Project #3 – Chapter 1: Age 7 Pt3

Project #3 – Here’s the final part of the first Chapter and the end of our time with Stephen as a 7 year old. Next up we’ll dive into another part of Stephen’s life, and hit up the teenage years. Dana is bound to crop up somewhere, probably uninvited.

To read the last entry, go here: https://exceptionallyaverageman.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/project-3-chapter-1-age-7-pt2/

To read from the beginning, go here: https://exceptionallyaverageman.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/project-3-chapter-1-age-7/

***

There was so much light. Bare bulbs of  deep dark reds were interweaved with glowing warm yellows, each one dimming just slightly as if dancing to a silent tune. The walls were clad in thick silky wallpapers from times of old, stripy reds and whites here, entire feature wall-sized murals of play parks hand painted along an entire length of the room. The room itself was gargantuan, not separated by walls or cubicles, but sectioned into a million themes by machines and booths arranged in clumps of individual magic. For once, Stephen finally felt warm. He stood there stunned, even as Dana shot off down a haphazard aisle, weaving between machines and vacant chairs like some kind of jet pilot.

“It’s this way Stephen!” She shouted back at him, bringing him back to this bizarre reality.

But there’s so much here to do.

As if answering his thoughts Dana gave him the same old reason. “We don’t have time to do it all. You can come back later.” He couldn’t distinguish where her voice was echoing from.

Come back from where?

Within moments she bared down on him from the side, throwing an arm around his waist. She was fast, and she must have known the place like no other. She slid her arm from his waist, down his arm, this time holding his hand more gracefully, without any semblance of threat.

“Come on. We’ll get you a matching one of these” She held up her ball in the palm of her hand. Stephen hadn’t remembered giving it back, or where she might have stored it. He was too lost in wonderment to care.

“OK.” For the first time Stephen couldn’t help but offer her a genuine smile of excitement.

They meandered down the room through the aisle that Dana had steamed down earlier, this time at a pace that felt more calming. He didn’t spend a single second looking down the path they were travelling, instead allowing his gaze to wander and soak in everything around him. Booths stood tall and taut, their entrances beckoning them in with promise of fortune and fun. There were balls and theatrical hammers, makeshift futuristic guns of brass that probably fired dried peas, hoops and rods. It was truly a fair from a time long before he was born, but he didn’t mind. It was as though this place had sucked the entire colour and life from the entire town and offered it in a torrential downpour to any fortunate enough to breach its doors.

Dana pulled him around a corner made of tall brass machines demanding change for the chance to offer a price of some description – None explicitly mentioned what. In front of him laid a group of five booths, all identical in form. Each of them had cages and nets full of the same cloud filled balls that Dana had been slamming against the bedroom wall when he had arrived. There were more than just grey ones, there were stripes and dots, ones with swirls that were see-through, and even plain ones ingrained with sparkling glitter. None of them were manned by anyone, yet each one had been perfectly set up as if never touched for centuries. Stephen looked around; there was nobody here but the two of them. He wondered if Dana had simply taken hers by force somehow, but couldn’t see a way to unlock the cages or reach the nets. She tugged him closer to the tent-like structure, and it offered a small raised wooden platform for its shorter visitors. It was well worn unlike the others, as if it had been eroded away by an excessive amount of visitors. Dana pulled him up next to her, and he immediately saw the rules of the game.

There were nine coconuts of varying sizes, each with numbers painted on them. Across to one side read a sign:

Score Fifty

Get Something Nifty!

The words made him cringe; it was something his mum would have used to describe a tool that made scrubbing dishes faster. He already knew the prizes, what concerned him more was the unlikelihood of winning. There was a single coconut on a large plunger, pinned into the ground upside down. It was tiny, and happened to be the one marked 50. Surrounding it were eight others of different sizes, the six largest marked 10 were already about to fall off their preposterously sized platforms. Between these were the two deceivingly average ones, each marked 25. Dad had always told him these games were made to make winning nearly impossible without tremendous luck. Stephen looked across at Dana’s hand, still clutching hers in a balled fist. If she had won one, surely he could.

But she’s weirdly strong.

As if by some unknown prompt Dana reached over and swatted at a button in the centre of the desk in front of them. There was a winding and grinding behind the scenes and then six soft balls rolled their way down a small set of rails to their right, rolling onto the desk and stopping precisely in front of where wear marks on the floor lay.

“You get six throws.” Dana flashed a suspicious grin, as if she were in on the whole thing.

Stephen glanced back from her to the balls that lay in front of him. They looked like American baseballs, only without the red stitching or writing. He picked one up, weighed it in his palm and passed it between his hands. It felt dense, but there was a certain hollow nature to them. He looked back over to the smallest target. Can’t be that hard… He brimmed with over confidence for just a moment, before becoming a little nervous in his stomach as he prepared a throw. He suddenly considered that he might miss; he didn’t want to look stupid in front of Dana. She already spoke down to him and he wanted to prove her wrong.

Then I’ll show her that stupid grin.

He gripped the ball more tightly, wound back his arm, and then arched the ball over his head as if he were a bowler playing cricket. He hoped the high angle trajectory would be severe enough to knock his target straight off. It careened through the air a lot faster than he imagined, and in the brief moments it flew he rubbed his arm that now yelled at him for overexertion. He could see it was a perfect throw, and like a ballistic missile it pounded on the winning coconut with a heavy bonk.

The ball however simply bounced off like the hail pinged off the family car windshield. The coconut rolled around in its throne as if shifting in its sleep. Feeling immediate defeat, Stephen looked down towards Dana expecting some lengthy diatribe about how she was better. She merely curled her lips inward in hidden amusement before straightening her face.

“Try the easier ones. You can still do it with five.” This time she sounded a little more genuine.

His pride battered, he picked up another ball and simply tossed it half-heartedly at the ten-pointer on the far left. With a gentle knock it fell over, and he felt like a cloud of hope had washed over him again. He quickly composed himself, not wanting to jinx his chances on the next throw. One after another the next three large coconuts dropped like flies, and after the third one crashed to the floor he let out a gritted “Yiss!” through his teeth, punching his aching arm through the air. Throughout his performance Dana simply stood there looking onwards in careful consideration. He kept looking to her for some kind of response, whether it was admiration or jealousy, he didn’t care at this point. He wished she’d show something. The thought of her unnerved him despite his success. He just didn’t understand her, and within those brief moments the charade of fun this place had swarmed him with melted away. He was still lost, still alone.

He tossed the final ball in the air back into his hand in a cocky fashion, and tossed it as hard as he could. He winced in pain as a sharpness prodded its way through his shoulder at the last moment, sending his final ball off into the back of the canvas booth. Stephen stood there, eyes ablaze, body confused that he’d just failed after his amazing performance. He darted his eyes across to see how Dana would respond. Her face was already waiting for him, a dark maniacal grin as though it had been her plan all along. Stephen was about to burst, accuse her of setting up the whole thing, streaming a thousand excuses of why it was her fault that all this had gone the way it had.

He would have, at least, if she hadn’t held out her hand, grey swirling sphere outstretched towards him.

“Try the fifty now.” Her eyes bled through his skull.

She has such deep eyes.

As if possessed, he agreed to her curious offer, plucking the small bouncy ball out of her hand and lining himself up for the most troublesome target of all.

“Isn’t this cheating…” he wandered off as he pelted the tiny coconut with what was left with his might.

It hit its mark, shattering a piece of the outer shell off and sending the elastic projectile on a lightning speed trajectory headed straight for Dana. Before he could move an inch towards her or shout a warning, she pulled up both hands and caught it in both her cupped hands, without even the slightest flinch in her stature. He was about to ask her if she was OK before another set of mechanical gears began winding and clinking together. One of the upper cages opened by some imaginary force, releasing just a single identical ball to the one Dana had handed him. It bounced and weaved across the floor inside the small tent, hitting corners and scooting here and there before tumbling out past them and into the main floor of the Arcade. As if in a trance Dana immediately dived after it, scooting off to try and catch his prize.

Stephen turned back to the booth for a final look before going in search of his curious female friend, only to find the booth reset. The coconuts all lay back in their original positions, the smallest one he had decimated now in perfect condition. The numbers simply stared back at him in earnest disbelief that they had ever been knocked down. A wooden sign slammed down from above with a sharp clack!

You Lose!

“Stupid thing… I-“

Another sign slammed down from above it.

You Cheated!

His heart stopped.

Give it back little boy.

He screamed.

It wasn’t words, it wasn’t a name, he just yelled out in a high pitch terror. As if in answer, the Arcade switched off all its lights, all but the red ones. The entire contents of the massive building took on a dark red glow. It no longer had colour, it no longer held the promise of fun. Instead every machine, every booth, every word stared at him in a scarlet anger. He turned to run but the brass machines he and Dana walked past to get here were laid out in a line in front of him. They weren’t here to take his money for a prize. They were here to take him for not playing by the rules.

She made me do it.

He couldn’t reason with the machines, reason with the building. It wouldn’t understand. Dana was nowhere to be found. Had she tricked him into this? Had she tricked everyone in this town into giving themselves up to the maw of the Arcade? He didn’t understand any of it. I just want to go home. I need to hide under the quilt. I need to shut my eyes.

The moment he shut his eyes, blacking out the looming, angry machines, a voice commanded him from the side.

“We need to get out of here now. You have to go back.” It was Dana, no fear or worry in her voice, just this strong commanding presence.

He turned his head in her general direction, and opened his eyes, revealing her stern brow and piercing eyes in the red hue. She stood between a number of kiosks to one side and he bolted over to her no daring to look back at what might bare down on him. He was the one who reached out for her hand this time, begging her to drag him away from here as she did before. With their hands clasped together she led him on a path much like a maze, weaving in and out of the blur. It was hard to make anything out in this light. It singed away all the finer details of everything that surrounded him, making it either reflect that murderous glow, or absorb all the colours into blackness.

