Betwixt Eternity’s Roots

Solumra and Undaros walked upon rocks barren of life, and young of heart. Two lovers from the same root. They danced upon a world of fire and heat, awaiting a sign in the stars for life to come forth.

“How long are we to be cursed to roam these lands, dear one?” Undaros asked as his feet hissing upon burning sands.

Solumra looked to her lover, seeing the pain upon his shifting face.

“We must wait,” she said, pain filling her soul at the thought. “A sign we will see from the veil of darkness above.”

Both looked to the heavens, wanting in their eyes.

Time passed, and their world circled in the dark. Solumra planted life where she could, but to no avail. The rocks lay scorched and blackened where she had touched.

Utter ruin lay around the two glowing forms. Solumra fell to her knees and cried aloud to the empty lands, “Where do we go from here? Are we to parish upon an unforgiving stone, and an empty sky?”

“Come, love we will die together.” Undaros said, pulling Solumra into his arms. “Turn your face from our prison, we will depart in love.”

And as light faded from their world, a single star shone down from the heavens.

It was Lucia, goddess of life. Purity descended from upon high as those of a lesser road watched with hope.

With a ringing voice Lucia called to them, “Come, my children. Let us bring life to this rock.”

And so Light, Earth, and Water converged upon a sea of dead sand, and from there life was born. From dust rose a garden green.

Out from the ground grew the Varena, the Mother trees. Towering pinnacles formed living walls of waving leaves. Thick trunks held their swaying bodies to the ground, while thick roots of creation delved deep within the world.

“It is beautiful.” Undaros said with a smile. From his footprints bubbled springs, filling into pools and streams.

“It is.” Agreed Lucia, her gaze warming the new flora at her feet.

“But something is amiss.” Solumra said, looking through the garden. “Who is to care for our garden?”

Lucia walked between the trees, listening to the wind. She stopped before the Varena, pressing her hands upon their bark. Radiance flowed into the tree, setting each line of its bark aglow.

“They will.” Lucia breathed into the night air.

And from between the roots of each Varena sprung the Dryadai, Children of the Trees.

-M.E. InkOwl

From Spriggons: A Comprehensive Fieldguide

Here is another featured unpublished writer that I excited to share with all of you. Hope you enjoy this intriguing piece!

Spriggons: a brief guide

The following exert was written by Dr. Malcolm N. Hansen.

Life’s Beginnings

Spriggons, as a plant species, arrive exactly as you would assume they would. They grow right out of the ground, albeit their birth is slightly more complicated than that of a garden rose bush. When Spriggon seeds are correctly planted, they develop into large pods as the new Spriggon fetus develops. These pods have intricate and minuet root systems that provide sustenance for the pod.  These roots secrete small amounts of poisonous sap that coats the pod and contaminates nearby soil. In small amounts this sap a relatively mild skin irritant, but undiluted it will burn skin. Furthermore, pods contain a nitrous gas that is released when a pod is damaged. This gas is lethal.

Spriggons have very long gestation periods, upwards of 7 months. During this growing period, limbs, organs, and buds form fully. The Spriggon will develop into its adult form while still in the pod, and does not grow very much once it leaves its womb in the ground. The pod offers the Spriggon fetus maximum safety, it is after sprouting that Spriggons are most vulnerable. When a Spriggon sprouts, there is a brief intermittent period when it is still tethered to the ground by its roots. Upon sprouting all leaves and buds on the Spriggon are closed. During a brief 3-4 day window, juvenile Spriggons have a blooming period when their buds and leaves unfurl and dry off. During this time the infantile Spriggon relies on both its ground roots and its new leaves for nutrition. As new leaves become active roots slowly die until finally the young Spriggon can survive off sunlight and water alone. At this point in life female Spriggons are already reproductively mature, however male Spriggons will not reach reproductive maturity for 8 years after bloom.

Explaining the Sexes: Females

There is a long-standing argument amongst scientists; the debate over whether females are the dominant sex in the Spriggon species. Females are the more common sex, outnumbering their male counterparts 10 to 1. For a long time, many thought the Spriggon species to be a purely female entity. The discovery of the Male King was one of the greatest botanical discoveries in this century.  I hold no opinion on the argument of whether female sprriggons are the dominant sex, but I will warn that they are the most ferocious. Females will always band together to protect infantile Spriggons, and form defensive groups for their community. Males are not part of this defense system.

