Racing in the Streets

Challenge SubmissionRacing in the Streets
by Lusa

Story Notes

Pairings: Seel/Cal

Rating: PG-13

Summary: A brief encounter between Seel and Cal shortly before Seel founds Saltrock.

Author’s Email: rhapsodyingreen@cox.net

Web page: http://www.geocities.com/lusa_thul/ecrirehome.html

Disclaimer: Storm Constantine is awesome. Also, so is Bruce Springsteen. I’m pathetically obsessed with both of them. But, yeah, her characters, his song – Racing in the Streets.

Racing in the Streets

I was 17 years old; I’d only been har for 4 years but it felt like a thousand lifetimes. I started out as Uigenna but I left them for the Unneah tribe not long after my Inception.

I might have a lot of anger and bitterness towards humans, but not that much. Not as much as Cal did. I wished I could blame what drove us apart on that but was far more complicated and most of the time I realized that.

We thought becoming Wraeththu together was the answer to all our problems, a way for us to be together without the condemnation and hatred that goes hand and hand with two adolescent boys being in love among humans. We didn’t really know what we were getting into, just that there was something different in the darkness on the edge of town, something that wasn’t human and that didn’t care who you were.

I remember being terrified of it, and looking back Cal probably was, too. He just hid it better than I did. But after the firestorm that broke when our parents figured out what we were doing in my room wasn’t homework, it was easy for him to convince me that they didn’t care, that I was better off leaving with him and finding a new future where none of this would matter. I believed him, like I always did, even though I knew how often he lied.

For a few weeks it was all worth it, too. But being Wraeththu gave him an excuse to finally unleash all that violent hatred I guess he always had bottled up inside him against humanity and life in general for having the nerve not live up to his expectations.

Two weeks after we’d been Incepted somehar gave us each a gun and told us we were attacking a human town in the morning. It was a chaotic mess of burning screams and rapid-fire shots. The humans didn’t stand a chance, and they knew it. Their fear was the worst part of it all. I killed that day, and I remember puking my guts out afterwards, feeling like it was the end of the world, or at least my world. Cal thought I was stupid and he didn’t really bother to hide it.

I left the next day for the Unneah, but it would be a lie to say I never looked back. Of course I did, and I spent a lot of time regretting leaving him like I did, ashamed and full of harsh words I couldn’t take back because that isn’t how life works.

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Butterflies With Guns

Butterflies with Guns
by Karen Chahbi

Story Notes

Spoilers: Bewitchments of Love and Hate

Contact: karenchahbi@yahoo.com

Credits: Thank you to Storm Constantine for creating this universe and letting us play with it.

The characters are mostly ones I made up, although Ponclast makes an appearance, and Cobweb, and Ithiel. Also Swift and Terzian are alluded to. It’s about a couple of Uigenna who run away from their tribe and find a life in a secluded valley somewhere between Galhea and Fulminir. One of them has a secret, and his past comes back to haunt him after they find themselves in Fulminir, having signed on as Varrish soldiers. It takes place during the time I guess Swift is growing up, and culminates just as the Gelaming are about to take Fulminir

Butterflies With Guns – Teaser

My home stands atop a hill surrounded by hardwood forest, and from the kitchen window I can see our little valley stretched out before me like a painting. The late afternoon sun reflects off the orchard gate, which in turn casts its long shadow across the gently sloping lawn. The apple trees have already shed their leaves, and I can see past the orchard, even as far as the little stone steps, and beyond them, the stream. From there the landscape drops into the valley below, and I can see out across the tops of the tall oaks and pines in the distance. If I close my eyes and stretch my mind out, I can skim along the forest floor, down the hill through the trees, along the golden carpet of leaves, and by doing so bring back lucid memories. I can float past the tall white obelisk in the town square, and look back, up into the hills toward my house, and beyond, to where the forest becomes nothing but a dark mass, and a pale mist covers the mountaintops far away. The sky is pink and those mountains are purple, and the mist encircles them like a gauzy shroud. It’s a lovely sight, but as I look I’m reminded that somewhere on the other side of those mountains I had another life, a long time ago. If I think about it, piece by piece, I can recall some of it in vivid detail. And still, some is lost to me. Somewhere on the other side of those mountains I lost my innocence, and crossing them, found it again. The journey from there to here was a long one. Along the way I learned to kill, to love, to hate, to forget. And sometimes to forgive. Somewhere along the way I buried someone I loved, and with him, a great part of myself. My story is all tied up in there somewhere.

Butterflies with Guns – Download as a PDF!
File is over 200 pages, single-spaced, so it works much better as a PDF than as a web page.

The Case of The Lost Lover

The Case of The Lost Lover
by Angelo Ventura

Story Notes

Title: The Case of The Lost Lovere
Date Posted: July 2005

Author: Angelo Ventura
Contact: angeloventura@iol.it

The Case of The Lost Lover

Charmel was very excited. She entered… OK, he entered, but then, Charmel was never a “he.” He told me so one night when we were in bed.

“Yes, I’m the only woman succesfully incepted, as far as I know. My inceptor was very lucky, too. He didn’t succeed with any other woman. Don’t ask me why.”

“But who was your inceptor? Is he still alive?” I asked

“I dare say. His name’s Netspinner Har Sulh.”

