Hello, survivors and undertakers.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Or so they say. But is it really that simple? Do the ashes of aftermath really settle as softly as we’d like? Is it really so easy to wipe away the stains they leave? It’s time to see what ashes your disasters leave behind, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
At first glance, a prompt like this might seem fairly simple. But when you really think about it, it’s not just about ashes in the physical sense. Sure, it can be physical. But if we look at it a little differently, it can be so much deeper than that.
It can be about the aftermath of something devastating and disastrous. A divorce finally tearing a family apart, leaving the children confused and nervous. It could be an office worker who lost her job after her work went up in smoke. Perhaps it could be the aftermath of a fight between two lovers when one finds out the other has been unfaithful. Or more innocently, it could be two kids dealing with the hurt feelings after fighting with each other.
The ashes could also be physical. Maybe it’s the ashes of a beloved pet who reached the end of their long and happy journey, and their humans have to pick up the pieces and cope with the loss. Perhaps it’s a home, the memories within burned mercilessly to the ground in a fire. It could be a village covered in ash like snow following the eruption of a volcano. Perhaps it’s the aftermath of a car wreck, in which the thing lost could simply be the car itself, or someone inside. Maybe even a vampire’s remains after they’re brought down by the sun. Or maybe it’s simply the ashes of a midnight cigarette.
Maybe these ashes don’t have to be about moving on, though. Maybe they can bring life instead. A phoenix reborn after it bursts into flame and dies. A druid bringing a golem of ashes to life in an attempt to prevent more of her forests being burned. Maybe it’s a power, born of great sacrifice and the wielder needing to come to terms with those consequences, always wondering if it was worth it.
Whatever tale ignites from within you, let it burn bright and wild.
Let us stain our fingers with the ashes it leaves behind.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
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What to Submit
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Found in the remains
By minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
Daisy awoke to ashes.
The angel hacked a pound of smoke out of her lungs as she came to. Ow…
She pushed herself up, mentally tracing her steps…
She joined up with the merchants…
Ran into those bandits…
Oh yeah, Amuletta! She must’ve taken care of those guys! Now, she could get back to singing bard’s songs on the open….
The entire bandit camp was destroyed.
She slowly surveyed the area. Tents were burnt to the ground. Chests were now charcoal. Even the trees around the camp were scarred with crackling singe marks.
It was like a bomb had gone off…
Suddenly, a flutter of fabric caught her attention. She turned just in time for a pair of eyes to dart beneath some rubble
She trotted over to the tent and peered beneath the tattered fabric. A guy in armor was huddled in its shelter. Another wounded person laid behind him, barely breathing
“Hey there!” Daisy said, making her voice as gentle as possible as she ducked in “Are you alright?”
The stranger turned pale as a sheet when he saw her. He scooched back, fumbling for a sword that wasn’t there.
Daisy assumed he was shaken from the attack and pressed on “My name is Daisy! I’m here to help! Your friend looks in bad shape. Maybe I could-”
“GET AWAY FROM ME!”
She stumbled back a little at the shout. “Wh…what?”
“D-Don’t come any closer, you monster!”
She was taken aback. “Whuh… buh… But I’m not here to hurt anyone! Please, just let me-”
“LIAR!” he screamed “I’ve seen your intentions, beast! I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE!”
She was starting to get scared. “I-I… I don’t know what you’re talking about! I didn’t hurt-”
“Hm. Jumpy, ain’t he?”
Wait, that voice…
“I thought my body count was one short. Thanks.”
Dread was rising in her chest “B-Body count!? What in the world!? A-Amuletta, What’s going on here? Did you do all of thi-”
And just as her fear hit its peak, the world went dark once again.
The Drums of the Steppe
The giant boars roared and beat the ground as the village was stripped of any and all worthy treasures. The bodies of warriors were brought to the pyres that had been set up using the broken houses as kindling. The humans watched, huddled together in fear, as their livelihoods were ruined and despoiled.
The warlord sat atop his mighty steed. The boar had the longest and sharpest tusks out the entire herd. The warlord matched his steed in that regard, his own tusks protruding from his lower jaw like gnarled daggers. He watched his men raid with a carefully trained eye, ensuring that too much was not taken. Raiding was not some thumping chaos where everything is destroyed and nothing is left to grow. What was the point if one could not come back? There was none. And when there is no point, death soon follows.
The ash from the pyres began wafting into the sky. The warlord watched the ash swirl, seeing shifting shapes in the sky. This was a sight he was accustomed to. Not but a few sun cycles had his warband trampled across the lands of those humans with the shiny metal plates for clothes. The shamans said that the spirits of the recent dead could be seen in the dark haze. The warlord was never sure if he could, but he still stared into the ash anyways. For it was not just human bodies that burned, but those of the orcs as well.