The average female Spriggon will have anywhere from 2-5 offspring during their life cycle, all of whom will be female just like herself. A female Spriggon becomes fertile when a new seed forms inside her abdomen. Upon formation of a seed, the female will immediately set out to find a male Spriggon, who can fertilize the new gamete. Unless the female has been accepted into a Royal Colony, a colony with a male Spriggon King, this trek can be very strenuous. It becomes a race against time. It takes ten days for a seed to reach full maturity, at which point it needs to be fertilized or else the body will dispose of it. Once a seed is fertilized the female Spriggon has a relatively easy labor in which she will expel the small seed, and immediately plant it.  The Female Spriggon will not stick around while the seed grows. The female will leave the seedling for the first 5 months. After 5 months, the Female Spriggon will return . If the pod is still growing the female will explore the area and find other unattached females to help her defend the pod. The female’s group will defend the pod for the last 2 months of underground growth, as well as during the new Spriggons infantile period.

Female Spriggons have an average life span of 20 years, though some have been known to live up to 50 years. This short life span can likely be attributed to their risky lifestyles and defensive nature.

Explaining the Sexes: Males

Many researchers still argue that males are the dominant sex in the Spriggon species. This argument seems valid when you follow the lifestyle of a male Spriggon. All male Spriggons are born Kings. All Male Spriggons are born into a life of luxury . At a young age, female Spriggons attend to the juvenile males every need. This behavior is very much a give and take. Females sacrifice a lot to take care of the young male. By taking care of the young Spriggon they often guarantee a spot in the new male’s royal colony once the King reaches reproductive maturity. However, during the eight years before their juvenile king reaches maturity there is greater reproductive strain on the attending female; Should they become fertile during this time they must make the laborious trek to find another king to fertilize their seed. For a young female, sticking around with the juvenile king is the best investment, older females Spriggons are less likely to volunteer their support as the juvenile king is unlikely to reach sexual maturity before they elder females death.

This life of luxury continues into the male Spriggons adult life. Upon reaching sexual maturity the Male Spriggon will become a lot more popular. The male can accept and denounce members of its Royal Colony as it pleases. Attending Females work hard to stay in the king’s good graces, hoping to ensure reproductive success for themselves and hopefully their future offspring, who will likely be invited into the Royal fold once they sprout. Other females who are not part of the male’s Royal Colony will shower the king with gifts and favors to access the males Spriggons services.

The average life span of a male Spriggon lasts less than 30 years, despite their spoiled and careful upbringing. Upon death, a male Spriggon is given an elaborate ceremony. The burial plot is often found years in advance, often picked by the living king’s own self. The body of the king is laid to rest quickly as time is of the essence. The body is planted in the most fertile soil available, and the site is (wo)manned by around the clock guards. Upon burial, the kings seed, his only seed, will begin its growth.

Author’s Thoughts

The burial of a Spriggon King is the most memorable event I will ever encounter.  The care that is taken to ensure that the new seedling will grow is heartwarming and breathtaking. A king has his reign, and then he falls. It is inevitable. The survival of the Spriggon race depends on the carefully planned deaths of its Kings.  The life of a Spriggon King is not all roses, they live their whole lives planning their own deaths. They make sure to make all the right connections, ensuring that strong and pleasing females will attend to their offspring. They spend countless man hours hosting search parties to find burial plots. They take the task of deciding who will handle their body when the time finally comes.

I implore my fellow humans to be mindful of the Spriggons life cycle. While Mitosis of male seed is possible, it is uncommon. For the most part, the number of male Spriggons that we have, is the number that there always will be. The poaching of King Spriggons is the most irresponsible and disgusting form of sport that I can imagine. It is up to all of us to advocate on the Spriggons’ behalf and stop this behavior.

More information can be found in the Authors completed Work, Spriggons: A Comprehensive Field Guide

 [CO1]discovery of the male spriggon, history

 [CO2]if the mother sprrigon is still alive, otherwise the infants chance of survival is much less likely.

