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Sunrise Over Infinity

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Sunrise Over Infinity

Postby C J Mcpherson » Mon Nov 07, 2011 5:31 pm

For the past few months I've been writing a series of semi-short stories for my website. I thought I'd share one of them with the forum. It's rather long, so I'll be releasing it in six parts. Comments and critiques are welcome.

Sunrise Over Infinity

A ship broke the calm waters, slicing through them and sending them churning in its wake. The warm summer winds carried it towards the bustling city of Cail and its ports.
Her legs hung over the water’s edge, a woman sat on the pier, a robe of brilliant crimson billowing around her in the breeze.
She watched the ship move effortlessly towards her, the words Le-Pras inscribed on its hull.
Her grip tightened around her bag.
This is the one.
A lithe man leapt from the ship’s side and began tying it in place. Another man, this one muscular, began unloading boxes.
She closed her eyes momentarily, steadying herself.
I only get one chance at this.
She approached the man as put down a box, perspiration glistening on his forehead. His arms were covered despite the heat, dark sleeves ending in leather gloves.
“Nice ship,” the woman said.
He went for another box, “Yes it is.”
She followed him onboard, “Where are you headed to?”
“Repia,” he said as he strained himself against another crate.
“Is that near Ascala?”
He put the box down, “Look, miss, I’m a little busy right now, so if you don’t mind, please go pester someone else.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just that, I’m looking for someone to take me to Ascala.”
“In that case, you’re talking to the wrong person. The Captain handles all matters involving payment.”
“Where’s the Captain?”
“Right here,” a voice said, “Who’s asking?”
“This young lady wants to buy passage to Ascala.”
“Ascala?” the Captain walked towards them, “Why are you wanting to go there?”
“Family matters.”
“If you’ll excuse me,” the muscular man said, “I have a back to be breaking.”
The Captain gave her a quizzical look, “You do know this isn’t a pleasure vessel?”
“I know.”
“Meaning we don’t take passengers. The Astral can be a dangerous place.”
“I know, and I’m willing to pay you extra for the trouble.”
“Why bother? There are plenty of other ships that would be a lot cheaper.”
“Because they say you’re the best. You never leave a job unfinished. You can get anything anywhere.”
“Compliments aside, I don’t think this ship is any place for a woman such as yourself.”
“Please, I won’t cause any trouble, you’ll barely notice that I’m there.”
He studied her, “Are you absolutely certain you want to come on this ship?”
She met his gaze. “Yes.”
He sighed, “Fine, but you come at your own risk.”
“Thank you. You don’t know what this means to me.”
“Just remember, my crew has a lot to deal with, so stay out of everyone’s way.”
“I will,” she nodded enthusiastically.
“As for payment, we will discuss that once you’ve been shown to your room. Adrian,” he called. The lithe man reappeared. “Take our new passenger to one of the spare rooms.”
“Passenger?” Adrian eyed the woman, “I didn’t think you were taking passengers anymore.”
“She was rather insistent.”
“I was just about to pick up the supplies.”
“You can do that after.”
“Fine,” Adrian sighed and picked up the woman’s bag.
“One last thing,” the Captain said.
“Yes?”
“What’s your name?”

– –

Adrian led Fiona through the ship’s corridors, a row of lightorbs above providing a dim imitation of daylight.
“Have you ever been in the Astral before?” he asked.
“No, I haven’t.”
“You’re in for a treat.”
“I don’t know, I’ve heard stories about it.”
“Just rumors. Well, mostly rumors, there was this one time when. . .” He met Fiona’s apprehensive gaze, “You know what? Forget I said anything.”
They stopped in front of a narrow door, “This is your room.” he opened it, “A bed, shower, some space.”
She took the bag from his hand, “Is there anything else I should know?”
“Let me think, we don’t normally have to explain this to people. Dinner’s served in the galley down the hall, life rafts are in the cargo bay and we’ll be crossing over shortly before nightfall.”
“Crossing over?”
Adrian smiled, “You’ll see.”

– –

The Captain walked to the helm, where Stark was going over a series of charts.
“I assume you saw that exchange,” he said to the half-wolf.
“Yes.”
“Good. I want you to keep your eyes and nose on her.”
“You don’t trust her?”
“Something about her seems off. It’s curious that she would be so insistent on taking this particular ship. She must have a reason, and I want you to find out what it is.”
“Very well.”

– –

A rich aroma greeted Maria as she entered the Galli, the comforting smell of baking and spice , the scent of home. She scanned the rows of tables, subconsciously adjusting to the ship’s motion as it sailed.
“Where is she?”
Adrian sat at a nearby table, “Where is who?”
“The passenger, who else would I be looking for?”
“You mean you’re not looking for me? I’m hurt.”
She crossed her arms and glared at him, “Where is she?”
“Table in the corner,” he motioned to where Fiona sat, alone, by the wall.
Maria took the seat opposite her.
“Hi.”
Fiona smiled nervously, “Hi.”
“I’m Maria,” she extended her hand, “Second in command and the ship’s healer. I thought I’d introduce myself.”
Fiona shook her hand, “Nice to meet you.”
“Have you met everyone else?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, there’s Adrian, the strong handsome one is Gehard.”
“We’ve met,” Gehard said acerbically. “Over a set of very heavy crates.”
Maria rolled her eyes, “Just ignore him when he gets like this.”
“I heard that.”
She ignored him, “I assume you’ve met the Captain.”
“Yes.”
“The half-wolf, when you see him, is Stark, he’s the navigator and helmsman. And, besides Gloria in the kitchen, that’s it.”
“But there’s so few of you.”
“This is an Avandran ship,” she tapped on the wall, “Practically runs itself. Oh,” she clapped excitedly, “Have you ever been in the Astral before?”
“I already asked her that,” Adrian said.
“Great Adrian,” she scowled at him, “You steal my line, thanks.”
“I only wanted to save you the trouble.”
“Is there something going on between the two of you?” Fiona asked.
“No,” Maria chuckled, “We’re always like this. You’ll get used to it, eventually. So, have you ever been in the Astral?”
“No.”
“It’s spectacular, especially the first time you see it.” She glanced out the porthole, “We should be there in a half hour or so.”
“Looking forward to it.”
Maria stood, “I’ll leave you to your galesh. Gloria will be angry with me if it goes cold.”

– –

The crew was gathered on deck, preparing to make the crossing. Fiona walked among them, out of place amongst the world of rigging and water. She found a quiet spot along the bow and sat, waiting as night began to fall.
She distracted herself by watching the others go about their work, all preparing for the journey ahead. There was a feel of ordered chaos to it all; that although Fiona didn’t understand what was going on, everyone else did perfectly. She sat at the center of a storm of activity, untouched and mystified by its winds.
In particular she watched the Captain. He stood at the ship’s helm, watching over his crew. There was something peculiar about him, the unnatural ease with which he moved, as if the entire world belonged to him and it simply didn’t know it yet. He pointed out a new direction to Stark, revealing a glint of the sword hidden beneath his cloak.
What a strange creature, Fiona thought as Stark adjusted the wheel. So human, yet so animal.
It was as if some god had taken a wolf and fitted it over a human frame, giving the resulting creature the capabilities of the second, but the mannerisms of the first.
The ship was dark in contrast to the ornate sky above, lit up with ribbons of coloured fire descending from the heavens. The sky seemed closer than normal, more immediate. Fiona propped herself up on the ship’s railing and watched as it seemed to grow nearer.
“Disorienting, isn’t it,” Adrian said form behind her.
“It’s like the sky’s getting closer.”
“That’s because it is.”
“How is that possible?”
“Because the Astral lies beyond the sky, so you have to pass through the sky first to get there.” He met Fiona’s confused stare, “It’ll make sense when you see it.”
She returned her gaze to the sunset and its’ glistening reflection.
“It’s brilliant.”
“Yeah,” he leaned against the railing, “Sunset crossings are always the best.”
“How many times have you done this?”
“Too many to count. I’ve been working for the Captain a long time.”
Fiona was silent as she traced her eyes across the encroaching canvas of colour.
“Adrian.”
“Yes?”
“I’m nervous.”
“About the crossing?”
She nodded.
“I know how that feels. I was terrified my first time. But there’s really nothing to worry about, it’s as natural as walking outside, except with a much better view.”
“Thanks.”
“Prepare to cross,” The Captain’s voice sounded behind them.
“I have to go,” Adrian said as he slipped away.
Fiona watched the rapidly approaching sky, now a vertical wall rising from the water’s surface. It neared until she thought she could reach out and touch it, when she realized she actually could.
The tip of the ship’s bow plunged effortlessly through the sky. Fiona found herself surrounded on all sides by a blanket of fog, so thick she couldn’t make out the deck below. Everything was hidden behind a white veil.
“Steady,” the Captain called, his voice muted by the oppressive vapor.
It was like passing through a dream, an impossible world of clouds and shadows, only to emerge on the other side in waking life.
Fiona saw the cloud thin ahead and a strange darkness beyond. Without warning the fog cleared, sweeping back along the ship as if pulled by a strong wind. It formed a towering wall behind them, curving slightly to match the contours of the sky within.
She turned her gaze to her new surroundings and was struck breathless.
The ship floated through empty space.
Sheer vastness surrounded her, impossible distances that staggered the mind’s eye. Nebulous clouds of brilliant hue hovered on all sides. Collections of ruby and emerald that slowly flowed and billowed at the whims of unseen currents.
It was like they were flying through the night sky, only that the night sky had never been this awe inspiring.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the Captain said, “Welcome to the Astral.”
A smile flashed crossed Fiona’s lips.
That was easier than I thought it would be.

