Choosing Sides

Choosing Sides
By Camile Sinensis (Teapot)

Story Notes

Editor\'s Pick A sequel, or follow-on, or something like that, to “Command Structure”. Or, rather, it was all orginally conceived as one story, but I knew if I wrote it out it would expand , rather like one of those sponges that are tiny when they’re dry, but swell up enormously when you put them in water. How right I was! (but I did it anyway)

Set in Imbrilim, shortly before Swift and friends arrive.

Characters: Velaxis and Ashmael. With guest appearances by Arahal, Thiede, Chrysm, some Varrs and a pair of handcuffs.

Spoilers: Minor ones for “Bewitchments”, if you squint hard enough.

Summary: A Varrish defector is brought to Imbrilim, causing Ashmael to reflect on the dual nature of Wraeththu, and which side is the stronger.

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– 1 –

“In the words of humankind, Velaxis is merely a whore. It’s his choice… If you asked Ashmael for Velaxis’ company for a night and Ashmael said “yes,” Velaxis would have to agree, because that’s the role he’s taken on…”

– The Bewitchments of Love and Hate

For such an impermanent structure, Imbrilim had a very solid air of permanence about it. The tents and pavilions and canopies which made up the encampment were laid out in neat, ordered rows, their colourful silk walls forming the boundaries of streets and avenues; the avenues converging at crossroads, and giving way to open, public spaces where hara and humans would congregate.

The Gelaming were famous for their attention to detail and their planning skills, and no doubt considerable time, effort and expertise had gone into the construction of the camp to allow it to function as efficiently as it did, but to Ashmael, it felt as if the small town – which the settlement was rapidly becoming – had taken root of its own accord, and grown organically; as if this arrangement of private dwellings and communal areas had an inevitability about it.

It felt as if it had always been there, and in that respect it was very true to the Gelaming vision. The last remnants of human civilisation was still convulsing in its death throes, but already the new lords of the earth had smoothly taken possession of their inheritance. The transition had been almost obscenely brief.

They should have waited until the old world was cold and buried, at least, Ashmael thought, watching the bright pennants fluttering in the brisk morning breeze. But there had been no time for that. No time to look backward, only forwards, to the dazzling new future. Imbrilim itself was a symbol of that, its bright pavilions as clean and new-minted as the morning itself. All around the old towns and villages and settlements were being abandoned or destroyed. Chaos and disorder were spreading across the land, but here in the heart of Megalithica a small piece of the hopeful future had taken root. A light to push back the encroaching darkness. A refuge for all those seeking sanctuary from lawlessness and fear.

Also, a strategically useful outpost, militarily speaking.

Ashmael had little time for the social engineering aspects of Imbrilim’s development. He was a soldier; he was in charge of the Gelaming army, and he knew the problems facing the new Wraeththu civilization better than most. Humanity was a spent force – a more sinister adversary now threatened the Gelaming’s new world. Their own kind. The Varrs.

The Hegemony had hesitated to act against this threat. Some of them had argued that no Wraeththu tribe could sink to the level of human barbarity. Wraeththu were too spiritually advanced for that to happen. Ashmael was of the opinion that most of the Hegemony had led very sheltered lives, and that they had little or no experience of what Wraeththu were capable of. He had informed them of this in no uncertain terms and the ensuing debate had been vigorous. It had resulted in several small breakages in the Hegalion debating chamber, and the founding of the settlement of Imbrilim as a refugee camp and Gelaming Embassy. The military presence was low-key as yet. Many still hoped that a political solution could be found, but Ashmael did not delude himself.

Too much too soon. We are not so far removed from human kind and human nature.

He raised one hand and shielded his eyes from the brightness of the early morning sun. In the distance, beyond the woods to the north of the camp, a low pall of smoke made a dirty smear across the clear blue of the sky. The small town had been put to the torch three days previously, and a steady trickle of homeless and displaced hara had been arriving in Imbrilim ever since. The town’s leaders had refused to offer allegiance or assistance to the Varrs, and the community had paid the price.

