PDA

View Full Version : Free Nations (choppy flash fiction written over time)



Shine
August 6th, 2014, 02:48 AM
(So I have a bunch of choppy bits and pieces of something I'm not quite sure I should continue to invest my time in. I feel that I struggle with a juvenile writing style that I really do try to quash as often as possible. It's hard though as the essence of me is usually pretty corny...</3 I wrote the ending first in a burst of inspiration one night and just...started to fill in some gaps before it as time went by.)

When you have been alive far longer then you care to remember, evolution is ineluctable. Your body, your mind, even your spirit will alter over time. With each new experience, change of environment, the expanse of time monotonously creeping by; your sense of perception becomes encumbered by the over lubrication of stimulation. The concept of eternity, once a romantic affair of liberation and immortality; drips like water onto the colours of your memories, causing them to bleed and warp to create a distorted sense of reality.




()()()()()()()





The atmosphere was heady, magnetic, pulsing. The girls on the stage moved to the rhythmic beat. The sweat on their skin glistened like wet polish flashing blue, red, purple as the lights played a dance of their own. Dressed to the nines in their burlesque finery it did nothing to hinder their nimble, fluid movements as their limbs flexed, performing acrobatic love to the stage. It was the last number to be performed for the night, a parting gift for the remaining patrons. The men had become panting dogs as some of them pressed against the stage, drinks resting heavy and loose in their forgotten hands. The brothel girls worked on shifts round the clock so it wasn't like they couldn't continue the party in a more private venue afterwards. Lalarina's doors never closed. The drinks, the whores and the drugs were endless even if the entertainment was not.

Parting her lips and exhaling Ari brought her arm up and ran it along her slightly damp forehead, messing her bangs in the process. For the longest time Ari had attempted to tame her mane with no success. At one point she'd shaved it all off. The act itself had been a stimulating event. The whole era of her late adolescence had been one of experimentation and personal adventure. That period of her life had been exciting yes but it was also full of empty promises. The continuous act of losing herself to the night proved to be a fruitless endeavour. In her naive youth she grew careless with the promises she made to herself. That lifestyle made her lose faith in her potential, in the person she believed herself to be.

Her brother had been the only one to see any potential in her. Ari had been such a shy little thing, romping around in the trees outback all by her lonesome, day after day. Her childhood was spent talking to the trees, the animals, to herself. Whatever it was that he saw in her, it pushed him to teach her not only how to fight but more importantly how to survive. She learned quickly that the fighting part had nothing to do with honour or even flashy weapons. It was simply all about your choices, your ability to make the right ones and how fast you could think on your feet.

It was important to determine if you needed to disable, dismember or kill. Ari knew that was the most important part and it wasn't like you could just sit there all day humming and hawing about potential outcomes. It wasn't something you could teach per say. At some point you just had to develop your own sense of knowing who your opponent was and how to handle them. In the end it was about staying one step ahead of the game.

The best fighters, the best survivors, are the ones who can figure people out just by looking at them. A sort of calculated guessing game if you will. Of course when under pressure and with the need to act at a moment's notice it's not like you can sort it all out in your head at warp speed. No, you either had that sixth sense or you didn't and if you didn't there was no point at trying to play the game, or so her brother said.

There were a few things he could teach her though, like weighing the situation, your opponent and the desired outcome. Her brothers rule was if you could win the fight without killing, do so. There was only one exception to that rule and that was damage control. If it was only going to bite you in the ass, go for the kill. Take no chances. From there, if you decided that you weren't in it for the kill, you needed to know the potential of what you were up against. You had to ask yourself, do you need to dismember to stay ahead or could you get away with a move meant just to disable. Beyond the imminent need, what was the message you wanted to send?

Ari always believed the second option, dismemberment, was the riskiest. Although it might send a certain message or spare a life, it left long term scars that would permanently burn your face into your opponents memory. Once you took a body part, leaving that potential hate to fester, you would be stuck always looking over your shoulder. It could drive a person mad, the wondering if or when your victim would attempt to hunt you down and return the favour. Even if Ari thought herself the better fighter in a moment, wounds and time had a way of sharpening a dull blade into a lethal razor trained on but one thing, revenge.

As the song came to an end and the girls walked off the stage Ari's mood shifted into higher spirits. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy her time working security at Madame Lalarina's. Sometimes it could just become a bit much, a little tiring. Not physically but mentally. The entire place was swathed in silky fabrics with deep hypnotic colours meant to relax and tantalize all at once. The cavernous room was like a whole other world compared to the one just outside its thick walls and ornately gilded doors. Once you stepped inside it was hard not to be sucked into a trance you had no control over. In the background the aroma of burning incense hung in the air, sweet and arousing it mixed with the stench of sex that never ceased to creep in from the private rooms upstairs.

As the majority of the crowd exited through the front doors Ari stood a ways back, keeping an eye on things. The heavy set men with burly beards and crooked yellow teeth flashed lurid grins her way as their eyes made a slow crawl up and down the length of her body. Ari was used to the crude attention but the internal cringe that caused her toes to curl never seemed to fade.

Amongst the towns fat rich middle aged men were the few older gentlemen, mostly dressed in hand tailored suits with classy hats and gleaming pocket watches. It was the middle class men that rarely showed their faces at places like these. They were comfortably content with what they had but not overly endowed with wasteful excess. Theirs was a life of peaceful measure that left no want, no great lacking. Nothing to drive them across the void that filled the space between the warmth of their beds at home and the few steps that led up to the doors of Madame Lalarina's.

Shouting could be heard over by the bar. Glancing sideways Ari could see a man in his late thirties with greasy blonde hair leaning over the counter. He wore slacks that were far too tight around his middle paired with an open button white shirt, exposing the unsightly hair on his chest. The blazer he wore was baggy and hung past his butt. As Ari made her way over to the man raising his voice she could see that his fingers were adorned in bejewelled golden rings and in his left ear hung a small shiny golden loop. Ari never much cared for men that wore such flashy jewellery.

Ari reached the man just as he lifted his hands off the bar and gripped the bartenders arm. Ari could see how Layla, the bartender, had attracted so much attention. The young girl wore nothing but a glittering red strip of fabric around her chest with skin tight leather pants. Ari knew that the soft beautiful chestnut leather had been a gift from one of Layla's very rich gentleman friends. From her bellybutton hung a string of silver that held droplets of rubies. It dangled down the length of her swarthy midriff winking and gleaming in the dim lighting.

Sometimes the men decided they wanted what they couldn't have. The line of willing heavy breathers for sale upstairs somehow eluded their pea sized brains as they fixated on but one girl who was clearly not interested. Layla didn't get a chance to reply to whatever he demanded as the man dug his fingers into her flesh. Ari tapped him on the shoulder, impatient in her attempt to gain his attention.

Sadly Madame Lalarina insisted that she at least try to be cordial before resorting to violence. He only glanced backwards for a second, dismissing Ariskya as nothing but an unwanted distraction. Just as he was about to open his foul mouth to yell some more, Ari decided enough was enough. Sliding her fingers through the back of his greasy hair she gripped the back of his scalp. Propelling him forward she snapped his forehead onto the edge of the bar with a nice resounding crack . Stealing her hand back Ari wriggled her fingers about, disgusted by the man's slippery sweat now clinging to her skin.

