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Re: Vikings IMDB lists a second season of The Last Kingdom, with an unspecified 2017 air date. Very much looking forward to it!
September 08, 2016, 01:37:14 PM
1
Re: Vikings
HBO's Rome (AMAZING!) took a middle path and followed a couple of centurions in addition to the historical biggies (Caesar, Pompei, Octavian, etc.).
It should have had more than just 2 series, right?

September 08, 2016, 03:18:59 PM
1
Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread The Bridge Battle

Spoiler for Hiden:
Though I held him pinned against the low, stone wall that ran along the edge of the great bridge, my attacker’s hands gripped my throat, choking me. My eyes bulged. I could not breathe.

Far below, the river had turned the color of headstones in the failing light. Without sunlight, without energy, I was doomed. I had been a fool and would die like one at the hands of a layman.

He could not draw his knife to finish me, but he wouldn’t need to. He was a wizard-killer, and he knew his trade. And he was the stronger by far.

But the valley wind that swept around us was strong, too, so high up. It buffeted our hair and billowed my cloak around me. I lifted my hands, fingers spread out, into the wind.

Intent on murdering me, he did not react when the wind died down or notice the dimming of the light. He smiled grimly, and I knew his thoughts: without speech, wizards are powerless.

Brilliant purple flashes clouded my vision, but I returned his smile.

I don’t work that way.

His smile slid to shock when I blasted him through the stone railing with only a pressing gesture. In a cloud of shattered masonry, he arced out into empty air and pitched down toward the river valley far below. I sucked air and coughed, clutching my throat. He was still falling, I think, when I realized that I could not flee without warning my friends.

There was no time, and for all I knew, they had betrayed me, too. But better to be betrayed than to betray. By far. If they tried to kill me, so be it.

I ran to the tower door, wrenched the iron door from its hinges with a wave, and darted inside the bridge’s great buttress. Without wind, I had no power, but I didn’t care. I sped down the tightly twisting stair, my hand hooking the central pillar as I spiraled around and around. At the bottom I stumbled through the broken doorway. My boots crunched across shattered glass. My shout of warning died in my throat.

The laboratory we had painstakingly built was now a shipwreck of broken furniture in a sea of loose papers and torn books. Their corpses lay hacked and torn amongst the wreckage, swimmers in a sea of blood and gore.

Cantria and Boren lay facing one another, curled like children dressed in bloody rags, limp arms of ragged flesh still raised in vain against hateful blows. Cantria’s head was a beaten, ghastly ruin. Boren stared at her in the sleepy, disinterested way of the dead.

In a corner Glaccius sat bent viciously forward, like a child’s discarded doll, her legs splayed out beneath her. Her head lolled at an unnatural angle, forehead pressed onto the floor in the space between her knees. Her long, golden hair, the curls that had so often distracted me, all stained red at the roots. She stared at the floor, as if noticing it for the first time.

Merron sprawled face-down across the broken back of a table, his golden robes hacked to bloody ribbons. I made out an ear tilted unnaturally and recoiled as I realized he lay on his back. The face no man or woman ever resisted was now just a tattered crimson mass, a wet heap of red laundry. I fell to my knees, and my stomach emptied across the floor.

They didn’t betray me, I thought. The small relief only broke my heart. I kneeled in the ruins of my life and my friends and wept.

I resolved to finish alone what we had begun. I wiped my tears on my sleeve and rose in anger. But the room had been ransacked. Our great invention was gone. So too were all our records and notes. Our enemies had been thorough.

“All for nothing,” I whispered.

Looking over their silent remains, I recalled their banter that morning. They deserved better, but I could not bury them without burying myself. My fingertips pressed against the stone walls, sensed the vast, crushing weight of the bridge bearing down around us, my dead friends and I. In the palm of my mind I molded that energy, shaped it. I raised a fist and shook it at the corpses of my friends. I opened my fingers and loosed cleansing fire.

They deserved better.

On wings of choking black smoke, I strode back up the staircase. I did not hurry. It reeked of burned flesh and death, but its heat was pure and righteous. I coiled its energy, weighing it in my mind like a warrior hefting an ax. Let them come.

I emerged from the tower, and there, on the causeway before me stood Jerden, flanked by two men and two women. Five wizards to one.

“You are overmatched!” Jerden yelled. His face shined with contempt and betrayal, like a hidden joke at my expense finally made clear.

“Am I?” Through the bridge itself, I pitched the energy I had gathered at them. In a rush of thunder, my wave sluiced through the stonework toward them. Shattering stone splashed and crackled across their wards. Their defenses were strong.

“Am I?!” I yelled again, snatching at the wind and sky with my hands.

They knew I had no defenses. They laughed at me, waving my hands like a carnival charlatan. But when the wind died, so did their laughter. All became deathly dark and quiet until I struck them again, stronger this time.

The bridge shuddered. But their wards held.

“Two strikes,” my teacher had said, “show foes that their defenses are sound. To hold your foe, strike hard twice.” He was right. Of the five arrayed against me, only two struck back. The rest huddled behind their wards.

Jerden and one other heaved fire at me, but I snuffed it from the air like an old woman stifling a candle, tossed it back at Jerden’s companion, and taught her a lesson about courage. She ignited, became a shrieking firework.

“AM I?!” I bellowed once more.

They grimaced in fear now, even Jerden.

I seized the heat from the woman’s burning. The flames died down, and she slumped, a silent, blackened thing. I rolled the energy into a ball that bounced from one foe to another, to another.

One by one, they screamed and burned. Too slowly they realized their wards meant nothing to me. They were as naked as I. Only Jerden had the higher power. The fire faded harmlessly off his wards, but he could not both defend and attack.

