

“Maybe so.” Zinkx came to stand directly in front of her. For a moment fear shone in her eyes. He turned away from the haunted expression. “But you weren’t born Human. You are Kelib and you should not be ashamed of that. Here—” he lifted onto his toes. “Can you reach into the back of my pants? There should be a small pouch in there. I can’t grab it with my hands chained.”

He heard her sigh bitterly and he flinched as her hands began searching. Her fingers smeared his skin, cool with the blood that stained them. She yanked on a belt and pulled a tiny leather box free, dropping it on the ground.

Zinkx knelt beside it. “See, that wasn’t hard, was it?”

She snorted again, watching acutely as he opened the small pouch and slipped out a tiny silver stick. Carefully Zinkx pressed a slim switch on the side of the device. A heated beam of light flared to life, burning through the chains connected to his shackles. They fell apart, clanking to the floor. He sighed and rubbed his raw wrists.

“What is that thing?” Shanty inquired softly. Zinkx could see her curiosity piquing at the odd revelation of something new.

“A match-stick.” He waved it in the air. “Old piece of technology left over by a very ancient and talented race. Here, let me get your chains.” He stood over her. The air filled with the scent of phosphorus until finally the chains gave way. The Kelib woman collapsed in a heap. She lay, panting heavily as life returned to her abused limbs. Crouching beside her, Zinkx reached out, cupping her cheeks in his worn hands and smiling slightly as her large hazel eyes sought his briefly before looking away.

His smile faded. “Come with me. I can get you out of here.”

“Go with a Human male? I should not even be looking upon you nor speaking with you.”

“If you don’t want to look at my hideous face, then don’t. But if you remain here, you will die, and it would be a sure shame for that to happen.”

She seemed to hesitate, and then turned, looking directly up into his face, as if searching for something within his features to grasp hold of. He gave her a forced smile, and slowly the sides of her puffed lips twitched, her eyes shadowing in relief.

She nodded.

He reached out, taking up her hands, aiding her in standing. She staggered in pain.

“Your feet…” Zinkx glanced down in concern. He should have realized that the soles had been worn raw from torture.

The Kelib woman’s chin lifted in a defiant gesture. “They are fine.”

With one arm enfolding her sturdy waist, Zinkx led her to the iron door and rested her against the wall beside it.

“Give me a few minutes,” he whispered, pulling out the stick device and igniting it. It flared, becoming brighter as he held it to the steel of the door, pointing it to the hinge on the other side. It broke through the metal with a snap. He kneeled and applied it to the last hinge through the gap, cursing when it died away with a little whine only half way through. He opened the tiny box where it had been kept and cussed.

“That was my last one.” He searched for a new tool and pulled out a thin tube of faintly glowing liquid. He carefully tugged off the cap, and the air of the cell began to fill with a fetid stench. With a thin piece of wood he began to apply the liquid to the door. As the two came in contact, the corroding metal began to dissolve, hissing softly. The intense smell increased, until it ate at the tender flesh of his nose.

“Tell me if you see someone coming,” he muttered.

The Kelib woman nodded. She stood on her toes and peered out through the five small bars of the iron door.

“Who are you?” Her voice sounded raw and Zinkx glanced up at her.

She was rubbing at her throat. “Zinkx Maz.”

“No, I mean, who are you to have such knowledge and such tools? Why did they not take them from you?”

Zinkx paused, sitting back on his heels. “The guards took my hip-bags and my swords, but they did not strip me naked. You should always strip your prisoner. Not that it would have been a particularly pretty sight for you if they had.” The note of humor was small in his dark tone as he tried to ease the tension.

The woman seemed not to notice. “Tell me who you are.”

“Would you believe me if I did?”

“I am a Kelib woman; we are not stupid, despite what is said.”

“I wasn’t implying that you were.” Zinkx peered at her again. “I’m a Messenger.”

Her mouth opened but no words formed. Zinkx shrugged, looking back at the dissolving metal he was finally managing to penetrate.

He could feel her staring at him. He had heard some of the tales the travelling bards told of Messengers; fabricated ballads about murderous warriors, merciless and bloodthirsty in battle. Children would be scared to bed with such silly stories. For generations they had been considered myths and nothing more. Did she think him a cruel fiend from a story heard in her childhood?

“I don’t believe you.”

He grinned.

“Told you so.” He clicked his tongue as the metal hole he worked on gave way, cracking the hinge on the other side of the door with a soft snap. He stood with a slight groan of discomfort and returned the small pouch to the pocket in the back of his pants.

