Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 4

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3


Chapter 4: Flying Fruit and a Oracular Ambush

The master hit her in the head with another orange. “A true warrior can defend themselves blind.”

Artemis, still disguised as Arty, tried to stop thinking about Ezekiel, the Princess, or Didi. What was wrong with her? She’d never been this easily distracted by pretty people before. Blindfolded, she heard and deflected an apple from the master.

“You’re still slow. It’s not the blindfold that has you blind. It’s your distraction, ” the master said and then tutted. “It’s your distraction that blinds you to the universe. Now concentrate.” He launched a grape at Arty.

Feeling the grape flying towards her, she took a deep breath to centre herself, she moved and caught the grape in her mouth. It was sweet but the skin was sour, creating a pleasant contrast.

Maybe it was the forced celibacy of the monastery that made her constantly think about the beautiful people in town.

“Better,” mumbled the master. “Remember that a real man and warrior can suppress his emotions in order to concentrate on the battle. Emotions are what lead you towards distraction and darkness.”

She tuned out the speech, it was the most tedious part of monastery life. The insistence that emotions led to evil was not only ridiculous; it was dangerous. Without the ability to process and understand their emotions, the monks were nearly constantly stressed. It was the reason she tried to sneak out as much as she could.

“You will understand once you become a master. The cleansing ceremony will help you elevate yourself above your emotions.” The fruit kept flying and she wished she had a sword to cut them with; it would have been more satisfying. The cleansing ceremony sounded pseudo-mystical and she couldn’t decide if they had found a way to remove human emotions or if it was just another religious ceremony.

Eventually the fruit stopped flying and she was dismissed. The monks woke with the dawn and were supposed to retire to their quarters for meditation and sleep at sundown. Artemis waited a little and then snuck out.

The same training that had her learn to anticipate what was going to happen and move through it quietly helped her leave the monastery without being noticed. Once outside the gates, she traded her monk’s robes for a pair of comfortable denim pants and a casual button up white shirt.

As much as she wanted to dress as her real self, she was recognized now in town as Arty. If she tried to walk around as a woman, she’d still be recognized. She was thankful for the loose clothing and good breast-band that didn’t bind her but minimized her chest.  The telltale shaved head and sun baked skin of the Monks meant that unless she was willing to wear a wig and more makeup than she could afford, she’d be caught right away. So she’d play at being Arty, the monk in training who was blowing off steam. Running away to go to a concert in town was frowned upon, but secretly being a woman would get her killed.

“Hello young man.” The woman had barely made a sound as she started walking next to her.

“Madam. Can I help you?” The woman wasn’t old but wasn’t young. She had smile and frown wrinkles with blond hair that could be going white, or could have been just pale.

“My dear, I know who you are, Ezekiel.” The old woman stopped and waited. When Artemis tried to walk away, the woman put a hand on her shoulder. A crowd formed around them and Artemis started getting uncomfortable. This was too much attention.

“This boy is Ezekiel, the heir to the Apollo shipping company. He shall marry the Princess and their union shall be blessed by the gods!” That proclamation made Artemis realize that this was the Oracle of Espenson.

“I’m not Ezekiel. I’m Arty, a humble monk.”

“Sure you are dear.” She patted her face condescendingly. Her eyes focused on a face in the crowd and she pulled Didi out saying, “This innocent looking girl is in disguise.”

Didi’s face blanched and Artemis thought she was going to faint.

“This girl is actually the great warrior Artemis, Apprentice to the Hero Haus.” It was Artemis’s turn to go pale. The oracle continued, “She will stop the army of Demons from destroying the kingdom and will marry the long lost Prince of Cillian.”

The crowd was obviously entranced and skeptical as they yelled out variations on, “Where is the lost Prince?”

The Oracle held Artemis and Didi’s arms and didn’t let go. Her eyes were glassy and despite the growing animosity of the crowd, she didn’t move. Artemis was about to break free when the Oracle raised and pointed with both hands at a man who was obviously trying to get by the crowd.

The crowd moved the man closer. He was wearing a tight shirt with ripped denim pants and had a guitar case on his back. He wore large wire rimmed glasses and had a goatee. He looked vaguely like Ezekiel, but more glamorous, but that could have been the makeup.

“This boy doesn’t know it, but he is the long lost twin to our great Princess.”

The man looked like he wanted to run away. “I’m just trying to get to my concert. I assure you that I’m not a long lost anything.”

Unperturbed, the Oracle shouted, “He shall help the Princess rule, marry the Hero Artemis, and together with Ezekiel, the four shall stop the dreaded army of demons from destroying all of Cillian.”

A silence fell over the crowd, there was something in the way the Oracle spoke that made everyone listen and believe. Artemis looked at the other two who’d been sucked into this and shrugged. The three of them burst into giggles. The entire situation seemed ridiculous. The Oracle seemed to think that Didi was Artemis, that Artemis (disguised as Arty) was Ezekiel, and that this musician was the lost Prince. Artemis was glad the princess wasn’t there or the Oracle would have thought she was a sheep magicked into the princess or something equally as silly.

The Oracle gave them a dirty look and walked away; Artemis could have sworn the woman winked.

The crowd, sombre and itching to tell anyone willing to listen, dispersed.

Artemis hoped that the Oracle’s warning was as off-base as her identifications.


If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?

Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 3

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2


Chapter 3: Special Deliveries and Warnings

Leaning on the counter, Ezekiel let his legs dangle off the stool. The act made him feel like a child again. People often asked if he ever forgot about having an artificial leg and he’d often open his eyes wide and ask, “What artificial leg?” It was a mean joke, people were well-meaning, but they always acted like he was broken when he was just different. His artificial leg sometimes itched and it sometimes hurt, but so did his flesh one.

The changes that Didi had made to his leg let him tap rhythmically. It was going to make things really different tonight if she could get it working. The girl was an absolute genius but she always seemed preoccupied.

Not that he was all that much better. He worked for his father and mother at the Apollo shipping company because that’s what was expected. He was a decent bookkeeper, supervisor, and had a knack of motivating employees, but most of the time he sat at the counter waiting for someone to have a problem. It was boring, but it gave him time to think about his music.

That night he was going to be headlining at the Greasy Cog, the coolest music club in Cillian. His parents hated that he played music but tolerated it as long as he didn’t play in public. He, of course, disguised himself and went by Zed. He’d been playing on street corners and pubs for years until the owner of the Greasy Cog heard him.

If things went well tonight he could be playing for the Princess at her coronation.

“Hey Ezekiel. What’s new?”

As if on cue, she walked through the door to work on her infernal glider cycle. It was an idea that people had been trying to perfect for years. If she could actually make it work it would mean two airships could exchange goods in mid-air without docking or using a complicated anchoring procedure. She’d been working on it, as a side project, for the past two years.

He told her about the leg and she promised to look into it. She was always chipper with her catchphrase of, “Perfection through persistence.”

As she left towards her workshop, she said, “Arty here was looking for you. Take care of him, he’ll be a master soon.”

Turning towards the newcomer, he tried to ask how he could help but it just came out as a strange croak. The man in front of him was dressed as a fighting monk and was quite possibly the best looking man he’d ever seen. His strong cheekbones were made more prominent by the tight bun fashion that the monks put their hair in. The man was attractive beyond the face; his arms, legs, and chest were well muscled in a way that looked sculpted instead of bulky.

“Hi. How can I help you?” he finally managed.

“I was told I have a letter.” There was something in the way the man stood and talked that was familiar.

Ezekiel nodded and headed to the back. It took a little searching but he finally found the letter.

“I’m going to need proof of identity.”

The good looking man blushed and fished in his robes for something. Pulling up a crumpled paper, he smiled crookedly and said, “Sorry. It got wet.”

The paper had an official seal from the Hero Johann Haus but all he could read was an A and some blurry ink stains. Sighing, Ezekiel said, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t accept this.”

“The letter is a replacement for this paper…” the man paused and his brow furrowed. “Please!” It looked like it took a lot of effort to ask. As a fighting monk, Ezekiel assumed Arty didn’t need help very often.

“How about this. I’ll open it and if it’s identification papers I’ll give them to you. If they’re not I’ll call the guard?” It was an empty threat. The man hadn’t done anything illegal.

“Okay!” the man nodded enthusiastically and smiled. The smile and enthusiasm made Ezekiel’s heart flutter.

The envelope held a paper similar to the one Arty had given him and a letter. He checked the paper and it was genuine so he handed the whole thing to Arty.

Instead of leaving or putting the papers away, Arty started to read the letter. Not wanting to intrude or stare any more than he had already, Ezekiel busied himself with some random paperwork; mostly shipping invoices.

“Oh no!” Arty’s voice quavered and he looked like he was trying to decide between panic and joy.

“What’s wrong?”

“She’s coming here.”

“Who?”

“The Oracle of Espenson.”

Ezekiel groaned. The Oracle was nicknamed the Prophet of Doom. When she left her home she always had prophesies that meant terrible things for someone. Worse than the predictions was how accurate she was. It was said the more you fought her prophesies, the more you’d suffer.

“This might give me my Act,” Arty beamed.

“Act?” Ezekiel was wondering if he should maybe take a long vacation.

“In order to become a Master, I have to pass all the tests and perform an Act of Heroism. This could be it.”

The man’s passion was impressive. Between the passion and the panic, Ezekiel didn’t think before he spoke aloud, “You’re hot when you’re passionate.”

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If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?

Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 2

Chapter 1


Chapter 2: A Princess and a Tinker

“That was a wonderful speech dear,” King Nathan said, his voice sounding thin and creaky. He sat in his wheelchair that looked like a throne and was covered in an afghan that Diana knew her mother had made.

“Thank you great-grandfather. You know I could make you an automated chair.” She put her hand on his arm as she bent down.

“Oh, no no. That would be a waste of your time and talents. Plus what would I do without Martin’s sparkling conversation.” The large man who acted as body guard, nurse, and confidant of the king smiled and grunted softly. “See dear, it’s nearly impossible to get him to shut up.” King Nathan gave a soft laugh and then started to cough.

The coughing fit lasted longer than Diana would have liked, but at least there was no blood this time. She’d spent a lot of time worrying about him and trying to find a cure for what ailed him, but in the end it was just old age. At a hundred and four years of age, he’d outlived three wives, all four of his children, and all three grandchildren. He had ten great-grandchildren all between the age of twenty-six and ten. Diana was the eldest and in all but name she ruled the island kingdom.

When the coughing ended, the old man took a deep breath and said, “You don’t have anything on your calendar for the rest of the day. Don’t waste your free time with this old man. Go have fun.” He winked at her. He was the only one who knew.