I gasped, “The har who incepted the Poupe? Wow, no wonder he succeeded where nohar else has!”

“But he wasn’t able to replicate that success.”

I smiled to Charmel. “That’s more than enough to me.” Then we shared breath. I was thinking of the famous Netspinner. A legend among his people. He’d traveled everywhere, even worked with the Aghama itself, it was said.

“How come you’re not with him?” I asked.

“Netspinner loved working alone, and moreover I reminded him of all his later failures, after that one success. Anyway, you just can’t keep Netspinner for yourself.”

I read in the beautiful eyes of my Charmel a deep regret, mixed with longing.

“You’re still in love with him?”

“Love? What’s love? Your inceptor is the first love for many Wraeththu, but not necessarily The One. Memories fade, you get to know new people. It’s all history now, Dashell, don’t worry,” Charmel said, kissing me on the nose.
I sensed that he was obliging me.

“You would like too see him again, wouldn’t you?”

Charmel sighed. “I’d like to see him again, yeah. He’s been a good friend to me. But,” he added with a mischievous smile, “it is you that I want now.”

And we took aruna, and my jealousies were tucked in a little corner of my mind… untilthe day when Charmel said to me, all excited, stars in his beautiful eyes: “Netspinner Har Sulh has a case for us. He’s coming today.”

“A case for us? Netspinner? What can he possibly want?”

“Well, he’s only communicated that he would like to have our assistance in a problem he’s encountered. I’m very flattered, and you should be, too.”

Jealousy, puzzlement and pride warred in my head .I was to be a REAL sleuth, and for a VIH, too! On the other hand, I sensed trouble, and not only because Charmel was obviously thrilled to see this Big Har. Netspinner was notorious for putting himself in pretty tricksy situations and getting away unscathed. Whatever problem he could have encountered, it had to be rather hard to crack. Hard and dangerous. I said so to Charmel, who answered:
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going. An old human saying.”

“And exactly how tough is going to be, your Netspinner wouldn’t say, huh?”

“He’s not MY Netspinner any more, for Ag’s sake! Get a grip on yourself, will you?”

And as he said this, the air in our modestly but tastely furnished office splintered. A pale har with long dark hair and a smile between ruby lips appeared out of nowhere.

“Wow, Charmel, your colleague is really lovely,” he said

Would you believe it? I blushed.

Netspinner’s countenance was hypnotic. He was beautiful, the very portrait of androgyny: slim waist, fluid movement, a manly voice with a musical flow. And those lips…Oh, my Charmel was my life, and I’ll never could imagine a life without my lover. The way Charmel used to braid those beautiful hair, distractedly, with that dreamy look on such a lovely, elfin face.. yet Netspinner was a superior charmer. One smile, and we all were at his feet.

“Excuse me for a rather dramatic entrance, but somehar I knew has detained me ’til now,” he said.”By Aghama, that har thinks the Universe just gyrates around him!”

“Who is he?” asked Charmel casually.

“Oh, no-one you know. Or maybe you do. Anyway, he has nothing to do with the matter at hand. Charmel, how I missed you! You’re lovely as ever.”

Charmel smiled, her eyes full of him, but quickly regained his composure.

“Well, Netspinner, tell us. How can we help you?,” Charmel said in a businesslike voice.”

Netspinner, it turned out, had a lover. A beautiful boy, intelligent, lovely, only too shy. When Netspinner set out to reach the Sulh who were passing their suburb, his friend simply couldn’t get himself to join him. He was terrified of Wraeththu. To him, they were hideous, cruel monsters. And who could blame him? A rogue band of Uigenna had massacred his family, leaving only sooty ruins where a home had been. Netspinner had held his friend in his arms, tried to soothe his sorrow, and they had become quite close. But when the Sullh arrived, and Netspinner had been fascinated by their solemn, magical appearance ,his friend Doreen had backed away in horror at the proposal. And Netspinner joined the Sulh anyway. He’d made his decision. But Doreen hadn’t been forgotten. Sometimes, his lovely face returned to haunt Netspinner’s dreams.

“I want you to find him. That’s all,” said Netspinner.

That was all, really: to find a human boy that could be dead, incepted into any tribe (even Uigenna), hiding anywhere. Even if he was alive, he might have no recollection of Netspinner. I said so to him.

“Do you realize that the results of this search – assuming we get any at all- may be very unpleasant to you?”

Netspinner’s eyes revealed his profound regret and sorrow. “I’m prepared for anything.”

***

The search took months,making us go to very strange places.We first visited an human enclave, where we managed to pass as humans. (Really,how difficult can it be?)

The first rule of the undercover agent is: never overdo things. Be natural. After all, they expect us to look like monsters from hell, don’t they? So we posed as… what we were, private detectives.

“And just what do you want?” asked an over-armed genetically enhanced gorilla at the entrance.

“We’re searching for a man called Doreen McArthur. We heard he had parents here. An uncle.”

“And what do you want with him?”

At this point what do you say? “We only can talk to his uncle. It’s a matter of the strictest confidence,” said Charmel with a dazzling smile, while I projected my “innocent and convincing” aura.

We went to the suite of that old uncle of Doreen, claiming we were working for an ex-fiancee of Doreen. Old he was, living in a suite furnished with all a man could want. The uncle was silky and effete, and knew very little.