– –

Frederick the innkeeper was just finishing sweeping when the soldiers walked into his bar.
“I’m sorry boys,” he said, as he was accustomed to doing, “Bar’s closed for the night. Come back tomorrow.”
“We’re not looking to buy any drinks. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”
Frederick looked them over. The taller of the two, who stood behind his comrade, had the stern look of a commander. There was a trim of gold to his white and blue uniform, clearly signifying a greater rank. The man ran his hand over a neatly trimmed beard, studying the man who was studying him.
Not the king’s men, wrong colours.
The shorter of the two, who was rapidly growing impatient, wore his red hair in a warrior’s braid. He had the look of a fighter about him, and clearly possessed the patience of one.
“Who’s soldiers are you?” Frederick asked.
“We are not soldiers,” the tall one replied indignantly, “We are Guardians. Protectors of the Astral.”
“In that case,” Frederick pulled up a chair, “What would you like to know?”
The red-haired one spoke, “Has a woman calling herself Fiona been staying at your inn?”
“Yes,” Frederick said, “But she left this morning.”
The tall one scowled, clearly not getting the answer he was hoping for. “Do you know where she went?”
Frederick ran through the last few days in his mind. “She was talking with someone last night about a ship, the Lapres, or something. Is that helpful?”
The faintest trace of a smile crossed the man’s lips, “Very.”

Part Two will be on in a day or two. in the meantime, feel free to comment.
C J Mcpherson
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Re: Sunrise Over Infinity

Postby C J Mcpherson » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:59 pm

Adrian leaned against the mast, watching Fiona play her hand through a passing cloud. The blue mist scattered at her touch, sending rivulets of it drifting through the air.
“Has she been there all night?” the Captain asked.
“No, I think she left for a while to sleep, although she missed breakfast”
“There was a time when it was just as fascinating to us.”
“Was? It still freaks the heck out of me sometimes.” Adrian walked up to Fiona, “First impressions of the Astral?”
“Unbelievable,” she said, not looking away. “To think, all of this was out here, my entire life, and I’ve never seen it.”
“Not many people have,” the Captain said, “Astral travel’s still fairly new. Many places have only discovered it in the past fifty years.”
“Captain,” Maria said as she walked by, “Stark wants to talk to you.”
“If you’ll excuse me,” he tipped his hat.
Adrian watched Fiona watch the Astral, finding himself curious about her. It wasn’t often there was someone new onboard.
“How are you liking ship life?” he asked.
“It takes some getting used to, but it’s not bad.”
“As far as ships go, this is one of the nicest. I’ve been on much, much worse.”
“How long have you been working on Astral ships?”
“In a way, most of my life. I traveled around a lot when I was younger and by the time I met the Captain I knew enough to be part of a crew.”
The Captain reappeared, “I’m sorry Fiona, but it seems we’ll be taking a bit of a detour.”
“Why?” Fiona asked, finally turning her gaze from the Astral.
“Stark’s spotted a terrene nearby that’s not the map, so we’re going to go scout it out.”
“Why are you doing that?”
“Because we’re Astral explorers, this is what we do. We venture into newly discovered places to find out what’s there.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Of course it is. What is life without a little risk?”
Adrian saw that they were nearing another wall of fog.
“Can I come with you?” Fiona asked. “It sounds exciting.”
“No,” the Captain said resolutely, “Absolutely not. There is no way I am taking you with us into an unknown land. It’s too dangerous. It is not going to happen.”
“Please,” she said, “I won’t cause any trouble, you’ll barely notice I’m there.”

– –

Fiona sat in the back of the boat as they rowed towards the new land.
I swear that woman should be in sales, the Captain thought as he stepped from the boat onto a pristine beach. A thick wall of vegetation loomed before him, alive with the sound of birdcalls and insects.
“Maria and Gehard,” he said, “You circle around the bay. Adrian, Fiona and I are going into the jungle.” He helped Fiona step out of the boat, “Are you sure you don’t want to go with them? It would be safer on the shore.”
“I’m sure.”
“Fine, but you need to watch out for yourself.” He addressed the crew, “If any of us finds something, we send up a flare. Otherwise we meet back here in three hours. Ready?”
Four nods.
“Then let’s go.”
The Captain plunged inland, cutting through the choking plant life with a machete. Once away from the ocean breeze the heat became oppressive, pressing down on them from all sides.
“Stay on the lookout for anything dangerous,” he said. “We don’t know what kind of animals live here.”
A flock of prismatic birds took flight from the trees above, turning the canopy into a technicolour display.
“It’s strange that no one’s found this place before,” Adrian said. “Especially since it’s so close to Tamaril.”
“Maybe it moved, it’s happened before.” He hacked through another vine, “How are you doing back there Fiona?”
“Fine. Um, a bit warm though.”
Adrian abruptly stopped keeping pace behind them.
The Captain looked back at him, “What is it?”
“A shiny rock,” Adrian picked up the stone, “I’m going to keep this one.”
“Please try to keep up. We don’t want you getting lost in here.”
The plant life abruptly gave way as they came to the edge of a high ridge. The jungle spread out below them in all it’s grandeur, an undulating ocean of jade. They took in the view for a while, the Captain tracing the island’s contours with is eyes.
“The place is larger than I thought.”
“Where’s Fiona?”
The Captain scanned the ridge, “I don’t know.”
He went back into the jungle, seeing a splash of red among the green. He found Fiona lying on the ground, a feathered dart sticking from her back.
“Adrian, run.”
He felt something stab into his arm, followed by a cold numbness, then blackness.

– –

The Captain struggled to pull himself awake, fighting the effects of whatever had been on the dart. His hands were tied behind his back, attached to a pole that was keeping him upright.
He cautiously opened one eye. Adrian and Fiona were next to him, still unconscious. They were all tied to poles protruding from a stone platform in the center of a clearing.
The clearing was full of Lizardmen.
They were milling about and chatting, like they were waiting for a show to begin.
The Captain suspected the show consisted of the three of them.
One of the lizards, this one with a very strange fashion sense and a long wooden pole, mounted the platform. He looked over each of them in turn, as if inspecting pieces of meat. The Captain could have sworn there was a hint of pity in the creature’s slit eyes.
The lizard chieftain hit his staff against the ground and the audience fell silent. He spoke to them in a language that was half human and half serpentine hiss.
“I never liked Lizardmen,” Adrian said, now awake, “They always creeped me out a bit.”
The Captain noticed a collection of bones piled to one side of the platform.
“I think they’re going to sacrifice us,” the Captain whispered.
“If they were going to feed us milk and cookies they wouldn’t have tied us up.”
“Now we know why no one’s discovered this place yet. Everyone who found it is dead.”
The tribal leader was reciting some sort of chant.
“It’s been a while since someone tried to sacrifice us to a primal deity,” the Captain said. “I don’t think it’s happened since we were in that desert.”
“I remember that. They threw us into a pit of snakes.”
The lizard took a handful of green paste and smeared it on the wooden pole.
“Scorpions,” the Captain said. “It was a pit of scorpions, not snakes.”
“Right. Maria scared them away with an owl.”
One of the less ornately dressed lizards handed the chieftain an obsidian dagger.
“I’m beginning to think this isn’t going to be one of those quick and painless sacrifices.”
“Adrian, I believe we are standing on a pile of kindling.”
He looked down, “So we are.”
“Now is probably a good time to start cutting the ropes.”
“I agree.”
“Do you still have that shiny rock?”
“I think so, let me see if I can reach it.” Adrian contorted his hands behind his back and slipped the rock from his pocket.
“Good, see if you can cut through them before he’s finished. . . whatever it is he’s doing.”
Fiona’s eyes fluttered.
“Hey Fiona,” Adrian said, “Good to see you’re back.”
“Where are we?” she muttered sleepily.
“Tied to poles surrounded by lizardmen preparing to kill us brutally.”
Her eyes snapped open. “What!”
The chieftain turned and snarled at her.
“Keep your voice down, they’re in the middle of a sacred ceremony.”
“A ceremony involving us dying!”
“It’s nothing to get worked up about.”
Fiona began to hyperventilate.
“See,” the Captain said, “I told you not to come with us.”
“You didn’t say that we’d be sacrificed.”
“I thought it was implied.”
The chieftain took the dagger and made a slit on his scaly palm, dripping a few drops of blood onto his staff. He then lit it, creating a ball of brilliant green fire.
“I believe we’re nearing the unpleasant part of the proceedings,” The Captain said. “So you might want to hurry up with those ropes.”
“I’m almost there.”
“He’s coming closer!” Fiona screamed.
“Adrian!”
“Just a few more seconds.”
“We don’t have a few more seconds.”
“I don’t want to burn to death!”
The torch was raised high for all to see, ready to be dropped onto the dry kindling. The lizard let out a loud hiss, rising into a chorus as the others joined in.
The fire suddenly leapt from the torch and engulfed the chieftain, turning him into an emerald inferno.
Adrian broke through the ropes and quickly untied the Captain and Fiona.
“I don’t think that was supposed to happen,” Adrian said as panic broke out in the clearing.
“Run!” the Captain ordered, “Before they notice us.”