Within moments they were at the entrance, and with no sign of stopping or slowing Dana burst open the doors with a kick. In that moment time stopped. In that moment there was nothing. Just Stephen, Dana, and black.

“You’re going back now.” For the first time she smiled at him softly, in earnest.

“Back where?”

“I’ll see you again. I think you’ll be back. I’ll always be here to protect you.” She opened her palm and handed him his prize.

“You caught it…”

***

“Caught what Stephen?”

It was a voice. An older voice, from an adult, but it didn’t belong to Mum or Dad.

The light here is bright; I can feel it behind my eyelids. There’s a mask on my face. I’m in bed. It’s not my bed. At least it’s not there.

“Can you tell me if you remember what happened Stephen?” The older voice continued to quiz him, this time placing a finger on his eyelids, pulling one open.

It’s a doctor. There’s somebody else next to the bed. I can see her hands. It’s mum!

“Hey little man, are you feeling OK?” She was hiding a lump in her throat, she had been stood there as he stirred and was trying her hardest to contain the deluge of emotion.

“Now Stephen…” The doctor again. “…Can you tell me the last thing you remember in the playground?”

I was at school. It was break time. I remember now but I didn’t before… Laura Allen was playing kiss-chase with me… she always ran after me…

“A girl in my class was chasing me…”

“Did she hit you? Where did she hit you Stephen? I’ll call the school-“ His mother was growing frantic in an instant, failing to hold back the tide.

“She didn’t hurt me.” His voice felt a little coarse, but he felt so much safer already. “She just kissed me… it was a game…” He felt embarrassed. He looked at his mother, her cheeks were already flush and he could tell she was stifling a smirk, all panic stripped from her face.

“Well I think uh… that’s all we’ll need from your for now Stephen.” The doctor turned to his mother and started talking in a lower tone. “We’ll need to get these tests back to the lab for testing… could be a fit…” Stephen stopped paying attention when he noticed something clenched in one of his mum’s hands.

“…sounded like convulsions…”

He could barely make it out, but it was grey.

“…especially concerning for him to be comatose for several days…”

There was a pattern to it, with white running through it.

“…erratic brain function…”

It was a small ball, almost identical to the one from the Arcade.

His mother caught his staring eyes. “Oh, I got you this from a bric-a-brac shop. It’s a bouncy ball. I used to have some when I was younger and it always sent my mother in a state…”

He had stopped listening when she fully opened her hand, his eyes simply glared. It wasn’t the one that belonged to Dana, it had a different pattern, but it was the same colour. No, this was the one the Arcade claimed he stole from it, in a game stacked against him. He had won that ball unfairly, in a game built to be unfair, and Dana had helped him do it.

And now it was here. Not in his head, but in his safe place, his world.

Project #2 – Act 1: The Last Mirran Pt2

Project #2 – Today Tarklie returns to the survivor camp on the outskirts of Kuldotha. She’ll meet with a familiar face before setting off on a journey to the Furnace Layer in a desperate attempt to reunite with other survivors of the plane.

To read the last entry, go here: https://exceptionallyaverageman.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/project-2-act-1-the-last-mirran/

To read from the beginning, go here: https://exceptionallyaverageman.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/prologue-dark-depths/

***

The cave was excessively deep, though most of the remaining survivors dwelled closer to the entrance in an enormous empty pocket. Despite its distance from the Great Furnace, a gentle heat oozed its way through the winding paths – the deeper you delved, the more the subtle heat leaked through your body. The walls were an almost smooth sheen of rough metal substances, tirelessly carved away by the tunnelling Phyrexians. If you shone a light across the caverns you could barely make out the wide arching scrapes across each of the surfaces, like a crash of waves immortalised in metal. The Phyrexian force was crafted for hostile takeover, but equally outfitted for their horrific ideal of compleating planes.

A brighter yellow hue filled the tunnels as they approached a larger room, and the light revealed the intricate details across their faces. The guards slowed to a shuffle, indicating they could go no farther. They needed to return to the entrance to complete their watch, and Tarklie required no escort.

“Thank you.” Tarklie nodded across at the two of them.

They nodded back and ducked away, trudging up the winding path that they had come through. It was merely seconds before they disappeared into the rising dark, but Tarklie’s face remained brightly warmed at the emanation of light before her. It was a gentle, magical force that danced across the cracks and dents in her armour. The shadows emphasised each blow her shield had taken, revealing the hundreds of scrapes across the now warm metal. Her face was pointed and her features sharp, but her battles had made it rough and her complexion coarse. As a battle hardened commander her hair was a wild shamble of fire and platinum, with strands falling here and there only loosely tied up with bands of common metals. She was born into battle and her visage showed it – every minute of fighting had left its mark, some emotionally deeper than others.

She wandering into the room, now faintly filled with a whispering bustle. This was the largest area, filled with the biggest portion of the surviving refugees of Mirrodin. There were numerous soldiers consulting one another, some clearly experienced, others having taken to the fight only recently out of self-preservation. There was little homely about the place besides the comforting tone of light. Makeshift beds and fabrics lay strewn about the place, and the only decorations adorning the floor and walls were tools of war. The resistance had made it here with nothing but the weapons and armour on their backs. A few faces turned to see their commander’s arrival, most expressed immediate disappointment as she entered the room alone, no sign of her small company. A couple of men diverted their attention to her and intercepted her course towards the only other exit out of the room. There was a certain regimental experience about them – fellow commanders of this pitiful remaining Mirran army.

“What news commander?” the first had inquired as he closed the gap between himself and his target for questioning.

“Commander Bryce…” Tarklie nodded shortly to the man that had addressed her.

“…And Commander Flock.” she finished, this time braving a fake twitch of the edges of her mouth, affording a much more composed and formal nod towards Bryce’s counterpart.

The move was evident to Bryce; his face winced for a split second in irritation but swiftly returned to its regimental form. Flock, on the other hand, afforded the female commander a small smile of commiseration. He knew the news was bad, but the look on Tarklie’s face was distant and showed pain. Heaping blame would serve no purpose for him or the survivors. Still, he imagined Bryce would hold no verbal blows.

“You left with seven, one of which was one of our finest and now most rare crusaders.” He snarled. “I pray their absence is either short-lived, or at the very least not entirely in vain. I presume by the look of your face and amour that the former is too big of a hope to hold. Do the Leonin still live?”

“Are they fighting?” Flock added.

“Some live. Some remain sick while others have left as compleated husks.” She stared blankly at an empty space between her two interrogators. “We were told some entered the Great Furnace armed for a small incursion. The survivors do not know why.”

“They thought to invade Urabrask’s domain? That is precisely what we do not need.” Bryce spat.

“We do not know that.” Tarklie responded, half-heartedly reacting to Bryce’s incessant scouring.

“You know very little considering the price you have paid to get it.” A few onlookers were now staring at Bryce’s attempt at scolding the returned commander.

“We were attacked by-” Tarklie was given no time to explain their loss.

“You were attacked and your poor planning cost us dearly.” Bryce swung around and stormed through a small group of on looking soldiers. More people looked over, but quickly returned their attention after realising the commotion was over as quick as it had started.

“We cannot afford losses. I understand the odds are stacked against us, but you do understand his frustration.” Flock ushered a hand towards the path the fleeting commander had just taken.

“We stood no chance. We were torn to pieces. I believe they were waiting for us to make contact with the remaining survivors. They’re trying to keep us cut off from one another.” Tarklie also had a vague impression that both the red Phyrexians and the Leonin had plans of their own.

Commander Flock nodded as he turned his gaze downward.

“I need to speak with Koth.” She added

“He is where he always is. His patience is short and wearing shorter. I hope you have something of worth to tell him.” Flock clapped Tarklie on the shoulder, crossed his arms and slowly wandered away into the crowd of people. His demeanour was clear to most. He had given up hope that Mirrodin could be cleansed, but kept his role in order to maintain some semblance of order in their final time on the plane. He was a much needed calm presence in their current situation, regardless of his stance on survival.

She slowly made her way across to the large dark opening a few feet away. It was an entrance deeper into the ground, one which if you went far enough would lead you back into the red Phyrexian tunnel network. If you didn’t get lost, you might make it into the core of the Great Furnace. Koth had taken a smaller cave down this path for himself, putting him between the remaining survivors and anyone or anything that might come through from the network. He would either be the first to greet a sneaky visitor, or crush an invader to a messy pulp. The Vulshok as a race were formidable in battle, providing a special kind of rage to the field of war.

She stepped through the few meters of darkness, carefully watching her step in the brief blackness. She could see a similar glow emanating from a room not far away. There was no movement. She crept towards the entrance, slowing her breath, hoping to hear if Koth was in the middle of something.

“There are no enemies here. Come.” His gruff voice boomed.

Tarklie slipped her way around the corner, revealing Koth sat at a makeshift table of stone and metal, his own stony fists clasped between one another. He motioned her to approach.

“As I said. No enemies.” He gestured to her shield and mace. “You can’t very well sit with a steel wall on your lap.”

Without responding she unclipped her sash and leaned her mace by the entrance. She undid a number of straps around her elbow and shoulder, and slid off her shield with her makeshift right forearm attached. It left what remained of her upper arm hanging by her side. It was a sight Koth had grown used to, it was after all him who had removed what was missing. When the Machine Orthodoxy had attacked Urabrask’s forces in the Great Furnace, Tarklie had fended off a wave of attackers alongside the planeswalking geomancer and a few of the survivors. A compleated Templar had cut away at her arm, leaving glistening oil to do its work. Knowing the result Koth had immediately charged his way through a field of attackers, taken a sword and hacked off her infected limb in one swift cleave. At the time she had fervently cursed the air with her fury and agony, but it had saved her. She and the rest of the survivors made it to this cave network – half an arm was a small cost for the promise of vengeance.

