Stories - Page 14 of 15 - Lyonesse


For the first time since they had chosen him as a child, he was thinking. Ever since he had been taken to the temple and given a tiny underground room and a copy of religious texts, his only thoughts had been of what they had told him. All he believed had been what they had taught him, what he had read by candlelight for hours every night. For many, many years, he and the others of his order had stayed in their abbey within the temple, studying and praying and honing their battle skills. And when their leader had come and said that their country was finally in need of them, to bring the word and slay the heretics of the neighboring, backwards country of Kazimer, they could hardly believe their ears. It had been a hundred years since the Wojciech had been called to fight. Most of the surrounding regions were nominally followers of the sacrificed prophet, he whom they did not name except to call him Prophet or Zhertvu, the sacrificed. Had some demon or some pagan religion overrun what progress had been made in the outer countries?

In his home country of Teodor, many of the state’s actions revolved around serving the sacrificed and undying prophet by taking his word to all corners of the earth. They were on the precipice of creating a mighty empire driven by their technical prowess and their religion. The smaller countries to the west had already pledged their devotion to the Prophet, and joined with Teodor. Now there was Kazimer to the east, Selig to the southeast, Borya to the west of the other coalition countries, and Anshel to the south, and the entire continent would be theirs.

So the elite force of Wojciech legionnaires had set out for Kazimer, filled with righteous fervor to help the poor miners and farmers, and drive out any other beliefs that might damage the souls of the Kazimeri.

But the reality when they had arrived in the country, which Teodor’s budding empire had been warring with for three years, was far different than they thought. To the more perceptive of them, they had become yet another weapon to force Kazimer into submission. But their entire lives, they had been taught to follow orders. Would their prophet allow them to be co-opted for something evil? Perhaps there was still evil for them to fight. But it was getting harder for them to see it. And yet, years and years of training and conditioning made it hard for them to rebel. Many of them blinded themselves to what was really happening, unable to deal with their deep faith and upbringing being manipulated in such a way. Others rationalized it, or some whose eyes were clear but lacked mental strength spent their evenings praying for forgiveness.

Now as he, Arkady Brendon, sat by himself in a Zhertvu temple in Kazimer, he was unsure about what he had been ordered to do.

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The Fourth Fleet

You haven’t felt fear until you’ve been left to die in a giant tin can, one point two billion kilometers from home. The last thing we heard from the pirates was their laughter as they slammed the hatch shut. Then we watched out the tiny windows in terror as they flew away.

We did a thorough inventory of everything they’d left us. It wasn’t much. Our batteries would last us a day or two – and we could probably extend that to a week if we powered down everything non-essential. But they hadn’t left us any fuel to get anywhere, and they’d taken most of the oxygen, too. We weren’t sure yet how much they’d left us. Our harvest – hydrogen and helium rich gases we’d mined out of Neptune’s upper atmosphere – was by far the most valuable thing we’d had on board. They’d taken it first.

They hadn’t left much beyond that, either. Not that we’d had a whole lot to start with. Every ounce of weight was extra money. Lots of extra money, when you shipped it all the way out to Neptunian space. Our little gas mining vessel didn’t have a lot of extra niceties. Just enough to keep me and my two brothers alive for our two year contract.

We had about a day’s worth of food in the crew stores. My brother John had a handful of meal bars that he’d brought on at our last resupply. We’d mocked him at the time for spending most of his per diem trying to put back on all the weight that a tightly rationed space diet had finally helped him shed. Now we wished he’d bought more. A couple of flashlights, the clothes on our backs, two rolls of spacer tape, and a smattering of random tools that hadn’t been properly put away fleshed out our meager belongings.

We did what we could anyway. We powered down most of our systems, instituted emergency food rationing, and limited our activity to preserve the little water and air we had left. We even deployed the solar panels for extra juice, although they wouldn’t do us very much good this far into the outer solar system. We’d take anything we could get. But we didn’t really have any hope. Without any propulsion, we weren’t going anywhere.

Everything changed when Simon tried to power down the harvester.

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The Blacksmith and the Ice Elves

The sun had not been seen for days, and for days they had waited with baited breath. The winter winds from the dread mountains to the east had come early, and soon after them came the tales. By the time the deep and dark and unnatural clouds had rolled into Austr, they had heard all the stories from the fleeing small folk. They knew what was coming for them, but could do nothing but wait. The storms that came with blinding snow made it so they could not leave. So they waited in the bleak darkness for the great horrors from the mountains, a horror they could not stop as they were only a tiny town, and much greater towns had fallen before them. All of their men were gone on the king’s orders, to defend against the raids of Jötunheim. To fight against men, when monsters were pouring from the mighty peaks of the Andlàtbergs. They were alone, defenseless, and trapped.

Still, the few men that were left did what they could to fortify their town. Some of them attempted to dig an escape path into the woods for whoever could make it out, but the attempt was futile. The snow fell so heavily that any progress they made was covered over within minutes. Eventually, once they had done what they could or given up on shoveling snow, they settled down to wait, for there was nothing else to do.

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Cookie Crumbs

“Greta!” Jon called out. It was getting dark. Dad was going to be pissed.

“Greta!” he called again. He pulled out his flashlight but didn’t turn it on yet. It was still light enough for him to avoid the low-hanging branches, but once the sun set he wasn’t sure how much moonlight there would be.

“Greta!” His voice cracked this time. At least no one was around to hear, except maybe Greta. Would she even answer him? Maybe she’d fallen asleep again. Then he’d never find her before nightfall. He wondered how the townsfolk would feel about mounting another search party. Greta wasn’t the only child to get lost in the woods, but she was the only one to make a habit of it.

Jon sighed and ducked to avoid a low-hanging oak branch, then tripped on the roots. He stopped the fall with his hands, and felt something sharp poking out of the moist dirt. Closer examination, with the flashlight on, revealed a broken piece of pottery shaped like a small foot. Faded paint gave it lifelike lines and even suggested some type of ankle bracelet. Jon shivered involuntarily. The other kids liked to talk about a witch in the woods, but Dad believed she’d died a long time ago. What if she hadn’t?

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Death and Taxes… and Fairies

Once upon a time, in a forest far away, there lived a young fairy. Having no other fairies to talk to, she spent her days wandering through the woods. She knew the paths the humans took, and was careful to avoid them. She knew where the last rays of sunlight would hit the forest floor after a long summer’s day. And she knew where to find the freshest, sweetest water that would quench any thirst. One day, after a particularly heavy rain, she checked on her favorite stream and discovered a large book floating in the now muddy waters. The young fairy spent hours cleaning leaves and mud off the book before laying it in the sun to dry. She needn’t have bothered, for the book was magical and when the pages dried, it looked as shiny and new as the day it had been made.

Excited, the fairy sat down to read her new book. To her dismay, the words were written in a language she did not understand. She turned the book upside down, sideways and even tried to read it backwards, but still she couldn’t make sense of the words. She looked at it during different times of day and under the full moon. Nothing helped.

The pictures, however, were clear. They were beautifully illustrated in vibrant colors of yellow, blue and green. They showed her the adventures of other, older fairies. Those pictures enchanted her. She had never met another fairy!And they were so elegant; their wings were large and magnificent and brightly colored in jewel tones. She especially liked a young man whose wings shimmered like amethysts. After that day, the book never left her side, and she could often be found sitting on her favorite sunflower, in a clearing near the creek, studying the ancient tome.

One day, a tax collector from the neighboring kingdom – the kingdom whose humans liked to travel noisily along that trail through the woods – followed a different path.

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