 [CO3]spriggon hierarchy and culture.

 [CO4]examples of gifts and parties


What is Winning by Gabe Smith

I have another guest writer to feature on The Ink Owl, Gabe Smith. I’ve worked along side Gabe in the past, and it exciting to see how far he has come with his writing. This post features an excerpt from a larger story. Enjoy!

The holiday atmosphere of the pub spilled into the street where the festivities continued.  Neon lights seemed to shine more brightly and in the joy-soaked minds of the celebrants the lights would always be remembered as bright and beautiful and never the garish yellows, pinks, and greens that they actually were.  Fireworks were launched into the night sky with pops and bangs that served to punctuate the excited shouts and laughter that were in the throats of all the gathered crowds. But even in the most brightly lit and star-studded sky there are dark spots and, in the effervescent crowd, that dark spot was named Jeron Smythe.

Jeron wore the Peace-keepers uniform, faded blue with tarnished silver, a complement to his dark looks, a glower and a frown.  The uniform had been a beacon of hope for years during the War of the Master.  Though, Jeron’s uniform was dirtier than usual with burned patches, dirt, and blood crusting large swaths of the jacket and pants.  The fighting he had engaged in the night before had been close and nasty where fists were used when it took too long to get a spell off or ammunition had run dry.

Though now, the pub denizens slapped his back, hugged him, gave him kisses on the cheeks, and generally praised him for his role, no matter what the role might be, in the now ended conflict.  Last night Jeron was a rebel fighting for a slim chance of peace, today he was with the establishment and a hero.  Yet, with each touch his frown deepened and he glared across the pub at another Peace-keeper, his uniform a bright sky blue with shining silver, receiving the same accolades.

The other man, a wizard who’s speciality lay in illusion, was named Ian Kimball, though everyone called him Kimby.  His uniform, in addition to being much less worn, bore a swath of unfaded fabric in the shape of manacles, the sign of The Master.  Yesterday, Jeron had knocked Kimby down to protect his family, friends, and even complete strangers in the name of freedom. The other man had fought just as hard in the name of duty.  Today, The Master was dead and it was Jeron who had to be pardoned.  While Jeron glowered at him, Kimby stood up and moved through the shifting crowd, turning down drinks and returning handshakes, to make his way to Jeron’s corner table.

“Hey, Jer.  It’s been a while.  I mean since we talked and everything.  Yesterday was crazy but we did it.  The Master is gone and I hear that old Nabiri McMahon’s star is rising in the East.  With her at the helm that’s going to be a big change…” Kimball’s ramble slowly ground down as he saw Jeron’s frown tighten.

“Look,” Kimball tried again. “Look, it’s all over.  We won and we can put the past 3 years behind us.  Come on, now, don’t give me that look.  I did my job but we both know I was always on your side.  I stood in Freedom’s Light and all that.  But, I have a family.  There was too much at risk for me to go all out.  I had to provi…”

“How are Reggie and Arline James doing?” Jeron interrupted him.  “What about Mary Wilds? Or have you kept in contact with Helmut Yarman?  I hear he is still alive, at least, though his brain isn’t much to speak of.”

“Hey, that’s not fair.  We both know I was just doing my job.  We both did things we aren’t proud of.”

“You’re right.  I regret waiting a week, following orders for a week, after that bastard took the government.  But I guess in my defense I used that time to figure out who to pass information to and how to cover myself so I never had to hurt anyone that didn’t have it coming.  So, yeah, I guess we are the same here,” Jeron said to Ian’s gaping face.  “Why are you wearing the blues when it’s only pardoned keepers for the next 3 weeks while the hunts play out?  Taking advantage of the general goodwill for those who fought?”

“Just because I wasn’t stupid enough to fight the inevitable doesn’t mean I didn’t want it over.  I did what I had to survive and all the others just weren’t good enough.  They’re not on my conscience and I won’t lose any sleep over it.  In a month, no one will remember ‘em anyway.  But if you want to go, let’s step outside.  I let you go last night but we both know who the better man is,” Kimby said, standing up and roughly pushing his chair out behind him hitting several other bar patrons.