Koth had fashioned the shield for her himself, crafting the arm as part of it so the shield and the commander were a single impenetrable unit. He had taken her arm away, and so he would bring it back in part to her. He was mildly pleased that she had grown so accustomed to it, but her ability to annihilate Phyrexians meant more to him than her friendship or acceptance. She was an invaluable tool of war, hardened by crippling loss and strengthened when placed into the fray with a weapon in her hand. She was a battle-maiden by nature at this stage, but an even more formidable leader of men. The near impossible feat of taking back Mirrodin seemed a tiny bit more fathomable with commanders like her at the frontlines.

“You lost men?” He asked as she placed herself at the opposite end of the table.

“Yes, they-”

Koth waved his arm in dismissal.

“They will be mourned when Mirrodin belongs to its people. What news from Kemba?” He interjected.

“We didn’t manage to speak directly with her. We spoke to-”

“It doesn’t matter who you spoke to. Give me the critical information. Where do they stand?” Koth was growing agitated.

“Their numbers are small; some have turned to the Orthodoxy. They sent some soldiers into the Great Furnace.” Tarklie tried to keep things short.

“Why?” He asked, almost confused by the prospect.

“They went secretly, the rest weren’t aware. Well… Kemba may be.” Tarklie suggested.

“Highly likely. Her soldiers wouldn’t wander into a hole of their own volition. She clearly has plans which do not coincide with ours. Did you request a channel of communication?” His face grew serious.

“I did, they did not answer. The Myr patrol came… We led them away.” Tarklie faltered a little. They had led the Myr away from the Leonin in hopes the gesture would have some meaning of alliance. Her attempt at doing them a favour had cost seven Mirran their lives.

“Why would they turn to the furnace?” Koth rubbed his fingers against his spiny forehead, ignoring Tarklie’s last statement.

Tarklie thought for a brief moment before offering the obvious.

“I can only think of three possibilities. To hide, to find an underground connection to us, or to-”

“To find Urabrask.” Koth finished, still a questioning look on his dense brow. None of the three options seemed more likely than the other. The Leonin were sometimes overly proud fighters, but not entirely without sense.

“It would be nearly impossible for them to navigate the tunnels to find us.” Tarklie suggested.

“Indeed. Not without help.” He rested his chin on one of his fists and his eyes darted about in thought. They could not merely rest on their laurels and wait to see what the Leonin had planned. Nor could they sit and wait for its eventual success or failure. If they grew too idle, the Machine Orthodoxy would find them.

“We cannot risk losing more men in hopes of reaching the Leonin or Vulshok survivor camps, only for them to wriggle out of an alliance.” He concluded.

“What is the option then?” Tarklie asked. “We cannot stand idly by, we cannot risk the loss of men, and we cannot save the entire plane with a handful of soldiers. The Leonin aren’t much of a help a league underground lost in the darkness.”

“Then we find them.” Koth suggested, as if it were no mean feat.

“That’s… We don’t know the tunnels. Nobody even knows how far they run for. The only reason we made it here was by the guidance of Urabrask’s brood.” Tarklie waved her arms about, as if there were still a hand on her right arm to gesticulate wildly with.

Koth had no doubt she would have a few hand gestures to respond to his plan with. He knew no matter how wild his request, Tarklie felt duty bound to commit to an idea and see it done, not simply because it was a step towards saving Mirrodin, but also because the words came from Koth himself. It was both her most admirable trait, and the one most likely to get her killed. If the Phyrexians didn’t maim or compleate what few limbs she had left, Koth would almost certainly be the one to essentially resign her to a task fit for a walking dead person. She had a tendency to bludgeon her way through impossible tasks – perhaps the reason Koth produced such a titanic shield for her. Tarklie was a highly reliable battering ram with commanding wisdom to boot. Despite his planeswalker status, Koth felt she was almost his equal.

“Try. If we cannot find the Leonin, we’ll find Urabrask. Find one, and we will be lead to the other.”

“We?” Tarklie asked, despite knowing very well what he had meant.

“Commander Bryce would keel over in despair if you were to take any more of the men. Even I’m beginning to wonder if I should have any hopes of outliving you. Besides, the red Phyrexians tolerated our presence, they were not our allies. You’re going to need more than swords down there.” There was an altogether serious tone behind the light-hearted mask of Koth’s response.

Nobody would want to follow them down there, especially after the losses of the recent scouting party. It was a wild plan that needed a certain lack of self-preservation only a hasty geomancer and vengeful commander could provide by the bucket load. Few would want to aid them, but they would not make the request in the first place.

“When do we leave?” Tarklie asked, as she rose up from her seat to collect her arms.

“Now. We do not tell the rest. It would only serve as a fuel for unrest.” Koth said as he stood to collect a few belongings from the table.

“And them suddenly discovering this plane’s last powerful guardian has abandoned them doesn’t classify as fuel for unrest?”

Koth paused. It was a fair point, he thought, but there was no alternative.

“We are left with little choice.” He replied. “Mirrodin’s salvation requires action, and if the Leonin have a plan, we must try to be a part of it.”

Tarklie could see the frustration in Koth’s face. He was not one to fall by the wayside, and even more averse to being dragged along in somebody else’s plan. Still, she felt he was probably right. They needed the Leonin and the Leonin needed them, regardless of how much they liked to believe otherwise. If there was some semblance of a plan to retake the plane by the Leonin, no matter how small, the last living free survivors needed to organise together. The gaping issue at hand however, was the incredibly complex network beneath the Great Furnace. The surviving Mirran in their group barely knew their way around the tunnels – a group of headstrong Leonin had the hope of a snowflake in a firestorm.

“Where are we heading first?” Tarklie asked. The network and the small city itself were enormous; they’d need a starting point.

“We head directly across to the centre of the city, then work our way toward the core from there. Urabrask fled straight down during the assault, I’d hazard the Leonin are aware of the same.” Koth finished packing a few errant items, including a heavily worn booked bound in leather.

Tarklie noticed it was brown with a darker brown diamond symbol in the centre. It had various symbols, a “V” woven in the middle, and red marker hanging out of the bottom. She didn’t take Koth for an academic, but watched as he placed the book carefully inside, almost like it was an heirloom. She briefly considered quizzing him about, but a gut feeling told her it was probably unwise.

Koth had noticed her eyes glance across and fixate on the book, but he slipped it away and threw his satchel over his head, ushering her towards the exit. As they stepped out of his small cavern back into the empty blackness, they both took a cursory glance at the end of the tunnel leading back towards the surface. The quiet murmurings went on in the distance, but they turned the opposite way into the dark below. They stepped further into the darkness, eyes barely adjusting to the pitch black until they could make out the faint glow of camp no more. Koth lifted one of his pillar-like arms and coerced his mana into his hand. Its rocky surface began to glow a dark furnace red and lit their path beyond, quickly disappearing into a seemingly endless path. Koth walked on, but Tarklie turned her head back towards the camp. If any wandering Phyrexians came across the cave entrance and entered, the remaining Mirran refugees would not survive without their powerful Geomancer to protect them. She made a brief silent plea to whatever god might listen to a doomed plane to protect them.

“How certain are you that you can get us to the centre?” Tarklie didn’t like to question Koth’s abilities, he was never short on mana to vaporise a questioning nuisance to ashes where they stood. It was however a valid question given their detriment. Nobody really knew this furnace layer network aside from the ant-like Phyrexian workers that dug them.

“I have a vague understanding. The Phyrexians are not without order.” He said, as he pulled the dense journal out of his pack to chance a gaze at a few pages.

“A group of us travelled to the core once.”

“You and the other planeswalkers when you freed the golem?” Tarklie added.

“It was not enough.” He cut off the subject from conversation swiftly. “Some details of these tunnels are written here – I believe they may offer some small token of guidance.”

Koth continued to walk with his head gazing at the pages of this mysterious journal with his glowing hand outstretched. There was frustration in his voice.

Tarklie had heard stories of Koth’s unending vigour to fight, a sharp temper and a distinct hastiness. He had been quite the brash centrepiece in a number of incidents involving friend and foe alike. What she saw in the Vulshok planeswalker leading her was not the same spirit. He was equally, if not more powerful than before, but far more lethargic. He had paid a high emotional price this late on in the war against the Phyrexians, and its toll had rocked his very foundations. It was as if he had taken the burden of the entire war upon himself, under the assumption the remaining free rebels were out of the fight already. Tarklie had been quick to prove that assumption moot on more than one occasion.

Project #3 – Chapter 1: Age 7 Pt2

Project #3 – Here we find out what was waiting for our little man beyond the halls upstairs. Prepare for masses of exposition, cheesy toddler-esque dialogue and some world building for our creepy grey beachside town. Somebody’s going to the Arcade.

Read from the start here: https://exceptionallyaverageman.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/project-3-chapter-1-age-7/

***

By the time he made it to the top step and onto the landing the silence was broken with yet another tap, this time more forceful. He gripped a hold of the bright white bannister after getting an uncontrollable feeling that he might fall backwards down the stairs. His head barely came to the height of the handrail, so he stretched up on his tiptoes and peered over the edge. He held his breath hoping to overhear some clue as to where the noise was originating from. What the noise was originating from. He glanced around the first floor; all doors closed save for one. There was one to his left, a light glow emanating from beneath the crack at the bottom of the door. At the end of the hall there was nothing but shadow beyond the other. To his right, the door was ajar. He saw a small chunk of plain pink wallpaper, and a light switch of the old kind, made of brass and with a knobbly bit at the end. He looked deeper at the shapes on the wall, unaware how long it had been since his body had managed to suck in air.