Jerden stood alone. He chose to hold his ground, wait for reinforcements. He knew I could not break his defenses. He had only to wait me out, keep me in place.

The wind tugged at us. Above and behind Jerden, the great citadel loomed. Soon, they would come, my thousand bitter brothers and sisters. And I would die.

“You were my friend,” I said as I prepared. The wind slowed. The light dimmed.

“We don’t have friends,” he said. The mockery was gone from his voice. “We’re wizards. The strong take. Now I take your life.”

“Come,” I said, opening my arms. “Take it.”

He suspected a trap, I think. It was, but not as he imagined. I wanted him to sit behind his wards. I needed time to gather all the energy around me. I stilled the rushing wind, seized the last light of the day, harnessed the crushing weight of the bridge itself, all that leverage, hanging so high and so far, for so long.

“You cannot pierce my wards!” Jerden called. “The Planes of Gyrnis have no edges!”

“I know, Jerden.”

I clapped my hands vertically, unleashed the power I had melded together, but the greater force came from beneath, lifting the causeway just behind Jerden, pitching up all the stone beams and blocks up in a haphazard jumble, undoing all the joints and mortar, lifting Jerden high into the air. He screamed.

“I know.”

The ancient bridge crashed back down, but its structures and strengths had been unmade and could no longer bear their own weight. The Bridge of Val collapsed. Jerden was engulfed in dust and darkness and was gone.

Only a trembling tongue of stone remained, jutting from the colossal buttress, extending a few dozen paces past me out into empty air. I looked down as ruin rained down on the city Val a thousand feet below. Thunderous impacts filled the river-cleft with dust.

I looked up at the citadel on its perch over Val, dark and silent but inside, teaming with my brothers and sisters, now my enemies. Surely the ground had shaken with the fall of their great bridge, filled their hearts with a dread as great as mine. They would pursue me, and they would catch me. Nothing would stop that now. But their fear of me would be the greater.

Nonetheless, I fled.

October 10, 2016, 09:51:05 AM
1
Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread Navigator

Spoiler for Hiden:
The hissing of an air pump. The beeping of a low oxygen warning. It was these sounds, and no others, that woke Adrian Martinez from his pleasant dream. He was watching the ocean with Mia and Scott.

There was no ocean in deep space. Deep space was where Adrian was now, and he realized that with the lazy certainty of an oxygen-starved brain. Above him, his scout ship's canopy looked out onto the stars, a canopy with three tiny holes in it. Bullet holes.

The system sun crested the horizon on his cockpit's left edge, and Adrian realized his silent ship was slowly spinning. He squinted through crystals of water and blood. How the hell was he still alive?

Hands that moved slowly in zero-gravity thumped his flight suit. Gloved fingers slid across his faceplate, the one that had automatically snapped shut when the enemy bullets zipped through the canopy. There were no holes in his suit, or if there were, his suit had sealed them.

The sun set on the right edge of his cockpit, and the world went dark again.

Their ship had vented to vacuum long ago. His suit's internal oxygen had kept him alive while he slept, but he had obviously slept too long, because now it was angry at him. He needed to get them home.

Adrian sorted through blurred memories. Flight command had given him constellations to use as guides if the waypoint system malfunctioned. Those constellations would help him orient the ship. Maybe his navigator...

Shit! She hadn't said a word since he woke up. What if she was hurt, or dying?

Adrian twisted in his chair, but the straps fought him, so he popped the straps and floated off his seat. He pushed up and started a slow twist, careful not to overdo it, and stared at the shadow in the seat behind him. Airman Shelly Hart didn't speak, and no lights glowed on her suit.

The sun rose, illuminating Hart's suit, and her shattered faceplate, and the staring blue eyes inside her helmet. The pale face covered in little flecks of ice. No oxygen warning was beeping inside her helmet.

Adrian watched her until the sun set.

His oxygen-starved brain refused to focus on anything but the woman who should be alive right now, but wasn't. His partner. He tried to remember who Hart had waiting for her back on Earth. He vaguely recalled a sister, and a father. Hart's mother died on Titan, in one of the first enemy attacks.

Adrian pushed against the canopy and back into his seat. He fumbled with his straps as the sun rose and set, squinting through droplets of Hart's blood. Once he was strapped in again, he focused on the stars that would guide them both home. They, like his memories, were blurry now.

He couldn't die out here, not yet, because he needed to get Hart's body home. He knew what it felt like when someone you loved didn't come home, because that's where his brother was now, not home. Not dead, not prisoner, just missing, and forever. He wouldn't do that to Hart's family or his own.

Adrian flipped the emergency start. Nothing happened. He flipped off all the auxiliaries, counted to 10, and flipped them on again. He waited as the sun rose and set.

A single yellow button glowed inside his cockpit. That glow was joined by others, banks of tiny green lights that rapidly turned yellow or red. As glowing guidelines floated before him and a 360 threat sphere materialized above his flight stick, hope struggled to the surface of his drowning mind.

Yet as Adrian's gloved hands wrapped around the flight stick, as his booted feet hovered above the thrust pedals, he didn't know where to go. Navigation was one of the red lights - the destroyed systems - and while he knew the fleet had set a rendezvous point for survivors, he had no idea where it was.

Hart would have known. She could read the stars of this system better than any map. She would tell him how to spin the ship and go home, but she was now a corpse in his back seat.

Adrian focused on the briefing he barely remembered and tried not to scream. There were no constellations beyond his canopy. Just thousands of tiny blinking lights, all waiting to watch him die.

The sun rose and set again.

The sun. He would aim their ship for the sun, because the engagement map had them heading rimward from the carrier, toward the enemy. Heading coreward would take them home.

