Saturday, April 13, 2013

'L' is for 'Lonely Giant.'

‘L’ is for ‘The Lonely Giant.’ This is the greatest prison of the Human Age, built upon the remains of the world’s oldest surviving monastery. It is set in the southern plains of The Empire of Gold and Jade, as far away from civilization as possible, where only fringe farmers work. There is a psychological comfort to knowing The Lonely Giant’s inhabitants are impossibly far from where you live. The Lonely Giant is used to house monsters.

There are the typical creatures – rogue all-chemists, serial killers, nine-legs, that sort of thing. But there are also greater beasts, like manticores and plants that would otherwise overrun entire cities. There are immortal and amortal creatures, such as succubae and golems that humans couldn’t figure out how to slay. There is even record of an astral being which was accidentally summoned to our world and imprisoned within meat.

Some critics question why all mortal offenders are not simply killed. To this, government employees respond that there is a certain comfort to knowing The Empire of Gold and Jade can contain its threats in one distant place.

Some critics also question if the government isn’t doing more than merely containing these creatures. During The Lonely Giant’s history, the Empire of Gold and Jade’s military has attained unusual weapons, including invisibility and the telewire, which were previously thought exclusive to exactly the kinds of monsters they might now be dissecting and studying.

Some critics have to be imprisoned.

Friday, April 12, 2013

‘K’ is for ‘Ky,’ OR, Splendid Master in Hiding

This post is a mash-up between the A-to-Z Challenge and Friday Flash. It's a flash story set in the Empire of Gold and Jade, centering around one of the many people named 'Ky.' 'Ky' is the name you swap to if you're trying to get away from your family, debts, or in this case, fame.

It took the boys three seasons to find him. He’d gone reclusive in the modern wilderness: slums. It would have been easier to track of the man on a mountain top or distant island. In a sea of scrawny, old foreigners, with names in another alphabet, he was almost invisible. Having stripped himself of his wealth and proper name, he wore only the rag of an honorific, “Ky.” There were over two thousand others named “Ky” in the slum, and forty-two in his apartment building.

That was on purpose. Ky refused to train them, even when they offered him their entire inheritances. They sent him ten newly-sewn suits, and ten handmaids, and ten immaculate meals from the master chefs of the Cloud Hills. He left their gifts unworn, unsullied, and uneaten. The boys found their food rotting in the alley, supped upon by stray imps and tentacle monsters.

They did not give up easily. They accosted him every time he stepped outside – for the latrine, for his morning walk or sunset meal. He ate once a day, and refused anything but the smallest container of raw rice, and he refused conversation when they took supper alongside him, spurning their money.

On the third sunset, while he was out at his meal, they bribed the landlord and broke into his apartment. Ky returned home to find no cracks in his ceiling, no vermin in his walls, and for the first time in twenty-one seasons, that his lonely lantern actually glowed. They’d left it on for him. He sat up with the light on all night long, though he did not invite the boys in.

He invited them inside the next morning. Their Splendid Master Ky would begin their training just as soon as they donned more practical clothing.

The first lesson was of Stamina. The boys would pick up every piece of trash in the adjacent street, which stretched for four empirical lengths. No clod, turd or broken bowl could be left behind, and they had only two hours to collect all of it. Being boys of unfairly fair youth, they managed it, even if they collapsed at the end.

They thought it unfair until the next day, when they were assigned the second street over, and only an hour and a half. Every consecutive day drew another street of waste.

After four days of the exhausting work, Splendid Master Ky added a second lesson: Perception. The police of the city were needlessly abusive to non-human parties, running them out or collecting extortion from triclopic shops. The boys were not allowed lunch until each could find at least one police-servant who had broken the code of conduct and reported them. In a week, he increased their assignment to three a-piece. In three weeks, they found it much harder to find such police-servants, much as the police-servants found it quite difficult to retaliate against the children of the rich.