There was a natural light coming in, casting faint shadows across the small piece of wall he could see. He stared intently at the shadows for any sign of movement. He was certain he could make out two shapes. The big one looks like a box, some drawers maybe? The second melded into the side of it, it was thinner, taller, it almost looked like a thin mountain. Wider in the middle, it goes up, then flows inward to a smaller top… like… hair. Before he filly realised he was staring at the shadow of a long-haired thing sat bolt upright, the shadow of an arm flung out and lashed in one swift action. This time a heavy thud reverberated through the wall, and he caught his breath in his throat. He let out a muffled shriek, at the same the shadow disappeared from view, launching itself to one side. He flung his body around, let go of the handrail and thundered down the stairs as fast as his legs would allow. He couldn’t catch his breath, he’d held it for too long, and before he knew it his feet lost their purchase. In a moment he was tumbling through the air, waiting for the inevitable connection of his body on a corner of step.

His vision went black, and although he felt his body crash against a number of surfaces, he didn’t feel the pain he thought was inevitable. With his face flat on the hallway floor once more, he noticed a figure out of the corner of his blurry tear filled eyes. It stood there, halfway down the stairs, as if appearing from nowhere without a sound. He saw the long black locks of hair, the little blue dress, and those silly socks the girls wore at school with the frills around the ankle. She couldn’t have been much older than him. He couldn’t make out any features, and his head screamed for immediate sleep. This is what passing out feels like, the movies make it look so quick and gentle.

“Stephen? Why did you run?” She stood there, asking in an inquisitive tone, a marble textured bouncy ball in her hand. There was something beneath the curiosity. Her voice sounds so frightening.

 

***

It felt soft, whatever he was lying on. It felt like safety.

Thunk

His head searched his body for pain. There was none.

Thunk

There was a little drool from his mouth stuck to the pillow. Pillow. I’m in a bed.

Thunk

I’m home. It was a bad dream. Mummy will be-

Thunk

What is that noise?

Nothing. It stopped. There was somebody there, right next to him.

“You’re awake Stephen!” That quaint little English voice pierced the air.

God no, not that voice again. I don’t like her, she’s wrong. I shouldn’t be here.

Like a giddy child she leapt up from the bed, one far too large for any normal child to need. She tumbled across his body and brought her face right up to his, chin resting on both her hands as she stared.

“Open your eyes silly, I carried you up the stairs to my room. You fell asleep, but don’t worry, I looked after you while you slept.” She was far too jolly, almost excitable even.

I just fell down the stairs. Why is she so excited? How did she carry me up the stairs?

He peeled his eyes open slowly; weary of what horror might meet his gaze.

To his surprise, it was the polar opposite of horror that sat inches from his face. Her black hair was wavy, and flopped around her faces in tufts like a droopy hound. Her skin was pale but flawless, and her brown eyes were dark and deep. She had a small round face, cheeks dented with dimples. She had a small and rounded nose, and the daintiest little ears that barely showed themselves beneath her mane of night. As if in response to his mental flattery, she smiled a gap-tooth grin. She had one of her big teeth on the way, and like an involuntary tick she poked at it with her tongue until it burst through the gap and she giggled.

“Come on, up up up! We don’t have much time!” She put her arms around his body and heaved him up so he was propped against the headboard of the bed. She’s stronger than she looks. She carried on staring blankly at him, mouth still ear to ear in a forced smile.

He managed a croak. “Why? Why don’t we have time?” Still unsure of his new “keeper’s” intentions.

“I think you’re going back soon.” She muttered, gazing off out the window to the grey haze outside. She swiftly changed the subject, giving him no time to ask where am I going back?

“We can do all sorts, the place is all ours Stephen!”

“How do you know my name? Who are you?” His curiosity rolled in his head, wondering if she meant this whole town is ours.

“Because we’ve met before. I’m Dana.” She put a hand on his shoulder to assure him that was most definitely her name.

It didn’t ring a bell in his head. “Met where?”

“Silly Stephen! When we were born of course! We were born at the same time. Don’t you remember? I certainly do.”

Who remembers anything from when they’re born?

Before he could ask any more questions she leapt up from the bed and tossed her bouncy ball across at a wall. Thunk. After a single bounce-and-catch she tossed it up in the air towards him. He caught it awkwardly, his reflexes still not quite awake. He opened one hand and let it loll about. It was a murky sphere of grey swirls and white streams, barely a scuff despite its heavy abuse from Dana. It felt remarkably warm, probably from incubating in her hand for all these hours.

Hours?

How long have I been asleep?

Seeing his eyes trail off she seized the moment to distract him from his thoughts.

“I won it at the Arcades. They have tonnes of cool stuff down there. Let’s go there now!” Dana had this way of stating things in such a proper Oh don’t you know British manner. Stephen already knew it was her way or… well, he wasn’t sure there was any other way. He expected her to turn into some evil witch girl at the slightest hint of boyish insolence. For now it might be safer to follow her lead, she said herself he wouldn’t be here long. Whether he was leaving to go home was something he hoped to find out sooner rather than later.

She bounded towards the door of the bedroom and slipped out without so much as a glance back to see if Stephen was following at half her pace. He rubbed his sleep filled eyes and leaned out of bed. He had to admit it was blissfully comfy and wouldn’t mind coming back later to wait for “soon”. He wandered towards the door taking a quick peek at the things that filled Dana’s room, if it even was hers. The pinkish wallpaper indicated it did at least belong to a girl or lady. The bed was covered in rough white and red patchwork covers, with fluffy cushions and the odd bear strewn about the place. It still had his rough body outline creased into one side. There was little in the way of belongings. He spotted a tall and thin wardrobe, but it was shut perfectly unlike mum’s one at home. Her doors would barely close, and there was always a skirt or a top poking out the crack. There was a dark, old oak dresser too. It looked ancient but showed no signs of wear or use, and not a single slip of material made it out the sides. He wondered if there was anything at all in here. It was all bare, as if it were constructed and decorated for nothing but a movie set.

He closed the door on the way out, not wanting to look back and see any more moving shadows and strange noises following him along the landing. Dana was stood at the top of the stairs waiting for him. As soon as they caught one another’s eyes, she turned and pranced down the stairs like a new born foal. Once Stephen made it to the stairs, he stopped to look down where he had fallen only a few moments (hours?) before. There was no sign of his tumble. No blood, not a single scrape or scuff in the wood, paint or carpet. The bottom of the staircase loomed in his vision. He took a deep breath and went to put a foot down on the first step.

“Come on mister!” she yelled up the stairs, causing Stephen to flinch and almost fall backwards in surprise. Anything she did could panic him; she was just so lively. Her voice sounded like she was shouting from outside the house already. She’s in such a rush… It occurred to him that Dana seemed oblivious that they were the only people in sight, potentially in the entire town. She might know why.

He composed himself as best he could, nerves still shot, desperately trying to control the shaking in his body from fright. He plodded down the steps double time, worried that there might be someone else upstairs. He made it to the bottom to the sight of Dana stood at the front door looking out onto the seafront. He walked slowly towards the door being careful not to make any noise in case somebody might be lurking. As if sensing his presence she whirled around on one heel sending the bottom of her dress in a floating twister. This time she pulled a cheeky grin across her face, leapt forward and grabbed hold of his hand.

“The Arcade’s this way Stephen! Quick, you’ve not got much time!” She dragged him out the front door, leaving the desolate house wide open for everybody, or nobody, so see inside.

She charged ahead down the road in a frantic sprint, dragging him along so fast he could barely keep himself from falling over. He tripped up on his own feet but managed to keep his balance, briefly lifting his head and stealing a glance at what they were headed for. He remembered the arcades on holiday, ones filled with claw machines that never worked, boxes full of sliding shelves crammed with pennies and prizes, mini bowling and the odd video-game machine. Those ones were bright and full over colours, plastered in flashing lights and oozing the smells of hot sea-side food and stale sun lotion. What they were running towards lacked everything. It had no smells, no people, and no lights. He was painfully aware of the silence as well. There were no bingo callers shouting out words that rhymed with numbers for reasons he never understood, and it lacked the plinks and plonks of music that looped around on the different machines. It was grey and lifeless like the rest of the place, and looked like what an Arcade would have been when old people were children.

Dana’s apparent idea of fun filled him with more distrust as he was yanked and tugged towards the first set of looming steps. He wasn’t sure where she was taking him, but the huge double doors at the top of the steps looked like something straight out of one of the old original colour films mum and dad used to swoon over on a Sunday afternoon. They were both out of breath as they ascended the dozen or so steps, Dana’s smile not wavering a millimetre, Stephen’s face growing ever more frightened. Dana shot a glance at him, the smile merging into a theatrical scowl.

“Don’t be so scaredy. It looks boring on the outside but you’ll love the inside. Come on little boy, I’ll keep you safe.” This time the bounce had left her voice, and she reverted to a brattish know-it-all tone. It was the way his older sister used to warble at him when he wasn’t doing what she wanted him to. He was hit with a sudden pang of regret. He’d do anything his sister asked him to if he could just get away from this. Need to get away from her.

In moment’s notice she wiped the frown from her face, plastered on her best polite look and grabbed him by the wrist once more. She threw open one of the swinging doors with such force it banged against the inner wall and rattle in its sockets. Just before the door came swinging back into Stephen’s face she thrust him through the doors and into a daydream of old fashioned fantasy. Suddenly the greys turned into something very different.

Project #2: Act 1 – The Last Mirran

Project #2 – After our prologue introducing a familiar name to the multiverse, we hit the first section of Act I that introduces our protagonist, Tarklie. Here I’ve tried to fit in as much awesome as possible, showing off our badass female lead. This story will be covered in four+ Acts, so expect this one to evolve over the coming weeks. This chunk is a little longer than the last.