He looked back down to the village as he heard a human child-bearer cry. Another human tried to comfort her as the orcs glared at her. The warlord shook his head. The grass could not grow with salty tears. It required bones and blood. The sky did not move at the behest of some weaklings scream. It moved because it chose to move on. Those that could not muster must hide or be left behind. For the next battle was never too far away. The next death is always close. The eternal steppe always on the horizon.
Nick stood silently as the eulogy was recited by the priest, but his mind was a million miles away. All the things he wanted to say, all the things he wished he hadn’t said. Every last thing he wished he could do differently. And now it was too late.
No one as young as Molly should have to die.
He wished they still had time. That he could tell her that he loved her.
He would have given anything to have taken back their last conversation. That they hadn’t fought before she stormed out.
He remembered the call from the police, how her car slipped on the ice, and swerved into oncoming traffic. She was dead long before they pried the door open. Nick had cried the entire night.
“In accordance with Molly’s final wishes, she asked that her remains be cremated,” the priest said. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in the certain hope that Molly’s eternal soul has passed onto a better place. Amen.”
“Amen,” said the congregation. Nick himself mumbled along, still numb from the loss.
For the life of him, Nick couldn’t remember how he got to the wake. The funeral director had handed him a wooden box containing Molly’s ashes. He politely thanked the man, and took them outside.
“I’m sorry, Molly,” Nick said. “I wish things never ended like they did. If I could have told you that I was sorry, to please stay for just five minutes longer, maybe you…” His voice caught in his throat. “I love you, Molly.” Nick squeezed his eyes shut, the tears stinging them.
“I love you too.”
Nick had heard her say it so many times, in exactly that way. He wasn’t sure if it was just his brain dragging her voice from his memory, but he wanted to believe, in some way, she was there with him at that moment to tell him it would be okay.
Nick swallowed his tears, tucked the box under his arm, and went back inside.
By Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
The Whigford library wasn’t very far away from the Biomedical labs. The ancient structure marked the center of the University and, in older days, served as the primary lecture hall for the Campus.
The two approached the huge, old hardwood door that sat at the entrance and stepped inside. They found themselves among rows and rows of old bookshelves filled with arcane and esoteric knowledge.
“Ok, I’ll take the bestiary, you look for references on the Soulwoods,” Sehrta commanded, and Reyhel nodded. She walked up to the librarian, Edmund, and asked for access to the bestiary.
“Alright. Here is the key to the shelf that stores it,” Edmund said in a raspy tone. “Be careful with it! It’s very old, now.” Sehrta thanked Edmund and set off to retrieve the book.
Nearby, Reyhel was scanning the shelves for taxonomies of the Yaranda forest. As he stumbled upon the first volume of “The Flora and Fauna of Yaranda”, he saw Sehrta place the large bestiary on a nearby table. He grabbed the copy and chose a seat nearby her to begin his study. On his way, he noticed a strange glint deeper into the library.
Realizing what it was, he yelled, “Sehrta get down!” as an arc of bright orange flame hurdled toward her and the bestiary.
Edmund quickly shouted “Imithe!” and all the books in the library disappeared as the fire collided with the table. Sehra was thrown back by the blast, and Reyhel ran to her aid. More arcs of fire flew through the library, landing on the now empty shelves. Bursts of flame sprouted out from, seemingly, all directions at once.
“Everyone out of the library!” called out the worried Edmund as he desperately battled the spreading flames. Reyhel grabbed Sehrta’s hand tightly, and together they made their way through the burning shelves to the back entrance. As they reached the door, Sehrta looked back through the rising smoke. She thought she could see a pair of green eyes staring back for just a moment before they vanished behind the rising ash.
Penance Before Rapture
A trail of soot followed Ashkin over a small hill. Beautiful, open flowers wilted and crumbled into particles. Green grass blades furled into themselves.
Heavy black puffs exited through his gray, cracked lips. His body behaved like curling smoke and appeared as falling, onyx flakes. However, his parts didn’t blow away in the sunlit breeze.
Ashkin refused to look back at the blighted village. The outlines of those petrified people. Their wheezing, tormented screams. Fitful, hacking coughs.
Some had passed away with eyes open. Others had faced away from the monster that he was. More still were dried out husks. All of them, nevertheless, had perished.
All by his doing.
Ashkin arrived at a rushing river. There was no foreseeable way to cross. Elongating his body into an arch, he traversed the flowing current.
His soot specks swirled and danced in their usual macabre way, leaving temporary streaks of black through the air behind him. Relief hit him once he touched down on the other side.
Until he saw the floating, dead fish caused by his cast off ashes.
Casting his tired, crimson eyes heavenward, he croaked out an unsteady scream.
