Friday, 29 July 2016

Artel - Watched

Bright sunlight was already streaming down through the treetops when Artel opened his bleary eyes. He blinked twice and shook his head, trying to dispel the leftover images from his dream. He could tell from the residual feeling of unease in the base of his stomach that it had not been a good dream, although his mind could no longer make sense of the half remembered images floating through his head.
He pulled himself upright and looked around. The ominous darkness from the night before was gone, replaced by dappled sunlight and the cheery sound of birds chirping. Artel breathed in deeply, letting the sweet air fill his lungs and wash away the distasteful feelings from the night before. A slow smile crept across his face as he wondered how he ever could have felt so troubled in such a wonderful place.
A loud crash pulled him roughly out of his reverie and he looked round to see Millon sprawled on the floor at the edge of the clearing. Unable to help himself he burst out laughing, a loud sound that seemed to fill the clearing and echo off the trees. Millon looked up, his scowl turning to a sheepish grin as his eyes met Artel's.
"Whoops!" He giggled as he picked himself up and brushed himself off, "I guess I didn't see that root there."
"Well that's hardly surprising!"
Millon looked at the knight, searching his face for the contempt that usually lived there but strangely unable to find it. He smiled as he made his way over to their small camp and began to pack away his sleep sack and prepare their breakfast. He hadn't seen Artel this happy since the beginning of their trip, in fact, now he thought about it he had never seen Artel happy at all, much less happy with him. The drastic change in the knights mood had come as a welcome relief the day before but Millon felt suddenly wary, as if he may be unknowingly walking into a trap.

The day passed without incident. The two men wound their way through the ever thickening trees, picking their way past fallen branches and through tangled bushes. Thanks to Artel's skill with a bow they had caught several rabbits and both were in high spirits, looking forward to the warm meaty meal they could enjoy that evening. The first since they had set out on their fools quest.
Time slipped by in a strange timeless way, as if it floated lazily on the breeze instead of marching onward, dragging all else with it. By the time the sun began to set it felt as if a whole year could have passed in that one day, or a second, gone in the blink of an eye.
In the fading light Artel and Millon found a spot between the trees to make their camp. Although there was no clearing in which to camp that night they soon managed to make themselves comfortable, setting a small fire on the ground between two tree trunks and setting their sleep sacks to the left of it, between another two trees.
As night fell they happily cooked and ate the fresh rabbit, talking of home, and of their quest, and of the war in the lowerlands. But neither man knew the truth of their quest, if there was indeed any truth in it at all, and the conversation slowly fizzled out, leaving them both in silence, unable to say out loud the question that really bothered them. Were they truly on a fool's errand, wasting time looking for something that had never existed in the first place?
The silence settled over the two men, drenching them in it's strange weight, making their heads feel woozy and their tongues leaden. The firelight flickered and the darkness surrounding them seemed once more to press in upon them, as if it had a will of it's own.
Millon glanced around, he had not noticed the darkness creeping up on them and now that he looked at it it seemed closer and more real than it had the night before. As if a great hand had draped a thick black covering around their small circle of light. He shivered involuntarily, there was something ominous about the darkness although he could not have said what it was. He glanced at Artel, the knight sat staring into the flickering flames of the fire, his knees drawn up to his chest, his tousled hair a mess. Millon opened his mouth to speak but changed his mind, convinced suddenly that if he dared to speak Artel would be furious. He closed his mouth and lowered his head, fixing his gaze on a fallen leaf a few feet in front of him, just inside the circle of light. He could not shake the feeling that he was being watched, that there was something in the darkness.

The silence stretched on and the darkness seemed to grow closer, as if it were slowly pushing the fire back into itself, making their circle of light smaller and smaller. Artel had not moved or seemed to notice at all, he still stared into the flickering flames, lost in thought, but Millon's nerves were increasing with every silent second that slipped by. Although the forest was silent Millon was sure he could hear whispers. Something in the darkness was whispering his name, something was calling to him. The sound of breathing echoed in his ear and he whipped around, his frantic eyes searching for the beast that had surely been there mere seconds before. He stared into the impregnable darkness, watching as it crept ever closer, slowly encroaching upon their circle of light, their circle of safety. Millon could not explain the terror that slipped into his being, filling his heart and turning his stomach. His skin crawled with goosebumps, freezing and prickling, and he felt cold sweat beginning to dribble slowly down the side of his face. His breath came in short, sharp gasps.
The darkness in front of him began to swirl and transform itself until the figure of a man stood before him. A figure made of darkness blacker than the night, so that it hurt Millon's eyes to look at it, as if it were no longer just darkness but a hole in the world. Millon tried to open his mouth to speak, but found he could not. The figure in front of him grew and stretched, it's arms and legs elongating and reaching towards the terrified man encased in the shrinking circle of light. Millon felt his heart racing, so hard he thought it might punch it's way out of his chest. He summoned what little strength he had and tore his eyes momentarily from the towering figure in front of him. They found Artel, still staring into the firelight.
"Art..." The half whispered sound was all he could produce but somehow it disturbed the static knight.
Unable to stop himself Millon let his eyes slide from Artel's form and return to the darkness in front of him.
Artel turned his head slowly until his confused eyes found Millon. His head felt strangely empty and he could not remember what he had been thinking of, if he had been thinking anything at all. He looked at Millon, taking in his shaking form, the glistening sweat dripping down the side of his face, his wide eyes fixed in front of him. Slowly Artel's gaze followed Millon's, reaching past the terrified figure to the edge of the circle of light and the darkness that lay outside of it. His eyes found the figure, darkness upon darkness, stretching up into the treetops above them. He too felt the terror wash over him as the creature opened it's eyes, huge pits of swirling fire that seemed to emit a heat that washed over him, blistering his skin. The darkness crept closer as the fire they had so happily cooked their rabbits on only a few hours before began to dim.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

