Monday, July 5, 2021

People of the Solar System

In Sol it is whorls of nuclear energy that became people. They are called angels, for their perfect society long ago solved all problems of morality. They do not interact with the rest of the system, but occasionally exile the imperfect, sending them burning through the ether to land on some planet or asteroid or moon and become djinn.

On Mercury it is rocks that became people. They are slow, methodical beings who spend their time in contemplation, for they do not die and require nothing to live. Their powers of introspection and self-control are second-to-none but convincing them to accept you as a student will require incredible patience.

On Venus it is plants that became people. Stately and always flowering, they prize the colors of their leaves and petals. Their movements are slow, deliberate, and carefully practiced so that they are always in an elegant pose. Their understanding of beauty and grace is perfect, but they will not allow you in their society if you will ugly it.

On Mars it is lizards that became people. They spend 4/5 of their lives asleep, and the remainder in frantic action, performing maintenance on the automated machines that run their society. Martian machines are valuable trade goods and trade ships carrying them will be welcomed throughout the system.

On Ceres it is fish that became people. They evolved under the ice, in total darkness, but they and their cousin animals are bioluminescent. They build aquariums out of asteroids and travel the system in glass spheres. They do not like to show themselves, but display alluring lightshows, for which they are nicknamed sirens.

Around Saturn it is birds that became people. They fly between Saturn’s many moons on mirror wings, snatching up shards of ice and bringing shiny rocks to their nests. Their culture is centered on vendettas; each bird can recite a list of who has wronged them and how.

Around Jupiter it is insects that became people. They fly between Jupiter’s many moons on transparent wings, devouring each other and anything that enters Jovian orbit. Their society is without morality, as they are unable to feel any sort of pain.

On Uranus it is coral reefs that became people. Their bodies sprawl across the shallow zones, feeding on radioactive plankton and thinking vast, slow thoughts. It is assumed that their philosophies are filled with unique insights, but their language has never been translated.

On Neptune it is the ocean that became a person. The water ammonia mix of its seas carve channels in the ice, inscribing perfect memories and flowing in patterns of perfect thought. Neptune wants nothing more than to bring itself closer to the sun and awaken the other planets.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Hollow Men

Hollow men are all skin and bones. They have no eyes, only empty holes in their skull to match their mouths, noses, and ears. Their skin has become a hard shell. Wounds become new holes, and do not impede the hollow unless a part is severed.

Where it comes from: Any who dies by starvation and is left unburied or unburned will become hollow.

What it wants and will fight for: Hollow men want meat. They will tirelessly hunt down living creatures, then pull them apart and stuff their meat into themselves. They will ignore living creatures to try to get dead meat, which has led to the common tactic of luring them into groups with animal carcasses and setting them aflame.

What happens if you eat it: Hollow men are tents of dried skin and bone filled with rotting meat. You will get sick.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Queen

A colony of of ants lived on the edge of town, just where the overgrown yard of Ms. Jones gave way to the woodland that went up the mountain. The queen of the colony was, above all else, bored. Ant queens, you see, are not actually in charge of their colonies, but only lie in its depths and lay eggs all day, being fed and cleaned by her handmaidens. The queen had been told by one of her handmaidens about Ms. Jones, who the handmaiden had heard of from one of the colony's soldiers, who had heard of her from one of the workers who often left the nest looking for food. Apparently, Ms. Jones did everything for herself.

The queen was tired of having everything done for her, so she decided to become Ms. Jones. But even to leave the colony, she would need the help of the colony.

"You cannot go,"said the handmaidens. "If you leave we will have no eggs to take care of."

"Let me leave," said the queen. "If I lay no more eggs you will have no more work and will be able to do as you please. You must carry me to the house."

The handmaidens agreed that being able to do whatever they wanted would be better, and so they picked her up and carried her to the entrance of the colony, where they were stopped by soldiers.

"You cannot go," said the soldiers. "If you go, what we will have nothing to guard."

"Let me leave," said the queen. "If I lay no more eggs you will have nothing to guard and will be able to do as you please. You must escort me to the house."

The soldiers agreed that being able to do what they wanted would be better, and so they surrounded her on sides to protect her from the wildlife of the yard. Soon they met a worker, carrying a seed back to the colony.

After the situation was explained to the worker, he was overjoyed. "If you go, I'll be able to eat all the food I gather. Let me clear a path for you!"

The worker began clearing a path to the house, and more workers joined as they came to investigate the noise. Soon the entire colony had formed a procession, following the Queen as she was carried through the gap at the bottom of Ms. Jones' door, through brightly painted rooms and towards the bedroom where Ms. Jones was sleeping.

The ants all cheered as the queen crawled into Ms. Jones' ear, their cheers turning to screams as Ms. Jones began screaming and writhing around on the floor, crushing ants beneath her. Then Ms. Jones grew calm, stood up, and shouted "I did it! I can do as I please now!" Even more ants were crushed as she jumped for joy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Book of Flies

The book is black, an inch thick. On its cover is a gold-leaf design of seven circles, arranged in a hexagon. Inside each circle is the image of a fly. There is no title.

Every page inside is blank. If, however, you write a name into the book, you will find that one of the flies is missing from the cover. Open it again, and you'll see a table of contents, with the name you wrote as the first entry.

Turn to the corresponding page and you'll see that name as the chapter title. Wait, and eventually you will see a description being written, of the activities of the named person, written as if from the perspective of a small, flying observer.