Birds flapped frantically into the distance. His wheezing breath and burbling water met his ears.
‘Why must I endure this hex?!’
His hideous form burned and trembled with rage.
He turned his reluctant sight to the accursed bright orb and wished it into extinction.
As if heeding his deepest desire, the sun sank slowly into slumber. Once it moved below the horizon, Ashkin sighed.
Then he roared out another agonized scream as the first curse transitioned into the second.
He felt burdened by gravity and haunted in the wake of his reforming limbs. The sickening crackle and pop of his bones and joints sang a disgustingly melodic harmony, and he bellowed throughout the process.
He crashed to his knees. Stubs and nubs formed. Appendages extended and split. Rending and ripping flesh decimated the peace that night would bring.
He was achingly whole once more. Bloodlust weakened him.
“Why not let the sun immolate me?”
The heavens had no answer.
A World’s Ashes
By Jesse Fisher edited by KingArthur and first look: Spectre
The clouds grew heavy over the city. As the wind blew, ashen snow fell to the ground. The bleak landscape was broken as grays and bleached colors gave way to a vibrantly colored robot walking as the ash fell on it.
“I watch the city burn,” Came out of it’s speakers as it moved deeper into the ruined city. “These dreams like ashes float away, your voice I never heard.”
Broken telescreens flickered as old recordings played on loop.
“The sun has been seen contracting and expanding at *static* the space agency can not explain it but *static*. It is recommended that everyone prepare bunkers if this does not stop in the next year.”
The pristine robot looked from the screen to the bleached and ash covered skulls on the ground as the wind whipped up a mixed sand down narrow alleyways. The dark visor of it’s face returned to the road it trod.
Thoughts of how this happened came to mind as the evidence of what was once life before the cataclysm. This looked like a normal civilization and rather high on the tech spectrum without being at a singularity, given what it saw in what was once stores or was it homes they had just added many like his kind but looked to be early stages of the robots being more than tools.
It had come across some functional bots but they had gone a bit…crazy would be the right word but it seemed more depressing. As they could do their tasks but not be given a response of gratitude, which seemed to be a hard coded thing to them like an alcoholic getting a free beer.
It swapped songs as it kept on walking down the road.
“We’ll not fade out too soon, not in this finest hour.” Words and sound came out of it’s speakers. “Whistle your favorite tune, we’ll send a card and flower saying.”
Another screen plays a loop of frantic people shouting. “It’s a mistake.”
“Ashes of Modernity”
Calm blew the Western wind. Upon the cloudless seas of the azure skies, the unconquered Sun sailed, bearing the triumphant fruits of Spring. Under the gentle warmth, a man and his sons tend their fields.
“Hey Da! Look what I found!” one of the boys came running up.
“And what’s this you’ve got, Valens?” his father asked.
“I dunno, I was pullin’ weeds when m’trowel hit it.” In the boy’s hand was a small rectangle. One side bore a pattern of circles on an otherwise unremarkable face, while the other seemed to be entirely of glass, in texture and appearance, with a web of cracks woven across the surface, and dust had long since scratched away its sheen.
The father chuckled. “What you’ve found was probably quite valuable to someone, once! It’s a relic of a time the world is already forgetting.”
“Like in the stories?” Valens said, eyes lighting up.
“Yes, but these were falling out of favor even when those stories began. You could do a lot with them, you see, and many people spent hours on them – for better or worse, I figure. It was like having entire libraries and theatres in your hands, and more!”
“Wow!” the boy ogled the broken thing, then his brow furrowed. “Then, why don’t these get used anymore?”
“Hmm. Do you remember the story of the Californians?”
“OH! How Uncle Arthur and Cousin Bjørn killed the metal men?!”
“That’s the one. These little things may have held unimaginable possibilities, even my dad admitted he had benefited greatly using them, but their technology was easy to abuse, and people in the old cities were eventually consumed by it. People found more convenient things, but less safe than these, while others, like my dad, abandoned their use entirely.” He looked over the rolling hills. “However marvelous, they didn’t help much when Yellowstone happened.”
The father reached down, grabbing a fistful of earth. “Even though that world was flawed, the ashes it left are fertile ground for a better world to begin.” He said, letting the volcanic soil swirl in the breeze.
Modulus of Rupture
It was the breeze that brought him back.
There shouldn’t have been a breeze.
Vitale opened his eyes.
Darkest pitch and shards of light.
His lungs pulled shallowly at the fresh air that shouldn’t have been, trying to breath around the ache in his back. His fingers crawled across the stone to grasp the leg of the medical cabinet. Prepare, his heartbeat thrummed, take the time you need.
Vitale sat up.