Then he leaned on the door and gave a heave, grunting as his boots skidded on the slimy floor. Slowly the door shifted, sliding gradually open. Light streamed into the dark cell.

“Think you can get through that?” He motioned at the small gap.

Shanty nodded. Zinkx slid his way through the opening and took her hand to help her through. Finally, in the full light of the tree-tar lanterns, he was given a clearer view of her, and she too turned toward him curiously. For a moment, they both stood in the corridor, staring at each other in slight astonishment.

Like all Kelibs, she barely reached his shoulders. She was forced to look up to his face and, from her gaze, she was obviously fascinated by his pale blue eyes. Despite her small stature, she managed to appear tall and aloof with her fierce, wild glare. The length of her inky hair trailed down her back and tumbled on the ground. He had to hitch his breath to keep his dismay from showing at the devastation done to her stocky limbs. Blood had caked itself over her skin, gluing together older wounds that were beginning to heal skewed. She barely seemed to notice the pin-lizards still pecking at the blood.

Her brow furrowed.

“You…you paint yourself green?” She whispered in awe and Zinkx touched his cheeks, feeling the war paint he had forgotten about. It was little wonder that she was staring. His wild, knotted, ebony hair and unshaven face painted to camouflage himself must have appeared rather beastly to her.

He shrugged. “It’s easier to hunt in the forests if you don’t stand out.”

“What color are you really?” A hint of interest was evident in her tone.

She stepped forward, wincing, as if trying to bridge the gap to touch his strange alien skin.

“Kind of brownish…like my…breed…ah…please tell me you’ve seen a Human before, right?”

Her stare was unnerving; she seemed to be studying every inch of him. “You do not look like the Humans I have seen. Your nose is wrong and your color is too light.”

Zinkx frowned, touching his nose self-consciously. “I am of the colored northern breed, a Wynnila. You would know the Soatrins; they live in the forests…”

“There are other kinds of Humans? How is that possible?”

Zinkx sighed heavily, his breath puffing back his bangs. “Okay…well, maybe we could have this…conversation later…at a more…appropriate time.”

“But you must see now what I am. You still wish to aid me?” Her hands gestured at her near naked form under the bloodied rags she wore. For a moment he made a movement to respond, then stopped midway and shook his head. He turned his gaze away from the woman bathed in lantern-light that revealed how every curve of her stout frame had been broken and beaten into false submission.

“Come on,” he finally tugged her hand, ignoring her question. “Let’s go. Stay close to me. If I tell you to drop, drop on the spot.”

He rushed her through the corridors, pausing when they reached a stairway leading from the dungeons into the castle’s upper wards. He breathed deeply as he listened.

“Two guards,” he hissed softly into Shanty’s ear, “Human, armored in…leather, not chain-mail…that’s interesting, must not be getting the funds for a blacksmith.”

“How do you know that?”

“Leather makes an odd sound when you move.” He crept back a few paces. “I need my swords. I won’t be able to deal with them with you in tow. One could grab you…ah, this way.” He turned, pulling her down another passageway. A door stood ajar between twisted roots. From within he could hear the sound of shuffling. He paused in the dim light and peered into the room, taking note of the weapons hanging on the walls and lining the tables. A Human man was polishing spear heads and smoking a stick wedged between his lips.

“Stay here,” Zinkx whispered.

He burst through the door and manipulated the gravity surrounding him with a mental command, using the momentum to sweep himself inwards, running swiftly up the wall with astounding speed. The guard’s mouth opened to call out and Zinkx lunged, smashing down upon him. With a twist he cracked the man’s neck and dropped his body onto the floor. He spun through the room and grabbed his hip-bags, reattaching the belts strapping his twin blades across his shoulders. Shanty stood at the threshold, eyes upon the slain guard. Zinkx grasped her hand and dragged her back to the winding staircase leading out of the sunken dungeons.

The walls morphed from slugged mud to solid limestone as they climbed, set together with nothing by the physical weight of the perfectly aligned bricks. Zinkx pressed Shanty against the smooth wall, one finger against his lips.

Cautiously, he released one of his thin blades, marking the passing of the soldiers he had heard. He could feel Shanty’s eyes on the weapon. He doubted she had ever seen such an elegantly crafted sword, for the smithing of birth elemental weaponry had been outlawed in Pennadot centuries ago. He was sure that, to her, the slender blade would have seemed something out of a myth.

He sent a spark of lightning gliding down the sword to puff at the tip as it met air.

“How do you expect us to escape?” Shanty whispered. “You can’t kill everyone. You are but one man.”

“Slaughter is not my approach here.”

“Then how do we escape, Human?”