Jeron stood slowly without a word, the fire and energy that had lit his words now extinguished and replaced with an immense weariness.  Ian stood with one arm extended as though to say “after you”.  Jeron led the way to the front door, his shoulders hunched forward, a look of defeat in his eyes.  As Jeron walked past the other man, someone in the crowd shouted a warning and an electric crackle sounded sharply.

Jeron whipped his head around to see Kimby with his hands extended, thumbs touching and his index fingers extended with a bright line of electricity discharging between them, lunging at him.  Before he could react, a small man who looked vaguely like a rat, with ears pointed a little too much and buck teeth that needed a dentist’s touch, poured beer on Kimby’s head with one hand and grabbed his left wrist with the other, breaking the spell, leading to a harmless discharge of energy into the people around him.

“Watch it, Kimby.  I remember when you kept your shackles shiny on your chest.  Taking ‘em off one day doesn’t make you a hero the next.  Tell you what, you go home and I won’t kill you here,” the rat-faced man, named Jacob Tunn, said without raising his voice.  His whole expression showed an amount of pleasure at the exchange. “Ah nevermind, I’ll let our dearly esteemed Mr. Smythe decide what to do with you. What do you say?  Do him like the Master? Put him in a pyromantic feedback and let him burn to a cinder?”

Kimball didn’t reply though his face grew pale.  He brought his hands up as though to grip Jacob’s wrists but he lowered them before he made contact.  Kimball looked around and when no one would meet his eyes he looked to Smythe.

“No, Tunn. It was just a disagreement.  It happens with emotions running so hot.  We were both on our way out anyway.  No need to do something we would regret when we’re sober.”

“Whatever you say, Jer, but I’ll tell you I just lost my first drink.  I’m as sober as a stone and I could sleep like a babe every night knowing I got rid of the shite who did that girl Marci Grimes.  Saint of a girl and she would have been a saint of a woman.”

Before Ian Kimball could respond, Jeron patted his rescuer on the shoulder and said, “We’re all on the same side now, at least we should be.  We fought yesterday, let’s let someone else be the judge and jury today.”

“Right, Mr. Smythe.  Right, I see what you are saying. But, you see, I know I’m a rat, or at least I look like one, and it burns me up to see the real rats get away from the exterminator. Sure, we cleared the nest last night but you know the dirty, plague bearers will be back.  Breeding and filling up their hole, it makes me sick to let ‘em go.” And with that, the shorter man began pummeling Kimball with his fists.

This fight, unlike the first attempted fight, was not broken up.  Other bar patrons began to pile on top of Ian Kimball, venting their fury at his continued existence.  They did not use their magic and they didn’t need to.  In seconds his blood began to flow freely from cuts caused by muscle and skin being pressed so forcefully against unyielding bone that they split in long lines.  Kimball’s face was unrecognizable before the pile of inhumanity began to really pulverize him.

Jeron was shocked at the sudden brutality of the situation and looked on in a stupor that he gradually shrugged off.  He made as if to turn but shook his head and began moving his arms in sweeping movements, his hands making arcane symbols to gather large amounts of energy.  With a sudden gesture a shock wave of force shot out from his left hand bowling the attackers off of the now bloody Peace-keeper, his uniform now just as bloody as Jeron’s.  Kimball was still alive and moving though he seemed to have lost his sense because his movements were sporadic and did nothing to either address his wounds or help him stand.

“You all know me to be a fair ‘keeper.  I try to show justice and I fought and sacrificed with all of you.  You all know I sacrificed for all of you.  But you know I can’t let you kill this man.  What would that get you?  What happens after he’s dead?  Would you kill me next?  I may not be on duty now but I would have witnessed this.  Why don’t you all go home.  Go home and give your husbands and wives and children and whoever else a hug and a kiss.  Go be with them and be glad that you are alive to celebrate today.  There is no victory in punching down,” Jeron said.  It had started with a yell and had finished in a voice so low that the people lying on the floor had to strain to hear him.

