Soft melodies shape the world with their touch.
The painter’s heart and the lightest brush.
Revive a canvas with the stain of reality.
The painter’s heart is the tone of the melody.
When I was young I was told I had magical potential. That only ever means that I could, if I wanted, pretend I had some form of power. Parlour tricks like turning mud into stone or water into whiskey. I could turn a pile of sticks into sausages, but they’ve taste terrible.
It takes a lot of time and effort and skill to do even these minor tricks. I watch Emilia hammer away at her machines and realise that I could never do a thousandth of anything quite so impressive.
The best use I’ve found for my abilities is creating paint. Well I guess I am a painter.
Oh Mesogrin, sweet Mesogrin.
Your shining walls so bright, guide us through the night, and lend to us your might.
Oh Mesogrin, sweet Mesogrin.
You stand by our side strong, through a night so long, even the moon grows tired.
Whenever I picture Mesogrin, it is a shining city on the coast. White and gold, flowers blooming along the tree shaded avenues. Enough food for everyone, fresh clean water that doesn’t taste like metal. People, happy and healthy, going about their daily lives without having to worry about anything. Life where we live isn’t so bad, but if Mesogrin is paradise, I can’t help but imagine how much better life could be.
Journal Entry. Day 2, Month 11 of the Year 233.
On my journey south, I encountered their machines at every turn. Automatons and robots of various shapes, sizes and designs. Most common are the spiders-like machines which crawl about the shores of the Firelight Sea collecting the scrap that washes up upon the beaches. Deeper inland they are more scarce as salvageable materials become more scarce. Instead humanoid machines harvesting and farming the forests and steppe lands takes precedence. Talking to them, they offer little about Mesogrin, and relatively few seem aware of anything but themselves and their immediate surroundings.
Further south I came across an ambassador – one of those humanoid machines but fully aware, and intelligent. She told me about Mesogrin, that it is a utopia, a paradise where all humans could be happy.
When I asked her about what she thinks, she doesn’t answer. I don’t know why, it seems that maybe she doesn’t think she has it so good, or maybe I offended her. The role of the ambassadors is to go to towns and award promising people a passport to Mesogrin.
I travel with her for a while, she seems happy to have the company.
Mesogrin by her standards is a city of three million people, serviced by three times that number of what she called “non-sentient” machines and half a million “sentient” machines. Sentience by her reckoning is a measure of self-awareness and self-control.
‘A Human is sentient’, she tells me.
She is sentient.
I think I’ll keep travelling with her, there is a lot I can learn from her.
Journal Entry. Day 31, Month 5 of the Year 234.
Mesogrin is a beautiful city. Flowers bloom along the terrace roofs of thousands and thousands of houses. Strange square and blocky architecture with smooth white faces, red cloth sails, rivers and ponds snaking between them.
She told me I can never leave, and that I can never contact my daughter.
I hate them for it.
For all its beauty, I sense a darkness. They watch over me, like a paranoid parent, like a collector holding onto their dearest prize.
But they can’t hold me, I’m not going to be a captive in their zoo – no matter how content I could be in this cage.
Mesogrin is a fantasy.
Every time an ambassador shows up in town, it steals away someone we need. When they hand you that red envelope, you know it’ll destroy your friends and family to tell them.
But opening it, taking that passport, leaving. Only an arsehole does that.
As much as I hate everything the demons have done to us, the Mesogrini are the true monsters out here.
Day 27, Month 8 of the Year 233.
I sat down, not truly knowing what I would be writing today. I am not at camp, it feels wrong to leave this place. I have found something remarkable, I sit in the hall of a ruined cathedral. I am unsure how to describe it other than transcendent.
Stained glass windows that colour the beams of light, each of them falling on the central altar. It seems impossible, but they are arranged like a clock-face. Twelve at the top surrounding a portal in the roof, then twenty four, then forty-eight I am
assuming. I lost count on the fourth row but there are seven rows of them each a different colour and a different pattern. Some are broken of course, but each somehow manages to shine in focused on that stone altar.
Upon the altar is nothing but holes where runes must have been inscribed. No doubt thieves stole the valuables here long ago, even going so far as to pry free the metals of the runes. There are a few prayer mats, not a great deal else.
