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Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Brief History: A New Beginning

There came to be twelve major cities, districts of a sort, formed and united by conflict with creatures so monstrous they are known only as the Forsaken.  Each city was named by their intellectuals after the patron gods of the people, in recognition that there would always be forces beyond their control.  This was known then as the domain of destiny.  For a detailed description of the cities' formation, please see my dissertation, "The Rise and Fall of the World We Knew".  Where smaller cities fell and were consumed, these twelve metropolises distinguished themselves through their technological advancements and dedication to each other.  They were able to beat back and rise above the threat, for a time.  As the scores passed, the people grew complacent in their security, lax in the ties that bind.  They forgot the horrors beyond their portion of the world and contented themselves with petty plays of power.  Science gave way to superstition; logical progress came to a halt as once again religion was used by the elite to mold and subjugate the populace.
One late summer morn the faithful metal Guardians of the outer-lying city of Ankou suddenly shut down, unbeknownst to the citizens until a legion of Forsaken came down upon them.  Only the city's queen survived as she was visiting Lugus during the slaughter, negotiating terms for her assassins on loan.  The organization of these so-called mindless beasts as they moved towards the capitol was astounding, accustomed as the soldiers were to the slobbering infected hordes from the stories of old.  None were prepared.  Seeing the smoking wreckage from afar, the surviving rulers gathered together the priests to make pleas unto the gods in their desperation as it was discovered that all Guardians in each of the cities were out of commission and none were left alive who knew their inner workings.  Surprisingly a response was received, quickly and with clarity, from each of the city's patron gods and communicated to their rulers by the chief priest and mighty prophet, Avarus: "Eleven children of royal heritage will be born.  To these children celestial powers shall be given, so that in them we might be saved.  And they shall be to us as gods amongst mortals, as strangers amongst their own people, as living sacrifices to purge this horrendous blight from our land."

I slam the book shut and shove it under my lesson pile as the archive door softly creaks.  Each heavy footstep in time with my spasming heart makes it harder to find my place in the boring text.  Proditor's sonorant voice booms over my shoulder, "And what marvellous things are we learning today, my little prodigy?"  He chuckles happily when I tackle him, tangling his priestly robes.  "I think you like making me worry.  The journal said the fire had taken half the eastern forest.  They said the death-count was still unknown.  Why must you put yourselves in danger?"  Fineas knocks on my head from behind.  "Because he wouldn't let them use my awesomeness to find the people up close.  Instead I got stuck listening to Barnabas and his stupid parables."  Proditor hoists a tubby Fineas up on his hip.  "That would be because I care about you, boy, and it is not the place of children, no matter how special, to fight the battles of men.  Besides, you could learn something from Barnabas.  Perhaps his selflessness, to begin."  Fineas sticks out his lower lip and tongue.  "But I could have helped.  If you had let me walk with you, I could have found more of them."  Proditor breathes a heavy sigh.  "If I had known the plant would explode, I never would have taken you with me but there is a lesson to be learned in all this.  Do you remember the parable of the shepherd and his ninety-nine sheep?"  Fineas rolls his eyes but I remember.  I remember everything once I know it.  "It was during a great cyclone.  The lonely shepherd had seen the storm coming from his position on the cliffs, so he hurriedly herded his hundred sheep into the shelter of a warm cave.  From the shelter, the lonely shepherd counted and recounted his sheep but one was missing.  It was the sheep he most treasured, the lamb he had nursed when he was a boy.  Between the wind, he faintly heard his little lamb crying for him near the cliffs, helpless against the elements.  Though his heart cried in return, the shepherd stayed with the ninety-nine through the storm."  Proditor nods thoughtfully.  "Good, Cate.  Perfect as always.  But do you know why he stayed?"  I shake my head in shame as Phineas speaks up, his somber tone the more pronounced by his toddler lilt.  "For the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few."  "Yes, my boy.  That is why I could not let you.  You and Cate are meant for great things, amazing things.  Your lives are worth a thousand refugees."

