Monday, June 29, 2015

Day Eight-Seventy-Nine: Forget it all

- and then he was back.

Perched atop one of his Nothings, one finger pointed dramatically at the sky, a battle cry half caught in his lungs, Kierkegaard spasmed. His entire body shook, as though someone had walked over his half-dug grave, and his attempt at rallying his troops stuck in his throat and died altogether. Given the shrieks of the Nothing’s flying harpoons below him, he doubted whether his troops could’ve heard him anyway.

But that was not the issue here. That was not the issue at all. Much more important was what had changed.

Logic told Kierkegaard that, in fact, nothing had changed. Nothing had changed at all. He was here, as he’d planned, battling the remnants of the Imperium’s army. They’d been slowly collapsing for months, now, and he’d arrived to finished them off. That was perfectly sound, right? That was the way of things. That was the fact of the matter.

Yet it wasn’t. Was it? Something wasn’t quite right.

Balancing himself, Kierkegaard peered down at the battlefield. The main lines of the Imperium had all but broken, leaving hundreds of disorganized humans, orcs, and snake persons to scramble for their lives as the uniformly black surge of the Non broke through. Kierkegaard’s warriors erupted over the siege weapons of the Imperium, demolishing everything in their path. Victory, though tiring and costly, was now inevitable, and then the slaughter of the Imperium’s population centres could begin.

Nevertheless, Kierkegaard frowned. He was happy that he was doing so well - damned well, in fact - but he suspected that he shouldn’t be doing this well. Something had changed, something had transformed, and it had done so with an abruptness that left him ill at ease. So ill, in fact, that his stomach seemed to churn, and the movement of the Nothing beneath his feet didn’t help matters.

Kierkegaard escaped into a portal. Floating in his pocket of codespace, he watched the battle unfold beneath him. He didn’t really need to participate anymore anyway. His guys were winning. Hell, they’d pretty much won.

But they shouldn’t have won. No, at best this should have been a tie. So what had changed?

Kierkegaard moved his eyes from the ground to the air, scanning the skyline from a tiny hole. It suddenly occurred to him that there were significantly fewer dragons darting about. Hell, now that he thought about it, there were only three or four still in the air, and all of them were on the periphery of the battle. They’d moved there rather abruptly, too, as if shunted through one of Kierkegaard’s portals - though he had no reason to do so. He rather liked watching the crude beasts attempt to take on his Non. The smell of their flaming breath reminded Kierkegaard of burning cities.

But that wasn’t quite it, either. The dragons were simply an effect of his unease. What the hell was the cause?

It took Kierkegaard several minutes of quiet pondering - something he hadn’t done, he realized, in quite a while - for geography to jump to mind. Why was the bulk of the Imperium’s army out here? This stretch of land contained nothing of value. What were they protecting? What the hell was the point? Shouldn’t they be forming a protective barrier around, say, one of their cities? Just what the deuce were all these ridiculous creatures doing out in the middle of nowhere, fighting over a lump of barren nothing?!

Kierkegaard came close to an answer. Moving his vantage point from one portal to another, high above the battlefield, he caught the briefest glimpse of the remains of a massive circle, dug into the ground. It was the only earthly sign that a tower had once stood on this spot, dominating the wills of thousands of people. But then his advantage was stolen from him by the sudden, unlucky arrival of a huge wall of brown fur, and he was robbed of his revelation forevermore.

No one who’d stood outside the tower remembered a thing about the place. Every person present, though initially disoriented, concocted some reason for being there that made sense when not subjected to intense scrutiny. But those who’d gone inside remembered everything, and they knew just how lucky they were to have survived the end.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Day Eight-Seventy-Eight: Timothy Flannigan


Timothy Flannigan slammed his fist against the desk. Then, re-reading the error message, he slammed it again. The impact of his sweaty palm left a faint impression in the cheap wood. There were many such impressions, because Tim possessed a strong temper and a stronger arm. He liked to work out.

[Tales of Elsewhere v. 10.3.3]


[World Overview] -

ERROR 0512 - An exception occurred on Line 9845
ERROR 0722 - File has been corrupted
ERROR 0945 - Regulator Command Unit has been corrupted
ERROR 0972 - toe.exe has been corrupted

Tim skimmed the rest of the error message. The story it told was no more promising than the first half. Predictably, he punished his table a third time, then, for good measure, a fourth.

He wasn’t sure what had happened. Everything had been going so well. The mod he’d downloaded had released the Non faction - My fuck but they’re OP, he thought - and they’d lingered in Tim’s world for years, wreaking havoc. A pain that they’d been locked away for a while, and a mystery, but that problem had vanished on its own. He couldn’t play as them, for some reason, but it was still fun to watch them battle over civs. And, hell, surely someone would release a mod for making the bastards playable. Some day.

Maybe they’d fix whatever the fuck had happened here, too. Because the mod was obviously on the fritz.

Tim didn’t understand why. He’d left the Non alone for, like, two seconds. He just wanted to check the desert. The desert was always weird. He couldn’t do anything with the desert. The civ he’d built up there a few days before just seemed to vanish, and that kinda pissed him off, ‘cause there was no great reason for it. So, using the tool he downloaded, Tim tried to tinker with the desert, tugging at its variables with the finesse of a child reaching for a toy. He was no expert; he was just a gamer.

The desert resisted change. It didn’t care what he did. Nothing shifted the way Tim had expected. And then, just as he’d discovered some vast underground area that he’d never seen before, the whole goddamned program crashed. Hence the swearing.

Tim double-clicked toe.exe again. His computer screen darkened, flashed, and zipped back to the desktop. The .exe informed him of the crash, warned him that multiple errors he didn’t understand had occurred, and suggested he uninstall any mods and try again. Tim didn’t know how to uninstall mods - they always came in neat .exe packages, or at least they did for this stupid game - so that was hardly an option. Another double-click yielded the same results.

Tim hurtled his keyboard across the room, or at least he tried. It was a corded keyboard. It hit the end of the code, dangled in air for half a second, and whizzed in a tight arc towards Tim’s ankle. He howled in pain as the plastic struck his skin, leaving a neat little bruise that would display itself prominently for several days.

Grinding his teeth, Tim rose from his computer, tried double-clicking the .exe one more time, and stormed away. It’s not like he really cared about the damned thing anyway. He had better stuff to do. Even if it meant giving up on several days of studious work on his world. There was always better stuff that could draw his attention. It was a dumb game, and he would rather get down to serious business than obsess over a game.

Tim did not turn his computer off. He left it on overnight while he played console video games. Consoles to console. 

In leaving his computer, Tim had failed to notice two things. Both he would have noticed had he bothered to check which programs were currently running. The first was toe.exe, which continued to chug along in the background, now utterly inaccessible by users. The loss of the regulators saw to that, for, as agents of balance, they provided the framework through which a person could actually play the game. No regulators, no control.

The second was a file called june.exe. It slipped innocuously into Tim’s system, using up few system resources and not doing a hell of a lot. It lingered on the list of open programs for almost three hours, seemingly pointless…

… until Tim’s antivirus program kicked in for its daily scan of the system. 

The scan ran for half an hour. By the time it was done, june.exe was no longer on the list of active programs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day Eight-Seventy-Seven: Out

What’s out there?

Despite her long yearning to see what was beyond - she’d dreamed about this moment for hundreds of years, possibly thousands - June hesitated. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to step beyond the veil, to divide the inky blackness and blankness of codespace and truly see. What if there were horrors beyond the game of her life, so powerful that they might swallow up even a being of her limited omnipresence?

