Monday, April 25, 2016

The King's Challenge #285

TKC 285

As the swift vessel races through atmosphere, I grip Leffandir by the neck and hiss into her face, “We are going where we will find Enris. Tell the pilot to obey my commands.”

The woman blinks and then gives the smallest nod.

I release her.

“Captain, we are under the command of Lady Makar,” Leffandir states in a firm voice.

The man jerks back to stare at me and then at Leffandir. He may never have seen his Empress before, but he knows her intrinsically. The recognition is inbred. “Empress?”

“Do as I say,” she snaps.

Swallowing, he faces forward. A flyer is for single combat and thus he is alone; he proceeds to punch codes and then asks, “Where are we going?”

“The Ilfin command carrier.”

Again he glances over his shoulder, paling, and then his shoulders stiffen and he continues his input. “Strap in.” He does not again move other than to fly the vessel.

We take seats. There are only four, tightly fit into a small space. While this craft is for single combat, it is also employed to ferry others to destinations in a hurry. Sometimes that can be a mission expert or it may be a dignitary needing to be somewhere without delay.

Damin is beside me, while Leffandir sits as frozen in the seat before me. I stare at her golden hair. She isn’t much of an Empress now in her earthly guise; she is dirty and appears without purpose. However, this is the Glonu ruler and one must never underestimate her.

Suddenly she looks back at me. “I believe I must thank your dog for returning to me my real form.”

“For Enris?”

A swift smile erupts. “Indeed.” She faces forward again.

Damin murmurs, “That will be an interesting meeting.”

Indeed.

“The Ilfin are evacuating the planet,” the pilot states then, his tone expressionless.

I smile. Gennerin followed orders. It is time for the endgame.



The most intense individualism


Sunday, April 24, 2016

The King's Challenge #283 and #284

TKC 283 and 284

We enter the antechamber together. Strangely, the lanterns that lit for me when I entered the space as Lyra are still burning. One may reason that the Glonu are in situ and therefore the lanterns remain aglow, and yet this space feels as abandoned in this present as it did then.

I am now the guide. I lead Damin to the winding stairway and he brings Leffandir with him. She does not protest, but I have the feeling she will have delayed longer had it not been for my knowledge. Why, I can only guess at.

We climb, my leg muscles protesting as much as they did in the first climb.

Never have I known Damin to be this silent. It scares me.

By the time we stand before the doors that lead into the control room I estimate close to an hour has passed. The charges set below will go off soon. We need to act now or we tumble with rock and stone into eternal dust also.

The interior space is as lit, every tiny light blinking on every console. The expression on Leffandir’s face tells me she is astonished. Through the forward windows, where once I watched the fireball in the heavens, the night is revealed as awash in sparkles. Glonu lasers, but who the soldiers shoot it is, again, a guessing game. The world outside has now retreated from its usual sense of importance.

As Iniri Makar, I am aware of what this place is. It is a technological command centre, much as one expects on a spaceship, and thus I stride forward and slap my palm upon a protruding green button. It alters to yellow.

“The flyer is summoned,” I murmur, and head for another set of doors left of the main entrance. It leads to a platform outside.

Punching in a code, I step into buffeting wind. Damin hauls the Empress out and stands behind her to hold her in place. If she attempts to flee, he will shove her over the edge. She knows it, for she does not move, although her eyes skitter everywhere.

“What is your intention?” Damin asks of me, echoing Gennerin earlier.

“This ends now, Damin,” I tell him.

The almighty screech of a flyer on approach ends our words. As wind gusts around us, the vessel manoeuvres into position, bringing the ingress in line with the edge of the platform. A small ramp slaps down.

“Go!” I shout at Damin, already turning back for the control room.

I do not know if he heeds or not, for I move swiftly to the oval cylinder set in the central island. It is empty and it is also so clean I am aware only sorcery keeps it that way. It is a sterile receptacle for magical devices. A Glonu invention to safely hold captured Ilfin objects.

As the first explosion of many to follow rocks the foundations of the Spire, I flex my fingers. The green orb appears instantly and bursts into brilliance; I toss it into the receptacle, where it transforms into the brightest white and grows alarmingly in circumference. By the stars. Swiftly I swivel for the platform.

I run.

Damin’s blue eyes are huge as I sprint across the small space. He has understood and he holds his arm outstretched to me, holding it steady despite the gusts assailing us.

A fireball races up the shuddering tower … and a fireball engulfs the control room from within.

At the last moment I grip Damin’s hand and am barely hauled to safety when the flyer jerks sideways and hurtles into the night.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Review: Social Engineer



Review: Squandered Prayers




The King's Challenge #281 and #282

TKC 281 and 282

The heart does as the heart sees fit. I cannot blame Leffandir for her efforts to again see the man she loves, but my logical mind has to deny the way she went about it.

Shrugging, I thus move away from the woman. “Bring her with us,” I say to Damin. “We will not be attacked while she is in our care.”

The man I love lifts an eyebrow. “Care?” he repeats.

“We need her to call the Glonu off,” Commander Gennerin murmurs. “She can send them all home.”

Hefting his rucksack and hauling the Empress up, Damin heads to the trapdoor. “Fine,” he mutters under his breath. He shoves her at the hole; she goes down without protest.

Watching that, I understand Leffandir hopes, by remaining in our company, to stand before Enris again. I wonder just what exactly their relationship entailed in the past. I admit, I am curious; I actually desire to be a witness at the reconciliation.

Gennerin clears his throat and gestures towards the trapdoor. I precede him to it and we go down. Gennerin pulls the door over the opening, plunging us into darkness. Below, however, light flickers. The torches affixed to Ilfin uniforms have been switched on.