The blow seemed to have taken him by surprise. His hands went slack effectively releasing Layla from his grip. Smartly stepping back Layla's nodded her thanks as she eyed the drunk with sick satisfaction. Like the slimy worm he was his body slid off the stool and fell to the floor. He was groggy with pain and alcohol, going nowhere on his own any time soon. Ari didn't relish touching the grease ball the first time but sadly she would have to do it again. Hoisting him up by the underarms she proceeded to drag him backwards towards the closest exit. She passed by all the gawker's who'd crept forward to enjoy the short but slightly violent show.

The usual's weren't all that surprised with the ease that Ari carried the man's weight. They all knew her story. Anyone who stuck around ended up hearing the tale of her alien birth mother. The she-devil who came into town forty years ago and started breeding like a bitch in heat. Some of the men staring at her had even dipped their wick in her mother's honey pot, not that they had much to show for it. Unless they were one of the unlucky few that had a baby dropped on their front door step nine months later.

Once Ari dumped the trash into the street she made her way back inside. She found Layla nursing a drink of her own as she sat propped on top of the bar swinging her legs back and forth, kicking the stools with her stiletto boots.
"I'll take one of those if you don't mind" Hopping up on the counter beside Layla, Ari allowed herself to relax a little. The pulsing colourful lights had finally gone out for the night along with the heavy beating music. A few of the remaining men gulped down the last dregs of their drinks and got up from their seats. Some strode purposefully from the room over to the grand staircase while others took pause for a moment and shifted their eyes around, wondering if anyone was watching, judging. They had nothing to worry about, there were only a few lingering bar staff cleaning up the nights mess. If there were only one place in all of Rah'Eden you wouldn't be judged it would be Madame Lalarina's infamous brothel. It was the place to go 'where all your fantasies could be made real'. At least that was the catch phrase Madame Lalarina used to promote her establishment.

Layla leaned back over the bar and poured a double of whisky, same drink as the one sitting on the bar beside her leather clad ass. Smiling over at Ari, Layla nudged the drink into Ari's hand. "It's on the house. It's only because of people like you that I get to dress so fabulous and not have to deal with the pervs." As she said it Layla motioned with shaking hands to her outfit. With a huff the girl slouched forward as if deflated and ceased swinging her feet back and forth. "The things they say to me sometimes, like it's their right to say or do anything they want just because they were born with a willy between their legs." Layla's term for penis always made Ari grin. She often found Layla's banter and antics more entertaining than watching the girls on stage. Picking up her drink again Layla threw her head back and downed it in three gulps. With a whoop she slammed it onto the shiny black counter and waved her arms around in attempt to shake off the feeling of weak helplessness. Jumping off the counter Layla turned to watch Ari sip at her drink. Sensing that the creeps still had a strong hold on her friend Ari did what she always did and offered her a ride home.




()()()()()()()



Layla always loved gliding along main street inside Ari's marvellous travelling contraption. It was similar to a carriage, but without any wheels. The body was made out of strong polished rosewood, curved on all sides roughly in the shape of an onion. At the front sat a bench where on either side the traces hooked onto gleaming golden plated loops. Ari had lined the bench with thick blue wool blankets to cushion the seat. A latch with a lock allowed Ari to turn the hollow bench into a storage area. The two benches inside the cabin of the carriage were also used for storage, which was convenient and very clever on Ari's part.

Each side held a three sided door. The top and right side were straight as a door should be. It was the left side that started out straight but gradually sloped in a crescent moon shape to meet the bottom of the right side. It was on the curved side of the door that the hinges held them attached to the carriage. Layla thought that when opened they looked somewhat like the peel of an orange hanging on at an angle until miraculously they closed seamlessly into what she had childishly nick named the onion carriage.

The most unusual part of the carriage was not its funny shape, or its perplexing doors, but the fact that it hung suspended in the air, held up by a magnificent miniature hot air balloon. From all sides of the roof straps connected to a giant frosted glass cup. Inside the cup an icy blue glow hovered, throbbing bright and dim as if it were a live fairy wanting to break free. Connecting the cup to the balloon were more straps, a plethora of them extended outwards and up, attached in one inch increments all along the balloons rim.

Layla knew that at the source of the light a heat orb warmed the air inside the balloon, inflating it so it could float and carry the weight of the carriage. The balloon itself was slightly larger than the carriage and held the vague shape of a perfectly rounded mushroom top. The balloon looked to be made of thick silk strips alternating between shiny apple green and boysenberry. If she were being realistic Layla knew that it couldn't be silk, it just wasn't a practical material to use for such things.

Inside the cabin Layla sat on the back bench, facing forward, gazing outside the circular windows that took up residence on the top half of each door. She watched as they passed by the towns shops, most of them dark and empty. As the snow fell in lazy drifts the streets became hauntingly beautiful in the veil of night. Everything in the background became almost black, standing out in stark contrast to the bright light that surrounded the snow in an eerie aura.

Ariskya had insisted that Layla ride inside the warmth of the carriage while she herself sat on the bench outside in the cold. She needed to direct her horse Amabel to Layla's cottage in the woods. Layla still lived with her parents but had plans of renting a room in town until she snagged herself a husband. Not that she wanted to settle down any time soon, but she knew it was only a matter of time before her beauty would fade with age and when that happened she would lose her job at the brothel as a barmaid. With no job she would have no means to support herself and had no intention of living with her parents her entire life.

On a happier note it wasn't like she didn't believe in love, she just hadn't experienced it yet. Lust and exciting romance, yes but not love. She knew that love was unconditional. The relations she had with her gentlemen friends were very much on the condition that she paint her face and give them a taste of her fast dissolving innocence. Layla sometimes wished that she could be more like Ariskya, full of courage and strength with grand aspirations of travelling the world. Most of the time Layla was just content with what she had. Her life might be a simple thing but at least it was one with parents who supported her and a job that she enjoyed.




()()()()()()()



Dropping her friend off at the end of the path leading to her cottage Ari flicked the reigns and clicked her tongue to get Amabel moving again. Her mouth watered at the thought of the nice hot meal waiting for her at her brothers house. When she arrived she didn't bother knocking or anything that would announce her arrival. She was family and there wasn't a day that went by that she didn't drop in for at least one of the three main meals. The place was alive with the noise of children chasing each other from room to room.




()()()()()()()



Sliding her feet under the thick patchwork quilts Ari relished in the weight of the blankets wrapping around her. Pressing the folds and tucking them around her legs Ari felt a sense of snug tranquillity. It was the time alone inside her cabin that she looked forward to the most. She savoured the moments when she could curl up in her cosy bed as the sound of the fire popping softly in the hearth blended in with the sound of the howling wind to create a soothing lullaby. Reaching over she touched her finger to a stained glass globe that hung from the ceiling on a single rope fashioned from shiny red thread. A dim light from within ignited with only a momentary pause before it grew in brightness to fully illuminate the area around her small bed. The stained glass created a warm glowing pattern of gold, ruby, amethyst and emerald.

Pulling a book from the top of a stack piled precariously on her night stand, Ari opened it to a random page and began to read. Printed books, or any artifact from the old world, were a rare and delightful treat for someone like herself, who enjoyed learning how the world used to be hundreds of years ago. When people found out that Ari enjoyed collecting things like books and trinkets from the old world they usually had a good laugh at her expense. Some of them just plain didn't believe her thinking that she was playing a peculiar but funny joke on them. Most people residing in Rah'Eden kept themselves surrounded by practical things that could help them survive or gain profit.

