Thursday, November 25, 2010

Legacy of the Hero: The Last Meets the First-25

The End of the Beginning

The three of them, as Gish’s corpse cooled, quickly rifled through his clothes. They found a note, written in a tongue none of them knew. They also found a slim, palm-sized device that hummed as if it were alive. It seemed to be a very complicated artifact of the world before the Azure Flames.

“Heirs, place the device into the slot. I shall indicate it with a blinking light.”

They looked at each other and agreed to comply, so they did and placed it into a slot on a machine with that blinking light.

“Accessing. Access achieved. Desired subject is itself an heir.”

On a big screen, they saw a figure of a man covered in glimmering silver tattoos and marked with a sun-like golden icon on his brow.

“Heir is fully-active on all 12 strands. Name unknown.”

“Can you confirm paternity and maternity?” Zacharion asked.

“Accessing. Subject is son of heirs known as ‘Ilker’ and ‘Yanna’.”

Yearling perked his ears up at that. “No wonder that Mistress prefers to use another name.”

Sihaya just looked at him like he’d reverted to being a silly boy, instead of an apprentice to one of the most powerful sorceresses in the whole of Creation.

“Can you determine his current location?” Sihaya asked.

“Accessing network. Network severely damaged. Network stability severely compromised. Searching. Searching. Searching.”

The screen flickered over a map of all the world—maps with severe gaps, filled with the last known images of that part of the world before the Azure Flames hit—before focusing on a part far, far from where the machine told them that they were. Far to the west and north, across hills and plains not seen by any of the Solar or Lunar nations since the days of Ilker and his many wars, did it rest.

“I know that place.” Yearling said, “That’s the land of the legendary White Tower, where the first of the Sea Peoples arose.”

“Close.” Zacharion said, correcting him, “But that land is to the south. This land here is another place entirely, yet your remembrance is not without value.”

“So far away, but why?” Sihaya asked.

“Unknown.” The machine, again, answered unbidden.

“I say that we go to the People of the White Tower. They remain friendly to us, and by now even they would have heard both of Ilker’s death and our mission. I would expect the Archmage to be waiting for us, if he is as far-seeing as Ilker thought him to be.”

“Then this is the point of no return, isn’t it?” Sihaya said.

“No.” Yearling said, “That passed when we left the lands and people we knew for this mission.”

Instead,” Zacharion said, “this is the end of our days of innocence, such as they were. Like it or not, we’re already passing forcefully into becoming men and women. The way we talk, think and act are increasingly like those of our elders- and the memories I’m reliving as I sleep are not my own, so there is more to this than just ordinary changes.”

“A new sun rises.” Sihaya said.

“Like the old, but not the old.” Yearling said.

“But brilliant just the same.” Zacharion said, concluding.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Legacy of the Hero: The Last Meets the First-24

Monsters in the Gloom

Gish left the room for a moment, saying something about meals, leaving the three youths alone. All of them looked over at each other, and instantly they saw in each other the confusion and unease in themselves.

“I cannot ignore that this ‘Gish’ is not wholly truthful.” Yearling said.

“Nor I.” Zacharion said, “He’s hiding something.”

“I don’t like the way he looks at me.” Sihaya said, “It reminds me of the ways that some of the old men in court did before Father killed them all.”

“Let us not trust him, then.” Zacharion said, again leading, “Let us press him and push him to reveal his true self so that we may deal honestly with honest hatred than falsely with false friendship.”

Not long thereafter, Gish returned. “I have prepared a suitable meal for travelers like you three. Come, follow me.”

Wary did they follow, but follow they did and they came to a small room with a small table and four chairs. Food and drink rested upon it, ready for consumption, and Gish pointed each to a chair as he moved to his own.

“You see the Twilight Son.” Gish said, inquiring, “Why?”

“You know the answer to that question.” Yearling said, “No one who knows of the Twilight Son would not know why he would be sought.”

“I am but an outcast, learned through my own efforts. Some gaps are inevitable.”

“An outcast? From where?” Sihaya asked.

“I no longer recall.” Gish said, dismissive, “It was so long ago, and since I have become no less a capable man than I would have otherwise.”

Zacharion sampled the goods on the table, and then motioned—covertly—for Sihaya to deal with the now-revealed threat. From unseen pockets out of Gish’s sight, she passed pills to each of the boys, pills meant to used in such situations to dissolve poisons. (Even then, princesses had to protect themselves from cunning courtiers.) Each in turn, when Gish looked away from them, slipped the pills into their food and drink and then partook as if nothing was wrong.

