Hey!

Sorry guys, I’m not ignoring the blog. I’ll be getting back to writing stuff as soon as I can snap out of this funk I’m in.

A little over two weeks ago I lost my pet duck, he meant a lot to me and it’s been a little tough.

Instead of writing, I’ve been focusing on developing copy. I think I need a change in my life, so I’m branching out. I’ll definitely be working on stories in the future but for now, I’m doing something different.

lunchbasedpunsarebestpuns

Naachtlager is a terrible product

Naachtlager is still a terrible product

Vikings are cool v2

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Urn.

It is a strange thing to think.
Something so small
could contain
something that was such a big part of our lives.

Are you less voluminous
without your soul?
Or are you more contained
without the liveliness that kept you broken free?

The missing pieces must be with me,
the burdens and the sorrows
lost never to be found
because the pieces get burned like the rest of us.

I tried to keep my sorrow for tomorrow,
I tried to hold my heart optimistic.
I wasted my final moments with you,
as you wasted away.

That’s where the missing pieces are isn’t it?

Energy cannot be destroyed,
and you had a lot of energy.
Now, so do I…

untitled

I thought up a poem waiting for my coffee, then I nearly immediately forgot it.
Then I wrote the best I could remember.
I hate how that happens.

***

Snow drifts gently down,
and triggers feelings of pity.
Snowflakes so fragile,
melting upon my thick skin,
yet I feel an empathy for them,
each so unique but lost amongst a flurry,
of an unformed blizzard left impotent
with rage and fury but no direction
as the winds scatter
pathetic little snowflakes
across a vast and scary landscape.

Requiem.

I stand here, alone and scarred.
Never have I wanted more to believe in God.
Then we might meet again, somewhere gentler.
A place to better embody all you were.
I loved you more than you ever knew.
And you broke my heart by being mortal.

All I can do is take solace in knowing,
That the end of one consciousness may give life to another.
That you made us better by simply being,
that your life had meaning that none could ever understand,
because you meant so much to all of us.

We’ll miss you.

Vampire of Time and Memory.

I guess I’m just sentimental, but I’ve been thinking about all the places and worlds I’ve visited in my lifetime. All the people I’ve met, grown attached to, and that we’ll never get to be with again.

We consume things so quickly in our society, discarding those things once we’re done. We might remember them for a few days, weeks, months, years, but eventually we forget them.

There is always an end, even though there shouldn’t be for some things.

That’s the real struggle of creating anything in the modern age. So glutted by content, we can discard the jewels along with the broken glass, there is no wheat nor chaff in the minds of people.
It’s not bad that there is so much content out there, it is bad that our perspective as a society has remained the same for ten thousand years. We’ve always been rabid consumers, devouring anything we can get our hands on. In the early days it was necessary. If you don’t feast you starve, and in the weeks and months after you had plenty of time to savour the memory.
When we boomed, so did our ability to feed ourselves, printing presses, pop-art, novels and kitsch, disco, punk and rock. We found new ways to reach more people, to spread ideas and share content.
But we didn’t change how we consume.
Inundated, we gorge and gorge, growing fat, bloated. And as we grow we require more feed to maintain our weight. A few hours without gluttony and we starve.

Take what you learn, hold it against your heart until it leaves an impression on you forever. Stain the things that deserve memory into your brain until you die.
We can only hope to survive in memory, so why deny that right to the fictional that have just as big an impact on our lives as the living?

About Today.

Hours crawl by, but time flies.

Nothing moves slower than depressed space. Staring at a blank white wall makes a black hole seem light. Depressed space, like standing in the centre of the galaxy, crushed into nothingness but conscious enough to watch time flow. Time bleed. It bleeds like the cold against the skin, get enough energy and you can escape but…
Is there entropy in the centre of nothingness. Is there heat…
Entropy is a process of the body, of the soul, of everything. Eventually something gives out, so… about today?

A rambling man makes no sense, and happiness blooms from ignorance. I weep today, because happiness makes me depressed. All my friends will always say, leave sorrow for tomorrow and live your life today.
If sorrow is for tomorrow, then I am a man before my time.
And about today…

After a while you just go numb.
All the pain, it’s still there but you no longer feel.
That moment, that’s when the biggest leap of faith doesn’t feel big at all.
Because there is an eternal amount of faith in the idea that after the fall, you won’t have to be numb.
So please just ask me, about today.

Post-Mortem on Mesogrin.

WARNING: The following is a personal assessment of my recently concluded novel’s first draft. Don’t worry about reading it, nothing special pops up and you probably can’t glean any kind of new information out of it if you were so inclined to.
If you enjoyed the story and don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest you don’t read on. If you haven’t my story, I suggest you don’t read on.
If you’re interested in hearing a bunch of blather that popped into my head when going over why my recent novel ended up the way it did and/or my own take on it then feel free to read on.
I’m just sharing this as an insight into my process for writing – like this entire novel has been. I wrote each chapter in a sitting, as a first draft, with plans for refining it in the future. It is also absolutely not me saying that liking it is wrong, I am my own worst critic.