The group who had attacked picked themselves and each other up, not meeting Smythe’s eyes.  Some moved back to the bar for another drink and others left the bar out of embarrassment or perhaps looking for other unprotected prey for their ire.  There were no apologies and not a single one attempted to help the still twitching Ian Kimball.

Jeron walked to the spot where Kimball lay bleeding, a growing puddle of blood surrounding him.  Jeron bent down, hands gathering energy and laid hands on the man.  The puddle seemed to flow in reverse, the body reabsorbing the blood.  Audible crackling bore testament to the number of broken bones that had knitted back together.  Had Kimball been conscious he would have howled at the pain but, with all the trauma, he didn’t even whimper.  After the blood had cleaned itself up and the bones stopped shifting under the skin, Jeron again moved his hands gathering the magic from the air and pressed his hands on Kimball’s head.  With a jerk Kimby regained consciousness, stumbled to his feet and out the door of the pub without a ‘thank you’ or a backward glance, leaving Jeron crouched over a, now clean, patch of wooden floor.

He stayed crouched for a moment until a shadow loomed over him.  It was a large woman. She stood taller than everyone in the building including the barman positioned on an elevated platform behind his bar.  She stood with hands clasped behind her back and shoulders squared.  Though she wore civilian clothes everything in her demeanor seemed to shout that she was military.  Her hair was gray and missing where shining patches of scar tissue crisscrossed on her scalp and face.  She was not fat and the chords of her forearms and neck spoke volumes about an era of meager supplies and lean times, nevertheless, she radiated power.

“You were always good with healing and I shudder to think I was the one that drew you away from a higher calling to serve in the trenches with the dregs of society,” She said, putting out a hand to pull Smythe up from his crouched position.

“I think the healing was a necessity when we worked together.  You remember our first case when I broke your arm falling down the stairs? How are you Nabiri, or is it General McMahon or…” Jeron trailed off accepting the hand and using her support to lift himself from the floor.

“Nabiri will always be just fine coming from you.  Our friends mentioned to me that you haven’t been in to check on your wife since yesterday.  Let me walk you there,” McMahon responded.  It was not a suggestion or invitation; the tone spoke of command and Jeron followed as he had done for years as a Peace-keeper in training.

McMahon did not say anything to her former protege as they walked out of the bar.  The continued fireworks gleamed off the older woman’s scars as they walked out the door. The larger woman put her hand on Smythe’s arm to prevent him from walking further, gathered energy with her hands, and launched a much brighter light into the sky that hung for a moment before bursting into the shape of a key.  Within seconds four men and two women appeared, their clothes were plain but each had a pin of a key on their lapels and worn, silver and blue ribbons festooned their arms to set them apart from the common man.

“You can never be too careful right now.  Recent shift in power and a change in official policy.  This makes for a prime time to settle an old score,” the general said to her former partner.  “Alright, my friends, we are just taking a walk to Mr. Smythe’s house.  Eyes alert, yes?”

The group of 8 turned out from under the awning and passed the sign of the upside-down crown that advertised the pub they had just left.  They turned left walking down a lit street with flashes of light illuminating revelers, men and women alike.  The six men and women took their places naturally, and without needing to be guided, around Jeron and Nabiri their positions constantly moving as though to disguise the actual position of their leader despite the fact that she towered over all of them by no less than six inches and was taller than the shortest by more than a foot.

“You know, Jeron, I have heard reports about what your wife has been up to today,” Nabiri began as they walked.

“She’s a hero.  Working harder than the rest of us,” said one of the bodyguards, the intermittent illumination insufficient to give away defining details of her face.  Judging from height, Jeron thought it might be Clarissa Tanner, one of McMahon’s inner circle.

“She is a hero,” Nabiri agreed. “I notice you have not been with her today.  I do not mean to call you her keeper but, Jeron, you have been very careful with her since your…”

“I know, you don’t have to bring it up.  I know.  Just don’t bring it up,” he pleaded.  The first flicker of emotion other than defeat flickered to life on his face.  It was pitiable and pitiful.  Volumes on loss and sorrow were writ large on the man’s face.  “Please, just say what you came to say.  Don’t bring him up.  Please.”

