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Starting by breaking my own rules

Hi everyone, this is my first post and just like the title says I’m going to start by breaking my own rules. Well its less a rule and more a statement I put in the About section of this site, but that’s just splitting hairs. So I said everything I write is and will be creative, but I’m going to start by talking (briefly I promise) about my influences when I write, anything really. So here we go.

My influences come from a lot of different places but are really no different, I’d guess, than where anyone else would get inspiration, namely books, films, TV (what little I watch), music, games (my favourite medium) and just everyday life in general.

Now that probably sounds like a wide range of places to take inspiration from, and it is, but still the genres I tend to gravitate most toward are fantasy and sci-fi related (I’m not writing science-fiction each time, sorry). That doesn’t mean I don’t consume anything outside those genres, it just means that is what resonates most with me and inspires me to write. Some examples would be Mass Effect, Star Wars, Elder Scrolls, Dune, Witcher (books and games), Destiny and Halo.

But I think that little introduction is enough for this first post, and I swear that from now on the posts will not be focused on me (and my ramblings). In fact a lot will likely be poem type posts. I won’t give any exposition to such posts. I’ll just post them and you can interpret their meaning in a way that resonates with you.

Pictured Imperfect

Picture of heresy
The one I keep close to me
Free thinking with free thought
A long way from my last resort
Unbridled vision of sad to see
Shattered wings carried new disease
Hunting wild with a savage eye
Candies meant to wave goodbye
Rising waters will soon claim
The victims unable to exclaim
Whirring tones of sullied moon
The dead will be your forever tomb
Pass the cause to the young
Fractured victories are done
With a wave of the hand
This existence will crash to land
Torn from the heart of stone
Before long you will be bone
So as I stand above the haze
Remember the days turned from blue to shade

Real Disease

Disease ridden locusts called humanity
Do you really think we have superiority?
Burning all we can until there is only ash
Sickening state that we try and crash
Hide it deep beneath the bloody walls
Sad to say you can still hear the crying fools
We’re all guilty but you won’t agree
Too busy calling for another shot of insanity

As apathy grows to a whole new level
Its beyond clear that we’re the devil
No soul left in our blackened hearts
Doomed to repeat our saddest parts
But don’t try and claim that its all lies
At least I’m willing to accept the prize
You’re all too caught up in your tiny views
To see the reality that we’ll soon lose

A Long Time Coming

You’ve reached a point where I couldn’t care less
That is why I will simply wish you the best
I could hold a grudge and keep this bitter pill
But that would only be what you want me to feel

Those days are gone and are not coming back
From here on out it’ll be me on my own track

Said some things of which I’m not proud
But don’t pretend you didn’t whip up a crowd
The guilt is shared and that you should accept
Don’t think that we will ever interject

Those days are gone and are not coming back
From here on out it’ll be me on my own track

If we’d carried on like we’d always done
I would have been drinking with the rising sun
Neither of us could say we wanted to remain
Every second was a mountain of unrelenting pain

Those days are gone and are not coming back
From here on out it’ll be me on my own track

I’m not saying that it was just me or you
We were both a part of that angry spew
Two souls who needed to get to growing up
Who just couldn’t carry on with that setup

Those days are gone and are not coming back
From here on out it’ll be me on my own track

The Road Home

Hi! This weeks story is very different. Not only is it fantasy (OK that isn’t so unusual as the last few weeks have been fantasy too) but also it is not some grand scale tale about saving the world, a species or anything else of the like. Instead, its a simple story in which the main character is trying to get home. As well this one is different because there is no violence, blood, or anything else untoward that happens. The only other things I have to say is that its about 7,100 words long and I hope you like it.

Brennan stirs from his slumber. His eyes remain gently closed though he begins to become aware of his surroundings. The first thing which dawns on him is the sweet multilayered chirping songs of nearby birds. It brings forth a smile to his face as he mimics the tune silently in his own head. Bird song has always brought the woodland dwarf a great deal of comfort.