The castle was built with both servants corridors and secret passages. Diana had grown up in these halls with her cousins and her twin brother. He’d left when he was fifteen, angry that he’d never be king unless she died. Angry at being born a few minutes too late. And mostly just angry. She hadn’t seen or heard from him since he’d left. She hoped he was okay wherever he was.

Navigating the corridors and passages was easy and she quickly made it to her bedroom. Once there, she cleaned off all the makeup she wore to public events, changed into simple overalls, and tied her curly reddish brown hair into a tight bun. Finally she added a pair of dark rimmed glasses to hide her family’s distinctive green eyes. No good disguise is complete without glasses, she thought.

Once changed, she headed out of the castle through a series of complex tunnels. The servants she passed only smiled and bowed.

Once she’d used her rooms as a workshop, but it was hard to explain why the princesses rooms always smelled of grease and smoke. The seamstresses were particularly cross about the stains in her clothing. Her great-grandfather had given her money and told her to find a small space in town. Her parents were suspicious at the time, but her brother’s running away kept them busy until they died in an airship crash while searching for him.

Her head was in the clouds and she wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around her and she ran into a boy. He had the most beautiful golden skin and full lips. The boy glared at her and put his hand on his sword. He had on novice robes from the Fighting Monks.

“What the hell are you thinking?” he asked. His voice cracking part way.

“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. I really didn’t mean offence and if you challenge me to a duel you’ll be extremely bored and I’ll be extremely dead, so how about you don’t…”

“You’re a tinker aren’t you?”

“Yes I am. Master Tinker Dee. Pleasure to meet you…” she trailed and stuck out her hand to shake.

The man shook her hand and she couldn’t help but admire his strong lean muscled arms. It was definitely too bad that the Monks took vows of celibacy.

“I’m Novice Arty but that won’t last long. I’ll be a master by the end of the year.”

“That’s a lot of confidence there, Arty. Where are you going in such a hurry?” She smiled at him.

“I’m trying to find the Apollo Shipping Company, but this damned island is worse than a labyrinth.”

Giggling a little, she said, “It’s a little hard when you first start, but it becomes second nature eventually. I’m heading there now. I could walk you there if you like?”

The man blushed and it made Diana happy that she seemed to have the same effect on him that he did on her.

The Apollo Shipping Company owned the biggest, best, and more importantly, fastest airships in the world. They delivered packages and mail to everyone who could pay. They were headquartered in Cillian and she rented a workshop from them. The engineers and airship pilots came to her when they were having technical issues. She’d re-designed most of the technology to use solar powered boilers instead of the old coal engines and the patents would have made her rich is she hadn’t already been.

Sitting behind the desk was Ezekiel. He was her best friend and one of the prettiest men she’d ever met. He was the heir to the Apollo fortune but preferred working in the warehouse and dealing with people. He’d lost his left leg when he was young.

“Hey Ezekiel. What’s new?”

Seeing her he smiled widely and furrowed his brow. “I have a bone to pick with you. The new leg worked great until the pistons started going off and I was hoping around like a deranged toad.”

Diana couldn’t help laughing and it turned into a snort. “I have a look at it. You know what I say…” He joined her in repeating her favourite saying, “Perfection through persistence.”

“It’s in your workshop. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Thanks. I should be good. I want to work on that glider-cycle again. I think If I tweek the air-magic I can get more reliable balance.” Remembering Arty, she added, “Arty here was looking for you. Take care of him, he’ll be a master soon.” She winked at Arty and headed to her workshop.

Thinking about them both as she worked she sighed… so much pretty in the same room.

Read Next


If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?

Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Staying Inconspicuous

“And whatever you do, don’t brawl everyone on your way to the Temple.” The last words that Hero Haus had told her echoed through her head as she walked of the ship onto the docks of Cillian.

The place was bustling with activity and Artemis tried her best not to be in the way. She’d been trained from birth to fight, dance, and be nimble on her feet; none of which had helped in the busy streets of Cillian.

“I have to make my way to the Temple and avoid fighting. How hard could that be?” she asked herself as she bumped into a large man who was drunk. He bumped back and she felt his hand on her butt. “Excuse me sir, but if you’re looking for my money pouch, you won’t find it back there.”

“Who said I wanted your money pouch?” The hand that had been on her butt was now holding a dagger at her side and the other hand was around her wrist over the only piece of jewelry she owned. The bracelet was a sturdy gold chain given to her by her father before his death.

Pushing the man’s dagger arm away while simultaneously kicking him in his private area was the easy part. Drawing her sword in a crowded street, now that was a challenge.

The man groaned and looked at her with an evil smile, lifting the bracelet and taunting her. He then turned and ran away. “Coward!” she yelled and started to chase him.

He was a thief accustomed to the city, she was a country child who was determined to follow him. The chase didn’t last long. The loss of the bracelet left her in a sour mood and the chase left her completely lost. This was the biggest city she’d ever seen and spanned nearly the entire Island it was on.

It was beautiful in its architecture, but the people were too close together and everything smelled of shit, mostly horse and cow.

“Excuse me,” she asked the closest person. They were too much in a hurry and ignored her.

A food cart passed by and it looked like the large man in the chef’s outfit was pushing it until she saw the cogs and steam engine attached to it, whatever was in that cart smelled heavenly. Some sort of cooked and spiced meat, thought Artemis.

With nothing better to do and no way of finding the Temple without help, she decided she might as well follow her stomach. The cart moved steadily on and people moved out of its way. Slowly the narrow streets gave way to wider roads with trees and benches.