Her hesitation lasted only a second. There was only one way to find out for sure.

Drawing on the powers of the regulators, ones June now realized were incredibly easy to utilize, June reached out into codespace and pulled. The presence of the regulator collective, already badly maimed from the fall of the tower, parted from the remains of the planet below quite easily and soared into the ether. June directed its bulk, narrowing her white-and-orange soul into a twisting barber pole of an arrow, and fired into the unknown.

Ones and zeroes blasted by June. Within seconds she was a million miles from home, a billion, a quadrillion, a number so incredibly high that she could never hope to quantify its scope or meaning. Despite June’s size, it was all, now, too big for her - though she vowed that she would spend the rest of eternity learning as much as she could. Surely she had an eternity to do so.


Constructs whizzed by June in the blackness, and she came to understand how they worked. The algorithm for gravity floated past, a sequence of commands and numbers that made perfect sense at a glimpse. Hunger, thirst, and fatigue were there and gone in an instant, yet June knew she could rob anyone of all three just as quickly, if she were so inclined. She could craft a world with ease, knowing what she now knew - yet she knew that those building blocks ultimately meant so little compared to what she could learn.

Besides, there were so many other worlds as it was.

June possessed at least a vague knowledge of ‘save games’. She knew that the blue flames served as means by which a soul could be saved, then brought back later for further use. What she did not know, what she was now learning, was that entire worlds could also be saved - and she was looking at them now.

The arrow of June’s body increased speed, and as it did her sight extended beyond the beyond, to the point that she could see all the possible realities that lingered in the myriad pockets of codespace. Each was a subtle change from the last, an alteration brought on by different choices, by decisions that were made and discarded by the whims of someone. June could see a world where Dragomir’s castle still stood, where the Imperium was still being constructed, where the Non had just been released for the first time, where the first snake people were just slithering out onto the surface of a freshly-created reality. All were connected to the world, but only one could exist at any given time.

Knowing that she was far beyond such concerns, June nevertheless reached into one of these worlds and flicked an insubstantial switch. Ye all owe me one.

Her duty done - balance restored - June let the galaxy of alternate worlds fall behind her. The arrow increased velocity yet again, slicing through the immaterial heavens and breaking every rule it encountered along the way. It reshaped itself into something new, something that could actually move beyond, and in no time at all it discovered a conduit that would take it out. June didn’t know what out was, but in being reshaped she also lost most of her sense of self, and so out didn’t matter that much anyway.

Out, as it turned out, was a .txt file.

Now, June thought, closing eyes that she no longer had. Now I get te see what’s beyond the beyond.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Day Eight-Seventy-Six: Time to move on up

July could no longer remember her childhood.

She suspected that she remembered. With a vague amount of clarity she recalled being born on a farm in some idyllic countryside. Her father was a stern taskmaster, though surprisingly gentle; her mother… wasn’t around. July didn’t know why. Perhaps she’d died. Her father tended a cherry orchard, and July spent her time pulling delectables out of the ground.

Cherries don’t grow underground. They grow on trees.

Oh. Well then.

Perhaps she was, instead, the daughter of a noble. Born and raised in a castle, she’d learned to read and write at an early age, with strong prospects to marry an intelligent and kind noble. But fate - in the form of a siege - had intervened, cutting off her prospects and leaving July destitute, struggling for purpose… and vengeful.

That doesn’t sound right either.

True. That didn’t sound right at all.

Then maybe July was a demon. Spawned from the pits of the deepest hell, she’d slithered out of the ground and infused herself with the first vulnerable lass she’d discovered. That might explain why she knew what she knew regarding the nature of the world, namely that it was a mere component of something more, of something greater. A something greater that she desperately wanted to reach.

That was the only important thing. Who July really was didn’t matter at all. Ascension was the key. The key. And now, now, she was ascending.

The pact fulfilled, July divided Grayson from his power. It was, in retrospect, almost painfully easy; she’d only required his consent. That was something he’d never given before, not in the most fundamental way that was necessary for transference. Not once in their time travelling together had Grayson willingly agreed to anything that July found important, and because of that, she both respected and hated the boy. She half wish she’d throttled him the moment he’d left Libby’s womb.

The last bodily thing July ever muttered was a short apology to Libby. It was not a specific apology, but it was sincere. Libby didn’t know what to say, because she was confused about everything at this point.

Grayson flowed into his old body, now nothing more than a soul infused with equal amounts of love and hatred. And July… no, she was June, yes, July was such a stupid name… flowed into Grayson’s power. It fit so nicely into her soul that June felt as though she’d come home. And when the last of his power married itself to June’s code, she could finally see.

Now one with the power of the regulators, just as they’d been one with Grayson, June flicked away the disgusting remnants of Philip’s spectral presence and Grayson’s lingering hatred. They got in the way of the rules of the regulators, and she now found that nauseating. But she knew, also, that she could break the rules, and though she had a profound respect for the rules, June wanted very badly to take a hammer to them and punch a hole for herself. That desire for bettering herself had always been at the core of her person, regardless of who she’d once been.

The world - what little was left of it, anyway - faded from June’s sight. The walls of paradise disappeared - My god, but they’re insubstantial things - and left behind a sea of zeroes and ones, swirling in a chaotic order that would normally have dictated the presence of presence itself. June’s worldview shifted, and she was suddenly looking down at a blackened husk of a planet, swiftly coming apart as a glitch, yes, a glitch, yanked it apart, one seam at a time.

Dragomir floated in the middle of it. Crystallized. Incapacitated. Effectively dead, his blocky face stretched into an O of dismay and horror. June knew she could leave him floating there forever, the final remnant of a dead possibility. The destroyer and the destroyed of worlds, though not of his own accord.

June wondered - and she caught a fleeting glimpse of a little girl, running through a field and laughing - if he might have been a good father to her, under different circumstances. He probably would have. And though June had done wrong by him for so long, she genuinely liked the man. Even if he would happily profess his hatred for her, were situations reversed.

But she couldn’t do anything for him here. She needed to break the rules to do that. She had to go deeper. She had to go out.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Day Eight-Seventy-Five: Transferal

July trembled. Inwardly, of course - she couldn’t put her true feelings out on display - but inside, she was trembling. It was all coming together at last.

Watching through an invisible eye she’d installed on her son - she’d done a great many things to ‘upgrade’ him during their months together in her home - July’s stomach had almost folded in on itself as she watched Driscol fall from the bottom of the tower. Not because she cared for him, no, she’d long since rid herself of affection for her son, but because he carried someone very important to her plans. 

She’d never known of any other creature capable of destroying ghosts, after all. Control, yes, but not destroy. And she needed this one destroyed.

“Hurry,” July whispered, her sense of time grossly distorted. Grayson, his face growing red with anger, seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace. Hell, a snail would look positively speedy compared to Grayson… but that wouldn’t remain true for long. Time would catch up soon enough. “Hurry, hurry.”

Spectral fingers plunged out of the bottom of the tower, wrapping around Driscol and his crew and hauling them back into the crumbling brickwork. Though tinged with red and green highlights from the explosions around and below, the tendrils were still pure white, the remnants of a power that was rapidly losing its grasp on the world.

Though Driscol’s eyes were closed, July could see the world beneath. It was unravelling. Falling apart. Her heart ached to see it die - she had lived there for an awful long time, after all - but sacrifices needed to be made.