Before long he becomes conscious of warmth on his skin. It sends a tingle rippling throughout his body. Several moments of consideration lead him to conclude that it must be the sun beating down on him. There is nothing like the warm glow of the ball of yellow fire as it looms high above to brighten everyone’s day. He wonders how his cousins the subterranean dwarves, the most common branch of the family tree, deal with being unable to awaken to such. He does not know. He could never do it. And yet his subterranean cousins are the ones every other species of the world, the humans, elves, giants, ogres, and so forth all know. Few, so Brennan has been told, are aware of woodland dwarves. He can’t say as to how true that is truth be told.

Still, he basks, eyes barely closed, in the sun until he realises that he cannot be in his bed. If he is then it has become most uncomfortable, hard and knobbly. His brow furrows while he attempts to consider what he might be pressed against. A short time passes prior to him determining that he must be pressed against whatever this hard surface is because he is propped up, sitting and not laying down. That confuses him further and so he slowly opens one of his eyes. At first he sees nothing except blinding light. It doesn’t hurt. It would have had he risked throwing both eyes open upon his initial rousing from sleep, but he hadn’t. Rather, he has become accustomed to the light as it shone through his eyelids. Many years ago when he had been quite young he’d learned that his eyelids are not as thick as he might have considered them to be. It was quite an amazing revelation to come across; at least it had been to him.

With the brilliance overcome Brennan rolls his one open eye about. Left to right, up and down, diagonally this way and that assessing what is within view and immediately surrounding him. His discovery is that he is wedged, side on with his shoulder and accompanying flank into the thick trunk of an old gnarled grey barked tree. It’s not one he recognises, but then does he know every tree in woodland dwarves home of Horheim? He doubts it quite seriously. Even if he were in his third age he doubts he would contain such knowledge. He isn’t. He’s far from being in his third age. In fact, he is still very much in his first age. Like all woodland dwarves not in their third and last age he is distinctive from his subterranean cousins due to his lack of facial hair. Woodland dwarves see no reason for the facial fuzz. It’s time consuming to keep clean and maintain. Plus often gets in the way at the worst possible moments. But worst of all it makes you hot, unbearably so. Especially, when undertaking manual labour under the hot rays of the summer sun where shade is at a premium and lasts far shorter than any in Horheim think is appropriate.

He wouldn’t trade any of it for being bearded and stuck below the surface of the world however. There is no beauty down there, not in his eyes. That is not to say his cousins cannot forge beauty, they surely can, but still it’s not the same. The surface is beauty. Everywhere you look there is a unique tree, stream, meadow, wood, rock formation. It’s proof, in his eyes, that the diversity of the surface will never be matched without outside interference, such as that of the subterranean dwarves. The name is one only the woodland variant use and though longwinded is certainly suitable. Still, none of that is of concern now.

Brennan peels open his other eye; they are both a deep brown colour, like wet mud. To a dwarf from the woods saying such would be considered a compliment most sublime. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change his surroundings, a wide open meadow filled with tall grasses broken up only by the occasional seemingly random gaggle of pretty vibrant flowers. He recognises them all and so he should. If he didn’t his kin would be most displeased. And with that he runs through the names of each; daisies, tulips, crocuses, daffodils, alliums and irises. He can’t smell their sweet scents and that saddens him. A soft cooling breeze glides past rustling the leaves overhead. In that instant he understands why the flowers odours do not greet his nostrils. The breeze is forcing the smells away from him. It brightens him a little to know that for he had feared that perhaps his nose had suffered, while sleeping, some issue that might have rendered him incapable of sniffing such aromas.

The dwarf having formed an answer to his concern continues to gaze on his surroundings for a time before realising his intent was not to survey the beauty of this place. Rather, he is supposed to be discerning as to where it is that he is sat. With that a sudden burst of discomfort shoots up his side reminding him that he is pressed against a ferociously knobbly tree. He feels inclined to move and so does exactly that, pushing off against the rough bark to clamber back to his feet. As he does so however he feels a whir in his head and goes a tad dizzy. He halts his efforts immediately to consider what is happening but just as he does so the feeling passes enough for him to no longer hold fear that he might go head over heels.