“Doreen stayed with me for a while, after what…what happened to his parents, but we never got along,” he said, gesticulating with his large, pale hands. “He said he wanted to join the Eradicators, an anti-Wraeththu militia. He went two years ago. I haven’t seen him since.”

Amid soft cushions and sickly-sweet perfumes we digested this information. After having assured his uncle we’d inform him if ever we had news, we took refuge in a nearby bar frequented by stranded youths and rich kids in search of cheap thrills. Lights were low, music soft. A fan wrestled with the omnipresent heat. But my sweat was not entirely due to temperature.

“What do you want to do? Go to guys who’d burn us alive if they’d only suspect who we are?”

“What do you think that guard we fooled would have done?” replied Charmel. He sipped his PinkCoke drink.

“That guy was a dumb mass of steroids. Those Eradicators are smartasses, feared even by the Uigenna, I’ve heard.”

“All of them may be Uigenna, by now.”

“It wouldn’t be much of a change, for them. What do we do?”

“We join the Eradicators and find that Doreen.”

“Are you mad? If they ever find us out they’ll… they’ll…” I ran out of words.

“Listen, we’re Wraeththu! We have real magic, right? I’m Algomalid, by the way, and you?”

“I’m only Acantha, as you know. But even if you were Nahir-Nuri, I’d forbid you to…”

“You’d what?!? Did I hear correctly?” Charmel’s angry sotto-voce was positively chilling. “Listen, baby, do that corny ‘protective male to female colleague’ crap again and you can take a bath in the next tar pit, capisce?” hissed the love of my life.

I gave up. “OK, let’s hear your plan,” I said resignedly.

***

As it turned out, we didn’t need to enlist in the Eradicators (thank Ag!) because they had been eradicated in turn by a massive Uigenna attack. A few had been incepted, and as for the fate of the others…don’t ask. So we needed “only” to join the Uigenna.

“Listen, Charmel, I’m glad I won’t have to put hairy caterpillars – that would be mustaches – beneath my nose, nor crop my hairs, but having to cover myself with rituals scars or having my teeth ‘pointed’ is not a great improvement.”

Charmel laughed. “We won’t have to join them! We’ll ask some questions and tell the truth, that we are searching for a lost friend. Why they would make trouble to fellow hara?”

“To the Uigenna there aren’t ‘fellow’ hara. But now I understand why the great Netspinner gave us this job. A cool shifty guy, indeed!”

Charmel frowned. “And what do you mean by that?”

“Well, either Eradicators or Uigenna, it’s OUR job to contact them. Those tattoos itch, by Ag! Let’s get on with it, shall we?”

***

The former Eradicators’, now Uigenna’s outpost was a mass of psychedelic, aggressive-looking graffiti. The colors were scarlet red, gangrenous green, rotten yellow and Purple Rot. Two tattooed and over-armed hara with grim faces stood at the entrance.

“We need to find an har who’s been incepted in your tribe,” explained Charmel to the guards. “Can we talk with your leader?”

“You mean Manticker? He’s at a meeting with Wraxilan, an aruna meeting, I think. Wraxilan loves Manticker so much,” said the guard with a leer.

I could imagine. Manticker was not heard of since. “No, the leader of this place. Can we have an audience? We won’t keep him long,” said I with an insouciant tone.

“I see what I can do. Arthar Dorainn it’s a very busy har.”

Charmel and I exchanged glances. Doreen McArthur, Arthar Dorainn… could it be?

***

Nearly naked and fluorescently tattooed Uigenna were busy in the building’s yard, practicsing setting fire to hanging puppets ( I hoped they were that, anyway). The bawling and howling of the savage hara was horrible: they had begun to fight among themselves. Their superior tried to scream louder to restore order. Fortunately, our guide led us in, toward a room far from the din.

“How did you manage to stamp out the Eradicators?” asked Charmel

“We set fire to their mustaches, then we attacked,” explained our guide. He was probably putting us on, but I shivered.Even when human, I’ve always hated mustaches.

“Uh, I see,” I said, “very clever.” A chilling scream came from a locked door, followed by an hysterical laughter. I prayed the Aghama and all deities, human and harish alike.

A soothing mind-touch came from Charmel. And also an harsh injunction: Put your mind-shield on, you fool! Which I did in haste, as we arrived to the office of “Arthar Doreinn” himself. The guard announced us and closed the door behind him.

***

Arthar was definitely not Doreen. He was a savage har with spiked teeth, spiked hair, and spiked claws on his uniform. We told him what we wanted and we showed him a photo of Doreen obtained from his uncle.

“That wimp!” sneered Hardhar Duhroon (we misunderstood the name). “He escaped from us shortly after inception. He joined a band of Flurries, I’ve heard,” he concluded with a disparaging gesture of his paw-like hand.

“And you let him go?” I asked, puzzled.

“We have no use for yellow livers, here. May he hang from his tree and good riddance!” said Hardhar spitting on the floor.

Having heard that, we took leave and fled. Good riddance indeed!

