Duel

In the dim light of the canvas tent, Valda finished the last of his prayers. He rose from kneeling beside his cot, tucking a small metal talisman of a hammer into his breastplate. He clenched his gauntleted fist as the talisman left his hands to settle on his chest, the cool metal biting into his bare skin. The leather of his gauntlets creaked.

He checked and rechecked the straps of his armour, fingers feeling across the seams in the steel plate. He clenched, opened and clenched his fist again.  He tested the joints of the armour, and nodded, satisfied. Outside, through the thin fabric of the tent, the clamour of the crowd made for a cacophonous chorus of jeers, shouts and curses. Distantly, he could hear the ringing of steel on steel, and the pained screams of the defeated.

He pulled a black fur cloak over his shoulders, the final touch in this costume he put on for himself. A black wolf snarled on his breastplate, the stylised image taking up the whole of the front of the breastplate. He wrapped a leather cord around his forehead and tied his hair back. The hilt of his great two-hander, a sword large enough to seem unwieldy to most men, jutted out over his shoulder. Another snarling wolf capped the top of his hilt.

It was a costume. It was all for show, this image he had crafted for himself. He did not want to be be seen for who he used to be. The weight of the shame, the dishonour, would break his back.

He could hear the announcer, a fat and greasy bastard with a voice as slick as a weasel, cry out the names of the next contenders, “Our newest contender hails from the Blistered South, a blasted land of death and heat. Captured as a boy and taken into the Royal Guard of Brevalin, he is a ruthless killer!” That garnered a sizeable reaction from the crowd, “Without mercy, without pity! Introducing Tjorn of Tarda, the Razor!”

Valda wanted to laugh. He remembered the last time someone had been named Razor. 

He pondered. Tarda. He thought he had seen someone with the looks of those people in the training yard, but he hadn’t thought much of it. He tried to recall what he had seen but found his memory to be a hazy blank. He strained to bring up the memory–any information on his opponent could mean the difference between life and death.

“But, you may be asking yourself, ‘who could possibly be facing such a formidable opponent?'” The announcer paused theatrically, even though he had as much presence as a rat, “Born in the Frozen North, raised by the beasts of the Endless Plains, our contender goes by many names. The Fallen Knight! The Northern Bear! The Black Wolf!” 

The crowd erupted in cheer. Valda had no trouble hearing the cries of bettors looking to change their bets, or of new bettors ready to make fresh wagers.

That was his cue.

He stepped through the flaps of the tent into the blinding sunlight and entered into a swirling maelstrom of people, a mass of shoving and shouting. The crowd grew silent in a strange act of reverence. They cleared a path wide enough for five men abreast. Valda half-sauntered, half-stalked towards the arena. He walked so that all could see the black wolf on his breastplate.

It was all part of the image, all part of the costume.

He descended the ramp of compacted dirt into the arena, nothing more than a glorified pit. Several paces deep and large enough to fit a hundred men, the arena had seen more blood than any man would ever be able see in a lifetime, or even three. The walls of the arena were made of stone as slick as ice, and the top of the arena was covered in heavy rope. A heavy gate of steel would be lowered across the ramps leading into the arena as soon the battle began. There was no escaping. Two men entered and they would leave either a victor, or a corpse.

A man waited at the bottom of the ramp. He was a skinny, rat-looking fellow, but Valda knew him well. The fellow took Valda’s cloak, and would place it safely back in Valda’s tent until he returned–if he returned. The fellow nodded and stepped aside, leaving the path ahead clear.

Valda paused before the open gates for a long moment. His hands twitched and almost reached to feel the talisman in his breastplate. This was no time for that. 

Valda stepped into the arena, and the heavy steel gate slammed shut behind him.

Tjorn of Tarda, or the Razor, as the announcer had called him stood twenty paces away, on the other side of the arena. He looked as arrogant as the announcer had made him out to be. ‘Without mercy, without pity, a ruthless killer’ he had said. He was a lean, hard man, the type of man Valda had seen a hundred times before. He had an angry, puckered scar across his face, one that made him look even uglier, if that were possible. His skin was pale and wind-blasted, and his hair was black as pitch, typical of his region.