“I was saying, you seem to be okay with letting Marija go on her own again.  This is good, I think.  She will heal better with getting back to work.  I could definitely use her again in the Peace-keepers.  But you, Jeron, do you want to be a Keeper forever?  What I mean to say is, I could use you in the new government, Secretary of Security.  You’re passionate about justice and mercy equally.  I need that kind of levelheaded thinking around me.  The people, our people, deserve to have someone like you watching out for their welfare.”

They walked in silence for a time, Nabiri McMahon letting Smythe roll the invitation in his mouth, to swallow it, and see how it sat deep in his gut.  The silence stretched thin until it turned to tension.  The tension stretched taut to razor wire that threatened to cut whomever would attempt to break it.

“Mr. Smythe, we must have you at the top.  I worked with your wife when she was with the Keepers.  We all knew when you both were married that you must be something special.  And if you were heading Security perhaps Mari, I mean Mrs. Smythe would return to duty,” the shortest guard said in a deep bass that resonated in Jeron’s chest.  He did not know the man and had never heard his wife speak of someone with such a distinctive voice.

“I know you mean well and I understand your sentiment.  You may have known who my wife once was but you don’t know who she is now.  The way you talk about Marija sounds like you may have been close but there’s probably a reason that I’ve never heard of you.  I’d guess that reason is you’re a pompous ass.”

The tension snapped, lacerating the bass-voiced man, leaving his mouth agape and his eyes bugged.  In the flickering light the man appeared distinctly like a frog.  He sputtered and gaped but at a gesture from his general he spoke no more.  The silence had been broken and the large woman laughed softly.

“Jeron, that is why I want you in power.  You so obviously don’t want the job that I think you would never abuse the power.  You would be so conscious of that power all of the time that you would be practically untouchable when it came to bribes or blackmail.  And the way you spoke to the prospective Secretary of Finance tells me you wouldn’t let anyone else get away with anything either.  Besides, we need one of us to make sure the right people get arrested and the right people… don’t. It’s basically what you’ve been doing for the past three years, just on a larger scale,” Nabiri said. She looked down at him to catch his eye and winked large enough to be visible in what little light remained.

“There are going to be trials, Jeron.  There are going to be very public trials that will be widely reported.  The evidence needs to go where it can be best used.  There are certain supporters that came to our side, after The Master fell, that have ties that need to be protected.  We just need to sweep a few minor indiscretions under the rug to have their continued support. With your well-known zeal for justice added to your family history, you would be perfect for the part.  If you say someone is clean, everyone would have to agree.”

“Nabiri, I don’t mean to be slow here but I’m not sure what you mean.  What I hear is you telling me that you want me because I look clean.  Then, you say you want me to be just a dirty as The Master’s old cronies who swept evidence under the rug for favors or money.  I know you wouldn’t ask me to do that.  But if you were to ask me to do that you should already know my answer.”

“Jeron we were partners for 2 years and we saw a lot together.  I taught you the ins and outs of keeping the peace.  Let this just be another lesson about how to keep the peace.  This conversation is really just a courtesy.  Our sources in the media are already reporting that you will be the next Secretary of Security.  You are going to act as judge in the coming high profile cases.  For the first three weeks, we will have some of the more well-known or heinous criminals.  You can be as holier-than-thou as you want to be, sentence them to death if you want.  The people will love it because, honestly, these criminals deserve to die.

“After the three weeks are up, we will start having trials for some new supporters who will need to be acquitted so they can continue business as usual…”

“Who,” Jeron interrupted. “Who am I going sell myself out for?”

“What?  Oh, just a few of the old guard who have advantageous connections.  A genius or two who got wrapped up in the wrong group but have seen the light.  Don’t worry too much about it.”

“If it’s my name attached to the record, I’m going to worry about.  Nabiri, General, we go back and you know me.  You know me well enough to know that I am clean and these people you want pardoned better have good excuses and give me a solid show of faith.  But most of all, I need to know who you want me to let go,” Jerron said, stopping short and causing two of the guard to stumble into him before the group noticed the his change in speed.