Odd, Brennan thinks taking in a slow couple of deep breaths of the fresh spring air. Each is soothing, though do little to ease the dull ache he is now incredibly aware of in his skull. He frowns irritated in response to it while considering as what might be the cause. He hasn’t the foggiest. Should that worry me? He shrugs, unsure. If he were in his third and final age it most definitely would but he’s still young, for a dwarf, at almost fifty. His hand, absentmindedly, strokes at the stubble around his jaw line, his chin wide and square. Chiselled would be the best description, but such a characteristic is unremarkable for a dwarf no matter the family branch.

Brennan dares to take a step forward. To his relief his legs hold and his head does not spin. To be honest he did not believe that they would. Especially after the dizzy spell that he was sure would put him back on the ground. It wouldn’t have been painful. At least it wouldn’t have for very long. A short burst of pain followed by several minutes of a dull throb. Brennan has suffered a great deal worse in his life as a carpenter. Sadly, with his third step he trips. His arms flail high and wide as he desperately fights to keep his balance and stay on his feet. A number of stumbles, that see him cross almost a metre, and somehow Brennan manages to stay upright. He sighs relieved. After all, falling face first into a patch of thick hard dry dirt around the base of a substantial tree that has thick long dark green leaves would not have resulted in a short period of discomfort like him landing on his backside. No, instead it might have resulted in some serious damage. He already has a chipped tooth after one particular incident when he’d been young. He can recall the pain he felt to this day and does not wish to repeat such an event ever again in his life, he must say.

Not that it matters because Brennan managed to stay on his feet. Danger averted, he thinks in the moments before he does a slow turn, no longer trusting his legs, to see what it might have been that caused him to trip. Immediately the woodland dwarf spies the culprit, a mead jug, cork popped as it sits at a lazy angle. Brennan sighs disappointed that someone would leave it here. However, on closer inspection it strikes him that this jug is of decidedly dwarven design. He gulps and moves closer. It can’t be, he tells himself but after less than a minute of study it is undoubtedly so. He shrinks but shows no hesitation as he takes a hold of the narrow necked jug and hauls it effortlessly off the ground. To no surprise it is empty, which is why with deft ease Brennan is able to flip the jug over and examine the base. He already expects he knows what he will find and is soon proved correct. His initials, BM, are carved into the base. He sighs and allows the jug to flop out of one hand, still held by the long handle in the other, so that the jug swings down to rock back and forth a good half metre off the ground. Soon after Brennan begins to bite his lip, the inner edge of it to be exact, not the outside like most others do. He does this whenever he is deep in contemplation. During his thinking he asks himself why he is taking so long to consider what has happened because he already knows. After all, it’s not uncommon for dwarves, of any origin, to overindulge and then wander about aimlessly while as drunk as a skunk. And that is exactly what Brennan has done to end up where he now stands. The only question is where is he? He spins about on the spot, his eyes carefully searching. However, after three revolutions he not only feels a little dizzy, likely caused in part by the mead he ingested the night before and mostly as a result of spinning about on the spot, but also can confidently say the terrain is not familiar. That’s a worry, he thinks prior to shaking himself out of this mood he has gotten into. It’s not helpful or conducive to any kind of progress that should be made. It’s purely procrastination, plain and simple. He quickly moves on and concludes that his only real course of action will be to pick a direction and head in it in hopes of finding someone who might be capable of pointing him toward home. How likely is that? For a second time since waking he shrugs. No response is offered, not that he expected it would be as he hauls the empty mead jug over his shoulder and fastens it to a knot on the sash that runs across one of his shoulders. Following that he retrieves the discarded cork stop, looks around one last time and then heads off to what would have been his left had he still been propped against the tree.