Tjorn wore armour but Valda could tell that it was cheap, and poorly made. It would not be able to withstand as much abuse as Valda’s own armour. That would make things easier. There were rules that both combatants had to wear armour, but there was nothing in the rules that said they had to wear the same type.

The Razor drew his sword and settled into the ready stance, the tip of his sword level with Valda’s throat. Valda did nothing, and instead stood passively. He watched the Razor from across the arena with eyes that could put a hawk to shame. The crowd watched on with baited breath, waiting for the battle to begin.

In stories, duels were an elegant, and graceful affair.

A storied duel had two men facing off, armed with but their swords and their wits. They would bow and exchange quips. They would flow from one form to another, moving with all the poise and finesse of ballroom dancers.

But this was not like the stories.

The Razor surged forward, cutting the distance between the two of them in half before anyone could blink. He attacked once, a downward slash strong enough to punch through steel and split a skull in two.

Steel met thin air.

The distance between the blade and its intended target was well over a full pace. The Black Wolf stood passively, examining its prey with eyes to put a hawk to shame.

Infuriated, Tjorn launched into another attack. A ferocious, blindingly fast barrage of slashes. His blade sang as it sliced through the air.

Valda retreated, eyes examining his opponent’s movements, simply stepping away as Tjorn continued to futilely swing at nothing. He was looking for something, his eyes studying every movement intensely. The crowd began to cheer, for who, Valda did not notice. Their shouts became a monotonous ringing in his ears.

Tjorn, enraged, ceased his attack and roared at Valda, baring his teeth as if he were an animal himself, “Stand and fight!” He glared pure murder at him–a fire burned in his eyes.

Valda said nothing. Instead, he settled into ready stance, no sword in hand. His legs tensed, ready to surge forward.

Tjorn circled him, eyes fixed on his opponent. Valda seemed to scrutinise Tjorn’s movements with cool, impassiveness. His eyes were cold enough to freeze over the sea. 

The crowd held their breath, rows of men and women leaning forward to watch, eyes transfixed on the two duellists. The silence in the air was prime, for breaking.

Roaring, Tjorn surged forward. Valda saw that he was on the offensive, and he attacked with all his might and fury. Steel sang against steel. Valda gave up ground easily, letting himself be driven back. There was space in the arena yet. He could see his opponent’s eyes light up with the false hope of victory. He could sense tiredness sinking into Tjorn’s bones, and he knew that Tjorn would have to try to end this soon.

Valda sensed the closing proximity with the walls of the arena behind him. He would not be able to retreat for much longer. But still his eyes examined Tjorn with all the intensity of a predator watching its prey. He watched, waited. 

Sensing his triumph close at hand as he continued to drive Valda back, Tjorn aimed a devastating downward slash across Valda’s skull. This would be it, there was no space for Valda to retreat any more.

There.

In one moment, Valda had stood pressed nearly to the wall of the arena, the sword of Tjorn whistling towards his head–poised to split his skull. 

And in the next, Valda stood a pace away from Tjorn, two-hander slick with blood. Tjorn staggered, sword clattering to the ground. He clutched at his stomach and convulsed when he saw he pulled his fingers away crimson. He dropped to his knees and collapsed in the dirt.

The crowd erupted in cheer. Their cries became a chorus of noise and in that noise, there was one name they bellowed, “Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!”

This was not like the stories.

In stories, duels were an elegant, and graceful affair.

A storied duel had two men facing off, armed with but their swords and their wits. They would bow and exchange quips. They would flow from one form to another, moving with all the poise and finesse of ballroom dancers.

Valda had not danced.

Sandman

Good morning. You are on rotation 10. You have three outstanding tasks.

You wake up. It’s your turn again. The pod door opens, just as it has every time before.

Micro-cracks in Sections C12, C13 and C14. Priority high. Low-oxygen in Section C22. Priority medium. Opened pods in Section D00 and E00.

Groggily, you sit up and swing your legs over the sides of the cryopod. You shiver and wipe the beads of condensation off your forehead. You barely register the simulated, artificial voice. You’re still recovering from the effects of cryostasis. Your vision is still a little blurry. Your chest heaves, your lungs unused to breathing on their own after thirty years.

You do not notice this. You know it will pass in time.

You are naked, just like when you went into the pod. Your clothes are where you left them, in the notch in the wall just beside your pod. Your name is there too, displayed on a slightly staticky screen.