Zinkx ignored her jibing. “Just stay close to me.” He twirled his blade expertly as he ran free of the stairwell, taking care to slow his pace enough to allow the injured Shanty to keep up with him. They burst into a hall that gleamed in the sunlight filtering in through long windows.

The two Human soldiers standing alert at either side of the doorway gave startled shouts at their sudden appearance, and grabbed for swords at their hips. Zinkx spun on his heel, pushing Shanty behind him as he curled his blade in a loop and thrust it into the marble flooring as though it was nothing more than clay. The leverage hoisted him into the air and he swung both legs upward and into a split, spinning in mid-flight. The iron soles of his boots shattered the skulls of the soldiers.

They collapsed into unconscious piles of arms and legs. Zinkx somersaulted, landed upright, and snatched his sword from the floor, the metal twanging. He grabbed Shanty’s hand and pulled her onward, winding his way around alabaster pillars holding up high ceilings.

“Move, come on!”

The sound of pursuit echoed through the castle’s halls. Zinkx threw aside anything in their path to block their pursuers. He navigated up a flight of stairs, his hand strengthening around hers in reassurance as she lagged.

“Just a bit further,” he added breathlessly. His feet, though booted with heavy iron on their soles, barely touched the surface of the cool marble. Shanty was slowing him, her weight keeping him grounded, and he could only imagine what she thought of their current pace. He doubted she realized that he was controlling her gravity as well as his own to speed their escape.

They turned a corner and Zinkx jolted to a sudden stop. Shanty thudded into his back, sending his far lighter body stumbling forward.

He missed the sweep of a guard’s sword by a hair’s breadth. Shanty’s lips spread into a cry as she was snagged by her hair. The guard sneered as his blade came down again in a heavy swing.

Ca vanka,” Zinkx shouted the curse.

Swiftly he dashed before the blow of the sword. His twin blades collided with the broader weapon with a shattering resonance. Zinkx twisted his full body. His twin blades slid up the enemy’s sword as he lashed out with a foot. The momentum of the thrust landed squarely in the heavily-armored man’s stomach and he tumbled down. His sword remained upright; its tip sliced across Zinkx’s unprotected back.

Shanty cowered as Zinkx’s face contorted in pain. A pulse rippled through him, like a sudden boiling of his blood, and his movements were no longer his own. He turned to the fallen man and dealt a blow through his plated leather armor. He slid the limp body off his blades, kicked the man to one side, and heaved open the doors to the hall beyond.

“Get in, now!” he barked.

Shanty obeyed. He slammed the bars down on the doors and shoved a desk in front of it. He paused, panting, feeling blood trickle down his back. He could see the red trail he was leaving on the luscious woolen rug as he moved around the ornate room.

“Human…” Shanty clutched her hands together as Zinkx returned to the desk and flicked through the files he found there. “You just saved my life.”

He glanced up.

She was looking directly at his eyes, as though seeing someone new in them. Quickly he scrubbed his thumbs into the sockets, trying to wipe whatever she saw away. He forced a reassuring smile.

“I took a life in return for yours.” He gathered a stack of papers, stuffing them into his hip-bags.

“What are you doing?” Shanty winced as a loud crash sounded against the door, followed by angry voices, the province soldiers finally alerted to their escape.

“These are files on refugees. I’m taking information that could be useful in my search.” Zinkx scanned the room and grabbed a robe hanging on a wall rack. He threw it to Shanty.

“Put it on. Can’t have you running around near bare. If we get back to camp, I’m sure my Khwaja can dream you up more clothing.”

“What is a Khwaja?” She slipped into the garment, watching Zinkx stalk the room.

“Khwaja.” He clicked his tongue, searching for the Kelib equivalent. “Means teacher, or lord.” He waved a hand in frustration. “Or father? I don’t know the Kelib equivalent. He is my master.”

A thundering crack echoed in the hall as the wood of the door shattered under the force of something hammering against it. Zinkx picked up a paper weight and threw it at the hall’s massive window. Glass rained around him, and for a moment the illusion that his skin shone like molten gold reflected within the sparkling shards.

He turned and held out a hand to Shanty. “Do you trust me?”

“No.”

“Well, I suppose that doesn’t matter. I don’t trust me either.” He gave a wiry grin as he hooked an arm around her waist. He lifted her heavier form with ease and bounded onto the ledge of the window. Shanty gasped as he bent and leapt.

No scream escaped the Kelib woman’s mouth as they sailed downward toward a tiled roof. Zinkx’s legs struck it first and he twisted, catching her weight with his own as the surface cracked. Shanty clutched at him as he ran up the tiles. He felt her bury her face into the curve of his neck and he tightened his grip on her.