Over their meal, the three did push and press their host. They pressed Gish over his unusual appearance, producing an implicit admission of albinism. They pressed him over his origins, getting an admission of his ignorance over his parentage, and they got him to admit that he still serves the man that raised him as his own son.

Then Gish realized that his young charges were not succumbing to the toxins in the food and drink, toxins meant to be mixed with chemicals in the air, and his demeanor changed.

“I am dismayed.” Gish said, “But I know from bitter experience when I must abandon a plan and resort to something more direct.”

Then with a wave of a hand a flash of light blinded the three, after which Gish had disappeared. The three, from places that their own short lives could not provided, knew that this was not the end- and when noises unnatural echoed into the room, they knew that something else had occurred.

“Is the building still watching?” Sihaya asked.

“Heiress Sihaya, this system is operation.”

“What did Gish do?”

“The surviving organism is attempting to access the database. Unknown intruders have gained access to this facility by way of a super-energetic phenomenon.”

“I think that’s Ancient lingo for ‘summoned monsters’.” Yearling said.

“Can we stop Gish?”

“The organism is unable to access the database. It may attempt to destroy it instead. Time unknown.”

Without further talk, the three took up weapons and got on the move. They encountered a group of near-mindless mutants coming from the plush room where they met Gish, and in a shocking (to the mutants) display of violence the three children quickly cut them all down; more and more, lifetimes beyond their own find expression through their own bodies.

They found on the floor a carefully-constructed summoning circle, concealed under a floor rug previously, and dealt with by breaking the circle at its key points of intersection with the hexagram that it contained. Wordlessly, they quickly ransacked the room; Sihaya found a log book, and Yearling an orb.

“He’s been attempting to divine the Son’s location himself.” Zacharion said, quickly deducing the significance.

“No time to hash it out.” Yearling said, “We need to move.”

The three then heard loud sounds down a distant hallway, as loud alarms arose and spinning red lights came on.

“Security measures initiated.”

The three followed the noises, and soon they found two metal war machines shooting ancient weaponry into another room. Out of that room flew a brilliant giant-sized phantom fist that grabbed one of the machines as another materialized as a fist of the opposing hand and repeatedly slammed it into pieces as if it were made of rotten wood. The remaining machine, heedless of its own existence, kept firing. It too got seized and smashed into pieces; then the hands disappeared.

Without fear or hesitation, the three ran into the room- and Gish, sword in one hand and a spell of some power held in the other, stood ready.

“Regrettable indeed.” Gish said, “For all three of you would have made wonderful allies.”

No talk. They all attacked Gish at once, swords and knives in hand. Gish, being an adult in form and aware due to experience in such positions, held his own through the first press. With the free hand he summoned a translucent buckler into existence. Maximizing his movement, he kept the three away from his back as he maneuvered about the room. His moves seemed swifter, his blows harder and his flesh tougher than his thin and wiry frame would seem to indicate. His feet seemed to blur, as did his outline.

The three cast glances at each other, and at the right moment they each attacked with their swords and pressed him into a corner. As it seemed that he would, again, deflect their swords long enough to wriggle away he found himself off his line- the blades he expected clattered to the floor as he felt child-sized hands grasp his fine clothing. As he hit the floor, he realized that they had synergized their attacks and grappled him simultaneously. Yearling bound his arms and Zacharion his legs. As for Sihaya, she drew back her knife and struck home- burying it to the hilt.

Gish lost the will to live as soon as he felt cold steel sever forever the font of his pride and made a eunuch of him. The boys, sensing an opening, slashed Gish repeatedly as if butchering an animal. Gish expired immediately.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Legacy of the Hero: The Last Meets the First-23


Albinos are not welcome in many communities, for they are believed to be mutations made by the remnants of the Dark Lords. Gish is one such unfortunate, conceived in shame by a willful girl whose pride would not allow her to listen to the wisdom of her elders and a cunning, predatory man who used honeyed words to lead such prey astray. Once gotten with child, she fled her family and found herself the slave of a cult devoted to the Dark Lords- a deception so devastating that it broke her will utterly, which is just what her seducer wanted all along.

