Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Skeletons

In the north, labor is the duty of the dead. Brightly painted skeletons farm, herd, build, and haul. The living are free to raid their neighbors.

In the south, combat is the duty of the dead. Skeletons, intricately carved with their deeds in life, defend against attack. They have perfect discipline, perfect morale, and perfect technique.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Man-eater

Caves are not shaped for human convenience. Floors are rough, and not always horizontal. Passageways can be large or small, wide or thin, smooth or convoluted. Some passages are so thin that it is only barely possible to make it through, sometimes you have to exhale to fit. Bruises are common, cracked ribs and dislocated shoulders not unheard of. You struggle for every inch. You can practice with a wire hanger to get an idea of how tight a space you can get through.

Caves are dark. Not dark like at night when there are stars, or dark like in bed with street lights peeking around your curtains, but utterly dark, dark like trying to look behind your eyeballs. It is easy to take flashlights and headlamps for granted, but switch them off and you’ll see. It takes your eyes a moment to adjust to the dark, for afterimages to fade, and then you know longer know where the things around you are. Your world is reduced to your thoughts, the touch of rock under your feet and hands, and the sound of your breath.

Being eaten alive is the most horrible of deaths. Excruciating, but not the most painful. Drawn-out, but no the slowest. The most horrible. It means being totally at the power of something which is not even bothering to kill you, waiting in between bites for the chewing to stop and the pain to come again, wondering how long it will take you to die, whether blood-loss will get you first or if the beast will at last tear into something important, utterly powerlessness.

At first I was not sure if I was mis-hearing my own breath. I thought that perhaps sensory deprivation was causing my mind to tricking itself. I thought I heard the heavy breath of something large behind me. Then I was hit by the smell, strong and primal and awful, and then a hand, strong and rough, into my back, knocking me into the ground.

I had been found by the manticore.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Crafting Magic

It was past noon when Alexander arrived at the farm, a small cottage with a larger barn. The farmer was an old man, wrinkled but wiry. Alexander's appearance did not make the old man reconsider for more than a moment.

"I assume yer here fer the rats? I'll show ya," he said, and began walking towards the barn.

"Large as cats, some of 'em, and not as afraid a me as they ought to be. I cooked up some poison but they ignored it. I need em gone before they get ambitions and go after my sheep." We reached the bard and showed me the holes he had discovered. They were uncommonly large.

"Shouldn't be a problem." Alexander said. "I'll weave some weasels out of sunlight. They'll be fierce and fearless and will evict the rats no problem. I'll cut some dogs out of the shadow of the barn, to chase down escapees. Come evening I'll weave an owl out of the wind, to stay with you and kill any survivors."

"How long will this take? And how long will the owl last?"

"It shouldn't take more than an hour. The owl will last one night, but you'll be surprised by how many rats and mice an owl of the wind can kill in just one night."

Told man nodded, and left Alexander to it. It had been some time he had woven creatures. He thought back to his lessons, trying to make butterflies out of candle flames. Ashpool had been the instructor, fond of lectures.

"To create, we combine two things: form and substance. You must have an intimate understanding of both. To know the substance, how tough it is, how brittle it is, how malleable it is, and every other property you can think of. To know form, you must know what the thing you are creating does, what stimuli it respond to, what you need it to do. The deeper your understanding of these things, the longer your creation will be able to last before disintegrating. With time, you will be able to create a sword out of wit, a ship of dreams, or a dog from a fond memory, but for now, concentrate on the flame."

Alexander was startled out of his reverie by a flash of light. The first of the sunlight weasels was finished, a silhouette so bright it looked like an afterimage on his eyes. He got started on the next.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Humans

Many, many forms of people have existed, but most never last. These are those that have found a niche and proved themselves a survivable way of life.

Orthodox: The Orthodox are true humans. Some are born from gene-molds, or are the result of generations of genetic manipulation, or are unable to emerge from the suits that sustain them, but they are human minds, in human bodies, in human societies. They take pride in maintaining the ancient traditions of humanity. They are not united, but live in city-states, cult compounds, corsair caravans, and hundreds of other small societies scattered throughout the Solar system.

Amalgams: Not everyone takes pride in being human. Some look at the abilities of other life with envy, and seek to augment themselves by any means available. Haphazard augmentations often has unexpected results, and so every Amalgam is unique, with unique abilities, and unique disorders.

Multiple: Many minds in one brain in one body. Multiple personalities, multiple trains of thought. Range from attitude sets that share memories to independent people in the same body.

Blanks: Blanks have had their executive function removed. Their only desires are those that are implanted, usually survival plus subservience. Blanks are formidable, being just as intelligent as they were before the procedure, and are incredibly decisive, never hesitating to act or react. Blanks have no societies of their own, but are found everywhere, as they are useful and easy to make. In some places, becoming a blank is a form of suicide, in others, execution.

Shamans: Shamans do not much value conscious thought, but do not go nearly so far as to become blanks. They keep their consciousness, but replace rationality with hypercharged intuition. They have excellent social skills, and indeed their view of the world is primarily social, using anthropomorphization as a filter through which to view the world. They view all systems as persons, not abstractions, and thanks to their powers of intuition, can still be accurate. Their speech uses metaphors and analogies heavily. They use technology, but never invent any, and rarely even create it.

Relics: Relics are immortal human minds in robotic bodies. Most live solitary lives, wandering the system pursuing whatever arbitrary goals they might set for themselves. Their memories are not longer than those of a normal human, so much of their own lives are forgotten, but each and every one of them is a legend, and so many learn about themselves by collecting stories about themselves.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

MEN WANTED

for expedition to find the bottom of the valley of kings, to live underground for an unknown duration, high risk of death by privation or predation, incredible rewards if we both succeed and survive.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Lake of Light

This underground chamber is a massive cylinder, 500 meters deep and 3 kilometers in diameter. The bottom 200 meters of the chamber is filled by the lake of light, the top 200 is occupied by the upside-down forest, and 100 meters of space separates them.

The lake of light is filled with water that glows, bright enough that the trees of the upside-down forest can live on the light. Many small fish and large crustaceans live in the lake, all of which are transluscent, the better to hide in the bright water. They live off of whatever falls from the forest.

The upsidedown forest is dominated by massive ironwood trees, on which grow numerous types of vines. The trees grow rocknuts and the vines grow berries. Ironhide monkeys swing from branch to branch, throwing rocknuts at intruders to knock them into the lake. A species of grey bee with cement hives pollinates the flowers of the trees and vines. Small birds live off of the berries, larger birds snatch fish from the lake below, and large birds prey on the monkey, as well as the occasional explorer.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Shattered Hive

Ghostly pale translucent grubs, chew the mud of an alien planet and huddle together in dark chambers. Once they were larvae, surviving underground until they could metamorphosize into winged insects but cowering in the dark proved a better survival strategy than flying, so now they stay adolescent forever. Once they were solitary, assuming any other life was hostile. Cooperation proved an effective means of gathering food and creating shelter, so their society became tightly bound, and then bond even tighter when the grubs began communicating through an unceasing ultrasonic song, carrying the thoughts of a nascent gestalt mind

Their carefully sculpted clay tower colonies became slumped over mounds and they began to die ever more frequently, from mold, parasites, and confused violence. Yet, in the depths of these mounds, individuals began to experiment with their own creations, churning mud into representations from their dream-like consciousness.