A soft grunt escaped his lips as they landed, awkwardly, within the outer ward of the castle. Like walls the colossal roots of the evergreens surrounded them.

Shanty slid from his arms, pointing toward a pile of hay. “We need to reach the stables. The soldiers will find us.”

“Good point.” He seized her hand and pulled her across the courtyard. Shouts echoed from above. Zinkx glanced up at the windows of the castle; he gave Shanty a heavy shove into the stables as a multitude of arrows rained down. Horses reared high in their stalls in sudden fright at the battering of noise and their abrupt appearance. Zinkx pushed open the separate stalls, shouting at the horses and stirring them into a frenzy as they rushed from their shelter. Shanty cowered against a wall as the steeds cantered into the outer ward, the commotion that was already afire outside amplified as voices and the sound of stampeding hooves echoed off the stone compound.

The scattering of arrows stopped. The guards could not fire on their own animals; horses were far more valuable than escapees.

“Wait!” she cried as the last horse made for the stable door. “Take that horse!”

Zinkx bellowed back to her, “No, a horse would get tangled in the forest. We need a diabond[8]!” He rushed down the corridor of the stable.

He shoved open the door to the last stall, revealing a caged booth, the beast within asleep on a mat of hay. Its silky coat of melded gray and white gleamed with the motion of its deep breathing.

Fingers to his lips, Zinkx whistled loudly. The creature jerked awake, snarling aggressively. It leapt up, wolf-like in its elegance, a shimmer of flames glistening down its mane.

Zinkx stared into its keen red eyes; they studied his every movement, alive with intelligence. The language of animals was not something he had studied religiously, but what little he knew would hopefully gain him the trust of the magnificent creature. Lowering his tone Zinkx began to growl from the depths of his throat until the large hound whimpered and backed up.

“Let us ride you.” He held out a hand. “Let me set you free.”

It crouched against the hay, lowering itself in permission. Zinkx stepped forward and hoisted himself onto the curve of its back. He felt its muscles loosen as it rose and bounded out of the stall. Shanty gave a cry at the sudden emergence of the beast.

Zinkx grabbed her hand, pulling her before him onto the creatures back. He wrapped one arm firmly around her, gripping the mane of the diabond with his other hand. He felt the creature’s adrenalin as it leapt out of the stables into the outer ward of the castle grounds.

“We’re going bare back?” Shanty wailed.

All around them shouts of astonishment reverberated. The clanging of swords and shields resonated from all sides. The chaos swelled like a symphony and Zinkx could not help but let out a facetious laugh. Shanty twisted to look up into his face. He barely registered the terror of realization in her features as the familiar thrill of combat engulfed him. All the evidence she needed to see that he had spoken the truth reflected in his eyes.

He was a Messenger. He was real.

 


 

[1] Pve’pt [pahy–pit]: Pennadotian animal, killed for its meat, pelt, and stone-like bones.

[2] A desert dwelling race that live over the northern border of Pennadot in the land of Utillia. Very little is known of their nomadic kind, but they are said to be both man and beast, pertaining to their ability to both be bipedal and quadruped.

[3] An affectionate word used for a Human by any other race, a translation of it in Basic is ‘alien one’.

[4] Often referred to as the ‘Trenches’ or ‘Trenches of War’ – used to describe the battlegrounds between the Messengers’ and the Dragon’s armies.

[5] A direct translation of Zinkx’s name in Kelib tongue is Zuksk, meaning ‘boy-clad-in-iron’. In Human tongue Zinkx means ‘ironclad son’.

[6] Name meaning ‘Sun-through-trees’ in Kelib.

[7] Also referred to as ‘Clan House’ or ‘Family Hall’. The place where female Kelibs raise the young in mass numbers, separating males from females.

[8] A hound used instead of a horse by many of the higher class due to their elemental shifting and ability to move though the dense forest regions of Pennadot. Acutely intelligent, a diabond will form an attachment to its master if treated well, and will protect whom its master wishes upon command.

 

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Key: Book One of Chronicles of the Children on Amazon Kindle and Illustrated Paperback

KEY – Prologue

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By
Kylie Leane

 

Mum and Dad

You have always provided me with unconditional love, care and ever-available support.

You are my Towers.

Thank you for giving me the resilience to survive through my pain

and the belief that there are some dreams that are

worth chasing, stories worth telling, and love worth giving.

 

 

 

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We all start out on a road thinking we know the path sure and true –

But, I tell you now, we cannot possibly fathom the twists and turns in which our story shall go.