Read the prologue here: https://exceptionallyaverageman.wordpress.com/2016/10/16/prologue-dark-depths/

***

The situation was dire, but regardless of the cost, Tarklie could not risk retreating towards camp. Their small and almost irrelevant resistance had remained secret and safe in the caverns to the south. If the denizens of New Phyrexia caught wind of even a hint about the whereabouts of a secret survivor camp, the place would be inundated in living metal, bent on their compleation. The few hundred survivors of the insurrection had swarmed to Koth in hopes that he might offer some kind of protection from the unabated spread of glistening oil across the plane. Koth could do nothing, however. After the restoration of the golem Karn, the few powerful people left had either fled off-plane or were captured and consolidated into the Phyrexian host. The planeswalkers had left Koth to his doomed plane once known as Mirrodin, and through some miracle or madness, he had chosen to remain despite the inevitable indoctrination of the entire floating metal world. There was word of other surviving groups, mostly comprised of those immune to infection thanks to Melira, but for the most part the survivors were cut off from one another.

If the Phyrexians scoured the nearby area, they would find the band of remnants, and Koth. They would then all die, Koth included, should his devotion to the plane prove greater than his desire to survive and travel to another plane to find asylum. No, Tarklie and her outfit needed to lead these infected Myr astray as a first priority. If they succeeded and survived, then a double-back would be in order, and they could return with their situation report. They clambered over a small hilly region, with the ever present hum of sickly automatons bearing down on their position. She looked briefly across her shoulder to assess the state of her men. All seven of them remained in relative good health, but their stamina was waning. Deep in her mind, she knew they would not return with the number they set out with, and she made special note of each of the seven faces in the event she or any others made it back alive. Koth and the rest would want to know, they would want to remember. Most of the survivors were soldiers, none of which were related to each other in any way. There were few women in their ranks, but enough had survived, and the remaining few were the hardest and strongest of Mirrodin’s now nearly extinct species. Still, they were all family, and family needed to mourn their losses with respect.

This New Phyrexia was mostly a barren plane now. It had little to no living organic matter, and what was left was infected by the oil. It meant there were few places to hide, and losing a squad of humming Myr all but impossible. They had been fortunate enough to happen upon a hilly bit of terrain, but their situation was almost no better for it. She afforded a look over the brink of their cover, and swiftly ducked back down as quickly as she had shot up. There wasn’t enough time to confirm her estimations, but that were at least a dozen, and they were far closer than she anticipated. There was no time to lose them, no time for a plan, and no hope of outrunning them. Her heart paced double-time and her lungs began pumping. She looked over at her men once more, this time all seven faces looking straight back at her. They knew the look, and they knew the cost that came with it. Before Tarklie could utter a sound, the first soldier, a crusader, leapt to his feet and stampeded down the slope.

The Mirran crusaders were once the pride of the plane’s armies, devout in their duty and almost religious in their form for battle. They adorned the heaviest of armaments, wielded great double-ended blades, and could take more punishing than a sound minded Mirran could imagine. They were the battleships of the army, but their numbers were cut a thousand-fold in the compleation of the plane. This man was likely one of the remaining few, but that fact could not sway him from his duty to annihilate. As he charged on, Tarklie and the others followed in swift pursuit – they shared his duty, and he would not go down alone.

As they spearheaded toward the oncoming swarm, their armour clanged in a righteous unison. None were protected as heavily as the crusader – the weight of his weapon alone would likely encumber any normal soldier or commander to the point of inefficiency. The soldiers wore much thinner lighter plates, spread across the critical points of their body, so as not to hinder their agility in battle. The Mirran almost worshipped metal as a deity, but they were not too blind in their faith of protection to misjudge the importance of dexterity. Tarklie was only slightly more decorated; her position as a commander demanded it. She carried more weight with her, with a grand and impenetrable shield strapped to her right arm, and a dense heavy mace in her left hand that bared a resemblance to a hedron. She was stronger than many of her peers, so she kept pace with her desperate platoon as they covered these remaining few meters before the clash of iron and living metal. None of them could hope to keep pace with the crusader. He would be the first to strike a blow, and the first to receive a dozen.

Even in this hopeless situation, it never ceased to amaze her how strong the crusaders were. He had ram-rolled into the clump of Myr and essentially decimated one in the process. It was a split second before he burst out the other end of the swarm, closer to twenty than the dozen Tarklie had assumed, turned on his heel and smashed through another in a swift cleave. Tarklie and the others beat into the group shortly after and the chaos of the Mirran battle dance ensued. The soldiers were skilled, but the outer shell of the Myr was strong. Swing after swing would bounce or glance off their metal hides, leaving minor chinks on the surface. Tarklie swung into the weaker parts, avoiding the obtuse heads and chest, crushing the smaller limbs in order to maim and hinder their offensive capabilities. A muffled and almost liquid scream rang out behind her; three Myr had clasped onto one of her men, torn away at his plates, and plunged their spiny bladed arms into the man’s chest in a cold, robotic frenzy before swiftly diverting their attention to the next target.

In a fit of desperation two more soldiers leapt to his aid, entirely in vain, overcome by anger at their hopeless situation. They swung wildly at the creatures that had just dismembered the fallen soldier’s body, landing a few fortunate hits to critical points. Numerous other soldiers had fallen, their torn bodies lay entirely lost under the pile of buzzing frenzied automatons. Tarklie kept her composure despite the dire situation, crushing enemies as she viciously pummelled away their advances with her shield-wall. Every few moments she would afford herself a sight to check on the crusader’s situation. He had felled nearly half of the attackers, but had taken numerous direct hits to his now savaged plating. His face and hands were bloody, and masses of Phyrexian oil had lathered itself across his body as he cut away at the enemy. That was the critical strength of the Phyrexian invasion: regardless of whether he survived this onslaught, the oil would infect him. Still, for now he was holding the battle in balance for them. If the crusader fell, they would be all dead in a matter of moments.

Just a few Myr remained, though their party was now all but gone. Every soldier was now dead or dying, clutching titanic tears in their bodies or grasping areas where limbs once existed. Tarklie’s resolve and critical protection her shield had afforded her had kept her alive until this point, and the crusader’s near religious zealotry had driven his strength and supressed his pain. Two smaller creatures barrelled into Tarklie, knocking her to the ground in a clatter of metal. She had lost her grip on her weapon, but her shield had offered some minor defence against the first rain of blows. As if psychically aware of his commander’s situation, the crusader stopped in his motions, allowing an errant attack to strike through his waist. In a blind fit of rage he eased his impaled body off of the arm of the Myr and clambered over to Tarklie, receiving two more slashes to his back and legs. He dropped his blade and seized one of the Myr that was bearing down on Tarklie, raising it above his head as his own blood poured down his legs. Tarklie threw off the other that had clambered on top of her shield, and leapt to her feet. The crusader slammed the Myr down and Tarklie thrust the edge of her shield down onto the neck, crushing straight through the metal linkages.

Just as she turned she was knocked down once more by the remaining two bug-like mechanoids, this time being thrown several feet in the air and across the fallen remnants of man and machine. The first leapt at her again, in a panic she seized a blood-stained Myr arm and carelessly chopped away at the air in front of her, sending the airborne attacker on an uncontrollable trajectory in several pieces. She ran and grabbed the crusader’s hefty blade, barely able to raise it above her shoulders from the sheer weight. It was perfectly balanced, and was slathered in the toxic oil from the fallen creatures the crusader had annihilated. In his final act of servitude the crusader restrained the Myr in his arms, offering Tarklie an open target. She stumbled across, lifted the colossal blade above her head, and thrust it down. She did it with such force, and the weight of the weapon was so great, it cut through the Myr’s strongest parts like paper.

The crusader eased the machine off of him and hung his body upright like a shambling corpse. He raised his arm in request of his weapon – his body was in agony from deep wounds and the infectious oil was seeping into his body. Tarklie placed it in his hands, and watched in honour and appreciation, kneeling down in front of the man as he completed his final duty. He pulled away his broken armour, and pulled the blade into his chest where his heart beated in anguish. In a brief moment she saw a little hope in his face, and then he slumped over to one side, leaving her as the only remaining survivor of the onslaught.

The cost of this small skirmish to the remaining Mirran’s was astronomically high, and Tarklie knew the enemy had lost but a handful of worthless and replaceable peons. They had been forced into a fight that would have left them even more painfully outnumbered than before, and now she had to return to the remnants and break the news. It would hurt them deeply, but none would feel the loss as deeply as Koth. He had tirelessly fought against the tide for so long, and for such little gain. There was never any hope of saving Mirrodin, every inhabitant and visiting planeswalker had known that. Yet Koth stayed despite the planeswalker golem’s refusal to remain and fight. If Karn could not defend the plane, then Koth was but a leaf fighting the storm. Mirrodin could not be saved. Mirrodin had been long lost; it would forever be New Phyrexia. Why Koth had bothered to remain was beyond her comprehension. Perhaps the latest news of her now fallen party would drive him away.

She wandered over, stepping between the human and Myr limbs that were scattered about the place, to pick up her lost weapon. She was far from safe despite this tiny victory, if it could even be considered as such. The caverns were a fair distance away, there was every chance she’d be set upon by another roving group of Myr, or even a patrol from one of the Praetor’s roaming armies. The Phyrexian invasion has been quick and leaked across the land like a virus, but the plane was too large for them to have a presence everywhere so quickly. If luck would have it she could clamber back to camp with her life, now extended by just a few extra days. They could not hide forever, the plane was all but converted, and food was nigh impossible to come by. They would all die here eventually, and Koth would either decide that his fate was to die for his plane, or retreat as the last surviving Mirran. Unless some god-like power came and burned away the Phyrexian infection, they were simply surviving on borrowed time. They hadn’t received reports of the Auriok’s situation in months, and the Leonin led by Kemba were dangerously close to the now deserted Great Furnace of Kuldotha, only protected by a few token enchantments.