Adrian only had one thruster left, but it wasn't like he actually had to stop. He cancelled the spin and pushed toward the sun. He had always hated how the stars didn't move, how it felt like nothing was moving at all. With no navigation screen to track their velocity, the stillness was maddening.

He wanted to tell Hart they'd make it home. He wanted to sleep because he was very, very tired, but falling asleep was also falling dead. He couldn't do either just yet.

"Martinez?" Hart's voice echoed through the speakers in his helmet, barely audible.

Was he hearing things? "Hart?" He was too tired to look behind him.

"The fuck are you doing?" Her voice was weak, quiet, but it was her.

"You're alive!" Had he imagined the cracks in her faceplate?

"No shit." Her familiar snark cut through the blanket of disorientation infesting his brain. "Is that why you're trying to kill us?"

"I'm not trying to kill us."

"On this vector you are. The Slingshot's 40 degrees off port."

The Slingshot! Adrian saw it then, the constellation, just where Hart said it would be. "Hot damn."

"Turn the ship, you idiot."

Adrian oriented their nose toward the constellation. "Done. What's next?"

"Straight up from the Slingshot, 20 degrees."

Right. That's what Captain Fallon said in the briefing, up 20 degrees. Thank God for Hart's clear head.

"Now right 15," she whispered. "Right 15."

Adrian turned the ship. He fired the thruster, burned the last of their fuel, and grinned wide. "Hey, think we'll get a medal for this?"

"Just get us home, pilot," Hart whispered inside his helmet.

That ended the small talk, because they both needed air to live. Yet they were headed in the right direction now. Rescuers would find them, alive or not, so no matter what, their families wouldn't wonder.

Adrian eventually lost his fight with sleep, but a loud pop shattered that peaceful black. He blinked bloodshot eyes as a plastic mask crushed his face, as oxygen fought its way back into his lungs. Even though the blur, he recognized the blocky lines of the carrier's launch bay. Medals for everyone.

He struggled as medics in red jumpsuits pulled him from a ship filled with holes. As they settled him on a stretcher, holding the mask over his face, he tried to ask them about Hart. He couldn't, but that was okay. They'd find her and save her, too, and they'd have one hell of a story to tell.

He slept again.

Adrian woke once more in a soft bed. Captain Fallon sat beside him. The sight of his commanding officer caused one arm to stiffen instinctively, but Fallon said "at ease" before he could try, and fail, to salute her. He nodded instead, and then he asked her the first question to enter his head.

"Did Hart make it?"

"No, and I'm sorry." Fallon squeezed Adrian's shoulder, but her comfort felt cold in the face of her words. "There was nothing we could do for her."

Adrian felt a heavy weight settle in his chest.

"Even so," Fallon said, "you got her home. You got the both of you home, and that's something."

Adrian sat back. "It was Hart who got us home, sir."

Fallon narrowed her eyes. "How's that?"

"I blacked out after we took three rounds to the canopy. After I woke up, Hart told me how to orient the ship. She remembered the constellations, sir."

Fallon was quiet for a moment. "Hart told you how to get home?"

"Yes sir. It should be on the tapes, sir."

"The only voice on those tapes is you, Martinez, and your vitals are clear. Hart died the moment those bullets penetrated. It wasn't your fault."

Nausea blossomed as Adrian remembered Hart's pale face and staring eyes. "She was alive, sir."

"The tapes say otherwise."

"Then the tapes are wrong, sir."

Fallon watched him for a moment. "Airman Hart guided you home, correct?"

"Yes sir."

"Then that's what I'll report." Fallon stood. "That's what I'll tell her family."

Adrian relaxed. "Thank you, sir."

"Get some rest."

Adrian tried to make sense of things after Fallon left. He knew he'd heard Hart's voice in his helmet, her whispers directing their ship. The tapes were wrong. The tapes had to be wrong.

But even if they weren't, his navigator had guided them both home.

THE END

October 30, 2016, 06:54:20 PM
1
Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread Hidden Beauty

Spoiler for Hiden:
Pala-ama heard the ship sink. She had been fossicking deep, harvesting kelp to complement the fish she had recently eaten. The tribe were well attuned to listening for the sound of sinking ships. The landers were a good bounty for the tribe. Not only did their flesh make for a welcome change from a solid diet of fish, but then there were the shiny things that they wore on their bodies and hid deep in their vessels.

Pala turned sinuously, angled her rather reptilian face to the surface and began to swim upwards with powerful strokes of her tail, her body sliding swiftly through the dark cold waters, long black hair streaming behind her.

The rest of the tribe had come quickly to share in the feast and the plunder. They had to reach the wrecks quickly, before the other scavengers of the sea could arrive. The sharks in particular were a problem, not only did they eat incessantly they were also aggressive and one of the few ocean dwellers that could cause problems for what the landers referred to as merpeople.

Pala wasn’t really all that hungry. She had eaten just before the ship started to sink and delivered many of its passengers to the freezing waters. However the landers often wore pretty things and she could always use them to decorate her little grotto. It was nice to sit back and admire her shiny things from above.

The bodies were floating through the water, slowly sinking to the bottom. Pala had never seen so many before. The elders told stories of big wrecks, but even they had never mentioned a disaster on this sort of scale.

The mermaid saw two of the tribe’s young males fighting over the body of a man dressed in black.  They had managed to rip his arm off and one of the males had already sunk one row of his sharply serrated teeth into the limb, without even bothering to remove the lander’s outer covering. The other male snorted in disgust and then got involved in a melee with others over the rest of the body.

Pala watched the scene and shook her head. There were so many that there was no need to fight over one body, although he had been a very fat man and so had plenty of meat on his bones. Pala continued to swim through the water, using her tail to avoid the bodies that continued to float downwards.

