An Army of Angels

An Army of Angels
by Mischa

Editor’s Note:

This story was originally published in the pamphlet for Grissecon, the first ever Wraeththu fan convention, back in Oct. 2003.  It was written by the creator of the original Forever web site, Mischa, who passed on duties to me several years back. -Wendy

Author’s Note:

Title: An Army of Angels.

Author: Mischa Laurent

Disclaimer: All items contained on these pages are non-profit amateur fiction. ‘The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit’, ‘The Bewitchments of Love and Hate’, ‘The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire’ and all characters named in those books are the copyright of Storm Constantine and her publishers. No infringements on the copyrights are intended. These stories are for personal enjoyment only and should be reproduced, electronically or otherwise, only for this purpose and never for profit of any sort.

Notes: This fanfiction is set in the period prior to the beginning of the trilogy and is based on quotes from The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, which read:

“What did Ashmael say when he saw you?”  I asked.  Vaysh’s glassy eyes did not flicker.

“Say?  What do you think?  A long time ago, I died in his arms.”

My thanks to my betas and editors for their invaluable assistance thus far and in particular to Storm herself, for asking me to write it in the first place.

Dedication: To my daughter, Tiffany; congratulations on the commencement of your first Wraeththu book and here’s to many more!

An Army of Angels

Part One

The breeze lifted the smoke and carried it away.  It also brought to their ears the screams and pleas of the dying warriors below.  Vaysh curled his lip in distaste over the scene and turned his head to his companion.

“Must we linger here?”

Ashmael calmed his restless horse with his hands, never taking his eyes from the celebrations of the victors below them.

“We need to see which way they go when they leave, Vay.  Can’t have them turning up on our doorstep.”

Vaysh looked downhill once more.  The celebrations showed no signs of abating; the warriors in their paint and finery gathered around one of the burning vehicles, whooping and hollering, their weapons held above their heads, while to their left, their fellows searched through the bodies, stealing from the corpses and summarily executing any who still lived.

“They look like Indians in an old movie.”  He observed, disgustedly.

Ashmael gave a short laugh.  “Someone down there probably saw the same film you did.”

**

All afternoon they waited on their hilltop for the bandits below to gather themselves and depart.  The horses grazed on the other side of the hill, tethered to prevent them wandering up into view.

Ash appeared perfectly relaxed, chewing on a stalk of grass, his long lean body laid out comfortably, but the watchfulness of his eyes told the truth.

Beside him, Vaysh contemplated the scenery, refusing to give the carnage below any more credence by witnessing.

The rolling hills to the north gradually gave way to the sharper gullies and peaks where he and Ashmael sat.  The summit of the mountain that protected them rose abruptly from the earth behind him, covered by cloud and mist, even on the clearest of days.  Within this maze of networking valleys, dead ends and sudden rises, lay the small town they called home.

Formerly an isolated human town, Basik was a home to disaffected Wraeththu seeking shelter from the tribal storms that rocked the land and had grown into a quite sizeable community, one that Ashmael was in charge of protecting.

Vaysh had little to do with the town’s defence.  He had ridden out with Ash today, merely to spend some time alone with the har with whom he was chesna.  They had seen so little of each other lately, that even the prospect of spending the day patrolling the rough hills on horseback had seemed a bearable idea.

Coming across the raiders in the middle of their murderous rampage had been the vilest of misfortunes.  Ash may well be used to such sights, but Vaysh, insulated by his duties on the council had not seen much of fighting and death for the longest time.  Not since he and Ashmael had first set out to find Basik, footsore and weary, drawn by stories of a place hidden in the hills where Wraeththu lived in peace.

“Why do they do it?”  He sighed.  “Why can’t they just . . . get along?”

The question was rhetorical, but Ashmael answered anyway.

“Because death always accompanies birth.  It’s the nature of the beast, Vay.”

It was an old argument, one they had had many times before and now as then, there seemed no fitting comeback. Still, he tried.

“I can’t accept that.”  He shook his head sadly, pale hair flying about his face like wind-whipped silk.  “We are . . . better than this.”

“Supposedly.”  Ashmael disputed.  “Not yet, though.  Not until the first throes are over.  Until there are more who think as we do and less who see this as an opportunity for profit or power.”