Upon birth, both mother and father rejected Gish as disfavored. No sooner had they cried out their disgust and horror than an ambitious high priest claimed Gish and put him to suckle at the breast of a wet nurse. Neither of them ever saw Gish again, much to everyone’s benefit. Instead, Gish became one of a cadre of children within the cult trained from infancy to master sword and spell. As these were two known pursuits that required the utmost dedication, the high priest employed techniques older than the Dark Lords to ensure total dedication and obedience. Men of good character would call these methods horrific child abuse coupled with mind control methodology.

Gish grew into a well-mannered, well-educated, well-trained and well-managed servant of the cult. Devoted to He Who Shines Brightest in Twilight, a figure said to’ve almost gained mastery of all of Creation from the Creator twice (only to have it ripped from his grasp at the last moment, producing the two big disasters of water and fire). He also grew into a ruthless killer, liar and confidence man- by the time he came of age, he had either slain or witnessed the sacrifices of all of his cohort and became the right-hand man of his foster-father.

Twilight is said to be dangerous because it is the liminal space between Sun and Moon- and only the Twilight Son can be trusted. Gish is not an exception to this old say of the Solar and Lunar nations; the trio of Zacharion, Yearling and Sihaya are about to find out why this is so.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Legacy of the Hero: The Last Meets the First-22

Twilight Perceives the Unseen Third

The three left camp and entered the ruins, picking a path through it until they reached a long unused door. Time and exposure ruined the hinges as it stuck fast the door in its portal, and all three of them had to heave hard before the frame fractured and let loose the ancient door, but make it yield they did. As they looked within, stale air rushed past them going out as light tried to flow in- only to seem swallowed by infinite darkness within.

“The threshold of Twilight!” Yearling said, “We must be cautious now.”

The others nodded, agreeing, and with a still moment Zacharion let forth his light to brighten the area within. Down they went, crossing steps of stone known only in ancient buildings built before the Azure Flames, and into the earth they descended. Regularly they would pass by writings carefully scribed on the wall with inhuman precision and accuracy, as dead and lifeless as the stone upon which it rested.

“Is this a relic of the Ancient World?” Sihaya asked.

“Once, long ago,” Yearling answered, “places like this dotted the world. Ordinary people came here, seeking knowledge from the tomes and other artifacts within their walls and assisted by an order of priests who knew the secret ways to organize and care for such lore.”

“In some places,” Zacharion said, continuing, “these temples would be specialized in a particular area of knowledge, usually law or medicine. Your mother, had she lived then, would often study at such a temple because in order to become a healer one had to become initiated in that priesthood- and they long had an alliance with the priests of these temples.”

“Is it true then, that before the Wars of the Damned, the Necromancer destroyed many such places?”

Zacharion nodded. “After he consumed what lay within a temple, he bade the undead to unmake it utterly. They did not destroy, they dismantled and used the parts to construct something else- usually some form of zigguraut.”

“A what?”

“A form of sacred structure.” Yearling said, taking his turn, “It is designed to channel power from below to the point at its apex, and in that specific form one may easily walk or climb from one end to the other.”

“Like those that Father mentions in his stories?”

“Like those thrown down by Ilker, yes. The Dark Lords had long ago recovered and mastered that very knowledge, using it to circumvent the lawful consequences of their evils and instead shunt that to the lands and peoples under their rule.”

They reached the bottom of the stairs, where a pair of massive—and massively rusted—steel doors stood before them, marked with ancient sigils of warnings dire and demonstrably deadly.

“What does it say?”

Zacharion stood at it a moment before answering. “Something about this being a place for the creation of new medicines and healing ways, therefore significant risk of exposure to sicknesses of many sorts—or worse—awaits the foolish and unwary.”

In the light, Yearling took up a stick and jabbed at the massive door’s rusted frame. “Look,” he said, “we’ve nothing to fear. If this was as dangerous a place, its frame would be sealed such that no air or anything like it would ever escape. “

Yearling lit the end of the stick by touching it to Zacharion’s forehead, making a torch of it and again put it before various points in the frame. The flame flickered as if in a wind.

“The seals here, if ever present, busted long ago and would have let loose whatever evils lay within.”

Zacharion cut them off and motioned for them to try the door. As expected, it did not budge. Nor did the many variations of prying, pushing and pulling work. Tired, they sat before the door and put themselves to rest and recuperate before again trying.

“This reminds me of a story ancient when the ancients were young.” Sihaya said, and the boys nodded- they knew the stories also.

“Some form of sorcery, then, still holds this door in place.” Yearling said, “Zacharion, you know the ancient tongue somewhat. Try.”