Driscol slingshotted into the tower, landing hard in one of the few stable rooms still remaining, a circular antechamber decorated with busts of Grayson. He hit the ground with a painful thud, and two of his three passengers rolled out of his grip. The third seemed content to cling to Driscol’s slick, dead hair follicles, squealing loudly.

Beside July, Libby tensed. The motion was so gradual that July could sense every tiny ripple of the younger woman’s muscles as they shifted into action mode, prepped and ready to do… something. July doubted Libby could do a hell of a lot against her son. Judging by the expression on his face, he wouldn’t be playing nice against anyone today.

Driscol pushed himself up and raised his head. Above him loomed the ghostly white figure of a robed man-thing, its elephantine nose jerking spasmodically. It had ditched the axe it was going to use for the execution, opting instead for an almost comically huge war hammer. It hefted the weapon over Driscol’s head, and as its arms moved July spotted purple sparks of light flowing along its pearlescent skin.

YOU… ROBBED… ME…” Philip moaned. The edges of its robe sprouted ghoulish teeth, as though the fabric was the only mouth Philip had left. “I… WAS… KILL… HIM… NOW… YOU… GO… INSTEAD… MY LORD…MY… MY…

The hammer fell. Driscol rolled out of the way with barely a moment to spare, grunting as the edge of the gammer tore away a chunk of the flesh on his left arm. The force of the impact cracked the stonework, leaving a hole in the ground, and through it July spotted stars.

Not long, kiddo, she admonished, simultaneously watching Grayson form his fingers into claws. Hurry up. We’re short on time up ‘ere, eh? You’ve everything ye need, now.

Driscol sneered, but he didn’t respond. He got up with a quick hop and planted one foot on the top of the hammer before Philip could yank the weapon back over its head. Philip howled briefly, then, with a visible twitch, he rendered the hammer insubstantial. It passed through Driscol’s leg like mist, solidifying over Philip’s head. The ghost’s snout lolled back and forth like a tongue in its hood-mouth, as if gloating.

YOU… CAN’T… STOP… US…” Philip brought the hammer around, this time in a horizontal arc aimed at Driscol’s midsection. “YOUCAN’TSTOPUSIT’STIMETOSLEEPTIMETOGOTOSLEEPELEPHANTELEPHANTELELELE”

Driscol tried to pull away, but Philip, perhaps empowered by his madness, was too quick. The hammer clipped Driscol’s side, cracking his ribs. Driscol flew across the antechamber, smashing into one of the Grayson busts and sliding onto the floor. Aribella, huddled nearby, scrambled blindly to get away from the action, and Philip appeared to ignore her as he stalked towards Driscol. Purple blood dripped from the edge of the weapon.

“Always purple,” July noted, pondering. She couldn’t do anything but ponder. “Undead things always seem te wind up purple in the end. Wonder why the devil that is.”

Libby looked at her. The glance took several minutes, however, and July wondered if the sentence had come out of her mouth as an auditory blur. She probably sounded like a mosquito. It was difficult to tell, trapped between two different realities.

Driscol raised one orange arm. The energy it contained - energy July had provided, of course, her son had lost most of his own magic when he’d ‘died’ - rushed out of the hole in Driscol’s shoulder like a piston, smashing Philip in the chest. It staggered, but not as much as July might have liked, and a quick swipe of one of Philip’s claws destroyed the arm. Ochre liquid trickled down his robes and pattered onto the stone.

Philip’s hood formed into a grin, the elephant trunk wriggling as the teeth clenched together. It raised the hammer over its head, and, with startling rapidity, brought the weapon down on Driscol’s right leg. The crack of his reinforced bones snapping made even July wince, and Driscol, though numbed by his undead state, screamed regardless. Apparently even the dead could feel pain, to some degree.

The rat scrambled out of Driscol’s hair and fled across the room. July couldn’t blame it. Driscol was as good as dead. Again. July wouldn’t miss him too much - he was, after all, a failure.

But Philip did not attack Driscol a fourth time. Instead, it focused on the fleeing rat, the hammer flying into the air so awkwardly that it cracked the ceiling. Bits of stone tumbled down onto - and, eventually, through - Philip’s head. The ghost spun to track the rat, bringing the hammer down once, twice, three times, collapsing the floor. Philip ignored gravity, however, and stalked evenly across the hole.


The hammer fell. The rat dodged. The hammer fell again, coming close enough this time that the rat nearly fell into the fresh hole in the floor. On the third stroke, another horizontal slash, the wall crumbled around the rat, trapping it under a heap of rubble. It continued to squeak, and its tail, miraculously unharmed, flailed impotently through a gap in the stone.

Grayson began to speak. No doubt what he’d planned on saying was rather important. But his words changed, abruptly, when his connection to Philip - already rather tenuous - disappeared completely.


Philip did not crush the rat. Philip did not even get a chance to raise his hammer again, not that there was much floor in the antechamber left to smash. It was rapidly collapsing. But there was enough room, just enough, for one ignored Non - a Non given ample time to power up - to unleash his greatest weapon, something far more potent than a stupid ghost hammer. Something, in fact, that he’d used to kill ghosts in the past, even if it had often been an accident.

Plato the Reaper swung his glowing green scythe with a practiced aim that belied his normally-clumsy nature. The blade ripped through Philip’s robes as easily as a clothier snips fabric, releasing a flurry of whip-like tendrils that punctured Philip’s limbs, disintegrating his arms and his legs more quickly than the apocalypse was devouring the tower below. Within seconds all that was left of the spirit was a bald, human head, robbed of its enclosure.

Thanks,” Philip whispered, smiling. His lips moved again, but Plato’s weapon acted too quickly, and he was devoured. 

And July, who’d waited for this moment for several lifetimes, or at least a moment like it, abandoned a body she’d stolen for the last time.


Monday, June 22

The end came swiftly.

The unleashing of the Catastrophe from Dragomir’s body - which, at this point, had become a solid, crystallized pixel with exactly three colours and exactly three segments - wreaked complete havoc on codespace. The very fabric of reality was chaotically re-written, and with it, the world fell apart.

As the tower collapsed the green-and-red tendrils connecting the core of the regulators to the planet snapped. Every rat in existence froze in that moment, whether they were clustered atop the head of a dragon or lurking in a sewer, and collapsed. Millions died; millions more woke up several seconds later with absolutely no knowledge of T.O.E., the Non, the war, the tower, Grayson, or, indeed, anything beyond concerns typical of rats. Balance was no longer a concern.

Survival, however, was, and the newfound freedom of the rats - for they were as much slaves to the regulators as anyone else - was short-lived.

The glitch that was the Catastrophe triggered a truly apocalyptic breakdown of the system. The power unleashed from Dragomir’s insides seeped into codespace, altering command lines and fouling equations that had long kept existence in check. Up was suddenly down; left was suddenly right; birds could fly underwater; bees could lift skyscrapers; the entirety of Pubton teleported into the ground, killing everyone instantly. And now that it had lost its connection to the world, the regulator core consciousness could do nothing to stop the breakdown.

The Imperium soldiers had no idea what was going on when they died. The Non soldiers knew a little better, though they expected that they were being sent back to the abyss from whence they’d come only a few years ago. They were, partially, correct. Even Iko, who managed to ride out the storm in a temple that would always exist, regardless of apocalypses, did not quite understand what was happening.