You have one message.

You frown at the computer screen.

You have one message.

Play message?

You tap on the screen. A man’s face appears on the screen. He is you, and he is not you. He has the same hair as you, the same eyes, the same nose, but you know he is not you. You know he is not you because that cannot possibly be you. You were asleep for thirty years. You did not leave this message.

The man who is you but who is not you is wounded. He is clutching his stomach, red blood blossoming from underneath his hand and staining his pristine uniform. He tries to speak but he stops. His head swivels towards his left. His eyes widen, his mouth opens in a snarl, or is it a scream?

Message Ends. 

You do not know what to do. What just happened? You want to find out but the computer interrupts you.

Micro-cracks in Sections C12, C13 and C14. Priority high. Low-oxygen in Section C22. Priority medium. Opened pods in Section D00 and E00.

It is the last task that stands out to you. Another pod? Section D00. Section E00. You know that no other pods should be open by now. You swallow. A short trip away if you take the onboard rail system.

But you’re not allowed to go into the other sections. Not unless it was an emergency. There are other technicians in those sections. It’s their job to work on that.

However, there are other things that require your attention first. The micro-cracks in Sections C12 ,13 and 14 must be attended to immediately. Any weaknesses in the hull could turn out disastrous for the mission.

You think back about the man who is you, but is not you. You push that thought out of your mind. You have to work, you tell yourself. You cannot let this distract you.

You walk towards the living quarters, just a few minutes away from your pod. You don your white uniform, crisp and clean just the way you left them before the long dark of sleep.

You’ve always kept your quarters nice and clean, as neat and as tidy as can be. However, as you enter the quarter, you notice something is a bit off, a bit strange, a bit different. That cup should not be in the sink, it should be in the cupboard. A plate is still on the table, a chair had been pulled out. The bed in unmade. But you tell yourself, it is okay. This must be from the cryosleep, you’re just imagining things, you tell yourself. There cannot possibly be anyone else awake on the ship, cannot possibly be another you because you are you and no one else can be you.

You walk up to the food and drink dispenser. The familiar soft-blue glow of the screen comforts you. You tap out an order and the machine spits out two pills, and dispenses a small paper cup with cold water. You take the pills right away. You feel better immediately.

After eating, you check with the computer for your outstanding tasks.

Micro-cracks in Sections C12, C13 and C14. Priority High. Low-oxygen in Section C22. Priority medium. Opened pods in Section D00 and E00.

Maybe you should check again.

Micro-cracks in Sections C12, C13 and C14, priority high. Low-oxygen in Section C22. Priority medium. Opened pods in Section D00 and E00.

You check again.

Micro-cracks in Sections C12, C13 and C14, priority high. Low-oxygen in Section C22. Priority medium. Opened pods in Section D00 and E00.

No.

Opened pods in Section D00 and E00.

No.

You don your protective Hazards Environments Suit and grab a flashlight. You strap a toolkit to your waist. It must just be an error in the computers in that section, you tell yourself. A simple error. But there cannot be any errors on a ship designed to last for a thousand years.

You board the rail system, nothing more than a simple cart that hurtles through the gargantuan spine of the ship. Within minutes, you arrive at the great bulkhead at the entrance to Section D00. A door to a gargantuan vault, an imposing piece of metal and steel, it looms above you. You check the console at the door and run diagnostics on the systems. If this was an error, you’d be able to find it here.

Error. Unable to perform remote diagnostics.

You frown. You try again.

Error. Unable to perform remote diagnostics.

You look up at that great, hulk of metal and steel and feel a sense of dread build in your mind. You tell yourself it cannot be anything other than a mistake. Surely, it must be a error. Why would there be anyone else awake? You realise you must go in if you are to see if it truly is just an error. You hold a wrench in your hands like a club and desperately tell yourself that you will not need it.

The door opens with a great, metallic shriek that makes your heart start to beat faster. Anxiety builds. You enter the section and the door closes behind you.

You wander the halls, walls lined with the same hexagonal pods, again and again and again and again. You hear the gloves of your suit creak as you grip the wrench even tighter. You wander and wander. You suddenly feel as if you were lost, even though you know exactly the layout of every section in the ship. You could’ve sworn you’ve seen those names before. You backtrack and find yourself reading the same names over and over again. Your heart starts to beat even faster. You can feel sweat build on your brow.