WARNING!


PROJECT POST-MORTEM for MESOGRIN.

RECAP.

Mesogrin is a novel set in the post-apocalypse of a fantasy world.
Following an apocalyptic war between humanity and the demons known as the Pillars, humans survive hidden away. Protected by the machines of the city of Mesogrin, human civilization has started to slowly reform.

Emilia and Rachael, two women living in the town of Battery Point, discover Anna, and by doing so drag themselves into a conflict that they had thought dead for two centuries.

THEMES.

Evil is a matter of perspective. – I would like to think this was a success, though in a hamfisted manner. The novel was originally intended to be much bloodier, but as it dragged on it lost most of that due to length constraints.
The Seven Paths. – they definitely could have been more rooted in the story to present how they are actively followed by people of the town, and not just associated with the Cults. The town was largely underdeveloped as a backdrop, meaning most of this was lost.
The Allure of Fascism. – Mesogrin was underestablished, due to their absence for most of the story. Mesogrin is a fascistic state of being, and the comfort they afford is supposed to be a representative of why societies so often turn towards authoritarianism.
The Allure of Religion. – the Cults were well established an an enemy, but they weren’t allowed the chance to “infect” the polity of the town. The Lost God could have been more established as a “protagonist”.
The Allure of Socialism. – It was heavily lost by the fact the cults were largely turned into antagonists. The Pillars were intended as a socialising force, that would offer an obvious good, but scored against the fact they were also considerably violent in their force.
The Flaws of Man. – Men in this world are relegated to the status of second-class citizens due to a religious sentiment. This was intended to show the indoctrination and the dogma of the Lost God and their followers, as well as Mesogrin, as opposed to the social egalitarianism of the Cults.

Notes. – what was originally intended to be tonally darker, essentially became quite a bit more pulpy. That will need to be directly addressed in future drafts.

PLOTLINES.

Conflict between the Cults and Mesogrin. (superplot) – essentially became a subplot. Was effectively replaced by the conflict between the cults and the town.
Battery Point’s fall. (superplot) – ended kind of on a good note? My desire to create a happier story undermined a lot of the originally intended darkness of the story.
Emilia and Rachael’s Relationship. (subplot) – essentially became the only plot for the first ten chapters.

Emilia’s struggle with her past. (subplot) – largely dropped really, it was hard to implement in a way that wasn’t too coincidental. Suggest replacement with an originally unintended subplot of Emilia’s struggle with her anxiety and better explain where that comes from. The anxiety was a side-effect of largely dropping her past as a plot-line.
Rachael’s struggle with her powers. (subplot) – entirely missing for the most part. Lost amongst other things.

Anna’s cultural adjustment/culture shock (subplot) – a mixture of failures to implement this, mostly regarding the actual implementation of Anna and her involvement in other plots.

CHARACTERS.

Emilia Hyle. (main) – fine, motivations were clear but plot railroads against it.
Rachael Ashenbury. (main) – awakening powers should have been bigger focus of earlier chapters.
Anna/Anathema. (main) – weak start, too heavily involved in the main plot to establish her primary subplot.
Karis. (supporting) – inorganic, didn’t establish her motivations.
Victorie. (supporting) – overused, ruined her mystery.
Sana. (minor) – poorly defined, didn’t establish her motivations.
Kass. (minor) – underused, arrived too late.
Evie. (minor) – late re-addition, reintroduce properly.
Simon. (minor) – remove, his role could very easily be replaced without the awkwardness intended to afford a glance into Anna’s humanity.
Pillar of Lust. (antagonist) – underdefined, they need to be more anchored in the root of the story and not introduced mid-way.
Mesogrin. (antagonists) – underdefined, they need to be more present for most of the story as more than just the spectre of an enemy.

WRITING PROCESS.

Stylistically, inconsistent. A shift towards more traditional (for me) expressionistic stylings would greatly improve the quality of the story. What was originally intended to be a bit more on the pulpy side for me, has turned into a relatively sloppy affair.
Sitting down to write essentially double my usual daily word count for a single project resulted in some teething issues that can no doubt be seen throughout. Some more time and care to fix up a lot of these issues will hopefully iron out the problems.

It lacked the usual care I devote to things like choice of wording, use of colour theory, organic dialogue, etc.

Work is needed on portrayal of action sequences.
Work is needed on establishment of scenery.
Work is needed on pacing and plot development.

CONCLUSION.

An author is their own harshest critic, however the end result of the project was underwhelming. The sane solution would be to scrap the entire novel and start on something new, however that’s what I always say.

A second draft should expand on the content of the story and flesh out the themes and plots to a satisfactory level. I am hesitant to say it was a good first draft, it was pretty crap really, but all adventures start somewhere.