4. Aethian

A tall athletic man wearing a dark grey and red Master's dress uniform stood staring through the room length window overlooking the landing platforms.
Aethian Jentha-Korbandin was tired and frustrated. His long dark hair was tied in a strap cloth for practicality and he wore two single handed ceremonial poniard blades sheathed in his belt. His boots were gleaming like mirrors, his hands were held together behind his back and his chest pushed out. He stood still and stern faced.
His grey tunic chest remained modestly plain and devoid of any rank, insignia or medals. He had nothing to prove these days. Nothing.
The silver octagons with green trim embroidered on his red cuffs denoted his membership of “Stellaris Militia Intelligencia.”
This was not a man to be underestimated. - A Spymaster of the highest Order.
He kept thinking that this was surely no place for him. Wasted again on some bureaucratic fools errand. This was nothing new but it was becoming a stale and disenchanting scenario.
He was tired of being posted and then redrafted elsewhere in the galaxy as soon as he had settled into an assignment. He was frustrated with teaching battle strategy and blade craft to Acolytes who were better suited to sciences or ethics. Most of all, he was weary of having to live up to his father's name. As soon as anyone heard his name, “Korbandin”, they invariably gawped at him in awe. Sycophants!
More annoying was the fact that these days he found it increasingly difficult to blend in and be inconspicuous. His very name was conspicuous.
Irrespective of all of this, Aethian had never doubted his abilities. His father had indeed been the Provost Paladin Commander at the time at which he had been born, and he had been raised in the traditional military fashion with no expense, education or opportunity spared. He had progressed quickly, so much so that he had entered the Temple Of The Knife, by selection, at only eleven years of age, a full five years younger than was customary.
At the time of his ascension to the Templi Militia, there was not a single Knight, Master, instructor or Acolyte who could best him with a blade. Nobody had since he was thirteen years old, and that man still wore a scar across his chin as a cost for his victory.
In the many years since then Aethian had moved quickly through the ranks and travelled to most parts of the galaxy. He was a veteran of thirty eight campaigns. He had been a missionary, a soldier, a field agent and a Knight's guard counsellor.
He had returned to the temple as a Master instructor in his seventy fourth year, but after continued pressure from the Order of the Ark Protectorate, he was seconded once again to field work, finally settling as a stellar intelligence specialist alongside his father.
Everybody knew he was wasted there. He was the best fighter alive and his military knowledge was exceeded only by his father, the great An'ewat Jentha-korbandin – hero of the Taurid campaign.

Aethian now had new orders in a new sector.
This position promised to be different. A teaching and close protection assignment which according to his initial briefing statement had the tightest security provisions he had ever seen.
He had arrived at the project headquarters, located on a barren moon in an unremarkable solar system, three days previously. His quarters were comfortable enough but Aethian found it increasingly difficult to suffer the boredom which cut at him with alarming frequency as the hours passed. He waited and waited for news of a briefing, or indeed any kind of message from the command chain, but nothing came.
Something very sensitive was going on here, something new, something that even his most highly ranked and trusted contemporaries had not been briefed about.
The staff population of this installation couldn't number more than 400 men and women, none below the rank of Initiate Master. The facility was big enough for three times that amount and the central ring of the keep was compartmentalised to allow secure access to only twenty seven people. Aethian had the clearance but had yet to be shown inside.
He was impatient now. The facts had alluded him for long enough. His rank and distinguished career surely commanded more respect than this?