Variations

I beg for you and you beg for me
Are we that much different really?
Both are right and jointly wrong
Just as we prevail and fail to be strong
Reflections in a non-existant mirror
Reality couldn’t be much clearer
It’s like we are some type of clone
The pair of us even use the same tone

Am I talking to you or you to me?
This has all become so contemporary
We are not related by a single thread
Just facsimiles even in the head
What I think you do too
Or maybe that’s how it is for you
Neither sure how we came to be
The universe is so contradictory

You pray for me but I don’t for you
Maybe there is a difference or two
Devout to the heavens while I refuse
I have never found God to be a muse
It’s a line that neither of us will cross
A point from which there will be no loss
So lets re-evaluate our previous claims
Seems we differ in more than just names

All The Same

No one is innocent
Every one is to blame
We all stand by and watch
And only speak when we feel shame

What a state of madness
How can we remain?
Humanity is so shattered
We refuse to change

Spiralling to disaster
Rotting at the core
Guilty by association
We all have failed once more

Choosing just what suits
Refusing to admit
What a fake reflection
The cycle still exists

Singular

What the fuck is wrong with you?
I scream into the night
Your personality has shifted
Words dripping with spite

Looking for a pointless war
Won’t listen anymore
Chip upon your shoulder
Supposed to be getting older

Lost your personality and sense
Is this supposed to be recompense?
Or any you stuck on revenge?
What a soul destroying trend

Burning bridges with no remorse
Think before you run the course
Antagonising just for fun
Strange web to have spun

Seeking rage where none should lie
Is this some kind of desperate cry?
If it is then just ask to talk
Otherwise I’m happy you took a walk

But no ill will comes from me
I will continue to be happy
Tread this path that I chose
Good luck, I hope you don’t lose

Acts, Empires & Systems

Act of betrayal
Refuse to entail
Suspect of power
Residing in the tower
Watch from on high
Affairs in which to pry
This is how it goes
Sick of all the throes

Empire of flame
Shifting all the blame
Corrupt to the core
History of gore
Turn the land to ash
Survivors face the lash
What atrocity
Subverted reciprocity

System of fail
Expunging all the frail
Burn it the ground
Make sure nothings found
What a vile crime
No hint of sublime
What remains is fear
Future’s become so unclear

Wings Of Sacrifice

Back again for another story. This week I have another fantasy tale. Trying to do more of them to give myself a break from the Sci-Fi. I love writing Sci-Fi but sometimes its nice to do something different. Anyway, this week its about dragons and their intent to survive. Not going to say much more than that as I don’t want to give much away but I will let you know that it’s about 9,800 words long and I hope you enjoy it!

Salazar is soaring high over the world that is hidden beneath thick cloud cover when suddenly he pitches forward into a steep dive. He’s headed toward a plateau that is carved near the twin summit of Mount Vitruvius.

His twenty metre wings are no longer stretched wide on either side of his body. Rather, they are now folded back. Not like they would be if he were on solid ground but instead into a shape that is akin to that of a cape, and flutter as he descends. His eyes, large and amber in colour, are fixed on the outset of the plateau before which there is only empty air and a life ending drop. His mighty jaws barely parted as air flows around him while he cuts through it like an arrow. Then the plateau is upon him. He twists his body using his black scaled mass in conjunction with his wings to serve as an airbrake. It would be a magnificent sight if anyone other than other Firstforms, who are awaiting his arrival, were there to see it.

They are already on the plateau waiting patiently for him to join them. This day has been planned for a very long time but that did not mean he was not going to arrive first. He has a reputation to uphold. Salazar casts the thoughts from his head. He can consider and contemplate such things once he’s on solid ground.

His air braking makes it appear as though he has stopped in mid-air due to the drastic and almost instantaneous deceleration. But with the excess speed shed the mighty Firstform, which in layman’s terms is the name of the original dragons, unfurls his enormous black wings fully, beats them thrice and then extends his hind legs. They make contact. Salazar however does not dig his razor sharp talons into the dirt and rock beneath them. Rather, he takes several steps and then lets his front legs meet ground. A hop comes prior to a few steps and then Salazar grinds to a graceful controlled halt.