“Inception is supposed to burn away our humanity.” Vaysh argued.  “Har like those down there need guidance, need to be taught the proper way.  Not killed on sight.”

“Vay, your lost lambs would murder us all without even blinking.  Don’t delude yourself.”  Ashmael turned toward his chesnari, a smile on his face to soften the words.  “I know your intentions are all good and don’t get me wrong, it’s a noble cause and one I subscribe to heartily.  What we disagree about is the timing.

You want it all now; I think it is going to take time.  Time and a couple of generations removed from . . . this.”  He illustrated his point with a sweep of his arm toward the dying fires below, the bodies and the drunken, staggering hara who had caused it.

“But we can’t progress if we don’t begin.”  Vaysh voiced the argument that had been doing the rounds of the council lately.  “We have to start somewhere.”

“True.  We do.  We start small, build our numbers, then we enforce. As much as you would like to picture all the warring tribes as misguided and misinformed, the truth is that they enjoy living the way they do.  They chose it, Vay.    Just as we chose to seek a different way.  Superior strength is the only thing they respect.  Only that will make them listen.”

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On The Cards

On The Cards
A Collaborative Effort

Story Notes

Created as a round-robin in 2001.

On The Cards

In the city of Immanion, no single event is so anticipated, so talked about and so dissected after the fact than the annual Tigron’s Cup race meeting. The elite of Wraeththu society go to great lengths to assure their presence, to compete for most elegant pavilion, to gossip over whom is wearing what and who is escorting who, while outside the members’ area, the lucky citizens who have managed to buy a ticket, spend their day watching the watchers. For the most part, the actual racing is secondary to the social shenanigans except, of course, when the racing becomes part of the show. The horses that race are not the legendary companions of the Gelaming, but ordinary steeds, without magical powers.

There was the incident two years ago, where it rained right before the flag fell on the Phaconian Two Year Old Handicap and the brown shoe polish on one of the entrants began to run, but no one cares to remember that, especially not the horse’s owner, a Gelaming har named Enron, who was mustered out of the Tigron’s guard and stripped of his rank.

But mostly, the ordinary citizens of Phaconia place their bets, drink their betica and wine and watch the goings-on in the filmy pavilions of the famous, or infamous, as the case may be. They comment over the arrival or non-arrival of certain prominent hara from the provinces and territories, discuss what they are wearing and whose tent is closer to the Tigron’s this year than it was last.

***

The day dawned bright and breezy. Flags and banners on the pavilions danced in the gentle eddies and the air was redolent of flowers, spice and all good things. Servants scurried about, filling ice buckets, washing strawberries and generally making certain that everything that was meant to be there, was there.

In the stables, the horses were being washed down, curry-combed and braided. Their wrappings were checked, their saddles oiled and their handlers had stopped for a quick breakfast before the owners arrived.

The crowds had begun to gather at the gates as soon as the sun rose, determined to get the best picnic spots beneath the perfectly trimmed trees that ringed the course. By mid-morning, most of the guests had arrived at the pavilions. . .

Most of the pavilions were flung wide open, so the little hara could have a good look at the goings-on among the great and famous (what joy is there in being a celebrity if you’re not stared at by the hoi polloi?), but one of the tents drew conspicuous glances by the mere fact that it was tightly closed. Something more important than mere society seemed to be going on in there, from the intermittent shouts that emerged from the closed flap.”Can you do it, you barbarian sorcerer, or can’t you? Or won’t you?” a grating voice was screaming inside. This was Fireblossom the Dark, Colurastes consort to one of Phaonica’s most highly-placed generals. “YOU told me to throw my lot in with the option that sounded least feasible – so I put all my money on that miserable beast, and now you tell me that you DIDN’T MEAN IT THAT WAY???”

“Ahem. I meant it more as general spiritual advice”, a glum voice with the most horrendous Thaine accent conceded.

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The Immanion Enquirer Archives

The Immanion Enquirer: Archive
A Collaborative Project

Notes

First posted 2001.

Morning Edition: EARTHQUAKE ROCKS CITY

In The News
by Ramestton Ara

Someone Tell Pell!!!