Instead, the Great Inker of the skies beyond writes our ever-flowing saga with celestial dust to spin us ever onward through life.

Though we may lose and we may gain,

there is never a thread left unwoven or a reason left unknown in any tale that is told.

I say unto you fellow wayfarers of well-worn paths, take up your pack, your blade, your cloak,

and lantern for there is darkness ahead.

You will need your light to guide you,

your pack to feed you, your blade to protect you, and your cloak to warm you along this tale.

It is customary in Pennadot when a traveler leaves a way-side inn

to speak blessings to the Sun by the resident

altar and wash hands in the liquid gold by the door.

So here I give you a blessing to send you on your way, dear friend:

May the blazing Sun always shine behind you,

May the wind blow westward for you,

And may the stars dance your road to light the way homeward,

So shall the fair and bliss favor you,

O traveler of myths, legends, and tales.

Fear not the blood, the tears of sorrow,

For a narrow road that is lonely and fraught with despair,

Will bring you to a City laden with Gold.

Sun-Saint Abl’ayn – Sundate 0298DC

 

 

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There is nothing that is greater in valor than to die in the place of another.

Pennadotian Human Proverb

 

Land: Pennadot

Black Day – Sundate 8600DC[1]

A vibrating twang of blades, mixed with the cries of death, spurred three children onward through the russet gloom of the golden Palace crested upon a hill. Fear of being caught up amongst the bloody battle forced strength into their exhausted limbs. Twisted shadows flickered between massive pillars that reached like claws to the high ceilings. David pulled his sobbing twin by the wrist. A dagger hung loose in his free hand, dribbling the blood of those he had slain over the floor in a scattered trail behind them.

A haze of yellow light, dancing with the glow of distant flames, shone through the colossal windows, burning the shadows like inked prints into the walls. In the valley below the Palace, the vast metropolis smoldered. Ash held a blanket over the evening, lavishing the glass, and seeping between cracks to gain entrance into the holy untainted grounds.

A soft tinkling sound reached his ears; a jingle of royal gold chimed in time with the sound of footfalls echoing through the alabaster halls.

Daniel hiccupped a sob.

David spun, pressing his hand against his twin’s mouth.

He glanced at the small girl staring at him in fright. She seemed as delicately perfect and breakable as a porcelain doll, with skin and hair ashen white. He thrust his twin into her arms, mouthing the words, “Citla, silence him.”

The girl scurried to obey as David led them further down the hall, out of earshot, slowing his pace to allow Citla a moment to comfort the weeping Daniel.

Tsk valai[2].” With a twist of his wrist David pointed his blade at his brother. “By the Sun, be silent! Or do you wish me to kill again? No one can see us leave, do you hear me? No one. I will kill whomever notices us. Now be silent…” A flare of pain caught him in the chest, the potency of it causing him to stagger forward as he rasped a gurgling cough. He tasted blood in his mouth and felt it trickle out of his lips.

With a cry, Daniel scrambled to his side.

“David, stop! You are pushing yourself too hard. Your illness will hurt you more.”

Tsk.” David pressed Daniel back into Citla’s arms. “We must hurry.” He wiped the blood away.

He shoved them both forward. “Move!”

They ran deeper into the Palace’s twisting corridors.

David ignored the burning in his chest; each breath challenging his rotting lungs.

It was all too late; the wheels of war were spinning. By now he was sure his father, the Sovereign King, would be engaged in battle with Zilon, Steward to the Throne.

He knew already who would win: Zilon the Steward, their once trusted uncle and the King’s right hand. Only, why was he taking such lengths to destroy Pennadot in a single, crushing night of mayhem and treachery? His attention shifted, and he skidded to a halt. He grabbed Daniel and Citla and pushed them behind him in protection. Thick shadows curled like tentacles across the floor. A tall figure stepped free of the blackened waves, dashing them to one side as though they were dust. David relaxed as a gentle voice spoke. “Milord Prince…”

“Chans.” The young prince replied with a nod.

The creature wandered forward on elongated legs. Large foot-claws, shaped in a horse-like curvature, tapped upon the marble floor. Around the slender ankles a shredded robe dragged, tainted with the filth of battle. Chans was elegantly graceful, standing with an air of superior breeding. Large black, leathery wings folded against his back, yet to lose all their childhood feathers, but already large enough for the young Batitic to cocoon safely within. His thin, slanted eyes shone cinder red. David felt them boring into him, spying the blood that stained his shirt and hands. He wrinkled his nose. The Batitic exuded the odor of blood conduction, a sickly magical stench akin to a poisonous sweat.