Every day they had their lessons in Stamina and Perception. They chaffed to learn exotic fighting styles, of the Charred Fist and the Unknown Walking. Yet as quickly as they could clear a street of refuse, this Ky said they were not ready. He introduced the third lesson: Agility. It seemed that serpents and rats infected with tentacalia had beset the slum in recent seasons, and were often snatching babies or otherwise tearing up tenement ceilings. The only way to combat them was to scale the very structures they tormented.

Building upon their existing stamina and cleverness, the boys had to dispatch a dozen tentacled fiends per afternoon, and doing so meant either flying along scaffolds or swinging from ropes. Often Ky took his sunset meal on the sidewalk while watching the boys in their spectacular fights with the tentacle monsters. He was seldom alone; they drew great crowds of the poor, myriad Ky-folk who could always use a little more entertainment.

Their Splendid Master Ky was the only one not enjoying the spectacle. He had to make up a fourth exercise for them before they got too good. Eventually the boys would realize what you already have, and they would be quite angry about it. Perhaps some mysticism about Patience? He hoped that would take, or if it didn’t, that they finished cleaning up the slums before killing him.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

‘J’ is for ‘Jangs the Sphere.’

‘J’ is for ‘Jangs the Sphere.’ You won’t find him in any history books, because he helped author most of them. He helped steal the printing press, then eliminate its inventors so that it would seem like it was The Golden Emperor’s work. He then ordered every book they pressed be about the royal couple. That was his Monday.

Jangs the Sphere was, to put it impolitely, The Golden Emperor’s P.R. ninja. He had infinite resources to assure that the public never saw any flaw in The Golden Emperor’s work, from silencing famines to eradicating terrorists. And when he eradicated terrorists, he typically eradicated everyone who knew them. It was the best way to keep one version of a story in public. The portly diplomat was so good at his job that he had only one rival: The Jade Empress’s P.R. ninja.

It’s been wiped from history, but the royal couple never liked each other, and constantly sought to undermine their spouse in order to raise themselves up. The Jade Empress employed Chuan-Ro, an all-chemist and poet, to do most of her assassinations and smear jobs. Jangs and Chuan-Ro spent most of their time undoing each others sabotage in a unilateral game of Spy Vs. Spy. More tragic, then, that the two were utterly smitten with each other, and forbidden to ever court. The few people who know Jangs and Chuan-Ro existed think they may have spent their final years together before being eliminated by their successors, but no one can confirm. After all, there’s not a word of written history about them.

I very nearly wrote a book about this duo in 2012, but went with a different time period. What do you think. Should they get the light of day and the press of a novel?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

'I' is for 'Imps'

‘I’ is for ‘Imps,’ proud owners of the previous empire before the Human Age. Diminutive by conqueror-species standards, they are about crotch-height on a human. They began their existences in The Cracks far out west beyond The Uncanny Valley, where they were collected by gremlins as popular pets. Gremlins bred the imps mercilessly, crafting races without mouths, eyes or many of the internal organs the typical biological organism considers comfortable. Today, the surviving breeds of imps often require repeated surgery in order to successfully eat food.

After the gremlins destroyed themselves in a selfless effort at defining hubris, the imps seized their remaining technology for personal conquest. They had the additional benefit of naturally enchanted bones, particularly horns, which manifest in them not unlike acne and tumors in other species, and enable amazing feats of conjuration. They may be one tenth the body of a triclops, but they can shoot lightning at him, and this levels the playing field. 

Their feats of magic climbed in scale until they attempted to summon their transcendent ancestors, a tribe most people refer to as “demons.” The summoning went very successfully if your goals are to set half the world on fire. The Apocalypse of Demons sapped most people’s sympathy for any slavery the gremlins put imps through, which imps consider insensitive, because it cost them their empire. Post-empire, imps spend most of their time screwing each other over, since cooperating went so poorly.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

‘H’ is for ‘Humans.’

‘H’ is for ‘Humans.’

