Tag Archives: fantasy writing

The Strife: Part Three

It’s that time again and we’re picking up right where we left off. What’s waiting for Zhev behind that door? A well-deserved reward or something more akin to what he saw in the lobby?

Enjoy, and I’ll catch you on the other side!

Desire

The two men eyed Zhev impassively and allowed him to step through the now-open door. Within it the scene changed. The lighting of Strife Lord Desire’s office wasn’t nearly as stark as that in the rest of the building and seemed to radiate warmth. Zhev stepped in and the door clicked shut behind him, causing Desire’s gaze to shift to where he stood. She smiled, though there was nothing resembling joy in the expression.  

Strife Lords did not experience emotion in any way which humans could understand and, he’d heard, any emotion displayed on their faces was an acquired reaction. That was something else he’d never really believed, but after seeing the Held in the lobby, he was beginning to wonder what else was true about Strife Lords.

“Come, sit.” Desire motioned to the chair in front of her and Zhev crossed the space to it swiftly, trying not to look over-eager. Silence fell as Desire studied him, wearing her same smile. Zhev resisted the urge to shuffle about uncomfortably under her scrutiny, but only just. Then she leaned back and seemed to stifle a yawn.

“Zhevicra, D.” She commented.

“Yes, Strife Lord.”

“You’ve done commendable works in my service.” Her voice was like nothing he’d heard before and he couldn’t quite make out whether it was female, male, some mixture of both or neither. It sounded, ridiculously, like… Earth… moving?

“Thank you, Strife Lord.”

“Tell me,” she continued, almost cutting him off. “Does it pain you to harm your fellow man?” Her eyes glittered with what he would have called malice in a human. Zhev considered the question. Of all the things he’d ever felt whilst interrogating people he doubted that pain was one of them. Perhaps disgust was the closest approximation.

“No, Strife Lord.” He concluded.

She took a long pause which seemed less like purposeful intimidation, and more like she’d forgotten his existence. “And why not?” The Earth moved again.

“They disobey the natural order of things.”

Desire seemed pleased with his answer, her smile beginning to resemble something more genuine and she shifted gracefully in her chair, taking a curl of her hair in hand and caressing it. Zhev thought she looked like a cat, languid yet vigilant, ready to explode in a disproportionate display of power at the slightest provocation. She certainly didn’t seem very human, though she’d chosen for herself a very curvaceous form and wore little to hide it from the world. Zhev wondered if she was capable of feeling cold as he noted that the temperature of the room had him rubbing his hands together for warmth. Desire continued to watch him intently and he attempted to avoid her gaze when it roamed to his face.

He knew that almost all who saw Desire fell under some strange spell of lust for her, and he’d anticipated the event. Yet now, as he sat and took in the scent and sight of her he felt nothing more than the mundane, mostly conditioned stirrings which were so much a part of his life he hardly ever noticed them anymore. The Strife Lord seemed to pick up on his thoughts and laughed softly. She leaned closer to him. “I’ve no need to cast spells,”

She let the curl she’d been toying with fall from her fingers and twirled her hand gracefully. “Do you not know my name? I am desire.” Rocks somewhere underneath the Earth were grinding, grinding, grinding against one another. How could he hear that? Was he hearing that? Or Her? “If I chose it, you’d be abasing yourself simply for the privilege of breathing this air.” Desire held out a hand, accentuating her point by sending a small shiver of longing through Zhev’s body.

The move felt like what it was – the cheap parlour trick of a magician who called the cosmos her stage.

Still, the alien sensation jarred Zhev, who leaned deep into the back of his chair, recoiling from her and from his own body. He wondered if this was all it had taken to rouse Desire to enough anger to Hold those who now decorated her lobby. In the time it took Zhev to regain control of himself, the Strife Lord had fallen silent, and looked contemplative. She shifted her gaze to him again and yawned, taking a curl of hair back between her fingers and twisting.