The black dragon casts his head around. Something akin to a smile slips across his long snouted face even as he shifts, his size shrinking down as his features twist and alter until finally he resembles a man. Nevertheless, his eyes are still amber in colour but that is all that connects Salazar in his dragon form to Salazar Winart, the human alter ego. At one time his name had been Salazar Windheart, but over the countless centuries names change, his included. Salazar has bore witness to it countless times and no one is guiltier of this change than man. They are forever changing the world, often not for the better. At least not in the eyes of a being like Salazar who has watched great swaths of the world burn as a result of the endless string of wars man has waged against every little detail they are not enamoured with. Sadly, that is most things as it seems man frequently grows bored of what surrounds it and as a result wishes to force change, ill conceived or planned. At one time that had been the Firstforms. It’s why there are so few left and all of those that are will be here on Mount Vitruvius today to witness him, and them, become the most powerful beings the world has ever known. It’s a plot centuries in the making. But this time nothing will get in Salazar’s way. He’s, they, have all waited long enough.

Salazar strides forward, his long dark robe which is a representation of his black scales hides his feet making it seem as though he is gliding, heading toward a trio of his kind. He can’t call them his kin. He has no kin. He isn’t the oldest Firstform, but these specimens, bar one, are far younger than he.

Those descended from the Firstforms, none of which are present here today, all lack a crucial gift and in truth is the reason for their absence. You see, the generations of dragons that have followed are incapable of altering their forms. Salazar himself has no progeny. There are many reasons for that. One is man. Another is the genetic failings of the progeny to achieve such, in his eyes, simple of tasks, the ability to shift shape. After all, why would he wish to bring life into this world that is not perfection? The truth is he does not. If his spawn and theirs cannot achieve the feats he is capable of then there is no reason in birthing them in the first instance. It’s not an uncommon opinion among the Firstforms, at least those that still live upon this world, that is.

“Lord Salazar, it’s been a good while since we last stood in the same space.” Parfin, a Firstform with thick curly shoulder length brown hair and a set of ice blue eyes comments upon Salazar’s approach.

Salazar by comparison has short black hair, shaved down the sides and back to almost bear skin and unlike Parfin and those around him does not dress in finery. He abhors it, though does not go so far as to judge his kind for partaking in it. He too did at one time. That was long ago, when he’d been… younger. He cannot say young for he is so many centuries old that he has lost count and to call himself young as a result would seem dishonest somehow even if it may not be. Curious, he thinks before moving on.

To Salazar’s knowledge no Firstform has ever died of old age. That affords them more comfort than perhaps many would suspect. After all, when death is not an affliction that can occur naturally you can be certain you are not afflicted by the insecurities it tends to bring. In his mind that is the issue man suffers from. They know their lives are finite. Incredibly so it seems, and that is why as a result they seem desperate, each and every one of them, to leave a mark upon this world that can be attributed to them. Unfortunately, each mark appears as though it is the property of he or she who birthed it and so when they pass so does that idea. Many a time Salazar has considered that this might be the cause of man’s chaos and yet it doesn’t seem to be the totality of it. There are other influences. Man calls them demons, devils, evil spirits. Salazar calls them excuses.

“Parfin, it has indeed.” Salazar replies forcing a smile across his thin red lips. Unlike his counterparts Salazar is far from pale. In his opinion each of the trio gathered before him looks sickly. He knows they are not and yet he cannot imagine that there pale complexions do not draw unwanted attention from humans. They are a curious sort; suspicious seems more accurate.

“We did not think this day would ever come.” One of the other Firstforms says with a mildly cocked head of red hair and a set of fire green eyes.

Salazar does not know this Firstforms name. They may have met previously but he does not recall them. He if were not certain that the ‘man’ before him was a Firstform he would already be dead. Thankfully, Firstforms can smell their own and this ‘man’ smells of Salazar’s kind. He doubts humans are aware Firstforms are capable of such things while he replies, “And why is that?” His tone is soft. He imagines a human would sound outraged due to them being thin skinned and quick to anger.

“Silence Varill, you do our host a disservice.” The other Firstform mutters. Salazar also is unaware of their name. However, it is clear he hopes that this Varill will not be heard by the other groups gathered around them, each of which is in awe as they stand dotted about on the plateau.