These descriptions are thorough, containing descriptions of all activities, transcriptions of conversations, and copies of anything the target reads.

Seven names can be written in the book.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Horses

The people of the five-tongued river breed horses descended from the celestial horses of Snowcloud mountain. The horses can walk on the water of the river, but no other river, lake, or sea will hold them. The people live along the northern stretch of the river, from its source at the base of the mountain, and as far south as Icefall ravine, where cold steppe gives way to cold desert.

The river is a road to its people, a natural causeway wider than any built by mortals. The people ride their horses along it, and hitch the horses to large barges that can carry far more cargo than a cart.

Their settlements sit at each fork and curve, long towns and villages whose buildings sit at the water's edge, hiding from the wind in the small river valleys. The nearby lands are used to raise hardy crops, tough enough to survive the cold and the dry, but tough enough to break teeth too. The low hills further out are the pastures for the horses, as well as herds of pale pigs that grow wool and unusually round goats that produce massive volumes of milk.

One of the princes of the coasts sent an envoy hoping to buy some of these water-walking horses. He had hoped to use them against his enemies, reasoning that ships do not expect to have to defend against cavalry. He was most displeased to learn that the horses can only walk on some water, and petitioned his god for celestial horses of his own.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Ollivander's

“Ah yes,” came a voice from the back of the shop, sneaking to Harry's ears so softly it took him a moment to realize someone was talking to him. “Yes, yes. I thought I’d be seeing you soon, Mr. Potter.” The voice was followed by the soundless movement of long, thin fingers around the end of one of the stacks. The fingers were attached to a pair of arms, long and thin, with no hands in between.

“You have your mother’s eyes,” said the voice, although its own eyes were still nowhere to be seen. “It seems only yesterday she was in here herself, buying her first wand. Rose gold and an index finger. A wand for a rare talent.”

The fingers began to trace Harry’s body, fingertips trailing up his legs, counting his joints so gently he couldn’t be sure if he was actually being touched.

“Your father on the other hand, had a wand of steel and a ring finger. A wand for a warrior.”

The fingers moved up to his torso, sketching it in the air.

"...Fingers?" asked Harry, afraid to break the silence but more afraid to let it linger.

"The fingers of Merlin."

Harry looked at the boxes stuffed onto the shelves, stacked on the counter, piled on the floor, each one a wand. Each one a finger.

"He... must have had a lot of fingers."

"He did. He does. His body still grows them, on occasion. He was not alive in the same way that we are alive, and did not die in the same way that we will die.”

The fingers reached his head. They traced along his jawline, and found the scar, the jagged line of tooth-marks that cut across his face on their way round his skull, as if a giant had tried to bite his head in half.

“And that’s where…”

The fingers began to trace the scar, tapping lightly on each tooth mark.

“I wonder…”

The fingers suddenly withdrew, pulled by the arms back among the shelves. There was tapping and rustling and murmuring that might have come from multiple voices and then the fingers returned, clutching a slender box.

“Bronze and a little finger. Strong yet pliable. A wand for a survivor.”

The fingers presented the box. Harry took it carefully, avoiding touching them. Opening it he found a rod of black bronze, as thick as his thumb and as long as his forearm. The handle was engraved with a geometric pattern which had been burnished brown. He took the handle in his hand, and it was like…

…like a pins and needles feeling in his soul. A limb he had forgotten was missing had been reattached. He was greater than whole. This would be every tool he would ever need.

Harry remembered that he was standing in the shop, holding the wand. He had lost track of time and the long fingers were once again investigating his scar.

“Curious… curious…” drifted the voice from the back of the shop.

“What’s curious?” said Harry.

“All wands eventually return to me, Mr. Potter. A successful alchemist will find that their own fingers become enough, and they no longer need to borrow one of Merlin’s. The wands come and go from this shop, generation by generation. And this wand… this wand was last used by the man who gave you that scar.”

Silence hung amongst the dust in the air.

“Seven galleons,” said the voice. Harry put the coins on the desk and left. Hagrid was sitting on a bench outside. He grew concerned when he saw Harry’s face.

"Don't let Ollivander worry you. He's one of the oldest of us, most are still more human than that."

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Le Roi

The swamp swallows whole. 10 years gone, a wooden house will be overgrown. 20 years, it begins to sink into the mud. 30, and it is a framework of petrified wood. Even stone sinks.

Le Roi is a city of stone. It was designed after Paris, with wide avenues, magnificent monuments, and dense blocks of apartments.

The city is now 100 years old, and is 2 stories below sea level. Having sunk for a century, no building stands straight. The avenues have become canals, populated by gondoliers and alligators. Balconies have become entrances. Parks have become marketplaces, stalls built on rafts tied to the tops of drowned trees. In summer it is like a great simmering sauce pan, baking the stone. In storms the city seems already drowned and howling for breath.

The youth are fond of jumping into the water from the rooftops, or diving into the flooded ground floors, hoping to find left behind treasures. The city council has attempted to stop these activities do to injuries and parasites, but with little success. Among adults fishing is a common pastime, often done out of windows. Most are the businesses of smuggling guns and rum.

The manors built along the shore are hardest hit by the shores and were quickly abandoned by the rich and seized by the poor. Isolated families live in attics, surviving on what they can fish from the sea.