There was nothing in the books Ari possessed that could teach her survival skills that her brother or sister in law hadn't already taught her. There were other things though. Wondrous pictures and details written about many different faraway lands. She had books that were full of strange looking animals, metal beasts of all shapes and sizes that polluted the air, and some that contained no pictures at all, they were just stories about characters that didn't even exist in real life. A few of them she couldn't understand as they were written in foreign languages, before the time when the OWG, One World Government, passed a law that forced its citizens to conform to a single chosen language.

Ari knew that other languages still existed out there within other Free Nations. She knew this because she had met a man that spoke both his native tongue as well as the language she understood. He explained that in his Free Nation almost everyone spoke his native tongue. They had spent many humid summer nights laying in the grassy fields staring up at the stars as he told her of the different landscapes and customs of his people. She used to dream of leaving the place she grew up to travel with him to his home Nation. Sadly he had been called away to attend to a family emergency before she reached an age her brother deemed appropriate to travel.

Travelling from one Free Nation to another could only be done by air travel. Even then it wasn't often attempted because not many people had the means to buy or build their own aircraft. Most of the ones that had the means to travel often preferred not to, given that it was risky business entering the OWG territory. It was not for the faint of heart but only the adventurous, the brave or the reckless. Of course the Aliens were a different matter, most of them liked to travel from place to place like gypsies with only a few that settled down in one place to start a family. That was usually how the hybrids like Ariskya came to be.

As her lids began to droop and the words began to blur together she instead turned her eyes to the pictures. She'd already read every single one of her books many times over but it was the book she currently read that was her favourite. It was large and rectangular in size with pages that still retained a hint of gloss. It was bound in a faded hard cover and was as thick as her two forearms pressed together. Inside it listed details and contained big brightly coloured pictures of animals from all around the world. Ari wasn't sure if they all still existed but it was fun to imagine seeing them in real life one day. She often fell asleep in this manner, clutching the heavy book in her arms as she gazed longingly at the lions, monkeys and pandas. So many strange pictures just before bed always filled her dreams with crazy wild adventures, it wasn't surprising that her daydreams couldn't keep up.

In her dream she opened her eyes to find she was sitting cross legged on a frozen lake much like the one near her cabin. The snow rained down at a slant as the wind pushed and pulled her hair into a tangle around her head. She expected to feel the pinch of cold on her skin but was surprised to find her skin felt pleasantly warm. Looking around she couldn't see the edge of the lake or even five feet in front of her. Ari was surrounded by nothing but the raging blizzard swirling around her in a frenzy. It wasn't out of any chill that she wrapped her arms around her midsection, but out of an eerie impression that she was not alone.

She knew that it was just a dream but it was a dream like none she had ever experienced before. The heat from her skin instantly melted any of the snow that tried to touch her. All too soon the sensation of warmth grew hotter and she felt a shift from underneath where she sat. Staring down into the foggy grey frozen water she thought she saw something glowing. Bending over she un-tucked her legs and pressed her knees and hands onto the hard surface so she could get a better look. Taking the palm of her right hand she brushed away some snow and rubbed it in circles trying in vain attempt to clear away the foggy nature of the ice.

A small patch of ice melted from the heat of her hand forming a very small puddle. Realizing that all she was doing was making the area harder to see through she grew frustrated and crawled over to another area on the ice. This time after sweeping away the snow she cupped her hands around her eyes and pressed them to the ice so she could watch the flickering of what looked like fire under glass. As the glowing light expanded with each beat of her heart Ari felt the crest of her brow grow slick with sweat as her internal temperature continued to rise.

Before she could bring her hand to her forehead to wipe it away she awoke with a start. Lurching upwards off her pillow her arms flew up and the open book resting on her lap took a tumble to the floor. Gripping the blankets on either side of her she balled her hands into fists, crumpling the fabric between her fingers. Her whole body felt feverish and when she went to rip the covers off she found that she sat in a damp sauna of her own sweat. The globe lamp that hung at her side was still on but the fire in the hearth had died out some time ago.

Something was very, very wrong. She felt the heat of a fever but none of the dizziness that should accompany it. Swinging her legs over to the side she rested her elbows on her knees and leaned over into her hands. The thought to drink some water to help cool her down propelled her into action. Springing off the bed and across the room she rushed over to a basin of drinking water. Lifting the lid off she snatched a cup from the long table against the wall and hastily dunked it into the basin, filling it with water. As she brought it to her lips the heat from her hand warmed it so as it slid down her throat and into her stomach she got no relief other than that of quenching a small thirst.

Thwacking the cup down onto the counter with a loud bang Ari had no patience to be calm or careful. There was an erratic force inside of her that hummed and caused her hands to shake. The need to move, to leave her cabin and go into the cold night overtook her. If she stood there for much longer she was scared of what might happen to her. Moving, moving, moving she didn't bother with a coat, a change of clothes or even a pair of socks or shoes. Flying out the door she left it wide open as she dashed over in the direction of the barn. She could just make out the darker outline of its shape through the assault of snowfall and wind. Ari didn't think about how her feet should be freezing sinking into the snow, she just pushed on in her trek. The fact that she only felt the heat emanating from her own body didn't even faze her. For the heat had consumed her and every thought had become about the need to get to the lake. The heat and the weather reminded Ari of her strange dream yet she knew this moment was real and anything happened would be permanent and not something that could be undone by waking up.

First thing she did once she made it inside was call Amabel over to her. Instead of taking the time to hook her up to the onion carriage she went straight for the tack and saddled Amabel for riding. The urgency of her movements seemed to frighten the mare so Ari took a moment to calm the girl down, running her fingers through her wavy mane she whispered promises of sugar cubes after they returned. Shortly after Amabel quieted down, knowing she would only get the tasty treats if she complied to Ari's requests. Hoping up onto her back Ari placed her feet into the stirrups and they were off, exiting through the same door Ari had entered through.

Outside was a wreck to ride through. The wind pushed hard at their chests and slowed their progress. It was only mildly better once they made it onto the path through the woods. The only reason it wasn't pitch black was because the snow seemed to bring a light of its own that added to the misty glow of the moon. The tall groves of trees helped buffer the invisible force determined to keep them from moving forward. The thought that maybe it was a warning her to turn back and return to the warmth of her bed and forget such nonsensical dreams flitted in and out of her head before she could give it full consideration.

She had to get to the lake, everything would become clear if she could only make it there. Ari wasn't sure what it was that propelled her, drove her into the heart of the woods in the dead of night. They were in the middle of one of their famous blizzards but whatever was pulling her could not be denied. With nothing but the sound of Amabel's hooves shuffling through the snow after a time Ari's eyes started to stay, peering out between the branches of the dead black trees. Doing a double take something bright red darted up ahead within the tree line.

On second look Ariskya saw that it was not something but the fiery outline of a giant beast loping in a zigzag pattern among the trees. It seemed to be following the direction of the path but avoided jumping directly out from the cover of the woods. Ari wasn't quite sure what to make of the strange vision but had no urge to turn tail and run. Whatever was out there was calling for her to follow. Like a moth to the flame she was helpless to stop herself.