It is only these three who have dared to accost Salazar. He isn’t the leader of his kind, though he is considered the strongest, smartest and most resourceful. Part of that he knows is due to his escape from the hunts which lasted for and ended centuries ago. They were back when man had been determined to rid the world of what it considered to be the cause of their misfortunes. Foolish, the lot of them and yet it fit so perfectly with their simple view of the world that it hurt not to have foreseen that such a day would come. Hindsight is useless, Salazar reminds himself.

“No, let him speak his mind. We are not like man. All are welcome to voice their opinions. None will be slaughtered for their beliefs.” Salazar says with a sly smile across his lips, his amber eyes staring into Varill’s with ever increasing intensity.

“Man is on the hunt once more. They wish to rid the world of all they do not understand or agree with.” Varill stops for a little more than a second, yet not as much as two before continuing. “Dwarves have sealed their mines. Elves have disappeared across the tear with the faeries, hobgoblins and pixies to the realm of the Fae. We are all that remain now and so man is…”

“Man is not what you fear it to be. They are fickle, weak and easily fooled.” Salazar cuts in to stop Varill droning on anymore than he already has. If he is allowed to continue he might create panic. His words shouldn’t. They are all Firstforms here. They have all lived through this age of man. Seen its nature and yet the more time that has passed the more like those they live among the Firstforms have become. Salazar is uneasy because of it, the corruption of man’s mortality having twisted the once formidable might of his species to scared old relics desperate to hang onto a world they are convinced wants rid of them. If that were true they would already be gone.

“But Lord your mate, she… You must understand our…” Parfin begins. His eyes averted because he knows he is treading on failing ground and fears what words taken the wrong way could result in.

In response, Salazar sneers as a short, quiet growl leaks from between his teeth. Parfin almost jumps out of his skin and yet the growl is not a warning. Instead, it is Salazar unable to contain the disappointment he feels at hearing a fellow Firstform, one older than he, acting in this manner, a human manner. And that is the problem, this actions and interaction is far too much like a human, Salazar thinks. Soon after the black dragon in human form lets out a long exhale through his nose only to brush casually at his robe as it debris needs to be shed.

“I meant no disrespect lord.” Parfin quickly adds.

Again Salazar, the black trimmed Firstform, feels disappointment. At one time his responses to another of his species would have been seen as a call for challenge. A duel between a pair of magnificent beasts, to see who should speak what and would should stay mute. Those days are long gone and Salazar misses them more than perhaps he feels he should. He wonders if any of these Firstforms ever shift back into their principle forms. Something tells him they do not. Not a one of them and that is… He gives up on the train of thought. It isn’t worth continuing consideration, which is why he throws his arms toward the sky creating a v-shape and exclaims, “Today is not a day for quarrels or doubts. Today is a day for ascension.” His voice is loud, not meant for the trio gathered closest to him but for all of his kind on the plateau. Some must still hold a semblance of what they had all once been. Salazar cannot be the only one, or that is at least what he hopes.

The response he is met with our cheers. They erupt from all around. That gives him some confidence. However, not everyone partakes. It is to be expected. Salazar does note that Varill is among those unwilling to rejoice. He expected nothing else of the younger Firstform who likely cannot recall the rituals which their species used to partake in.

What will happen today shall be one of those rituals you do not recall, Salazar thinks. Well, it will be similar to one of those. In truth, he cannot recall any previous use of this particular act. It does not surprise him to discern that. From what he has transcribed from the ancient murals, this long since forgotten by all but a few practice was only performed twice before. This was back in the age of dragons. Long before the time of man, in an age when the winged lizards had ruled over all others forms of life. If only it could have remained as such. Salazar was born long after that. Parfin might not have been, though he cannot be sure as to say with confidence that that would be true. If it is it makes his plummet to the depths he now appears to occupy all the more tragic.