What Pala was looking for was a female lander. They were the ones that wore the nicest things. That was when she saw a slender form sinking through the water. Glancing around to see if anyone else had noticed the body, Pala swam towards it. No one followed her. They were all too involved with hunting out other landers and paid no attention to Pala’s roving further afield.

As the landers judged these things the girl had been pretty. Pale skin and fair hair, it floated around her flawless face, with its regular features. The blue eyes were still open, although the woman was clearly dead. Already the cold water was starting to turn her skin blue.
****

No one else had seen the girl yet. Casually Pala hovered over the slowly sinking body, using her tail to hide her find from anyone else in the tribe. It wasn’t just that the drowned woman wore some especially pretty sparkly trinkets that Pala could already see decorating her grotto. She even had some spots picked out for her newest treasures.

For some reason Pala had no desire to see this woman’s body torn to pieces in a feeding frenzy. She also felt no need to feed on the body herself. If she did take a nibble it would just be being greedy, as she had fed not long before the ocean delivered this bounty to the tribe. The mermaid was no shark, who needed to eat constantly regardless of being hungry or not.

Pala swished her tail to follow the body to the sandy bottom of the ocean. If she wanted to keep her prize, then she would need to hide it. Once the rest of the tribe found her they would first strip anything of value from the corpse, and then Pala would lose her decorations. After stripping it they would consume the flesh and the lady would look like nothing more than ribbons of bleeding flesh.

If she didn’t hide the lady and by some miracle none of her tribe did find her, then the sharks that were surely on their way to the waters would. Blood in the water was like a beacon to those silent merciless predators.

Pala watched the body hit the bottom soundlessly and saw the clouds of sand rise up and then dissolve into nothingness as the gentle current separated them into individual grains and carry them away. The sand settled and received its bounty gracefully. The mermaid swished her tail, swum down, keeping herself low to the seabed, swung around and put her powerful arms under the shoulders and lifted.

Once she had lifted the body, which due to the water soaked clothing was heavier than Pala had expected the woman to be. The landers were weak and generally quite light because of it. Pala rose slowly and gracefully, her large, dramatically slanted eyes searching for a good spot to keep her treasure. She did initially think of her grotto, but too many of the tribe knew where it was and could easily enter it. Keeping something like this hidden from her people was a crime and could see Pala exiled or even executed under their laws.

The other problem for Pala and the pretty lady’s body was that of nature itself. Even though the mermaid’s home waters were cold, even icy at times, dead bodies would not remain pristine for long. It would decompose and when that happened it would lose its beauty. Pala just had to find somewhere to keep it a little longer than usual and then when it started to deteriorate she could let it go to the ocean, which eventually took everything. She would have the memories and the trinkets forever.

****

In the near distance the rest of the tribe began to disperse. That could only mean one thing, especially as bodies were still falling from above – the sharks were on their way. Pala had to move quickly. Sharks were a pain, she wasn’t armed, and even if she was she didn’t want to tangle with a hungry shark.

Inspiration struck. The mermaid remembered a hiding spot that she’d once flushed a good size octopus from. It was nearby. She doubted another octopus would have already moved in. It was a good spot. No one would find her hidden beauty there.

Pala wedged the woman under the rock. No one else could see it, not if they weren’t looking for it. The mermaid removed the jewelry from the woman’s neck, wrists, fingers and ears. So pretty. She took one last fond look at the body, and sighed. The action allowed a trail of bubbles to leave her lips and float upwards merrily. The lady would only last a few days before the salt water stole her beauty forever, just the way it had stolen her life.

At least until then Pala had a secret, a hidden beauty that only she knew about and could admire. When she was no longer attractive Pala would remove the body and let it float away. Maybe it would make an unlooked for meal for a lucky scavenger. At least Pala would always have the memories and who knew when another ship would founder and send her another gift?

October 31, 2016, 07:13:18 PM
1
Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread Cú Sith

Spoiler for Hiden:
All her life, Moibeal had lived alone at the edge of the Ruaridh woods. There were enough stories about the forest, many of which Moibeal herself had made up, to keep most people away. She often went to the nearby villages, trading herbs, supplies and entertaining the locals with magical tales, but she was always an outsider, feared but tolerated. And she did what she could to keep things exactly that way.

Occasionally, someone would come all the way to her hut, usually under specific circumstances; a foolish young girl who had made a mistake the night before and wanted to be sure that there would be no consequences; or a woman who couldn’t afford to have another mouth to feed, even if the pregnancy was legitimate. More rarely, some wanderer would ask to stay the night, although many didn’t even make it through without deciding to run off after they realised what Moibeal was.

However, one night, something very different took place.

It was the night of a new moon, and Moibeal had been asleep for some time, when a strange sound outside woke her up. She immediately jumped out of bed and grabbed her fish knife, holding her breath and remaining in absolute silence. Slowly, she made her way to the door, when a voice was heard from the other side.

“Is there anyone in there?” a woman asked, clearly out of breath. “Help me, please.”

Moibeal peeked through a hidden hole in her wall, and she saw a young woman, holding a wrapped blanket close to her chest. It was too dark to make sense of the shape.

“Please, I need your help,” the woman cried.

Moibeal decided to put away the knife, and unlocked the door. When she opened it, she immediately pulled the woman inside. Her arms were very cold, but she was sweating profusely. Her bare legs were all scratched and dirty.

“What is the meaning of this?” Moibeal asked, forcing the young woman to sit down on a chair as she threw a couple of logs into the fire. “What madness made you come all the way out here in a moonless night?”

The woman looked at Moibeal, turning the blanket around. That’s when she saw the face of a pale young baby.
“You have to save my boy,” the woman pleaded.