Zhev stifled the urge to shift in his seat.

“You’ll undergo the rite tomorrow.” She said. “I don’t recommend you do anything strenuous, tonight.” Voice flat like clay disks, eyes laughing like streams. “You must be strong, to survive.” And now, again, grinding rocks.

Assuming that to be the end of their meeting, Zhev got up, bowed deeply and moved to the place where he remembered the door to have been, again trying not to appear hurried. His heart beat loudly in his ears and a chill crept into his mind and then outward to his fingers. The wall parted silently and Zhev suppressed a gasp when he saw the figure on the other side.

She was similar to the Strife Lord in some manner he didn’t understand, since they looked nothing alike. She wore a severe black dress, her skin and features appearing to fade in and out of the various shades of human complexion. Her hair, which was every colour and possibly none, was pulled neatly into a ponytail and swayed like a whip as she moved past him. Zhev took a sharp breath when she cast him a sideways glance, and it suddenly seemed imperative that he leave before he lost… something. Something vital and alive.

So he willed his legs out of their langour, and walked out of the Strife Lord’s office. As the door clicked again behind him, he breathed out a lungful of air he hadn’t been aware of holding.

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

The Strife: Part Two

Happy Sunday, all!

This week we get into the story itself. You’ve already read about the beginning, and have a cryptic letter written by a dying man… but what does that have to do with anything? Today, you’ll start to find out.

Enjoy, and see you next week for the next episode.

Preparations

Those who dared to speak of such things insisted that there was a time when the Strife Lords did not rule the world. They said that once, humans were free to govern themselves and that in those times, life had been good and peaceful. Because people, they insisted, are good and kind and peaceful.

This had not been Zhev’s experience of his fellow man. In fact, if he was any indication, the reign of the Strife Lords had done nothing more than channel human cruelty.  And so it mattered little whether there had been a life ‘before’ them. Zhev enjoyed his position of power over other people and noted, with scorn, that the only ones daft enough to say such things were those who had no power themselves.

All these things whirled around in Zhev’s head as he washed himself in preparation for the day to come. Born the runt of a family of six, he’d always been treated as though he was worthless and had been fully expected to die when he joined the ranks of Strife Lord Desire’s army. But instead, his subtle brand of cruelty had distinguished him as a man gifted in extracting truths from those who’d rather not speak them. This was where he’d heard many of these foolish sentiments voiced: from would-be conspirators and failed saboteurs.

He thought over his many interrogations, his many successes, and his heart filled with pride. He richly deserved the reward he would receive today.

Zhev scowled as he opened the doors to his scant wardrobe. Until now he’d needed, and wanted, little more than his uniforms and a few sets of clothes in which to train. For this occasion, he’d had a suit tailored and now looked at it with disappointment. Unlike those worn by the Fiends who’s ranks he aspired to join, Zhev’s suit lacked command and did nothing at all for his impressive form. He cast it aside, deciding it would be best to dress in something more familiar. Carefully he clothed himself in the uniform of an Interrogator. The red collars were decorated with all his many medals which he polished every week to keep in spotless condition.

Zhev looked himself over in the lone mirror which hung in his apartment and nodded approval. The uniform impressed upon all who would pass him both his rank and his stature, which, taken together, made him a rather menacing figure. He strode down the corridors of his apartment complex with his head held high, defying any to look him in the eye as they passed. None did, and he made his way undisturbed to the street.

There, a black car waited to transport him to the Strife Lord’s offices in Sector A. Zhev took in all the sights around him keenly as the car made its way slowly down the streets. A partition separated him from the driver so there was nobody to disturb his silent self-aggrandisement. When the car came to a halt, Zhev let himself out and found that he stood before a building which had no windows and no doors. The structure seemed to be composed of a metallic glass and when he approached it, a section slid silently open before him to reveal a massive entranceway. Zhev stepped in, trying to hide his awe.