– –

They moved as swiftly as they could through the underbrush, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the tribe as possible. Once it was safe they stopped and rested by a small waterfall.
“It was strange how the fire just seemed to leap at him,” Adrian said.
“He probably spilt some of the fuel on himself.”
“Must be it.”
“Do things like this happen to you often?” Fiona asked.
The Captain ran his hands under the water, “Fairly regularly.”
“I don’t know how I’d handle that.”
“I admit, the life isn’t for everyone. It takes a certain kind of person to be an Astral explorer.”
“Yeah, the kind of person without fear.”
He laughed, “I’m not fearless, far from it. It isn’t about not having fear, it’s about what you do with it.” He splashed some water on his face. “The way I see it, there are two kinds of people.”
“Normal people and mages.”
“Well, technically yes, but I wasn’t talking about magic. To me, there are people who let fear run their lives and there are people who don’t. You have to be in the second group to be on my crew.”
Adrian chuckled, “You also have to be slightly insane to want to be on his crew.”
“That too,” he took out his sword and began to wipe it off, “What do you have there Adrian?”
“One of those feathered darts. It was on the ground as we were leaving so I picked it up.”
“Be careful with that, it’s poisoned.”
“I will.”
“Hey, Captain,” Fiona said.
“Yes?”
“What does a flare look like?”
“A small speck of flame rising into the sky, why?”
“Because I think I see one.”
The Captain scanned the horizon. “They must have found something.”

– –

Maria met them on the beach. “You’ll never guess what we’ve found.”
“Is it a tribe of Lizardmen preforming ritual sacrifices on hapless passers-by?” Adrian asked.
“No. Why?”
“Just wondering.”
She led them along the beach and into the jungle, to a small opening in a cliff wall.
“Gehard noticed there was a section of walked on earth leading into the jungle. We followed it and it led us here,” she ducked through the opening, “Come on.”
The Captain squeezed through and emerged in a small cave. The walls were streaked with veins of crystal, glowing a soft blue in the darkness. Gehard was busy chipping at one of the clusters, nothing but an azure silhouette.
“It looks like we found where your shiny rock came from Adrian.”
Fiona entered the cavern and gasped, “What is that?”
“Energy crystal, and a lot of it by the looks of things. How far does this cave go?”
“There’s another room about the size of this one, but there’s something you should see.”
Maria led the Captain deeper into the cave, to an altar made of rocks, bones and feathers.
“Any idea who made this?” she asked.
“Yes actually. I have a good idea who made it.”
“I don’t think we should disturb it, it looks important.”
“No, we’ve already caused enough disruption to the local population.”
“What should we do then?”
“Pack up a few bagfuls of crystal from the first room, but leave this one alone.”
He took one last look at the altar before leaving, at the charred human skull staring back at him.

– –

Stark sniffed at the air within Fiona’s room. Having already familiarized himself with her scent, he was looking for that of the people she had been with.
He ran his nose along her bag, closing his eyes so that he could focus on the nuances.
There were none.
There was no scent but her’s on it.
He opened the bag, careful not to disturb its contents, and tried again.
Nothing. Her clothes were devoid of human scent, even of hers.
Stark replaced the bag and closed the room, satisfied with his lack of results.
Nothing, after all, was often more telling than something could ever be.
C J Mcpherson
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Re: Sunrise Over Infinity

Postby C J Mcpherson » Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:37 pm

The last of the fog cleared from the Le-Pras’s sails as into emerged in the Astral.
“Resume our course to Ascala,” the Captain said to Stark, “With luck we’ll be there by tomorrow.”
He stood by the edge of the upper deck, observing the activity going on below.
Gehard was busy taking the load of crystal into the cargo hold, while Adrian was showing Fiona how to use one of the telescopes, with a distinct lack of success.
He certainly has taken to her well, the Captain thought. I wonder how he will react when she leaves.
The Captain leisurely unrolled a chart and began to examine it. Not that it was possible to make an accurate map of a place where everything moved constantly, but they were good for getting a general idea of where something could be.
He showed the chart to Stark, not because of any particular interest in its contents, but so he didn’t look suspicious talking to the helmsman.
“What have you found out about her?”
“Nothing,” Stark replied, not moving his eyes from the paper.
“Nothing?”
“Her clothes bear no scent, not even her own.”
“I see,” the Captain said, pointing out something on the map, “You know what this means?”
“Yes.”
“Then you know what to do.”
Stark momentarily met the Captain’s gaze, “Yes.”
“Good,” he rolled up the chart, then spoke more loudly, “Continue on this course for now and we’ll see if it becomes a problem.”
The Captain returned the chart to its place and resumed his absent-minded observations of the crew.
This is going to be interesting.
A bell sounded below deck, signifying that dinner was ready.

– –

The crew was gathered around the galley’s central table, talking and laughing over bowls of torille. Stark entered walked around and stopped behind Fiona.
“You are Fiona?”
“Yes?” she looked up at him.
“I do not believe we have been introduced, I am Stark,” he raised his palm.
Fiona looked at the paw in confusion.
Adrian leaned over and whispered to her, “It’s a half-wolf gesture of welcome, you put your hand on his and then bow slightly.”
“Thanks,” she whispered back.
She tried her best to complete the ritual, with mixed results.
“It’s alright,” Stark said, “Not many can dejni correctly.”
Stark gave the Captain an almost imperceptible nod before he sat down.
“So,” the Captain said, “Personal highlights of today’s little excursion?”
“Finding that cavern,” Maria said, “Was incredible.”
“Fiona?”
“Not burning to death, I guess. I still don’t see how you all can be so calm about it.”
“It comes with the territory,” the Captain said, “You build up a resistance to it.” He took a bite, “What about you Gehard?”
The man toyed with a noodle, “Not sure, the whole thing was pretty uneventful.”
“Right,” Adrian teased, “Anything that doesn’t involve slaying a dragon is uneventful.”
“No,” he popped the torille into his mouth, “Jungles just don’t excite me that much.”
“That’s because you weren’t kidnaped by lizard-people.”
“What exactly happened there?” Maria asked, “I’ve only heard bits and pieces.”
Adrian leaned back triumphantly, “I saved us.”
“Yeah right,” the Captain said.
“Well I did. I was the one with the sharp rock!”
“Actually,” Fiona said, “It was the fire leaping suddenly that saved us.”
“Okay, technically yes, but I helped.”
“Fine Adrian,” Maria said “I believe you.”
“Thank you.”

– –

Although she wasn’t particularly tired, Fiona was preparing to get into bed. The Astral didn’t have day and night, so it was hard to tell when to do what. The Captain had called it Astral-lag and said it typically took a week to adjust.
Hopefully this would be the last night she would have to worry about it. Tomorrow promised to be a very telling day.

– –

Adrian looked through the telescope, examining the formation of the clouds beyond.
“I think it looks like a bird,” Fiona said.
“It does,” he handed the telescope back to her, “You’re getting better at this.”
She held the lens up to her eye, “Thanks again for teaching me all this.”
“No problem. There’s not really much else to do when we’re sailing through the Astral. I normally just climb on the rigging, but this is much more fun.”
“Adrian,” she lowered the telescope, “Do you still keep in touch with your family?”
“Where did that question come from?”
“I was just thinking, with all the moving around you do, you must lose touch with a lot of people. I’m sorry if that was too personal.”
“No, it wasn’t too personal,” he tried to sound reassuring. “But you’re right, you can’t stay connected to someone when you live on a ship. This life only appeals to people who don’t have much family or who don’t care about seeing what family they do have.”
“Which one are you?”
“A bit of both. I ran away from home when I was young, took the first ship I could find. I found myself in a new world overnight, not just the Astral, but adulthood.” He up looked at the luminescent clouds, “I never really stopped moving after that.”
“Have you ever thought about going back?”
“Not really. I could never be the person my family expected me to be. I’m not the person they knew anymore. What about you? What’s your family like?”
“Both my parents died a while ago. I just found out I have an uncle living in Ascala, which is why I’m going there.”
“Is your family originally from Ascala?”
“My father was.”
“I thought so, you don’t look Tamarilian.”
She put her eye back to the telescope. Adrian leaned back on the railing and watched the mists drift past above.
“Adrian,” Fiona said, “What’s a Guardian?”
“They’re like Astral police, they patrol it and regulate trade between the lands. They have these ships that let them move instantly from place to place. Why do you ask?”
“Because there are some ships behind us with the word Guardian written on them.”
“Let me see that,” Adrian took the telescope. “This isn’t good. Fiona, go below deck and find the Captain, I think he’s in the galley with Gehard, he needs to know about this.” He put the telescope down, “Fiona?”
But she was gone.

– –

Gehard turned the crystal over in his gloved hands, “This is high quality stuff.”
“That’s what I thought,” the Captain said through a mouthful of toast. “The load should be worth a couple hundred aurum.”
“The location of the vein will be worth a lot more.”
“We’re not selling that.”
“Why not?”
“Because that place is sacred to those people. Primeval though they are, they don’t need a bunch of businessmen trying to extract minerals from their holy site. We’ll sell the information about a hazardous indigenous population, nothing more.”
Geahrd placed the crystal on the tabletop. “Fine. Your decision, not mine.”
“Trust me, it’s better this way.”
“Captain,” Stark appeared in the hallway, tone grim.
“Yes?”
“There are three Guardian ships following us. They’ve requested that we allow a boarding so they can search for a fugitive. We have a half hour before they start firing.”
“What could the Guardians possibly want with us?”
“I do not know.”
Adrian ran into the room, out of breath, “They’re looking for Fiona.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Because she’s headed for the life rafts.”