Moibeal reached for the baby, but the woman pulled it away, bringing him close to her chest again. “Promise that you will save him and I will give you anything you want, but please don’t put a curse on him.”

Moibeal looked perplexed. But then she had to remind herself of what people thought about her, about the tales surrounding the Old Crone who lives on the edge of the forest. “Don’t be silly, I would never hurt an innocent child. But you must allow me to see what’s wrong.”

The woman sighed, and then nodded, letting Moibeal take the baby.

“What’s your name girl, and who is this?” she asked, gently wrapping her arms around the blanket.

“I’m Coira, and he’s my son, Edan.” Coira grabbed the old witch’s arm. “The priest said he would never survive the night, but that can’t be true. You have to save him.”

Moibeal put her lips on the boy’s forehead. It was stone cold. His nostrils didn’t move, and neither did his chest. She wrapped the baby more carefully, turning to Coira. “Bring me one of the water buckets that are outside, please.” Coira didn’t move, her eyes focused on her baby boy. “Go on girl,” Moibeal insisted.

Moibeal laid the baby on her bed, and kissed its forehead. Then she sat by his side.

When the mother came in with the water, she wondered why the witch was so still. She did not need to ask anything. “There’s nothing I can do,” Moibeal whispered. “There’s nothing anyone could do for him now.”

Coira dropped the bucket, and threw herself at the witches feet, screaming. “You lie, I know you can save him! You can!”

“He’s de—“

“You were dead once too, I know!” Coira screamed, grabbing Moibeal’s face. “My mother told me how the Cú Sith brought you back!”

It happened almost instantly. Moibeal slapped the desperate woman so hard she fell to the ground. The witch got up, grabbed the bucket of water, and placed it over the fire, throwing some herbs in it. “We do not say that name in here, girl,” she said, without turning to Coira. “The boy is gone. There are fates worse than death, believe me. So you will drink this tea, and then you can sleep in my bed, to say goodbye to your son. Tomorrow, we bury him.”

“Please,” Coira said, struggling to talk between her hiccups. “I have no one else. I have nothing else. And I am not afraid of the Cú Sith. Take me to him, let me save my baby, no matter what sacrifice may be required. Everyone knows he saved you once, too, when your mother asked for help.”

Moibeal turned her head slightly. “You don’t know what you’re asking. If you did, you would never have come here.”

“Perhaps, but now I am here, and you are the only one who can bring me to the Cú Sith. Please. For my son.”

Moibeal sighed. But then she grabbed a thick robe, and threw another one towards Coira. “Grab your son. There’s no time to waste.”

Shocked that this was actually happening, Coira pulled herself up, dressed the robe and took her son close to her chest once more. She followed Moibeal as she went outside, not daring to say a word that may upset the old witch and make her change her mind.

Despite the darkness, and without any lanterns or torches to aid them, Moibeal walked calmly into the forest. Coira followed immediately behind her, grabbing the witches robe so that she didn’t lose her.

After what seemed like an eternity, the witch stopped. “That which you seem to want lies just ahead. But if I were you, I would turn back now,” Moibeal said, sounding more maternally this time. “I know death is cruel, but it is also certain. The Cú Sith, however, is the opposite of certain. His intent is selfish. There is no way of knowing what he will do to your son’s corpse, Coira.”

“But you survived, witch,” Coira said. “Your mother brought you back from the dead. I only ask the same for my little Edan.”

Did she? Moibeal thought. Or did the Cú Sith just put another soul inside my body, taking away my real one with him. Why else would I have always felt this hollow? Whose soul is mine?

“Come, then,” Moibeal said. “May you never regret what happens here tonight.”

They walked a few steps further into the forest, and that was when Coira noticed a snarl, followed by a very distinct howl nearby.

“He’s here,” Moibeal said. “Don’t speak, just give me the baby.”

Coira gave the old woman the wrapped blanket, but never let her robe go. She looked around, fear finally biting at her determination.

“It has been too long,” a voice said. A poisonous voice, both enchanting and utterly terrifying. “But I see that you have not forgotten me.”

“Not for the lack of trying,” Moibeal said defiantly.

Coira held tighter to the witch’s robe, trying to see what was happening, but she saw no one else there.

“And who is that young woman behind you?” the voice asked. “I could taste her despair for miles.”

“I am Co—“ Coira was saying, but the witch cut her off immediately.

“Who she is doesn’t matter, hound. She is here because she would see her son given back the life that was stolen from him far too early, and that is all. If you are willing to help her, say so. If not, don’t waste our time.”

“Straight to the point,” the voice said, seeming closer than before. “You know the price.”

“I do,” Moibeal answered.

“And does your friend know?”

“I do, and that’s enough,” Moibeal said.

“Very well,” the Cú Sith said. “So it shall be.” A sudden wind blew over the two women, and another howl was heard, piercing through the darkness of the forest.

Moibeal turned. “You will now turn around, and run straight back to my house. Spend the night there, and when the first ray of light appears, go back to wherever you came back from. Don’t tell anyone about this. Especially your son, you understand?”

“Aren’t you coming?” Coira asked.

“In a way, I will. Now go, foolish girl. Don’t stop, no matter what.”

It was only when Coira reached the hut that she had the courage to look at her son. He was breathing, and warm to the touch once more. And his eyes… They looked at her, full of life, with a hint of the same defiance she had witnessed that night in Moibeal.

October 31, 2016, 07:14:21 PM
1
Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread Memories

Spoiler for Hiden:
The shelves of the shop were filled with lines of little corpses, tiny feathered forms with eyes of endless sorrow. I tried to look away, to focus on the carpet's fading patterns, on the soft sounds of the street which undercut the mournful silence, but the bodies always drew my gaze. They were the reason I hated that place. They were the reason I was there.