“You managed to get Skyeola?” David whispered in hope for the infant he had feared they would lose to the war.

Chans inclined his head, extending one wing to reveal a basket tied to his waist. Within, a babe slept a magically-induced sleep. “I would not leave my little brother in this mess,” he whispered fondly. His bestial appearance seemed more like a tender lioness as he glanced toward the purring nursling. Carefully he closed his wings to hide the precious bundle.

“I did as you asked, Milord.” The Batitic threw a bag to David.

The prince caught it and peered into it, nodding at the contents. “Thank you. Now, you must take Daniel and Citla.” Motioning to the two behind him he paused, coughing up more blood.

Daniel stepped forward in concern. Citla’s hand caught him. With the hem of his shirt David wiped blood from his chin.

“Take them out of the Palace. A group of Papa’s faithful paladins will meet you in the underground passages.” He felt the rasp in his voice and fought to keep his words a firm, sharp order that were not to be disobeyed. They were a clear display of his authority as a child of the starblood.

Chans bowed in acknowledgement. “I will do as you command, Milord Prince.”

Quickly David stripped out of his ruined clothing and changed into a fresh outfit pulled from the sack, suppressing the feeling that this might be the last time he would ever see his brother. He could see the confusion in Daniel’s eyes as Citla tugged him toward Chans.

“You had best hurry.” Chans shifted on his foot-claws uneasily. “My father is in the Ljotruaithne[3]. The province lords will break through the Palace doors at any moment. They will kill you if they find you here.”

David snorted. “Such is the plan.” He buckled the royal jewels around his neck, their weight all too familiar.

“Wait…” Daniel whimpered. “Those are my clothes…that…that is my crown.” He grabbed David’s bloodied hands, stalling him from placing the golden leafy circlet atop his own head.

Tsk, Daniel.” David glared at his brother. “The province lords want you dead. You are the last heir to the Emerald Throne and of the starblood. To gain rulership over Pennadot they must kill you. Someone has to die today, and since I am already dying it matters not if it is me.” His voice broke for a moment as his twin’s green eyes overflowed with tears.

Daniel’s grasp slackened, releasing his brother’s arms as he stepped back, shaking his head. “You are pretending to be me…to trick them…”

David turned slowly. He had clothed himself in royal attire, displayed as a being to be worshiped in the glory of the starblood that burned in his veins, his skin lambent with cosmic light.

“That is why we were born identical, Daniel, in every detail. That is why I was never exposed, why Papa never revealed that I existed.” With more maturity than he had ever shown as a child, David reached out. Gently, he gripped his brother’s cheeks and kissed him, wanting nothing more than to remain with him.

“I was born,” he choked back blood, “so that you could live and I…I was given this illness…so that I could die for you. Pennadot must have an heir after this night. Zilon and the province lords will lose if I do this! Papa will not die in vain.”

Daniel jerked to one side. “No…no… no…no!” he screeched. “I will not let you! I order you to stop and come with us!”

“It is too late.” David smiled weakly. “This is bigger than us. It always has been.” He shoved Daniel into Chans’ strong claws. The young Batitic grabbed the prince by the shoulder, ignoring his protests.

David glanced at Citla. In her frilly black dress she was the perfect little toy of the courts. Always they had been paraded like miniature adults, and, today, they had to be those adults. To live as children any longer would spell their deaths. Reaching out he pressed a finger to her lips, brushing aside a tear that trickled down her white cheek.

“Look after him always, Citla,” he whispered. “I entrust him to your care. Be with him. Never let him out of your sight…promise me this!”

Citla nibbled her lip. “I promise, your highness.” She followed Chans and Daniel into the yellow-stained darkness.

Chans glanced back. “Goodbye, Milord Prince,” he said as he vanished in a swell of shadows.

David fisted his hands, breathing deeply through lungs riddled with holes and filling with cursed starblood. He tilted his head toward the sky encased in the pillows of smoke. This day of blackness and never-ending night was the day he had been born for, and this was the night he would finally die.

He could not fathom what had caused Zilon to become a twisted monster who would betray the Emerald Throne but he did know one thing; he would die in his brother’s stead.

And he was not afraid.

No.

He was not afraid.

Chapter Break3

The humidity was stifling. Sweat dribbled off Chans’ furred skin. He tightened his grip on his conductor, a stick comprised of twirled wood and crystal with a small light radiating from the tip. The glow was enough to pierce the murky darkness of the ancient catacombs beneath Palace-Town. Forgotten roads had long been buried under thousands of sol-cycles of dirt. Like a network of spider-webs, the tunnels snaked their way beneath the colossal city built upon the hill of cities before it.