On his third day on the lunar base the morning had begun as usual with a two hour workout followed by a meal of shem bread, vegetables and Chindah. He was tired of the view from his window.
Aethian returned to his desk where he sat reading his daily reports and personal messages.
The door chime of his work room sounded. Aethian pounced immediately to his feet and faced the door with his right hand resting on the pommel of his left hand dagger – a hard habit to break.
“Please come in.” he said.
The metal door fell smoothly into the floor of it's frame revealing a battle specification Gobot in the hallway. Aethian was sure that this was the same Gobot that had been assigned to him on his arrival. It seemed to him to be overkill to post any military Gobots in this Keep in the first place. A pointless measure considering the numbers of Angels that were stationed here, but a good soldier didn't ask questions. If the opportunity arose to make a point of it, he would do so, until then he was more interested in making mental notes of his surroundings and collecting data from which he could make informed decisions or recognise hidden dangers. Once a spy – always a spy.
“Good morning sir, I have orders for you.” The Gobot spoke with a soft artificial male voice.
“Good, not before time!” said Aethian activating the door closing mechanism behind the Gobot.
“You may deliver them to me now.”
The mechanoid strode briskly across the room and pivoted sharply to face Aethian. The smooth featureless metal face of the Gobot split vertically and peeled back smoothly as the shoulders powered backwards and downwards into their housing to reveal a rising holoframe.
The face of Enik the Ancient manifested itself centrally where the smooth cover mask had previously been.
“Good morning Commander Korbandin” Enik said. “You are summoned to a mission briefing in one hours time at the Lunar Keep observation deck. This Gobot will escort you there.”
The message bleeped, Enik vanished and the featureless metal visors closed instantaneously around the Gobot's head once more before the metallic male voice spoke again.
“Do you confirm your attendance Commander?”
“Of course I do!” he barked. “Whatever the aim of this mission is, it's already taking too long!”

The tube link deposited Aethian and his Gobot outside the observation deck with ten minutes to spare.
The Gobot marched to the left hand side of the blank plasteel double doors and powered up it’s built in bolt guns in a heavy guarding stance.
“What exactly are you guarding me from?” Enquired Aethian with a frown. But the Gobot was not given the chance to reply as the double doors burst open with a mechanised slide and Enik walked out from the observation lounge.
“I apologise for the military presence Commander.” said Enik. The details of this briefing are of a sensitive nature.”
The two men walked inside where Enik bade Aethian to the table. The double doors closed and locked behind them with a soft click, leaving the Gobot in guard position in the hall.

“A pleasure to see you again my Lord.” said Aethian as he bowed deeply from the waist.
“Thank you for coming so quickly Aethian, - are you happy and well?” Enik asked as he squeezed him on the shoulders with his long white fingers.
“I am sir” said Aethian with a smile.
“I was sad to hear of the passing of your dear mother, she was a gentle spirit and we shall miss her.” said Enik.
Aethian nodded tight lipped. “We all will my Lord.” he replied.
“And your father? I have not seen him since he took his office.”
Aethian drew himself to attention and stared at the wall “My father and I have not spoken for some time sir, but he is well I believe.”
“Good” replied Enik. “Please be seated.”
Aethian took a seat at the long conference table as Enik pushed a control in the wall which caused the room length window to darken considerably.