Another voice spoke up.  Jeron looked around to see which guard was speaking but could not see any mouths moving.  He realized one of them was wearing an illusory mask to hide to face. “General McMahon, we already had reservations about your dog.  If you can’t call him to heel, we’ll have to withdraw our support.  I’ll take my leave now, to report to my colleagues what was said tonight.” The figure stepped away from the group, gathered energy in a way that was clearly meant to be showy, and disappeared as quickly as if he had never been there.

“Jerron, I’m disappointed in you but I’m not surprised,” the General said turning to face her guards.  “Northwood, you and Benoit go to that group of idiots and let them know the deal is still on.  If you can’t assure them that everything will go according to plan, at least stall them until I can get there.  Make sure you don’t threaten them, though, that’s last thing we need.”

She turned back to the man who had caused her the trouble and said, “Well, if you’re done with your little tantrum, perhaps we can talk like civilized people again?  Yes, I do mean to pardon most, if not all, of the Stars.  That includes Müller, Kahn, Williams, and Chen.  Yes, I know you have history with them and that’s where it will stay, in the past.  When you pardon them, people will know you are fair even to your enemies. Now, I don’t have time to coddle you anymore.  Claudius Alistair and Jamila Mayhew will escort you to my office tomorrow.  You will be there for the inauguration and the trials will begin immediately afterward.  I wanted to do this as friends but, either way, you are my subordinate.  Now go home and sort your wife out.”

Turning to her guards she said. “What a ridiculous fiasco.  You all go to the Diet for the Emergency Session.  Keep things moving in our direction.  I don’t need anymore roadblocks.  If there is any opposition, make them out to be traitors.  We need to lock this down tonight.  No excuses.  I’ll deal with the Stars and be there in, let’s see…” She checked her watch. “Five minutes to make the deal and ten to seal it.  If I’m not with you in fifteen minutes, send Jabar to get me on ‘Diet business’.”  The general and the three remaining guards gathered energy with short sharp movements and vanished as one, leaving Jeron standing alone in the middle of the street with nothing but the occasional flash of light for company.  

Under a Gibbous Moon

img_1185“Click.” Went the locks in my car as I walked away into the growing dark.

At last, alone.

I felt my body shake off the day’s grime as I stepped confidently out of the parking lot and onto the darkened pathway.

Not long now.

Before me stretched deep hues of twilight. Cobalt lines mixed with deeper ribbons of midnight blue and black. Reeds moved in the wind, whispering in the night. Their woolly tips shifting and dipping in and out of placid water.

I walked along the edge of a gently rippling mirror, framed in broken rocks and earth. Completely alone. Wind touch my hair, brushing against my skin as I walked around a bend.

Closer. It will happen at the close.

I alone watched the world succumb to night. City lights blinked and glowed, scattered like stars in the depths of the universe. Above me the moon wreathed itself in bruised clouds, dampening its ethereal light.

So much to change. I thought as memories overran my senses. The world. The stars in their heavens, all will change in a matter of moments. Because of me.

My feet stepped over aged asphalt, crackling with sound in the near silence. There was no feeling of impending doom, nor drowning in a sea of human sorrow. Just an individual, the nature of a living planet, and the void miles beyond.

When IT comes, will they know? Will they understand what is happening? Will I feel guilt finally? Will the future call me a Destroyer? A Savior? Or will these actions fuel an eternity of nonexistence?

I knew the path too well, like a childhood room. I closed my eyes knowing the placement of each pebble and roll. Their imperfections laid bare to my unseeing eyes. it was coming soon, the bridge. There it would be, at the close, when all would end. My senses communed with the physical world, touching and interacting as only a familiar could.

Now, without hesitation, plunge the knife, break the bone, bring awe to the universe once more. IT could wait no more. I am the gateway for the unleashed, for the inevitable.

My feet pressed against metal, cool reassurance for what must come. Taking of my shoes I felt my naked feet press into those unnatural grooves. Metal shaped by an imperfect hand drew me to the water’s edge.

I do this for the greater good. It must be done for a more perfect cause than what transpires before me.

Pulling off my cloak I tossed it to the ground, stepping further onto the bridge. My weight caused the structure to dip, sending rings throughout the pond. Shedding each layer of spun cloth, I felt the night kiss my mortal flesh, welcoming the proffered gift of my essence.