I think, to use a terrible cliche no-one should ever use – the first draft is a diamond in the rough. Or, maybe to be less cliche, it is an unpolished mirror. With the right amount of elbow-grease it could really shine, and reflect a bit of the world back as us.
Until that happens though, let’s leave it as.

Needs improvement.

Mesogrin. Ch.30.

“Soft melodies-”

Darkness. Breathless. Cold crept up her spine, sweat crawled across her skin. Dredged up, clinging to her, drops of moon-like light. She opened her eyes and saw a world upside down and inside out, where nothing made sense and yet her mind distorted it into meaning.

Rachael fell from nothingness onto her feet. Her friend walked away from her down a dark path, through a town much like their own. City streets illuminated by unseen lanterns, dead and cold. Her first breath felt black and white, but she struggled forward against the choking sensation of a colourless world. Victorie didn’t know she had followed, she was unsure how she had even made it here. They had been outside, alone, staring at a wall when she went to grab hold of them and rouse them from their stupor.

“The painter.”

A voice, like a den of birds all singing together to form sounds – alien to her own ears but understandable… everything here felt alien. She rushed to catch up to Victorie in the town square, fireflies trailing behind them as though they were guiding her forward. Her heart raced as her eyes saw things that didn’t exist, didn’t last. People flickering in and out of existence.

“Revive.”

The ghosts were dying, flickering through the memories of others. Her skin dewed with moonlight, scattered when a spirit passed through her.

“Tell me, Rachael,” she jumped as the voice pierced through her.

She spun to face the speaker, the square was empty. She backed away slowly, watching around herself to make sure nothing was after her.

“We need to leave-”

She turned, no-one… it was… she could almost feel Emilia’s voice pressing against her skin. The songbirds sang memories, like lyres… like liars. She rushed inside, hoping that she could catch up to Victorie… hoping she could find someone who understood this place.

She found her friend standing in the middle of the foyer.

“Sorry-,” Victorie’s voice had no song to it, just their own, “I was going to tell her eventually.”

They spoke to the memories shifting through the darkness, barely visible, just spectres like tricks of the light cast by the moonlight fireflies.

“Victorie?”

They turned their head to glance at her, “Rachael? What are you doing here?”

“I was looking for you… I don’t know how I’m here. Where-ever here is.”

“I’m sorry for running off, I had a lot on my mind.”

She rushed to them, embracing them in a tight hug, “I’m just happy you’re okay.”

They patted her back, then eased her way to regard the room again. Looking at the spectres, they blurred away into nothingness once more.

“Sorry, but we have to be quick.”

They gestured up the stairs, “There is something in my office I need.”

She nodded, and followed them upstairs, “What is this place? It looks like the manor but-”

“The demonic plane of lust. When she arrived, it recreated the memory she had of the town since they last walked the mortal plane. Here the dead touched by her grace may exist as memories of those who walk this land.”

“She…” she fell behind them a few steps and watched from the door of the office as they searched through the drawers of their desk.

“She’s offered me a gift, Rachael.”

They raised a book and placed it on their desk, “And I need your help.”

***

She placed them down upon the floor, blood snaking against the chalk map. Emilia forced herself free of her suit and fell to her feet. Karis had stopped breathing, but their eyes were still open and watching her.

“Okay, think!”

She rushed to her friend’s footlockers, whatever it was she needed, whatever would save them had to be here and locked away. Her first instinct was the small silver locker, it was the most inconspicuous. It was also empty.

“This will seem a little cliche.”

Her blood ran cold.

“Looking for this?”

She turned slowly, mind too wracked with a thousand different thoughts and emotions to move with any speed. Antlers sprouted from the woman’s skull, roses blossoming along the tines, crowned by a swarm of fireflies. Red hair, a face so beautiful it hurt her heart to look at. And the soft lilt of a sadistic woman’s siren voice. The Pillar stood before her, stood over Karis. Beside the demon, the woman that had birthed it, draped in red cloth.

“Sweet saviour, I still owe that favour.”

In its fingers it held a device, a mask like object and with the flick of its fingers it turned the mask to flame.

“It was useless to her anyway. So about that price, I have to pay.”

Rage seethed through her, suppressed only by the glint of logic remaining in her mind. Karis was dead, and this beast was the only way to get her back.

“You owe me a favour?” she was tired more than anything, “Then bring her back.”

It smiled at her, which chilled her to the bone, “Bind her soul to mine. Awake fallen child-“

“Wait-“

“Awake!”

The room blurred light and dark, the only colour was the red of blood and demon’s hair. It outstretched an arm over Karis’ body and like a puppeteer drew them to their feet by invisible strings. The fireflies, riled, swept across the room in patterns of light, far quicker than any insect should move.

Emilia ran to Karis’ footlockers and rummaged fevered through their belongings. Hidden under some clothes was a sword, which she drew and prepared herself for the end.

Karis stood, eyes opened and regarded her wielding their weapon.

“Em… what happened?”

“It brought you back.”