Judging by the decor, it being so plain and inoffensive, these people worshipped the Lost God. Her faceless avatar is probably hidden somewhere deeper in the catacombs to save it from looters.
I suppose I should be glad that the cult of the seven pillars didn’t find this place like so many others I have stumbled upon in my research. Yet, seeing it so barren adds a sorrow to the beauty and awe. I’d very much like to bring my daughter here some day.
Notes on the Seven Pillars.
There are some who foolishly devote themselves to the cabals of the evils we have come to know as The Seven Pillars, demons by any other name. The seven demon lords refer to themselves as Pillars, in some vain appeal to a believe they hold up some kind of roof.
At face value they have a noble goal, they proclaim their desire to save humanity. But their insane notion of saving humanity involves the wholesale slaughter of women and men and children. This “Reaping” was the downfall of the old world.
But those who worship these vile fiends speak of immortal souls trapped in the pain and suffering of life. What a ridiculous notion. This mystical nonsense is why humanity has fallen so far, and why so many millions have died. Why the true God died.
But, I am an academic and I should be impartial.
Each Pillar represents, and this is in their own words, a method of control. As I understand there is; Might, Bribery, Intoxication, Desire, Hatred, Faith and Fear.
Each therefore has their own cabal, with their own cultures and their own philosophies. Each Pillar is the incarnation of this method of control and when united present themselves as the structure that holds up the fabric of all societies. Their followers fanatically follow what they will readily admit is a ridiculous idea; utter devotion to only one of these methods.
If they were not so vile they would be fascinating as they have a good point. These are truly how most societies organise themselves and those who are in power stay in power. Be it through might, or bribery. Some are more metaphorical than others, and truly if it weren’t for their masters I would admire these fools for their social experimentation.
Those that live by Might for example will fight one another for physical dominance. Those who are strongest typically have a higher social standing. It is a wonder how they remain functional, but perhaps it is the existence of the demons themselves that holds them together.
The three types of demons are themselves an extension of the Pillar, an embodiment of their philosophy. For instance, the High, Low and Lesser demons of the Pillar of Desire, are physical manifestations of that. Succubi are the Higher Demons of Desire, lustful creatures that are capable of seducing virtually anyone they meet. Those who fall into their snares are usually lost forever to their cabal of love-slaved fools. The Lower Demons of Desire, the Lamia, are far less alluring and instead show signs of other philosophies slipping through – such as the use of intoxicants and treasures to woo people into their fold. Lesser demons are… the only elegant way to put it is, they are the bastard offspring of unrelated demons.
It is not uncommon for the Pillars to crosspollinate, I have had the great misfortune of a run in with a Succubus that tried to convert me to the path of the Intoxicated. Little did I know at the time, and I will definitely avoid drinking so heavily in the future.
Perhaps the best way to think of them is as tribes. Though most of them look as though they are animals to one another, it is obvious by the existence of the Lesser Demons that they are one species as with Humans. And that they have the same moral and philosophical flexibility as humans, but it is their cultures that they are surrounded by upon birth that makes them the way they are.
Do not mistake my words for being soft – evil is evil, and even more so knowing they have free will. I do however see why the weak-minded could become drawn to them.
Notes on the Lost God.
We know relatively little about her, other than that she was referred to by the precursors as She. Or, The Redeemer. Or, The Merciful. The stories that remain in collective consciousness are interesting ones.
We do not name her, for she has forsaken her name to give language to humanity.
We do not depict her face, for she offered it so that we may know beauty.
She was the one who created the Mesogrini to fight against the Pillars.
She died destroying the Uniter of the Pillars.
It is said that she was a human once, who rose to become God after discovering magic. And that when humanity angered her by summoning the Pillars, she could have easily erased us all to start over. Instead she stayed her hand and gave us the choice of redemption.
It was under her guidance that the Redeemer Knights were formed, and would go on to protect humanity since the end of the precursors.
Given how much she has done, it seems a real shame that we know so little else. A handful of stories about what she has done and a thousand references as little more than “Her, She, The Redeemer, The Merciful, God.”
Perhaps I’ll find answers about her in my expeditions south.
Technician’s Handbook – Automated Armour Suit.