You start to run, not caring about the noise you’re making, not caring that your clanging footsteps could be heard from anywhere in the section. You run back towards the door from whence you came. Then you stop. You have found the pod. It’s open. You look at the name. You shake your head, you cry, you scream.

It is your name.

You hear footsteps. You turn.

It is you.

His face is caked in blood. Flesh rots in his long, scraggly hair. Pieces of meat are caught in his teeth. He howls and launches himself at you.

You are not fast enough.

Good morning. You are on rotation 11. You have three outstanding tasks.

Wanderer

The Wanderer unslung the bow from across his shoulder, careful to not disturb the rocks at his feet. Sound would give him away. There was something strange about this fog-shrouded land. He could feel the eyes of a thousand unseen watchers, peering at him from the corners of his vision. He reached into the bristling quiver at his hip and nocked an arrow.

He had come here not out of some petty desire for treasure or adventure. He had been called here.

He had been asleep when it had happened. Beneath a sky full of stars, he tossed and turned, caught in the midst of a nightmare that he could never escape. Then the whole world trembled. The ground beneath him shook so violently that he was surprised when he opened his eyes and found no bones broken. He felt something pull at him, something far and distant, far and far-off to the north. A low, haunting voice rumbled in his mind.

Come, Lost One. We await.

That was all it had said, and that was all he needed.

For all his life he had wandered the lands. He had no memory of being a boy or of his parents. He did not remember playing with other children or having any boyhood friends. One day, he was just there.

He drifted from town to town, city to city, without thought and without purpose. He lived solitary, and alone. The days brought only a chain of visual sensations, none of which cohered into any sort of meaning. The world felt out of focus, without meaning.

His name was The Wanderer, for he knew nothing but the long, lonely roads, and the never-ending journey of a man with no home.

Until the message.

He had travelled, moving northwards slowly over many long days–long days that turned to weeks, weeks that turned to months. He did not know if he was getting any closer at first and he felt as if he were destined to walk north forever, until the end of the world. However, he had felt that rumbling again and heard that ancient, rumbling voice.

Come, Lost One. Return to us.

And so he continued on his journey. Onwards and onwards, further north. As he travelled, he felt that pulling become stronger. Day by day, the tug on him became more focused, until he could point directly at his destination, wherever it was.

And on the thirteenth morning of the thirteenth month of his long journey, he had come onto this valley, this valley enshrouded by a mist that swallowed the lands in front of him. The mist did not deter him, for he knew exactly where he was meant to go. He could point right at it through even the thick, grey fog. A place of vast stones and ancient ruins. That was where his journey had taken him, and where he was now.

He stepped carefully over the rock-strewn slope that slowly angled upwards. This close, he could see the ruins in more detail. Whatever this place was, it had been abandoned for some time. Moss clung to the stones tightly, blanketing them in hues of green. Ivy creeped over the cracks in the ancient stonework.

Suddenly, the ground shook again. The earth heaved up and down, and he dropped to the ground, clinging onto tufts of grass to stop himself from being thrown about like a rag-doll. The stones around him crumbled and fell.

And then the quake ceased.

We have waited long for you, Lost One.

He stood, slowly, and stared at the hundreds of stone creatures, ancient beyond imagining, peering down at him. Their eyes glowed unnaturally. Runic carvings in their stoney-hides thrummed with energy. He could not believe them to be made of stone, for they moved with fluid, snake-like movements. And they had spoken to him.

He dropped to a knee before them, for he felt that it was only right, “Why am I here?”

You have been gone for too long, too long.

He looked up at them, he did not know what they were talking about, “What is this place? Why have you brought me here?”

Suddenly, one of the great creatures lifted its head and howled a mournful cry. And a hundred throats echoed that sorrowed sound.

Too long!

Too long!

“Why am I here?” He shouted, trying to be heard over their grieving cries.

Your mind was addled in the escape. When the invaders came, our creators–your people–sent away the young so that they would be spared from the killings.

All across the lands were you spread. Ashes to the wind, scattered to the north, to the south, the east and the west. Far and farther away were you sent.

We were created to stand guard over the ancient city.

But we failed.

We failed!

We could not hold back the enemy’s raving hordes. In the final moments of the war, we were given new instructions. We were told to bring back their children once it was safe.