– –

The Captain found Fiona in the cargo hold, struggling to unlock a life raft’s launch mechanism.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
She stopped moving abruptly and turned around, “I’m trying to get the life rafts ready.”
“Nice try. Now, do you want to tell me why the Guardians are threatening to board my ship?”
“I don’t know. Why are you asking me?”
“This fair maiden act is getting a little old, don’t you think?”
She feigned surprise, “I thought it was rather convincing.”
Fiona abruptly dropped her mask of innocence, a look of contempt taking its place.
“At last we see the real you. Why are the guardians after you?”
She shook her head, “I’m not telling you.”
“So that’s how it is? I let you come with us and you don’t even have the courtesy to tell me the truth when our lives depend on it. I’ll have to turn you over to the Guardians.”
Fiona tried to run, but the Captain’s sword was on her neck before she could take a step.
“I wouldn’t try that again if I were you.”
He took Fiona onto the deck, where the rest of the crew waited, and handed her to Gehard.
“Watch her, carefully, we don’t know what she’s capable of. The rest of you, my office, now.”

– –

They say one should never trust a man with a clean desk. By this standard, the Captain was the most trustworthy person in existence. His desk, and most of his room, was covered with an assortment of books and arcane objects, some navigational, some colourful, others simply unusual. Maps and charts hung along the walls, culminating in an ever changing Astral map in the room’s center.
“I say we let the Guardians have her,” Adrian leaned against the map table, “They want her badly enough.”
“Don’t you think that’s a little harsh?” Maria replied.
“Harsh? She’s the one they’re after!”
“I don’t think we should just hand her over without hearing her side of things.”
“Except she refuses to share that information,” the Captain said.
“She was the one who lied to us,” Adrian said, “She shouldn’t get a chance to do it again.”
“What automatically makes you think she’d try to deceive us again?”
“Besides the fact she already did it once?”
“She could have had a good reason.”
“Yeah, because any reason that makes you a fugitive is bound to be good.”
“Stop jumping to conclusions.”
“Stop defending the guilty.”
“Enough you two,” the Captain said. “This is getting us nowhere. Whatever her reasons are, they don’t change the fact that there are three Guardian ships waiting for our response. We either hand her over without knowing the reason, or we become fugitives ourselves.”
“Neither of those are good options,” Maria said.
“No, they’re not. We need a third option, one that allows us to learn the truth without making us criminals.”
Stark leaned against the back window. He spoke for the first time, “We should ask the Guardians themselves what she has done. If they want her, they must have sufficient reason.”
“Make contact with them and ask for a meeting,” the Captain said.
The ship tilted abruptly, sending instruments and papers cascading off the desk. Adrian lost his balance and was sent tumbling after them.
The Captain struggled over his desk as the ship righted itself, making for the door.
He found Gehard lying on the deck, clutching his side.
“What happened?”
“I don’t know. She was just sitting there, then without warning, I was on the ground and my side was,” he winced, “Like this.”
Adrian chuckled, “You mean you got beat up by Fiona? Here I thought you were the combat expert.”
“Now is not the time Adrian. Where did Fiona go?”
Gehard pointed to the helm.
“Maria, get Gehard to the healing bay. Adrian, Stark come with me.”
They stormed the stairs to the upper deck, only to be greeted with a wall of flame.
“Don’t come any closer,” Fiona said as the wall dissipated, “Unless you want to get burnt.”
“You’re a sorcerer?” Adrian said in astonishment.
She let fire flow up her arm, “What gave it away?”
“So in the jungle,” Adrian began.
“I was the one who made the fire leap. You two wouldn’t be much good to me burnt to a crisp.”
“Fiona isn’t really your name is it?” the Captain asked.
“Nope.”
Adrian shook his head, “So everything you’ve told us has been a lie?”
“Pretty much.”
“How could you do this? I trusted you.”
She shrugged, “It was necessary.”
“But, Fiona. . .”
“Get it through your head Adrian. Fiona, that naive little girl you liked so much, doesn’t exist. She was a lie.”
Adrian lunged at her, dagger in hand, only to be swatted back by a blast of fire.
“So who are you?” the Captain asked, drawing his sword. “A sorceress. A con-man. A criminal? All of them, perhaps?”
“I did what I had to, as I will continue to.”
“And the reason behind all this deception?”
“To stop a much greater evil from coming to fruition.”
“How generous of you. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like my ship back.”
He launched into motion, sidestepping the first flame, meeting the second with his sword. It rippled harmlessly off the end of the blade.
“Impressive sword,” she threw up a wall of flame.
He sliced through it effortlessly, “The best.”
She waited for him to strike, flames cupped in her hands.
“You know,” the Captain lowered his sword, “I knew you were a mage since the moment you set foot on my ship.”
“Really, and why should I believe that?”
“Because I had Stark sneak an anti-magic talisman into your robe last night.”
Her eyes widened.
“I’d say it should activate right about now.” The last word echoed around her, snuffing out the flames like a gust of wind.
She began searching desperately through her pockets, but it was too late.
“Fine then,” she raised her hands, “I don’t need magic to deal with you.”
“There is another thing about me you have failed to pick up on.”
“And what’s that?”
He raised his palm, “That I’m a mage as well.”
Silvery light erupted from his hand, throwing the woman who was not Fiona over the railing and onto the deck below. Stark held her down as the Captain crouched beside her.
“Now,” he lifted her by the collar, “I want the truth.”
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Re: Sunrise Over Infinity

Postby C J Mcpherson » Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:50 pm

I hope everyone is enjoying Sunrise. I'll be posting the rest sometime next week, although if you can't wait that long you can find it here: http://cjmcpherson.com/stories/.
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Re: Sunrise Over Infinity

Postby C J Mcpherson » Wed Nov 16, 2011 4:10 pm

The woman sat in the brig, magic blocking manacles around her wrists, as the crew looked on. Only Adrian was absent, resting after the use of healing magic.

“Let’s start with your name,” the Captain said.

She glared at him.

“I don’t really think you’re in a position to be withholding information. Tell us the truth, the real truth, and there’s a chance we can plead your case to the Guardians. If you don’t, then we hand you to them.”

“My name is Alexia.”

“And what are you doing on my ship?”

“Trying to get to Ascala.”

“Under an assumed name?” he leaned in closer, “Who are you hiding from?”

“The Royal Court of Cail, of which I am a member.”

“Explain.”

“I am one of the Duke of Cail’s arcane advisors, as I have been for many years.”

He sat back down, “Then why are you being hunted?”

“Because I nearly killed his chief advisor.”

“That would explain it.”

“I was only trying to protect Niall. There have been strange things happening around the castle recently, small things, but noticeable. Panail, the advisor, appeared to be at the center of it, so I broke into his office.”

“Of course, because that’s the logical course of action.”

“I found what I was looking for. In a hidden compartment in his desk there was a series of letters detailing a plot to kill the duke. The most recent one mentioned a meeting place in Ascala.” She pulled a piece of paper from her robe.

“Why is it always the advisor?” Gehard asked sarcastically.

“I was about to take the letters to the duke, when Panail walked in. There must have been an alarm ward on the desk that I didn’t pick up on. He threatened to call the guards, so I burned him.”

The Captain winced.

“Yeah, self-restraint has never been one of my strengths. I knew he’d try to blame the whole thing on me, so I ran. Spent a few days hiding by the port, looking for someone to take me to Ascala.”

“Which is when you heard about us.”

“Yes. I thought that you, of all people, could get me there safely. Once I get to Ascala, I’ll find this meeting place and prove myself innocent. Or rather, that was my plan. I was not expecting the Guardians to get involved.”

“It is unusual for them to get involved in this,” Maria said. “Normally they leave nations to solve their own problems. What do you say we do Captain?”

“Then I say we tell the Guardians.”

“What?” was the unanimous response.

“It’s simple. We present her case to the Guardians and ask them to search the location in Ascala. If they find proof, then we know she’s telling the truth and she goes free.”

“And if they don’t?”

“Then there isn’t much else we can do.”

Alexia sighed deeply, “Fine, it’s not like I have many other options.”

“It’s decided then. Stark, contact the Guardians.”

“How are you going to get them to agree to this?” Alexia asked.

“They’ll agree. Trust me.”

– –


Grendel stepped onto the ship, his hand, as always, hovering over his sword. His field partner and immediate superior Sgt. Launcer followed close behind him.

The ship’s captain greeted him.

“To what do I owe the honor,” he asked.

“We are looking for a fugitive who we believe is hiding on your ship.”

“Does this fugitive happen to be named Alexia?”

“Yes. Where is she?”

“We’re keeping her below deck for now. There are some things you need to be made aware of first.”

Sgt. Launcer scowled.

“Make this quick,” Grendel said.

“You are after Alexia because she assaulted a member of the Duke of Cail’s royal court, correct?”

“Yes.”

“What you don’t know is that the man she assaulted is involved in a plot to assassinate the duke.”

“An extraordinary claim,” Grendel said, “Requiring equally extraordinary evidence.”

“Evidence which I am willing to provide.” He produced a folded sheet of paper. “This page, found in the chief advisor’s possession, details a meeting place in Ascala. Should you go there, you’ll have all the evidence you’ll need.”

Sgt. Launcer spoke, “Why should we believe you?”

“Do you not know who I am?”

“You are an Astral captain,” Launcer said, lingering on the last word as if it was curse. “A breed of person romanticized by those who have not the courage to lead the life you do. This does not, however, make you a god. Nor does it make you above the law, as so many of your kind are fond of thinking.”

“No. I am Caliath Longanne. Or have the Guardians already forgotten that name.”

Grendel studied the man’s features. “So it is true.”

“Then I would hope that lends my words a degree of weight.”

The Sergeant thought for a moment, absent mindedly stroking his beard. “Very well, we will take you to Ascala. But when we find nothing there, as I assure you we will, you and your crew will be arrested for harboring a fugitive.”

– –


The Astral began to fade, becoming almost translucent, before being enveloped in a flash of light. When the world came back into view the Guardian ship was resting atop an ocean, the land of Ascala looming in the darkness of night. A discordant whine came from the large sphere at the ship’s core, growing softer now that it’s work was done.