Pain jabbed him pointedly in the spine, but not as hard as he’d expected. More distressing was the way his vision swayed. He clung to the cabinet, scaled it hand over hand to fling himself on top.
The black tourmaline floor was littered with bits of glass, from the frames that had been thrown from the workspace wall. The glass had been meant to protect his specimens, but now it ravaged them, shredding insect wings and puncturing fur.
The mouse he’d started lay on the floor. The flesh on its underside was still peeled back, and he could see a deep crack had appeared in the clay he’d wrapped around its heart.
Beside it, crumpled on her belly, legs splayed, was Wedge. She didn’t stir when he approached, not even when he bent to stroke her tabby-stripped fur. There was a growing heat in her chest.
There was a hole.
A hole with a clean edge, like someone had taken a bread knife and cut a perfect slice of the earth. If he leaned out and looked up, he could see layers of dirt and stone, concrete and metal, everything that separated his work from the city above. And below, nothing but endless night sky.
Half his workspace was gone.
Along with his kiln.
The pop of shattered pottery, a flicker of flames, and the last embers of Wedge’s life floated from her. They hung there, drifting and curling around his outstretched hand, before a final breeze whisked them out into the stars.
Darkest pitch and shards of light.
“Hello End Times.” Vitale breathed. “You couldn’t have waited a week?”
A dead world[Aleph null sci fi]
The probes send their message back.
The screen finally receives their signal.
The display lights up, showing us a dead world.
No! This world had biosignatures and plentiful oxygen! There should be at least plants!
The atmosphere is totally different.
I ask the obvious to my crew mates. “How could this have happened!”
Worlds don’t just die. At least, they shouldn’t.
Everyone is confused. We were going to live there, but now the atmosphere is unbreathable. We wouldn’t have enough supplies to make it back to earth, even if we had the fuel.
Someone suggests converting our ship into a space habitat, and using its automation potential. It appears we have no choice. We’ll live in space. But still, what happened to this world?!
I decided to join an expedition. Using the telepresence androids, I experience the descent through the planet’s corrupted atmosphere without risk. The capsule lands on the surface.
I get out, and I see that the world seems covered in ash. It’s not quite ash, it’s finer and chemically different, at least according to my samples, but it’s unmistakably the result of a massive fire.
The others report the same. This planet must have experienced devastating global firestorms. But how is that possible? As the plants burned, the oxygen concentration would decrease, meaning the fire would burn less well, and it would eventually stop. And plants can regrow.
Then I notice something. Something we should have noticed much sooner. It looks like I’m in a caldera or crater of some kind. A massive one.
A sample of the rock below the ash confirms my suspicion. It was hit by a huge asteroid. Bigger than the Chicxulub impactor. Much much bigger.
That still doesn’t answer all our questions, the atmosphere does have some weird characteristics not explicable by global firestorms, but it’s enough.
We have found everything we need to. We leave our android bodies behind on this desolate planet and return to our human ones, ready to inform the crew.
By L. L. Marco
See that man over there? He’s been weepin’ like that for three days. Hasn’t moved from that bar. I ain’t never seen him like that, not once in my life. He’s not a crier, not even when he broke his leg in that car accident. Those sounds he’s makin’… they hurt.
Even more so knowin’ that I’m the one that’s causin’ ‘em.
They called him in when the accident happened. Its lingerin’ around this town even now, I suspect. Take in a deep breath, you smell that? Ashes still hangin’ in the air from that plane crash. A freak accident, they told him. He needs to come over as soon as he can to identify… well..
Lot of good that did, showing a husband the charred corpse of his wife. There ain’t hardly nothin’ left to see of me. It ain’t right doin’ that to him; whole planes in pieces and the people inside get dragged back in pieces too.
I don’t remember much of it. I was chatting with the woman next to me, an old gal with crooked teeth. She had lovely eyes though. Then suddenly I hear something over the intercom and the plane jerks, after ‘at…
I was here, watchin’ my husband cry over an empty cup. I know I’m dead; he can’t see me and isn’t comforted by my touch. I guess I should be more shaken up but being upset can’t change things. The only thing that bothers me is seein’ his strong shoulders shake like that. Shakin’ like an infant.
The ashes are still dancin’ in the air. I see them but I can’t smell the smoke or feel the summer heat. In fact, I feel a whole lot of nothin’. Guess that’s what bein’ dead is like. Confusing and disorientatin’ as waking up with a fever. My man’s the only thing I can see clearly…
An’ when I wrap my arms around him, I can feel the thrum of his heart. His skin is warm.
As long as I can keep feelin’ that, this sort of life ain’t all that bad.
By Giovanna J. Fuller
“What do you mean ‘it’s a dead person’?” Collette asked.
“I mean, we burned my dad and put the ashes in that jar, what about that is so complicated?”