When she finally broke free from the path and caught sight of the lake the creature disappeared as if a ghost haunting only the trees of the forest. Pulling on Amabel's reins they came to a halt at the edge of the frozen expanse of water. Even though Ari had done none of the work in getting them there she found herself panting at the same rate of her horse. For a moment she felt grounded, like she had a minuscule amount of control. It was the feel of the hard stirrups digging into the soft pads of her bare feet that helped her focus.

Ari leaned forward to hug Amabel around the neck and nuzzle her side. She felt bad for pushing her so hard through such harsh circumstances. There was nothing to be done about it now, only thing she could do was to follow the call pulling her out onto the lake. Tying Amabel's reins onto one of the trees lining the woods Ari turned and faced the lake. Out there far on the ice was the fiery beast. Stepping onto the ice she made her way over to the strange vision, not sure if it were real or just in her head.

Once she was close enough she could see the sheer size of the beasts frame was colossal. The torso and front legs were more like that of a wolf with its back legs slightly thicker and robust, resembling the powerful hindquarters of a polar bear. On all fours he was still a good two feet taller than Ari. If he were to stand up on his hind legs he would surly tower over twice her height.

He had the mane of a lion except instead of covering his chin and neck the fur line only covered the top half of his head. Growing down between his eyes the fur line looked like the top half of a heart arcing up on each side to follow the curve of the beasts brow. As his mane continued from the narrow point on his muzzle it gradually grew thicker and longer as the fur reached the crest of his head.

All in all the thickness of his mane was at least triple that of any picture she had seen of a lion. The entire back of his skull and upper shoulders were covered in an unruly mass of shaggy fur. Little by little his mane receded in size only to cover the top part of his back. Stretching down the spine his mane reached all the way to his tail bone where it was met with seven monstrous fox tails. Each tail extended out in equal measure to the length of his body. They flicked and flowed with the flurries of snow gusting by.

He had a widespread muzzle and maw with ears like an Ethiopian wolf that you could just barely recognize, mostly concealed within his great mane. Striking eyes slanted slightly with an outline of thin charcoal fur, making the glowing ember colour of his giant iris's pop that much more.. Tufts of fur engulfed in flame flared out dramatically at the backs of his elbows and heels. The same fiery tufts also flared at the angles of his jaw bones and on the tips of his ears. When he moved they whipped around in the wind like lengthy pointed flags of blazing fur accentuating the curves and sharp edges of his frame.

His fur glinted and wavered with luminous colours as if they were strands of golden mirror reflecting a raging inferno. The sight took her breath away and froze her in place. She was waiting, unsure for what. Being in the presence of such majesty humbled Ari like never before. The ethereal beast before her brought such intense emotions to her surface that she didn't know what to do with herself. Ari was caught half way between wanting to throw herself down and bow before this great creature and running forward to wrap her arms around its massive chest.

The beast watched her, his vividly warm iris's staring at her intently. She had no indication of what he thought or felt as she became lost in those eyes. The world fell away and everything else was forgotten. Even her will to breath was stripped from her and time stood still. The falling snow ceased to separate them and it was as if her entire being was swallowed whole into the heat of his flickering orbs.

Before she had a chance to break free of his trance he vanished. One moment he was there and everything within her felt at peace and content with being so near to him. In the blink of an eye he was gone and suddenly she was back to square one. She felt delusional as the fever hit her body full force making its presence known once again. Where the beast stood a moment before, the ice glowed with fire underneath its surface. It was her dream all over again, except this time she knew what must be done. Rushing over to the center of the glowing ice she threw herself down on all fours.

Raising her fists up in the air above her head she brought them down with a force previously unknown to her. With a sudden shudder ripping through her body she felt her bones reverberate as the ice quivered beneath her. With a crack the ice broke under her hands and spread out like think threads as far as her eyes could see. Her balance slipped as the foundation underneath her knees shifted forward and downwards into the burning flames below. She could feel its heat as it melted the ice, slowly boiling the water below. All around her the heated water started to sputter and spit, hissing steam through the widening fissures opening wider all around her. Rearing back she scuttled like a crab backwards on her hands and feet until she reached solid ice that had yet to crack. Her arms and legs giving out on her she fell to the ice and lay there regaining her breath.

Great chunks of ice bobbed and clacked against each other until they were melted away to nothing but ice cubes. The water at the centre of the circular opening in the ice continued to bubble and emit steam. A great throbbing light pulsed, turning the bubbling water into a freaky geyser from hell. From the simmering lake water six tiny orbs shot out into the air and darted in her direction. With them went the flaming light and heat, leaving the water dark and gradually the erupting boils came to a still. Raising her arms over her head she aimed to protect herself from getting hit. Scrunching her eyes shut she braced herself for impact. After a few beats of her heart nothing happened so she squinted her eyes open, curious as to where the flying orbs had gone.

There floating in a revolving circle around her right wrist all six orbs hovered almost touching her skin but not quite. Five of them were shiny and clear like crystal. It was the sixth that glowed like the flame of a candle. They were beautiful, magnificent as they orbited around her wrist like tiny moons around a planet. They captivated Ari in a bewitching moment of distraction, diverting her attention away from the hole in the ice.




()()()()()()()



Heat. Tremor. Heat. It started with the twitch of her right pinkie finger. Something so small and simple yet that single uncontrollable twitch was enough to awaken a consciousness that had lain dormant for decades. There was no pain or confusion. A slight discomfort perhaps, a stiffness in her bones that made her want to stretch and reach over backwards to touch the tip of her tail. There was no sense of time past or even a feeling of restful peace. Being trapped in stasis did not allow the imprisoned to sleep, to store up energy or to even dream. Just an endless void of nothingness.

The reanimation of her body was not a smooth transition. Her limbs jerked as her tail muscles spasmed, creating an annoying symphony of shocks blazing through her nervous system. As the puppet became aware of the master and the master aware of her puppet, the body and the consciousness re-stitched into each other. With each new stitch she was made whole one raw nerve ending at a time. Pleasant numbness spread with every prick of the invisible needle until it jabbed through her ribs, into the cavity of her heart. Like the violent tear of a knife sliding into flesh her heart lurched forward as if reborn inside the womb.

Wet, everything was cold and wet and she felt herself sinking. Her long thick serpentine tail unfurled from its coils to reach its full length stretching out within the water. Where her hips met with her tail she gave a thrust to speed along the process. Familiarizing herself with the feeling of being connected to a physical body again Iolite launched forward, swaying side to said as the comforting control over her millions of muscles returned.

Rocketing head first into solid ice her skull cracked and fissured causing blinding pain to shoot down her neck through her spine and travel all the way down the length of her. A torrent of murky blood bloomed like smoke from her wound clouding the water. Blacking out Iolite sank deeper into the dark depths of the icy cold water. Her body naturally started to heal, sealing the cracks in her skull and knitting the brain tissue back into place. Coming to for a second time she snapped her eyes open and opened her mouth in attempt to dreg in a breath of air. Instead she was met with a nice mouthful of searing cold water rushing down her throat and leaking into her esophagus.

The amount of energy her body used from healing her head wound prevented her from shape shifting gills to breath under water. She needed to find air, find escape from this icy prison. Slithering upwards through the water at a steady pace she could see nothing as she was surrounded by darkness. She was unaware if she was moving towards the surface or perhaps she moved deeper still, ensuring a painful death even she couldn't escape.