“So this is Ascala.” Alexia said, staring at a city in the distance. Although darkness lay over the land, its distant heart was shrouded in light. Towers of glass and mithral reached high into the night, lit from within with thousands of lights.

The ship moved swiftly towards shore, coming to rest among rows of metal vessels.

“Alright men,” Launcer shouted, “Alexia claims she’s discovered a plot to kill the duke of Cail. She says that it’s perpetrators have a meeting place set up at. . .”

“Fourteen Bayside street,” Alexia said.

“We’re going to find and search this place, and if we find nothing to prove that her story is true, we’re going to bring Alexia and those helping her back to Cal’Ulian.”

“Doesn’t that sound comforting.”

“Follow me,” Launcer led the crew and a group of Guardians into the city. The buildings they passed were a strange mix of old and new. Many were stone structures weathered by centuries of life, but a few stood out as recently built. They had walls of smooth plaster and sheets of glass surrounding metal doors.

“I’ve never been anywhere like this before,” Alexia said as they walked through the lamplit dark.

“No two lands are alike,” the Captain said.

In the distance, past the walls of the old city, the Captain could hear a familiar sound. A sound he had only ever heard in Ascala, the incessant rush of traffic along pavement.

“Ascala though,” he said, “Is one of a kind.”

“How did you know I was telling you the truth?”

“I knew if you weren’t telling me the truth, and you were just a con-woman, that the last thing you would want would be to contact the Guardians. They would know who you were and what you had done. If your story was true, however, then asking them for help would be the logical next step.”

“You tested me?” she asked, her tone both astonished and indignant.

“It was necessary.”

Alexia squinted at him, trying to read something in his face that he wasn’t letting her see. “You’re always planning, aren’t you?”

“Always.”

“You do a good job of hiding it.”

Better than you could ever know.

They reached Bayside street and quickly found number fourteen. It was a church, or had been. It had been reduced to a series of walls punctuated by broken windows and the remains of once majestic spires.

Launcer motioned for his men to follow him silently. They crept up to the doorway and, on his signal, burst into the church interior.

The Captain and his crew followed them into the musty space.

The place was empty, devoid of any sign of human occupation. Part of the roof had caved in, leaving a gaping hole between two rotting arches. The fragmented remains of a stained glass window sat above a barren altar, the words ‘Glory to the Light’ readable by the faint moonlight.

Launcer walked towards them, Grendel at his side, sword in hand. “There’s nothing there.”

“That’s impossible,” Alexia said. “The letter clearly says that this is their base of operations. There has to be something here.”

“The place looks like it’s been abandoned for years,” Grendel said. “No one’s been here.”

“This can’t be!” she shouted, “You have to believe me!”

Launcer drew a pair of manacles from his belt, “It is now my duty to arrest you and bring you to Cal’Ulian for trial.”

“You can’t do that,” she screamed. “Someone must have told them we were coming. They’re going to kill the duke if you don’t stop them. You have to listen to me!”

“Face it, the game is over. Your lies aren’t going to do you any more good.”

He grabbed Alexia’s wrist, but snapped his hand away as fire burst from her hands.

“You are not taking me.”

“You don’t have a say in the matter. Men, grab her.”

The Guardians swarmed around Alexia. She tried to fight them off, but there were too many of them. In a matter of minutes her hands were trapped within bands of steel.

Launcer stood over Alexia, who was seething in anger. “And now you get what you deserve.”

“It was you!” she shouted. “You told them didn’t you?”

“Drop this pointless charade. You’re not fooling anyone.”

She spit at him.

Launcer slapped her. “Mages, you’re all alike. You think just because you can make the world dance that everyone in it should bow to your will.” He waved to his men. “Take her away.”

She struggled against the Guardians even as they dragged her through the door.

“And what of you?” Launcer turned to the Captain, “Are you going to resist?”

Gehard drew his sword, but the Captain motioned for him to put it away.

“Good decision,” he said as he tightened a pair of manacles around the Captain’s wrist. “At least one of your kind has some sense.”

“She should have know,” Grendel said as he led them out of crumbling church, “You can’t fool the Guardians.”

The Captain glanced briefly at Maria, meeting her eyes for an instant. “No, I’m sure you can’t.”
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Re: Sunrise Over Infinity

Postby C J Mcpherson » Tue Nov 22, 2011 3:56 pm

The Captain leaned his head against the cell wall, feeling the cold stone pressing against his back.

He had hoped it wouldn’t come to this. To them being imprisoned beneath the Guardian citadel, in the middle of the Astral, yet cut off from it and his ship.

Cut off from his magic. Bands of cold metal bound his wrists, keeping his Will locked within him.

He hated feeling so disempowered, not simply because of the lack of magic, but because they were helpless to avert whatever plot he was certain still brewed in Cail.

He closed his eyes.

It wasn’t like the Guardians to arrest people so carelessly. They were a force of order and justice, not of guilt by association. The fact that his entire crew was condemned because of Alexia was a dark sign indeed. Could Alexia have been right? Was it possible Launcer was a part of this plot? Could corruption have found it’s way this deep into Cal’Ulian, the Astral’s shining beacon of peace?

One way or another, the Captain intended to find out.

Patience had always been one of his strengths, it had not, however, ever been one of Adrian’s.

“Those are sigil-tumbler locks Adrian, nothing but a correctly enchanted key will open them.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?” he began pacing, “I can’t just stand here.”

“You doing nothing would be better than pacing,” Alexia said from the adjacent cell.

Great, the Captain thought, he’ll take that as a challenge.

“I’m only pacing because I’m trapped in a cell. Let me think, who’s fault is that?”

To which she’ll respond with targeted aggression.

“You’re just angry because you fell for the Fiona act.”

Defensiveness.

“No!” he began pacing faster, “I’m angry because you pulled us into this mess.”

Continued assault.

“Face it Adrian, I had you completely fooled.”

Evasive tactics.

“You were the one who was dishonest, not me, you should be ashamed of yourself.”

Again I must play the mediator.

“Adrian, Alexia, stop arguing, it’s only making things worse.”

“Then what do you suggest I do, wait patiently for my execution?”

“No, simply wait.”

Silence at last.

“You think I deserve this right?” Alexia said after s time. “That everything I told you was a lie? That I should be executed for getting you into this.”

“Basically,” Adrian said.

“Adrian, stop talking,” the Captain said. “I believe you did what you needed to do. I also believe you were telling us the truth about what happened in Cail.”

“How can you still believe her?”

“Because the Guardians don’t work like this. They ask questions first, then they make arrests. Something has gone horribly wrong if we’re all in here for what you did.”

“At least someone believes me, not that it’ll do much good.”

“Is that it?”

“What do you mean ‘is that it’?”

“Are you really giving up so easily?”

“What else can I do? The Duke’s going to be killed, I’m going to be executed, the rest of you are probably going to spend the rest of your lives in prison for helping me.”

“You weasel your way onto my ship, assault my crew and stand up to the Guardians, and now you give up?”

“What choice do I have.”

“There’s always a choice.”

“How can you possibly be so calm?”

“Because he knows I’m coming to let you out,” Maria said from the hall.

“It’s about time you got here,” Adrian said, “This cell is driving me insane.”

“Is that any way to greet the person coming to free you?” She held up a silver blue key and fitted it into the lock.

“Why aren’t you wearing manacles?” Alexia asked.

“I convinced the guards that I was just an innocent passenger. It was simple really. A little batting of the eyelashes here and a few helpless looks there and they’d have believed anything.” She took something off her neck, “The magic suppressing jewelry helped of course.”

“Where’d you get the key?”

“I asked one of the guards for a glass of water, then I hit him with a sedation spell when his back was turned.” She unlocked Alexia’s cell, “I find you don’t always need fireballs to get what you want provided you have a bit of ingenuity.”

“You mean knew we would be let out the entire time?” Alexia asked the Captain.

“Of course,” Adrian said mockingly, “I had you fooled didn’t I?”

“I swear Adrian, if my hands weren’t still in these your head would be on fire.”

“You two can kill each other once we’re back on the ship,” the Captain said as Maria unlocked his arms. “For now we need to find the others and our things. We’ve got an assassination to stop.”

“How are we going to do that? Any evidence in Ascala is long gone by now.”

“Then we go to the source.”

“Back to Tamaril? That’s crazy!”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, we have a tendency to do crazy things. Now hurry up, we don’t have much time until they realize we’re gone.”

The Captain led his crew through the winding rows of cells, counting off each one they passed in his head. The prisons were purposely designed to be labyrinth like, making it impossible to get out without retracing one’s path in exactly. Many of the cells were occupied, their residents alternatingly asleep or begging to be let out. The shadow of a guard moved just around a corner, the Captain signaled for his crew to stop.

Ear pressed against the cold rock, the Captain listened for sound of the guard’s approach. After a tense minute, he heard the sound of footsteps retreating back down the passage.

“We’re safe,” he whispered.

He found Stark sitting on the floor of his cell, legs crossed, eyes closed. His ears lifted slightly as they approached.

“I thought Gehard was with you,” Maria said as she turned the key.

“They took him to solitary confinement,” Stark said, the dim lighting casting thick groves in his fur.

“Of course,” Adrian said, “He knows we’re coming and he still causes problems.”

“Do you know where?”

“Yes, I could hear him struggling even as they locked him up.”

Following Stark’s directions, and his nose at a few confusing intersections, they arrived at a row of thick metal doors.

“Which one is he in?”

“I do not know,” Stark said as he sniffed the air. “He is here, that is certain.”