The Automated Armour Suit is a heavy, automated suit of armour used by front-line infantry during battle. It has reduced the casualty rate of equipped units by thirty-four percent over a six month campaign season.
Technical costs and resource limitations prevent wide-spread deployment to all front-line troops. Techniques for production need to be refined and new technicians should be trained immediately.
All AAS are composed of a standardised exoskeletal framework over which standardized variants of armour are emplaced.
Standardized AAS armour should follow the base minimum guidelines provided.
For all Heavy Infantry and Main Battle deployments; tenth-steel of between one-third and one-half digits thickness, of a curved design, should be used for all major plating. Due to the weight, sarritium batteries are a base requirement necessary to power the exoskeletal framework. Cooling should be by liquid only.
Scrawled in the margins.
No wonder they lost, these guidelines are absolute nonsense.
The only one that makes sense is the tenth-steel and the thickness of the plating. You can save steel by making it sloped instead of rounded.
Sarritium batteries are also a good suggestion but the heat they produce is easier to cool if you just eject the heat-sinks. Yeah you’re dropping molten metal all over the place but you get a glancing hit that buts a liquid vein and you’re gonna get stewed.
Technician’s Handbook – Sarritium and Sarritium Batteries.
Sarritium is a chemical element, a light metal with unique properties that allow it to be extremely useful for industrial purposes. It is extremely ductile, malleable and has extremely high thermal and electrical conductivity – nearly three times that of silver. More importantly however is it’s strange propensity to ignite when in contact with water. It produces extreme levels of heat, and creates sarritic acid.
Sarritic acid is a weak acid even when highly concentrated, making it useful for various industrial production methods. However it is extremely toxic when not handled properly, producing an effect not dissimilar to radiation poisoning. It should be handled carefully.
The uniqueness of this interaction with water allows the manufacture of sarritium batteries. With a small amount of sarritium and water, enough thermal energy can be created to power small city blocks and even some of the more exotic machinery scientists are now developing. Care should be taken to ensure they do not overheat as sarritium batteries that overheat have a tendency to explode. Vapourised sarritic acid should be avoided at all costs as areas contaminated by this vapour will be toxic to human and animal life until the contaminants are cleared.
Scrawled in the margins.
Careful in handling, careful in manufacturing, careful in tasting. The poisoning isn’t so bad once you get used to it. No idea what this “radiation poisoning” thing is but I’ve heard about toxic metals from down south – kind of like sarritium but doesn’t explode in water.
Best thing to do is crack open a battery when it is glowing, you get a bit sick for a few weeks but better than losing an arm. Trust me.
It’s weird that they say it is useful for industrial cleaning and shit but then say “never let it out”. I think those gals were just extremely paranoid. Shame it didn’t save them.
Book is missing pages on weaponry, electrical diagrams, steel production methods, etcetera. Am I meant to believe that the technicians didn’t write about it, I don’t see any tearing.
Well, I know about their weaponry, apparently before the reaping they used some kind of magnetized guns that are impossible to reproduce. Guns are pretty fucking pointless anyway against all our enemies. Demons, dragons, automatons. You need to get between their armour plates – or in the case of automatons you need to cut them in half. Give me a sword any day.
I’ve made my own electrical diagrams, but I’m getting a bit stuck on logic gating for some of the older shit they built. I can only piece so much together before it starts to make me scratch my head and call them idiots again. They clearly knew something I didn’t, I don’t want to think they were just fucking stupid.
Steel production would be nice though, best I can do is twelve-steel but they speak of fifty-steel and sixty-steel in their books. I can’t even imagine how strong that stuff would be. Maybe I’ll find some some day, and I can test it.
I thought I’d spent this week sharing some design ideas I had for my novel. But then I realised I could have some fun and practice a style I don’t normally get to do.
Not entirely sure how good this’ll be but hey, my tagline is “not always great writing”. (which is probably putting it nicely)
Day 3, Month 3 of the Year 233.
I spent much of the day sifting through an old book I had discovered in the ruins. It was perhaps an ill-fated day to venture into the ruins, or maybe it was fate. Three is the number of the Lost God after all, perhaps she guided me here.