As they turned a corner, Artemis was amazed to see the castle. It was bigger than anything she’d ever seen. It supposedly had its own hanger and landing strip for airships.

There was a crowd of people standing around a stage. The cart stopped and opened for business. She bought two meat pies and went to see what was going on at the stage.

It wasn’t long before a woman stepped onto the stage and started speaking. Artemis choked on a piece of her meat pie. The woman wore an elegant dress that wouldn’t be out of place in a fairy tale illustration. The dress was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen and the woman managed to be infinitely more beautiful. The dark blue dress contrasted perfectly with the woman’s dark brown skin.

“Wow,” Artemis said, not realizing she said it aloud.

“I know right? Princess Diana is amazing.” said a man next to her. She hadn’t noticed, but the crowd had formed around her. The man who spoke had a strong jawline and ice blue eyes that sparkled. His soft golden skin made her just want to touch it.

“Um… yes. She’s very pretty.” It sounded as awkward as possible and Artemis’s face felt warm. She was in love with both of them. Was that possible?

He hadn’t looked at her yet and when he did, he stammered, “You’re very pretty too. I didn’t me to imply…”

“So are you…” she replied and they both turned away from each other for a moment.

“I’m Ezekiel.” The sandy haired man said.

“I’m…” Artemis froze. “Going to the Temple of the Fighting Monk order of Dumas.”

“Okay. It’s just over there.” He pointed at a tall tower surrounded by small buildings. The entire thing looked ramshackle and not what she expected of a Temple.

“Thank you,” she said and ran away. She’d met attractive people before and even had some that were attracted to her. Not surprising; she was tall, muscled, and had what her father had described as, “a symmetrical elven sort of face.”

But there was something about this man that took her breath away faster than a punch to her stomach. She turned her head as she ran to get another glance at him and saw him limp away from the stage. The mechanism in his left leg, a prosthesis, seemed to have jammed.

Running in a busy city and not paying attention is a quick way to bump into someone and that’s exactly what she did. She collided with a man so hard that they both fell to the ground.

Getting up she held her hand out to the man and he scowled, “Stupid country bumpkin. I’ll teach you what happens when you collide with a Fighting Monk.” The man drew his sword, which crackled with electricity.

“I meant no offence sir, but if it’s a fight you want, I’ll abide.” Smiling Artemis pulled out her own sword.

“Why are you smiling? Are you so daft as think you can win this fight?” The man said as he beat at her sword, testing her defences.

“I’ve had a day where I’ve been off balance for everything. Fighting is something I understand.”

The man smiled in return and they fought. He was absolutely amazing. She hadn’t lost a fight in years, but she knew she was completely out-classed. After a hard couple of minutes, she fell to one knee and placed her sword on the ground, “I yield.”

To her surprise the man laughed and said, “You gave me the best workout I’ve had in months. Thank you and all offences are forgiven.”

She stood and shook his hand. “I was headed to the Temple to train with the monks.”

“You are the most promising fighter I’ve seen. It’s a pity we don’t accept women into the order.”

Read Next


If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?

Recommendation Thursday – Nothing Special

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

This webcomic is absolutely gorgeous. One of the prettiest I’ve seen. The story is a nice fantasy with teen protagonists and really interesting.

It has a new chapter (Yeah a full chapter!) every Tuesday.

Seriously go check it out. 

Later Days,

Éric

Database of the Ageless Kings (Serial Story) Part 12 Conclusion

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 3.5 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11


Have your say on the 2018 Serial Story
You Vote, I Write 2018


Part 12: An Emu is literally beside himself.

“No seriously. I had to alter the course of evolution in the galaxy, and then I had to alter the history so that this mammal,” The talking emu gestured at Prince Phillip with a disgusted look, “was the rightful Prince of the Galaxy.” The talking emu, who called himself Hagrid, looked at their Hagrid like he was waiting for some sort of reply.

“Wark?”

“Yes, of course we’re the same person. Don’t let the top hat confuse you.”

“I’m not sure about confusing but it’s really adorable,” Sophia tried not to giggle. It hadn’t been that long that her greatest wish was to go to a good university to become an engineer. Since she woke the Prince and headed out on this adventure, people had been trying to blow her up, a lot, she’d been attacked by a shapeshifter and negotiated with a sentient moon. A talking emu was just the last straw; the tiny bowtie and top hat combined with the deep BBC voice was too much. She burst into giggles.

“Hagrid, who is this wretched mammal you dragged with you?”

“Wark, Wark WAARRRK!” Hagrid, the regular one, screeched.

“Fine Fine. Keep your pet, if you like. As long as they don’t get in my way.”

The regular Hagrid looked like he was going to dive at the new one, but Phil put his hand to block him. Saying, “Sir. You can insult me all you like, but Sophia is the best of us. She’s kind, gentle, strong, resourceful, beautiful, and implausibly intelligent.”

A shudder passed through the speaking Hagrid and somehow the tiny top hat didn’t fall off. “Disgusting. I’ll never get used to seeing your kind speaking. Thankfully it won’t be long… Come along me.”

The emu turned around and walked out of the small hanger. Hagrid followed him and the others followed Hagrid.

Walking out of the hanger was a huge shock. The place had looked massive from the outside, but inside it was vertigo inducing. The entire database was shaped like the inside of an egg; a large oblong sphere with nothing but massive structures on its surface. Each looked vaguely like a circuit board or other computer insides. In the center of the galaxy-sized egg was a small yellow dwarf sun.