What I enact here, must be done as it has for infinity.

Opening my eyes I saw the edge before me. My pale skin shimmered in the liquid undulating before me, bare to the elements.

Speak the words you must. End this, now.

Skin prickling in waves I open my mouth and speak the unutterable. At once all is still. The air, water, flora and fauna, all pause as if to listen.

Now the submission.

Bowing my head I looked into transfixed water, and see all. A mortal husk, in the depths of immortality.

I yield my flesh.

With that final thought my body falls from its perch. For an eternity I hovered over fate, and then was consumed.

So I end, and IT begins.

-M.E. Inkowl



In Death’s Garden

“Walk with me.” Said Cerum. The command was quiet, yet it willed the very air around my body, pushing me forward.
“Yes, Mastre.” I ducked my head,  feeling my skin crawl as I fell in stride with the Lord. Beside us his hunched attends walked, tactfully blocking any chance of evasion.
Cerum held up a wraith like hand, motioning at the sleeping wood. “Behold this, my Garden. A product of my own dark creation.”
Oily black liquid bubbled in a slow flowing stream. The lane stretch before the two, clouds of sulfur stretching between dead wood.
Hooded head turning to take in the scene, Cerum continued, “Is it not a magnificent mirror for the Empire I have created?”
Gulping down tainted air I managed a,”Yes my lord it is.”
I could feel his gaze upon me, like cold dead flesh pressing upon me. Could he see through my lies?  My deceit?
His next words were said with a smile, one you heard rather than saw. “You do not approve, Mernor? Is it the stench? Tell me.”
What was I to say? What was I to do? I looked around, feeling my carefully constructed walls of protection falling down around my ears. He would know soon enough the lengths I had gone to see his empire fall.
For a moment I gazed out beyond the edges of that hellish garden and saw into the true free world. Crisp blue mountains covered with snow. Fresh clear air and a wisp of cloud floated contentedly, beyond Cerum’s control.
The Lord of Filth stopped where he was. His black tar cloak clinging to the ground as he twisted to face me. Dead eyes took in my body, looking through my skin. His face was that of a man long died at sea, face translucent to the bone. Two broken horns held up his sagging cowl, framing a damned face in black pitch.
His lips parted,and a pointed blue tongue wet his lips, “Well?”
I took a deep breath and reached within myself to speak, “I do not approve of the end of this garden.”
Cerum’s eyes blinked, taking in my words. He was taking in the lie.
I raised my hand to the horizon, to the open world. “Out there, Lord, those blue mountains. They stand as a mockery to your power and prestige. Out there, the free folk of your world mock you with their rebellions. Each of their victories is a personal assault on you, my Greatness.”
Cerum raised a hand, silencing me, “What do you mean by this? Betrayer? Could this be you are fully committed? By these words you damn those you hold dear to a torment more painful than life itself. Do you wish to commit to me? To death itself? I can see through your flattery, lowly one. But I see your heart, I see the anger. Do you wish to unleash my darkness upon this world?”
I looked him in the eye, feeling the turmoil within my body. Knowing what I must say, but regretting each of my next words I spoke.
“I do, my Lord. Kill them all.”
There was a long silence as Lord Cerum looked upon my flesh. His eyes roved over me, and then to the garden around us. He stepped away from me, continuing down the path. We a flick of his hand he signaled to his attendants. They hurriedly pushed me forward. I followed, unsure of what was to happen.
A low iron wall ran round the perimeter of the garden, separating it from the rest of the palace. The Lord Commander placed a booted foot on its edge, metal grating on metal. He considered the open world before him. Trails of ash and smoke billowed up from great vents in the ground, shrouding the pinnacles and spires of his mountain fortress. Below them the foot hills crawled with savage warrior, underlings, and laborers all under his command.
Beyond his kingdom lay a lush valley surrounded by unmarred mountains. The world lay before them, ripe for the taking.
Cerum turned to Mernor a smile pulling at his grey face. When his lips parted, a smooth and confident voice rang in Mernor’s ears, “So be it. We will bring the world to it’s knees. There is no one to stop us now.”