So, we went into slumber. For many long years we have waited until the time is right.

Until we could send out the message and bring home the Lost Ones.

Bring home the Lost Ones.

Bring them home. 

Flashes of memory, flashes of images, burned into the Wanderer’s eyes. He shook his head, trying to clear it of the images that came unbidden.

Like a flood, his memories rushed to fill the empty voids of his mind.

He could see himself as a boy, playing with his father’s reddish-blonde hair. He could remember the girl in red who had been his first childhood love. He could remember the red of her lips when they had first held each other. He could remember the girl in red who was his first love, and who became his first sorrow. He could remember the fires that had burnt down his home. He could remember the crimson pool which made a bloody halo above his father’s head.

Lost No More. 

Suddenly, life–bleary, washed out–snapped back into focus. The ancient guardians looked down at him and suddenly the world had meaning again. Purpose flooded into him, overwhelmed him.

Go into the city, Lost No More.

Go into the city!

The Wanderer stood… No, that was not his name. He would not need that name anymore, for he would wander no longer. He had another name.

Long have we awaited your return!

Go into the city!

Atlas was his name. Atlas.

Save your people.

The Lapping Waves

I stand at the prow of a once-proud ship, the sea-salt winds whispering in my ears and the ocean’s fine spray in my face. The rain patters on my head and shoulders, and my jacket does its best to dissuade the cold waters from seeping into my skin.

Far off I hear the gulls crying shrieks. I hear the ringing of the dock master’s bells and the cries from the dock wishing us fair journeys across dark waters. I remember the elation of being back on the water. I remember smiling and waving my hat towards the shore and opening, that night, a bottle of champagne and toasting to the sea, and to the waters and to the winds, toasting to a good journey ahead. I can see the bright beam from Taren’s Watch Lighthouse, a beam that sweeps left to right and warns the sailors of the rocks that lurk below. I can see the flittering pieces of colourful confetti they threw at us when we set out. But that was long ago.

All that is gone now. The sea, and its waves and mighty tempests consumes my waking hours, and haunts the dark recesses of my dreams. I sleep, and I feel the waters rising all around me, the cold biting into my skin and sucking me of heat and warmth and leaving nothing. Nothing but emptiness, and callouses, and regrets. All gone now.

Now I cannot remember when the ground beneath my feet did not rock or sway. I cannot remember when last I could walk without having to worry about falling into the water. I cannot remember when I could stand upright in a room. I cannot remember when last I could put down a pen on a table, and not have it roll away.

Silence scares me. I cannot sleep without the sounds of the lapping waves at the hull, or the whistle of the ocean breeze, or the sound of spray upon the deck.

I did not come back in time. The sickness had taken them both while I wrestled my ship through a storm a hundred miles across. They said that there was nothing I could’ve done, had I been there. The doctor shook his head and patted my shoulder, as if that could bring them back to me, or his touch would somehow make up for the loss.

Gone. The light of my life, the guiding star that brought me back to safe waters, extinguished like a candle in the rain. A lighthouse gone dark.

I couldn’t stay. The land held nothing for me. I had lost my anchor that tied me to the earth, and I set adrift on the roaring storm. I let go of the wheel and watch as the waves batter the hull and the howling winds tear at the sails and the cold clutches of the sea grip my ship.

All I have now is the cold, unfeeling sea. And the sea-salt winds howling in my ears and the fine ocean’s spray in my face. The rain patters on my head and shoulders. The icy water begins to lap at my boots. The ship shudders as it takes on water.


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Thanks!

S.

Burning Skies

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Airships are strange things. They’re simultaneously kind of stupid and incredibly unrealistic, but there’s also something quite appealing about them. 

All common sense tells us that aircraft which rely on big balloons, highly explosive hydrogen, and a bunch of propellers and sails is a bad idea. And yet, there’s just something inherently cool about airships.

I think one of my oldest dreams was to stand at the helm of a great airship, tonnes upon tonnes of metal and steel ready at my fingertips, the wind howling in my ears, donning a heavy jacket against the chill of high altitudes. Captaining an airships combines that dashing, brave image of an experienced sailor steering his ship and the wind-blown daring and excitement of flying. I think that’s what makes it seem so appealing.