Damin already strides into the darker region, firmly holding Leffandir and forcing her to be our guide. He is going the wrong way. She is taking him to the antechamber where stairs await. She intends to try for the pinnacle.

I do not call him back. Instead I turn to Gennerin. “Place the charges in the circle …” I point to an opening in the tunnel behind us. “There is the access to the foundations. Set the timing for one hour, and then return to the shuttle.”

He eyes me. “I have the clearest feeling you are not coming with us.”

I jut my chin out into the direction Damin vanishes into. “I will see that part of this done. Gennerin, wait until the explosion before taking to the skies.” I point to Marian. “She may need to finish it off.”

“What is your intention?”

“We will summon a flyer from the pinnacle. Have no fear, it will come for Leffandir and thus for us. Be sure to evacuate the whole of Arc after the Spire comes down.”

He is expressionless. “Lady, what is your intention?”

Sighing, I pat his upper arm. “I do not yet know, but I sense something must be done up there before I can leave. We shall meet again in the presence of my father.” Determined, I move away, striding into the darkness after Damin and Leffandir. I do not greet any one; I simply go. Time is now of the essence.

Gennerin will see it done. I trust him.

Swiftly I catch up to the two. Damin’s torchlight is a white beam piercing the dust-ridden gloom ahead. He no longer holds Leffandir, but walks behind her, slightly to one side for his light to go forth uninterrupted. He glances at me as I fall in alongside.

“Do not trust her. This is not just about love,” he mutters. “The woman we see here is also a slaver master and trader, and she has no conscience.”

“Then it isn’t love that drives her to Enris. Once, maybe, but now it is more.”

“Revenge,” Damin puts in. “She wants to make him suffer as he made her suffer.”

“How did Enris make her suffer?”

“Apparently there was a child born of their union. The presence of this daughter opened Enris’ eyes to who he was sleeping with.” Damin lifts a shoulder. “The girl was neither Glonu nor Ilfin and was not a combination either. She was conceived when Leffandir was already standing with one foot in the ethereal spaces and emerged as a half entity. Half physical, half ghost.”

By the stars. “What did Enris do?”

“He killed the girl …”

“… and Leffandir,” I whisper. “That was the day she became fully ethereal.”




Little Red Vessels



Thursday, April 21, 2016

The King's Challenge #280

TKC 280

The Glonu woman rears back and snarls, but she cannot break from Damin’s hold.

“You will die!” she screams.

“No,” Damin responds with amazing equanimity, “you will.”

I shove my face into hers. “Leffandir,” I whisper.

She slumps then and the ghostly host vanishes into thin air as if they were merely figments of the imagination. It is a truth the host depends on the mind-set of the controller, which has now been circumvented.

Sliding through Damin’s hold, the woman falls to her knees in the dirt. Damin releases her to stand braced before her, gazing down. Gennerin marches up and takes up position behind her.

“You are Iniri,’ she whispers, lifting her eyes to me. “This world will be the ending for both of us now.”

I kneel as well. “I will return.”

Her head lowers until her chin almost touches her breast. “I will not. The Delver is right. I will die.”

“Empress, why?” I blurt. “Why this world? Why wait so terribly long for it?”

Leffandir. Empress Eternal of the Glonu Empire, raises her head. “To unmask Enris here, where he cannot escape me.”

By the stars. “Why?”

“To join with him, to create a hybrid royal house.”

I swallow. This is a far-ranging goal. “Massin will be your seat?”

“Our seat. For me and for Enris.”

I blink at her, hearing something added in her tone. “You have known Enris in a past life.”

Her sigh moves through me, into the well of compassion I have inside me. In another time she loved Enris; she loves him still.

“He denied you,” I state.

“When he discovered who I am, yes.”

“And thus you drew him to an empty world. The Glonu ideal of slavery was merely the means to draw him in.” I stare at her. “Leffandir, Enris will never change for you.”

She stares back at me. “I simply wanted to see him one more time.”




Caught!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The King's Challenge #279

TKC 279

Commander Gennerin strides forward, heading directly to the ethereal woman.

“Gennerin!” Damin rasps. “Don’t!”

The older man glances over his shoulder. “Just be ready,” he says, and goes on walking.

Ready for what? I look quickly at Damin to find him stoic. Expressionless and calm. Whatever Gennerin intends, Damin has marked it. He does not like it, but he knows what will come next. By the stars, the men in my life are all mad and far too ready to die.

The ghostly horde tightens the perimeter, but they do not attack. When they do, we cannot survive them, but it appears they wait for the command to do so.

What is going on?

I focus on Sassen. She watches the approaching Ilfin commander with amusement evident in her expression. “Please, mortal, what can you possibly do?”

Peripherally, I notice Damin flexes his fingers, both hands.

Oh.

My attention narrows to the ethereal woman. I must be ready also for what will come next.

Gennerin speaks then, his tone one of satisfaction. “My talent is the ability to reveal liars in whichever form they appear in. Did you sense this? Clearly not, or you would have dissipated already.”

The woman’s amusement vanishes.

“This gift permits me an added ability few others possess,” Gennerin continues, and in that moment he is with her, in her face, and he grips her ethereal shoulders with both his hands. “It allows me to solidify what is unreal to others.”

His fingers dig in; Sassen screeches as vapours of thin white smoke waft upward. It is akin to the tendrils of heat from a hot stew vanishing into the air as the concoction cools. Gennerin then jerks the woman forward and shifts his weight. He throws her towards Damin.


Damin catches her, and I shout, “Leffandir!”


Wharf, Quay, Pier and Jetty (clever tip!)