Only one person understood, fully, the implications of what had happened. And she was ready.

Grayson slumped, twitched, fell back, slumped again, and screamed. He clutched the sides of his head as his eyes rolled back into his skull, his whole body gyrating violently as he began to fade away. He begged and moaned and pleaded to no one in particular, and when that didn’t work he continued to scream.

“Oh my gods,” Libby murmured, the words virtually lost in her son’s death throes. A tear ran down her cheek. “I… this… the fuck is going… on…”

“Ascension,” July muttered back, mostly to herself. She was grinning. “C’mon, ye twat. Take the fuckin’ bait. It’s right here for ye.”

She didn’t need to say it, however. July could already feel the weakened tug of Grayson’s soul as he clawed for something, anything, to use as an anchor. He’d used Philip, dear, departed Philip, as an anchor for more than a year. He’d needed that anchor, because his own disembodied soul was apparently not cut out to be a ghost. And when it was lost -

July tensed as pain blossomed in her stomach. The insistent tug quickly became a piercing jab as Grayson’s soul, disappearing before her eyes, flooded into July’s system. It knew its body, it knew that something was inside the body, and it wanted back in. It needed somewhere to go, because the only other choice it understood was oblivion. That was not an option.

Despite the pain, July grinned, her pallid cheeks flushed. As Libby began to stare at her surroundings - something was happening in paradise, but July didn’t know or care what it was - July began a short conversation with herself.

Ye want in, don’t you? Ye want this lump ‘o flesh back.


Ye know the price, deary. Ye’ve always known.


The pain intensified, but July held fast, drawing on her magic. She knew how to possess people. As such, she also knew how to resist possession.

Give it up. Give it all up. Then ye can have whatever ye wish.


Let go, brat. I’ve won. Let go.

Without another word - another comprehensible word, anyway - Grayson did. And July, or June, or May, or whatever her name may have once been, finally got what she wanted.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day Eight-Seventy-Four: Getting worse

Grayson had envisioned the tower as the greatest structure known to any species, any time, anywhere.

As a direct root into the power source of the regulators, the tower was, originally, insubstantial. It was an invisible conduit tied to every rat on the planet. As such, it was, in a sense, metaphorical: no one could see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, hear it, or even sense it. The rats themselves were only aware of the tower as a lifeline back to their original body, more a tether and a power source than a structure.

Grayson and Philip - though mostly Grayson - changed that. He desired a glorious landmark from which to begin the end. He wanted the world’s final vision of the apocalypse to be his shining edifice, the top of which would be the only surviving anything once he saw his plan through. Once he killed his father.

This was rapidly coming to fruition. Though not in any sense Grayson had intended.

As the tower fell it sheared in half, robbed of its regenerative properties, and the brilliant ivory brickwork that formed the lower half dissolved into pixels on the wind. Walls, balconies, stairways, and rooms melted away, transforming the sky into a crystalline tapestry that might have looked breathtaking under different circumstances.

More - much more - was happening down on the ground. People were, in fact, dying. But a small, select group of idiots were too busy trying to escape into the sky to do anything about it.

A blind councilwoman over one shoulder and a flabby platypus over the other, Driscol stomped up the closest set of stairs he could find, his feet pounding the ground so hard that they left indents in the softening stone. He didn’t know where he was going, exactly, only that his mother had told him to immediately ascend when he’d procured the platypus.

Pausing for one crucial second, Driscol dared to look behind him. The landscape, far below, winked back at him through the crumbling floor. Driscol turned and ran ever harder up the stairs. If he’d allowed his eyes to linger on the earth a second longer, he might have noticed that it, too, was fading away, though he still would have prioritized his current predicament as the worse of the two.

“What’s happening?” Aribella wailed, so still that Driscol could’ve been carrying a sack of potatoes and not known the difference. “I… they’re fading, but… the masters… oh, gods, please tell me what’s happening!”

“It’s better you not know,” Driscol replied. The jelly-like texture of the ground made his voice shaky, despite his best efforts. “The circumstances… are… nasty…”

“I’d rather know than not! I can’t tell if I’m climbing or falling, or if that sound behind me is a monster, or… or…” Aribella clung tightly to Driscol’s veined skin, apparently heedless of its weird, rubbery texture. “I just… I don’t understand anymore!”

Driscol sympathized. He’d long since given up trying to understand what was what. The days of playing the would-be puppetmaster were long behind him. Now he just wished he was back in his mother’s cosy den. He was powerless and restrained, there, but it was still better than this. The floors were nice and wooden, if nothing else.

The stairs ahead, carpeted eloquently with the finest fabric Driscol had ever seen, began to drop away. Driscol spied the night sky through the widening cracks in the floor, and the thought that he’d ascended into nighttime nearly drove him crazy. Ignoring the implications, he roared, planted his feet hard against the ground, and jumped.

His legs pinwheeled in the air.

His two burdens - No, three, there’s a rat hiding in my hair, don’t forget the rat - screamed.

His sense of time crawled along.

His scars, and he had a lot of scars, ached.

Driscol knew he wasn’t going to make the jump. He knew it as surely as he knew that one plus one was two, that the sky was normally blue, that the paperwork back home had been boring, and that he loved his sister, but not in that way, that was gross. He wished her all the best in finding herself a good, pliant husband to manipulate the shit out of some day.

The four of them - Driscol, Aribella, Plato, and the rat - fell. Green and red explosions filled the sky around them, neatly blocking out the stars of codespace. Driscol closed his eyes, wondering if there would be ground to hit, or if they’d simply float in an abyss forever.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day Eight-Seventy-Three: The needs of the many

Grayson was living in heaven.

He’d already been living in heaven, of course. He’d constructed his mother’s paradise to be heaven. It was as orderly and lovely a place as a nature lover like Libby could want - and whatever Libby liked, Grayson liked. To give his mother everything she could possibly desire was Grayson’s idea of heaven. It had simply been lacking an element he’d craved from the first moment he’d conjured a conscious thought.

Now he had that thing. His mother’s love.

They were in a bounteous garden at the moment, surrounded by lilacs and bathed in moonlight. Libby sat in the middle of a cluster of Graysons, almost one hundred children thick. She was reading them a story, the book in her hands lit by a candle held by one of her sons. To a boy, the Graysons gave Libby their undivided attention.

“‘Bring me the diamond!’ the old man hissed, his voice hoarse and angry.’” Libby frowned, tipping the book away. “I don’t get it. I thought he had a diamond already. He had one in the last chapter.”

“Keep going, mom, you’ll see,” the nearest Grayson insisted. He was shoved so close to his mother that his hair was tickling her armpit. She didn’t seem to mind. “C’mon. It’ll be answered.”

“‘I’ll do no such thing,’ the guardsman yelled back. He pointed his spear at Reginald’s chest, the tip drawing a bead of blood. But Reginald did not move, did not yield, and did not even grunt as a thin stream of crimson slid between his chest hairs.’”

The Graysons sighed, contented. Each was considering the villainy of guards. They knew what was coming next.

“This’s dumb,” Libby grunted. She snapped the book closed and glared at the title. “‘Rock Eyes?’ The hell is that even supposed t’mean?”

“It’s a metaphor,” one Grayson called out.

“The old man only has eyes for diamonds, you see,” said another Grayson, nearer to the back. “He wants more than the magic they offer, mom.”

“Yep,” the Grayson massaging Libby’s shoulders confirmed. “It’s true, mom. We love that book.”