***

Flurries lived in treehouses in what was the city park (hence Hardhar’s less-than-benevolent auspice). They were exceptionally slim, ethereal-looking hara. You could imagine them flying from tree-to-tree, but only Nahir-Nuri of the uppermost level, if any, can actually fly. They were very agile and leapt from their houses’s platforms. The central Nayati was sustained by the branches of four large trees oriented to cardinal points. Their Hienama, Leaf Cloud, was an exceptionally slim har with flowers in his hair and a leaf covered tunic. His hair were long, pale, with a tinge of green. Or so I imagined. Charmel, with his elfin face, appeared to blend with the surrounding perfectly, but I had to suppress a slight acrophobia.

“May your life be always green,” he saluted us. He had an eerie countenance, like a bird preparing to take flight.
We bowed to him.

“May your tribe prosper, Leaf Cloud,” said Charmel. “We are searching for an har who’s recently joined your tribe.”
Leaf Cloud chirped a laugh. “Oh, him. Aerial life was not for him, I’m afraid. He’s badly sprained a leg. Our healers had to work long to cure him.”

“But he’s well, now?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. But he refused to live in a treehouse any more, and this is mandatory for our tribe, I’m afraid. We want to detach from the terrestrial plane, live like birds, you see, is that why we live of crickets and flowers and water, and nothing else. We don’t want to impose our weight on this weary, suffering Earth.”

I suspected that the dietary tastes of the Flurries were involved in Doreen’s leaving, but I respectfully shielded this thought. It seemed that Doreen had decided to join a more earthly tribe… the wandering Kheops. I groaned. He could be anywhere between this city and the Great Western Ocean.

“The plot thickens” I said.

***

A small tribe of Wraeththu had camped in the park next to the Flurries’ treehouses. This was a friendly tribe of wanderers that had recently seceded from the Kheops, and called themselves Random Road Runners. They had moved two years since.

“Beautiful name,” commented Netspinner, who’d came in our office after our call. “Hope they haven’t trouble with their R’s.”

I groaned.

“Apart from that, how can we possibly find a splinter tribe of random wanderers?” I said in exasperation.

Charmel won’t admit defeat, though. “You can put a mind call, Netspinner. Contact the Kheops leader who should know who’d split two years ago, and so you can have a trace.”

Netspinner smiled with his exquisite lips, made to soft and prolonged kisses.Yes, I had a crush with my client. Sam Spade would have understood.

“Well, that’s a good idea, Charmel. I’ll do so. The Kheops’ Archon I know very well, I assisted to his inception, by the way, haven’t I told you?”

“Really?” asked Charmel, awed. As for me, I didn’t believe it.

“I don’t mind if you have seen the birth of the Aghama itself,” I burst out “but what if Doreen has said goodbye to the RRR, too? He’s left two tribes, so far.”

Charmel eyed me with deep disapproval. Netspinner only lifted his eyebrows.

“This is no way to talk of the Aghama, but let it go. I definitely want to retrace Doreen, if only to talk to him once. I’m sure you understand,” he said in a calm but strained voice. “And as for leaving two tribes,” he continued with a firmer tone, “well, the Uigenna aren’t a tribe I would remain with, and the Flurries were way too ethereal for his fancy, apparently. But maybe the RRR suited him fine. Why not try?”

***

So we tried. Rohan Har Kheops, the RRR’s founder, could at last be contacted through what I called the “Psi-Ethernet” and said that Doreen left his tribe after they arrived on the West Coast, in the land of the Hokule. Netspinner offered to help us travel something called the “Otherlanes” to arrive there soon.

Charmel was thrilled “Do you believe I’ve never seen the sea? I just can’t wait! What do you say, Dash?”

“I hope he didn’t cross the ocean and didn’t go to the Kawaii! What would YOU say, then?”

“Aloah!” smiled Charmel, unabashed.

***

Prior to departing, we took aruna together. All three of us. I got to kiss Netspinner’s languorous cherry lips, then his nipples,then he immersed himself in me whilst I was lost in Charmel’s loving. I’d never been in a threesome before, and I’m not planning to make an habit of it, but sometimes it can be fun. Moreover, this charged us enough to travel those Otherlanes at zooming speed. There you are naked essence, pure energy, a disquieting experience, so I was glad it was swift.

We emerged on a luscious, white beach exausted and still roony.

A little town could be seen not far, and a lone surfer roamed the waves.

That’s the life! we thought in unison. We relaxed for an hour or so on the beach, enjoying the briny, salty scent. Charmel and I shared breath while Netspinner dozed. When he woke, he had a strange, faraway expression. But he swiftly regained his composure.

“And now, on to business,” he said. “Rohan said that was the Hokule settlement they stopped nearby. Doreen could be there.” He sighed then continued “I suggest you go there, first. I’ve got to prepare psychologically for the outcome.” That said, he sprawled on the sand, that faraway expression on his face.

“Come, Dash, let him alone,” said Charmel.

Trudging on the fine sand, I followed, with a last glance at Netspinner’s gorgeous body.

***

The central Nayati of the town was painted in bright marine colors, the whorls of conch shells decorating its entrance.

There was a caste ascension ceremony in progress, we noticed. We mingled unobtrusively with the public, watching as the tattooed Hienama pronounced the ritual formulae and made solemn gestures.

“Rise!” commanded to a kneeling har the echoing voice of the long haired har officiating “You are now Algomalid, Doreen Har Hokule.”