Artist's rendering.
A historically underachieving species, they were widely regarded as a knock-off of the triclopes. As opposed to the triclopes, they have only two eyes, possess weak senses of taste and smell, have particularly weak hide and muscle tissue, heal very slowly or not at all, gestate for less than a year. People who use economic trends to study the world cannot fathom how cyclopes can be so enormous and durable when, eye-wise, they ought to be the next step down from biclopic humans. People who use economic trends to study the world and phrase things more sensitively believe humans achieved their modern dominance by gestating so quickly, thus flooding the market with their brand.

After imps managed to conquer the known world, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that humans could. The bar for domination was low enough, and they were a hungry enough species to try science again. Most species thought, given that science had literally eaten the Gremlin Empire alive, it was a bad idea. Humans considered that a very interesting philosophical point that they’d think over after using science to conquer everything. It’s worked out well so far.

It’s an unwritten rule of many universes that humans make great protagonists. It’s unknown as to why, but humans are prone to heroism, if for no other reason than because if another species did it instead then humans couldn’t be the center of attention, and that’s unacceptable in fiction. Humans are even the protagonists in most Godzilla movies, to the chagrin of everyone who enjoys Godzilla movies.

I enjoy Godzilla movies. I named two species after his nemeses.

Monday, April 8, 2013

‘G’ is for ‘Golems.’

‘G’ is for ‘Golems.’ 

Allegedly invented by servants of the Jade Empress about 270 years ago, they are classified as non-sentient constructs with no internal source of motion or determination. The most common kinds of golems are ‘clay’ and ‘hair,’ though there are allegedly more intricate golems in the Cloud Hills, including legends of gargoyles and walking suits of armor.

In the early period of the Human Age, golems were essential replacements for beasts of burden, in clearing rubble and toxic materials spilled by exploded demons. Even today they are used primarily as sentries and transport, and appear exclusively in the east, serving The Empire of Gold and Jade.

Only human wizards and all-chemists have yet figured out how to construct golems. Three of the four inventors of the original golems were slain by their creations, giving us the popular legend: if a golem consumes the body of its creator, it is granted free will. Not possessing minds of their own, golems tend to go insane upon achieving this free will. The most notorious case was 120 years ago, when The Golem King attempted a revolution against humanity. It and its movement were driven into the World-Ocean and destroyed by the Empire of Gold and Jade (see 'E'). This is considered the first potential apocalypse that the Empire stopped.

Many people, human and non-human, are uncomfortable with golems because of their similarities to the gremlins’ mechanical Automatons. Even though golems are magical in nature, the stereotype of the biological-consuming monster persists. The Empire of Gold and Jade has a policy of destroying any golems exhibiting free-will, though there are rumors that some are collected for study at The Lonely Giant, a prison designed to hold and study monsters (see ‘L’).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Waiting for a Day of Rest

Well, my first week of the A-to-Z Challenge went pretty well. Posts all went up on time, and only one had catastrophic formatting issues. I actually used an image on Saturday. Almost almost to the Bronze Age of the internet, which is pretty good considering how my physical week went.

Friends know that last weekend I had to travel out of state for several days to take care of my grandmother. She had a terrible health scare, and while I won't repeat everything that was hypothesized, I will say how relieved I am that most of it was false. She's in stable condition now, under 24-hour care, back on solid food and much more lucid. She loved having her grandkids check on her over Easter.

But spending the weekend at the hospital wing is hazardous for someone with my syndrome. By Day Two, my immune system tanked and I was sniffling. I barely returned home on Monday before collapsing from what I thought was a chest cold. It turned out to be a chest cocktail with a key ingredient: a lung infection.

I'm sorry if my Twitter or blog comments have read loopy. It's certainly thrown a kink into my fiction submissions, but I managed to get all my posts in. My mother was kind enough to drive me to and from the hospital twice during this mess.

Today Mom called with a frog in her throat. Looks like her kindness was rewarded with a lung ailment of her own. We can guess where she got it. So I'm driving her to the hospital Monday morning.

"No good deed..." That stupid phrase really picks up momentum as you get older.

How was your first week? And how did you think I did?
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