Finally she broke free of the water and sucked in great lungfuls of air. Instead of meeting a relieving warmth as she had expected, she was shocked by the teeth rattling winds and bone chilling cold. Wading in the water with only her torso visible she blinked at the sheer white brightness all around her. Tiny cold white specks rained down from the dark grey sky causing her to shiver uncontrollably.

She'd never experienced a torture quite like this before. The frigid chill penetrated her skin and blurred her vision. She needed to warm up fast or she was going to go into hypothermic shock and sink into the water again. Sliding onto the freezing hard surface of the ice Iolite sensed a warmth radiating from something nearby. Seeking out with her eyes she saw the body of a girl laying on the ice. The girls arm was outstretched as she watched the orbs, Iolite's orbs, wind round and round her wrist.

Whether from her weakening state or the rage that took hold from seeing her orbs encircled around another's wrist, a blood haze turned her vision red. Shifting her heavy tail along the slippery ice she made her way over to the girl at what felt like a glacier pace compared to the speed she was accustomed to. Once she reached the thief, Iolite slid forward, reared her head back and widened her jaws to expose her lengthening fangs. Striking with precision she latched her teeth onto the girls forearm and was rewarded with an instant gush of heat filling her mouth.




()()()()()()()



"Your people-" Io's glare cut her off before she could go farther.
"My people? Surely you cannot be talking about my people as I am the last of my kind. You would do well to remember not to confuse 'My People' with the likes of every other alien race that invaded your planet." Rolling her eyes Ari continued with her explanation, taking care not to make the same mistake.

"When the aliens came they gifted the Free Nations, like Rah'Eden, and the OWG, that's the One World Government, with energy orbs. You see earth has always struggled to create or find the perfect energy source. So the aliens portioned out an equal amount of energy orbs as a peace offering to the Free Nations and the OWG. They are a source of energy that is never ending. Each orb contains a maximum amount of energy that can power different things. But if what your trying to power requires a greater amount of energy then the energy orb your trying to use then you're out of luck.

You can combine energy orbs to increase their power but they don't come free. Over time people started to use them as currency in the Free Nations. Everyone wants unlimited power sources so the demand is always there and for the ones that sell food, items or services for energy orbs, they keep the trade alive because they usually need the energy orbs to keep their business going. The trade of energy orbs as currency is not regulated or controlled in any way, the Free Nations are just that, Free of rules or any form of government."

"Of course you have your rarer orbs like this heating orb that has one specific purpose and energy use, heat. There are a few aliens out there that have mastered the art of energy orb manipulation. They can focus the orbs power to actually do something specific, only thing is they can't be used for anything else after its been manipulated. It can only be used for the one thing it's good at doing. Mine is a heat source, which I use to heat the air in my hot air balloon for my carriage." Now it was Io's turn to roll her eyes, Ari had started to become an influence on her expressions. She wasn't quite sure how she felt about that.

"Yes, yes that's all good and well and I know what energy orbs are and I once knew a tricky bastard that could manipulate them. What I don't understand is why you strange earthlings use them as currency, I mean its ridiculous and on a separate matter I think the whole currency thing is ridiculous as well. Whatever, I don't need any more boring lectures, can we please go out and have some fun now?"




()()()()()()()



She saw herself in each and every one of the girls trapped there. They were just girls, women, trying their best to survive. The fact that they sold their bodies to have a roof over their head and food in the belly did nothing to make them any less in worth compared to any other person. Ari saw hope and fear and a great many other powerful emotions within their eyes and nothing in the world could make her turn her back on them. Iolite might be able to turn a blind eye and be able to live with that choice but everything inside Ariskya screamed something primal and instinctive that could not turn away from a single one of these girls. She had to protect them, to save them.




()()()()()()()



(Jump to the past)

Soaryn watched Khovra's tiny hands shake as they held her furry friend close to her chest. Long wet streaks covered her small cherub cheeks from the tears that poured out her eyes. Khovra's eyelids had swollen, turning red and puffy, making it painful to blink as the salty water clouded her vision. The same saltiness of her tears mixed with the tangy mucus coating her lips and chin as her nose leaked like a small waterfall. Khovra was three years old and her whole world was coming to pieces over one small little animal that had become her dearest friend. Soaryn had never experienced true anger before that day. Everything before seemed so light and easy to brush away, unlike the heavy brew of intense overwhelming emotion that had settled inside the pit of his stomach. Soaryn directed his anger at no one but himself. For he was the reason Khovra's was crying in anguish, her tender little heart broken and visible for all to see.

The elders had commanded the (dragons brothers) to offer a gift to the high one, their charge. Soaryn was the only one that knew how lonely Khovra was. It was in her eyes as she gazed out at the people with a longing he couldn't fathom. The ache seeped into her voice as she spoke about all of the great and wondrous things she wanted to do, all of which included going out into the world and being with the people. Her joy and laughter had been scarce which had saddened Soaryn. He had been confused by his feelings but never turned from them. Anything that would bring Khovra happiness was an honourable task for him. So he sought out the perfect companion for her to share her days with.

The beautiful black shiny fur had been the first thing to catch his eye. Upon closer inspection he found a baby ferret with big curious eyes. The frail little thing had reminded him of Khovra's sweet nature in so many ways that he knew that the two would fall fast in love and become inseparable. He had been right, the two did everything together. She smiled more often and talked to the creature as if it could understand her. Sometimes the two were so in synch that Soaryn believed the ferret actually understood Khovra's words. Their friendship was as easy as breathing and brought a warmth inside Soaryn's chest from having given her the best gift out of them all.

Today all of that joy came undone as the ferret slowly died in her arms as she begged the watcher to do something, anything to save her friend.




()()()()()()()



(Jump back to present tense)

Flying the ship into the city of Gah'Leez just wasn't possible. Surrounded by a giant wall that was guarded on all sides, something told them whoever ran the city wouldn't welcome a potential alien war vessel cruising onto their doorstep to say hello. Gah'Leez was just one of many large scale cities that had thrived in the free nations. While there had been nothing of the sort in Rah'Eden, Ariskya had heard tales of independent enforcers of ruling. One person would attract the attention of many people and form a gathering. Eventually they built a city and pledged allegiance to the leader who organized it all. It couldn't be helped, it was human nature for some to be sheep to another's inner shepherd.

Ari wasn't sure how she felt about a ruling order, all she knew of ruling authorities were horror stories of the OWG. The thought that their next job was to be given by the rulers of this great city set Ari on edge. Most people with great amounts of wealth in her home town held the illusion of power and over time allowed it to inflate their heads and turn their noses at the less fortunate. She wasn't sure if the people they were going to meet would be anything like that, but the thought of having to answer to someone of that nature in any way caused her inner child to surface with but one thought, open rebellion.

She knew they needed this job though, they had spent their last stash of orbs to buy new materials to craft new weapons. Ariskya had felt exposed and vulnerable during the short amount of time they had to endure without weapons. It was reassuring to feel the weight of her scythes strapped to each hip. That feeling brought about the realization she might have developed a crutch. She hadn't had to fight without them for some time and her hand to hand combat was probably suffering for it. A warrior going into battle using their weapons as a crutch, as their life line, was sure to find death waiting to greet them like an old friend.

It was with a heavy heart that Balder left his ship hidden inside a cave miles away from their destination. He wasn't much of a sentimentalist but the chances of them returning any time soon was a slim one. He couldn't help but feel a portion of regret for taking this job. The only reason he was even considering it was because it was the highest bounty he had ever encountered thus far. It wasn't like him to turn down a good paying job, especially when they needed the energy orbs more than ever.

