“Boss”, Zarah calls Cim that now, but she wasn’t the first one. The last time they were called “Boss”, it didn’t go well.
In the Seventh Wave, Simeon had been a scout, one of the Unconquered who spent more time lying in muddy ditches and deep puddles than they did a dry bed of any kind. He’d been good at it, good enough to get his own command and to lead them deep into Vallorn-claimed territory when Reikos fell.
Cim can remember it still: her voice begging him to hang on until they can get back to the surgeons; how few of them did get back, every word the surgeons said when they said the wounds would never fully heal and his army life was done.
Simeon went to war, and Cimeies returned. Different people, but both called “Boss” by those close to them. Perhaps this time it would go better.
Prompt of “Boss” provided by Liz.
The frigate known as Cavalier limped into the inner system having dropped out of FTL. The hull was scarred by weapons fire, and she was barely capable of maintaining engine power now – another FTL bubble would be impossible.
What she carried into the depths of the system was no cargo nor even just herself. She carried tidings of a grim fate.
Her sister ship – Chevalier – and the Martin Whittaker, Mars’ flagship lie thousands of light years behind, destroyed during humanity’s first contact with a living alien species.
The news she brought would dishearten not only Mars, but all humanity: tidings of an alien race who do not communicate, but only destroy; of a nascent colony likely destroyed along with the ships that had protected it.
There would be no good tidings this night.
Prompt of “tidings” provided by Rob. Another No Heaven story, this one following on from one on the No Heaven website.
When two stags have a fight, they clash antlers, inflicting grievous wounds on the body, occasionally fatal ones.
When two Changelings fight, it can be similar. It is more often a clash of words and blades than antlers but it is not unknown for antlers to lock, and however they fight, the wounds are no less severe.
When rage takes them, it can be all the worse. And when they are family, the wounds cut all the deeper.
When a Changeling turns her wrath on her fatally-wounded brother, both beset by madness, it can be disastrous. The prongs of the antlers go deep and cause even worse damage, hastening the end.
Prompt of “antlers” provided by Sonja who may be traumatised…
The cards were neatly stacked, organised into separate piles and occasionally stamped with an inky mark that apparently made sense to the person who put them there.
Some of them were crammed with notes, others barely more than a header. They were each meticulously copied, amended, and filed in a particular place after being sorted. The fire blazed merrily nearby, fresh kindling curling within the flames.
A particular card, seemingly forgotten, has fallen near the fire, ashes smearing the ink and smouldering embers blackening the edges. It is stained with cinnamon spirit and some of the ink is blurred from water damage.
The work continues, however.
The prompt of “cards” provided by Liz.
There were always plenty of documents to collate. Diaries, reports, notations on strange things, notices from the Civil Service, the latest judgements from Anvil.
On the shelf sat a black bell, inscribed with a delicate pattern in gold. It sat amongst several other bells, none of which held any less significance and most of which were more prominently placed. The black bell rung, pealing softly, the low tones reaching across the room but not so loud as to be distracting.
Cimeies looked up from the document they were perusing – a copy of the story destined to be added to the Wall of Damata, though whether it was added before the Jotun arrived was another matter – and made a few notes before setting the Freeborn scroll aside and getting up.
There were other tasks to be getting on with, and their Sister was in need of aid. The ringing bell is plucked from the shelf, the motion bringing silence to the room before the bell is rung once. This time, no sound is heard in the study, and the bell is slipped back onto the shelf before Cimeies exits the room just as silently.
Prompt of “bells” provided by Clare.
The silence is deafening. Only the occasional whimper can be heard, even from a crowd of people this magnitude. Even the background hum off the machinery that keeps you all alive is silent, the entire colony shut down and dead to the world, all in the vain hope that those aboard it wouldn’t also end up that way.
They were coming, and no one knew how to stop them. The only hope was to run, or hide. The last of the ships should have left the system by this point, and the thousands of people packed aboard those ships are but a drop in the ocean compared to the billions left behind.