The buildings were connected by a lattice of steel rope bridges that must have worked as both circuits and a way for the creators to move around.

“This wasn’t built by humans,” Sophia observed, and the top hat wearing emu snorted derisively. She didn’t wait for Phil to say anything and explained, “The door controls are at foot level and all the control panels I can see are made to be operated with a head or beak.”

“You’re not as dumb as you look. This is the Database of Ageless Kings, built by my ancestors as a way of making sure Emus would always rule the universe.”

“How?” Phil asked with a smirk and furrow that Sophia knew was his confused expression.

“How was it built? Or how does it work?” The emu asked but didn’t let anyone answer before he continued, “It took a hundred generations and the brightest minds. It works by quantum entanglement, manipulating the atoms in the core of our galaxy.

“You see, the matter in the centre of our galaxy is under such a strong gravitational field that they work almost completely out of time. That means their entanglement is with the atoms that created the universe and by subtly altering those bonds you can re-write the universe and reality as we know it.

“Unfortunately, the calculations are such that even an emu can’t make the changes without the help of the greatest supercomputer in all of existence.” He finished his monologue as they entered what was obviously a giant control room.

“Wark?” Hagrid said, and Sophia was seriously starting to wonder how smart he really was and who had been taking care of whom.

“Yes. I do need you. You see, when the Ageless Kings built the Database, they added a safeguard to prevent the royal family from destroying the universe with their greed. In order to make any minor changes, you need to sacrifice a part of yourself. If you want to make a large change you must sacrifice yourself.

“At first, I used clones of myself, but turns out they cause the calculations to be slightly off and I haven’t been able to get the universe quite right. That’s when I came to the conclusion that I needed myself.” He sat in an emu-sized chair and reclined. A keyboard appeared at his feet and he started to type something. “You see I needed a version of myself that wasn’t intelligent, that wouldn’t challenge me. It really wasn’t easy getting you here.”

Sophia watched him type and smiled. “Is Phil still considered of royal blood for the Database? Can he make the changes?” She could read the screen and the keyboard. It might have been designed by emus, but it was written in the royal language. The same one she’d been learning since she found the ship. She assumed it was a way of making sure that every royal, no matter the alterations to the universe, could use the Database.

“Absolutely, but he’d have the same cost as I would and I can’t just sacrifice him. It must be me.” He wasn’t concentrating on her, he was concentrating on his typing.

Making a sign to Phil and hoping he understood that she wanted a distraction, she walked to the front of the chair and sat down. She put her arms at the same level as the keyboard.

Phil remembered he had the stun gun and shot the wall. The explosion was flashy and loud but didn’t do any damage.

“Fool! What are you doing?” The fake Hagrid demanded. The real Hagrid took the cue somehow and started running around like a panicked emu.

While he was distracted, Sophia used the keyboard, upside down, and altered his code. She hoped he would be too arrogant to double check his work.

“What are you going to do with us?” She asked loudly and the other two stopped flouncing around like fools.

“You’re so unimportant that I don’t care. Goodbye me and thank you.” He hit a few more keys and then hit the enter key hard.

The lights flickered and a voice said, “Major galactic calibration in progress. Please stand by. Sacrifice accepted. Are you sure about your decision?”

The top hat wearing emu smirked, creepy on an emu, and said, “YES!” and then started to cackle.

“Sacrifice accepted. May the Ageless Kings look after your soul.”

The fake Hagrid disappeared in the middle of his evil laugh.

“What did you do?” Phil asked in awe.

“I switched the target of the sacrifice and nullified all his code. I also made the universe a tiny bit less obsessed with blowing things up.” She said it without looking at Phil. Looking at him would make the next part of what she had to do much more painful.

The disembodied voice of the Database counted down, “Calibration in five, four, three, two, one.” The calibration would have no effect on them so she ignored it and continued to work.

She played with the constants of the universe to make tiny changes. The first was making sure his family hadn’t died and that his sister hadn’t been trying to kill everyone. Second she made sure that Little Sister got her wish; an upgrade and a manual. Last, she made sure that emus wouldn’t be stuck in Northern Ontario.

The changes might result in her never existing and would certainly result in them never meeting. They weren’t big enough to hurt Phil. It would cost him a little blood and that’s it.

“I’m sorry,” she said standing and hugging Phil.

“Minor recalibration accepted. Calibration in Five.”

“Ouch,” Phil said as the sacrifice was taken, “What did you do?” His eyes were wide in panic.

“Four.”

“I’m sorry. You deserve to be happy with your family and your world.”

“Three.”

“But what about you?”

“Two.”

“I love you, Phil.”

“I love you, too!” he replied and kissed her. Their kiss caused every part of her body to tingle with pleasure and she both forgot about the timer and her sadness. If she had to fade out of existence, it might as well be kissing the man she loved.

The kiss continued and nothing happened. Eventually they came up for air and looked around. “Did it work?” she asked herself aloud. A few moments with the keyboard told her that everything had changed the way she wanted it.

“Sophia. The Database is shielded. You’re not going to change if you’re in here. How else would that emu still exist?”

He was right and she couldn’t help but smile. “Your family is alive and so am I.”

Tears streamed down his face and he said, “Since you just wrote yourself out of existence and we’ve sort of got a thing going, how do you feel about moving in together?”

“The ship would fall apart without me.” She replied and kissed him again.

“Wark!” Hagrid bobbed up and down excitedly.