As they entered the city the enormous gates bewitched them with its inlaid jade chiselled in the shape of a serpentine dragon with the eyes studded in glittering rubies. Upon entry they were met with a crossroads. The middle stretched on for what seemed like forever. Its span was four times that of any of the other roads and the whole length of it appeared to be nothing but a continuous open market. Leading off to other smaller parts of the city four other roads, two on each side, branched off the entry way. It was a clear choice to go straight, they could all see that at the end of the road a small palace sat lording over the entire city.

Walking through the open market was turning out to be a job all its own. The sun baked wooden stalls were crammed in side by side. Each one showed off a variety of different treasures. With each new lane they crossed a new theme would sprout complete with new smells and sights to be seen. The first few vendors they encountered were the worst as they were all covered in raw meat. Exposed bloody carcasses and dead eyed fish stared at them as the majority of their company held their fingers to their noses in vain attempt to fend off the horrible stench. Ilia's had never minded the smell of fish, dead or alive. He had grown up living off the coast and under the water, he killed, gutted and ate his food raw when on his home planet. The smell of death didn't bother him either, even the slight tang of spoil hanging in the air did nothing to affect his mood. The insufferable heat was another issue altogether.

Ilia's enjoyed the heat the most when in his serpent form. But even then he couldn't tolerate it indefinitely. There was a time and place for everything. In his two-legged form the heat affected him the most, and not in a positive way. He could literally feel his skin frying on his muscles, sure to turn a nice bright pink at the day's end. The fact that he could control his sweat glands to stop himself from becoming a icky sweaty meat popsicle was the only thing keeping him from transforming and slithering off to take a nice cool nap in the shade. Looking around at his troop of deflated slimy friends his lips curled on the side showing off a slightly smug grin. His eyebrows, however, stayed creased in displeasure. He enjoyed one upping everyone but alas it was not enough to distract him from the annoyance of his sizzling skin.

As they passed the last of the meat vendors they were instantly relieved by the potent shock of scents that invaded their nostrils. Spices of all colours and variety covered every inch of every vendor space. Dried buds, cloves and shavings displayed in giant glass jars cluttered around the sand glass bowls heaped with powdered spices in an array of deep rich reds, nutty browns and bright yellows. Some of the smells reminded Ari of her brother's wife. As a kid Ariskya had loved becoming a fly on the wall as she watched Natalia blend a mix of spices and herbs to create a dinner that always made her mouth water just thinking about it.

Khovra's face, scrunched up in a pucker of nasty distaste, smoothed into one of mild acceptance as the fishy smells dissipated. Peeking over at Soaryn she saw he was still clutching at his nose for dear life. He looked like he was about to be sick with an off green pallor and tearing eyes. Khovra sometimes forgot that his sense of smell affected to the point of illness. Reaching up to yank on his arm she pointed to her nose and sniffed happily. "You can unclench your nose now, we've passed the worst of it." He responded with a half hearted grunt and the shrugging of one shoulder. Tentatively he un-pinched his nostrils but kept them hovering just over his nose in case of a another foul odour attack. One small sniff and Khovra watched as his skin visibly darkened to his normal shade of bronzed copper.

"When we leave this god forsaken frying pan I refuse to pass by that rotten stink hole." Jerking his head towards the direction of the meat vendors Soaryn made a very unpleasant face. Khovra giggled, bright eyed and loving the commotion surrounding the market place as they walked through. The vendors called out their wares in a loud foreign tongue, haggling prices and arguing with a few rude customers. It was easy to tell which vendors were the most popular as they were rare and in-between. They were the ones with crowds of people all vying for the best available goods.

The next stretch of shops offered a slew of hot food vendors. This part of the city was by far the loudest. The sound of oil hissing with frying batter and meat caused everyone to raise their voice that much higher. It was at that moment they all felt their empty stomachs reminding them that they hadn't eaten since that morning, just before their departure from the ship. The midday sun sat high in the sky indicating it had been many hours since their last meal. "I know your all thinking the same thing that I'm thinking and the answer is no, we came here for a reason, food can wait till later, once we confirm that the job is valid and still available. Everyone clear on that?" Balder slowed his pace for a moment as he stared at each and every one of them, making sure they were all on the same page.

"You know I might just take a bite out of you if you're not careful Balder. It's not very wise to try and deny me when I'm hungry." Ilia's mood was in the pits and he was torn between taking it out in an aggressive verbal sparring match with the old man or staying quiet to conserve his energy. He still clung to the fantasy of finding somewhere cool to curl up and rest. "Your all talk and no bite Illy, besides, I'm sure I don't taste nearly as good as what your used to..." Subtly nodding his head towards Ari, Balder grinned from ear to ear thinking himself very clever for diverting Ilia's thoughts of hunger to thoughts of Ariskya. He knew there was something going on there and used whatever it was to full advantage whenever he could.

Ilia's bristled at the pet name but chose to ignore it as his eyes strayed to Ariskya's sun kissed neck. Her dark hair at pinned in a spiral bun atop her head, exposing the glistening drops of sweat sliding across her collarbone to disappear underneath her shirt. Just as he was about to slide over to her and make a fairly inappropriate comment Pallez shrieked like a little girl and took off running ahead of the gang. His hair waved with his movement, trailing after him in a blaze of gold and carmine. Once Ilia's saw what he was rushing towards he scoffed at the wizards foolish antics. Up ahead, past the last few straggling food vendors, a burst of colours hung from numerous racks and stands. They had reached the fashion district.

Once the rest of them finally caught up to the eccentric wizard, Pallez had already draped a mound of different materials over his shoulder and didn't look like he would be stopping any time soon. They all took pause to watch in horror as he grinned from ear to ear as he handed over a palm full of orbs, which they had very few of at the moment, and waved over at them to come closer.




()()()()()()()



An hour and one wardrobe change later they all stood revitalized and ready to continue on. No matter how many times Balder insisted they keep moving he couldn't refute that they were sticking out like sore thumbs among the natives. In the end the pros outweighed the cons so he did something he almost never did and gave in. During their time at the vendor they all got to sit as they took turns getting fitted for their clothing. The vendors offered them cups of water to which they all ardently accepted and guzzled down like greedy little pigs.

After being poked and prodded and waiting for what felt like forever they were finally rewarded each with an outfit that fit like a glove. The fighters in their group had chosen mostly subdued colors and styles that wouldn't hinder them in combat. Two fitted pieces of brown leather hugged the front and back of Ari's upper torso, bound together on each side by thin crisscrossing leather straps. The same leather stretched over her legs in a tight but breathable fashion. The material had been expertly worked to provide flexibility and comfort. Testing her new attire she raised her leg in a slow kick stretch to make sure they weren't about to rip or even worse, prevent her from lifting and rotating her legs in fluid motions.

They each wore a thin transparent cloak that reflected the suns heat. The material on the inside was supple and slippery to the touch and was imbued with magic to keep them cool and refreshed in the deserts heat. Ilia's wore a cloak of silver, Khovra one of gold, Balder hunter green, Soaryn burgundy red, Pallez byzantium purple, and Ariskya cerulean blue.