This is a snippet of a story I’ve been tossing around for a while. Obviously, the theme here is ‘airship’. So, here goes…


Burning Skies

The cracked leather of his gloves creaked as he squeezed the worn wooden spokes of the helm–iron grip holding the eight-spoked wheel steady still. The cold winds buffeted him, howling zephyrs trying to tear him off the deck and pull him down to his death. He was far north today, and the temperatures were bitter. He scanned the clouds around, his ears picking up naught but the creaking of the lines holding them aloft, and the gentle hum of the engines, vibrating through the soles of his boots.

Standing at the quarterdeck, high above the main deck, The Captain, looked over his ship like a king examining his domain. Only forty by ten metres, his ship was small, but it was his Kingdom. He held a command over this ship as harsh and as strict as any ruler.

The hull of the ship was wooden–a deep, rich mahogany colour that few other ships could boast. Its design spoke of old-world galleons and man-o-wars, even if it was dwarfed by any other of its ilk. The smooth hull of the ship swept upwards at the bow into a great bronze owl figurehead, wings spreading back to cover the bow. Two metal walkways protruded out sideways from the middle of the foredeck, hanging precariously over the abyss, both lead to twin Five-Guns. A great Bastard Cannon stood riveted to the centre of the deck. She was a ship of beauty, there could be no doubting that. Her name was Dawnbreaker.

The Captain spun the wheel to the right, adjusted switches and examined dials. The Dawnbreaker drunkenly lurched to the right. He made a few more adjustments to the panel of dials, switches, buttons and knobs that stood to the right and left of the wheel. The Dawnbreaker pulled out of her swaying, clumsy turn and her course levelled out.

Ahead floated the Ice Shards of Corinth. The vast field of levitating icicles glinted in the light of the sun. They were innumerable, uncountable. Each hovering shard glittered like crystal, every single one of them beautifully unique and different in shape and size. From this distance, he could only see the very largest of the shards in any detail. They were called the Three Brothers, the largest of the three–Dmitri was its name–was twice the size of a Mining Guild Dreadnought. Shaped like a cross, he tumbled around the edges of the field of floating shards. The two other brothers, Ivan and Alexei, traced wide elliptical paths round the centre of the field, cutting into and out of the ice field.

The Captain pulled on a pair of goggles against the glare of a thousand thousand glittering lights. He examined the ice field from afar. There. A single moving speck that did not glow and shimmer like the others around it–moving too fast and too regularly to be a shard. His quarry thought they had evaded him.

The Captain threw open a switch and the engines roared to life and the Dawnbreaker was on the move.

As soon as the engines had come on, the crew of the Dawnbreaker scrambled to their positions. Gunners deftly crossed the narrow metal walkways to the Five-Guns. Three men manned the Bastard Cannon–one to aim, two to load the immensely heavy metre-long shells. Engineers stood ready to extinguish fires and make repairs, each man strapped into a harness that let them dangle over the side of the hull. Tossers, thick-set and burly men armed with cutlasses and pistols, readied themselves to repel boarders from enemy ships. The Captain did not need to shout out orders, for everyone had their instructions drilled into the head.

The Dawnbreaker hurtled through the skies, engines howling. The lines holding together the ship’s balloons creaked. Engineers readied themselves in case they had to quickly fix a snapped line. The Captain kept her above the ice field, but even he could not avoid the shards that would some times break and shatter upon the bronze owl figurehead.

It was not long before Dawnbreaker’s prey–the aptly named Runner–had spotted them streaking towards them. It was an old ship, and damaged from their chase across the heavens. It limped along, engines spluttering and belching out great clouds of black smoke.

“Starboard guns! Shred the engines!” The Captain bellowed, his voice carrying loud and clear over the roar of the engines and the rushing winds. He turned the Dawnbreaker to chase at an angle, giving his gunner a better shot.

The gunner nodded and took aim. Squeezing the trigger, the air exploded with noise, smoke and empty casings, which clattered on the metal walkway and tumbled the long journey down to earth. The Five-Guns filled the air with a cacophonous noise, rotating five-barrel machine guns spitting out a hail of bullets, streaking tracers that etched a line of blinding light through the air.

The Runner’s engines exploded in a cloud of shrapnel and debris. It was disabled. It would never fly again.