“All of it.” The ineffable creature trapped in the vaguely human shaped vessel cocked her head. “Why’d you burn him?”
“To keep them in the jar.”
“So we don’t have to bury them.”
“Because that’s what you do with dead people!” Jordan shouted, exasperated with his guardian spirit. “What else would you do with them?”
He recoiled. “No…”
“Collette, that’s disgusting!”
“No it isn’t.” She pointed to the brass pot that had once been sitting on the mantle. It was on the ground, the contents spilled out. There was no chance of putting it back, even with Collette’s amazing powers. “That’s disgusting. Why would you display your dead like that? Don’t you want their spirit to live on within you?”
Jordan was about to reply, but stopped. He looked at the remains and felt, oddly, nothing. For years, he and his mother had regarded the object with the sort of reverence one holds for a religious artifact. Now, with the ashes staining the carpet, he felt none of that. It was just dust.
He had only vague memories of the man, but he had held onto them tightly. This dirt was not his father. His father was a tall, strong man with a thick beard and a sense of humor that made everyone cringe.
“I see that I have upset you.”
Jordan looked up and saw eyes appearing all over her exposed skin. A faint glow was beginning to emanate from the center of her chest. She was sad and her human form was beginning to change, if only a little.
He shook his head. “No…you’re right.” Then quickly added, “In a way.”
He returned it.
They heard the front door open. “Jordan, I’m home. I see Collette’s bike in the driveway, is she-”
Both of them let out a cry of alarm as Jordan’s mother rounded the bend.
Heshe ran ahead of his mother excitedly. The town square was humming with activity as the sun crested midday. So many Incinere gathered in one place, their ashen skin flaking in the breeze, it was easy to understand why they called it the Dust Market.
“Don’t wander too far!” Heshe’s mother called out behind him, holding up her apron in a fist as she chased him.
She was panting by the time she reached him, practically heaving dust from her lips. Her grey cheeks flamed faintly with exertion and her short brittle hair fell askew across her eyes.
“I know you are excited, but you have to stay close to me.”
She held out her hand, and Heshe reluctantly took it. He wanted to explore, but he also had to listen to mama. Everything looked so bright and colorful in contrast to the grey crowd surrounding him! Glowing emberfruits both fresh in the stand and fermented, molten in their glass bottles. Bits of pottery, their glazed surface shining in the sun. Fresh golden loaves of smoky scented bread. It was all so enticing.
At the center of the square stood a statue, a larger than life Incinere holding a long charred staff and staring into the sky with bright silvery eyes. Heshe pointed excitedly at the figure.
“Mama. Mama, who is that?”
“Don’t point, Heshe.” His mother replied patiently, moving his hand back to his side. “That is Fenix, First and Maker. He was the first Incinere to be borne from ashes, and who, with his staff, created our people.” She waved her hand across the market dramatically, scattering ash to join the air as she gestured to the crowd. “Everyone here is descended from someone he made. Including us.” she added, hefting her son into her arms.
From his perch, he watched the ashes of the Dust Market dance around everyone. It seemed to surround them in a warm embrace, similar to his mother’s, and he liked how it looked.
“Revenge and Arson”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Adal Muller walked down the street, spewing fire from her mouth. Village cottages caught alight and burned wildly. Wood smoke, burnt hair and burnt flesh permeated the night as men, women, and children ran from the burning houses. Adal ignored them, letting them pass right by her.
“Go! Run, run. Get the constable!”
Adal smiled to herself as she sat down on the doorstep. Screaming. Crying. Pandemonium. It was like music to her ears. She closed her eyes, the flames seeming to dance on their own.
She opened her eyes to see a portly man. His constable uniform was askew, and his sleep clothes peeked out from underneath. On his side was a cudgel and in his hands was a shortbow notched and ready. Adal smiled as she stood up. Just who she wanted to see.
“By the Seven Gods.” The constable swallowed hard. His bow hand was shaking. “Frau Muller, what have you become?”
“I am vengeance incarnate.”
Before he could respond, Adal released another gout of flame. He had no time to scream; the flames consumed him like starved locusts. The constable fell, immediately scattering to ashes. Adal’s lips curled into a sadistic smile, smoke escaping from the corners of her mouth.
She walked through town, the fire seeming to follow her like a loyal dog. It jumped from house to house, the conflagration growing and growing. Houses crumbled. Men, women and children buried under burning timber and straw. It serves them right; they cheered her burning to death.
Adal made her way to town hall. The flames had gone ahead as her destructive herald and burned the place to the ground. Kneeling before it were two men. The first was middle-aged, balding and thin. The second was elderly, adorned with a powdered wig.
“Good morning, Mayor Schmidt. Judge Lange.”