“I imagine that my presence here means things are not going to plan my Lord?” asked Aethian.
“Well my son, let us say that there is a cause for concern.” Enik took a seat opposite Aethian before continuing. “The native population down on the surface have recently been treated with a natural water table flush of Elish at the behest of the mothers.”
“A reasonable precaution.” said Aethian. “Has the dose proven to be successful?”
Enik reached into his breast pocket and took a wafer of Shem Bread out which he proceeded to chew and swallow. He rubbed his oversized pale bald cranium and sat up straight before replying.
“It has my son, the Apes are docile and eager to serve. It appears that their savage, intertribal battle urges are gone too, at least as far as the Gobots can see.” Enik paused for breath. “As for your presence here Commander, I would like you to see something which was discovered just outside the native village, south of the Ziggurat. You must understand that this information is only for the initiated.”
Enik reached under the table and drew out a thin metal box which he pushed across the tabletop to Aethian.  
“I would like to have your opinion on the contents of this sample case.” said Enik as he observed Aethian with his enormous black eyes.
“Of course.” Aethian slid his fingers across the surface of the metal box until they reached the clip and unclasped it’s sealed lid.
As Aethian lifted off the cover, the contents of the box became immediately clear to him.
A small pile of  grey and white ash with a distinctive incense odour filled the box. On the top of the ash sat a small charred hexagonal chip.
“Gods below!” cried Aethian wide eyed and disgusted, “Levyethin scum!” He dropped the lid onto the tabletop where it landed with a loud clatter and pushed the box away.
“Indeed.” said Enik solemnly, “I have had the entire Ed’n basin searched three times over and nothing else has been found. Nothing.”
“And what of the circumstances of this discovery?” Asked Aethian.
Enik leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands.
“Two weeks ago, one of the Ape leaders, an elder named Habber, chased a creature out of the village with his five sons. It appears that the creature had been ensnared in a covert animal trap set by the villagers earlier that day. It was covered in it’s own blood and therefore easy to see and track. The creature killed all but one of Habber’s sons with what he described as a Crystal Sword. Finally, the Reptile was subdued by spears and arrows from the other villagers - before it burst into flames. The villagers were understandably shocked and terrified by this ordeal and Habber immediately summoned the lead Watcherbot from the Ziggurat. A full investigation has been made regarding the creature - this, it would seem is all that remains of it.”
“And we are sure that nothing else has been recovered?” Asked Aethian sternly.
“Quite sure Commander, there are several fragments of Obsidian in the bottom of the ash sample, presumably all that remains of the Levyethin dagger. Nothing else.”
“Then I request that you assign me a small team of my choosing, along with a company of Gobots and Angels to support us.” said Aethian as he stood up to attention once more.
“Very well Commander, keep your selection to members of Stellaris Militia Intelligencia - Masters only please - and I wish to be kept informed of everything that you do.” Replied Enik.
“As for the Bots and Angels, Quartermaster Tarapel is here at the Keep. He has been fully briefed and will furnish you with the appropriate equipment.”
“Thank you sir.” said Aethian as he turned and made for the door. “There are still at least two of those Bitches down there - and I mean to kill them!”
Enik nodded as Aethian made his way out.
‘This will get worse before it gets better.’ Enik thought to himself.
He reached for the multipad on his left wrist and pushed the top right button.
“Lemin, this is Enik.” he said, “Be advised that Commander Korbandin is now fully briefed and will soon be reporting for his equipment. Give him absolutely everything he asks for please - and ensure that he is up to date with the features of your new Angels.”
“As you wish Enik.” Replied the Quartermaster. “Everything is ready and waiting for his arrival.”
 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Wordy Wednesday!


This weeks Wordy Wednesday word is for all the writers out there;

Scripturient


- Having a strong urge or desire to write
- Having an itch for authorship

'I have always been scripturient, ever since I can remember. My mother often tells me of the eagerness with which I took to the pen and paper, like a fish to water, she says.' 

Challenge;


Comment a short piece of prose, flash fiction, or even just a sentence, using this word. It would be great to see what you come up with!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Motivational Monday! The Greenwich Writers Bump in the Night Competition

This weeks Motivational Monday! post features The Greenwich Writers Bump in the Night Competition.

As you can probably guess from the title of this one, it is a competition for a ghost story!

Your ghost story must be your own original and unpublished work and be between 500 and 3,000 words.

There is an entry fee of £5 per entry and you can enter as many times as you like.

The winner will receive £25 prize money, publication in the November issue of the Greenwich Writers Newsletter and a chance to feature in the Greenwich Writers Anthology.

The closing date for entries for this competition is the 15th of August 2016, so not much time to get writing if you want to enter!

To read the competition rules, find out more and to enter the competition please visit The Greenwich Writers Bump in the Night Competition.


Happy writing


Rach x

Friday, 22 July 2016

Artel - Outside the Firelight

The cool shade of the forest was a welcome relief after the unrelenting heat of the plains. Even after only a few short minutes Artel could feel his spirits lifting as his mind turned to thoughts of fresh water and hunting, and he had already instructed Millon to gather any suitable firewood as they made their way through the trees. There would be no more cold nights huddled in their sleep sacks praying for warmth, no more breakfasts of dry yar bread and no more parched mouths as they struggled to make their water supplies last. Artel almost grinned to himself as they made their way through the bushes and vegetation that lined the forest floor.
The forest itself seemed rather peaceful, as far as forests go. Sunlight streamed down from between the leaves of the treetops and birds chirped cheerfully as they fluttered from branch to branch. At one point the two men came across a group of monkeys who chittered loudly in alarm before bounding away into the trees, swinging effortlessly from branch to branch and staring down distrustfully at the strangers.
Millon loved the forest. He thought it was perhaps the best place he had ever been. He loved the brightly coloured flowers that grew large and proud upon the bushes that littered the forest floor. He loved the moist smell of earth and vegetation that filled his nostrils with each step he took. He loved the rays of sunshine that streamed down from the treetops and he loved the many different calls of the birds and animals that met his ears. There was a sense of rightness in the air, as if now they were beneath the great leafy canopy nothing could go wrong.
Millon smiled as he dutifully collected sticks and logs from the floor, piling them high on his shoulder and not stopping to think for a second about their cumbersome weight or their awkward branches. It was as if everything was easier now, everything was simple and jolly.
Artel strode ahead, enjoying the sense of elation that seemed to fill his being, making him feel weightless and merry. He turned his smiling face to his companion.
"Ah isn't it wonderful Millon, the birds, the trees, the air!" Here he stopped and inhaled deeply, sighing in contentment as he slowly let the air out again.
"It certainly is Sir, I must admit I feel rather merry since we have entered this charming forest. You're right, there is a certain quality in the air, it is like music to my ears."
"Ah Millon I knew we would make it, I always had faith." Artel clapped a large hand on the smaller man's arm, making him wobble slightly and emit a small chuckle.
The two carried on their way, smiling to themselves and emitting small bursts of conversation as they wandered deeper and deeper into the strange forest.