“Ready the Bastard!” The Captain commanded. The men at the Bastard nodded and together loaded in a large, metre-long shell. The cannon swallowed the shell and clanked, ready to fire.

The Runner’s crew scrambled on deck, trying desperately to fix their engines. If only they could just get it working again, if only they could just dip back into the ice fields and hide from the onslaught of fire and death, perhaps they could live.

But there was no escaping the Dawnbreaker.

And The Captain had grown bored of the chase.

“Fire!”

 

Fairton Community Radio

I don’t know if any of you have listened to Welcome to Night Vale, but if you do then this the structure of this story will sound familiar. If you haven’t listened to it, then the premise of WTNV is it is a series of podcasts based on a radio station in the weirdest town in the world.

This story is pretty much like that.


The following is a transcript from Fairton Community Radio, January 6th

Greetings, listeners. To start us off, the Fairton Public High School student council has asked me to read this short notice. The Fairton Public High School student council is proud to announce the first annual Fairton Science Day, held this coming Saturday at 3AM to 3:07AM. Come and see what the best and brightest students of Fairton’s very own Public High School has to offer. Please, bring no electronics, recording devices, or synthetic clothing. The Fairton Public High School administration would also like to remind you that they are not liable for any injury, serious maiming, death and/or disintegration. So come on down this Saturday and watch the future unfold before your very own wide, unblinking horrified eyes.

And now, the news.

It’s been a bright and sunny day out there in Fairton, isn’t it? Many of you have been calling in to the station and emailing us and texting us about that. It seems that many of us are not used to this sudden light in the crushing darkness of our existence. Remember Fairton, there’s no need to panic. That bright burning ball in the sky is not about to destroy us, not at least for another several billion years, and none of us are going to live that long to witness it anyway. So, relax. Take comfort in your short, fleeting and thoroughly meaningless existences. I know I will.

We here at Fairton Community Radio are pleased to introduce our newest Initiate to our ranks, John Patterby. John found himself here this morning, dressed head-to-toe in a white robe robe, stained a dark maroon by dried splatters of blood. He says he does not remember why he is here, or even where he is, or who he is. He says his memory comes to him in short, terrifying flashes of a some strange and eldritch ritual, performed in some dank and dark basement at the farthest corner of the globe, and that he could hear chants in a long dead language. John is also very good at sound mixing. We have him working the audio equipment right now! John says hello, Fairton.

Hello, John!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m afraid there are some issues that have come up that I must address on the air. Now, I’m not one for editorializing, especially on air, but enough is enough I say. In today’s modern times, there are certain traditions that must undergo change or be eliminated completely. That is just the nature of progress. Sometimes, things just get left behind. However, there are things that we, as a community, cannot let go lest we risk losing our very identities, lest we lose the thing that separates us from all the rest. There are just some things that we must hold onto with every fibre of our beings, that we must grab onto with our claws and fangs and talons and various other appendages and never let go.

And so, I say that all children should be sworn to the blood-oath, the same blood-oath we all have taken before them. It is true that some parents feel that it is an old, outdated and barbaric ritual. A ritual that is forced upon the only vestiges of innocence in our cruel and fragile world before they are able to fully comprehend the true gravity of their oaths. Is it old? Yes. Is it outdated? Yes, there are absolutely some aspects of the ritual that can be updated, such as that same old altar that everyone uses, just behind Town Hall.

But is it truly barbaric to swear our children into a millennia old oath to stay loyal to the Creators and to await their return? Well, let me ask a counter question. Is it barbaric to keep our history alive? Is it so bestial to remain faithful to the Oh Powerful Creator, the Oh-So-Powerful Creator who made us us in the awe-inspiring heat of the Solar Forge?

I rest my case.

Now, time for traffic.

I’ve been getting reports of heavy congestion on the the south-bound highway leading out of Fairton. This is strange, as the south-bound highway does not actually go anywhere. It just stretches out into the distance, stretching for as far as the eye can see and further, beyond the horizon. There have been efforts to measure the distance of the highway but all the equipment used to try to measure the highway have all either catastrophically failed, or run out of batteries, and they just could not be bothered to get more. Many experts agree however, that the highway is definitely the result of black magic.

So, maybe take a different route today listeners.