An old book, yes. It seems that even two hundred years later the tomes of the precursors hold together. It is a stronger and sturdier book that most of those in my own library back home.
I think I must remember to send some of these to my daughter.
But more important, and as to why I decided to write today, this old book I discovered is significant. It is different to those other books I have found elsewhere. It doesn’t surprise me that it is still here despite its obvious value. Gold trim, fine leather, it would be worth a good price to an archivist or a collector that would never know the true value it has.
Inside, in great and painstaking detail are illustrations of the world as it was. Cross-referencing it with my own atlases has revealed much to me.
It seems that much less has changed than we realised. For instance, the city of Mesogrin was here before the Reaping, though its boundaries were much larger encompassing all of the ruins. It sat upon the same northern coastline of the Firelight Sea and to the west was a forest we now call the Ironsnarl.
Far to the south linking the coastlines east and west of Mesogrin was the Southern Dam, that has not changed. It seems that even then the Firelight Sea was a small part of the greater Fog Ocean. Far north was the Sorrow Ocean, to the east of Mesogrin was the Glass Pillar Sands and the Ashfields. To the west of Mesogrin was the Fjords of Myrn and Farza. All of that is unchanged.
The differences as I can tell are the cities, all of them are familiar names washed away by time and resettlement. Two centuries has turned grand cities into dust and sand and ash. And then there is the Sunderline. On the old maps I found the entire place does not exist, nor is there mention of the cavern complex that snakes from the Sunderline out underneath much of the known world.
The great rift in the world, the Sunderline as we all know it, divides the world in two. Separates the West from the East. It is entirely missing.
No record that I find can tell me what happened, I am unaware of when exactly this ancient map was made, but by my judgment it was very recent during the Reaping. It has information I know to have been recently discovered when the Reaping began. On this old map, the rough path that the Sunderline now follows is marked as a wall.
I will need to investigate further.
Trains rush past me, stirring up breeze to lift my spirits. Pink haired girl with a soft and friendly smile, my sweet melody with perfumed words. Drunk on honey, drunk on you, and whiling away the time until I die.
Pain is something that really speaks to me, so sick of living in generalities. Fingers against the charm around my wrist, glance down, it is time to go. Waiting is the hardest part – hours, weeks, years, days. Have a smoke, have a drink, drown your sorrows and try to lift your head off the pillow every morning. It should have been easy, but instead I stood there, unmoving like a coward. I watched you take the leap.
Two lives down, but I’m still living.
And all it would take is one step forward to end our separation.
A train is coming, the shadows, the raindrops, ticking away my time. Hoping it’ll run out soon. Go on. Step forward. Third time’s the charm.
Waiting is the hardest part, hours, days, weeks, years.
Back to the wall, have a smoke, take a drink. Gonna be here for a while.
There is no easy way to waste your time alive. So spend as much of it as you can, on the hard ways.
Take a chance, to have a chance, unromantic and distasteful. Keep up the wanderlust, you’ll have time to dwell when you’re dead. Existence is a conflagration, we burn in hell every day. Never more apparent a fact, than when standing before a moving train, watching the minutes ticking by in shadows and raindrops.
She smiles, brushes back her hair. Bubblegum pink, reassuring smile. Bright blue eyes, warm as rain. Half step towards her, and she offers me the world. Or, what she sells of it. I tell her my name, she jokes about my radioactivity. Smile and laugh, nod, listen intently as she speaks. Her name eludes me, like a good riddle. It perfumes her words, and I wistfully drown in her melody as she says it.
Offer me the world, I’ve only got a tenner, and in my shaky mezzo, I offer you everything I have. You give me back twenty-five cents and call us even. The small kiosk, a third of it covered in magazines, clouds out the rain. Another in the line, I step away, she calls me back. Come again, please.
Take a step… turn.
Two lives down, and onto my third.
“What time do you get off work?”
I never moved.
Step back, take a breath.
Small city, crowded with nothingness.
Thick rain ashes out the world around the station.
Nothing around me even worth my time to look at.
Begin to walk, try not to think too much, try not to think.
Walking, away from the edge of the platform, away from the train.
Taking failure, walking away, learning from my mistakes until next time.
Then, something catches my eye, and I can’t help but stop in my tracks and, take a step…