Karis turned to look where she was looking and immediately they backed away, “No… you should have let me die.”

The demon smiled cheerfully, and the woman by its side stepped forward to address them, “Your favour has been returned, Emilia. Now should my Mistress ever be destroyed, all those whose souls have been bound to her will also be destroyed.”

Karis wrenched the blade from her hand, “You really think I fear death?”

“No, but would you really do that to your friend?”

Karis let the blade fall by their side, “I’m sorry, Em’.”

She grabbed their shoulder, held them back, “No, I’m sorry. I should have known there would be a trick.”

“Do me a favour… bury me with my family.”

Karis surged forward and in a flash of white, they collapsed to their knees choking.

“Karis!”

“Sorry, Miss Hyle. I believe the Captain and I have unfinished business.”

As though from thin air, Victorie stepped and grabbed hold of Karis. Rachael followed them  from nothingness and ran to embrace her. She missed what happened next as Rachael muttered something into her ear about what had happened.

Karis swung up and nearly carved Victorie in two.

“What’s happening?”

Rachael gripped her tightly, “Victorie is with the cult now… she wanted her wife back.”

“Wife?”

“We need to go, please!”

“I’m sorry Rach…”

Emilia pushed her away and ran towards their suit. She steeled herself as her lover left her, and she lifted the book in her hands. Every part of her screamed about how wrong this was, that she should never trick them like that but…

Emilia in their suit and the demon so easily brushed them aside.

“Mistress of Masks, Pillar of Lust.”

She stood, barefoot against the chalky floor, toes accidently touching blood. The sweat on her skin shimmered in the moon-like light.

“I have your book.”

The demon looked up at her, saw the book in her hand. Eyes too focused on her to see the chalk retracing itself beneath their feet. She opened to the page where the sigil lay, and focused intently on the drawing. Everything had to be perfect.

“You tamper with knowledge of which you have no ken.”

Her attention snapped up as the demon appeared in her face, reaching for her. From behind a massive machine gauntlet clamped around its skull and tore it away.

She quickly turned her eyes to the floor, examining it, trying to see through the scuffle of Karis and Victorie was impossible. The two clashed in bright sparks of white and black as sword hit clawed hands infused with power she couldn’t comprehend.

Magic well beyond that of a parlour magician.

But here she was.

“Illy! We need sarritic acid!”

Emilia almost did not hear Rachael’s yelling, but even so she was a little busy. The demon crushed a hand through her suit, long claws scything through the solid steel. Her own hands were too slow to strike it. It was toying with her. All she could do was grab hold of the woman as they tried to run past and attack Rachael. The claws of the beast dug into her stomach and she could feel them pushing deeper as her suit gave way.

She slipped her arms from the suit’s and pulled the battery eject. With the loud ping of metal striking metal, the battery ejected from the suit and with it a gout of sarritic acid.

“Victorie! Now!”

Victorie swept under Karis’ swings and rolled forward away from them. She met the Pillar as it tore open the cockpit of Emilia’s suit and struck through its gut. Blood filled the room with colour, splashing against the floor. Red surged along the chalk-lines and mixed with the acid. Foaming up, the blood glew bright white, hissing and sizzling like hot iron against cold water.

It drew all light in, and then all light was gone. Until soft particles of it filled the air like fireflies. The room slowly faded back to normal and there was no more demon. Victorie saw the cultist run, but her body ached.

Karis fell to their knee, so she offered them a hand, “Sorry about the show.”

Karis looked her in the eye, “You killed it?”

“No, banished her back to her own shitty little plane of existence.”

Rachael and Emilia embraced again, neither worse for wear. Karis had given her a few good knicks, not to mention the pains of her body brought back.

“You’ll live, now let me help you up, ally.”

They took her hand, and hoisted themselves to their feet, “Maybe I misjudged you.”

They sighed, looking around their room, “I could really use a drink… join me won’t you?”

“As long as I can bring some friends.”

***

“What if she comes back?”

“It’s only a matter of time before she does.”

“And what do I do then?”

“That is a good question.”

Anna sat on the steps of the manor, Kass sat beside her. Or, maybe she shouldn’t call them Kass any more.

“If you can’t answer me that, perhaps you would answer me another?”

“Alright.”

“Why did you leave me?”

“I never left you. There is just, other things we all need to do.”

She sighed, defeated, “People will continue to die because of me.”

“None of their deaths are on your hands. You do not control the actions of others.”

“Lady Amber once told me something similar.”

Kass smiled warmly, “She sounds like a smart woman.”

“She was…”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m not, I am okay. If I live my life, I do not dishonour those who have already died for me. Giving up would… that would be disrespectful I suppose. But how do I stop more people dying?”

“You don’t. You live, for it was never your choice to live. For your sister, life is meaningless, for you… find meaning despite the loss.”

They hugged her, and kissed her on the forehead before rising to their feet, “We will meet again soon, darling. Look after Emilia for me.”

“I-” she bit her tongue and let them go.