Statues dotted the hall, which stood devoid of any other furnishings. Wondering how such human-esque figures had been made, Zhev stepped close to one and realised that it was a human, held perfectly still by some… something. He’d heard that the Strife Lords had the power to do such things but had never truly believed it. He shuddered, chastised himself for it, and continued on his path to the elevators, which he only knew to be there because of the black trim denoting the doors. As he approached, one set of doors slid open. He stepped in, and they closed behind him. He searched around for the button to the 80th floor and only realised after the doors opened again that the elevator had been moving. So, Strife Lord Desire did have a flair for the dramatic, Zhev smiled to himself. Seemed that sometimes, people were correct.

And why not? he thought. If he owned everything within sight he’d have a certain flair, too.

Zhev stepped out into a foyer. His shoes clipped out a rapid staccato as he walked to a desk where a secretary sat, looking both intensely absorbed in and bored by her work. He cleared his throat and she looked up at him. Her eyes, he noted, were purple. She wasn’t human. And neither were the two men who stood guard outside the entrance to Desire’s office, their silver hair lying slick against their heads. The secretary looked down, clicked away at her computer, looked up and nodded, more to herself than him.

Zhev had long ago mastered the nervous need to fill awkward silences, and that was just as well because he didn’t think this woman would respond if he spoke. So he held her eyes, she held his, and held. And held. Finally, she told him he could go in and then was once more absorbed in her tasks.

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

Shadow Wraith: The Librarian

The Librarian

—-

Rena made her way slowly from Faril’s desk and to the back of the library, taking a new route with each trip. By the fourth load she had figured out that if she walked straight from the desk, through the first row of books, took a left and counted four rows then walked down, the trip was significantly shorter. There were no ladders and no students crowding the way. Yet even with this improvement she knew that she’d spend the entire afternoon stacking then organising books. The task would likely run on into tomorrow’s schedule as well.

At times like these Rena was tempted to think that had she not gotten this apprenticeship her life would be so much simpler. But the opportunity was not one to be passed up. Each Librarian was allowed to choose up to three apprentices and while the other four had taken full advantage of that, Faril had only selected her. He said the other applicants were far too driven by political ambition, and not by a love of knowledge. Did Rena love knowledge? She still had no idea. But right now, she thought, I really hate this job.

As if called by her disdain Faril opened the front doors at that moment. While the other Librarians could easily be called elderly, Faril looked to be just on the outer limits of middle-age, with some grey creeping into his thick brown hair. It was likely just personal bias but Rena considered him the best of the Librarians: very approachable, passionate about scholarly work and a wonderful story-teller. They were qualities which made her look forward to the walk from the library to the residences when she’d finished her work.

Today Faril seemed to want to get as much done as possible. He hadn’t called her out to sit on the benches with him for lunch. He’d instead requested that she stay in the library and continue working. It wasn’t like Faril to ask that, but she had heard some of the other apprentices the night before talking about how this shipment of books contained a work of great personal value to the older man.

Curious, Rena was scanning the titles of each stack to see what it might be. She knew that Faril’s field of study was ancient weaponry. He kept an impressive collection of his favourite daggers, swords, whips and whatever else in his private chambers in the residences. One of the perks of being his apprentice was that she got to learn all about his travels and his collection. Though Rena was interested in ancient cultures as a whole, she spent a lot of time discussing weapons with Faril. Today, however, Faril had no time for talk and he shuffled his way loudly to the back table where Rena had been stacking the books.

She saw him raise a slender finger and run it from the top to bottom of each stack. Rena watched intently, forgetting about the load of books still in her hands. In the third stack he found what he had been looking for. Rena examined it from her place at the end of the row but couldn’t make out a name.

The book was small, with a leather covering and paper so worn it rustled at the librarian’s touch and she was sure it needed to be kept in the Restoration Room. Faril thumbed through it carefully before sighing contentedly and placing the book in some hidden pocket beneath his robes.