There are around seven hundred of you in here, packed into this room deep within the colony structure like sardines. With the colony’s systems shut down, you need to share tight quarters in order to preserve body heat, but you may run out of air before above freezes to death – the Martian atmosphere is still too thin to retain heat or to breathe. There are some emergency oxygen supplies, but you need to be careful about how you use them; you don’t want to risk drawing attention to yourselves.
It will be a long wait, and you don’t know whether it will end in your survival.. or your death.
Fiction prompt provided by Jen. This takes place within the No Heaven universe and may be the basis for an upcoming game in that world.
The wyvern or the lion?
Which was he? More importantly, which was he to her?
One was worrying, the other unsettling.
The answer was obvious, if you ask the right question. But was he asking the right question?
There was only one way to find out. To ask and see what answer comes from it.
At best, a scathing retort; at worst, he was wrong about the answer and things were much more unsettling.
Still, what is Dawn if not a nation that charges through difficult situations?
The question is asked. The smile is knowing. Ah, this may be much worse than was supposed…
Image is the coat of arms of Sophie, Countess of Wessex
They say eyes are a window into a person’s soul. If that’s so, then I don’t like what I see in mine.
They got in my head, changed how I thought. I did things under their control that I regret.
I betrayed my friends, I betrayed my allies, I betrayed myself and my ideals.
I am haunted by my own eyes. They stare back at me with accusation and pity. They stare back at me with heavy lids and bloodshot corneas. There is a great and terrible weight behind those eyes.
The mask doesn’t help. The false identity I took on so I could do some good defaced by the marks of the enemy. A sign of my betrayal painted in brilliant gold onto the mask that represents who I am in this world. It stares at me as well, the gold reflecting the waning light as if in accusation – not letting me forget.
Who am I now? What am I now? Where do I go from here? How can I fight knowing what I’ve done? How can I not fight knowing what they are and what they will do?
Maybe it’s time to put down the mask. Maybe it’s time I walk away. But I don’t think I can do that yet. Not while… not while they keep stepping up.
The question is… how do I do this now?
Photo by Oliver Facey
It’s just one of those things.
Life and death. You think you’re prepared for it. You think you know what’s to come, and how you’ll deal with it when the time comes.
It’s all a lie, though. No one is ever really prepared for it.
Staring into the face of it, knowing you’re going to die if something isn’t done, it changes you. It makes you realise things you might not have known about yourself.
It makes you realise that you would choose death over slavery. It makes you realise that you would choose the lives of others over your own. It makes you look back at your life and see all your misdeeds anew. It makes you realise what you’ve been missing out on.
It makes you regret not realising sooner. It makes you regret not being able to say anything as it’ll make it harder to let go – to have others let go.
It’s just one of those things. You can’t know what it’s like until you’ve been there. You can’t know what you’ll do until you’re there. But once you’ve been there, it changes you and it’s hard to go back to where you were before.
It’s just one of those things that makes life interesting, right? Right?
Shit. Now what do I do?
Photo by Beth Dooner
Sweat beaded on his face, the clang of steel against steel ringing in his ears.
The hammer came down again and again, folding the hocho-tetsu to free it from impurities. The nabe-gane is heated, and quenched, broken and purified. Then the metals are combined: tamahagane, hocho-tetsu, and nabe-gane layered and folded together to form the blade. Folded together again and again, in more and more complex layers, extended and shaped until the lumps of metal resemble the blade they will become.
The yakiba-tsuchi has already been prepared, and the clay mixture is applied to the blade before it is heated and then quenched. The hot metal bends as it cools, taking on the signature shape as the yakiba-tsuchi leaves its pattern in the steel.
The blade is set aside while the second is forged, and the process begins anew.
With the blades forged, there is still much work to be done. Polishing and sharpening and polishing once more, taking several weeks before it is ready. The crafting of tsuba and koshirae take time as well, the complete process being more akin to art than Telmark smithing.
But finally, they are ready, new blades to suit the Empire he finds himself trapped in.
Photo by Jeff Kubina (CC By-SA 2.0)