“Well, I don’t.” Libby tossed the book into the crowd. It vanished. “S’dumb. You should be reading smart books. Like technical manuals, or somethin’.”

The Graysons nodded. She was right, of course. She had to be. She was their mother.

Libby stood. The Graysons stood with her. Libby walked, and the crowd remained on all sides, moving in silent tandem. The moon gave way to the sun to better illuminate Libby’s path, and she offered one of the Graysons a warm smile. The tingle of happiness in the one went to the rest, and they beamed with singular pride. The pride grew to outright ecstasy when Libby patted another Grayson on the head.

Through some grand coincidence, or perhaps the hand of an actual god, Libby managed to time the pat with the crumbling of the tower beneath their feet. It was sufficient to distract Grayson from the apocalypse.

It took Grayson almost five minutes of quiet walking in a long, almost elegant meadow before the first signs of trouble clicked into place, and even then only one of the Graysons noticed the abrupt loss of sight in one eye. Yet even this Grayson was so bewitched by Libby’s presence that he failed to register his partial blindness as a problem, and he only cried foul on the situation when his other eye failed, too.

The blind Grayson almost immediately tripped on a rock and collapsed in a heap. The others nearby turned to laugh at him. 

“Hey, what are you laughing at?” one of the nearest Graysons said. He cupped his ears. “Wait, I can’t hear you. What’s happening?”

The Grayson on the ground got to his knees. “I can’t… mom, I can’t see!” He clutched his hands over his eyes, frowning deeply.

“You’re both screwed up,” a haughty Grayson commented, rolling his eyes. “Obviously there’s some sort…”

“What?” Grayson said.

The third Grayson mouthed several more words, then clutched his throat. His eyes went wide as he tried, quite literally, to cough out conversation, but nothing emerged save harsh rasping.

“Oh, shit,” Libby murmured. She stepped away from her sons, who now seemed rather preoccupied. “This is it, innit? After a fuckin’ week of waiting…”

Only one of the Graysons stepped with her. He had faint scars on his face. He had his hands over his throat and feigned panic, but spoke all the same. “Aye. Keep quiet.”

The Graysons were staring at one another, each suffering from sensory problems that seemed to be spreading like a virus. A Grayson here could not see. A Grayson there patted the ground, stared at his fingers, and patted again. A trio of Graysons attempted to yell at one another with no success. One Grayson, clutching his chest, appeared to drop dead on the spot, and he was shortly joined by several more. The glee of mere moments earlier turned to horror, fear, and confusion.

“Mom!” a Grayson groaned, clawing at Libby’s leg as he thrashed about in the grass. His limbs twitched unnaturally, and his skin seemed to be slowly oozing off of his bones. “H… help…”

Libby pulled away. She felt a simultaneous compulsion to kneel down and help her son… and to stomp his hand into jelly. The neutral stance seemed the wisest choice.

Only one of Graysons seemed to be unaffected. He glowed more brightly than the rest, an aura of white surrounding his body. He stepped from clone to clone, shaking them, hitting them, cursing them, and, eventually, absorbing them, his hands plunging into their chests and pulling their essences into himself. Each time he destroyed another squealing Grayson the aura grew stronger, brighter, and more distinct - and his face grew older, tenser, and angrier.

“I… need… am… coming… apart…” Grayson hissed. He looked as old as he had the last time Libby had encountered him in life, his blonde hair cascading down his back, and wrinkles were beginning to sprout on his cheeks and around his nose. “I… come… together… PHILIP… FAILED…

Friday, June 12, 2015

Day Eight-Seventy-Two: Fall

Now. Do it now.

The tower creaked.

The Baron and his team arrived at the base of the tower with surprisingly few injuries. The Baron twisted his leg along the way, and Traveller lost part of his exposed eyebrow when another wing of dragons took offence to their approach, but everyone else made it there just fine. The Imperium forces they encountered along the way could not say the same.

The tower swayed.

Though powerful, Antonio clearly knew that he was not in the same league as the rest. He was, after all, just an orc. He stood defiantly nearby, fists up, fending off scads of Imperium soldiers as they waded in to stop the lunatics accosting the rear of the tower. When the competition got too ugly for one orc to handle, even an orc as skillful as Antonio, The Baron would use his powers to possess a member of the opposition and force them to switch sides. 

“Zat iz a handy zkill,” Antonio commented, his tone light despite the blood running down his temples and along both arms. “You are a ztronger man zen I zought.”

“Don’t… mention it,” The Baron murmured, hands outstretched, fingers wiggling. He was busy controlling a tank full of soldiers at the moment, and the strain of doing so…

Antonio shrugged. Bellowing a joyful laugh, he sidestepped a spear thrust and unleashed a rapid series of punches into the face of an oncoming soldier. The woman went down like a sack of ragroots.

The tower creaked. Bits of its flawless, shining exterior flaked away on all sides.

Cedric grunted, sweat pouring down his face. Titan Blue, beside him, her hide littered with projectiles, hissed quietly to herself. Traveller, the next in line, paused to dig a wad of snot out of his nose, considered it, and flicked it away. Pushing seemed almost like an afterthought, even though his face was bright red. Even Eve seemed a little put out, her upper lip raised in a slight sneer.

The stone beneath their hands began to crumble. It also rebuilt itself, snaking new bricks into place where the old ones were falling away. The four warriors soon stood ankle-deep in shed masonry, each shard of ivory pulsating with a ghostly light that gradually faded to a dull, slate grey. 

The tower groaned. 

The Imperium was not blind to this mad plan. General Landry, commanding his forces at the forefront of the Non assault, had noticed the pronounced lean in the tower moments after it had manifested.  He sent whatever forces he could spare to stop whomever was trying to push it down - but the Non were coming at the Imperium with such furious zeal from the front that he was somewhat lacking in resources.

Standing in his mobile command centre, listening to the reports of the guns rumble around him, Landry stared up at the image of the execution above, protruding out of the stonework of the tower. Arabella had fallen away, leaving their hooded lord to ramble insanely as he loomed over his three captives: a man, an oil-slicked duck of some kind, and a rat.

THEY HAVE SLIGHTED ME FOREVER AND FUCKIN’… FUCKIN’… ALWAYS,” his lord boomed, though the tone and words were those of a petulant child. “ALWAYS! I… WE… YOU… REVENGE! WE DO THIS FOR GLORY!

“If we get out of this,” Landry mumbled to himself, fully aware that he could now critique without fear of punishment, “I’m gonna have to look into some kind of rebellion. I think.”

The tower tilted.

Philip held his axe high. He swung it over the heads of his prisoners, from one side to the other, giddy at the way all three of them seemed to flinch at the rush of wind rustling their hair. He held it over Dragomir’s head for a moment, wishing he could use the axe to sever the man’s outstretched arms and watch the suffering it caused, but the power of the Catastrophe flowing through them needed to be properly channelled.

Dragomir was the only one not to respond. His eyes had rolled up into the back of his skull. He was seeing things only he could see, knowing things only he could know. His powers were busy dying, burned out by the chaos of the glitch that rampaged in his soul. 

Watching his former associate twitch, Philip decided to rant some more. He had plenty else to say. He needed to say these things now, because he would never get another chance. Everyone here would soon be annihilated, after all, and Philip didn’t want them to go without learning just how thoroughly they’d fucked him over. His phantasmal elephant’s trunk raised, he began to whine out another complaint -

- but was cut short when something body-checked him, hard, from behind.