The har rose, his face beautiful and calm,

“It’s him!” I said. “By Aghama it’s him!”
Doreen was beautiful, that kind of beauty that ensnares your heart if you watch too long. He was the paragon of androgyny, with a serene countenance,a secrete smile lingering on his lips. He reminded me of someone…

We waited till the crowd of congratulating friends had thinned, then approached him. He looked in our direction, puzzled.

“You’re not from this place,” he said

Charmel smiled. “Great is your perception, tiahaar,” my beloved said. Well, anyone who was not blind would have noticed that, with what our pale complexion and different clothes. A thought shared probably by Doreen, who smiled, a friendly, joyful smile.

“Perhaps you better tell me how can I help you. You can come to the banquet on the beach, then we’ll talk. And by all means, call your friend. He’s invited,too.”

Well, THAT was perception.

I put a mind-call to Netspinner, who joined us at the banquet pavillon, a great tent held up by gigantic surf tables. Marine food, fruit juices, fruit cakes were served on surf tables too. I ate little, for I couldn’t help staring at some of the most beautiful hara I’d ever seen. Doreen was slimmer than the average Hokule, hara with more strong physiques, shone like the moon crowned by stars. He saw Netspinner come, still stunned, and evidently sent him some sort of message, for he joined us at the table relatively calm.

“Well, our search is near its end,” said Charmel. “And so, I won’t get to see the Kawaii,” he sighed.

“We’ll go there, I assure you,” said I. Then, to Netspinner. “Well? Did he recognize you?”

Netspinner appeared dazed. His nonchalanche had evaporated at Doreen’s sight, apparently.

“Yes, he did. A powerful psychic, really,” A laconical answer.

“What did he communicate?” I asked

“Only to join you, and that we’ll talk later. Hey, is that lobster? I havent tasted it for ages!” Apparently, Netspinner didn’t want to talk about it.

“But was he happy to see you or wasn’t he?,” enquired Charmel.

“He’s put up a strong mind-shield. I really cannot say. Let’s eat this delicious food, shall we? I’m famished!”

Delicious it was, and I was hungry, too. We set out to enjoy the feast, that continued after the banquet with music and dancing.

The sun had almost set and the first stars had begun to twinkle when Doreen joined us.

“Well, that was a surprise. Welcome, Netspinner. Still a Spiderman fan?”

“Doreen, don’t let our friends know how old I am,” said our Sulh client with a disarming smile. “Won’t you tell us your story?”

“My pleasure, brother,” said Doreen

“Doreen is your BROTHER?,” exclaimed Charmel. But you said…” I, too, was surprised.

“I know what I said. With this Wraeththu taboo against keeping family ties, I couldn’t made known I was searching for my brother. I’d have been…”

Charmel interrupted him “Apart from professional secrets, you could have told us. We’re not narrow-minded zealots, for Ag’s sake! We’d have understood”

Netspinner and Doreen were the last survivors of their family, it turned out. When Netspinner went to the Sulh, Doreen panicked, won’t go to the Wraeththu. The rest we knew.

“My uncle’s memory isn’t what it was,” said Doreen. “The truth is, the Eradicators took me for a Wraeththu! I was trying to convince them when the Uigenna attacked. I hid in a corner, was incepted by a Uigenna less savage than others, apparently, and fled as soon as possible.”

“To the Treehouse dwellers. Whimsical bunch, I’d say,” commented Netspinner.

“Well, they seemed funny, and they did much to train me psychically, but, even without the sprained leg incident, I’d have fled from there, for living in a tree is awfully boring. So I joined the Kheops, hoping they’d arrive in some better place.”

“And there you are! Beautiful place indeed!” said I. “But I’ve a curiosity. Who was this Spider Man?

“Oh, no!” said Netspinner, theatrically putting his face in his hands

Doreen laughed “An imaginary comic-book hero. Netspinner was one of his nicknames. He was the secretary of Spider Man Fan Club. I gather the President was some Cobweb guy.”

He went on to explain what this Spider Man was. After more laughter, joined on even by the no longer embarrassed Netspinner, Doreen said: “Come with me. I’ll introduce you to my chesnari?”

“What’s is name? Silver Surfer?” asked Netspinner.

Doreen smiled. “Well, that would be a nice name for our son”

At that moment, a meteoric wave approached us. A tsunami?

But no, a beautiful har with silver hair descended gently on the beach with his surf, stepped out and embraced Doreen. “I won the Psico-Kinetic Surfers contest, my dear. So sorry I couldn’t have been at the feast!”
“You’ll tell me all about it, beloved. Let me introduce you to some friends…and to my brother, too!”

***

We feasted with Doreen and his chesnari in a bungalow terrace that overlooked the sea. Little lamps with luminous geneticaly engineered insects gave a eerie, flickering light. Doreen and Netspinner were talking of old comic book mutated superheroes.

“Obviously the fantastic Four stood for the Elementals,” said Netspinner

“Yeah, Fire for the Torch, Earth for the Thing,” said Doreen

“Obviously. And the Invisible woman?”

“Was she water?”

“No, that was their leader, Mr Fantastic, or something.”

“Oh, She was air, then!”

We found this conversation a bit boring, so we asked Doreen’s chesnari, Brinahel, how he managed to muster waves and surf on them.