The younger almost jumped up from his knees, and turned. The elder simply looked back at her, then back to the flames.
“Frau Muller,” the elder shouted, “Have you come to take me?”
Adal said nothing, burning the two to a crisp.
And She Dreamed Eternal (A Bard and the Blade Story)
Colored glass crunched underfoot. These windows had been beautiful, once, made by the finest artisans and paid for from the Royal Treasury, no expense spared. The flawless slate, the engraved pillars, and the flameless lanterns in the rafters… it would have been a majestic sight, before.
Ithmeir stepped lightly. They were getting closer to the still-smoldering crater that had shattered this city’s center. The ground was unstable and violent swirls of magic hissed through the air; he had to pick his way through illusionary thorns and broken tile.
Whatever Sword wanted him to see was close. The quartz blade was tugging constantly now, humming frantically.
Ithmeir absently read a plaque, and stopped in his tracks.
“Here the Pure Sword of Starlight was Born, Within the Highest Minds Awakened a Living Soul of Steel—friend, was this the High Wizard’s tower? This was the capital?”
The sword flashed a couple times. (YES. NOT IMPORTANT.) It tugged him away from the gilded inscription, and into the lab beyond.
It was trashed.
Sweet rot burned his nose. Mysterious pink stains lingered in beakers and across what might have once been a table. Through the missing parts of the floor he could see the violet glow of the crater. When the explosion occurred, it must have destroyed something structural, causing a collapse. There was a mess of twisted metal and shattered crystal, and there was blood on the floor, under—
If Sword hadn’t had a grip on him, he would have dropped it in shock.
There was a person suspended in the massive lump of cracked and chipped crystal. She was well dressed, nobility or something close to it, and based on the shattered glass—
He could only assume she had been inside some giant test tube, mounted on the wall… perhaps even enshrined there.
“The Wizard Angela Dreams here, Eternal,” Ithmeir read off the wall. His hands shook. He looked at the blood-smeared crystal. “Sword—”
It flashed desperately. Ithmeir swallowed.
“There’s…” He shook his head, stepping back. “The crystal fell, it broke—”
He tried again. “She’s in two parts—”
He blinked, twice.
Ash Like Snow
“That way! It fell somewhere around there!”
Isaac tries to keep up as Darren leads them across grassy fields underneath cloudy skies.
“Over here!” Vivian calls out as she spots something shimmering among the grass.
Darren rushes up to Vivian. “What is it?”
“It looks like… a handle?”
Isaac leans over to inspect the object jutting from the ground. “It has the Imperial symbol. Maybe we shouldn’t…”
Darren puts his hands on it and tugs, but it doesn’t budge. “Help me out!”
The other two reluctantly grab on and, with a heave, the object yields and slides out of the earth. Darren is flung onto his back. As he regains composure, he finds an Imperial saber in his hands.
Darren lifts the sword. “Score!”
Isaac pipes up. “I really don’t think—”
Isaac’s words are cut off by a loud thud. Vivian shrieks as she spots the source of the sound, the mangled body of a uniformed man, unmoving, bones crushed, and chest crimson with blood.
Ashes start to fall from the sky like black snow. As Darren looks up, he drops the saber.
A loud metallic howl erupts.
Above them, clouds part as a massive burning airship falls through. Debris of wood and metal accompany the behemoth in its descent. The engines screech and howl like a dying beast.
“It’s coming for us!” Vivian cries out.
“Run!” Darren orders.
The children rush to safety. Darren looks back and finds Vivian, having tripped, struggling to stand. He runs back to help her up.
Isaac hesitates, watching Vivian limping as Darren holds her. He starts toward them but stops as debris crash all around. Tears roll down his cheek as he runs away. He ducks into a ditch, crying and trembling.
With a deafening blast, the earth rumbles and the trees sway violently. Isaac feels his heart pounding fast. As the turmoil dies down, Isaac hesitates to come out, afraid of what he might find. He peeks out, knees still shaking. He finds nothing but the charred remains of the colossal airship.
With a shaky voice, he calls out, “Vivian? Darren?”
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
There was still business to attend to, the Mayor thought to himself. A town meeting, and his job was to call it.
He climbed up some charred remains of something sturdy enough to stand on, then scanned the scene.
The dragon’s attack was just as violent as the stories claimed, leaving no stone unblackened and no wood, well, at all. Particles of ash danced in the air alongside crying children, adults scavenging for anything of value, and what few animals remained.
And the burns. Scars. Missing limbs. Tears.
He took a deep breath.
“If I may have your attention please!” the Mayor called to the crowd. His voice was weak from the smoke, but the people still came to hear his words. He recognized every single face, and bit his lip when he realized just how many people he would never see again.