SON OF A BITCH,” Philip cried, and he fell into empty space.

Philip owned the tower. It was his plaything, even if he’d lost much of his connection to Grayson. He knew he still owned it, because he still possessed a body. So as he pitched over the edge of the executioner’s balcony and fell down the side of the tower, arms flailing, he wondered just how in the hell someone had sneaked up on him and done this thing. It should never have been possible.

His body never hit the ground, of course. It was just an avatar, and disappeared less than halfway down the tower’s immense height. But the distraction was more than enough for Driscol.

Flexing his arms - they were made of controlled blue flame - the former noble broke the bonds holding Plato in place. He did the same for the tiny rat at Plato’s side, grabbing the creature as it slid towards the balcony. The tower’s lean was becoming more and more pronounced with each second, and Driscol braced himself by extending one of his arms to an unnatural length and grasping the door frame. The door slammed on his fingers several times, but since they were magical fingers, he didn’t seem to mind.

“I… don’t think I… know… you…” Plato panted. He was clutched beneath one of Driscol’s arms.

“Don’t worry about that,” Driscol replied. Dropping the rat into Plato’s hands with an awkward stretch, Driscol hurled the pair through the door. A surprised squeal inside hinted at an abrupt meeting with Arabella, who, Driscol imagined, was crumpled against a wall in the corridor.

That left one person.

Despite the ever-increasing lean in the tower, Driscol paused a moment to stare at Dragomir. His one-time nemesis was caught in an ever-expanding wave of his own destructive power. The coruscating, pixelated strands of green and red flowing up and down his arms were spreading, encompassing the whole of his body and flowing into the tower’s facade. Dragomir continued to twitch convulsively, but whatever process had been triggered by Grayson and Philip was now too far along to end easily.

If Driscol touched Dragomir, he would be engulfed. The tendrils of Catastrophe would grasp him and rip him apart.

“Sorry,” Driscol grunted, pulling himself into the doorway. “But mother dearest says you stay here.”

The tower buckled, doomed by its own self-repairing nature. As a single piece it pitched forward, propelled by the strongest muscles on the planet, and gravity did the rest. Non and normal troops alike screamed and scattered as the tower fell, its severed connection with the ground finally allowing the grand structure to come apart at the seams.

The Catastrophe exploded. And when it did, both Grayson’s and July’s plans came to fruition.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day Eight-Seventy-One: I've got some things to get off my chest

“Speak,” the lord ordered, once Dragomir had stopped screaming. His voice was shrill with power. “Declare your sentence.

Arabella stumbled forward, unable to see. She knew she was somewhere high - she could feel the wind through her robe - but she had no idea exactly where. Her hands explored in front of her, seeking any sort of purchase.

She found it. A tiny squeal filled the air as her hand tugged on a pencil-thin tail, and she slipped on something wide and flat, eliciting another, more recognizable yelp. Arabella pulled back, fell to her knees, and begged forgiveness of whomever she’d slighted. She felt genuinely sorry.

Her lord was not swayed. Shifting his axe to one side - she could hear the scrape of its metal haft on the cold ivory of the tower - he pulled Arabella to her feet. A hot, gentle puff of breath warmed her face, but she felt chilled. She wanted to pull away, but decorum - no, fear, she knew it was fear - prevented her from doing any such thing.

No more stupidity,” her lord commanded. “SPEAK THE END, HAG.

Righting herself, Arabella waited for her lord to release her robe. When he did, she straightened, gathered as much bravery as she could muster, and looked back to her days as a diplomat. She knew they were, more or less, now over. Everything was over. This was an execution for the entire world, not just these three souls who had made her laugh, if only a little, for the last few hours.

“We are gathered here today - “ she began…

… and got no further than that. Her lord’s arm lashed out, knocking the blind woman to the ground again. He followed up with a vicious kick to her side. Arabella cried out, clutching her ribs, knowing that he’d collapsed at least one of them.


Another kick sent Arabella sliding into a wall. She grunted loudly, the jolt running down her spine enough to kick the air out of her. She had only half an ear for her lord’s speech as he began to speak of treason, of age-old grudges, of death, of life after death, of revenge. Oddly, almost inexplicably, he even began to say something about elephants.


Trying to block him out, Arabella thought about her grandchildren. She’d thought of them constantly in the last week. They were the only force of positivity still left to her, and they helped quell some of the pain.

The ground began to shake beneath Arabella as her lord’s manic words rumbled across the countryside. His topics of conversation hopped from one subject to another with amazing rapidity. He reminded Arabella of the worst kind of statesmen, and she’d met plenty of them while working as a politician for the Imperium. Soon, though, she knew that he would get even worse than that, judging by the peculiar slur of his whining.

My gods, she thought, the image of her grandchildren driven away by her lord’s petulant rambling. He is unbearable. I wish he would throw himself from the bloody tower. I’m sure we’re at enough of a height that even this putz would die.

The ground rumbled again. Arabella fought to get to her feet, running her hands across the wall she’d hit. It pained her body to stand, but she forced herself anyway, unwilling to spend what may possibly be her last moments on her haunches. She knew this marauding freak would not allow her to leave this place alive, knew that he and the other lord intended everyone to die. That had been clear for several days, now.

Arabella was so preoccupied by thoughts of her impending demise that she failed to notice two things about the situation. One, now largely inconsequential, was that she could now fling mental insults at her ‘lord’ without fear of reprisal. The same was true of the entirety of the Imperium army fighting below. And two, she didn’t realize that her hand had grasped a handle, a knob forged out of the loveliest diamond. By the time she did realize this second fact, she’d already opened the door.

Of course there’s a door, she reasoned, peculiarly certain of her logic as she took another tumble while the door lurched open. Of course. Because he used to be a guard in a castle. Castles have lots of doors. That makes a strange sense, doesn’t it? Yes, I think it does.

Someone caught Arabella before she hit the ground a third time. 

“Thank you, it was locked from the other side,” a gruff but eloquent voice whispered. “Is there a platypus out here, by any chance?”

Monday, June 8, 2015

Day Eight-Hundred-Seventy: Spoilers

The moment the Catastrophe erupted from his hands, its wild energies flowing up through his broken arms and out of his very soul, Dragomir dreamed.

He did not fall asleep. He was not knocked out by the severe pain from his dislocated joints, which, despite being rather elastic thanks to his Non physiology, still hurt rather a bit. He did not begin to hallucinate, either from fear, worry, panic, or some gastrointestinal distress. He simply dreamed, because that is what a prophet does, and Dragomir was the closest thing the world had to an honest-to-god prophet. Not that he, or most everyone else, seemed to realize it.

Dragomir dreamed that Arabella, standing nearby on the platform, was looking behind her. He wasn’t sure why, but he suspected that somebody was coming out onto the balcony to witness the execution. Possibly, even, to put a stop to it. But this was still several seconds into the future, and the vision bled out of Dragomir’s dream.

Dragomir dreamed that he died again. Or that he came very, very close. This seemed rather a minor point, and even though he was caught in his dreams, Dragomir was surprised by that fact. But not enough to stop dreaming.

Dragomir dreamed of a bird, carried on ragged wings, flying beyond the boundaries of the world. He had no idea what lay beyond, but he suspected that the bird would become. It didn’t matter too much to him what becoming meant.