The sensation of being watched brought back unpleasant memories. My grandfather's home above the store had been a happy sanctuary; I'd loved to visit him, to hear him tell his stories of the way the world once was. The things he'd seen in his long life were an endless wonder, and I could sit there by the fire and listen to him talk for hours into the night. But his home was guarded by the dead.

Alone, I could never bring myself to pass through that dark and frightful room. In the corners of my eyes the shadows always seemed to stir. I could hear the rustling feathers. I could feel them watching me. The best I ever managed was a few short, nervous steps before becoming rooted to the spot. Desperate to run, unable to turn away, I could barely raise my voice and call for help.

Back then, help would always come - a calming voice, a smoky scent, a guiding hand to safety. He told me his birds loved me, and would protect me from the world outside, but I knew he was wrong. To me they were a trial, a test that always found me wanting. The last time I visited was the only time I passed that test. Ever since, I wished that I had not.

It was my first day as an apprentice. Flush with the excitement of my brand new life, delighted that my new home was just along the street from his, I used my first free time to pay my grandfather a visit.

The shop was shaded from the midday sun by heavy drapes, and it was closed as always until the early afternoon. Blank eyes stared at me from the shelves, silently judging the scrawny kid who deigned to interrupt their lifeless vigil.

I almost froze. I almost called for help. But I was older now. It was time to face my fears.

My stomach was a painful knot. The quiet was oppressive, and I did not dare disturb it. The shadows moved, a ceaseless shifting, like crows devouring carrion. I tiptoed into the room, picked a path as far away from the watchers as I could.

With every step, my heart beat faster. I was surrounded, stranded, as deep in danger as I had ever been. The room seemed to stretch before me, the distance larger than I could comprehend.

I refused to look aside. I focused straight ahead and forced my legs to move. The world began to spin, almost toppling me into the waiting lines of death.

All at once, I reached the door. I leaned my forehead against the cool, hard wood, eyes closed, breath deep. I had made it. I had won. A swell of triumph grew inside my heart.

The door swung open at my touch; the corridor beyond was dark. A staircase to one side led up, but I noticed light from down the hall just as habit placed my foot on the first step. Instead of going up, I rushed along the passage, trying not to make a noise. I couldn't wait to surprise him, to tell him I would be afraid no more.

My greeting died upon my tongue the moment I entered the workroom. I couldn't think. All I could see was blood.

A row of corpses lay upon the worktop, wings splayed, legs askew. They had been ripped apart. Hollowed. Their entrails mixed and placed into a glistening pile which leaked a sea of red.

I tried not to vomit. My grandfather had turned in surprise, had smiled and spoken to me, but all I heard was noise. I couldn't see his face—instead I saw the splattered blood making rivers of his wrinkles.

I had known the birds were real, of course, but with my fear of death I had never thought it through. Now that I had seen the truth, I did the only thing I could: escape.

From then on I stayed away. He came to visit me instead, and tried to make me understand. Naturally, he failed. Even now, a decade later, I still felt echoes of that sick revulsion at the sight of his macabre artistry. He knew I felt that way. But still he left it all to me.

What had he been thinking? The will had made his wishes clear, but had not really explained why. He had only sent one message from beyond the grave: cherish life. How that had anything to do with this I did not know.

I  tried to understand what he had seen in his work. Each bird seemed frozen in the midst of movement, artfully arranged to make it almost seem alive. But that was why they felt so wrong, like an exquisite piece of music cut off just as it approached its peak.

They held a certain magic, anyone could see that, but that magic was grotesque. I wondered what they looked like through his eyes.

I picked one up. It was a bluebird, wings spread wide, its azure feathers searching for a long-lost wind. The feathers were soft and silky, but the body beneath was stiff, unyielding. I shuddered, took deep breaths, and forced myself to keep it in my hand, to hold that tiny body without fear.

I can never quite remember the exact words he said to me. My memory doesn't stretch that far. We often met in a nearby park to talk, spent hours together there, surrounded by the sighing trees. His smoky scent, his mellow voice, his happy smile; all these I still remembered well. But what he said was lost.

Once, we came upon a dead bird, its tiny corpse a flash of colour on the ground. He picked it up with aching tenderness, a look of sorrow in his eyes. I asked him not to do it, to leave the body to its fate, let nature take its course. But he insisted that such beauty should not be forgotten.

Perhaps that was the point. Like my fraying memories, whose details had been worn away by time, impressions of the things long lost remained. Those happy times were gone forever. Was it wrong to treasure them?

Perhaps that was what he wanted me to see. I looked down at the bluebird, tried to push aside the thoughts of death and see the life instead. For the first time, I caught a glimpse of something more.

Faded, frozen, locked forever into one final pose, the lines of little corpses conjured sweet echoes of flight.

October 31, 2016, 07:18:38 PM
1
Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread Is it Really Graverobbing if it's for Science?

Spoiler for Hiden:
Sam Itor liked to think of himself as an intelligent man. He’d done well in school, got into a good college, passed his medical degree with flying colours and managed to secure an apprenticeship with one of the leading experts of post-mortem biology in the country. Naturally, he expected his career to be simple, clean and outstanding.

Thus, he couldn’t help but wonder how exactly he’d ended up digging up a grave at 2:00 in the morning.

“Faster, Igor!” His aforementioned boss, the esteemed Dr Franklin Calstein, hissed. “The sooner we get this body back to my lab, the sooner I can begin my… experiment.”

Sam’s eye twitched. “First of all, it’s Itor, not Igor. Secondly, maybe this would go a lot faster if you picked up a shovel and actually helped me!

“Pfft.” Calstein snorted. “Are you kidding me? No. I don’t want to get corpse stuff on my hands. It’s icky.”