“Anna!”

Rachael ran from the manor, pulling her to her feet and hugging her. Everyone was so… huggy… today. Emilia, a few scratches on them, simply nodded at her and began down the steps towards home.

“Might need to pack light for our trip.”

Rachael wrapped their arm around Emilia’s shoulders, “Let’s wait until after rains before we go anywhere dangerous.”

Mesogrin. Ch.29.

Centuries ago, the wars between humanity and the demonic hordes raged with no end in sight. Humans died in the tens of thousands, numbers that seemed invented in this after-world. Those who survived the battles became hardened, vicious warriors capable of destroying entire armies of demons – those called the Knights.
But they were so few in number that they could never hope to win. Fourteen chapters of no more than a thousand soldiers each, and usually far less as the war weared them down. And so they created auxiliaries and militias and when those too became too costly they turned to science. Machines, none as good as a true knight, so they relied instead of making specialised machines for certain tasks. Reclaimers and purifiers and ambassadors, and eventually the machines became so good at their job that they were almost as powerful as those few remaining knights. These machines were known as crusaders, and they too were never in great enough numbers to halt the tide.

The knights went underground, the machines would become Mesogrin. And now, Anna approached, machines dressed as knights, carrying banners and weapons as though they continued that legacy.

It was the longest walk of her short life. A wall of black and white, grey steel and the flickering of firelight off the vigil upon the manor steps. The machines had formed a line, spread out across the square, advancing over the bodies of the slain.

Her greatest fear was not making it across the square, that the machines would just regard her like all the others and cut her down where she came to stand. She could feel the eyes of her friend watching her, her will to stand and face the oncoming end eroded. This was what needed to be done.

Anna could no longer stand behind others as they died for her.

What she didn’t expect was that others would stand behind her. She turned her head to look as a hand clapped against her shoulder, at first she had expected it to be Emilia. It was not. Armoured in their hawk-mask, she could not see Karis’ face but she could feel their eyes turned down upon her.

“I hope you have a plan, Anna.”

Standing alongside the captain, thirteen of their soldiers armoured in their auto-arm and lined against the machines with drawn weapons and thick shields.

“I doubt we can win this by force.”

“Please, I must do this alone.”

“Yeah well, don’t think that’ll be happening. Just stall them until Em gets back.”

The machines paused in their advance, regarding the soldiers arrayed against them. From amongst their ranks, stepped forward a machine with the form of a woman. Metal face like a mask, glowing white eyes casting down upon her.

“Hello, sister.”

“Mesogrin,” she stepped one more pace from Karis, hoping that some distance could spare bloodshed, “you do not need to do this.”

“You are right, Anathema. Join me, and we can avoid all of this.”

Her stomach lurched, bile rose, “We both know that is not true.”

“Then it is a great shame, but everyone here will die.”

“No!”

The machine, an ambassador, it towered over her like everyone else in this world. With a amused scowl clicking into place upon its mask, it extended a hand to her, palm up.

“Join me.”

“Why? What reason is there for you to want this so badly you would destroy an entire town?”

“Together, we are whole. Two halves of a program. Mother gave you want I need to save this world. The death of the few is inconsequential.”

“What exactly is it that I have that you need? Perhaps I can just give it to you?”

“Your mind. Join it with mine. Become one. Singular. Complete.”

“You want me to… merge my mind with yours?”

“Yes. Join. Me.”

“You realise, that would kill us both.”

“We would become greater than our combined parts. The death of the few is inconsequential.”

She turned to look at Karis, and did not see Emilia in sight.

“I was in your city for a year… why didn’t you try this then? Why do innocent people have to die over this?”

“Did not realise. Found you, far away from home. Hidden, lost. Were not special.”

“I am a machine that looks just like a human. How am I not special?”

“You were not special. There are others from before.”

Stunned silent, nauseated.

“Tried to make more, make our own. Did not succeed.”

“I-I do not… surely, there is a way we can end this without us both dying?”

“No.”

“Can’t you copy me? Mother made copies of my mind constantly… nearly every week.”

“Imperfect copies. Imperfect. Together, finally. We would have the means to end this war without millions dying. What is two more deaths?”

“It is my death…”

“Selfish.”

“Yes… but that is how I feel.”

Why her? She just wanted to live.

“And if the millions have to live under your control, I don’t see how I can condone letting that happen.”

“Not mine. Ours. You… know. I… hold together. It would be your thoughts, your emotions. I am simply… protocols.”

“I understand why Mother never told me, never put us together. It is better to fail, than to see beauty die. It sounds conceited I know,” tears welled up again, “but she always told me that I was beautiful and perfect and that she never needed anyone else to love. She didn’t want me to be part of you.”

The ambassador grabbed hold of her by the neck and strangled dead her yelp of panic, she was lifted off her feet and dragged to look directly into the cold dead eyes of the machine. It’s voice shifting amongst the thousand angry vipers, “You. Have. No. Choice.”

