Death Accelerates

The Princess was alone now, sitting in her bed. Kobrol had left her, as she requested. She didn’t want anyone around right now. The Princess didn’t want a shoulder to cry on. She didn’t need a shoulder to cry on. She just needed time to think things through.

But she couldn’t.

Her chest felt like it was caving in on itself and flying apart at the same time. Her hands were clawing at her face bit by bit, maybe trying to force out the emotions with a physical pain; maybe just trying to do something with her hands.

As her hands fell from her face, she let out a wail that echoed through the halls of the castle.

* * * * *

The Princess did not appear for dinner for the next several days. When she finally did, no one could have guessed her family had died. As she walked in, the table fell silent and watched her approach. She wore a maroon gown with brilliant gems sewn into it, and though her crown was always well polished, that night it looked especially shiny. Her gait was as refined as ever, with nary a tremor.

She walked to her seat at the head of the table and sat down. She glanced around at the mute table and said, “And what are you all staring at? Certainly food is more interesting than a new dress.”

Each person at the table slowly returned to their food, though murmurs were widespread. Though they had been told the Princess was alive and healthy, some of them hadn’t believed. Others were questioning the apparel choice; maroon was a dark color, yes, but surely black would be more appropriate. Most were just surprised how well put together she appeared.

After dinner, she met with her father’s, or rather, her, advisors. Brellen was the youngest and quietest, acting as the economic advisor. Sigro wasn’t the oldest, but he looked it. He was the skinniest, most illshapened of them all. Despite his appearance, he acted as the political advisor; fortunately, he had others do the public work. Tirro had a limp from the Red Revolts, which had forced him to put away his sword, and now he acted as the military advisor. Grulen was the oldest, with the grey hair to prove it, even if he was otherwise quite young looking. He was the chief advisor, overseeing the other three.

They were sitting around a circular table with a map of the Taranian kingdom and its surroundings in the center. The South-East was home to the Outlanders, to the North were the Northers, and the sea was to the South and West. The Princess had been taught about these peoples since a young age, but in the end, she knew very little about them besides their savagery.

Sigro spoke first. “The people will not accept a Princess Regent for long, your Highness.”

“Do they doubt my ability, or is that just you?”

Grulen held up a hand and said, “No one is questioning your ability, your Highness. It is all in the title. The people want a King or Queen ruling them. With the title of ‘Princess’ comes the impression of a child.”

“And the only way to confer the title of Queen upon you while we still do not know the status of the Prince,” said Sigro, “is for you to marry.”

The Princess locked eyes with Sigro. Had Sigro been anyone else, he would have withered under the gaze, but he was perfectly used to the very same gaze from the Princess’s mother. “My family was just murdered, and you want me to get married?”

“It is for the safety of the kingdom, your Highness,” said Tirro. He was trying to be respectful and not clench his teeth, but it was difficult work. “So soon after the Reds, the Red supporters are still out there looking for any reason to cause trouble.”

“The assassins were likely Reds, your Highness,” said Brellen. “They don’t want anyone in power because it makes it that much easier for them to start a second revolt.”

Sigro stood. “The way the people are behaving without knowledge of what happened here four days ago presents a clear danger. We will need to tell the public of this event soon, and when we do, we had better have good news, too.”

The other advisors and the Princess stood as well, though she only to prevent them from talking down to her.

“Your father already presented you with suitors,” said Grulen. “We advise you choose one within the week.”

“A week,” the Princess repeated slowly.

“The death of your family accelerates many things. Everyone is forced to make decisions they would rather not; royals and peasants alike.”


A Name, a Meal, and a Plot

The prince took the man’s words to heart, and the next time he had a chance, he asked the Captain of the Guard about him.

“Him?” the Captain replied. “He’s a guard. What do you want to know?”

Though as a prince he was technically higher than the Captain, they had grown up as friends. Neither felt a need for formality.

“What’s his name?” the Prince asked.

“Khalai Sheefeth.”

“That’s a Outlander’s name, isn’t it?”

The Captain grunted and nodded. “Yes. That’s where he’s from, or, where his family’s from. They came over back in the Elian War.”

“That was against the Outlanders, though.”