By nightfall the two men had collected enough fruit, berries and firewood to host a small party, and, gleefully stumbling into a suitable clearing, deposited their goods and set their camp. That night they set a fire for the first time in days and sat contentedly either side of it, eagerly biting into the large juicy fruit they had collected. Millon had been wary at first, never having seen anything like the huge purple fruit before, but Artel had soon convinced him it would be fine, after all, how could anything in such a superb forest be at all harmful?
When all the fruit was gone Artel and Millon sat quietly next to the fire. Night had fallen and darkness pressed upon the outside of their small circle of firelight. Artel looked up into the darkness above him, aware suddenly that he could no longer hear the calling of birds, the chittering of monkeys or indeed any sound at all. It was as if the night had brought with it not only darkness but a deep impregnable silence as well. He coughed lightly but even that small sound seemed lost in the dark void, as if it was barely more than a whisper. Artel turned his head slowly, until his amber eyes fell upon the figure of Millon, sitting just the other side of the fire. As he watched the distance between them seemed to stretch and warp, as if the darkness were seeping into the area between them, stretching the space and widening the gap. Millon seemed to shrink in front of his eyes, slowly slipping backwards into the black space behind him. Artel opened his mouth to shout but only a whisper escaped his lips.
"Millon... "
The smaller man turned to look at him and smiled stupidly.
"Yes Sir?"
The picture flew back into focus with a snap, as if it were an elastic band suddenly released, and Artel blinked dumbly at Millon who now looked just as normal as before. He tore his eyes from the smaller man and peered around, staring into the darkness that sat just outside their firelight, trying to find some answer to what he had just witnessed.
"Artel S-sir? Are you alright?"
Artel's head snapped back round to look at Millon, his eyes sharp and focused.
"Yes of course I'm alright you blundering idiot!"
Millon recoiled from the harsh words as if Artel had physically struck him. The world around him tilted and span and he felt a sickening jolt in his stomach. He turned his face away, a wave of shame washing over him, and stared at his feet. He heard Artel grunt and turn away and he raised his head. Artel now sat with his back to Millon and he was breathing heavily, huge great breaths dragging in and out of his throat accompanied by a sort of low gurgling. Millon shivered as a wave of goosebumps washed over his skin. He turned his eyes from Artel and stared into the darkness, the impregnable wall of black seemed to grow nearer and nearer each time he looked at it and he found himself strangely caught up in it. It was as if the darkness somehow held his eyes, forcing him to peer deeper and deeper. He had the vague sense of falling and the brightness of his peripheral vision seemed to dim. In front of him the darkness swirled and rippled, like eddies in a river. A whisper in his ear, smooth and calm, although he could not quite make out the words. In front of him a pair of eyes snapped open, blinking at him. Millon leapt back in terror, yelling out as he did so. The eyes vanished and the world seemed to grow slightly brighter as he lay panting on the floor, his wide, terrified eyes staring into the darkness.
"Millon? What's wrong with you? Get a hold of yourself man!"
Artel's voice was rough and it shot through Millon like a bullet. He turned his shaking head to look at the Knight on the other side of the fire. Artel looked confused, one eyebrow raised in an almost quizzical manner. Millon shook his head and pulled himself upright.
"S-sorry S-sir. I - nothing's wrong, I - I'm fine."
Artel nodded.
"Best get some sleep then, we've still got a lot of walking ahead of us."
"Y-yes S-sir." The small man nodded as he pulled his sleep sack out and began to shuffle his still shaking body into it.
Artel sighed and pulled his sleep sack closer to the fire before he slid into it, there was something about the darkness that put him on edge.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

3. Natural Selection

'The Young Blood' By Matt Murdoc

The role call siren rang out across the dining hall. Approximately three hundred apprentice Acolytes had just broken their fasts. The sun had only just risen over the Ishtar science academy and already the students had been hurried out of their beds, through the showers and into the food service line with military precision.
The educational year had begun a mere two weeks previously for these new intakes. The new initiates were barely acquainted with each other and even less so with the codes of conduct and the strictly regimented daily expectations of the Ishtar base.
All the new initiates were a uniform age of twenty years, and they were all of mixed gender and social background. All of them were orphans from different home worlds, and all had passed the Pada-kwinshae, - The higher level aptitude examination, devised by the three sovereign mothers and sat by every entered apprentice for the last eleven thousand years.
Although the home worlds of the initiates were varied and scattered throughout the galaxy, all of them spoke the standard Telspek tongue and no other language was used in the education system.
All of the new initiates wore the same plain white first level robes that had been worn by Initiate Acolytes for over a thousand generations and all of them, male and female, had shaven heads to signify their beginners status and “poor state of darkness.” - The uninitiated.