He greeted her with a stiff nod and small smile as he scurried back out of the library. Rena watched him walk to his rooms through the windows before hurrying to where he’d removed the book. She ran her fingers over the two books which had been above and below it, trying to remember the intervening title. Her brow furrowed in concentration and she stood for several moments before deciding that she was not forgetting the title: the little book simply hadn’t had one. It had struck her as more akin to a diary than any sort of scholarly work and she wished now that she’d taken note of its contents instead of gravitating towards the more grandiose titles.

Shadow Wraith: Introduction

The Wrecks

—-

Haerith was a beautiful continent. It always had been, Svorin thought. He peered from the mouth of the cave past the water and to the grassy shores of Alatra. Though an ancient country in terms of the written histories, Alatra was still new in his eyes. He’d only heard of it several hundred years ago, sometime after the fall of Korin, his birth state. How short the written histories were; so lacking in culture and knowledge. Yet today people all around Saiala considered themselves so much more civilised than their illiterate forebearers. Svorin gave a soft snort at the idea and retreated back into the cave.

His bare feet made soft pattering noises as they met the rock and he allowed himself to focus on the restful rhythm of it. No more than fifty paces into the cave he found Ithryel sitting in the little enclave she had decided was the ‘peaceful corner’ of the large entry cave. So many centuries and she still held onto some semblance of running a household. Svorin complained of course, but really he enjoyed it. Ithryel was higher born than he was and some of her habits still fascinated him. He’d never admit it, though she clearly knew. It was a matter of pride. She knew that, too.

“Why do you insist on reading that rubbish?” He queried.

Ithryel looked up from her perch and smiled. The cover of the text in her hands read ‘Ancient Myths from the Three Lands’. Thenis had brought it with her when she’d come to give her report to the others and Ithryel hadn’t put it down since.

“I want to know what they say about us, of course.” The smile lingered as she read a passage from the text in an officious voice. “’Shadow Wraith lore dates back to the dark times when all Saiala is said to have been engulfed by a never-ending cloud. These times, known in popular mythology as The Woe, are said to have lasted for many decades. As we see from Rilarian myths of the time, people believed that the darkness was caused by gods who were waging a war in the skies.

‘The Shadow Wraith are said to be twelve warriors imbued with superhuman abilities by the goddess Issalu (see Creation myths). Their role is to protect the WorldSoul, a vessel said to house all the power of the goddess Issalu, thereby keeping the world from falling back into The Woe’” Ithryel looked up at her companion. The smile was gone, replaced now by thin-lipped recognition of the truth.

“Amazing how much they got right, isn’t it, kin of mine?” Whenever she felt nostalgic Ithryel would call her fellow Shadow Wraith ‘kin of mine’. Svorin found it mildly endearing but said nothing. They all had their ways of dealing with the burden they carried. He found Ithryel’s method far more appealing than Qast’s borderline-fanaticism, at any rate. Or Millen’s brooding silences… Svorin’s thoughts wandered to his dear friend Millen, who was no doubt practicing his skills somewhere solitary at that very moment.

After more than two thousand years there really was very little, if anything, left to know about each other. Even those who had initially tried to keep parts of themselves hidden away had come out with their dark truths when they realised that all those to whom they had sworn oaths of silence, or wronged, were dead. And so were their children. And many generations past that. But Millen was the exception that proved the rule. He had never opened up, never surrendered his guilt to the forgiveness of time and he’d never stopped…

Ithryel’s laugh cut through the silence and Svorin snapped back to the present, realising he had been about to take a wrong turn into the sleep cavern. Correcting his course, he again allowed his mind to meander to its oldest memories. The steady pattering of his feet brought him comfort and by the time he reached the hidden away little enclave he called his own, a smile of contentment had spread on his face. Next time the others came in he had to remember to ask them for more of his favourite sherry. Thousands of years and the recipe hadn’t changed a bit. Somebody should write a book about that, he mused.