“And yet your great, great, great grandfather was very keen on having Khalai’s ancestor around. That’s why he gets to wear the black shawl; special privileges from your ancestor to his family. You might ask His Majesty your father about it, I’m sure he knows the history better than I.”

The Prince gave a short laugh. “I hardly get a chance to say good morning to my father, he’s so busy.”

They stood in silence for a few minutes before the Captain broke the silence. “You might ask him,” he said, nodding towards Sheefeth.

The Prince did not respond.

At dinner, the Prince and the Princess sat across from each other, three seats down from their father, with various other family members in between. He told her he had asked the Captain about the guard that had woken them.

“The one of no importance?” the Princess mused.

“Yes. Well, he did say to be curious.”

She nodded with a smile on her face.

“His name’s Khalai Sheefeth.” He relayed the rest of the Captain’s information. Most of it.

When he finished, the Princess put her fork down and stared at him. “He suggested you ask Sheefeth, didn’t he?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Brother, I have known you for all sixteen years of my life. Do you think I can’t read your mind?”

The Prince sighed. “Yeah. Alright, fine. He did suggest that, but I didn’t tell you because I knew you would agree with him.”

“I would have suggested it if he hadn’t. So why don’t you?”

“It’s cheating.”

If it weren’t for her ladyship training, the Princess would have spat out her drink. “That’s your reason? ‘It’s cheating’? I didn’t know curiosity was a game.”

“You looking forward to the dance tonight?”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“Are you looking forward to the dance tonight?”

“Are you just going to ignore me?”

“Are you looking forward to the dance tonight? I hear Lord Kobrol will be there.”

“We’re not done— he will?”

The Prince nodded. “That’s what I heard.”

“Well, then, I am looking forward to the dance, but we’re still not done talking about this Sheefeth.”

“I believe we are.” The Prince wiped his face and stood up. “If you excuse me, and if you will not, I have some work I need to get done before the dance.”

The Princess was the picture of indignant elegance.

“See you at the dance, sister.”

* * * * *

The dance was in full swing by the time the Princess saw Lord Kobrol. She was just about ready to find her brother and give him an earful when Kobrol approached her and asked her to dance. Of all of the suitors presented to her, Kobrol was the most attractive and the one her brother had liked the most.

“Enjoying the night, your Highness?” Kobrol asked as they danced.

Unlike her dances with her brother, this was not about to turn into a frolic. “The night is still young,” she replied tactfully.

“So it is. Much can happen in a few hours.” They danced for two dances, and then Kobrol asked if she would care for a drink. “These dances are a tiring sport.”

“Yes, a drink would be a pleasant change of pace.”

While she was waiting for the drink, her brother spun away from the dance and sat next to her. “So?” he said breathlessly. “How is he?”

“Pleasant.” She wasn’t about to tell him how electric the minimal touching they’d done had been. How a hand in his, one on his shoulder, and his on her back had made her heart race faster than she had ever raced her brother. Such talk wasn’t proper.

But he knew.

“Uh huh.”

Eager to change the subject, she asked him, “And you? Find any fine young ladies?”

He sighed. “You know the court as well as I. The women here are a pox on our generation, with the exception sitting before me.”

“Perhaps it is your judgements that drive all the good ones away.”

“I would not need to judge if they were not judgable.” The Prince stood up. “Lord Kobrol, so good to see you. Are you enjoying the night?”

Kobrol had returned with two drinks, one of which he set in front of the Princess. “Thank you, your Highness. The night is still young.”

“Much can happen in a few hours,” added the Princess. The two of them shared a smile as she took a sip from her glass.

The Prince looked between them for a moment and then shrugged. “The dance calls to me. Enjoy your drinks.”

“Your friend is by the north door!” the Princess called after him as he left.

The Prince glanced towards the door, groaned, and shook his head.

The Princess just smiled. They weren’t done talking about Sheefeth. Not just yet. They still… they…

“Your Highness, are you alright?” Kobrol caught her as she began to fall forward.

“Y-yes, I think so. Just lightheaded all of a sudden.”

Kobrol helped her up. “It’s probably this room. All these people can be suffocating.”

The Princess nodded weakly, and they made their way to the door, trying as best they could not to draw attention. Neither wished for the celebrations to be soured just because of a faint Princess.