The Captain tapped on a door, “Gehard?” There was no reply. The rest of his crew fanned out along the corridor, checking each door as they went.

Alexia rasped on a door and was greeted with a shrill scream. “Who else is locked up here.”

“You don’t want to know,” the Captain replied soberly. He had seen enough of man’s dark side to have no trouble imagining who these rooms contained.

“I’ve found him,” Adrian said.

The Captain watched as Maria unlocked the door, revealing Gehard shackled to the small chamber’s wall.

“What did you do now?” Maria asked, her shadow stretching into the unlit room.

“Took out three guards on my way in. I nearly got a fourth, but they hit me with a restraint spell.”

She undid the metal bands, “Gehard, you’ve got to stop doing things like that.”

“They took my weapons,” he said, rubbing one of his arms.

“Do you know where they took them to?”

“The armory.”

The Captain smiled, “This is going to be fun.”

– –


Sascina, chief weapons officer, surveyed the collection of armaments that had been thrust into her care.

“This is an awful lot of weaponry for six people,” she said to her assistant.

“The prison master says one of them was a walking arsenal, nearly took out an entire platoon.”

Sascina picked up one of the weapons, a sword that glinted even in the armory’s dim lighting. She lifted the blade so she could see her reflection in it.

“That one belonged to the Captain.”

“It’s magnificent,” she said without thought. “I’ve never seem a blade like it before.”

“Orders are to store them, not to admire them.”

“I know,” she replaced the sword, fingers lingering on it’s hilt.

She took the cart of weapons into the storage room, where her other assistants were busy sharpening and storing the racks of armaments.

In a strange way the weapons room, with it’s high ceilings and cold stone walls, was her home. From the rows of standard issue longswords, to the exotic firearms and arcane devices, to her own personal collection, each weapon there had a story. And she knew them all. She was a librarian of blades, or so she liked to think.

A woman appeared in the entryway, blocking out the light from the hallway beyond.

Sascina waved for her assistant-in-training to go deal with it as she began sorting through the pile. She found her hand drifting again and again to the sword, her eyes running along it’s mirrored length.

“What would you like?” she heard her assistant say.

Where did they get this sword?

She lifted the blade and inspected it’s hilt, looking for some mark of craftsmanship. All she could find were two symbols etched into the guard. She recognized neither of them.

“I’m sorry,” the woman in the hall replied, “I’m lost. Where am I?”

“You’re in the armory.”

“Major Sascina,” one of her assistants said, pulling her mind from its obsession.

“What is it,” she said impatiently.

“We’ve just received word the prisoners have escaped.”

Something slicked in Sascina’s mind. She turned to the woman in the doorway in time to see her smile innocently.

She threw up her hands and the room erupted into chaos.

Sascina was thrown back by the blast, tumbling over her cart and landing amid a pile of weapons. She watched as a stream of people rushed into the room, easily overpowering the few guards on duty.

This can’t be happening, She steadied herself against a weapon rack. Who are these people?

One of her assistants readied himself with an axe, only to have it thrust from his arms by flame. The woman threw him against the wall while another knocked him out in a flash of light.

A man approached Sascina, clearly the leader of the group.

She picked up a sword from the ground and pointed it at the intruder. “How did you get in here?”

“That sword doesn’t belong to you,” the man said calmly, as if commenting on a game of chess.

The blade snapped itself from Sascina’s grip and into the man’s outstretched hand.

She picked up another weapon, “What do you want?”

The others gathered behind him, “Only what was taken from us.”

One of the women raised her hand and Sascina felt the strength drain from her legs. She fought the encroaching darkness, but couldn’t stop her muscles from giving out.

– –


The Captain stepped over the woman’s comatose body, looking for the scattered remnants of their weaponry.

“That explosion might have been a bit excessive Alexia,” he said.

“It got the job done.”

“It’s going to take a while to find everything.”

Adrian picked up a dagger, “I think this one’s yours Gehard.”

But Gehard wasn’t paying attention, he was staring transfixed at the racks of swords and shields that surrounded them.

“What’s wrong with him?” Alexia asked.

“Nothing, this is just what he thinks heaven looks like.”

– –


The Captain led his rearmed crew through the corridors of seamless stone and golden metal, all feet falling carefully, all eyes vigilant. Large crystal lamps hung above them, shrouding the space in a bright white glow.

They ducked into a side room as a patrol neared.

“The exit to the docking wing is up ahead on the left,” the Captain whispered, “It’s going to be heavily guarded.”

“How do you know so much about this place?” Alexia asked.

“Because I’ve been here before,” he glanced quickly around the door. “They’re gone. We’ve got five minutes until the next patrol. We’ll have to move quickly if we’re going to get out of here. We all ready?”

Five nods.

“Then let’s go.”

They stormed the door, Alexia’s fire leading the way. Eight Guardians rushed to greet them, swords glinting in the crystallight.

The Captain met one with his own sword, locking the two together in midair. He met his opponent’s eyes for an instant. He thrust his hand at the Guardian and sent her rolling across the floor in a blast of light.

He turned around in time to intercept another blow, allowing it’s force to slide off his blade as he delivered a swift punch to his opponent’s helmet. The Guardian now off balance, the Captain placed a hand on his back and thrust him into his comrade.

A brief scan of the hallway showed seven unconscious warriors and one in a standoff with Gehard. The rest of the crew gathered around the lone soldier, who clearly intended to fight every one of them if necessary.

Then he noticed the Captain.

“Caliath?” the Guardian asked, “You’re the escaped prisoner?”

“It appears that way.”

He lowered his sword, “What is going on?”

“A conspiracy to kill the Duke of Cail, which we’re on our way to stop.”

“Then don’t let me get in your way,” he sheathed his weapon. “Caliath imprisoned,” he muttered, “What have we come to.” The Guardian unlocked the large metal door.

“Thank you.”

“It’s the least I could do. Have fun storming the castle.”

“We will”

The Captain found himself surrounded by ships of every conceivable variety. Many of them were sleek vessels of Guardian design, bearing accents of gold and blue, but there were other, far stranger crafts docked.

The docking wing was, in fact, one vast room, with ceiling and floor so far apart as to be lost in the Astral mists. Ships floated in the space’s center, among walkways suspended in the air.

He led his crew through the rows of ships, dwarfed by their immensity and number.

“What happened back there,” Alexia asked. “Why do the Guardians know you so well.”

“That’s a story for another time,” the Captain said.

They rounded a corner and found Sgt. Launcer waiting for them.

“My, you people are persistent,” he said with an irritated scowl. “I thought locking you up would be enough, but it seems I was mistaken.”

“I knew you were involved in this,” Alexia said.

“Yes, yes, you were right, congratulations. Not that it’s going to do you much good.” He drew his sword, “There is far too much riding on today for me to tolerate any variables.”

Gehard’s hand snapped to his weapons belt, but the Captain stopped him.

“I will handle this.”

The Captain held his sword alongside Launcer’s.

“A duel?” he scoffed, “How romantic of you.”

And the dance began.

Launcer lashed out at the Captain, brutality in his eyes, a shout on his lips. The Captain’s sword met his in a deafening chorus of blows.

The Captain ducked under a swipe, only to be met with Launcer’s boot. He was pushed up against a ship, grabbing onto the mooring lines to avoid falling into the mists below. The Captain lifted himself out of the way of Launcer’s thrust, hauling himself onto the ship above.

He waited for Launcer to climb, eyeing him as they slowly circled the ship’s deck. They exchanged steel again, the Captain blocking or evading each strike.

His perceptions narrowed down to the movements of his sword, all extraneous thoughts blotted out by a singularity of focus. One blow, one step, one movement. Thought flowing into action without effort.

He lunged at Launcer, letting his blade glance off the Sergeant’s and grabbing onto a lose rope that hung behind him. The Captain swung back around and meet Launcer with his boot, sending the Sergeant sprawling across the deck.

He placed his foot on Launcer’s sword. “You made the mistake of fighting me on a ship.”

Launcer drew an arcane pistol from his belt and aimed it at the Captain. “You made the mistake of thinking I care about fighting honorably.” He picked up his sword and got to his feet, his weapon’s crystal point still trained on the Captain. “Drop your weapon.”

The Captain held his hands in the air, allowing the sword to slip from them. The edge of his lip twitched briefly as he let the full brunt of his magic flow through both hands.

Launcer’s impact formed a crater in the ship’s deck.

“You also made the mistake,” he lifted the gun from Launcer’s hand, “Of forgetting I always keep one trick in reserve.”

“Captain,” Adrian said from the ship’s edge, “We’ve found the Le-Pras.”

“We’re not taking it.”

“Why not?”

“Launcer said today was important, meaning we don’t have much time.” He took a small crystal rod from around Launcer’s neck. “If we take a Guardian ship, we’ll have a chance of getting to Cail quickly enough.”

Launcer struggled to get up, “I won’t let you do that.”

“Don’t make me blast you again.”

“What do we do about him?”

The Captain fitted the key into the ship’s transportation device. “Bring him with us, I’m sure the Duke would like to meet the man engineering his demise.” He turned the key and the ship came to life, a map of the Astral forming on the surface below him.

The Captain ran his hand along the display. I’ve always wanted to use one of these.
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Re: Sunrise Over Infinity

Postby C J Mcpherson » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:35 pm

The Captain lay on a blanket of grass, watching guards make their rounds from over the top of a trimmed hedge. The castle’s elegant white walls and towers stretched above him, all made of the same seamless stone. The castle and surrounding gardens sat on a hill at Cail’s center, overlooking rows of rooftops and spires leading down to the ocean far below.