As Immanion slowly quiets down from the disastrous noise of the mysterious earthquake, the aftershocks of its significance are still trying to sink in to bewildered hara all over the city. The latest reports I have received from my sources is that the Tigron is blissfully asleep as his almost half of his magnificent city crumbles to the ground in utter ruins.

Nothing has been heard of him and some insist that he has gone on exile from the city, most likely to Megalithica, leaving the Tigrina in control.

This of course, is the latest news in a string of fast and ever-changing rumors that have been cropping up by the half hour. His press aides have just released a press statement insisting that he is not asleep but is meeting with the Hegemony behind closed doors. Curiously, Lord Cedony and Lord Glave have been sighted around their palatial residences in the posh, exclusive Thandrello area, supervising the clear up of debris and so has Lord Ashmael. Lord Dree is reportedly out of the city on official business to the north with one of the Tribe Ambassadors; and Lord Chrysm and Lord Arahal are with battalions of Gelaming soldiers patrolling the city to maintain peace and order. Sources have also sighted Lords Eyra and Tharmifex in the center of Pell’s Colossi assessing the damage to public infrastructure and are in the process of compiling together a relief package for affected families. So if all the Hegemony are busy attending to other much more pressing matters, who exactly, by the precious Agahma, is mighty Pell meeting with? That is the multi-billion spinner question we are all eager to find out.

This new development highly contradicts the first reports that were flying about that the earthquake was caused by the intense sensation of the aruna being performed by the Tigron and Tigrina as they tried for another child. This was dispersed within hours and replaced by a more disturbing rumor that the legendary Calanthe, who had been sighted arriving the city yesterday is more likely the cause of this disaster. My informants close to the seat of power have said that this Calanthe, known to many internationally as just Cal, possesses awesome power that rivals even the Tigron’s and had come here to oust the Tigrina and take his place. Labourers at the port had earlier reported seeing him with eyes of pulsing fire, storming his way first to Lord Ashmael’s residence and later this morning, to the Palace in the company of two strange looking hara of which one is reported to be the son of the Castlehane of Jael.

Some had also tried to start the scandal of him having murdered Lord Ashmael early this morning but the General’s assistant personally informed me that he was very much well and unharmed. All this had been swept aside with fresh news that it was the full force of Thiede, the Tigron and this mysterious Cal having an argument that had caused this earthquake. Events are still very hazy as most people at Phaonica have either eloped or gone into hiding.

Meanwhile, Prince Abrimel has been seen at the up-market, trendy Golden Unicorn Inn, drinking at the secluded bar with Lord Sorche (Lord Dree’s son), and stating that everything was under control but that his parents might abdicate the throne in favour of Cal, yet another stranger to us.

The very few who populated the bar frowned at his insensitivity to the disaster at hand but none had the temperament to voice the wrong of his actions.

After all, what were they too doing there in the wake of such a confusing development? Plus, he is of course the Prince. Waiters later inform me that the two disappeared into one of the luxurious apartments upstairs. This seems to confirm earlier snippets of grapevine news that the two are romantically linked.

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From Har to Maternity

From Har to Maternity
A Collaborative Round-Robin

Story Notes

This story was created as a round-robin back in 2001.

Here be parody and mayhem, caricatures and bejewelled livestock. Here be all manner of unsavoury ruffians and their wenches. Thou hast been warned. The characters in this ensemble bear no resemblance to any persons I know, nor do they bear that much resemblance to any of Storm’s characters; but that be a minor quibble.

From Har to Maternity

In the ballroom of Phaconia…

Cal twitched. Then he fidgeted. Pell shot him a sideways look. Cal sat still. When Pell looked away again, Cal scratched his crotch. He took another swig from the bottle he’d earlier purloined from a passing waiter, ignoring Pell’s dread look. He hated parties. No. Scratch that. He hated these parties. He liked good parties. This was not one of those. All the poseurs and wannabees preening and parading like prized bulls before the judges. How did Pell manage to keep a straight face. He watched one particular buffoon floating around amongst the guests, trying to impress.Rolling his eyes at the performance, he nudged Rue and indicated the overdressed har. Rue sniggered and Pell gave them both another of those looks. When he saw the object of their derision,however, Pell couldn’t contain himself and a tiny smile crossed his face.