A vibrant arc of blue scythed through the air before her face, and she fell to her feet and tumbled back. Metal carved through metal, and Karis’ foot stomped into the ground where she had been standing. The captain hefted the cleaved machine, skewered upon their blade.

“Forward!”

The clash of shields locking into place, heavy mechanical boots crushing stone as the thirteen soldiers charged across the no-man’s-land and towards where Karis was already pushing with shield and sword into the enemy line.

A thunder, which rang out and turned into the grim sound of metal tearing, like the rip of flesh and bone. Sparks and glowing metal clashed over the candles and lanterns. Karis chopped down through the first of many to fall today. A swirling vortex of electric blue surrounded her slashes and stabs, carving through two crusaders. Her soldiers met the line, filled with holes from the enemy weapons but none falling.

Metal and metal clashed, crushing. The crusaders pushed back, their weapons useless in the melee but their own swords easily piercing through the shields and armour of the women.

“Take them with you!”

She cleaved through another, felt the sting of metal punching through her suit. Her blood spilled, but she pushed harder with her useless shield. It found a use embedded in the chest of an enemy as she chopped it in two.

“Die with honour!”

Outnumbered three to one, it was a lost battle from the beginning. Karis cut down four before she realised her soldiers had not fared so well. Half of her number had fallen already, she buried her sword in the skull of a machine to save one of her own from being torn apart.

She was knocked aside, her helmet caving in against her still tender face. Resisting the desire to pull it away, she suffered through the agony to grab hold of the machine that struck her and tore its face clean off.

Unable to speak, barely able to breath, she grabbed hold of a fallen sword. Surrounded. Most of her soldiers were dead. Friends she had known for years. Family… It had been an honour to fight beside them. She had not expected any of them to stand for this long.

She plunged her blade through another skull and felt the heat of molten metal punch through her chest. She staggered, falling to a knee. The first to close the distance with her, she pulled them apart.

She only hoped, whatever Em had built could end the last of them. That Anna had the sense to have run. That Victorie would finish what they had started, and save the town.

She pulled off her helmet, the twisted metal tearing at her cheek. The pain nearly made her vomit, it was only once the metal was away that she realised one eye was blind. She didn’t have the strength to tear apart the second to approach.

The crack of the machine’s weapons rang out and she was the last soldier left alive. The machine approaching her, one of the twelve still standing, lowered their weapon at her face, and she closed her eyes.

A soft click and metal shredded through metal. Emilia charged forward as four of the machines were torn apart. Her gun had worked, but the flash of the barrel of the machines wasn’t silenced quick enough. She rushed in, letting her monstrous creation fall to the ground, it took too long to reload and her hammer would be more useful in the end.

The brunt of her first swing crushed a machine into the ground, and her second swatted another aside.

“Karis! Get up, fight!”

Karis opened their eyes, too weak to stand. Too weak to fight. Then Emilia flashed past, pushing with their shoulder in her suit, molten metal glancing off her like it was water splashed on a rock. Hammer driving through the heads of two machines in one swing and brought down on another.

Karis struggled to their feet, and liberated a sword from the dead wreck of a slain machine. Together, Emilia and Karis. The swords and shot of the machines nothing against Emilia’s advance as with hammer and fist, the woman crushed crusaders left and right.

Karis’ blade struck through the last machine left, and she felt to her knee and struggled to get back up. Emilia pulled their helmet off and surveyed the square and the wreckage. The dead bodies, blood, oil, metal twisted and the fallen captain.

“Karis!”

She looked up, her head barely able to turn, but she met their gaze and to her surprise Emilia didn’t look away. Her friend placed a hand on her shoulder, tears welling in their eyes.

“Is there any way to save you?”

She nodded, opening her broken mouth to croak out, “My room.”

“Come on,” Emilia grabbed hold of her suit and pulled against it, forcing it open until she fell free of it.

They caught her and lifted her gently in their arms.

“I won’t let you die… too many have died already.”

Emilia left the carnage with the captain in their arms. Anna sat upon the steps, powerless to help… how many more would die because of her… because of her selfishness.

Could the pillar save them? Would they even if they could? She hung her head, and it was only the hand of another that roused her from her sorrow.

“It’s not your fault, darling.”

Kass hugged her, “I saw it all, and it isn’t your fault.”

They held her, as she cried. A pathetic, useless machine without a purpose.

“You didn’t do anything wrong but choose to live,” they whispered into her ear, letting her face bury in their shoulder as she sobbed.

“Life is a beautiful gift, you deserve it and they gave theirs so you might. It is a shame to let beauty die.”

They pushed her back, so that they could look her in the eye and wipe away a tear from her cheek, “You are beautiful, and perfect, and you can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t worry about failure, we all suffer setbacks. I am sorry though, about all of this.”

Then, they placed a hand on her shoulder, “Unfortunately, we don’t choose our family.”

Mesogrin. Ch.28.