She considered loosening off a few pieces of protection – her body was tired and aching, and it wouldn’t save her in the event of another attack. She thought better of it, resigning herself to the idea that she would make it back alive. She wouldn’t allow the sacrifices of her men to be for nothing, and she may need the gear in the coming days. She had lost her sense of urgency, and instead trudged her way towards the caverns at a crawl of a pace. It took a little under an hour to reach them, and her surroundings provided her with little distraction. Large parts of Mirrodin were relatively empty expanses of metal and mineral, a world crafted by the great golem Karn as a giant artifact filled with life and balance. She barely felt the point of turning her head to the horizons on her way, there was little to see, and most of it had been ruined by the warring castes of the Phyrexians. There was talk of a civil war before Karn had been cleansed of the oil, and the invaders had taken to battling one another in a contest for power.

The white Praetor Elesh Norn and her Machine Orthodoxy had come out as the distinctive strong arm of the Phyrexian infection. She had been the central target for the resistance above all of the other Praetors. She was decisive and incredibly dangerous, and had made it more than clear that Koth and his followers were her primary focus in recent months. Those immune to phyresis were of course a concern, but the planeswalker was the most important part of the Phyrexian goal of spreading the host. They could not travel the planes, and relied on the oil travelling on planeswalking hosts. Karn had inadvertently caused the infestation, and was busy preventing the same thing that happened on Mirrodin from becoming the fate of other planes. Koth, who remained on-plane for reasons unknown, was their last hope of spreading their version of perfection.

She reached the rocky metallic outcrop and stopped a few meters away from a huge crack that formed the unlikely entrance. In the distance you could make out the desolate remains of the Kuldotha. Taking a moment to steady herself, she peered around and scoured the land around her. After a full three-sixty examination of the horizon, she cautiously wandered towards the opening. From afar one wouldn’t imagine it was large enough to squeeze your average body through, but looked upon more closely one would realise that the opening was at a severe angle – approach from the side and you might find you could march three soldiers shoulder to shoulder down the throat of the cavern. Tarklie peered in to inspect the condition of the opening, checking for signs of glistening oil in the hopes that nothing had gone awry in her absence. She hoped she might never have the misfortune of finding a trace of it on the walls. Everything looked clear, but she did not immediately enter – there were people on watch at all times, ready to leap to the defence of the refugees inside in the event of a wandering compleated patrol.

“Does the Geomancer remain?” Tarklie shouted, as if addressing the dark air.

“We know not why, but he does.” A brash older voice murmured back.

With the words spoken, two figures emerged from the dark corners of the entrance, expecting to greet a small force.

“I thought seven left with you?” the other younger guard quizzed, an expression of disdain on his face.

“Gone…” Tarklie uttered “A patrol of Myr automatons tracked us down on our return, likely from the orthodoxy. Both companies lie in ruins. Twenty of the machinations litter the ground.” It was a small, thankless victory.

The older guard suddenly tensed.

“Glistening Oil?”

Tarklie shook her head.

“The crusader was the only one, but he was all but done for. He kept to his charge. He died a Mirran’s death.”

He nodded in sorry appreciation, while the younger of the two looked to take the news with a greater sense of fear in his face. Tarklie could hardly blame the young man. He had barely a few years in military service and was already resigned to the fact that his infected home plane would consume the last remnants of survivors in short order.

“I must speak with Koth, he’ll want to know of the losses, and of the information we’ve received.” She entreated both of them.

The older guard nodded, and the two of them escorted Tarklie down the dark path inside the cavern, leaving the natural light of the mouth behind, exchanging it for the magical dancing glow of ignited torches.

The location of this cave was not entirely random. The seeds of Phyrexian civil war were laid when Elesh and her Machine Orthodoxy largely decimated two of her rival Praetor’s hives. No Phyrexians were aware if either Urabrask or Sheoldred had survived, however the few survivors that coexisted with Urabrask’s minions were well aware of his current health. Urabrask had hidden deep in the Great Furnace, his hive feeling the pulls of normal Mirran emotion and rage, and it was this peculiar behaviour which made him seem weak to his fellow hive leaders. He had allowed the surviving Mirran rebels to take refuge within the Great Furnace and its hidden caves, and allowed the Leonin to remain enduring at its brink, something no other Phyrexian or Mirran would have thought possible. Elesh’s force had decimated the red Phyrexians, and had pushed extremely deep into the core of the old underground goblin city. Urabrask and his remnants had fled far deeper into the plane’s crust into miles of endless tunnels. He had ushered the few survivors of the onslaught for days through the network, and left the remaining resistance in this cave that existed on the far outskirts of his domain. It was close to the surface, something neither he nor his brood valued. Leaving the remaining force to their survival, the leftover red Phyrexians delved deep into the plane to lick their wounds.

It was this act of defiance from a Phyrexian which pushed the remainders, including Koth, to one day hope that perhaps Mirrodin could at least be freed from the Machine Orthodoxy’s grip. Sheoldred, the black Phyrexian hell-bent on mass slavery, was not a Praetor the resistance had hope for. If Elesh has truly destroyed her, their chances would be all the better for it. The remaining Praetors Vorinclex and Jin-Gitaxis were never thought about as hopeful rebels. If Elesh fell by the hand of either, Mirrodin would still be doomed. Vorinclex would devour all, and Gitaxis was only interested in his torturous experiments. Urabrask was different, but now vastly weaker than his counterparts. The remaining Mirrans could only pray that he could rebuild a small insurrection force deep within the core of their metal plane, at the very least to cause disruption to the white Praetor-Queen’s plane-wide rule. Since the attack on the Great Furnace, the survivors had not heard a word from Kemba’s people on the surface. Compleation was almost inevitable.

Project #3 – Chapter 1: Age 7

Project #3 – This is my latest book idea, a psychological thriller that wades through a boy’s life, each chapter surrounding a certain age that something happens… The Obituary of Stephen Hill.

***

Sand has this tendency to get everywhere. It was in his shoes, not simply working its way between the lightly worn insoles and no-brand socks, but grinding against his skin. It was in his socks, between his toes, under his nails and in every crevice. It wasn’t just his feet either – his body lay flat, slightly sunk into the wet sand that had been kissed by the tide only a few minutes before. Each lap of the waves drove a million grains into the individual fibres of his patched blue jumper, clung itself to his tailored dark grey jeans like a thousand tiny animals fleeing from the grasps of the sea.

The invasion of his clothing wasn’t what woke him. Instead it was the feel of the manmade beach sand that crunched itself across his face, scratched at his eyes and worked its way between his teeth, now dry from sucking coastal air through his lips for god knows how long. His jaw ached, and as he tried to work out what muscles still worked, his brain was only just coming to the realisation that his mouth was full of stuff that shouldn’t have been there. After a split second of feeling the sand grind between his molars, his body desperately tried to react. All it could managed was a pitiful spitting motion followed by a light cough, achieving little more than sucking in more sediment filled seawater. He spluttered in his helpless state and succeeded in rolling over onto his back with what small reserves of energy he found deep in his chilled core.

He managed to open his dull blue eyes invaded by bloodshot capillaries, and the sunlight tore through his vision. His face became a map of creases and he managed a cracked groan. It felt as though he had never used his voice before. With a hand slowly lifted above his face he peeled open his eyelids once more. The sun was filtering through a mass of overcast clouds above, threatening neither blistering heat nor a brisk chill on the horizon. The clouds weren’t even moving, and he noticed the air was still. He hadn’t yet made the link that the wind speed should be up this close to the ocean.

After a few passing minutes the waves lapped up his back, bringing itself further up his spine, striking off more nerve endings the higher it came. He needed to pick himself up, or at least crawl further inland before the ocean slowly dragged him in with the tide. With the extra weight of saltwater soaked clothes, he turned over to his left, revealing nothing but more empty beach. He put his small free hand down and heaved his dainty upper body, then managed to spread his weight on both arms. Can I stand? He thought. His arms were already twitching and shaking from the strain, so he pulled both knees up from under his body and tried to lean back. His vision filled with stars and he thought he might go blind. With no sense of direction or balance he very nearly toppled to the side until his heart pumped just enough blood to his brain for him to steady himself.

After a few moments to gather himself, he slowly crept up onto his feet hoping not to repeat what happened. He stood just a few feet tall, body swaying like an oak tree in a gentle breeze, and turned his face to see where the beach originated from. He hadn’t thought what to expect – would it be the maw of a jungle with its dense trees looming overhead? A broad expanse of desert behind dunes kissed with spots of foliage? What he saw didn’t surprise him somehow, but he still felt like everything was wrong. The beach was only a few dozen feet wide, and merged seamlessly into a concrete barrier which evolved and spilled into a small onlooking town. Instead of the vast array of pastel coloured house-fronts and doors adorned with quirky knockers and numbers, the place was devoid of imagination. Everything was a mix of greys and eroded browns. The houses were short and dinky, the streets were wide and completely empty, and where entertainers and novelty sellers should have been peddling their knock-off hats and glasses, only the still quiet filled the space.

He glanced up and down the town’s seafront for any sign of life, even danger – what kind he didn’t know, but his eyes were met with nothing but the same lifeless scene. His teeth began a rhythmic chatter and his back and chest started to shake. His body knew it was cold but he almost couldn’t feel the dip in temperature. It was as if his mind was disconnected and his body was doing all it could by its own devices. He had to find somewhere warm and find some dry clothes, or at least a big soft towel like the one mum wrapped and shook him in after bath time. Slowly putting one foot in front of the other, he made his way to the nearest ramp in the concrete walkway that separated this faux-nature from twenty first century industry. He still heard the lapping of the ocean in his ears behind him – aside from the squelching of his sodden white trainers it was the only sound that made it to his brain.