“Certainly it’s not easy, it takes years of training. You should connect to the elemental Water’s essence, then you can muster agmara to command it. Few can do it. I’m Nahir-Nuri, you know”

Like that Mr Fantastic, no doubt. I should have felt awed, but was not. All that psychic advancement to balance on waves? Then Brinahel went on to describe the tournaments, that were held in the open ocean, and that comprised various contests of velocity, height of wave, resistance. Spectacular, certainly. Charmel was thrilled, and I had to promise him we’d went to see a tournament. Shortly after that, we were offered a bed in a spare room. So we gladly said goodnight to Doreen and tiahaar Cowabunga. Surf was certainly up here, but, to me, endless talking of it wasn’t. Later, we were joined by Doreen himself. He wanted ro thank us in a very special way. We all surfed the rolling Arunaic Sea.

I dreamed of waves all night.

***

The next day after breakfast, Netspinner talked of our reward.

“We want to know how to travel those Otherlanes,” said I.

“You’d need ages of training to do it without adequate vessels. I really haven’t time. Why don’t you go to the Kawaii, as Charmel wanted?”

And Kawaii it was. Aloah!

The End

Ronin

Ronin
by Araquiel

Story Notes

Title: Ronin
Chapter: One Chapter
Spoilers: None, but it helps to have read the first trilogy to understand the events.
Date Posted: January 2006

Author: Araquiel
Contact: ara_kadir@yahoo.com

Author Note:

This story is about a human hermaphrodite in the early days of Wraeththu. I have used the location of Forever and the character of Zack to give some indication of time period and locale. The location names in the beginning of the story are U.S. and “real world.”

Ronin

I was born the day the levy broke. My father awaited my birth pacing in the den, gulping fine bourbon and sucking down cigarettes. His eyes were glued to the television, watching his hometown drown under the awesome fury of Katrina. Mother pushed me out in the ballroom that had once hosted her debut, temporarily turned into a new age birthing room complete with water-birth tub, piped in Tibetan chants, and a small army of long haired, organically clothed Wiccans. We dwelled in the house that would become Forever, but that was a distant tremor in our future, unimaginable at the time. The race of beings that would overcome our world had surely begun, but had not yet made themselves known.

The midwife was a priestess, with a frail, bird like appearance and large, spacey blue eyes. As she pulled me out of the water and onto my mother’s panting breast she cried, “look at that hair!” – an exclamation I would hear like a greeting the rest of my life. My crowning glory, with black and glossy bottom layers and white and wavy ones at the top, was already four inches long when I emerged from the womb.

After the initial excitement of my arrival, the midwife took me to a warm little bath to clean and examine me. As her assistant helped my mother deliver the afterbirth, to be planted in the garden, Willow the midwife marveled at my perfectly formed, long limbs – more like a doll’s than a squishy newborns.

As she cleaned between my legs she emitted a little gasp. My mother, though she came from money, had eschewed the medical establishment for both of her births. She didn’t need the cold and sterile hospitals to do what her body was made to do. She had not had an ultrasound, had not even gone in for check-ups during pregnancy. With an androgynous name selected, she wanted to be surprised on my birth day.

As my mother was cleaned, dried, and wrapped in a robe, she looked at Willow expectantly. Willow carefully wrapped a blanket around me, leaving it looser around my bottom.

“It’s…beautiful,” Willow beamed, handing me into Mother’s waiting arms.

Terrance, my elder brother by five years, had spent the birth hiding under a chair. The sight of it ruined women for him thereafter. He ran out to retrieve my father shortly after I emerged. Glass of bourbon and two cigars in hand – one banded “it’s a boy” the other “it’s a girl,” my father stumbled in as my mother unwrapped me from my blanket. Ten fingers. Ten toes…One penis. One vagina.

“It’s a miracle!” she exclaimed.

My father’s glass crashed to the floor as he saw me over Mother’s trembling shoulder. With shaking hands he lifted both cigars to his mouth and lit them, inhaling the pungent smoke before leaving the room.

My father married above him. A charming Italian gambler from New Orleans, he knew how to dress and behave around the wealthy, snaking himself into their lives and beds for long enough to pay his gambling debts before slinking into the next one. My mother, vacationing during Mardi Gras on break from her all girl boarding school, didn’t stand a chance when they met.

Mother’s family lived in Savannah. They were of a dying breed of Southern Old Money, one of the few whose wealth hadn’t disappeared during Reconstruction. After his careful seduction, she agreed to marry my father, who perhaps felt genuine affection for her as well as her inheritance. With a host of ghosts in every closet, my father moved into my mother’s family home, Montclair, known as “the Big House” to the rest of the town.

Generations of incest had created a tradition of anomalies in my family tree. Sprinkled with the fruits of aristocracy, that my mother and brother represented – fine featured, fey beauties with the amoral ease of privilege in their eyes – were the freaks. The mad ones, the dwarves, pinheads, buried blobs of protoplasm, Siamese twins, and, finally, me.

Most people have a very limited knowledge of human gender. X and Y. Male and female. There are actually at least five known genders in the spectrum of human sexuality, and I was born in the middle. Fully formed in both of my aspects, I was a bit of a celebrity in the limited field of medical gender research. I was poked, prodded, photographed and studied by the best, the only known of my kind. In my heart I was sure there were more of me running around, maybe in the shanty towns of Appalachia, the ditches of India, the whorehouses of Thailand, and anywhere else people too far from society to follow it’s recommended rules of propagation dwelled. Of course, if anyone had told me in my formative years that armies of intersex youths would eventually take over the Earth, take over Montclair, even, I would have laughed and spat in their faces.