“Has anyone found anything that will help us?”
No one moved or said a word. The Mayor looked around at the depressed faces, the exhausted posture of the few survivors of his once-great town.
He swallowed and frantically pieced together something motivational to say.
“I know we have lost everything. And I know that there is little hope in this place, but we must work together to repave our future. If we are to rebuild, which we will, we will have to find that hope within ourselves again and push forward to tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.”
The crowd might as well have been statues, husks of people he once knew. It hurt to see them like this.
He forced himself to continue. “We will need to send messengers to the nearby villages to warn them of our misfortunes and ask for their aid. Do we have any volunteers?”
After a few seconds, two young men raised their hands.
The Mayor designated tasks like this for the next twenty minutes. And the more they had to do, the brighter their faces appeared to be.
They would rebuild, he was sure of it.
By RVMPLSTLSKN (A Tale from Hizkanamun’s Flesh)
Nkunaxi had seen death aplenty–she’d lived through wars and crimes against the Flesh, though she didn’t know those unmade lives in this moment–but now it was her friend’s ashes she felt in her hand. Cremated remains would normally be left to the winds. She wanted something though. Perhaps it was nostalgia or refusal, but she felt she deserved more than this.
If we do not remember, can we truly be human? We remember the dead god afterall.
As they say, divine perspective came upon her. Here she stood on Hizkanamun’s dusty Flesh, ashen-handed and tear streaked, pondering the divinity of humankind. Truth, she knew more than she admitted. The stories they told themselves said that fire broke down the corpse to join the dead god Hizkanamun and, generation by generation, restore Him. The dead wouldn’t matter then, for all would be one and the One divine.
The people of this place likewise burned their dead and scattered the ashes into their fields. A family’s field had a pedigree, a roster of the dead tilled in as fertilizer. The dead fed the living. Some went back as many as twenty generations. They were an old culture and settled in their ways, proud and lacking innovative spirits.
Her father planned to peacefully conquer these people by use of technology and trade deals. Trade was the way of their clan. A settled life the promise they made themselves. Here they had found that life.
Nkunaxi remained an itinerant. She itched to move on. She would later blame her rebellious nature for this act that would make her a heretic too.
“Halli Abxuar Abnakra.” She named her dead. Halli, child of Xuar, child of the Nakran tribe. Nkunaxi was already in a field so she let the ashes fall from her fingers to join Hizkanamun’s Flesh.
She poured the god’s lifeblood from her waterskin to finish the joining. It was indulgent, selfish and a waste of good water. Nkunaxi, the ambitious daughter, the least favorite daughter, laughed to herself. This was her family’s field and would have a pedigree. They were settled, after all.
The lady was looking outside
The list of patients was low and didn’t require her attention all morning. From the window, she could see the trees twirling with a small breeze uncovering the flowers of the nearby garden. A mix of colours out of a painting blushing under her eyes. Further she could see the mountains split in two where the sun resides in the morning.
The journal was brought inside by the janitor. She took a quick glimpse at the front picture. ”A beast of iron and steel has been spotted in the nearby waters. Remain careful, the enemy could try and infiltrate us.” Indeed a beast of metal roaming the coast was an actual danger but this one had something different. The long belly to carry its children had small one’s on it’s length but out of them all, one stood out. Larger and shining under the sun, this one was different though she couldn’t tell what.
Horn could be heard coming from further down the city. The day shift was starting in the factories downtown, maybe she’d see her fiance at dinner tonight. She hasn’t had much time with him lately due to work on both sides. The marriage was less than a month from now and she was starting to feel the anxiety to rise. She got up and went to see her first patient of the day. A young man who broke his hand working on a bullet press machine.
She finished writing the progress of her second patient, the horn started to screamed and she looked at the window. She remarked the sun being brighter than usual but no bird of prey. She then remarked the firetruck leaving the city toward the mountain. That is when she realized what had happened. Rising as a Goliath a second sun rose, leaving behind its dark spores, swirling ashes of despair from the crevasse of the rising sun.
Horns continued to rang but she couldn’t remove her sight from the windows. The dust arrived and shattered the glass.
Among the Debris
It had been a painfully silent ride back to the station with Chimene in custody. Even as they watched her husband go through booking, Detective Walsh couldn’t help but glance at her, try to read her expression as she sat motionless on the bench beside him. Eventually, she sighed.
“You’re feeling conflicted about arresting us,” she began.
“Suppose you could say that,” Walsh muttered.
“You caught criminals, but in doing so you condemned a little girl to grow up without her parents.”
“May have condemned her to die, too.” He grimaced, disgusted both with himself and the privatized force he worked for. “For what? A big, fat paycheck?”