They left the room and found a nearby bench to sit on. “How are you feeling now?” Kobrol asked.

“A bit better, thank you,” she lied. She was feeling worse, in all honesty, but as with the rest of the court, she didn’t want the celebration soured by a faint Princess, especially with Kobrol. “I think I just need to lie down for a moment.”

Kobrol immediately got up and took off his outer coat, folded it up, and put it on one end of the bench to act as a pillow. The Princess thanked him weakly and lay down.

Her rest was short lived.

Screams from the dance hall popped her eyes wide open. With some effort, she sat up and saw Kobrol running over to the door. He opened it a moment, releasing the screams from within, and then quickly closed it. He ran back and picked the Princess up without asking permission, but she couldn’t muster the strength to protest.

He ran her to the garden and laid her among some bushes by the river. “Don’t move. I’ll be back for you.” Then he ran away.

The Princess lied there for what seemed like eternity before she heard anyone.

“Where’d he take her?”

“Don’ know.”

The Princess tried to call out, but her body felt paralyzed.

“Why’d he have to take her anywhere?”

“Don’ know.”

Her eyes felt like they were stitched shut.

“This would’ve been simple if they’d all just stuck to dancing.”


The disembodied voices passed by and trailed off into the distance. The Princess waited another eternity before Kobrol returned. “Your Highness, are you alright?”

She could not answer. She felt a hand on her neck, just under her jaw.

“She’s alive,” she heard Kobrol call out. “Just asleep.”

She wasn’t asleep, though.

Kobrol picked her up and carried her out of the garden. At some point along the way, she blacked out, and when she awoke, she found herself in her room with Kobrol by her bedside. He was leaning forward and staring off into space.

She sat herself up. “Lord Kobrol? What happened?”

Kobrol didn’t speak. He just stared straight ahead.

“Kobrol. What happened.”

He sat up straight and looked at her. His face was a shadow of the pleasant charm he used to have. “There was… an attempt… on the lives of the royal family.”

The Princess stared into his eyes. She didn’t want to hear what he was about to say, but she had to.

“Your parents are dead, and your brother is missing. You are the Princess Regent.”

The Synner’s Rival

“Something churns beneath those dark tides.”

The soldier sleeps.

“Worse than the war?”

It is not his time to wake.

“Much worse. Something is coming that will rival the war in its destruction.”

The timer is running low, though.

“How do you know?”

Soon it will run out.

“Can’t you feel it? You are young, yet. When you are older you will feel the Desolate more.”

Soon he will awaken.

“I feel something, but it’s like a mother’s love.”

My soldier will awaken.

“A mother’s love is dangerous. You sense the pure and think it good. There is more to the Desolate than you can yet sense.”

My child is coming.

“What more is there to sense? How can love be evil?”

My little Death.

“Every soldier had a loving mother, and look where that got us.”

The Grim Reaper grows beneath the waves.

“And now there is a destructive love churning in those dark tides.”

Azrael sleeps no more.

Olympian Egyptian

Preface: Another prequel to Alice. This is my first attempt at writing in present tense.

Wait, why can I still think? Isn’t that a spear sticking out of my head? I’m  pretty sure that’s a spear. No, wait, it’s not stuck in my head anymore, someone’s pulled it out. I think they just noticed my eyes flicking back and forth because he just rammed the spear into my chest. Repeatedly.

Yeah, I should be dead. Not that I’m complaining, or anything, but still, I’m pretty sure people die when they get their head smashed in and their body stabbed again and again. I kind of try to stand up, but it doesn’t go so well. He knocks me back down and calls for a mystic.

I try to get up again, this time remembering to deal with the spear, which I use to pull myself up. He jumps back and says a quick prayer to Ammut. I point the spear in his direction and touch my head. I’m pretty sure there shouldn’t be flesh there.

A mystic runs in and exchanges a few words with the soldier. I grab the spear with both hands and start walking towards them. The mystic turns and flashes a medallion at me. I’m disoriented for a few seconds, which is long enough for the mystic to begin the summoning of Anubis.

I know enough to know I should be dead, and they want me to stay that way, especially so that I don’t become a figure of resistance for the other girls. Ammut and Anubis are the ones responsible for that. I attack the mystic, or rather, try to. He flashes a medallion, different from before, and I hit an invisible wall. I walk all around the two of them, but they are protected by the mystic’s powers.