All three of them felt the etheric blow as Thiede whopped them all upside the head.

-Behave yourselves.- He growled. -Or do I have to come down there?-

That’s not fair, Cal thought, idly rubbing his sore forehead. I’m forced to come to these things when I’d much rather be chasing Ashmael around the bed, and now, I’m not even allowed to think? The disembodied hand returned, patting him condescendingly on top of his blond head.

-Don’t think, Cal.- Thiede said soothingly. -You know it gives you a headache.-

Ah well. Perhaps Thiede was right. Maybe he should just go back to his second favourite sport, after Ashmael-chasing; people-watching. Cal pinched another bottle from the same waiter,who was returning from the distant kitchens where he’d gone for a reload. The harried waiter favoured him with a sour look on behalf of his sore feet and turned 180 degrees, heading back to the kitchens yet again. Now, Cal thought. Who’s who in Phaconia tonight?*

She was tall, that’s the first thing he noticed. Regal and aloof. Her black, wavy hair hung loose down her bare back, tied up at the sides with silver, ruby encrusted slides. Her eyes were black, with long lustrous lashes. Her garments were made of a shimmering, red material, that clung to her slender thighs and her ample breasts threatened to tumble out of their small covering. Her whole body was covered in sparkles, that reflected and shimmered in the bright lights of the ballroom. She came up to where Pell was seated and curtsied, never once lowering her eyes from his. Pell smiled and made a soft remark to Rue, who was completely unimpressed with this Kamagrian, who seemed to place herself above everyone else. Cal sitting on the other side asked who she was. “Parage. Her name is Celestial Firewalker.”

Hmmm, interesting. The Kamagrians were out of hiding. Ever since that little incident with Opalexian, the Garridan warrior and the stalk of rhubarb, the Kamagrians had been noticeable by their absence. It was good to see them back. Cal had begun to think they’d never get over the shame. As he took another swig, he noticed his waiter enter the room via another door. Cal decided he’d better slow down on the wine. He might not get a chance at another bottle.

Now, who else was here? Cal looked around.* He entered quietly, nodding courteously to guests as he passed them. Lithe, silent steps that sauntered coolly yet with purpose as he made his way towards the Triad. Calanthe’s eyes narrowed imperceptively………Thea?…….and then relaxed as he realized who it was and smiled wryly. This har always reminded him of Thea, he thought to himself and idly wondered whether Thea himself would be here tonight with his old friend Zack. The har made his way impressively towards the Trinity, turning heads as he went. He wore black leather trousers that hugged his lean hips sensuously and went on forever to disappear into thick, black, leather boots that reached just below his knees. A heavy but netted cream cotton shirt covered in silver embroidered symbols hung open at his throat where a necklace made of large opals nestled. The baggy sleeves of the shirt fluttered gently as he walked, clasped firmly around his wrists by large, sleek silver bracelets. He reached the dais and presented himself, bowing deeply, long luscious black hair falling forward. He straightened, looking up to see Cal grinning at him and he grinned back with mock annoyance on his face. It was plain to Rue that the har and Cal were obviously acquainted. Calanthe turned to Rue and Pell. “This is Ramestton Ava from the Ferike tribe. Met him when I was there with Thea.”

He then gestured for Rue to move in closer and they whispered for amoment while Pell’s attention was diverted elsewhere. The Tigron and Tigrina then glanced up, amusement glinting in their eyes and Cal addressed Ramestton, beckoning for him to come closer. The har smiled and came nearer.

Cal bent forward to whisper in his ear…. “Your zip’s undone, mate”.

Cal had the priceless joy of seeing the smile on Ramestton’s face collapse in double quick time.

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Of Fire and Ice

Of Fire And Ice
by Mischa

Foreword

In the far north, the wind never ceases to blow. In winter it howls down from the mountains, a blinding blast of certain death. In summer, it dances deceptively across the plains of waving grass, spins and dips through the valleys of habitation, carrying with it the spore of death from the Wastelands. The inhabitants of the north are hardy folk. They need to be.

But the Wastelands is also the birthplace of the people. Long before the Sons of the Morning came to this harsh land to show the people the True Light, they had danced at the Citadel to celebrate their creation.