“Stop it,” she snapped. She tilted her head towards Walsh, but her eyes remained fixed on Rodrigue. “You followed your morals. Rodrigue and I knew what would happen—what we were risking—trying to steal that medicine. A part in her life; our freedom; our marriage.”
Walsh began fiddling with his ring at mention of the latter, not noticing Chimene as she took a turn glancing at her bench fellow.
“Tell her you’re sorry,” Chimene stated. “Take it from a woman who nearly shot her own husband tonight attempting to rob the same place: nothing is more important in maintaining a strong relationship than meaningful communication.”
The detective chuckled—albeit bitterly.
Moments later, one of the desk officers approached and took Chimene by the arm toward booking.
“You’d be surprised what people’ve found among their emotional debris, detective,” she said, then flashed him a wry smile that would haunt him for the next few months.
It wasn’t until he returned to his desk that he felt the vial in his pocket, the sample that Rodrigue had dropped as he tried to run. The realization was eerily well timed with his noticing the CAWS officer bringing in Rodrigue and Chimene’s daughter for a final goodbye.
He withdrew the vial but kept it hidden beneath his desk, briefly checking that it was still intact.
“Found among the debris,” he repeated softly, staring at the empty evidence bag on his desk for which he couldn’t make himself reach.
“The Magi’s Machinations”
“Gestation is complete. Rhea.”
Paris took his quill and inscribed a rune over Leuveir’s sarcophagus. Its heavy stone lid cracked open, and with a signal from her Lord, Rhea twisted the stone ring that sat within the podium. Within the bowels of the coffin laid the fully regenerated body of Leuveir.
Paris tapped him in the face, saying “Alright, Leuveir, wake up. You’re done.”
Leuveir’s eye lids snapped open, revealing his empty sockets. “Thank you,” he said, crawling out of the chamber’s black water that encased his body for the past week.
“Your condition was very critical. It’s a miracle that you mostly survived.”
“None have killed me yet, and I plan for that to never happen.”
“Well, you know where my chamber is.”
Leuveir began to dress himself in his captain’s attire as he asked, “So, what’s the news around here? Been out at sea for months, and it seems like a lot has happened since.”
“His Highness cast out his own Maiden.”
Leuveir froze for a second. “Ana? Feint’s Dancer? What for?”
“Turns out she was in a relationship with a Drae.” Paris continued to thumb through the notes in his hand.
“Surely his Highness would have known about this. She was embraced, was she not?”
“Indeed. Now she’s never allowed back here ever again.”
Leuveir bit his lip in fury. “Do you realize what a mistake that was? Now there’s a girl with the Abyss’ Favor out there on her own.”
“His Highness knows what he is doing. Do not fret. Ana may be embraced and favored, but she is naive. There is nothing she can do about it.” Paris leaned back in his chair.
Leuveir slid his estoc back into his belt, voicing his concern, “She is a child, but a dangerous one at that, Paris. If she dares to come at us, she will be a thre-”
“His Highness is aware, Leuveir. Would you like me to call upon Shomar so he can relay this to the rest of the people?”
“You bastard, you, Paris.”
“See you around, Sea Serpent.”
The idyllic landscape was broken by a monumental pillar of smoke that glowed with shifting flames.
This did not look like an unfortunate accident. The sheer spread of the conflagration made it clear to Excelsius that this had been intentional. Well—from up here, he wouldn’t be able to see any more details.
He took a few steps back, then sprinted forwards and leaped into the air and towards the fire.
Around him the air turned acrid, and, coming down just behind the city walls, he held his breath against the smoke.
But that only bought him a small break, as it continuously poured from the windows and doors.
Well, Exce had an idea how to get rid of the fire.
Whilst it was insignificant compared to a soul or a magic attack, it was energy nonetheless. So, with a deep exhale, Excelsius reached out with his own soul, glowing red mist streaming along the ground and through the buildings.
Then, breathing in sharply, he pulled it all back into himself, dragging the fire along with it.
For a moment, the sensation of burning heat was overwhelming, only to fade into comfortable warmth in the pit of his stomach. When he opened his eyes again, the smoke had noticeably thinned, but ash had been thrown up.
Most of the houses had collapsed in on themselves, the gatehouse seemed partially melted, and the palace looked as if it had been struck by a localized tornado.
But what disturbed him most was that if he had gotten here earlier, the town probably wouldn’t have looked much different.
Looking about, Exce spotted a lone figure floating motionless above the palace, and he leapt up into the air to approach it. But before he could get close, the figure suddenly spun, and a bright red glare hid it from view.
Pain exploded between his shoulder blade, and Excelsius found himself spinning towards the ground, crashing through the blackened palace. Red light cascaded around him before winking out, leaving him dazed in a flurry of ash and soot, contemplating what had just happened.