My mother didn’t see me as a freak, but as a miracle. She saw me as a living yin-yang symbol, an expression of cosmic balance. Her and my father fought constantly about my upbringing. I would not be a he or she, she decided. I would dress in unisex clothes. I would be me, and I wouldn’t conform, she would make sure of it. While my father would yell, “just have them cut it off!” my mother would shoot smoldering looks and bang doors around Montclair until he came begging for forgiveness. She, the frail and dark eyed witch of the house, would always prevail. In her quiet way, she never let my father forget exactly where he came from.

And where he came from was submerged, in that year of disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes tore the land apart as nature fought back against the cars, the buildings, the feeble constructs of our society. My mother would watch the destruction with fire in her eyes, welcoming it. “The judgment is coming,” she would say, clutching me to her side. “One day the tide will come, wiping the atrocities of man off the streets.”

I’m glad she didn’t live long enough to see the real tide, the one that wiped man and woman off the streets. She was washed up in it herself, perhaps a willing sacrifice to the New Gods.

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Deep in the Dark

Deep in the Dark
by Addie & Rameses

Introduction & Disclaimer

Credits & Acknowledgments:

To Storm, for letting us borrow her magnificent characters and making us learn new facets to their personalities.

And to my dearest friends who gave me much encouragement: Athena, my darling sis, who was so patient with me and let me have the fantastic honor of writing with her. *You’re a gem, love*

And to Mischa, the great connoisseur, whose keen-eyed editing called my attention to so many howlers and squiggles; and made this story come alive at Forever.

Spoilers: None

Characters: A Traveller, Calanthe, Pellaz, Caeru

Ratings: N/C 17 (Adult)

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 infringement on the copyrights are intended.

Deep in the Dark

Part 1 (Rameses)

The Traveller

He was dying.

There was no question of it. He knew it. He could feel it.

This was his life’s climax? To die in the arid wilderness with the colossal range of mountains about him as his pallbearers or rather pyre bearers? They stared down silently at him, against the still, blazing sun, casting monolithic triangular shapes. In order they stood, like sentry soldiers, lifeless yet erringly watchful. The mountains and the rest of Mother Nature waiting to eventually reclaim his wretched corpse. What position would his bones have as the sand-laden winds engulfed them? Would they be in this slightly propped up position he was presently in or in a tangled mass of indistinguishable bones – assuming he could persuade one of the boulders above to came crashing down on his body first? That thought made him smile and as he made to give that smile a voice, he was wracked by another fit of coughing that hacked at his insides and left him utterly breathless. He spat a blob of greenish phlegm swirling with clotted blood and wheezed raggedly, licking his chaffed, wounded lips with a dry blistered tongue. He stared dully at the splat of slime, laughter spent. He would reconsider much more carefully before attempting another bout of mirth.

There was nothing else to stare at, so he continued to stare at the vile mucus, which was already beginning to shrivel up on the scorching rocks beside him. If he stared at the open plains, they would only tantalize him with phantoms of paradise. He’d seen enough mirages for a lifetime.

After a while he felt the need to change position. He shut his eyes in preparation for the effort. Not that it helped anyway because the sun still cast a reddish tinge inside his eyelids. He clenched his jaw as he made to roll onto his side. His shattered lower right limb screamed in painful protest and he screamed with it. His whole body seared with barely endurable pain. It was useless so he gave up the task.

Yesterday, he would have been able to shift whenever he became too uncomfortable from either the sharp, jutting rocks prodding one side of his entire frame or the merciless sun that slowly roasted his skin but now, he couldn’t be bothered. Pain from the leg was another luxury entirely. At first, he had tried inflicting wounds on his arms with a jagged rock in order to relocate the excruciating pain coming from his leg, a trick he had learnt decades ago, but it was useless. The pain would not budge.

That morning at the first splash of dawn, he had awoken from his feverish sleep to find his tattered clothes covered in dew and had sucked the moisture from them, at times chewing the fabric to extract every precious iota of fluid. It had tasted salty, grainy and caked in dried sweat but it would help him live even if it was for a few more hours. He was glad he got to it before the sun did.

He squinted his eyes to look at “The Mountain That Did This To Me.” It was the name he had given it and had begun to make a habit of idly giving the said mountain a glance every now and then. He even spoke to it, muttering now, swearing loudly later. Well, there was nobody else for him to talk to while he waited for death. After all, the damned mountain was responsible for his condition. He had to blame someone. Or something. He was going mad, he thought. Perhaps it was just delirium. He shut his eyes briefly, flicked them open once more and looked intently at his nemesis, the mountain. It shimmered for a second as a heat wave passed over it and it looked distorted. But only for a moment. Ahhh. Delirium then, he concluded, relaxing his eyes once more.

He should give it a name. At least, he would feel that he had a sort of “friend” around him when the end came. Besides, he needed to get his friend’s consent to chuck a boulder on him to end it quickly and therefore needed a name. He wanted no mistake when the time came. It had to be that very mountain. It had to finish for itself what it had already started. He swore at it for the umpteenth time in a tired voice without bothering to open his eyes. Too much effort.