Now they knew the Truth. That they were gajin, white devils, and not truly people at all. Even so, some of the customs of those times remained. When their duties to their Masters and Mistresses were discharged, the campfires lit and the tasks of the day completed, they would gather and tell the stories of the beginning time. Of the days when the first of their people, the Pareah, had crawled from the pits of fire and come to live on the land with their tents and their horses.

For many years they had wandered, until the Gracious Day of Salvation when the Sons had come to Teach and they had seen the Truth with their own eyes. For the Sons and Daughters were divided into two as should be, while they themselves were incomplete, neither one thing or the other. The True God had made man and woman with his own hands, and, crushing together what was left, melding it into a ball of dirty clay, had discarded it over his left shoulder, where it had fallen into the pit and emerged as Pareah, the servants of the Sons.

They knew this was Truth. Every living thing had another. Horses had mares, dogs mounted bitches in the welcome warmth of the spring, even some plants had male and female of their own species. Except the Pareah. Gajin. White Devils. Man and woman combined, birthing eggs as reptiles did, raising young that grew as fast as beasts.

The Masters had tools and knowledge and learning which they would share with the Pareah, if only they would serve. And so they had, and the Masters protected them from the deadly dust, from their own ignorance, from the crazed wanderers who sometimes still staggered in from the Barrens, mouthing blasphemies in strange languages. These strangers were taken away by the Masters so that their ranting did not frighten the very young. The Masters promised to heal these poor souls, sending them back into the Wasteland so that the bright sun might bake their brains sane. It was a comfort to be protected and the Pareah were grateful, doing their utmost to live as the Masters demanded.

But some old customs remained.

Chapter One

Summer: ai-cara 37

Lucien cut around the side of the tent, avoiding the main encampment. The dust oozed up between his bare toes, his hair, refusing as always to be confined to its proper braid, flicked across his face as he ducked under a tent pole.

At the rear of the rows he stopped, looking up and down the back street, in search of Fawn. Usually, Fawn avoided his chores by hiding here, away from the adults stern gaze and propensity for finding work for idle boys. But he was no where to be seen. Disappointed, Lucien squatted down on his heels, resting his back against a water cask.

Today of all days, when he had such momentous news to share with his best friend, he was missing and Lucien had no idea where he could be. He’d searched everywhere he could think of.

Lucien tried to still his rapid heartbeat by taking deep cleansing breaths as his teacher had instructed. But this was too important for calmness. His Change was coming!

Ever since Spring he had felt the eyes of his parents upon him, studying his look and temper, searching for the telltale signs. Janin had even spoken briefly on the forbidden subject, one night as he lay in his bedroll, eyes already drooping shut.

You must tell me when you feel it come, Lucien. It is very important that you do.”

Janin’s kohled eyes had stared down at him fondly, the parent who had borne him, the one to whom he was most attached. Lucien never called Janin his ‘mother’ as the Sons said he should. He refused to even think of Janin that way; both his parents were the same! Lucien kept these traitorous thoughts strictly to himself. He did not want to end up having his brains baked sane on the Barrens in correction!

But he hated it all the same. All of it. The long ‘dresses’ the ‘females’ were made to wear, the codes of conduct that said he must call Janin mother and Aren, father. The laws that forbid Janin to appear in public with hair uncovered or to speak directly to a Master. How could his hostling stand to be so constricted!?

Why should the Pareah aspire to be the same as the Sons? Why did they try so hard, neglecting the old ways of the People?

Lucien drew his finger through the dust. Almost a man, he thought. The Change has come. The Corruption, he corrected himself, forcing the horrid word the Sons used into his fevered brain. I am becoming Corrupt. Imperfect.

Born almost perfect, despite the shell and the disfigured symbol of maleness, the Pareah grew more impure each year until the Corruption came and stained them irrevocably. Only through prayer and obedience could they ever hope to cast out the devil inside them and return to the proper state of Grace. This is what the preacher taught, the Truth that Lucien found so hard to believe in. Especially since last summer.

A yell from down the dusty road broke into his thoughts, scattering them. Fawn came pelting down the street toward him, his russet hair flying behind him like a tent pole flag. Lucien rose and went to meet him, a broad smile creasing his delicate features, remolding his solemn expression into something more boy like. Skidding to a halt beside him, Fawn rested his hands on his knees and bent over to catch his breath.