He waddled up the ramp, taking care with each step as he left small wet footprints in the light scatterings of sand that had creeped its way to some form of freedom. He had his arms hugged around his body in hopes of creating some warmth for himself, achieving only discomfort as the soggy sand patches rubbed against his palms. This is where we dust off our feet and put our socks back on. He thought back in his memory, remembering the few times his parents had taken him on a family day out to a real beach, with warm sand and a brisk ocean. He remembered the sticky feeling of that nasty sun lotion his mum forced him to wear – it made his clothes cling in a way he hated and the sand hang on him in clumps where he hadn’t let her rub it in properly. He looked down at his trainers, still leaking water and utterly caked in escapee grains from the beach. I won’t be able to rub you off. He shuddered in discomfort at the thought of taking his socks off only to have to scrape them back over his toes.

This isn’t a nice holiday.

He strolled across the street, looking either way for oncoming cars. There wasn’t a single vehicle in sight, moving or parked. Heading straight towards the first set of bungalows with a sea view, he tried to peer inside the front windows for signs of people. Just getting a glance of a TV in full motion would have given him some sense of safety, but every place he peered into gave no such gift. They were all filled with the usual trappings of furniture, mostly beige and green sofas and chairs with the odd antique dresser. Each one reminded him of grandma’s house, looking like a portal back in time to when she was young and avocado bathtubs were the modern thing. Despite the town’s abandoned state, every building and street was untouched. There wasn’t a single flake of paint peeling away from the window frames, no tyre marks or the things called potholes dad yelled about on the way to work.

It must be a new estate. Mum had told him about those on the outskirts of his home town, mainly to moan about how it brought more traffic and that we didn’t need that. She said the builders made these houses all at once, made new roads and planted gardens, then when they were all finished people started moving in. Before that though, they were like ghost towns, with the odd house that looked like a looming skeleton, all the rest waiting for it to be finished so they could be bought by families and out-of-town businessmen. Yes, that was it. It made perfect sense. But why did they leave me here?

His belly felt sick with worry, like the inside was being tickled and twisted by some invading force. Then he felt a sudden sense of realisation. It was the exact feeling he had felt… right before I got here. Something in his head wouldn’t let him remember what had happened, it was blocking all the immediate past. Suddenly his attention returned to his current state. Cold, wet, scratchy.  He turned to the closest house he’d peeked into and slunk towards the front entrance. Pulling a cold and achy hand from under his armpit he wrapped as hard as he could on the door, the impact sending painful vibrations up his chilled arm. He waited a few moments and knocked a few more times, this time more rapidly, ignoring the tingles. After just a few seconds he grew impatient. He ran across to the next house, pumping his balled fist against the door. Nothing. Next house. Nothing. His hand hot with pain and his mind in a panic he grabbed the door handle and thrust it down, not expecting it to open and send him reeling forward into the hallway. He managed to put his arms forward to prevent his head from hitting the ground, but his shoulders screamed at the sudden jolt.

The carpet was every bit as dated as the interior. It was thick and felt new despite the mucky brown swirly pattern. It lacked all the fade marks and stains Grandma’s had, many of which were caused by his carelessness with a plate or cup. She had been the first to trust him with a beaker instead of a sippy cup, and despite his best efforts to make her proud, it took only a few minutes before its contents was soaked up by the shaggy floor. He huffed and pulled himself up, nervous that the people who lived here might come thundering down the stairs to discover who had rudely burst into their house. He didn’t know what had come over him, but there was no person in sight, no sound of movement upstairs or down.

“Mum?” he whispered.

He didn’t have any sensible reason why she should be in here, but it was the only person he could think of to cry out for, the only person he wanted more than anything. She’d explain everything. She’d dry him off and get the sand from between his toes. Dad would probably just get angry that he’d wandered off.

There was no answer besides the faint reverberation of his echo, bouncing around the hall and staircase for a split moment. At the end of the hallway there was a thin framed door made up mostly of single glazed window panes, and it had been left wide open to reveal most of the kitchen and what little light managed to break in. It had that plastic floor that grandma said made cleaning up spills easier, and old cupboards that were veneered to look like real wood. Grandad said they were lighter and hollow, made of some cheap material that was ground up wood. He’d had to screw their hinges on a number of times after they tore themselves out. There were two other doors leading from the hallway; one to his left that he assumed went to the living room where he found his grandparents sitting most of the time, watching some old war movie, and the other was an under stair cupboard. Theirs had been filled with old contraptions resembling hoovers and all manner of electric bits grandad had collected over the years. Grandma hated it, and harped on at him to clear it out. That had been going on for some years.

He tip toed as best he could towards the door to his left, placing his head against the cool white paint. He scrunched his eyes and listened his hardest, but he couldn’t make out a single sound. He put his hand on the old brass handle and twisted slowly, holding his breath so the only sound was the spring inside coiling around as it turned. With a light click the door released itself a few millimetres. He slowly opened the door.

“Grandma?”

He still didn’t understand why he thought they might be here. This wasn’t their town, and this most definitely wasn’t his grandparents’ house. He was clinging on to any hope that there might be some familiarity in this place but none ever came.

He popped his head around the door and peered into a room decorated with old floral patterns, dusky brown felt furniture and china plates adorning the walls. He let out a sigh of relief. Nobody’s here he thought. Old people got terribly angry at him when he was where he wasn’t supposed to be. He wheeled around to walk back into the hallway when he heard a light tap on the ceiling above. He froze rigid with his heart suddenly exploding in his chest, hand still firmly holding the handle of the living room door in its twisted position. If I let go they’ll hear the spring. He could feel the thuds on his chest; now realising he needed to start breathing again. What if they hear my breaths? He tried his best to release the air in his lungs as quietly as possible. As he counted the seconds go by while he tried his best to breath normally, he turned his attention to the door handle. His hand was white from squeezing so hard to stop the latch snapping back in place. He twisted his hand in the opposite direction, shaking slightly as the loose handle rattled in its hinges. Even a mouse wouldn’t have heard the noise, but to him it was like a thunderous siren to whoever might be lurking upstairs.

All he wanted to do was run out the front door and scream. He was terrified and needed to hide. But there’s nobody to help me here. There was no soul in sight outside, and if he yelled for help the thing upstairs might hear him, might be the only thing to answer his calls for aid. He had no idea how long he’d stood there completely frozen in time. He hadn’t moved a muscle, eyes fixed on the empty landing up the stairs as if expecting some kind of movement. As if against his own will and sensibility he began creeping towards the stairs. Before he could stop himself he was already two steps up, placing both feet on each step before ascending the next. When his parents were awake downstairs when it was his bed time, he used to crawl up and down the stairs on his hands and knees, carefully avoiding the floorboards that creaked the loudest. Mum had always heard him, caught him out and taken him back to bed. Who knew what might happen if he was caught this time.

 

Project #2 – Prologue: Dark Depths

Project #2 – Here’s the first chunk of my second project. This is the prologue in its entirety! The rest of story features a female protagonist called Tarkleigh, whom I’ll introduce in the first act soon.

***

The ice was just moments away from its departure, but the way the ice viewed time was irrelevant. If history was to be believed, a moment could be a day, a week, or ten centuries. The Ice Age had happened so many generations ago, the frosty landscape had been accepted and metered into history for as long as history had existed. Texts spoke of a time long ago; so long ago many living today could barely comprehend that period in time. It was a dangerous time, rife with decay and annihilation, yet fruitful in worship and zealous ire. He had been told, as his predecessor had been told, that this new time would come. Hundreds before him had been taught of this stage in time, reminded to pass down the knowledge that the Dark Depths was once a great body of water. Regardless of its current state, it had always been a dangerous part of the geography – only a fool would brave the waters in anything less than the double layering of animal skin and fur, and more poignantly, atop the breast of a great vessel. Only one had braved these depths and lived, still living, after all this time after time had begun. He was here to welcome the return of their ancient herald, for the time had come, the ice was waning in thickness and strength, and the survivor of centuries past would rise from its troubling slumber.

He had no boat – it would have been all but impossible to travel this distance on anything but foot; there had been no body of water for some hundreds of miles. Instead he had been sent with a party of his fellow cultists, each of them laden with supplies and spares of everything. They had no intention of letting this opportunity pass them by, and they were all made aware that this would be a one-way trip for all but one. Even he may not make it back. They had started as a party of seventeen, each carrying enough food for just a few days, most of which was meant for the chosen member destined to outlive them in the frozen wastes. They carried extra furs, shoes, even water skins; there was nothing to burn to melt ice for the final few hundred miles of their journey. Their sacks were filled with small amounts of fruit to keep their strength for the first few leagues, and then topped off with masses of salted dried meat. It was their duty not to consume beyond their need, but merely carry the one man’s burden until they could sacrifice no more than their life.

They ranged wildly in age and stature – their cult was neither popular nor particularly populated with avid workers in these modern times. A good two thirds of the living members were a scratch above fifty years of age, and the only reason they had anyone younger was down to the sheer luck that a mad woman might happen upon one of their madmen in a drunken bout. The sons and daughters were encouraged and enticed into the religion with grand promises and spectacular prophecies. Unfortunately, most of them had the sense to leave once they reached a respectable age, or adolescent impatience pushed them to distance themselves from the group of doomsayers. Thousands of years ago they had been a well-known and highly infamous group, worshipping an otherworldly force that had wrought destruction upon the land like an apocalyptic event – one many would never come to face for thousands of years. This cult, they were less than a shadow of their former self, old and aching, mocked and shunned at every moment.