Very few maps had been drawn of the never-ending network. None save the royal family knew of its true purpose from centuries long past when the Lands of Livila had been at their peak and civilization had soared to magnificent heights.

Chans held within his mind the blueprints he had studied all his life. He had known since childhood that his ability to recall images had been a gift, for the catacombs would become his new home. After tonight, returning to the surface world would mean his death. His father’s anger would burn in a rage if ever he discovered that his eldest child had betrayed the Dragon to whom his blood-clan had sold their souls. Instead, Chans had chosen to save the royal heir of the Emerald Throne.

He could hear the young prince crying bitterly as they ran, and, with a swift glance behind, he saw Citla dragging him as he stumbled. She would not let him go, for David had ordered her to remain forever at Daniel’s side.

Soon the little prince would forget that he had ever had a brother who had once been the braver in the face of death. David’s existence would haunt all who remembered him in sol-cycles to come. Of that Chans was sure.

“How much further?” Citla’s soft voice carried through the darkness. The murk dragged at his limbs, thick like a cloak draped in the air, wanting to pull him back into the light above ground.

He smiled weakly. “Not much longer now.” He slowed his pace, foot-claws scraping the wet stones. Worriedly he checked under his wings. His baby brother was still safely cocooned therein. If all went well, the child would be returned to the surface and back into the arms of their father; none the wiser of the terrors that had been hidden from him.

An inhuman whine escaped from the back of Chans’ throat. It hurt knowing he would have to return his brother to the same man who would impassively murder a child such as David, but he had no choice. Skyeola belonged in the light, for a little while longer. He could only hope the kitten would grow up untarnished by their father’s ambitions.

“Come, come, this way.” He waved Citla and Daniel into a tunnel that opened up sharply on their left. Daniel’s weeping eased to painful sobs, muffled by the sodden walls dripping with acidic water. There was an abrupt whiff of fresher air. Chans tipped his head to one side; he caught the muted sounds of voices. Relief washed over him. He knew them, one was a deep baritone that he recognized as that of Lord Davies Telvon of the Icali-pi Province, one of the few lords who remained faithful to the Emerald Throne.

Flickering light drew them nearer as another voice joined the quiet conversation. By its sweet notes, it was obviously Lord Davies’ wife. It was a comforting sound to hear, and Chans was glad she had survived the horrors of battle. He knew she was with child. It was only natural, he felt, to fear for a woman who held another life within her.

He relaxed as they reached the small gathering of paladins. His job was now complete. In his five and ten sol-cycles of life, he knew he had already accomplished the task set by the tiny alien creature who stood waiting in the milky shadows.

Hazanin was the only Zaprex he had ever laid eyes upon. Some rumored him to be the last of the ancient, technologically-advanced race that had once ruled the stars above and healed the lands below. He stood only midriff-height to a Human; though humanoid in his limbs, the creature was too slim to be a living being with true bone structure. His unnatural figure was obvious even with the war robe of red, lined with weapons decked over his thin shoulder. Yet, despite being small and seemingly insignificant, there was danger in his eerie eyes, scleras shaded black with pupils gleaming crimson under square-shaped spectacles. He moved like a trained dancer, making an otherworldly and ethereal impression. The light Chans had seen in the gloom glowed from two long antennas rising from of a mop of raven hair. The little globes bobbed as the creature glided forward.

“Hazanin-sama[4].” Chans bowed in formal greeting, forcing his lips around the alien’s native tongue. The Zaprex was the first he had to address, for no one ignored the powerful being who ruled time and space. Even his father had respected and admired the Zaprex to the point of calling him beloved-friend.

Konnichiwa, Chans. You have done well.” Its mechanical speech was forced through an aging metal voice-box.

Chans stepped aside, glancing at Citla, who pulled Daniel forward.

 

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At the sight of the creature, the young prince cried out in relief. He threw his only slightly larger body into the strong metal arms of the cybernetic alien.

“You have to stop David. Please stop him. He said he is going to die instead of me! You have to stop him!”

Hazanin sighed. He placed his chin gently upon the boy’s cranium as he wrapped long arms around him, drawing him close in mothering comfort.

“Hush now my little one, ne,” he whispered, pointed ears tweaking as he reached up worn fingers, covered with a layer of green skin, to brush tears from the prince’s cheeks. The Zaprex smiled feebly, its ancient age revealed in tender eyes that held unimaginable knowledge.