After a few moments, Anubis’s summoning is complete, and he appears behind the wall. He looks between the two of them, the mystic and the soldier, and then tosses them  outside the wall. He stays within, holding the mystic’s medallion.

I take that opportunity to stab the mystic, then the soldier, and then, just for good measure, the mystic again. They’re still breathing, barely. Anubis says, “You would dare attack Serqet?”

The mystic managed to wheeze out, “How were we to know?” before he and the soldier died.

“You weren’t.” He turns to me and says, “Don’t get into trouble.”

Olympian Awakening

Preface: This is the first meeting between Alice, the narrator, and Robert, the two immortals that have been gathering immortals to Mount Olympus.

This was different. Slightly. I was usually asleep. Why was I awake? Oh, my coffin is opening, that would explain it. Who was that looking at me? Definitely not of my time, but I’m not sure what that would even be. “Hello,” I said, or rather, tried to say. It sounded more like gibberish to him.

He screamed.

I sat up. “Oh, that’s right, you wouldn’t speak my language, would you? That’d be too easy.” I’m paraphrasing, of course. The Egyptians didn’t have quite the sense of sarcasm that we do today.

He ran back down the hall.

Oh well, I thought, best start catching up. This little tomb they built for me isn’t much to look at. It was built for purpose, not elegance. I do like the sandstone, though. It’s always had a pleasant quality that modern concrete lacks.

I suppose it didn’t help first impressions much that I had all the mummification getup on. I soon untangled myself from the outer wrappings my people had constrained me with and walked out of the opening the man had made to get in. That’s another thing, my tomb didn’t have any openings, in the hopes that if I did wake up, I would simply die again since I would have no breathable air.

It was a little bright outside. I say a little, it was a lot more than my eyes were used to considering they had been closed for a couple thousand years. So it took me a few minutes to get used to it again. I did notice that the man’s screams had stopped, and when I could see clearly again, I saw that he was lying on the ground with his throat slit. Standing over him was an old man with a knife in his hand.

“Hello,” I said, even though I didn’t think he would understand me.

He looked a little startled, but then replied in perfect Ancient Egyptian, “Good afternoon. You are not dead.”

“And you speak my language.”

“Which has not been spoken for at least 2000 years. You were in the tomb?”

“I was. You killed him?”

“I did.”

I think he could tell this wasn’t getting us anywhere. Neither of us was going to admit what we knew, so he threw the knife into my chest. I was out of practice, so it hit me, and it hurt. I pulled it out and the wound sealed, but it still hurt some. I threw it back, but into his leg. He didn’t espect it, so it found its mark. He, of course, pulled it out, and the wound sealed.

Now that we had established ourselves as immortal, we continued our questioning.

“You are immortal,” he said.

“It used to be common,” I replied.

“It’s not anymore.”

“How do you know that?”

A question that isn’t simple stops banter like nothing else. As such, he didn’t reply for a while. Eventually, though, he conceded, “I don’t know.”

“Let’s go find them, then.”

Silvano Winston Part 2

My dark room study days were some fun days. I and a few others were part of what we called ‘The Scales.’ It sounds fancier than it is. The idea for the name came from the symbolism between scales and balance. We had been preparing for the inevitable end of democracy, whether it came in our lifetime or not. We were so good at our jobs that we probably knew more about the government than the people in it did.

There were five of us. Coincidentally, we used codenames related to space. The first of us went by the name Nova. He organized us and made sure we were all staying hidden. The next was known as Darkmatter. He was our hacker and database administrator, and kept us up to date on what the government was up to. Deimos and Phobos were our field agents. They worked in the higher levels of government, but I never found out what as. Then there was me, Kepler. I analyzed anything Darkmatter, Deimos, or Phobos sent me; coded messages, schematics, that sort of thing.

The government was completely transparent to us. If it was on their network, we had access to it. If it was in writing, we would find out about it and get pictures or copies. It wasn’t to make money. Selling the information was never a goal. We used this information to keep an eye on the inner workings of the government, and make sure there were no attempts to take away the peoples’ rights. If there had been, and it wasn’t stopped by politics, we would have started a revolution.