“We have waited seven centuries for this encroaching; the day when the three worlds will be at their closest. And on this day we will ascend. Take our place as the pinnacle of life and with that power return this world, our world, to peace. End the tyranny and violence of man. Give them a place all of their own beyond the reaches of our soon to be, once more, bountiful shores.” Salazar’s voice is filled with conviction. He really does believe the words that he is speaking. He even feels them resonating in his chest. They beat like a second heart, stronger than his actual solitary one. This determination is what has kept him going throughout it all.

It seems he isn’t the only one who is roused by these words, his words, as a much louder round of cheers, than the last, erupts in response to his speech. It is entirely improvised. He had held no intention of giving such a performance. It is what he would define it as. Not because it is manufactured in any way. It is not one iota that. It comes from the heart and he can feel the energy of those around him joining his own and wonders how it will compare to ascension. He will be the first but all his brothers and sisters will follow, even Varill and Parfin. They may not appear deserving but with the power that shall be bestowed upon them, according to what Salazar has pieced together, all that could very well change. Perhaps it might restore the old Parfin to his former self. If anything can, then it will be this ritual that is capable of achieving such a feat. And with it done the Firstforms will never again be forced to live for decades and centuries in forms that are not their truest.

“Then come brothers and sisters. Jon me in climbing to the altar which stands the shadow of the twin peaks carved by our world.” Are Salazar’s final words before breaking from his static position and beginning to surge, quite literally, forward as he heads up the muddy pathway.

His goal, their goal, is some hundred metres from the plateau. Not where it begins but where Salazar had come to a halt and been accosted by the trio. The ground beneath his bare feet is soft and shifts with every step he takes. He would be foolish to have not noticed how many of his species have their feet bound in what man dubs shoes. It saddens him to have noticed that but does help to secure his belief that most did not dare to return to their truest self to venture to this place. That will change soon, he thinks without slowing his trudge up the steep incline. On either side of the mud path there are brown shrubs. They look frostbitten and dead but something about them tells him they are not at all without life. A kind of energy, he would call it, seems to be emanating from them. And it’s a remarkably strong one at that.

All Firstforms can feel life. It is but one of the many gifts that are inherent to them. He wonders if dragons, those incapable of shifting, possess such a trait too. He has never conversed with one, though they are perfectly capable of speech. He is likely alone in having not, much like he is alone in not having ever partaken in the creation of progeny. Had his mate survived the hunt things would likely have been different. Salazar still misses terribly and often recalls his time with his dear Sinita. Anger boils up inside him at the mere thought of her name. It should be directed toward man, for it is they who were the cause, but it is not. The anger is directed towards himself, for his failure. You see in his mind he should have been able to save her. He could have saved her, he thinks, and that weighs heavily upon him.

In truth Salazar could not have saved Sinita. If he’d have tried more than he had he too would have been carved and butchered. Had that come to pass the Firstforms would almost certainly no longer exist. After all, it was Salazar who alerted the rest of his species to man’s attack. Yet, to this day he has not been able to decipher as to how man had got so close without detection. In the aftermath of that attack, the first of many, it had been insinuated that there was a traitor amongst them. It seemed mad, ridiculous, impossible. Salazar was considered above reproach in large part due to the sacrifice he made which saved the rest of his species. Still, to this day he cannot confidently say if a traitor had been the cause or not. It’s one of the few things Salazar thinks that he does not ever wish to possess an answer to. For a Firstform that is highly irregular to the point as being nearly unheard of. However, in this instance he feels no matter what the answer might be it would only leave him with more questions. Thankfully, other elder Firstforms had felt the same. Salazar doesn’t think any of them are here now. In fact, Parfin might be the eldest member of their entire species now. That is a sad thought and reality to be faced with and so Salazar does not consider it any further. Rather, he pushes such thoughts from his mind, instead taking in the world around him. The snow sprinkled rocks jutting high above his head as he and the other Firstforms continue their climb up toward the ritual sight. If they were attacked in this gully it would be a massacre with how narrow the crack between the vertical sides is. Stop dwelling on such things, he tells himself as dozens of conversations are indulged in behind him. It’s a distraction, he replies. From what, is the query he offers himself. From the ritual. You fear it? I… I don’t know. The answer he gives to himself is an honest one but not something he would ever admit to any of those following behind him. He is fully aware that they regard him like some deity. He does not understand why and never asked for it either. He simply wishes Firstforms to be free and this is the gateway, the only one he has found over the centuries, capable of achieving that.