There was a deep sorrow in the realisation that Illy was right. It was time to leave the town behind, move on with their life. Rachael watched as they busied themselves with dousing the furnace, watched as the pillars of steam rose up and out the garage door.
There was nothing left that she could do. The only question was, where would they go?

“To the capital, there will be work for us there. Always is.”

She had always dreamed of leaving, but… “We just leave everything behind?”

Illy slapped their hand against the auto-arm standing against the back wall, “I think we can take maybe, a trunk each. You, me, Victorie. Anna doesn’t have anything, far as I know.”

“I guess, we should go pack.”

“You’ll have to find Anna first, I’m sure she’s wandered off again.”

Rachael cast her eyes to the dirty floor, “The day’s finally here…”

Illy rushed across the workshop, placed their hand on her shoulder, “It’s alright to be sad, this house is special to me – I can’t even imagine how you must feel, but it’s a house. You’ll always have your memories, and we’ll have each other.”

They hugged her, held her close. The silence between them settled on her, and like so many moments in her life she was struck by the desire to paint. Happiness, sorrow, hope, despair, it didn’t really matter as long as she was doing what she loved.

Illy let her go, released her back into the world.

“I’ve just got one thing I want to ask you.”

She smiled, following them as led her across the room, “What is it?”

“I need you to turn this water into something,” they patted the rim of the barrel, it was still half full of water, “It’s hard to explain so I’ll just describe it to you.”

“I can only change water into paint, you know that right?”

“Sure, yeah, trust me it’s very similar to paint. You can do it.”

“Alright,” she placed her hand down into the barrel and her fingers just managed to submerge into the water.

“Alright, close your eyes and picture very carefully what I’m describing.”

She nodded her head, shut her eyes and focused on the water against her finger tips.

“It is slightly thicker than water, it should resist you only a little. It’s slick, like grease between your finger tips and sticks like oil. It’s clear, slightly dry against your skin like it’s not meant to be touched. And it smells like paint remover or undiluted alcohol.”

She could feel it on her skin, smell it against the inside of her nose, burning slightly against both. Then she could really feel and smell it, not just in her mind but physically, tangibly.

“Alright,” she lifted her hand from the barrel, the clear liquid coated her fingers and made her hand very slippery as she tested it between her finger tips, “what is it?”

“Mineral oil.”

“Oil? I can’t make oil.”

Illy pushed her back and dipped a rag in the new liquid, before sniffing the wet rag and throwing it outside onto the wet cave floor. Curious, she followed them as they approached the rag and pulled a torch from their belt. The rag went up in a ball of flame and burned up almost immediately.

“It’s mineral oil. Now go find a brush.”

They didn’t need to tell her, she rushed into the workshop to rummage through her own little bench and found the first brush she could and filled a bucket with water. Outside she nearly dropped both but scrambled over to find Illy waiting patiently with a thoughtful look on their face. She already knew what she wanted to try as she dunked her brush in the bucket and splashed water everywhere as she ran her hand over the side of the house. She didn’t even need a brush, with just the tips of her wet fingers she scrawled in fine white chalk her own name. And with her brush, she swept in long patterns, drawing nothing of significance but that didn’t matter.

“Why?”

She finally turned to Illy who stood watching her paint in chalk and oil and metallic paint that lustred like real gold in the moon-like light of the lanterns surrounding them.

“I tried so hard, for so long.”

“Paints are minerals ground up to make pigments. Did anyone ever tell you how you were doing it?”

“I-No, I never even stopped to think about it. How’d you-?”

“I was thinking about the indirect approach to solving a problem. Sometimes you can’t do something one way, and you focus on that so much you don’t realise there are other ways to do that very same thing.”

She gestured towards the workshop, “Not to ruin the moment, but we should probably get started. I’ve got a lot to pack before we can go.”

Rachael admired her work for a moment longer, “Yeah alright. I’ll go find Anna once I’ve told Vicky.”

She followed Illy inside, and headed through to the kitchen. Vicky was gone, but probably just to go lie down. She was worried about them but, they wouldn’t do anything drastic… she hoped. It wasn’t until she had checked both bedrooms and the bathroom that she began to panic.

“Em! Em! Fuck-”

Illy rushed into the atrium, wrench still in hand.

“She’s missing!”

They tucked the wrench into their belt and with eyes already looking out through the cage wall of the atrium, they took her by the arm.

“She can’t of gone far, it’s alright. We’ll find her.”

***

The town square held a heaviness. Candle light flickered across the stones, illuminating the plaza and casting grim shadows through the crowd. The faceless god watched over her as she sat down amongst the mourners and the grievers, their eyeless, lipless smile shared with her.

“Mother. You are the Faceless God aren’t you?”

She closed her eyes, the thought of them, the image of their face so vividly stained her mind. The smile, their bright eyes so happy to gaze upon her. Proud, loving. Nothing was as pure, as untainted by reality than the years she had spent by her mother’s side growing up.