“Where’ve you been?” Lucien asked impatient of Fawn’s exertions. “I’ve been looking and looking. Master Lui almost caught me.

“I was. . . ” Fawn gasped out, “watching Hanna birth her new foal. Forgot the lesson altogether.”

“You’re gonna get it.” Lucien warned him. “Master Lui noticed you weren’t at class.”

“Don’t care.” Fawn grinned up at his friend cheekily. “I’m gonna Change soon. No more class. Just horses.”

Lucien looked about to make sure they weren’t overheard. “That’s what I wanted to tell you, Fawn.” He dropped his voice to a whisper, “My Change has started.”

“What!” Fawn yelped, his voice rising and falling. He fought to match Lucien’s tone, “Are you sure?”

Lucien nodded. “Night sweats. Shivering all of a sudden. Janin hasn’t noticed yet. I’ve been careful. But he’s gonna. And then I’ll have to go.”

“Aww.” Fawn kicked the dust, raising a small cloud that soon dissipated in the rising breeze. “I was hoping I’d be first, dammit!” He looked toward the mountains, visible over the top of the furthest tent. “We’d better get inside. Wind’s changing. My lodge is empty, Caleb is still down at the pens.”

They went to Fawn’s lodge, weaving across the irregular line of tents, so placed as to cut the afternoon winds and protect the communal area in the center of the tribal circle. The lodge was indeed empty and the two boys made themselves comfortable on the skins with a small bottle of watered cordial between them.

“So,” Fawn burped, swigging from the bottle and handing it across. “Where are you gonna go?”

Lucien lowered his voice again, unwilling to take any chances on passers-by with big ears. “South.” he whispered.

The astonished look on Fawn’s face said more than his clabbering mouth could in that moment. “Are. . . are you still going on about that?! You can’t go South! There’s nothing South except the Barrens and more Barrens. You’ll die for sure!”

Fawn knew, as all the elder boys did, that the expulsion from camp while the Corruption was upon them and the subsequent ‘romin’ they were required by tradition to undertake, were mere formalities. No one did a true romin anymore. Most went further North and visited secretly with relatives and friends in the alpine camps. Other, more adventurous souls went West and East, picking out the artifact they were required to bring back as proof of their travels from the carts of traders who used the trade roads in those regions. No one actually went! And no one ever, ever went South!

“I won’t.” Lucien declared, perhaps with a little more bravado than he felt. “The Barrens do end, they must. Else, where do the strangers come from, eh?”

Fawn favored him with a long, pitying look. “We talked about this last summer, Lucien. You know as well as I do where they come from, don’t be a fool! They’re ghost devils from the Citadel come to lead us away from the True Path! They’re not real.”

“They are real! I know they are!”

Fawn shook his head in mock sadness for his friend’s folly, snatching back the cordial and taking another long swig. Lucien knew his friend was only teasing, well, half teasing anyway, but still it hurt not to be believed.

“It’s all about that devil you met last summer, isn’t it. He fooled you, Lucien. When are you going to wake up? ”

Lucien stood abruptly. “Well, if you’re going to be like that about it, I might as well go home. Tell Janin and get this ‘ceremony’ underway. I don’t care what you say, Fawn. I’m going South and nothing you can say is going to stop me.”

He made for the entrance, stopping and turning as a thought occurred to him. Fawn sat where he had left him, his mouth opening and closing as he looked for words that he could not find.

“Remember your promise, Fawn.” Lucien warned him. “You swore not to tell.”

“But. . . but. . . I thought you were joking. Nobody goes South!”

Lucien shrugged. “I shall. And you promised, under blood bond, to keep it to yourself.”

Gathering the shreds of his dignity, Lucien left the tent before Fawn could respond. It hurt him to think that Fawn had not taken him seriously. He was determined to go South, to find the Citadel and the answers he needed to the questions that had been fermenting in his mind since his encounter last summer with the wanderer, the Wayhu .

I will find my ancestors, he told himself as he walked slowly back to his tent to tell Janin. I will find them and question them about the old ways. Find out if the Truth the Sons teach is the real Truth, or if there is another, like the Wayhu man said.

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