In truth, he isn’t sure exactly what will transpire as a result of this ritual. There are no texts detailing the aftermath once performed. In fact, all it says is that this ritual will ascend those who partake and fix that which has been broken. Cryptic, perhaps to the point of worrying and yet it is all his significant study has rewarded with.

Suddenly the towering walls of rock on either side of the mud path bordered with brown shrubs that in places have managed to stretch up numerous metres as though they are trees, fall away to reveal a clearing. It’s a wide circle, closer to being oval to be honest. Around its perimeter are trees, evergreen, that lance toward the sky but which are foreshadowed by the rocks that form their background. The tree roots are blanketed by thick tangles of dark green vines in addition to a sea of grey moss and patches of grass that are far shorter than you would think they should be for a place that is in no way tended to by any living being.

Salazar stands staring at the clearing. It’s beautiful. He wishes the whole world was still like this. He barely remembers a time when it was. Since then, man has twisted and polluted it. They have erected forts, castles, high walls of stone and some of wood, villages, towns, sprawling cities with coastal docks into which they pour filth and detritus. Salazar recalls when the air had been clean. Much of it is not now, except it seems for up here near the summit of Mount Vitruvius. He inhales deeply; this is the second such inhalation since reaching the clearing, and as he does so he tastes the unfettered air blessing his lungs. It’s cool but not in a manner which indicates he is up high in the skies of the world. He’d forgotten what it was like to be in a place as pristine as this. It seems everywhere else the skies are choked with thick acrid smoke that stink of death and sweat. That mixed odour lingers long after the burning fires made up of the bodies of the dead have been broken down into charred piles of black cinder.

The other Firstforms continue past Salazar to begin forming into a wide ring that doesn’t quite complete due to the presence of the altar, which are formed from a pile of massive rocks sat in the shadow of the twin peaks. It is said long ago that the twin peaks had at one time been a single point but that a mighty force storm had rained down lightning until the peak had detonated. Those chunks were, under the force of the detonation, sent hurling across the skies creating the life that now inhabits this world. It is only a story. Salazar remembers it well. From when he’d been a hatchling. He was born from the great mother, not another Firstform. Their eggs seemingly willed into being beneath the luminous Drake Canopy. The tree is long gone now. It was burned by man. Their violence and desecration knowing no bounds was proven to the Firstforms on that day. It had been a hard lesson and perhaps the cause as to why no Firstform progeny possessed the shifting capability. Not that there is any way of knowing now. Salazar can only imagine what became of the ashes of the Drake Canopy.

In Your Closet, Under Your Bed, Don’t Be Sure It’s In Your Head

Darkness creeping everywhere
As your foot touches the stair
Screeching raw that chills the bone
This place is not a safe home
A monster lurks within its walls
Unnerving as it makes its calls
Still you dare to take a step
The next one might not come next
You feel the sweat bead off your head
Fear that you might soon be dead
But no sounds of movement can you hear
It’s like it just wants you to fear
Have dread and freeze in place
If only you had a mace
A weapon with which to wield
Strike against it’s meaty shield
But you are just a little one
Praying that you won’t succumb
Because the demon will not die
All it does is leave for a retry
But now you’ve left the creaking stairs
You still feel the itching there
Usually it would fade away
Apparently not this day
The switch lies across the black
Convinced if you tread it you won’t come back
So edge toward your planned goal
The kitchen and it’s inviting soul
The place where all the food does lay
But you want none of that today
Instead a drink is all you crave
That’s if you don’t end up in a grave
Then the sound does roar once more
Your heart answers with a score
The rapid thumps beneath your chest
Suddenly you feel its breath
Without warning it grabs your vest
Maybe you should not have dressed
Besides the point as you are wrenched…
Off your feet that were entrenched
A scream escapes to your surprise
No one will now hear your cries

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