The first in the party had died earlier than expected. He was old, and despite being reminded to consume lightly to extend his service, he had taken it upon himself to defy orders. His zealotry had led him to starvation, and it was now up to the rest to prolong their service a few extra days. They had considered sharing his load between them, in order that the sole survivor of their group might reach his goal unabated, but they chose instead to stick to the plan. They would find the strength somehow. The second had passed even more slowly, almost decaying as he walked in the wake of winter. They had all vowed to press on, regardless of each other’s condition. If one fell, there would not be enough time to mourn. Instead they would press on, their sacrifice remembered by the leaders back in the religious court. He had slumped into a pile of skin and bones, but the wind was so cold and the goal was so distant, none of them had turned their heads to check. It wasn’t until a few days later that they had done a head count and discovered the loss of one more. He had lasted as long as they could have hoped, but still they were a few days’ worth of supplies short. On they went. They would find the strength somehow.

Three through to seven had pushed on longer than expected. They each nibbled away at the remaining unspoiled fruit before it all became useless, and it afforded them a few extra days of a painful cold existence. They each knew their fate, and had requested that the group continue on while they sat and accepted their eventual end in solitude. It felt easier that way. While this had increased their timetable by some stretch, it wasn’t long before more disaster struck. Eight had gone mad with hunger and thirst, and beat nine to death with a now frozen salted ham. He had licked the hot blood off of the meat in a delirious rage. The remainder of the party had thought to set upon him, wrestle the meat from him and put him into his snowy grave before he could do more damage to their cause. His age and frailty had got the better of him, and just seconds after attempting to grind his bloody remaining teeth into the now spoiled meat, he suddenly fell into a seizure on the floor. They had all looked on and watched in indifference as he twitched and flailed. His saliva was flowing about his face, now smudging bloody meaty remains into his nose and mouth as he rolled around. They had stared at this for a few minutes before his body gave up the struggle and came to a sudden slump. One of them trudged over, pulled the ham from his cold bloodless hands, and walked on. The madness of one had potentially cost the lives of the remaining few. They would find the strength somehow.

The final eight continued on, with the occasional grumblings as to the fate of the young chap, number seventeen. Their goal had grown tedious, and for the most part they had discounted the idea that he might make it in their current predicament. Several times they had considered splitting the rations between them and chancing their way home. Bizarrely they had all come to the settlement to continue on as the weeks passed, though their resentment had grown as their faith diminished. Number ten had tried to strangle seventeen in his sleep – sixteen had defended him by breaking both the man’s arms. Ten continued on, carrying his burden for a number of days before succumbing to infection and delirium. He opted to take a different direction, and they saw as he walked into a white emptiness, removed his pack, his boots and then unfurling his clothes. His figure disappeared into the emptiness while the rest marched on at a much slower pace than they had begun. They could not find the strength.

The following weeks were hell, but persistent if nothing else. The wastes had swallowed them up one by one, and they assured each other they had passed the supposed halfway point. Fifteen and sixteen were the only ones left accompanying their destined brother, though they did little to build a rapport. Over the weeks the conversation had grown futile, and for the past few days not a single word was shared between them. Both of them watched with bloodshot frozen eyelids as they passed food and water over to their successor, winced as his lips smacked open and closed. He washed every mouthful down with a healthy swig of water as if there were no limit on their supplies. Fifteen had privately suggested to sixteen that he should take over the responsibility of finishing the journey. After all, he had had to bear the most on this journey, and he wasn’t much older than the one the cult leaders had chosen. Sixteen responded in silence, instead allowing the constant hum of the cold wind to emphasise his empty response. That night seventeen had awoken to the sound of snapping bone, but instead of standing to defend himself, squeezed into a foetal position and simply prayed his ex-comrade would leave him be. The footsteps thumped over the solid ice toward him, dropped a heavy sack of supplies, and dropped to the ground in a great wheeze.

“We’re behind on carrying bodies. You must take two sacks with you when I pass. You must find the strength.” Sixteen murmured, before promptly succumbing to exhaustion.

That morning sixteen and seventeen awoke, carrying the load of three men between them. Sixteen hadn’t eaten or drank a drop in days, as per his vow. Seventeen had offered him scraps on several occasions, but the man refused, devout in his promise. It was at this stage that seventeen had begun to consider his role in this seemingly irrelevant quest. Each time they sat for respite, he simply sat in wonder, questioning the purpose of his role. He was set to survive these men for a purpose nobody had ever actually explained. They had reached the enormous body of water – that much was obvious. The thin, icy floor below them moaned and groaned on occasion, and it had taken a dark tone of colour. It was almost as if the miles of ocean below them emanated dark light that penetrated through the few feet of ice that was left. The darkness below scratched at his brain, and on several occasions he felt like he could hear somebody calling him. Sixteen had grown weary, ever conscious of seventeen’s behaviour. This man that was supposed to finish the final journey was now shifting his gaze back and forth as if watching phantoms dance across the ice-wastes. It was no longer sixteen’s concern however. He had not woken up the following morning. Seventeen knew his charge. He must find the strength.

He had prized the fur and food from sixteen’s already frozen corpse, now opting to eat while on the move. He no longer felt the need to check for those whom the voices belonged to, he knew she was leaking into his mind. He knew he was close; the ice grew thinner. As the days passed, his load lightened. Despite this his feet grew ever more destroyed by fatigue. He had once attempted to change his boots, only to find his scabs and skin had healed themselves onto the inner lining. He tossed away the spares, knowing he may not need them. His coat hung over his skeleton, now half the weight he was when they started the journey. Every time one of his limbs brushed against his body, he could hear the knocking of bone like that of large marbles, bouncing off of one another in a defiant fashion. The ground grew darker, and before him he saw a great empty crescent surrounded by dark looming mountains. He had travelled the breadth of the Dark Depths, and he was now near the end. Near her. The Beginning was close now. She was giving him the strength.

He knew he could make it to the crescent within the day, she would tinker and pick at his brain; urge his wasted limbs on to greet her. He wandered particularly slowly that day, not just out of exhaustion, but out of pure fear of death. The ice was barely a foot thick at this stage, and cracks formed as movement beneath it disturbed the gentle balance. Every time he looked beneath the surface, all he saw was darkness. Every so often, just for a split second, it felt as though there was some movement. At one stage he was almost sure he could see a thousand eyes staring back at him, representing one of the many tones of her voice that leaked through his brain. As he drew closer to the end, he could hear a sudden enormous creak ahead of him. The huge plate of ice lifted a few centimetres and then relaxed, almost as if exhaling. He had miraculously arrived at his destination, and had almost run the risk of being too late.

He tossed off his sack of scrap food, untied his water skin and threw it to one side; he would likely never need it after this. He removed his gloves, and then leaned over with an almighty sigh of aching muscles. He dug out a tattered book from the pack and slipped open the cover. As he considered the first page, the ice rose once more, this time many feet, causing the large sheet to fracture into a dozen pieces. Barely keeping his balance, he began to read from the text: his cult’s mission, a greeting to her, begging for her blessing and return to wreak destruction upon Dominaria. As several of the ice plates began to topple in another rise, titanic black lumps like that of a hundred whales eased their way to the surface. She was pulling herself above water, out of the deep sleep that had been the last Ice Age. She had slumbered beneath the Dark Depths for hundreds if not thousands of generations, and now the ice’s time was at its end, she would return to her purpose. More and more of the mountainous creature protruded from the ocean, knocking seventeen to his feet. The more of her titanic presence he saw, the louder he read and shouted, for he thought the more he shouted, the quicker she would rise.

She was the strength.

Marit Lage had awoken.

***

(Dun dun duuuuuuuun)

Camden is empty and all the hipsters are here

It’d be a good tagline if it had anything to do with this post.

A good afternoon to you all. The name’s Nathan and I’ve been a terrifically unsuccessful writer for the past seven years. I started up where everybody else did, writing short stories comprised of mega-cheese, crafted with the literary finesse of a guinea-pig that’s been inconveniently robbed of limbs. Basically high-school crap. When I hit up 6th Form (University for you yanks), I decided on the spot I was going to follow through with the dream and start writing my first book. As you can imagine, reading these desperate lines, that did not go to plan. I self published two years after starting (I got lazy and lost inspiration partway through), and sales were somewhat lacklustre. This was in part due to a distinct lack of prose and all forms of writing experience. My haste was my own worst enemy, and instead of finding a pleasant midway, I’ve instead spent the last few years in limbo with three projects on the go that haven’t been touched in far far too long. My first book is dead, and no matter how attached to my first years long project I got, I know it needs to be put out to pasture. To be frank it was a diabolical read, my own brother being the book’s only real lover. It’s removed from sale and now I begin anew. (For those curious, it was called Years Into Days).

So, to the three projects; The first is a sequel to the original book – Years into Night. Perhaps one day I’ll go back and make the first thing a readable mass, if only to give the sequel some semblance of backstory. It’s halfway finished, but I intend to go through it start to finish to ensure it’s in good enough shape to carry on. The second project is a hat tip to Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering story work, something I’ve been working on for the last few months, that I think may be my best work yet. It’s a working title, but if I told you Dark Depths is the name of the prologue, some fans may have an idea of the premise. The third and final project is a thriller called The Obituary of Stephen Hill I’ve had rolling around my head for a few years now, but I’ve not yet formulated the personalities for my character to get it off the ground. I feel I’ve uncovered a few bits of human understanding in these last couple of months, so it may yet come to fruition in the coming months.

For the last two years I’ve been working as a moderator and journalist for TechPowerUP! and NextPowerUp, writing a few articles, reviews, doing Q&As with developers, and even the odd bit of video here and there (lesson learnt, I’m bad at that stuff). I’ve been away from the keyboard for a little too long, so this is my way of trying a new form of progression. Money has never been a driving factor for writing, which is convenient considering I’ve probably not made enough to feed myself for an average year. As such most of my projects will be open for reading on here, posted piece by piece as and when my procrastinating ass gets around to posting them.

Feel free to hate on the exposition, die from reading juvenile dialogue, and come to a sick realisation that prose is not my strong point.