The next day I choose a different scroll from behind the hundredth brick in the temple archive.  I have to be more careful.  Someone hid these for a reason.

A Note on the Forsaken
Due to the massive loss of information from the time of the original infection and following wars, we have had to largely begin our research anew.  The following is some of what we have been able to glean from the Kashish journals your scoping team provided: "In the family of Forsaken there are many varieties but two genera stand out: The Cranks, and the Revenants.  In looks and predatory characteristics, the two are obversely related yet they are products of the same insidious plague said to have been brought down as divine retribution.  The Revenants are often dark or even purplish in color with astounding mental fortitude and physical speed.  The Cranks are generally pale, appearing bleached, with impressive physical strength and tough leathery skin.  Nothing but the greatest force or direct sun can damage a Crank.  In comparison, the Revenants are quite fragile.  However, they are considered the greater of the two genera.  While the Revenants are less appreciable to the naked eye, they are highly organized, with many being capable of speech.  The strongest among them can even possess other creatures for a limited time, allowing them to amass entire armies as Cranks often follow a herd mentality, though many times full possession is unnecessary.  When an infection occurs, what determines which Forsaken the victim shall become depends upon their strength of will, genetic coding, and the amount of venom they were exposed to.  Those who become Cranks were determined to have a predisposition for the XPC and ERCC genes numbers two through five.  For Revenants, the singular POLH gene.  For those obscure Forsaken from whose charred remains I have examined thoroughly, the rare XPA and DDB2 genes.  Testing the population for plague susceptibility is advised."  Authorization and funds for controlled infection trials to confirm these results would be invaluable at this stage of our research.  Subjects donated from the Matrona asylum would be simplest to hide.  In answer to your question regarding the prince's samples, a meeting between us would be wise.  ~from the Excavated Personal Studies of Merak, Executive Belenusian Assistant to His Greatness, Eucairost Avarus in the Year 1006.

Over a thousand years...why would anyone abandon such an important piece of history?  Fineas' sudden sigh shakes me from my chair.  "I'm boooooooooooored.  You promised you'd play with me if I found those stupid papers and I did so now you have to."  "You're the stupid one.  This is important, Fineas.  Go outside or something."  I must read everything before whoever hid them finds they have been breached.  I can copy them from memory later.  He jumps onto the table and rips the ancient text from my hands, crumbling pieces of it into dust.  "Hey!  Be careful with that.  It is very very old."  "You.  Promised.  And a promise is a promise."  He rubs his running nose against the papyrus, forever staining the priceless remnant.  "I'll tell Proditor you made me find it and you'll be in so much trouble, he'll never let you read anything ever again!"  "Alright, alright.  Just please...put the paper down gently."  He smiles impishly, doing as I say, satisfied that I have surrendered.
The breeze outside is soft and sweet.  The cherry trees must be in bloom.  Fineas' heart flutters against my ribs excitedly.  "I think mine looks like a dragon.  Can yours beat a dragon, Caty?"  His cloud looks more like a half-birthed potato to me, but I say nothing.  He bangs his head on my abdomen, until I roll him off.  "Fine.  My cloud is that one to the right, over the hanger.  It looks like a knight to me.  A great and fantastic knight to slice your dragon limb from limb save us all from his fiery wrath."  "Oh yea?  Well my dragon has laser eyes and vomits parasite barnacles whenever he gets mad."  "Well my knight's armor is made from atomically rearranged graphite.  It will shatter your dragon's teeth, claws, reflect his lasers, and repel all barnacle suckers.  Hah!  Now that I've won, I believe we are through here."  Looking at his face I realize it isn't about winning for him, like it is for me.  "Ah, but how could I have forgotten...", I frown exaggeratedly.  "Forgotten what?"   I point to the swirling indistinct mass of white over the glider bay.  "Can't you see it?  My knight and your dragon are negotiating a treaty if your dragon will share his mountain of gold.  I'm afraid I have lost after all."  I endure him patting my head.  If this is the price of peace, I can handle it.  "Don't be sad.  Be happy.  I have a surprise for you!"           

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