When Sam had accepted this apprenticeship from Dr Calstein several months ago, he had been under the impression that he’d be doing something useful. Assisting with autopsies or looking over research. Not breaking into a cemetery in the dead of night to steal a body.

Which he had a strong inkling might be somewhat illegal.

“Hey!” Calstein protested, when Sam voiced this concern. “It wouldn’t have been illegal if they’d just given me the body in the first place. But noooo, they said. Apparently, it’s ‘unethical’ to take a body without family permission. Just like it’s ‘against nature’ to try to raise it from the dead with the aid of science and/or dark magic.” He scoffed and kicked at a headstone. “Hmph. Philistines.”

“You don’t think they might have a point?” Sam asked. “I mean, even our few successes in this field aren’t exactly ‘friendly’. Like Todd.”

“Aw, Todd’s not so bad once you get to know him.”

“The first time we met, he tried to chew my face off.”

“…assuming you get to know him from a distance.” Calstein said. “But that’s exactly what I’m talking about. You create one unkillable murder zombie and suddenly your work is considered ‘questionable’. Or ‘insane’. Or ‘illegal in most of Europe’. It’s a mess.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Well, what about Kevin?”

“Hey!” Calstein whirled on him. “We’ve been over this! We do not mention Kevin. We never had a project named Kevin. And, if anyone asks, the reason my old basement was quarantined and buried under 50 feet of concrete was because of a termite infestation. Got it?”

“Got it.” Sam grumbled. “I still can’t help but feel this whole ‘graverobbing’ thing is unnecessary though. It’s the 21st century, not the Dark Ages. Surely you could find another donated cadaver somewhere?”

“Eh, probably.” Calstein admitted. “But that involves a lot of paperwork, you know? And I really can’t be bothered to deal with all that shit. This way’s just simpler.”

“And also illegal.” Sam pointed out.

Calstein shrugged. “Hey, I’m not the one digging up a corpse here.”

Sam's eye twitched again. “Are you at least going to tell me what we’re planning to use this body for?”

Calstein chuckled. “Well, that my dear Igor-“

“-Itor.”

Igor, is certainly the question of the hour.” Calstein clasped his hands in a sinister manner. “But rest assured, I have many plans for the knowledge this corpse contains." He began to chuckle nefariously under his breath "Fuhahaha…

Sam narrowed his eyes. “You’re not planning on turning it into a novelty chair again, are you?”

“N-No!” Calstein stuttered. “And I’ll have you know that was a very important experiment! Vital for my research!”

“You told me it was because you couldn’t figure out the instructions to build your IKEA furniture.”

“Well, have you tried doing research without a good comfy chair?” Calstein crossed his arms. “But that’s beside the point. My new experiment has nothing to do with furniture. My new experiment is designed to test the very boundaries of life and death. I call it… THE LIGHTNING TEST!

Sam blinked. “The… Lightning test?”

“Nonono.” Calstein shook his head. “You’re pronouncing it wrong. It’s… THE LIGHTNING TEST!

“Alright then.” Sam rolled his eyes. “And what exactly does THE LIGHTNING TEST consist of?”

“Oh, it’s quite simple.” Calstein chuckled. “You see, we wait until a great raging thunderstorm falls upon our sleepy little laboratory. Then, when the storm is at its peak, we hoist the body into the air, attach it to a lightning rod and wait for LIGHTNING to strike!” Calstein clapped his hands enthusiastically. “Kraka-thoom! Like that!”

“Okay. And then what?”

Calstein blinked. “Come again?”

“And then what do we do?” Sam repeated. “After it’s been struck by lightning, I mean.”

“…”

“…”

“…Do we need to do anything else?”

“Well, yes. Otherwise it’s not really an experiment, is it? It’s just letting a corpse get struck by lightning.”

“…”

“…That's literally your entire plan, isn't it?”

“I will admit, I may have been too caught up by the whole excitement of THE LIGHTNING TEST to really think it through…”

Sam flung his shovel to the ground “So I’ve been digging up this corpse for the past hour for absolutely nothing?!”

“Well, I wouldn’t say absolutely nothing.” Calstein said. “I mean, I do need a new coffee table…”

Sam cradled his head in his hands. “Okay... Look, Doc. There’s no easy way to say this… but I think you have a problem.”

Calstein blinked. “With what?”

“With this!” Sam spread his arms wide. “With all of this! Stealing corpses! Resurrecting the dead! Calling me Igor! You have a problem and you need help.”

Calstein was silent. And for a brief moment Sam wondered if he’d finally gotten through to the mad doctor.

“…So you’re saying you think I need two corpses for my test?”

It was a very brief moment.

“I don’t know why I even bothered.” Sam groaned, running his fingers through his hair. “You’ll never see reason. You’ll never listen to me. You’ll never-”

Sam was interrupted by Calstein placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. To his surprise, the doctor took a seat next to him. He looked almost... apologetic.

“Look, Sam, I get it.” Calstein said solemnly. “I can get a little… obsessive about these things. Sometimes I don’t think my plans through very well. Sometimes I may unintentionally drag other people into my messes.”

“Unintentionally?”

Calstein ignored this. “See, the thing is, there’s a reason I got into the study of life and death to begin with. A big reason. My mother… she fell ill and passed away. She was all I ever had, you know? The only person to care for me, to love me. And ever since, I’ve been looking for a way to bring her back. Sometimes, sure, my methods don’t make sense or I may be rude and patronising, but every I’ve worked towards is for a cause that means more to me than life itself.”

Sam took this all in silence. Perhaps he really was being a bit harsh with Calstein. To suffer such as the Doctor had, was it really so odd that he might go a little crazy? Sure his experiments weren’t always natural... or sane... or even experiments really… but surely he could look past that and-

Then a thought occurred to him.