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Hold on a moment, listeners, I’ve just been handed a note from one of the station interns. It’s from John Patterby. Strange, I haven’t seen John move once from his spot in the sound booth. Well, let’s see what it says.

Well, that is odd. Listeners, John says here that there are dark goings-on today. His handwriting is remarkably neat and tidy, although the ink appears to be running down the page, making it hard for me to read his red lettering. He says, and I quote, that they are coming, dear Lord they are coming, dear Lord save us from their enveloping darkness. The Elder Ones. They are so numerous, so large, they blot out all of the stars in the sky. They drift towards us, asleep on the vast cosmic ocean, and soon will wake in strange waters. Our waters. We will all kneel and grovel before them for they are our leaders, and we are but insects in their presence. We are dirt.

We. Are. Dirt.

All hail.  

Well, I don’t know about dark goings-on, and enveloping darkness, and vast cosmic oceans, but I do know good prose when I see it. This note has all the elements of a budding story, just waiting to be told. I did not know that John was such a talent at crafting fiction. I think he’ll go far that man, you mark my words, Fairton. Mark my words.

An update on the Fairton Science Day. The Fairton Public High School student council wishes to retract their announcement about the Fairton Science Day. They say that Science Day is not even really a thing and that we should all forget about Science Day, right now.

They clarified that Science Day is still being held this Saturday, at the same time, but that we are not granted the right to that information. Instead, the Science Day will be held and no one will attend, save a few tall bald men in dark suits from the government. Or at least, we think they are from the government, said the Fairton Public High School student council. It’s just that their blank and empty expressions, coupled with eyes devoid of any life, light and/or laughter, made them look like they’re from the government.

The Fairton Public High School administration apologises for the error and pledges they will immediately remove the existing student council for their failure and replace them with a more malleable, more easily controlled puppet council. Any student wishing to participate in this new puppet council are encouraged to talk to the school’s councillor immediately.

An explosion was reported at Bill & Dolly’s Gelato and Ice Cream Shop. Onlookers described a scene of carnage inside the quaint little white-plank house that serves delicious and authentic gelato and ice cream, open since whenever. They said that the floor was covered in broken glass and debris, as if something had torn through the building. However, they also said that there was absolutely nothing broken. The windows were intact and all of the patrons inside appeared to be treating themselves to Bill & Dolly’s signature Mint and Lamb Ice Cream. No one seemed to be moving. They were all frozen in the middle of whatever it was they were doing at the time. A crowd soon gathered outside of the Gelato and Ice Cream Shop and began to steal whatever they could from the stationary and unmoving patrons.

And if you’re one of the people who were frozen at Bill & Dolly’s Gelato and Ice Cream Shop and had your personal possessions stolen, remember that vigilante justice is, as always, highly encouraged.

Listeners, John has given me another note. He’s really let his handwriting go. It may not seem like much but I’ll tell you, John, publishers take notice of things like this. There are smears of blood and viscera all over the paper. It looks like he’s written this with his fingers.

The Elder Ones are coming. Even now, I can feel them approach. They are like a blight on the horizon, a terrible darkness that is slowly sweeping across the land like night falling upon our small and meaningless world. I can see the stars winking out one by one, consumed by the Elder Ones’ darkness. One is nearby. He will be with us soon and His coming will be foretold by madness and insanity. Some will hurt others, some will hurt themselves. We writhe in His coming. We writhe in His glorious coming. He will consume our meagre existence and gift us with the sweet release of the grave and we shall love Him for it.

All Hail.

Keep it up, John. At this rate, you won’t have to be working in the sound booth. One of these days, some publisher is going to snatch you up and your name will be known all across the globe.

And listeners, I wouldn’t worry too much about Elder Ones and deep, dark eldritch monstrosities. In the end, our level of consciousness is so low that we will not even be able to comprehend the effects that these cosmic beings will have on our fragile reality. Instead, our minds would simply collapse underneath the immense strain of this whole new plane of existence and likely send us into a deep and potentially permanent coma. You probably won’t even experience more than a single moment of mind-destroying soul terror before your slip into unconsciousness.

So relax. Sometimes we must accept that some things are just beyond our control, and we should move on.

Looks like it’s going to be a clear night here in Fairton. I hope all of you have someone to share this night with. Or, at least, good memories of when you did.

Farewell, Fairton.

Farewell.