Leon and his two fellow apprentices, Jachin and Ki'entha, had rushed their food down far quicker than they would have chosen to. Had they not done so, they would have been concentrating more on hunger than learning in a matter of hours.
If any of them failed more than three tests in this first term, it would mean an immediate expulsion with no prospect of returning to the esoteric colleges in the future.
A feeling of anxious competition hung in the air and the new initiates had already begun to form into their own small social groups rather than face the daily pressures of the academy alone.
“Primordial life Sciences for our first lecture?” moaned Leon, “How do they ever expect us to retain anything we’re taught if we’re constantly exhausted and suffering with indigestion!”
Ki'entha smiled as she patted him on the shoulder. “Leon, you are meant to be a man.” She grinned, “Look around this mess hall, I see all of the men forlorn and missing their homes like lost children and yet I see all of the women smiling and alert, ready for new challenges.”
Leon's lips stiffened at the jibe and he looked at his feet as the three of them stood to leave their table.
“And what of me Ki'en?” said Jachin with a grin, “Do you find me miserable and pining for home like some lost infant?”
“No Jach, I don't.” she said as they joined the line filing out of the mess into the corridor.
“You, little Brother, are quite the enigma. I have the deep sight, as did my mother before me. There is not a single apprentice here that I have not observed and found the measure of in these last two weeks. - None but you.”
Leon bristled, taking issue with Ki’entha’s comment and cutting his way rudely back into the conversation.
Ki'entha wondered if Leon even realised what this mere act of interruption said about his character as he barked bitterly at Jachin.
“Well is there any wonder?” Leon pointed at Jachin accusingly, “He barely ever speaks unless spoken to, he is the first in the dorm to wake every day and he answers every damned question that the Masters ask of him without error! - He's more like a Bot than a man!”
Jachin grinned and made a theatrical bow as Ki'entha rolled her eyes.
“He who knows does not speak Leon, he who speaks does not know.” Ki'entha said with a wry smile. “You would do well to remember that sometimes!”
Both Ki'entha and Jachin erupted with laughter.
“I'm glad some of us can laugh!” muttered Leon as he shoved his way past Jachin and out into the mezanine.
The three companions left the mess building with the other first years, and after palm scanning their exits, walked across the recreation square to the lecture house.


The sun shone brightly and the air was fresh. The remaining Initiates had split into smaller groups and made for their group lecture rooms as they entered the portico of the imposing black stone building on the western edge of the quad.
Leon, Ki'entha and Jachin, entered the building and climbed the ornate golden staircase turning left at the top into the “Life Sciences” department.
“Lab eleven.” Jachin pointed to the right as they reached the top of a second stair well.
As the trio turned the corner, they found themselves facing three Acolytes and a Master, stood lined up outside the small laboratory awaiting the Professor.


“Why are there full Acolytes and a Master here?” whispered Leon nervously to Ki'entha, “This is our class, just the three of us! What does this mean?”
“Quiet you idiot!” she spoke curtly, “Don't you think I too have the same questions? I am attempting to work the problem – hold your tongue!” A look of indignation swept across her face as she moved her mind into the deeper function.
The master, stood nearest to the door, was an older man (probably around two hundred years) with greying shoulder length black hair, beard and dark facial features. He was wearing a regular red and grey Masters single suit – plain enough, but he also wore a silver broken star pin on his left collar. The meaning of this insignia was unmistakable. He had served in the “Order of the Root.” A formidable Master – no doubt.
The Acolytes were all second year accepted academy fellows, wearing light blue and white robes with short cropped hair. Two males and one female. They stood to attention with their hands at their sides, their backs against the hallway wall, and their glassy eyes staring unflinchingly forwards.
The old man turned to face the Initiates and Acolytes.
“I'm sure you have questions.” he eyed Ki'entha in particular, “All will soon become clear.”
At that moment the lab door slid open and Professor Brocka stepped out into the hallway. She was a civillian but well respected in the faculty. A plain looking woman with straight mousey hair and piercing blue eyes. She had been teaching the three initiates since their arrival two weeks previously.
“Good morning class, Master Hassan,” she said as she gestured toward the lab door, “Please come in and be seated.”
Ki'entha drew her conciousness back into formal flow. Any answers she might have found in the deeper sight trance were now irrelevant. They would find the answers to their questions in due course.
As they entered the lab, it was clear that this would be no ordinary lesson. All the window shutters were closed and the room was in darkness apart from the small blue guide lights set in the floor around the benches and the walkways. The large view screen was on standby and showed the illuminated sigil of the Ishtar base, a winged godess with a knife in one hand  and a pair of compasses in the other.
The three Initiates and three Acolytes seated themselves on the first two rows of benches and drew out their data frames from their robes. The Master clapped his hands once and spoke with an authoritative air,
“There will be no data recording today. Please put those away.”
The students did as they were told while Professor Brocka took to the lectern and turned to address them.
“The six of you have been selected for removal from the academy.” She stated calmly.
The younger students looked at each other with faces of shock and confusion.
“Please remain focused!” Her voice was louder, the command almost a shout. The students faced the front of the room once more, the three initiates looking pale. Leon, in particular, looked scared.
“This will be a short class, the remainder of which will be given by our honoured guest, Master Thorin Hassan, he is one of our most distinguished graduates and is here representing the Order of the Root.”
The Master made his way to the lectern and pressed a button on the small control pad strapped to his left wrist. The front view screen lit up and began to run a detailed animation of a solar cycle.