()()()()()()()



"Yes well with so many failed attempts one must up the bait...to lure in bigger fish. Excuse my poor metaphor. Point is this problem has gone on much too long and I need someone with the capabilities to take care of it, now." His heavy accent had a strange nasal sound to it making the way he pronounced the word capabilities slur and bounce on his tongue like it were some kind of foreign bug he had no faith existed. "Not months from now, or weeks from now, but within but days from this very moment. My daughter is getting married in a week's time and to anyone who can save me from having to postpone it will receive the bounty posted in full."




()()()()()()()



"Do you remember when we were just tadpoles?" Ilia's smirked at the inside joke he shared with Ari and Io.
"Tadpoles?" Nerissa tilted her head to the side scrunching her face up in confusion. Ariskya made a similar face when she didn't understand his meaning. Except on Ari the wrinkles that formed around her nose and eyes only proved to stir an endearing warmth inside Ilia's. The same could have been said for Neri when they were children just trying to survive in their harsh world, but that time had come and passed eons ago. Once upon a time he had considered her family. Or at the very least he thought of her as a conquest that no one else was allowed to touch. The knowledge of her betrayal to Iolite was almost unforgivable. The only reason he could forgive her was because he understood the need, the one that drove her to snuff out any light in his world so that she could be the only one to shine. It was twisted and sick but he couldn't condemn her for the same darkness that lived inside of him.

The (snake race) society was based around their intense primitive nature, very different in comparison to the familial dynamics on earth. Family for the (race) existed but it was a poor illusion to what he now knew real family was. The bond he and his sister shared with Neri had been one of circumstance. She was to be his bride and so she grew up alongside them. At the time she had been intriguing and proved a challenge. He had cared about her yes, but he never trusted her. Neri had always been just as manipulative and vile to him and his sister as she was to anyone else. It had been what excited him. His view on love and family had been a sick twisted thing indeed.

To trust was a fools errand. Iolite might have had reservations, been more picky over who she trusted but in the end she was able to put trust in others. There was something beautiful in his sister that preserved through all of the deceit and selfish actions that broke his people down. No matter how many times she had been fed to the wolves she still held out hope. Hope that there were others out there she could hand her heart to and not have them shred it to ruins.

Ilia's had never trusted anyone other than his sister. Their bond had been one of great rebuke as they grew up. It had always been something his people couldn't understand, especially when he had offered to share his power with Io to save her from great pain and eventual death. Even though Ilia's had not foreseen the merging of their bodies or the sacrifice of control he would be giving up every other month, he wouldn't have done anything different. There was no hesitating when it came to Io. The belief that he could love only one person so fiercely, so recklessly, had been eradicated the moment the realization hit him. The realization that he would willingly trade anything that was his to give, if only to keep Ariskya by his side, alive and smiling.

"Remember when I found out about fathers...'concentrated interest' with my sister? I'm not sure if you ever found out the whole truth behind the scandal of my father's death. You see I knew confronting him head on would only prove to get me exiled or perhaps worse. So I invited him to dine with me one night in private. That night I became the son he always pushed me to be. We spent many hours discussing battle tactics and royal supremacy at great length. It was a tedious game, one I quickly grew tired of but I kept up the charade. Because eventually I knew the ever flowing drink and the spirit of comradery would lull my father into a false sense of security. He had always viewed me as the enemy, something to overcome and break to his will."

"So I let him think that he had finally subdued me just as he had with all my other brothers. It was in the moment that he went to embrace me that my excitement took over. You see Neri I had always held a blood lust for my father. Not to end his oppressive tyranny but to rid myself of the daily annoyance that always reminded of my incompetence. That blood lust became my everything when I found out what he had done to my little sister. So in that moment I experienced something I never before and never intended to experience ever again."

Pausing from his story Ilia's gazed down at the curious creature wrapped inside his arms. Neri was so enraptured in this new story, one she had never heard before, that she had let her guard down. This was the stuff she dreamed off. To become the confidant, the trusted companion and only focus of his attentions.

"I drove my claws through his chest" Trailing his fingers over the skin above Nerissa's heart he pressed his nails slightly into her flesh to drive home his point. An aroused gasp escaped her lips not expecting his next move in the slightest. Transforming and extending his nails to claws they sliced through her skin and muscle, cracking Nerissa's ribs as his hand prodded through the bloody mess to lightly wrap around her still beating heart. It felt so small and frail within the cage of his hand. Her heart faltered for a few beats before its palpitations increased in rhythm, like the flutter of a dying humming bird. The sound that emitted from between her sweet lips was quite different then the sound his father had made. His father had roared out in anger and frustration before he grew silent knowing that it was the end, nothing could be done and so he chose to die in silence with dignity.

Nerissa on the other hand was rendered to nothing but a wounded frail babe baying out for mercy. Nerissa would find none as she stared up into Ilia's glinting ruby eyes. He knew Ariskya's injury had not been an accident and he also knew that if he hadn't been there to save her, Nerissa would have murdered her without a second thought. She would never stop. The all consuming jealousy that lived within her heart could not be extinguished because she had no desire to extinguish it. Nerissa was blinded by her fear, it dominated her and pushed her to hurt the people that he loved the most.

"I leaned in and whispered into his ear just before gripping his heart and tearing it from chest." Bringing his lips to graze along her jaw bone he pressed his head close to hers so that she could feel the breath as it left his mouth to stir the hairs beside her ear.
"I could have loved you, if only you had given me the chance."

As he pulled her heart from her chest a spray of hot wet blood coated his face. Parting his lips his tongue slid out to taste her sweetness as it spurted in an arch to drench his hair and run like a river down his neck to bathe his bare chest in the heat from her dying body. Removing his arm from under her back he cupped her bloody heart in both his hands and raised it to his mouth. Bringing forth his fangs Ilia's placed the whole of it on his tongue and bit down. Filling his mouth with the warm pulpy meat he ravaged her heart as he chewed it to pieces and swallowed it whole.




()()()()()()()



In that moment everything became clear. Io's fierce embrace, the words whispered in Ari's ear weren't meant as a comfort for a temporary parting. She meant to die. To give herself away to save the one thing that meant everything to Ari. Iolite was giving her a gift of sacrifice, giving Ari's people a chance. In that moment Ari felt Iolite's love like never before. Ariska knew that Io's only true fear was death, for her and her brother. The complete surrender. Iolite stood there with open arms and that nagging in the back of Ari's head, that gut feeling that something had changed, she realized it was Io's acceptance. She had accepted death and was ready to meet her fear head on. It was in the determined set of Io's jaw, the serene wisp of a smile on her lips. Io's eyes were fixed on the earth before they turned to look at Ari, they begged for something deep and incomprehensible. The intent, the desire for forgiveness. It was the only interpretation that Ari could attempt to fathom. She couldn't stand it any longer, she had to reach her, touch her one last time, share her last moments.

Taking a step closer she never let her eyes stray from Iolite's. She could sense a need in Iolite for Ari to become her lifeline, her anchor. Io's eyes filled to the brim with tears and her eyes became a wet ocean lit on fire with the light of a dying sun. Ari saw the perfect sparkling sunset blush like a thousand glittering gems. She caught but a glimpse of a beautiful soul before Io blinked and her face contorted into agony. Her eyes rolled back into her head as the tears rolled down to pool at the crest of her chin. Io's fangs sunk down into her bottom lip causing a well of blood to erupt and spill over mixing with her tears and dripping onto her pale bare feet.