Ashmael sighed and turned away. It would come to a fight, in the end. He knew it. The old human vices lived on; the desire for power, for status, and for control.

It will take more than an interesting addition between our legs to purge us of those, he thought glumly, kicking at an innocent rock in the middle of the otherwise smooth and level ground.

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The Snakes-Tamer

The Snakes-Tamer
by LoLL

Story Notes

Author: LoLL (loll4000 (at) gmail (dot) com)

Title: The Snakes-Tamer


Rating: NC17

Characters: Lianvis/Ulaume

Summary: Ulaume meets his fate

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Wraeththu Universe and its characters belong to Storm Constantine.

Spoliers: None, I think. This is just how I love to think things between those two have gone

Warning: Angst, a bit of violence, slight BDSM and, of course, aruna.

The Snakes-Tamer

I woke up in a room that was as cold and dark as a black pit. It took me a while to realize that my eyes were still closed . When I tried to open them, a jolt of pain radiated from my skull throughout my body. I tried to breath deeply for not retching. Slowly, my other senses began to register the surroundings while white flashes danced in front of me.

I was lying on a sandy floor, naked, and my hair was curling around my frame as to protect and keep me warm. But that was not enough; I was shivering and my teeth rattled, making a weird sound in the silence of the room. With a huge act of will I forced myself to remember, but my only memories were the beatings, and voices… Somebody was trading on me as if I was a piece of dead meat. And maybe I was indeed.

Again, I tried to open my eyes, carefully this time, and even if the pain was still there, raging behind the eyelids, I began to see something blurred. It seemed to be a tent I was inside, a small canopy. Between the thin fissures of my swollen eyes I could see the end of my legs: they were roped by ankles to a peg in the ground, like a dog. But what really caught my attention was a half broken cup in front of me. I sensed water and suddenly my throat burned. Ignoring the ache, I extended my hand, panting and wailing like a broken puppy, and managed to drag the cup to my split lips. Half of the water washed on the floor but I drunk avidly what was left, only to throw it up a moment later. I lay still, panting hard and felt tears burning my cheeks. If I had to die, I hoped it would be soon.

In that moment the tent opened and a tall figure stood between the light and me. I could only see the outline and something waving behind his back, maybe a cloak.

“Very well, our new guest has finally woken up, it seems. Did you rest well, Ulaume?”
With a kick, the figure threw the cup away and I moaned in desperation.

“Do not worry, I’ll bring you more water, if you behave. And food. But you must prove you are worth the money I paid for you, or I’ll let you die of starvation.” The voice was calm and deep, cold like ice.

The tall har snapped his fingers and another figure entered the room. He was dressed in a long tunic and a scarf covered his head and face, leaving only his eyes visible. The new har knelt beside me and lifted my head gently. I moaned. I must have broken some ribs from the beatings. Every move stole my breath away.

“Hush…” whispered the new har, “do not move. This will help to lessen the pain and heal faster.”

The brew was tepid and smelled of rotten fruits, but I welcomed the little droplets the har let slip into my mouth like the most tasteful and refreshing juice.

“Slowly! Or you will retch again.”

It took me an eternity but I managed to drink it all and keep it in my stomach. When the last droplet was drained, I collapsed against my saviour’s body, trying to steal a little bit of warmth.

Another snap and the har laid me back on the dusted soil and disappeared out of the tent.

I wanted to talk. I wanted to know what had happened, why I was there and who they were, but the words only rasped on the back of my throat and didn’t come out.

The tall har knelt beside me. It was too dark to distinguish his features but his eyes sparkled like two opalescent pearls, a strange nuance of pale blue that seemed almost white.

“My name is Lianvis, and this is my tribe, the Kakkahaar. The reason why you are here should be obvious to you since you tried to kill your former master. A thought I warmly suggest you to never direct at me… or I will make you yearn for the punishment he gave you as a sweet reward. He sold you to me for my… experiments, but I’m curious to see what hides under that filth and blood. If I think you are worth the effort, I may even keep you and train you. Otherwise, well… we’ll find, for sure, a recreative use for that body of yours.”

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