Word Count: 1,638
Daily Reward: None (goal not achieved) – did sneak a few spoonfuls of Monday’s ice cream though!
Illustration by Moonfeather (also features her character)
Now Kataryna and Tawny have actually ventured out into the Deadlands, I’m just having some fun exploring the premise and building the background. I think I’ll view this story predominantly as creating the backbone of Furritasia, and developing the world in which my furrae live. Of course, aside from Scavengers, I doubt any of the stories will actually follow conventional enough plot lines to actually form a coherent book but ah well… Spent too much time looking up images from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and getting distracted, which is one reason I fell slightly short of the word count goal, the other reason being that the story had bascically drawn to a logical conclusion and I had to go to bed early on account of being required to taxi my husband to the airport on the morrow at approximately 5am. He’s off to Wellington for a conference (work) that has not been hampered by earthquakes or wild weather, and is going ahead as planned. To distract myself too much from worrying about him, I intend to fill the next two days with work, socialising and writing, and focus on Saturday, when I will be collecting him from the airport.
The jumble of rocks had tumbled together as though a great worm had borrowed through them. Tawny, taller than Kataryna by a full head, was forced to stoop almost double. Kataryna slouched, ever conscious of the wall of rock a mere finger’s breadth above her tufted ears. Her whiskers twitched with the air currents, even through the mesh, and her eyes kept drifting back to Tawny’s bracelet. Green — orange — orange — red — orange — green.”
“How bad is the red, really?” Kataryna ventured.
“One flash is fine,” Tawny called back. “Two, time to take precautions. Three or more, and … well … let’s say, we’ll have to hope you didn’t want children. If it stays red or you start throwing up, then, well, you’d better start notifying your heirs… You’re not feeling nauseous at all, are you?”
Kataryna shook her head, although, truth be told, her rushed breakfast was resting queasily in her belly. Probably just nerves though.
The passage dropped further, the walls turning to smoothed rock. “Look,” said Tawny, illuminating the wall with her blackemarr rod. It was a hand print. The palm not much larger than Kataryna’s own hand, the fingers long, with a well defined thumb, the fingertips tapering into rounded points. “Someone — probably a child — must have grabbed the wall here, and here,” — she lowered her light to illuminate another hand print — “maybe to catch their balance and then, BOOM! Vaporised instantly.”
Kataryna shuddered. “That’s powerful magick indeed.” She felt slightly uncomfortable. As fascinating as it was, a juvenile Ancient had perished here. But at least it had been quick, and the heat had purged the atmosphere clear. Kataryna could locate no residual presence, although a shiver still passed down her entire body.
“Not magick,” Tawny sounded almost gleeful. “Science!”
Further on, the smoothed rock turned back to a jumble of shattered pieces, then widened out, into what was quite clearly, a vestibule. The doorway beyond was still mostly intact, the stone weathered but solid, the stone bricks clearly defined, unmelted. Beyond it, Kataryna could catch the slightest glimpse of a chamber.
“Don’t be scared,” Tawny encouraged her, holding her wrist band high. Orange — orange — orange — green — green — orange. “It’s perfectly safe.”
Kataryna stepped forward. There was light here, a spectrum of colours, dancing across the mosaic floor, illuminating interconnecting circles, squares, the perfect geometry of the tiles. She entered the chamber.
Stone columns, thick, white and sturdy, beautifully sculpted, rose up, and up and up and up, curving inwards, like the ribs of an immense animal. Each connecting point featured a stone protrusion. Patterns decorated the smooth ceiling between them, faded almost into oblivion, the colour barely discernible.
“It’s magnificent. They must have been master Sculptors.”
“That’s the fascinating thing.” Tawny’s voice came so close to her ear, that Kataryna could not help a slight spasm of startlement. “It is highly unlikely that the Ancients had any Elemental Affinities at all. Their sculpting was done with tools, and their hands.”
The light came, dilute with dust, through windows taller than Kataryna. Coloured glass, individually set, into a framework, transformed it into a rainbow against the tiles. It wasn’t perfect — there were multiple pieces missing, panels lying broken on the floor, but it was beautiful — and to think that these had been created without the use of any magick at all…
“What was this place?” Kataryna’s voice sounded small in the immensity of it. It echoed back at her, ever so slightly.
The wristband still flashed: Orange — orange — red — orange — orange — red.
“We can’t stay for long,” Tawny cautioned. “Not unless you want to join them.” She motioned at the outskirts of the chamber, at what Kataryna had originally overlooked as broken branches, debris of the ages. What she realised now were bones. Hundreds and hundreds of bones. Her eyes flickered up, to a figure, carved of stone and set into an alcove in the wall, barely visible in the shadowed part of the nave. He was immense — perhaps some of the Ancients were giants? — arms spread, as though he wished to fly, strapped to his back an immense crosspiece, like the centre of kite. His face, so worn that his expression could no longer be read, his eyes no longer be seen.
“It was their place of worship,” Tawny replied. “The place they came, when their End of Days came, the place they came to beg their God,” she gestured at the statue, “to save them. But,” she shrugged, “he didn’t. They died here. Probably of starvation, or maybe of the poison that crept through their blood.”
Orange — red — orange — red — red — Kataryna held her breath — orange.
“We’ve got to go.” Tawny grabbed her by the arm, hauling her out, half pushing her along the passageway, out through the vestibule. They ran, gasping the Weave of the hoods in and out, feeling it tangle against her muzzle, stifling against her nose. Shivers of anxiety raced down her spine, sweet beading against the fabric of her second skin. Clammy, uncomfortable. She wanted to rip it off, to feel the breeze against her flesh, but the breeze would bring with it the death of the poisons. Past the hand prints, over and through the rocks, out into the open air. Staggering to a halt, gasping, hands pressed on knees, chest heaving in the struggle for air, trying to hold back the nausea.
Tawny’s wrist, held close to her snout. Orange — green — green — orange — green — beautiful, wonderful, green!
“Their God wouldn’t save them,” Tawny said. “They put their faith above their instincts for survival. And now they’re extinct.” She rose her orange-gloved hands to the sky. “Their God couldn’t save them, and Elysia doesn’t give a damn about us. If you want to survive in this world, you’ve got to put your faith in one person, and one person only: yourself.”