No, Ari wasn't ready yet, it was happening to fast. Reaching out she needed to touch her friend. She knew that if she could just have that, it could ground her, it would help make this all okay. No that was a lie; this would never be okay, far from it. But if Ari didn't lie to herself, she was afraid of what she might do. Just as her fingers barely brushed the arm of Iolite a violent force erupted from the protection orb levitating at the centre of Io's collarbone. Ari was pushed back as if by a great and powerful gust of wind. Her head hit the wall and the rest of her followed, crumpling to the ground in a heap of useless limbs. A strange ringing grew in her ears and she felt something wet slide down her neck and flow down to her tail bone. Still she couldn't give her body a single thought, physical pain was unknown to her for a time.

Her eye lids felt heavy and her vision of the floor blurred in and out of focus. She was able to lift her head just enough to bring Io back into her line of sight. For a moment she couldn't make sense of the white shapes and movements playing before her. Ari had to take a moment to focus her pupils and shrink them to slits, allowing her to zero in on Io. Everything else fell into a fuzzy white shimmer all around Io's floating body. In the time it had taken Ari to gain her bearings Io had been lifted off the floor and hovered in the air held up by the floating protection orb. With every pulse the ringing in Ari's ears grew louder and that much more unbearable.

Surrounding the orbs surface was a barrier of what looked like heat waves distorting and blurring its image. It caused the air around Iolite's torso to ripple and smoulder as if it were a white smokeless fire. A beam of light shot out of the orb and passed through the window, doing it no harm. The light was pure and white and travelled all the way to the earth. As it hit the atmosphere it spread and stretched in attempt to cover its entirety. Ari watched as it slowly travelled across the earth's expanse, wrapping it up in a safety blanket of light. That barrier, once it sealed in a seamless sphere around the earth would protect her home, save it from the transformation under way.

Tearing her eyes away from the light she looked back to Io and gasped. The strength and power that Io always emanated had vanished, her beautiful essence was becoming no more. She was withering and Ari could see that the orb was drawing the colour, the life from her body and with every pulse it changed her. The pearlescent hue of her skin was the first to fade leaving it deathly white as if she were some sickly creature from the depths of the deepest waters. Her legs could no longer hold their form and melded together, transforming into her original shape.

Ari had seen Io's tail before and it was truly a sight to behold. But this time its crystal shimmer was dull and the length of its thick muscle hung limp and held motionless in the air in large loops descending to almost touch the floor. Its luminescent glow was pulled up and into her torso for the briefest of moments and then transferred into the orb to be pulsed out as pure white light. It left Iolite's pride and glory, her royal heritage an ugly ashen grey, blotchy with rough scales that drooped like the skin of an elder.

Ari watched transfixed in horror as Io's nails parted from her fingers and fell to the floor. Following soon after were the sounds of tiny sharp teeth clattering in a cascade of fangs raining and skittering along the polished surface of the floor. Something small and hard hit the side of Ari's thigh and so she looked down at it and she saw that it was one of Io's once beautiful sharp primary fangs. Its pulpy roots looked frail. Shifting her body so she could pick it up her attempt was futile as it turned to dust in the palm of her hand. It was the loss of that tooth, a potential keepsake, a representation of what was soon to consume her friend, her sister, that fuelled Ari's determination.

Summoning upon a strength she swore never to steal, never to use for her to control and demand from, Ari reached out from within herself and drew upon the spirits power. Floating around her wrist the spirit orbs burst into colour and hummed with energy awakened. Whispering an apology under her breath she hoped her friends would understand, she didn't have time to ask permission. As she watched the life drain out of Io she felt her own body heal and coil with power. She had never summoned all of the spirits energies at once, didn't even know she could. But it was the only explanation for the glowing aura that enveloped her, the vibration of chaotic energy dancing just beneath her surface. Springing up onto her feet she simply thought to move towards Io and her body moved with a speed that she had only seen the snake siblings use. Even as the pulsing of the protection orb pushed at her, she was able to hold herself steady and upright.

Turning to watch the light surround the earth she could see the last of it threading together to create a beautiful translucent sphere that radiated pure power. Then there was nothing but Io and her failing body. All Ari could see when she looked at her was the girl that sang her lullabies at night to sooth her nightmares. Flashes of images ran through her mind. Io's sweet smile as she ran her fingers through Ari's hair, playing with it as she asked what kind of beauty she wanted to be that night. Io's tears as she gazed up at the moon swaying side to side in the water, remembering her home planet and all that was lost to her. Then finally she saw the image of Io's tear filled eyes as she gazed into Ari's, that endless dying sunset, the acceptance of death and sacrifice. Such a precious gift she offered so willing to Ari. One that Ari had come to realize she couldn't accept. Not when the only gift she desired, the only thing she needed was Io herself. Her smile, her annoyingly snotty remarks, her tender embrace in the middle of the night, promising to be with her always.

There comes a defining moment in a person's life and Ariska knew this was one of them. She also knew that she would have no regrets. Whatever happened she couldn't find the moral ground to stand on to justify the personal price she would have to pay to save millions, maybe even billions. Io might have saved the natural state of Ari's home planet along with every living human, half breed, and alien that made its home there but in the end Ari had found the one thing she could be selfish about. Nothing in her world could be worse than watching sweet Io, so full of life, shrivel and collapse to become nothing more than a heap of dust on that shiny hard floor. Leaning forward she pressed her lips to Io's ears and whispered.

"I'm sorry" It was the only message she wished to convey. Because what she would do next she believed could never be forgiven, but she had to convey that some part of her wished she could stop herself. With the next pulse Io's hair darkened to a faded brittle black and then fell from her head. Her naked scalp would have frightened Ari if she weren't already resolved to gamble the fate of her planet, of her people, to indulge her selfish desire. She had no guarantee that her power would be enough to sustain the protective barrier but she didn't care. She had to act.

Moving as if to embrace Io within her arms she instead cupped the orb with her hands and with all her might shoved it towards her own chest. It felt like a millennia before its mind numbing, nerve searing essence released Io and latched onto Ari. Turning her back to Io in a protective stance she heard the thud as Io's body hit the floor. After that she was alone with nothing but her own pain. Never ending it tore into her core, snaked down her arm and dug into her wrist leeching the life essence not only from herself but her spirits. In that moment she realized what she had given up. Not only her life and the potential failure to save her people and her home but she had offered up the unwilling death of her spirits. They would be destroyed. She had to save them, how thoughtless a creature was she?

Don't despair you have control, see past the pain. The mantra played in her head like a broken record, she could do this. The world grew small and the pain became a background noise, like a horde of angry insects crawling all over her. But at least she could feel herself still breathing, breathing as the light pulsed and drained her. Breath in, she twitched her wrist and with a resounding will she released them. The connection, the sense of each and every one of her friends leaving felt like her soul ripping in half. The sensation was just like that of when she was a child jumping off the swing at its peak. This time though she had the knowledge that there was nowhere to land, just the bottomless void ready to swallow her whole. Breath out, red flashed before her eyes and she thought she heard the spirit orbs hit the floor but before she could take comfort in knowing they were safe everything went black.

Daniel Loreand
August 17th, 2014, 03:26 AM
I wouldn't say your writing style is juvenile, you have the makings of a good writing style. Things seem a bit all over the place at the moment and I think you could benefit from sitting down and thinking what you want to make of this. Remember, you can always return to things.