Zacharion remembered that Ilker warned him of ancient sorceries. Magics rooted in a logic only partially understood by men of these days long past the Azure Flames, but known well to the Dark Lords and before them to the Necromancer and many other Lords of the Damned. He carefully searched the walls about him, seeking a telltale sign of artifice commonplace with such sorcery- and found it, small and well-concealed on the right side of the door.

It was a set of three lights, a steel eye like that of a fly and some unknown button labeled in that same queer old and dead tongue. Zacharion slowed himself, calmed himself, and threw his mind back to a time before his own. Still, silent in body and mind, he let the eyes and ears of his mind see and hear what those of his flesh could not: the ways of old, long gone to ashes and dust, echoing in the room.

For all his wisdom, Zacharion was yet a boy and his flesh could not handle such power flowing through him just yet. The vision was a brief one, but it was enough: he saw and heard the incantation to work the doors. Speaking the ancient words of power with the care one gives to holding a newborn, he awoke the door. It spoke loudly, its voice booming throughout the room and reverberating back up the stairs, but its words were nonsense at first. The three talked amongst themselves, and as they did that door soon began to speak words they understood- this sorcery allowed it to learn the tongues of those what spoke before it, and swiftly.

“Last Activation: 400 years, 4 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, 17 hours, 23 minutes and 35 seconds ago. Cannot contact Master Control. Cannot contact Northern Command. Cannot contact Lagrange. Cannot contact civilian communications. Extensive damage to internal systems. All specimens but one deceased. One specimen alive. No facility personnel present; all deceased or deserted.”

The door then paused for a very long moment before continuing.


Zacharion waved at the others and bade them be silent. “Zacharion,” he said, mimicking the door’s automaton-like voice, and the sun-like sigil on his brow burst into brilliant golden light.

“Recognized: Zacharion, heir to S. A. Star, generations removed unknown, 12-strand active. Welcome to Twilight Complex, Star heir. State purpose of visit.”

“I come to discover the location of the one known as ‘the Twilight son’.”

“Processing.” It said, and an uneasy tension descended upon them for a moment, “Access granted. Declare companions.”

“Yearling, a youth of the Moon people.” He said, and then pointing to Sihaya, “Princess Sihaya of the Sun Nation.”

The door paused again. “Acknowledged. Heir’s companions are also 12-strand active heirs, but bloodline unclear due to damage to database. Provisional access granted until damage is repaired.”

A great and ponderous creaking of long-unused gears echoed about them as the door opened itself, revealing a place that resembled the reception hall of the Solland palace- but in a form using trappings alien to them.

“What is this place?” Sihaya said, and without missing a beat the door responded.

“Twilight Complex is a state-of-the-art medical research facility focused upon eliminating the flaws in the human genetic code using a combination of techniques and technologies meant to bring Humanity to its fullest potential.”

At that point, another voice came over and reverberated. “Welcome indeed, scions of Sun and Moon. I am myself a descendent of the ancients, and also the one who knows where the one you seek may be found. Presently, a lighted path shall appear on the floor. Follow it and you shall find what you seek.”

They did, and at the far end they entered a well-appointed room- albeit in the manner of the ancients. A hairless man stood up from a desk, his skin pale and his eyes red.

“Call me ‘Gish’,” the man said, “for I too sit in the twilight between two pillars of existence.”

Just then the three youths noticed first his calloused hands juxtaposed with his dexterous and gentle handling of the many things about him, hands likely calloused while training with the sword at his waist and made gentle with the open tome of knowledge on the desk.

“What tome do you have there?” Zacharion said, curious and wary.

“The stars.” Gish answered, “In days before the Flames, the ancients spoke of another set of ancients that lived before a Great Flood, and in those days—like now—they knew and acknowledged the power of Sun and Moon, but they also knew of and acknowledged the stars. Of those stars, the greatest could only be seen in the twilight between Sun and Moon, day and night.”

Gish studied the three before him- a boy barely entering manhood, another not even that old and a girl about as old as the second boy. Yet he felt great power emanating from them, very great to him indeed, and that gave him pause.

“You are tired and I would think needing rest and replenishment.” Gish said, “Stay, let us talk, and you may move on tomorrow.”

“Time is hard to know down here.” Sihaya said, her voice nigh-imperceptibly distressed.

“Indeed it is.” Gish said, dismissive, “Indeed.”