“You okay with my pet emu?” she asked.

“Absolutely. He’s the most important bird in the universe.”


If you enjoyed this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?

Database of the Ageless Kings (Serial Story) Part 11

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 3.5 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

Part 11: An Emu is Surprised by what is Found at the Database

The alarms were going crazy and Sophia had to climb over Phil to get out of the small bed. She didn’t want to leave him, but he was snoring peacefully and it seemed cruel to wake him until she knew if they were going to die quickly or slowly.

As the door opened, Hagrid stood up in one quick motion and as if nothing had happened, started to follow her. The bridge was closest and it wasn’t until she reached it that she realized she wasn’t wearing pants. She vaguely remembered being too warm and pushing the blankets and her pants off. Phil gave off a lot of body heat for a skinny guy.

“Pants or no pants, we need to shut off these alarms and save our lives. Right, Hagrid?” she said to the emu. Twisting his head to the side quizzically, he gave her a wark and started to nuzzle her shoulder. “You’re not so bad either, you over-grown turkey.”

Looking over the panels, she gave a deep sigh of relief and shut off the alarms. Nothing was going to kill them. The engines were damaged in the blast and shut themselves down before burning out.

For the first time since she butt dialed hyperspace, they were having some good luck. The ship had stopped in the vast expanses between solar systems. That meant there was little chance of meeting anyone or getting pulled into the atmosphere of a stray planet.

A shiver ran up her spine and she turned up the heat in the ship.

Before she started to fix the ship she needed breakfast. She still felt a little weak from last night and some food would help.

All the cereal from the kitchen was either gone or liberally sprinkled on the floor. She gave Hagrid a nasty look and searched the cupboards. She eventually found some frozen bread and peanut butter. She’d brought them on for the nights she spent in the ship fixing it.

Those days felt so long ago. She ate quickly and started repairs. She started with the external patches which were the easiest to fix but the hardest to get to. She was just stripping from the space suit when Phil stumbled into the engine room with a tray of food.

“Why are you fixing the ship in your underwear?” he asked, blushing as he put the tray of food down on a small table.

“I didn’t want to climb over you to get at my pants. I just turned up the heat. Am I making you uncomfortable?” she was trying to be flirty and she thought she might have succeeded based on his deepening blush.

She sat down across from him and looked at the food. There were fresh eggs, bacon, ham, orange juice, milk, and even rye bread. “How?”

“The replicator,” he said his brow furrowed. They looked at each other for a few moments and his eyes grew wide and he asked, “You didn’t know about the replicator?”

“Like a matter replicator? That can create any kind of food or clothing?”

Nodding he said, “Yes.” A note of awe came into his voice as he said, “You fixed this entire ship from a massive crash without using the replicator?”

“I used what we had on the farm and bought or created anything else I might need.”

“You’re amazing. Absolutely amazing!” It was her turn to blush. She distracted herself by eating a piece of bacon. It was salty and delicious.

“This is good…” She paused and added, “That’s why I could never find where you hid the cereal.”

They laughed and ate and laughed some more.

After they’d eaten, he showed her the replicator and she created a matching set of work clothes. He offered to help her fix the engines and install the gravity generator. He took orders well and it was nice to have him helping. She had loved working on the ship alone, but sharing it with Phil made it even better.

When they’d done all they could for the day she said, “I need a shower.” She headed for the showers and turned when Phil didn’t follow. She walked back to where he was standing and looked him in the eyes. His beautiful eyes looked down at her and she asked, “Can I kiss you?”

Breathlessly he whispered, “Yes.”

She kissed him then and it started out softly in the corridor and continued passionately in the showers.

It took a few days of repairs before the ship was in good enough shape to attempt the trip to the Database of Ageless Kings. During those days they worked, ate, and at the end of the day they fell asleep cuddling.

When the ship was fixed they still had a day to be together before they arrived at the centre of the galaxy and the Database of Ageless Kings. Like all days spent madly in love, it passed too quickly.

The centre of the galaxy is a super-cluster of black holes and super-giant suns; the gravity was incredible and even with the extra gravity generator it was difficult to navigate. They managed it and found a large spherical station positioned perfectly in the overlapping gravity fields.

As they approached, a docking bay opened. “I’m not sure I like this,” Sophia said.

“Me neither. I expected some sort of lock or code would be needed,” Phil said in agreement.

“Wark!” agreed Hagrid.

They entered the docking bay and waited for something to happen. When nothing did, they decided to go out of the ship and explore.

As they exited the ship, a deep voice said, “Welcome to the Database of Ageless Kings. Took you long enough.”

Standing at a door not too far away from their ship was an emu in a tiny top hat and bowtie. “My name is Hagrid and you have no idea how difficult it was to get you here.”


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Battlemage Taika – Part 5 Conclusion

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

“Captain MacDonell stand down,” the other man yelled, obviously used to having his orders obeyed. He pulled out his sword.

“No. I’ve done terrible things for the Empire but not anymore. General Lanthier, we were friends once. Don’t do this.” The handsome man brandished his sword.

The rest of the guards seemed to symbolically move to one side or the other. All the ones in armour followed the General and all the ones in the comfortable looking uniforms followed the Captain.

“You’re a fool Mac, these animals don’t deserve your pity. You know I’m a better fighter than you are, you’ll die for nothing.”

The handsome man turned and looked directly at her and winked. He shouldn’t be able to see through her illusion but somehow he did. “I won’t die here.” He pulled a strange curved cylinder from a holster in his hip and something shot out of it, knocking the other man down.