As it is, it never got to that point. The aliens arrived before that could happen, and when they arrived, our goals shifted to figuring them out. We needed to figure out how to monitor them to the same degree that we had been monitoring our own government. So we started a few small rebellions against the aliens around the world to see how they reacted. To say they were aggressive would be an understatement. Nevertheless, we had the information we needed.

Silvano Winston Part 1

I could hear the sickening hum of the alien craft in the distance. I knew my glamour would hide me from their scanners, but visual clues would give me away, especially the path I had made coming into the forest. I was walking close to the trees, where the snow had been naturally packed down by falling debris.

I flattened myself against a tree as a Romal craft flew overhead. I wouldn’t usually, but right now I would rather be with the cows in the nearby farm, those used to provide us food before First Contact, than with these aliens. I was actually pretty impressed with myself.

I had gotten probably a cohort of Romals chasing me. Now what could I possibly have done to attract so much of the redskins’ attention? Wouldn’t you like to know.

The name’s Silvano Demetrius Winston. I was quite the alien conspiracy nut before First Contact. For those of you old enough to remember, that probably conjures up some fat guy sitting in his basement in the dark looking at a computer screen. That wasn’t quite me. The dark room and computer screen is true, but usually separately.

I was a scientist that specialized in analyzing samples of various kinds; metals, salts, gases, plants, animals, genetics, just about anything. It was all innocent enough until a professor friend called me up and told me about a scientist convention.  The scientists there had created a strange substance and he asked me to work my magic on it and analyze it.

I analyzed it, and found that it was putting out a signal that traveled at effectively instantaneous speeds, even faster than light. The signal was an amazing find, and the professor said he would do an in depth study of it and release a paper on it.

Come next month and I hadn’t seen anything of the sort, so I called him. He didn’t respond. After several attempts to reach him, I found out he had quit his job at the university and moved away without telling anyone where he was going.

I only had to wait another month before I heard anything from him. He called and asked me to come and get the sample. I arrived at the agreed upon meeting place, and the professor quickly handed it off to me and drove off before I could say anything.

Fast forward another three months. I hadn’t made any progress in understanding the sample. What I had made progress in was my dark room studies. Wouldn’t you like to know what that was? All in good time, though. In relation to that, I learned that NASA and other space agencies had spotted a strange, large object coming towards us through space.

It was about 200 kilometers across, which was enough cause for distress, but it was strangely symmetrical. It was, of course, the Mothership, which we soon found out as it came into orbit around us, and we sent up an emergency space mission.

It was impromptu, but fairly well organized. I expect there were government provisions for this sort of thing. Five astronauts went up to determine what it was, and, if it was indeed alien, try to communicate with the inhabitants. I’m not sure how they hoped to communicate, given what we knew of the aliens at the time. There was no guarantee that either race would understand the other.

As it was, they had no luck getting into the craft, which from close up, it was pretty obvious that it was indeed of alien design. They tried their hand at radio, light, and any other form of communication they could think of. Unsurprisingly, they received no response. Until they were about to deorbit, that is.

The alien craft radioed back the astronauts that the atmosphere of our planet was incompatible, but that they were working on a solution for that. The aliens had quickly scanned all of our communications channels in order to communicate. They’ve had so much experience with ‘alien’ languages that ours was a piece of cake.

Most of you probably know the rest of their arrival. The Romals came down and asked us to work in their shipyards. It was supposedly a perfect deal. They got ships for their war and we got jobs. They had mentioned the other race that would come, but we forgot about that when there was nothing, even with the high orbit space stations that prevented unauthorized ships from warping into their sphere of influence. It wasn’t until the next year, after we had gotten comfortable with our new alien overlords, that there were the first signs of the Britals.

The Romals started to accelerate production of their ships, which meant more work for us. More and more ships warped into orbit and spread out around the entire planet. Soon we saw the reason for this business, when a new kind of ship warped in just outside the sphere of influence of the warp dampeners.

It was similar in design to the drones the Romals used to pinpoint our location. The Romal fleet quickly flew out to destroy it, but the Britals began warping in before the Romals got in range. The intergalactic war we had been warned about had begun. Maybe next time I’ll tell you about my dark room activities.