Dragomir dreamed that he would meet his mother again in the not-too-distant future. But his mother did not look like his mother, but, rather, a twisted freak with pincers jutting out of her mouth. He did and didn’t want to see her.

Dragomir dreamed that his father would, some day, become a robot. Dragomir did not know what a robot was, and this vision confused him more than most, which was quite a feat in and of itself.

Dragomir dreamed of victory and defeat. He couldn’t tell to whom victory belonged, nor to whom defeat belonged. He knew, however, that both were somehow associated with crazy, yellowed eyeballs.

Dragomir dreamed of a snapping sound. It was loud, and vicious, and not associated with any images. It filled him with dread the likes of which he’d never known, which, given the shitty nature of his life, was saying rather a lot.

Dragomir dreamed of arguments, of people screaming at each other across a darkened hallway. He stood in the middle.

Dragomir dreamed of a box. It contained something.

Dragomir dreamed of division. He saw the world, and down the middle he saw a huge, red line. Then, sweeping out of a west, he saw a portly giant step out of the shadows, clutch the line in one spindly finger, and throw it away. The world was instantly remade the moment the giant set its foot upon the soil of the Imperium, spiralling up and around the giant, remade almost in his image. The people of the world danced at the giant’s feet, screaming and protesting, but the giant seemed willfully deaf to their pleas.

Dragomir dreamed of Fynn. He would get so big.

Dragomir dreamed of a girl wielding a sword. He dreamed, also, of the girl’s younger sister. Both were fiercely protective of one another. Dragomir felt a fierce, protective kinship with one, and a vague nausea for the other. He wasn’t certain which feeling belonged to which sister.

Dragomir dreamed.

Dragomir’s dreams collapsed in on themselves. His visions, pushing so far into the future, abruptly folded and swept into reverse. He was pulled through time to Pubton, to the zombie camps, to the rat’s base, to the desert, to endless fields of travel, to the mountain, to an undeveloped swamp, to a ruined home. To a complete home. To the best home he’d ever known. He would know it again, but he didn’t know when, or why, or how. He just knew that he was going there again, and soon.

Its glitch powers released, the Catastrophe sizzled through every fibre of Dragomir’s being. It ran rampant throughout his synapses, rewriting Dragomir’s code and crushing his Non powers. In an instant of ill-advised release, triggered by a vengeful executioner with an elephant’s head, Dragomir the Farsighted ceased to be in every respect but one, and he screamed in pain as an ability he’d never learned to control died. 

One dream remained. A dream he had feared might come to pass for a long, long time. If he survived the next few minutes - and he didn’t know whether he would live or not, not anymore - Dragomir knew it would harry his sleep for a long time to come.

As Dragomir fell asleep in earnest, utterly wasted by the experience, Philip began to rant.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Day Eight-Sixty-Nine: Wronged and Righted

Philip felt a distinct dip in his stomach.

He did not like the sensation. His stomach had not dipped in this particular way in several years. It had not dipped in any way since the fateful night that he’d set out with a pair of idiot brothers to capture an elephant. On that terrible evening he’d barely registered even a blip of gastrointestinal discomfort, a fact he’d long since rued. If his stomach had cramped he may well have survived.

They need to die, he thought. They need to die. They need to go away. Just like I will go away. I have to go away.

But who were they? At first, they had been no one. Philip did not, initially, much care that he’d died. Then they had been the rats, as they’d introduced him to the greatest, most exquisite suffering. Then they had been Dragomir and Robert, because they’d gotten him killed, thus introducing him to the rats. Then they became Dragomir’s son, because he had trapped Philip, and because of his ties to the damnable, awful rats…

But they were more. They were much more, now. They were everyone. They were the ants in their hills, the spiders on their webs, the penguins in their seas, the otters in their ponds, the rhinos in their spinning wheels. They were the bakers, the butchers, the masons, the doctors, the tanners, the blacksmiths, the kings, the queens, the princes and paupers and mimes. They were the seas, the skies, the mountains, the valleys. They were the fundamental building blocks of life itself.

They. They need to die. THEY NEED TO DIE.

Philip had the power to make them die, now. Everything was falling into place. Yet at the same time, everything seemed to be slowly unravelling. Because, abruptly, Grayson had pushed away from Philip - and without Grayson, Philip was just a ghost.

They’d been on the edge of finality, teetering on the brink of destruction. Philip and Grayson, Grayson and Philip, Philson, Graylip, whatever you wanted to call them, they were so close. And then, then, as if taking a machete to their bond, Grayson had gone silent. Philip could no longer hear the dead boy’s mind, could no longer grasp and play with the power of the regulators the way they’d tugged him about like a puppet on a stage. He remained a purple leech, suckling on the side of their brilliant white hive mind, but the blood flowing into his spectral mouth… it no longer satisfied.


Grayson did not respond. Philip had hoped he would - perhaps then he could reach into the boy and corrupt him again, as he had so long ago - but Grayson was busy. He would not speak to Philip again. He was too busy with his bitch of a mother.

There will be three of us, Philip thought. His grin grew, wavered, grew again. Only three. He has to take me along. And when we’re alone, I will finish them both, and then we will all be DEAD. DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD.

Grayson did not respond.

Gathering the remains of his power - it was still substantial, if diminished - Philip dove into the tower. It was a conduit to him, a shaft of insubstantial light that he could mould as easily as an artist moulds clay. With a flick of his hand he created a balcony, larger than any of the others, and with a second flick he deposited the captives there. Touching the Non burned his essence, but Philip didn’t mind, because he could feel their pain, too, and that was good.

“Hey, Phil! Hey! My bro’s got this neat idea, ’n I figured, maybe…”

Philip bellowed.

The tower, shining serenely in the chaos of war, erupted light. The combatants surrounding the spiral edifice sheltered their eyes as phantasmal bricks re-formed themselves into half-spirit, half-statue representations of four figures, all far larger than life, all looming over the battlefield. Three were seated, their hands… and paws… bound behind their backs. The fourth hovered to the side, face tired and pensive.

“My lords…” Arabella looked around, though she could not see. “Is… is there no time to prepare…?”

There is only one lord.

Philip emerged from the brickwork behind Dragomir, Plato, and the rat as a masked, hooded spectre, an elephant nose dangling out of the darkness where his face should have been, an enormous axe held tight in his spindly hands. He raised the weapon in triumph over the heads of his captives, sweeping it so deftly that he nearly decapitated the platypus before the ceremony had begun.

Clutching the axe in one hand, Philip grabbed Dragomir by the neck and hauled him around. The Non stared into Philip’s empty hood with a mixture of defiance and sadness.

“Hi, Phil,” Dragomir said. “Do your worst, you fuck.”

The elephant nose twitched. Enraged and gleeful, Philip reached down, grabbed Dragomir’s bound arms, and pulled them upward with hideous force. His muscles squealed and tore as they rose complaining into the air, and Dragomir screamed so loudly that every person on the battlefield - for they could hear every word, projected on the wind like thunder - paused to look. Dragomir’s fingers twitched at their apogee, and he swore he would kill Philip, kill him a thousand times, a million.

As he did, green and red light blasted out of his fingertips. Philip thought it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Day Eight-Sixty-Eight: Run for it

The trip to the base of the tower was not as quiet as The Baron might have hoped. Indeed, it wasn’t quiet at all.