Daniel whimpered. No one was coming to his aid; his protectors watched with stark treachery. He tried to struggle but the firm grip of the cyborg held him fast.

Something inside him was being stripped away as though paper was being peeled from within his mind. Hazanin placed a long finger and thumb upon his forehead, his eyes glittering in sorrow making the sudden betrayal only slightly less agonizing.

“Do not worry, my sweet one,” the ancient Zaprex whispered, “tomorrow when you wake up, this will all be gone. You will not remember David’s existence or this night’s events. It is best this night be forgotten to you. David is dead to us now, and dead he shall remain. Gomen, Daniel… gomen, my little star-prince.”

Daniel’s eyes widened as a sharp pain caught his temples and he flinched. His mind clouded as the eerie sensation of falling into nothingness swelled over him. It was worse than sleep; it was a deep pit that enveloped him, shrouding his body in darkness, dampening the burning gift of the starblood that flowed in his veins. His limbs grew heavy, and he slumped forward into a faint, murmuring softly, painfully aware of the tears cascading down his cheeks, and that they no longer glittered as they once had.

“But…but…I do not…want to forget…my brother…”


 

[1] DC: Of the Dragon’s Conquest

[2] A Human expression (high class) of frustration – can be shortened to just tsk, which would be akin to ‘shhhh’ when chiding someone.

[3] The Great Throne Room ‘Blessed by the Sun’ wherein the Emerald Throne is situated.

[4]  –sama: very high honorific, usually reserved for lords, gods, masters, rulers, or someone for whom one has ultimate or infinite respect.

Hazanin Prologue 2

 

Key: Book One of Chronicles of the Children on Amazon Kindle and Illustrated Paperback

Painkillers

Originally I wanted to write a blog about settling into my new house, but something else popped up that I wanted to talk about.
If you’re in Australia you might have heard about rise in codeine addiction, leading to overdoses, and deaths, which has in turn lead to these painkillers – that were over-the-counter  – to now being prescription only.

The higher dose ones were always prescription only. I recall my Dad getting told off for having my Padadine Forte in the ER one trip – because it wasn’t under lock and key.

I am VERY sensitive to medication. If there is a side effect to a medication, chances are, I’m going to end up with it. This has made me extremely wary of taking drugs. I don’t like them, they make me feel weird, and I’ve just had way to many bad experiences. I can tell you some stories.

But codeine is something I found that I could take in really small quantities to just take the edge of my pain. I can’t tolerate more than two tablets of strong pain relief a day – and even then – I have to go on detox weeks to make it become effective again, as, after awhile, my body just grows used to it. So instead of upping the dose, I stop taking it. This method has allowed me to remain on a really low dose.

I’ve talked to my doctor about it often, he was surprised the first time I discussed it with him that I wasn’t taking more painkillers (because I was expressing how worried I was at my use of painkillers, I think he was expecting me to using heaps!) He told me I could be taking three times as much as still not be in a danger zone, and I told him I couldn’t imagine how anyone could take more than two without throwing up!

This all leads to February the 2nd and the ban on selling codeine products over-the-counter. I understand why they’ve implemented it, but I am still annoyed. When I went to the pharmacy to get my script for my Strong Pain filled, I felt shame when I was drilled by the pharmacist about my ‘drug use’ – the same shame I’ve felt every single time I’ve been drilled about my ‘drug use’ since this whole shebang started up and I had to start handing over my drivers license to be recorded into the system.

Don’t get me wrong. I know and understand why the government has done this, but I’m annoyed that the media hasn’t talked about those of us who try to manage our pain well, who do our best to maintain our use of medication. There are those of us who go to our doctors, talk to them, diligently discuss plans and processes, but end up just coming back to plodding our way through day-to-day life one-step-at-a-time.

I also understand people who cannot maintain equilibrium. In some way, it’s a blessing that I react so badly to medication, otherwise I could so easily see myself wanting to take more painkillers because I just want the pain to go away so, so, so badly.
There are mornings when I just sit in a chair, unable to move, wondering ‘Why on earth did I get up this morning?’ which is then followed by ‘Because you’ll still be in pain while in bed, you idiot.’

Pain has taught me many things, two of them being: How to live in tolerance and regulation.

Though I am really, really annoyed at the pharmaceutical companies that are not making the drugs anymore, or “re-branding the drugs” – making them paracetamol and ibuprofen. No. No. I don’t want paracetamol and ibuprofen!! You don’t think I haven’t tried that already!

*sigh*

It’s going to be an inconvenience, but I’ll take the inconvenience if it means saving lives and I guess, in the end, that’s what it comes down to.