He shivered from the heat and flicked open his eyes. Had he been asleep? A name had come to him as he rested:

Doom Rock.

He would christen his lifeless friend Doom Rock. How appropriate. He chuckled softly and coughed again, though not as terribly as before. Weak fingers slithered around to find a cool spot on the rocks. They found none. He gave up and pushed his palms down anyway so that he could sit up a little, facing his companion.

“Hear that? I’ll call you Doom Rock!” he addressed the mountain. “Now all that’s left is for me to draw enough karmatic* energy to get you to rain your children down on me and end this.”

He slumped back, his rasping breath sounding piteously. Three sentences and he felt he had done fifty miles of running. And he wanted to perform a karmatic spell. Very great ambitions indeed. The same way he had great ambitions of coming to Immanion. He snorted softly and felt a sharp pain in his lungs. Nothing mattered anymore. Nothing. His mind was too filled with morbid thoughts of dying to bother much with what his body now did.

Was he bitter at the fate that had befallen him almost two days hence? Oh yes. Dreadfully bitter. Only at first. Now, he could see that it was meant to be this way. What a glorious end to so much suffering! He had always wanted to go out with a bang. Well, not this time, maybe next life. He found it fascinating how slow death brought out the dark humour in him and fuelled an impatient urge to embrace the beyond… wherever that was. He chuckled hoarsely at his latest witty remark. Yesterday had been for hope, for life; but now he had resigned himself to his fate and he just wanted it done with. He wanted to die now, no more postponements.

Finding Immanion should have been his one salvation. He had hated his life and wanted it ended but thought he would give it one more try and find healing with the Gelaming. He had survived the robbery and travelled on foot this far. They said the Great City of the Tigron was near here. He had met only a huge range of mountains, stolidly glaring back at him. No matter, he had proclaimed, I will climb over them. No mountain in the universe would prevent him from reaching his goal. He had been wrong.

The climbing had been smooth but tiring. It chewed at his finger tips, bruising them raw, but he had kept on. I am almost there, he kept muttering to himself, exulting in the way the adrenalin kept his tired body going. He should have stopped but he was too excited to give in to that luxury. Dusk was swiftly approaching. Once more, an inner voice chided him to stop and rest on a nearby ledge. He refused to heed that call. Immanion was so tantalizingly close! He had dreamed of this for years and now that he was almost there, he dared not stop.

One false step in the encroaching darkness was all that was needed. He fell, battering his body as he plummeted. He heard his right leg snap. Once. Twice. He lost count. By the time he slammed at the base of the mountain, he was unconscious.

The first day had passed, with the heat, the pain and the troubles that befell him keeping him in constant mood swings. He had raged, wept, screamed, whispered, laughed, cried and reminisced about his whole life; the tragedies, the too brief periods of joy, the grief, the meager triumphs, the sufferings. All of it.

Somewhere in between, he had started talking to the mountains, singling out his nemesis. By high afternoon, he could smell his skin burning and at least had the energy to shift positions and hide in the shelter of the shadows about him. Hope had kept his energy up. Hope that somebody would come rescue him. That hope had quickly slunk to become despair and the two emotions kept swinging before him like the two-sided head of the god Janus. The Gelaming were supposed to be all-seeing, were they not? Why weren’t they here? He didn’t want to die. Someone had to come, he was sure of it. But nobody came.

The second day was here. He was beginning to regret not using his karmatic energy to kill himself earlier when he still had the strength. Too scared to die at my own hands or being too stupid to think that some Good Samaritan would come passing by and save me. Too late now. He hadn’t enough strength to even crawl behind the shade of one of the nearby rocks as he had done the day before. He must have an amazing, gorgeous tan by now, he thought wryly. How he wished it was only that. His pale skin had always been sensitive to too much sun. He could feel the sunburn everywhere on him, regardless of exposed skin or not.

His breathing was becoming irregular. He felt very tired. Yeah, okay what else is new?

He involuntarily shivered again from the heat. His head swam and he could no longer feel his ruined leg. Just as well. He coughed disastrously once more, his lungs felt as if stabbed with hot knives. His noises echoed around him. He spat more mucus, now it was mostly blood. The broken ribs had gored his lungs, going much deeper than he thought. The rasping was now more pronounced and he could feel himself getting weaker. Hooray, he thought listlessly. It comes at last. He struggled to open his blood-encrusted eyes to look at Doom Rock.

“Looks like I won’t be needing your help after all, old friend,” he croaked.

His eye caught something white and shimmering in the distance. It looked like horses. White horses. Must be a mirage… No. Gelaming on white horses. His mind was playing games. He closed his eyes and fell into that sweet void that had been eluding him for so long. He had found his peace. His last thought was… “Finally”

* Footnote:

Karmatic energy is one of the new skills that the Wraeththu have managed to discover shortly after the ascension of Thiede and Calanthe’s coronation. It involves being able to tap into the life-force energies of nature or supposedly inanimate, non-living objects and mould it to work for the har wielding it. Only hara of Algoma (the highest caste of the second level Ulani) and above possess the talent to use this power. It is called karmatic because it is not the har that is creating the energy but rather him tapping into it, for instance, a rock’s energy and using it briefly, before returning the energy back to the object. As such, no new energy is created, neither is any destroyed. Both the living hara and the inert object get the psychic energies back once the spell is completed.

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