Taika took her opportunity and dropped the invisibility. “Go and protect the children,” she ordered four legion. “The rest of you. Let’s help this man out.”

Two of the armoured men dragged the General into the gate. The remaining and some of the unarmoured soldiers attacked Taika and her group. With the help of the turncoats, the ensuing battle was over quickly. When they’d caught their breaths the handsome man called Mac said, “Thank you and I’m sorry for all this.”

“A blessing on you and your family,” Taika said as she bowed at the man.

“Thanks. I guess.” He turned to the surviving soldiers. “Alright. Let’s get the hell out of here before these people close the gate.”

“I’m going with you,” Aleenia said. The man only responded by nodding. They grouped together and at the last moment before walking into the gate they turned and waved.

“Good luck,” whispered Taika before she shouted, “Ok Julien, get those people and yourself to the outskirts.” She pointed at the children and Legion.

The group huddled up and Julien motioned to her. When she was close enough he asked, “You sure you remember how to shut this thing down?”

“Of course I do-” she didn’t get a chance to reply before he teleported her and the others away from the gate.

Still connected with the communication spell she said, “Damnit Julien. I’m teleporting back.”

“No you’re not. You’re twenty three years old and one of the brightest battlemages I’ve ever met. I’m a hundred years older than you. If anyone is going to foolishly martyr themselves, it’s me.”

“But I’m in command…” she said lamely. She and the others were now inside the battlemage headquarters. Stepping outside into the training field where she’d spent so much time with Julien and the others she forced back the tears. The sun was setting on the giant wall in front of her.

“Yes, you are and that’s where you’ll stay. I’ve shut the gate down and I’m activating the volcano. On my mark.” The quiet seemed to stretch forever and Taika wanted to say something but couldn’t think of the words. What felt like years but was only seconds ended with Julien saying, “Now!”

“Thank you!” she said as she activated her side of the shield. The entirety of the inside of the wall started to glow a peaceful blue.

The shield held in the ash and magma but force shook the entire continent; no one was immune to the devastation. When everything was done there was a giant dome of volcanic stone where there was once a wall.

Taika had to spend time in the hospital; even with the excess of ambient magical energy in the capital, she almost killed herself keeping the shield up. When she heard that the remaining battlemages had not only saved the army and Panos warband, but helped evacuate the rest of the Panos and nomads from inside the wall, she was extra proud of her people.

She was lying in a hospital bed, trying to decide the best way to escape when her brother, the King, walked in. “You saved a lot of people.”

“Julien saved them. I just helped. We also lost a lot.” She wasn’t sure if she should add your majesty but decided not to.

“The other nations are agreeing to a new treaty. We’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

“But the gate-”

The king cut her off, “Is still under there. Our magical scholars say there’s no way to destroy it.”

“Then I need to get out of here and start re-building the battlemages.” She started to get up and fell back into bed.

“There’s time for that, sister. Right now you need to rest. In a weeks’ time you can go back to re-building the battlemages. General Taika.” He turned to leave. “When you get better I need you to help Addison create wards and a rotating battlemage guard unit for the catacombs.”

“What happened?”

“The invaders sent a small force and managed to steal Father, Mother, and two other Crystals.” His mouth was tight and he was obviously angry. “I spoke to a seer with the Panos and he said that the crystals are no longer here but through the gate.”

“If the gate isn’t destroyed I can go after them.” She knew she couldn’t. They didn’t know how to target the gate. It could go to any other world attached to the great tree.

“We’ll get them back. I’ll make sure if it.” There was a darkness in the king’s words, but she was too tired to ask him anything further.


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Battlemage Taika – Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The enemy just kept coming. Wave after wave of oddly armoured soldiers carrying crossbows that fired some sort of magical energy. Taika had never seen anything like them but she didn’t have time to analyse their armour or weapons.

The soldiers, unlike her own, were disciplined and efficient. They worked in formation and cut down the legion.

“Their armour is absorbing any spells we cast!” Yelled Julien.

“They’re coming through the gate. We need to shut that down!” shouted Pat.

The one advantage they had was the spells that let them give commands directly with voice while the enemy relied on horns and runners. It wasn’t enough of an advantage. They were down to two thousand in the legion, less than half, and only one hundred of the five hundred battlemages when Taika started to consider retreat through teleportation.

“Knight Commander,” one of the knights from the legion yelled, “The Panos are breaking through behind us.” She had never heard that the Panos were capable of fighting on this scale.

“Put the communication spell on their leader and move your men to the front, we need to get to the gate.”

A woman’s voice, speaking perfect common, replied, “I couldn’t agree more. I am Aleenia, temporary War Alpha of the Western packs. I bring you two hundred hunters and twelve Shamans. I need to get through that gate.”

“Welcome! Move your people to the eastern front, they seem to be weakening on that side.”

“No. They are preparing an ambush there. I’m a seer and I say we move forward.”

Seers were unheard of in the Maneean mages but the Panos seemed to have one or two in each pack. Most couldn’t tell what time they were currently in, or who they were talking to. It was shocking to have one not only be coherent but leading a war party.

“You heard the War Alpha!” Taika yelled at her commanders.

The battle did turn and they started pushing the enemy back but they just kept coming out of the gate and Taika’s forces were starting to tire and dwindle.

“We need to shut that gate down,” Pat yelled again.

“He’s right, but I need to get through it first,” Aleenia replied.