“Everything you are about to be told is to be treated with the strictest of confidence.” Hassan said, overlooking them all with a serious expression. “On pain of death - make no mistake, you are about to be briefed on what is perhaps the most sensitive and important project in our galaxy at this time.”
The students stared silently as the master continued. He focused specifically on the new initiates.
“You three, may have already realised within your separate group, that each of you have come here from planets that were planted with a Primostem. You all have ancestory directly resulting from these plantations.” The students glanced at each other, with the exception of Ki'entha who merely nodded at the Master.
“Each of your respective planets are new to our galactic community and all of them took around one hundred thousand generations to become globally aware. That is to say, that your respective civilisations have each put aside their petty arguments and primitive plough burning in order to unite themselves in the quest for a higher understanding of the universe.
Each of your home planets are of a similar size and social construct and it is for these reasons, that each of you have been specifically chosen to leave the academy and travel with me to the Sol sector.”
He gestured at the view screen which instantaneously macroed the solar model into the middle of the room by way of a holloprojection.
“It will be the blue planet here, Gia, to which we will soon be travelling, - there, the final great yield primostem will be planted.” The students stared at the Master, dumbstruck and wide eyed.
Master Hassan then side stepped the lectern and sat down to face the Initiates.
“Now, these three Acolytes here,” he gestured to the three second years as he spoke, “are already briefed and will be assigned to each of you. - Leon, you will partner with Welsen here.” The Acolyte on the far right stood and walked across to Leon, shaking his hand and offering a slight smile as he joined him on the bench. Master Hassan then gestured to the acolyte sitting in the second row, “Jachin, please go and join Ibenjin.” Jachin moved to take a seat next to the second acolyte who shook him firmly by the hand. “Finally, Ki'entha, you will be placed with Althea here.” Said the Master gesturing towards the remaining acolyte who was already seated next to her. She leant forwards and silently planted a small kiss on Ki'entha's cheek.
Professor Brocka then stood and took her place back at the lectern.
“The six of you will be rehoused together at the Temple of the Knife immediately for further briefing and training. You have one month before you depart for planet Gia and you have a great deal to learn in that time.”
Master Hassan stood and walked to the door panel where he pressed a button and brought the lab into regular illumination.
“I only hope that your personal files are correct about your abilities!” he said. “Now go and fetch your belongings. I want you all in lock down at the temple within the hour. The rest of the students will be told that you have failed and been sent home.”
The six of them stood and made for the door.
“Quickly now!” Said the Master. “Time is a factor!”


Twenty minutes later, the six newly acquainted students and their Master found themselves seated in a speeder on a straight desert road. The imposing outline of the Tomb of the Ancients was creeping in to view on the horizon, a massive black pyramid complex inside which, each of the esoteric orders and the Temple of the Knife were to be found.
Silence stretched between the occupants for the duration of the forty minute journey from the academy. None of them had ever expected to see the tomb up close, much less enter the temple complex. This place was at least a thousand generations old and only the highest Initiates and most promising students were ever granted access.
As the temple Guardbots stood down their positions to allow the speeder to pass through the tomb's imposing gates, Master Hassan looked over his shoulder at his new students.
“Welcome to the temple.” he said. “From today, until the day that you leave, you will each pay for any mistakes you make with blood.”



If you haven't already, head over to the page 'The Young Blood' where you can find the previous chapters.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Wordy Wednesday!