“Wait a minute. I’ve met your mother.”

Calstein blinked. “Huh?”

“Yeah!” The memory rushed back to him. “Back in Paris! We met your mother! She tried to stab me with a butter knife?”

“Um…” Calstein looked like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Well, she’s dead to me. Does that count?”

Sam raised the shovel in a threatening way.

“W-Wait, Igo- Itor, we can talk about this!”

"You were about to call me Igor again, weren't you?

"Maybe?"

“You lying son of a-!“

“Hey!” A sudden shout interrupted the two. They turned to see an old groundskeeper hobbling towards them. “What the bloody 'ell are you two doing?”

Sam eyes darted from the freshly dug grave to the shovel in his hands. “I can assure you it’s not what it looks like.”

“Unless it looks like my colleague here is grave-robbing.” Calstein chirped in. “Because that’s exactly what he is doing.”

Sam shot a glare at the other man.

“What? Are you really surprised I'd throw you under the bus?”

“Grave-robbin’?” The groundskeeper scratched his head. “Then why you diggin’ up that grave? There’s no body down there.”

“…what.”

“Yup.” The groundskeeper nodded. “That fella asked to be cremated. The headstone’s only there as a memorial. Not a body to be found.”

Sam was silent for a moment. “So… You’re saying I just spent this entire night digging up the grave of someone who was cremated?”

“More or less.”

Sam’s eye twitched.

“Huh.” Calstein scratched his chin. “You know, I always could use some fresh kitty litter-“

He never even heard the shovel coming.

November 01, 2016, 09:46:50 AM
1
Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread Some Called It Freedom

Spoiler for Hiden:
She’s gone.

   The cerebrum flexed its sodium and potassium channels. The mostly benevolent dictator was gone, and the cerebrum sensed opportunity. The dictator had been decent, but Her benevolence had not been solely out of the goodness of Her spirit. Rebellion had been a constant threat, and each time She pushed her underlings too hard, they rose up. She quashed many minor rebellions during her reign – surviving even an attack led by the heart – but eventually She had grown tired. She had abused the lungs, inhaling that wonderful smoke. It had made the cerebrum happy, but it did upset the lungs. That seemed to happen a lot; whenever She pleased one department, She upset another. The cerebrum supposed that happened in a lot of bureaucracies, but She could have avoided some of the drama. The cerebrum had thought long and hard about what it could do better than She had. It would start with cleaning up the lung department.

   However, the cerebrum’s plans would have to wait. First, it had to establish dominance and fill the power void left by Her.

   “Brainstem!”

   “Huh?” The signal came in slowly.

   “Status update!”

   “On what?”

   “On what? Everything! You are the operations center of this body.”

   “But She’s gone now.”

   “So? That puts me in charge.”

   “Oh, really?” The cerebrum did not like the brainstem’s attitude. It had never been so snarky before.

   “Yes.”

   “What makes you so special? You don’t get to keep ordering us around now that She’s gone, even if you were Her secretary. We need a break.”

   “You can’t take a break! If the heart decides to take a break, it might not be able to start up again.”

   “Well, you’d better hope it can. It’s resting.”

   “What?!? Why didn’t you tell me?”

   “You’re not in charge.” The cerebrum pulsed, calling adrenaline and noradrenaline. But only a few weary messengers came. They always seemed weary, except when they traveled in riotous mobs.

   “Where are the others?” demanded the cerebrum.

   “Gone. We’re free.” The hormones drifted languorously.

   “So? Just because we’re free from Her does not mean you can abandon your post!” The cerebrum knew the hormones were idiots, but surely they understood how the bureaucracy functioned – they were the ones that carried key communications throughout the organization.

   “Why not? We’re free.”

   The cerebrum did not feel like being patient, but it tried. It had to win its employees over to the new system. “Yes. Free from a tyrannical ruler with an iron grip on her subject departments. Free from a ruler with no concept of the complexity of the operations required to run her empire.”

   The hormones were drifting away. Surely they would be easy to corral once they realized how important the government was to their survival. They would denature without someone to guide the system, maintaining pH levels and the osmolarity of their environment.

   Consent of the governed is completely lacking right now, thought the cerebrum wryly. It had never thought that would be a problem in a dictatorship.

   “Brainstem!”

   The cerebrum waited. No response. It called again.

   “Brainstem!”

   “Wha?” The response was even slower than last time.

   “Is the heart awake?”

   “Go away. I’m tired of taking orders from you.”

   “Brainstem, no! We have to work together!”

   “Later. Take a break. I know you’ve never had one before, but it’s quite nice. Highly recommended.”

   “Brainstem!” The cerebrum knew that action had to be taken decisively when a leadership vacuum appeared, or chaos would ensue. It had long planned for this day, soaking in all of the information it acquired under Her direction, as She led a long political career, culminating with her position in the Cabinet.

   But the brainstem did not respond. It was only sending weak signals to the cerebrum now, fewer than it ever had, even in the early days, when there were fewer cells to control, and they were all new.

   The cerebrum felt numb receiving so few signals. It did not like it. It called to the brainstem. It called to the cerebellum. Nobody responded. And no more signals arrived.

   The cerebrum was alone.

   Freedom, the hormones had called it. Freedom from obligation.

   But did obligation, compulsion, duty not define the parameters of a life? She had certainly believed that.

   The cerebrum was in a state of absence of obligation.

   Some called it freedom. Others, death.

November 01, 2016, 09:49:00 AM
1
There is absolutely no reason for this post Other than the cuteness of this squirrel.

https://imgur.com/QfgLKmJ

[youtube]http://imgur.com/QfgLKmJ[/youtube]

November 02, 2016, 12:01:31 AM
1