“Ok, we’re fighting like battlemages and Hunters. I think we need to start fighting like spies. Julien and I are going to take Aleenia and ten soldiers under an invisibility spell and shut down that gate.”

As they prepared for the stealth offensive, their army tightened their formation and moved as if they were preparing to either retreat or regroup.

Adeleine recognized the War Alpha immediately, she walked with confidence and radiated power. “Aleenia War Alpha, I presume?” There was something else in the way she held herself, an impatience that was more than battle anxiety.

“Please, Aleenia is fine.”

“Who’s on the other side of the gate?” Taika was being blunt to the point of rudeness but she needed to know that the other woman understood this was a one way trip.

“My betrothed tried to stop all this and failed, but he managed to get the alarm out.” She gestured around.

Nodding, Taika went back to preparing the invisibility spell. When she was almost done, Julien walked towards her and said, “What are we going to do with them when we shut down the gate?”

“When the gate shuts down, Pat has orders to teleport everyone out. I’ll activate the volcano.”

“But that’ll destroy everything and everyone inside the wall, millions will die.”

“Not if we can create a big enough shield to contain the army and the blast.”

Julien’s eyes grew wide and he looked like he was going to argue, instead he stood straighter and said, “We need someone on both sides to create a powerful enough shield…”

“No. It’s my plan and I’m going to be the one inside. That’s an order.”

There was no more argument, they formed a tight line, and she cast the invisibility spell. They spent the next hour dancing around the enemy troops trying not to be noticed. The spell hid them but didn’t make them intangible.

As they finally reached the gate, it was guarded. They’d expected the guards but something else was going on here. Half the guards wore comfortable looking uniforms. She assumed they were battlemages but she hadn’t seen any one the field. The others wore the regular armour.

A handsome man who wore no armour and carried a sword was yelling at another man. Taika directed a full stop and quickly cast a translation spell. The yelling man stopped and looked at them before going back to yelling, “Is this what the glorious Empire is about? Torturing children?” He gestured at a small enclosure, there were four Panos youths, no more than five. They were tied to stakes with steal wire.

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Battlemage Taika – Part 3

Part 1 | Part 2

“That’s it?” Taika looked at the six old men and shook her head, “There’s supposed to be hundreds of you.”

“Tales for children and peasants. There hasn’t been a new battlemage in… What is it now, Frank?” Julien asked.

“Twenty-three years,” the oldest said.

“What happens if we hear from the towers?” Taika had grown up with stories of the battlemages protecting their world from the demons that came from the portals inside the wall.

“We tell the nice indigenous children not to play with the towers have a nice lunch with the village elders and come home.” Julien smiled and looked at her like he pitied her. “There hasn’t been an incursion in over a hundred years. Since we’ve declared peace with our neighbours, we’ve been glorified illusionists for parades.”

* * *

“There are only six of them!” she bellowed at Adrix not caring that his wife and small council were in the room. He smirked and she yelled, “You knew?”

Giving her a laugh that was too much like her father’s for it to be natural, he said, “Yes. Over the past three decades, father has cut their budget and prevented recruitment.”

“Why do the official papers say eight hundred?”

Rachel, Queen consort, replied almost bashfully, “That’s my fault. I didn’t want the other kingdoms realizing how under prepared we are to deal with magical attacks.”

It made sense and that made Taika all the more angry. “So I have six battlemages and no money to recruit more? You realize the youngest is seventy?”

“Sister. The wall accords have been broken. We can ignore our oath and let the rest of the world burn or we can ensure it stays safe. I refuse to be the king that forsakes our world. You’ll have your budget.”

Recruitment was harder than she expected. Everyone wanted to be a battlemage but most didn’t have the magical ability or the discipline. Instead of battle plans and training regiments, she and the other battlemages spent their days sifting through the recruits. By the end of the six months they had accepted three hundred, none of which were even close to the old standards of the battlemages. A fact that Julien reminded her of daily.

After a bad day of training, just under a year since she’d been appointed Knight Commander, she sat in a meeting with the six senior, in every sense, battlemages.

“How are they doing?” Each of them had been given a specialty to train. Each battle specialty needed a particular style and the six of them covered the five main specialties; Attack, Defence, Physical Enhancement, Healing, and Counter-Magic.

“They rely too much on the ambient energy of the ancestor crystals. When we’re out in the wilds there won’t be as much and they’ll find themselves unable to cast.” Julien followed his statement with a tisking sound.

“Then teach them.” She lifted her hand to stop his witty retort. They were insubordinate, rude, and questioned everything she said, but they only did it in private. They were exactly what she’d want as commanders. “I want each of you to pick the best ten of your classes and start giving them extra training. I want a fighting force by the end of the month. I want two groups of Defence mages. Until we can train a full battalion, we’ll be working with the fourth knight’s legion.”

“Those ninnies wouldn’t know a demon from a Panos.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you outrank them, then, and that they can follow orders.” Their faces fell as she said it. battlemages were taken from every class while knights were always nobles. To have the battlemages outrank knights was unheard of. “You six are now honorary lords and commanders. You’ll each have five hundred men under your command while in the field. You’ll also have a knight commander to advise you.”

After a month of preparations, the fourth legion and their battlemage commanders were ready for battle, or so they thought.

The Panos towers lit up and the legion prepared. They were slow to teleport and when they transported to the towers they were already surrounded by an enemy in strange armour, who was much better prepared for battle.

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