High above the rest of the castle, a single tower reached into the sky, it’s top lost in sunlight.

He ducked back down to where Alexia and Adrian waited.

“There are two guards stationed next to the door and patrols every three minutes. Are you sure this is the best way in?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Alexia said. “There’s a constant stream of people in and out of the kitchen, especially during a festival.”

“What festival?”

“The anniversary of the empire’s formation, there’s always a parade through town and a ball in the castle afterwards.”

“That would explain why the port was so busy,” Adrian said.

“I’m still not sure it’s a good idea to leave Launcer with Gehard, he didn’t exactly do the best job of guarding me.”

“He won’t let Lancer escape, his pride’s at stake this time. Him and Maria will take care of the ship. We need to focus on getting into that castle and finding the advisor.”

“Then we’ll need to convince those guards we’re part of the staff.”

“Captain,” Adrian said, “There’s a group of people in really weird outfits coming up the path.”

“It looks like a disguise had just presented itself.”

– –

“You’re pastry chefs?” the guard asked.

“Thinaen pastry chefs,” the Captain said in a ridiculous accent. “We are expected.”

“Are you now?”

“And we are running late, so please move yourselves aside and let us through.”

The guards talked amongst themselves for a moment, then one of them retrieved something from within the kitchen. “If you’re really a pastry chef,” he held up a confection, “Tell me what this is.”

“That is a disgrace,” the Captain said indignantly.

The guards glanced at each other in confusion.

“Bandala are supposed to be filled with fresh fruit, not lemon curd. I must speak to the head baker immediately.”

“Insulting and badly dressed, definitely Thinean. You can go in.”

“Finally,” the Captain said as he walked past the guards, “I swear this entire country is completely incompetent.”

Once inside Alexia led them through the flurry of cooks and servants that filled the large room. They emerged in a dining hall, a polished mahogany table sitting at it’s center, which they quickly passed through and into the castle halls.

Walking among walls of formed stone and rows of white marble columns, the Captain couldn’t help but feel a little dwarfed by the place’s grandeur. The palace was enormous, the ornate lightorb fixtures above barely able to illuminate the entire hallway. Despite the summer heat outside, the interior was cold.

More than anything, the castle felt deserted.

“Where is everyone?” Adrian asked, drawing his cloak tighter around himself.

“Either at the parade or setting up the ball rooms.”

Alexia led them up a flight of stairs and into another empty hall.

“Where are we going?”

“To my room, there’s something I need to get.” She stopped at a door, “Where did you learn to act like that?”

“No where in particular. You pick things up doing what we do.”

“It’s no use, they’ve changed the lock.” Alexia placed her hand over the doorknob and closed her eyes. A warm glow slipped between her fingers as the metal turned red hot. She tightened her hand around it and slowly pried it off, letting the deformed metal lump fall to the polished floor.

The room’s interior was of the same smooth white stone as the hallways, with a single window overlooking a section of garden.

Alexia pulled a long wooden box from under her desk, opening it as one would a diary. Inside was a metal rod topped with an orb of crystal.

“What’s that?” Adrian asked.

“My staff, I had to leave without it.” She clutched it to her chest, “It’s good to have this back.”

“Would you two like a moment alone?”

“No, we’re fine.”

“Then we need to find Panail.”

“His room is in one of the towers on the other side of the castle. He’ll be on his balcony watching the parade.”

Alexia led them back through the hallway and into a larger corridor. One side of the passage was occupied by a row of high windows, showing the roof of another wing stretched out below. Rows of doors and passages branched off to their side.

“We’re in the castle proper now,” Alexia said, “So we need to be very careful not to be seen.”

At that moment a guard rounded the corner ahead of them, followed by a group of his comrades.

“Failing that we need to run like hell,” she said.

The Captain started in the other direction, followed by the sound of armored footsteps. The row of windows ended and they were plunged into another dimly lit passage.

He emerged in an open chamber, three arched passages stretching into the vaulted ceiling. Rows of finely decorated pots lines the walls, in between columns adorned with tapestries.

“Which way Alexia?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t normally go into this part of the castle.”

The sound of their pursuers grew louder.

“Then pick one.”

She glanced frantically between the corridors.

“Soon would be nice!” Adrian said.

“This one.”

The Captain followed her, the guards closing in behind him.

The tunnel lightened up a head, revealing a room lined with stone pillars. A red carpet lay along it’s center, leading to a raised platform, and on it, a golden throne.

“Please tell me this is where you meant to go,” Adrian said.

“It isn’t,” Alexia said. “The only other way out of this room passes the guard’s quarters.”

The Captain scanned the room, looking for something they could use to get out.

A series of windows rose from behind the throne, ringing the ceiling between stone arches.

The door at the room’s end was heavy and ornamental, clearly meant to impress those walking through it. Through windows on either side the Captain could see the courtyard, where groups of guards were marching.

Water flowed from behind the seat, running along channels cut in the sides of the room before disappearing beside the doorway.

“Alexia,” he said, “Boil the water.”

– –
The commander was greeted by a thick fog as he entered the throne room, obscuring his view of everything within.

“Fan out men,” he said, “They’re in here somewhere.”

He slowly worked his way through the space, spear in hand, prodding at the thick mists. His comrades were nothing more than shadows.

The heavy doors at the room’s end opened, followed by swift footsteps.

“They’re in courtyard. After them!”

The commander charged through the fog and into the clear air of the castle grounds. He expected to see the fugitive Alexia and her companions fleeing down the stairs, but they weren’t there.

“Find them!”

– –

The Captain lowered his hand from the door. “They’re gone,” he said through the remaining fog, “Let’s not wait for them to come back.”

“That was a good idea,” Alexia said once they were safely away from the throne room. “I never would have thought of using fire magic like that.”

They followed Alexia back to the critical intersection and through another of the passages.

“Are you sure about this one?”

“Positive. Panail’s chamber is right next to the throne room.”

She led them down another sunlit hallway and into a side passage, ending in a flight of spiral stairs. Two guards flanked the opening.

“I’ll take the one on the right,” Alexia said.

– –
Panail’s room was the definition of lavish. The walls were covered in artwork and bordered in delicately carved trim. Sheets of bright silk lay draped over the bed and along the windows. The man himself stood on the balcony, embroidered curtains fluttering around him.

The Captain let the broken door close uselessly behind him, grabbing the man before he could turn around.

“How did you get in here?” he asked as he was thrust into a chair, arms raised around his face. Panail was a short, aging man, his grey hair combed neatly over his balding head. He was dressed in fine textiles clearly meant to impress others, like a giant sign reading ‘look at me, I’m rich’. There were bandages wrapped around parts of his arms and face.

“I swear,” he said, “When the Duke hears about this he’ll . . .” He noticed Alexia, “You? How dare you come back here after what you did.”

“Enough games Panail. We all know what you’re planning.”

“Planning, I’m not planning anything.”

“You know,” the Captain leaned in next to the man’s face, “If you don’t help us, I’ll have no choice but to leave you alone . . . with her.”

Panail’s eyes flickered nervously to Alexia. “Fine,” he said, voice shaking slightly, “What do you want from me?”

“I want to know why,” Alexia said.

“Very well. There are . . . people, some very close to the emperor, who think that the southern islands would do well under empire control. They want us to conquer these lands and stamp out their heathen practices. Niall, however, isn’t one of them. He speaks out against the war, citing the islanders’ right to self-government. People have begun to side with him in great numbers.”

“So the fanatics want him silenced,” Alexia spat. “How holy of them.”

“What’s in it for you?” the Captain asked.

“The support of a select few nobles who want to see the war proceed.”

“You idiot,” Alexia said, slapping Panail. “Killing the Duke will only make people more opposed to war. They’ll have lost a beloved figure. His death will only make his words more meaningful.”

“The important thing,” the Captain said, drawing her away from the man, “Is how we prevent his death from happening.”

“You can’t,” Panail said. “It’s already begun.”

“Then how do we stop it?”

He laughed, “You don’t. Niall will be dead within ten minutes.”

The Captain looked out the tower window, past the high castle wall, to the parade and the Duke’s golden carriage.

“You were just buying time weren’t you?” Adrian asked.

“Yes. And now you’ve been rendered powerless.”

“Like hell we have.” The Captain unbuckled his sword belt and handed it to Alexia. “Guard this with your life.”

“Where are you going?”

“To save the Duke.” He stepped out onto the balcony.

“That’s insane!”

“But I don’t let that stop me.”

He took a running jump and leapt off the balcony, aiming for the walkway that ringed the castle wall. He forced bolts of energy at the air below him to cushion his landing. He rolled as he hit the walkway, breaking into a run.

Soldiers blocked his path. He hit the first of them with a wave of sliver light, rolling as he did under another’s sword. He hit the ground with a blast, propelling himself over a wall of spearmen.

A watchtower was ahead, it’s walls jutting up from the walkway, a soldier blocking it’s entrance. Placing one foot on a supply crate he pushed himself up the wall, narrowly grabbing it’s top. He pulled himself up and sprinted across the roof, landing on the other side. The royal carriage was passing through the gates just in front of him.

The Captain leapt from the battlement’s edge. Arrows flew through the air around him, one grazed his arm, but the Captain didn’t permit the pain to interrupt his focus.

He landed on the carriage’s roof, crashing through it into the velvet lined interior.

“What in the All’s name?” the Duke exclaimed.

The Captain grabbed him by the shoulders and, kicking the door open, pulled both of them from the carriage.

They landed on the hard cobblestones and rolled onto an adjacent patch of grass.

The Duke struggled to right himself, a swarm of servants and soldiers rushing towards him. “What kind of madness has possessed you?”