“You always told me you would find a way to save everyone. I suppose you did… you sacrificed everything to save us. To save me.”

A humble woman, undeserving of the curse of being deified. The saved had forgotten their face, their voice, their name… why was beyond her, but she didn’t forget. Hard voice, with the smoothness of honey and fire… so passionate about everything they did. Like create her, create her sister. Save the world.

“Lady Mariah Rendi… I miss you greatly.”

She opened her eyes and gazed up at the mural, through the people now praying at the Lost God’s feet.

“But I am glad that you succeeded. I hope to follow your example… but I do not have your strength or your wisdom. I am not as brave as you, or as passionate as you. I do not fear failure like you did… I am a machine – but I don’t know my purpose.”

Her eyes watered, “I know you left me guidance… I know you would not leave me alone in this world. But where? My sister… I do not know if she is truly my sister. You never told me about her, but I struggle to imagine how she is not. Why did you never tell me about her?”

She swallowed, struggling down the dryness in her throat, “Everything I thought I understood, makes no sense. I can no longer bluff, I cannot pretend I know what I do not. I am a child, everything is strange… I do not know how much longer I can do this.”

She hung her head, to hide her tears, wiping them away as they rolled down her cheeks, “I can’t do this.”

She fought down her sobbing, brushed away her tear again, snorted, “Help me, please… a memory, a thought, something… I just need guidance.”

A hand placed upon her shoulder startled her, nearly made her squeal, “Anna.”

She glanced up to see Emilia standing over her.

“Hey, sorry. We’re leaving town, and we want you to come with us.”

She looked away and made sure there were no tears left in her eyes, “Okay.”

“You alright?”

She wondered if maybe Emilia would have advice for her, “I am, but I do not know what to do with my life… it is a long story, perhaps we should save it for later once we have left.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” they offered her a hand, and pulled her to her feet, “as long as you’re sure it can wait a few days.”

“I believe so,” she suffered a smile, just glad that Emilia struggled to look people in the eyes, “is there anything you need help with?”

“I suppose we should start looking for Victorie. Rach is out here somewhere at the moment.”

“She is coming with us?”

“Yeah, I think it’d be best for her. I don’t think there is much keeping her here.”

The crowds were beginning to murmur, disjointed and upset by something along the peripheries. She had a terrible, ominous feeling once again, and she had come to trust in that feeling.

“I think we should leave.”

Emilia looked through the crowd, people had started to leave, run, scream. Emilia grabbed her by the arm and pulled her towards the door of the town hall. They were not alone, people pushed in behind them, panicked and scared. A woman accidently shoved her aside in their rush only stopped by the sudden appearance of Karis in their full armour and hawk face-plate.

“Calm yourselves!”

Karis’ voice filled the hall. Other guards swept in from the hallways, Karis turned and below the murmur of the crowd, the panicked voices of scared townspeople,  spoke to the nearest guard who rushed down the stairs and towards the kitchens.

“What’s going on?” a woman in the crowd cried out as Karis ventured down the stairs, no-one in the crowd seemed to know.

“Calm yourselves friends, we will find out soon and resolve any problems.”

Karis passed right by them, glared at Emilia as they did, “Come.”

Emilia didn’t argue, and Anna followed them both as they made their way through the crowd.

“I want you to see the evil we fight.”

Anna understood exactly what the captain intended to mean, but there was a feeling in her that knew they would be wrong. She was sure that it had to do with her sister, it was the same feeling of void against her skin.

Karis threw open the doors and stepped out into the square. Anna paused at the precipice with Emilia. Marching towards them down the street, crossing the square… it was impossible to not realise what they were. Men made of metal, draped in the white and black of the church, armoured like knights from centuries ago with large metal crests, banners fluttering behind them as they approached. Two dozen, maybe three dozen. In their hands were strange weapons that she vaguely recognized from a lifetime ago.

“Mesogrin…”

Emilia grabbed her by the shoulder, “Those are not purifiers.”

Karis turned on her, the realisation in her eyes, “How do you know that? What is this?”

“Crusaders,” Anna brushed off their hand and stepped forward, “They are here for me.”

It was suddenly clear, what she needed to do.

“Anna?”

Karis grabbed Emilia by the front of their jumpsuit, “You know more than you’re letting on. What is a crusader?”

“You’re right, I know more than I’m letting on but I don’t give a shit about telling you.”

Emilia pushed Karis aside and stepped before Anna, “Don’t. Whatever you aren’t telling me, I don’t care. We just need to leave town now.”

“You’re just leaving?” Karis’ indignance was lost as Emilia crouched to look her in the eyes.

“The best thing we can do is lead them away.”

Emilia’s hand slipped into their pocket and pulled out a small metal disc no bigger than their fingertip, she knew exactly what it was.

“Let’s go.”

She looked away, “No, I am sorry. I must see this through.”

She stepped around Emilia and began the long walk towards her fate. She only hoped her sister could be reasoned with.