This weeks Wordy Wednesday word is;

Logophile


- A lover of words.

See also: Epeolatry 

- The worship of words.

'Carrie smiled to herself as she took her usual seat at the back of the library and flipped open the large leather bound dictionary she had gently pulled from the stuffed shelves beforehand. In the peace of the library she could continue her work; she was a true logophile, enjoying the many varied words as they rolled off her tongue and she swirled their letters in dark ink on clean white paper.' 

Challenge;


Comment a short piece of prose, flash fiction, or even just a sentence, using this word. It would be great to see what you come up with!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Playback

By Nick Metcalfe.

At the instant of death, his body crumpled to the ground. Left standing was a glowing image of the man. It glanced down at the wrinkled husk at its feet. The glimmering figure already had the appearance of gangling youth. It looked around, wonder on its face, the image racing pell-mell back through childhood, younger and smaller, until with an inaudible pop it disappeared - and the music stopped. Music? It had been at a high register, an unearthly keening, the resonances of his unique DNA chain, the siren song that had been he, somehow made audible for terminal playback.


Monday, 18 July 2016

Motivational Monday! Manchester Fiction Prize



This weeks Motivational Monday! post features The Manchester Fiction Prize.

This competition is open internationally to new and established writers over the age of 16 for short stories of up to 2,500 words.

There is a top prize of £10,000.

The entry fee is £17.50.

To find out more and to enter the competition please visit The Manchester Fiction Prize


Happy writing


Rach x

Friday, 15 July 2016

Artel - The Edge of the Plains

They had been walking for days, forever onward through the bleak and empty landscape towards the dark forest that looked no closer than it had on they day they had begun. They had run out of wood a few days ago and the cold nights had left Artel feeling sour and grumpy, and the dwindling supply of yar bread did nothing to lift his mood. This journey was taking longer than he had expected and his patience was running out.
That night he slept fitfully, his dreams full of sounds and colours moving too fast for him to hold on to. He tossed and turned, his groaning waking Millon who dutifully sat and watched him, afraid to leave him alone.
The smaller man knew Artel wasn't pleased with him, he knew he didn't live up to standards or expectations, no matter that he tried. The knowledge saddened him and in the small hours of the night he would curse his awkward flailing limbs, his empty forgetful head and his eager babbling mouth. At least this journey had cured him of one thing, he thought to himself, Artel's dislike of his chatter had caused him to remain silent early on in their quest, he hoped this was a lesson that would stay with him.
The last few days had been the hardest for Millon, Artel's foul mood had cast a sort of shadow over the both of them and the smaller man felt it like a weight on his shoulders. He knew it was his duty to make the knight as comfortable as possible and to keep his spirits high, and he knew he was failing to do either.
Millon watched as the sun began to poke it's head over the horizon, filling the sky with purples and pinks and oranges and casting a soft glow over the empty plains surrounding them. His nut brown eyes glinted in the glorious light and for a moment he found himself lost in the beauty of a sunrise. He sat still for a moment, simply breathing and watching the brilliant light show before him, hope sparking in his chest.
"Millon! What are you doing sitting there staring at the sky? Why haven't you begun to break camp if you're awake?" Artel's voice was loud and harsh and it made Millon jump and bow his head in shame.
"Yes S-sir." He mumbled as he shuffled away from the sunrise and began to pack away his sleep sack. The familiar feelings of shame and stupidity washed over him, once again he had forgotten his job and let Artel down.
Artel packed his sleep sack away quickly and quietly, his frustration at his useless companion threatening to leak through. Surely the man knew how important this mission was, why did he insist on wasting time shuffling around or staring at the sky! He hoisted his now full pack onto his shoulders and turned, ready to chide Millon for his tardiness, but to his surprise the small man already had his full pack on his shoulders, yar bread in hand and a smile on his face. Artel frowned.
"What are you so pleased about?"
"Look Ar-Sir, over there, the forest is so close, we're nearly out of the plains. Half a days walk I think and we'll reach the edge of the trees."
Artel turned to look and almost grinned in spite of himself. The small man was right, the empty plains swooped away in front of them, rolling gently until they met the edge of the forest whose trees were now individually distinguishable. Their days of traipsing through the barren plains were almost over. Once they reached the forest there would be wood to make fires, they would find fruit and berries to eat and Artel could catch rabbits and other small animals to cook. Artel took the dry yar bread Millon held out to him almost happily, imagining the joy of sinking his teeth into the warm flesh of a cooked rabbit.
"C'mon Millon, nearly there."
He hoisted his pack higher on his shoulders as he strode towards the forest and bit into the dry bread, grimacing at the now all too familiar taste but chewing and swallowing anyway. Millon tightened the straps on his pack and hurried after the knight, his small legs working to keep up with Artel's fast pace.