The Captain only pointed. The Duke followed his finger to the carriage as a sudden flash of light sparked within it. He watched the Duke’s expression turn into one of horror as the seat he had rested in only moments before was engulfed in a towering pillar of white flame.

– –

Alexia watched as smoke rose from beyond the castle wall.

“See, nothing you can do to stop it.”

Alexia didn’t respond, not daring to move her eyes from the twisting black line. “The Duke was like a father to me,” she said, more to herself than Panail. “He took me in when no one else would.” She turned to Panail, to the person responsible for everything she had gone through. “He was like a father to me,” she grabbed the pathetic excuse for a man’s throat, “And you killed him!”

“Alexia!” Adrian exclaimed, “What are you doing?”

“I’m making sure this rat doesn’t live to see his plans through.” She called up her fire, letting it pour over her raised hand. She watched terror fill the man’s face. “I’m going to enjoy this.”

“Stop it Alexia!”

She aimed her hand at Adrian, “You don’t get a say in this!”

He backed away.

She returned her attention to Panail, running her burning hand along his cheek.

“Don’t do this Alexia,” he begged, “Think of what will happen if you kill me.”

“I’ll have killed the man who killed the Duke. That would make me a hero, right?”

“Please,” he said through tears, “Please don’t do this.”

“You should have thought of that earlier.”

Alexia went to place her hand on the man’s chest, to engulf him in exquisite fire, but a sudden pain in her leg stopped her. She looked down to see a feathered dart sticking from her thigh.

“I’m sorry Alexia,” she heard Adrian say, “I can’t let you do this.”

Her grip loosened, both of Panail’s neck and of the world. She felt herself falling over, the muted impact of the floor against her back.

A door opened somewhere.

In that moment of clarity between light and darkness, she heard the Duke’s voice.

– –
The Captain surveyed the room, Alexia lying unconscious on the floor, Panail clutching his face, Adrian standing over both of them.

“I can’t leave you two alone for five minutes can I?”

The Duke stepped past him, “Is that Alexia?”

“Yes.”

“I should have listened to her from the start.”

“There was also a Guardian involved, a man by the name of Launcer. We have him aboard our ship.”

“Launcer?” Niall ran his hand over his beared. “Yes, I remember a man by that name. The Launcer family was part of an attempt to dethrone me many years ago. I had them exiled, although I did hear one of their sons joined the Guardians.”

“You may want to contact the Guardians and let them know the truth. I would prefer not being a fugitive any longer than necessary.”

“Of course. As I will find and eliminate all those involved in this conspiracy.” He grabbed Panail’s head, forcing the man to stare him in the eye. “And you are going to help me. Understood?”

Panail nodded and sobbed weakly.

The Captain felt himself growing weak, the gash in his arm bleeding profusely.

“I’ll take you to see my finest healer,” the Duke said, “I want you and your crew to be at your best when you are the guests of honor at tonight’s ball.”

“Thank you, but I think my own healer would be angry with me if I saw someone else.”

“Very well. I owe you and your crew my life. Is there anything that I can do to repay you?”

“Just make sure this war doesn’t happen. The world doesn’t need any more senseless violence,” he glanced at Panail.

“There must be something I can do for you personally?”

The Captain thought for a moment. “There is one thing.”

“Name it, you will have it.”

“My ship.”

– –

The Le-Pras broke the waters of Cail’s port for the second time, coming to rest next to the busy pier. The gangplank was placed back onto Cail’s stone docks, Grendel greeting the Captain over it’s wooden surface.

“This is some ship you have.”

“I know.”

“I’ve sailed many Guardian crafts. They are swift, elegant, powerful, but this ship,” he ran his hand along the railing, “This ship has a heart and soul.”

“I’m sure it appreciates hearing that.”

“It also has a great cook.”

“She prefers the term chef.”

Grendel fell silent, tracing his hand along the rail.

“I have to admit I misjudged you.”

“That’s alright, many people do.”

“I’m glad at least one of us saw what Launcer was doing.”

“I had the benefit of perspective, you didn’t.”

“Still, I need to be more careful from now on. Especially since they’re promoting me to take his place.”

“What’s going to happen to Launcer?”

“He’ll be tried for high treason. The penalty’s death, but he’s likely to spend the rest of his life in a cell because of his rank.”

“So long as he can’t cause further harm.”

“It seems a shame to spend so little time on a ship like this, but it is yours.”

The Captain placed his hand over Grendel’s, “Trust me, blaming yourself for this is going to get you nowhere.”

Grendel sighed, “Thanks. Now I have to go deal with Launcer.”

“Good luck.”

Grendel walked down the gangplank and into to crowded streets.

The Captain breathed deeply, “Home.”


– –
“All are present, the royal court will now commence.”

A flare of trumpets filled the marble court room. Alexia winced slightly at the sound, she had always found the trumpets to be excessive in such a small space. She breathed deeply, readying herself.

“Our first matter,” the Duke said from his raised seat. “Is what fate shall befall the traitor Panail and those who assisted him.”

A loud murmur erupted amongst the court members, but the Duke raised his hand for silence. Alexia certainly had some ideas to suggest.

“Before we come to a decision, however, there is another matter requiring our attention. Alexia Belrose, please rise.”

Shocked by the sudden attention, Alexia stood up, the rest of the court exchanging glances among themselves.

“I do not believe I have had a chance to formally thank you for the role you played in saving my life.”

“I was simply doing my job.”

“No, you were not. You did far more than anyone could have expected one person to do, and I am deeply grateful.”

The court erupted in applause.

“Because of this,” the Duke said loudly, silencing his court, “I am asking you to replace Panail as my chief advisor. I can think of no one better suited to sit by my side.”

Here we go.

“As flattered as I am by the offer,” Alexia said, “I cannot accept it.”

Niall seemed confused, “Why not?”

“Because there is something else I need to do. Please consider this my formal resignation as a member of your court.”

– –

A woman in a red robe walked along Cail’s port at dusk, a staff protruding from the pack on her back.

“Let me guess,” a voice said from above her, “You’re looking to buy passage to Ascala?”

She looked up at the Captain, perched on the edge of his ship, “Something like that.”

“Why are you really here?”

She had rehearsed this moment in her mind many times.

“To ask you to take me with you, as a member of your crew. Permanently.”

“Why do you want to do that?”

“In the short amount of time I’ve spent on your ship, with your crew, I’ve caught a glimpse of something. The life you all lead fascinates me, entrances me. I can’t bear the thought of not sharing in it. So I’m asking you, even after everything I’ve put you through, to take me with you.”

The Captain was silent, thinking.

“Fine.”

“You will?”

“On one condition.”

“Anything.”

“That you call me Captain.”

She smiled, “Done.”

“In that case, hurry up, dinner’s about to be served.”

Alexia walked up the gangplank as streaks of red spread across the sky, a sky she now knew she could venture beyond. Breathing in the sea air, she took one last look at the sky before heading below deck, into what was now her home.

The End
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Re: Sunrise Over Infinity

Postby C J Mcpherson » Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:44 pm

There, finally, the whole thing's been posted. It's been months since I wrote this, and now that I read over some of it again, I see that I've improved a lot in my writing style. I'll probably look back on what I'm writing now in a few months and think the same thing. Hopefully.
Because of this, I think the second story's a lot better than the first. It's Here: http://cjmcpherson.com/stories/ for all those interested.
Other than that, I hope everyone who took the time to read this enjoyed it, I know it is a lot. I was intending for the second and third stories to be shorter than the first, but it seems they keep getting longer instead. The third is already longer than the first and I'm still only two thirst through it. I may post it here someday, once its finished.
In the meantime, I would love some constructive criticism, or even some comments. What people liked, what they didn't, so I know what to look out for in the future.
Thanks for reading. It's back to my ink and quill for me.
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Re: Sunrise Over Infinity

Postby Tony » Tue May 01, 2012 10:49 am

Hi CJ.

Sorry to come in this late after you uploaded your work. I've read there first 2 parts and had a scan at the rest

I am liking this. The astral is intriguing. I feel there are a few elements of Edgar Rice Burroughs but that is not a bad thing.

I am going to be a bit nit-picking, your characters have a lot of potential but I feel they are coming over a little clichéd. I would have liked you to take a little more space / time to develop them (a few extra words here and there to give them an edge for me).

Part 1

“A rich aroma greeted Maria as she entered the Galli, the comforting smell of baking and spice “

correction - galley

“In particular she watched the Captain. He stood at the ship’s helm, watching over his crew. There was something peculiar about him, the unnatural ease with which he moved, as if the entire world belonged to him and it simply didn’t know it yet. He pointed out a new direction to Stark, revealing a glint of the sword hidden beneath his cloak.”

The captain – what is it about the way he moves? Maybe you could think about mentioning or describe something Fiona has observed earlier. I feel the last sentence is missing something, eg:

“He turned to Stark, raising his arm to point out a new direction. As he did so, his cloak fell back off his shoulder and something glinted at his side. A sword.” - well maybe something a bit less melodramatic than my attempt.


Stark: I like the sound of him but I would like to know what gave rise to Fiona's thoughts on him

“What a strange creature, Fiona thought as Stark adjusted the wheel. So human, yet so animal.
It was as if some god had taken a wolf and fitted it over a human frame, giving the resulting creature the capabilities of the second, but the mannerisms of the first.”

May be you can have her watch him for a bit before this paragraph?

Part 2

Missing word:
“Stark’s spotted a terrene nearby that’s not on the map, so we’re going to go scout it out.”

I will stop now – I do like it, just in case it does not sound like it.
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