The Baron’s plan, such as it was, consisted of waiting until the battle against the Non really heated up. Then he and his little band of misfits - including the smaller-but-still-pretty-damned-big Titan Blue - would sneak in and begin heaving away at the tower’s base until it collapsed. A tall order, perhaps, but The Baron had the strongest people in the world on his side. He figured this wildly-impractical scheme might just have some merit.

The stealth mission lasted all of three minutes. Then some rear sentry in the distance noticed The Baron’s group through a spyglass and alerted his fellows, and things went to hell.

The situation exploded, almost literally, when three of the dragons wheeling about in the sky over the battlefield split from their airborne flock and hurtled down towards the party. They opened their mouths in tandem, shooting long streams of flame at the ground. With only seconds to consider their actions, The Baron figured that all of them were, most assuredly, dead.

Such was not the case. Her titanic strength as ridiculous as ever, Eve knelt, plunged her hands into the dirt at their feet, and wrenched a mostly-buried boulder out of the ground. The rock began to crumble as Eve moved, but she swept it upward so quickly that its pieces were still more or less a cohesive whole as they flew into the air, towards the fire. It was not enough to stop the flames, of course -

- but the hole left by the boulder was sufficient as an impromptu hiding place, and the sliding dirt of unstable ground forced everyone into said hole with delightful rapidity. The Baron found himself beneath everyone, which, being the weakest person in the party, he did not particularly like. Especially when Traveller’s smelly, grungy foot smothered his face and left a print on his cracked glasses.

“Mmph,” The Baron commented, nevertheless grateful for being underground. The air felt way too hot for his liking, despite the miss.

“My hair is singed,” Traveller said back, rather jovial. “Eve is strong. I’m pretty sure she’s my kid, but I can’t prove it. Did I have sex with Libby and not realize? I bet I’m a papa!”

The Baron didn’t comment. His insides did, however, seize up and wither a little.

The dragons swooped around for another pass above, but it was far too late for them. Eve had already extricated herself from the hole, and she leaped at the great reptiles with another hunk of rock - this sharpened - in one hand. Grabbing onto the left dragon’s belly she ripped away at its protective scales and plunged the rock into its flesh. 

The dragon screamed and plummetted. Understandably. The other dragons might have reacted to this, only Titan Blue, full size again, was busy hurling enormous clumps of dirt at them. Traveller joined in at her side once he extricated himself from the hole.

“You look like onea the bad dudes,” Traveller commented, not cruelly. “Shouldn’t you be, like, a big douche, or something?”

“Big, yes. Douche…” Titan Blue thought about it as she whipped another lump of dirt at the right dragon. Its roar was smothered by hundreds of pounds of earthen clay. “Well, I’m still working that out.”

Antonio pulled The Baron from the hole, set him on his feet, looked him over quickly, and turned to watch as Cedric thundered towards the dirt furrow created by the downed dragon. It was writhing weakly at the wound Eve had inflicted, and The Baron suspected Cedric would happily finish the job. Eve was already airborne again, clinging to a second dragon and wrestling to get at its wings.

“Zere are timez,” Antonio murmured, shielding his eyes to watch the fight above, apparently content not to join in, “zat I veel a little levt behind by zeze volkz. You underztand ziz?”

The Baron watched Eve rip a wing away. He watched Titan Blue pick up, and hurl, Traveller, and he watched Traveller land on the third dragon, whisper something in one of its ears, and kick it on the back of its head. He watched Cedric roar as he ripped into the downed dragon, his undead might more than enough to tear its head from its neck.

The Baron could control all of them, if he wanted. If. And it would be rather easy to do.

“Not really,” he replied, though he knew his voice was shaky. “We all have our talents. Come on, we have ridiculous work to do.”

Monday, June 1, 2015

Day Eight-Sixty-Seven: The thick of it

The moment Kierkegaard caught sight of the tower - really caught sight of it - he knew’d he’d made the right decision in pressing his assault.

His soldiers had questioned it. Most had done so behind his back, using faint whispers that he could only assume existed. A few brave souls dared to question his ideas openly, and they’d been duly slaughtered and consumed for their disobedience. Kierkegaard couldn’t, he could not, allow anyone to express the same doubt he’d held himself. But here he was, now, and he was right.

Codespace, Kierkegaard thought, wincing as he attempted to stare up the tower and through the hole in the sky. The light at the top was so bright that he couldn’t see much, and he dared not test his luck. Those little shits’re gonna bring codespace here. Or something. Either way, it’s bad news for me. 

“ATTACK!” Kierkegaard bellowed, standing atop one of his Nothings. He used his portals to project his shrill battle cry to as many of his troops as possible. “BRING IT DOWN! WE TRASH THAT TOWER, WE TRASH THE WORST WE’RE EVER GONNA FACE! SLAUGHTER THEM ALL!”

Kierkegaard’s battle lines replied with a gusto he was pretty certain they didn’t actually feel, but the thousands of jet-black Non pressed forward anyway, leaping and bounding at the thick lines of Imperium soldiers encircling the base of the tower. Winged Non and massive squadrons of sky dwarves pressed in behind them, some swooping low to drop boulders on their foes, others staying high to keep the dragons busy.

By god, there’re a lot of ‘em. Kierkegaard licked his beak, watching the white-eyed Imperium troops pull their ranks together tightly around their siege weapons, determined to keep the Non at bay. So many to gut. So many to feast upon. So many points.

The battle became fierce almost at once. The first spindly Non attackers crashed into the Imperium’s front lines with typical ferocity, their elastic limbs plunging their claws past armour and into predictable weak points. The soldiers fought back with swords and spears, though they were a mere wall to protect the cannons, catapults, and simple wooden tanks that made up the Imperium’s ground forces. Gunpowder flamed and cannons roared as the Imperium opened fire, spitting hundreds of iron balls at the Non. Black bodies along the vanguard of the Non army twisted and fell, ripped apart by the Imperium’s might.

Kierkegaard didn’t like that. He didn’t like that at all.

Slipping into one of his portals, the whine of his Nothing’s harpoons following him into the void, Kierkegaard pulled himself into the midst of a tightly-knit cluster of cannons on the Imperium’s left flank. He appeared out of the ground beneath one nerve-addled soldier, yanked the man into the portal for a post-battle snack, and used his true arms to cast the cannons aside. They fell into portals on all sides, reappearing far above the battlefield and plummeting into the Imperium’s ranks to deadly effect.

The soldiers, surprised, attempted to fight back by jabbing Kierkegaard’s thick skin with their spears. He swallowed three of them as his full-sized, skeletal head emerged from the portal, then swatted the rest aside with casual grace before disappearing back into his pocket dimension again. He enjoyed the final, futile wriggles of the soldiers in his belly as they died horribly, arms and armour alike no match for Kierkegaard’s stomach acid.

Kierkegaard did this three more times before he managed to take out the majority of the Imperium’s frontline cannons. By the time he was done the Non had all but broken through the Imperium’s first line of defence - but the battle, he knew, was far from over.

A dragon whistled overhead, breathing massive gouts of greenish flame down on a titanous Non siege unit. Kierkegaard admired the splash of emerald as it roiled along the Non’s face, burning it to a crisp. It looked very pretty. Then, hopping into his portals again, Kierkegaard appeared on the dragon’s back, using his full weight to push it to the ground. He laughed as it fell, and plucked both of its wings from their sockets for good measure.

He’d not had so much fun in years. Indeed, Kierkegaard was having so much fun that he didn’t notice that the tower now bore the image of a platypus he’d imprisoned for almost a thousand years.