|Posted by Christie V Powell on March 13, 2019 at 3:00 PM||comments (0)|
Footsteps in his domain. A stranger in his territory. The beast rose.
The locals feared this place. They spoke of a black shadow, like a wolf but broader in face, scrawny as death. Mostly it did no harm, for it was slow and confused, but there were nasty rumors. Sometimes it came to itself, and then it attacked. Not to eat, or to defend, like a real beast. The few survivors spoke of a flash of recognition, of awareness, in its crazed eyes. Then it pounced, and victims had visions of doom and despair that rendered them so helpless that the did not care as jaws slashed, blood flowed, life ebbed. All feared the shadow-beast.
The boys in the slums, far from its territory, had little to fear. They had mothers to threaten them into good behavior with its image. Yet, for Mark, the story had a strange allure. As a child he dreamed of taming it. As a youth he dreamed of controlling it. And at last, as a man, he went looking for it.
The beast knew the second the man set foot among the hills. Clarity returned to his mind. He remembered, if not who he was, then what. The man's scent was familiar. The physical images of memory were long gone, but he knew that scent. Silent paws made no mark on the mountain earth.
Mark knew he was being watched. He saw and heard nothing, but he felt its presence. He felt no fear. Boys who survived the slums learned to conquer fear.
A shadow emerged from the brush. At first Mark thought it was a dog. Then he realized it was only a man, crouched on the earth, a man in ragged velvet that might once have been finery. The man stood, and his eyes pierced into Mark. "Who are you?"
"Mark, leader of the Shrikes."
"A human then?"
"As far as I know."
"Yes, human. I see it on you." The man straightened, brushed off his clothes, examined the scenery. "I gave up," he muttered. "Perhaps I should have fought on. I did not know the full cost of giving up. Well, I will not forget it now."
He faced Mark again. "Take me to your home. I must recover. I must study. Then we will plan."
Kieran, the man who had been a beast, fit well in Mark's world. He did not challenge Mark's leadership, but as he became influential in the gang, things changed. The men learned new techniques. They learned how to examine an enemy and find his weakness. They learned control, and subtly, and became the most feared gang of Grayton.
Kieran did not remain with them long. He had a land to survey. He changed his name to Donovan and practiced his old skills. His enemies had won, and their descendants reigned. And they did it poorly. The primitive Sprites claimed a space in politics beside the most prestigious Muses. The rulers were weak, pleasure-seeking, powerless. Keiran's kingdom was split in pieces. Two of them had nobodies for rulers, unrelated to any old ruling families. And yet they stood beside the others, and even the old families had gone soft and weak.
He would have to fix it. The first step was to clear out these new, weak kings. He would find new leaders—from the old lines, if he could. If not, anyone he could control would do. He must put the kingdom back the way it was supposed to be.
|Posted by Christie V Powell on December 8, 2016 at 3:20 PM||comments (0)|
Two seasons before 'The Spectra Unearthed' opens, Keita Sage went with her father to meet the other rulers to prepare for an arranged marriage. On the journey she decided to slip away...
Keita Sage crept through the underbrush of the forest, ears alert for any sign of followers. The sunlight sneaked passed the pine branches overhead and set a dappled web of shadow across her path. She placed each step with care. Her father could command someone with a tracking talent to find her, and she needed to avoid leaving a single clue. Going back was not an option.
The trail led to the bank of the raging Silver River and continued up a steep trail crossed by rocky ledges. A shiver, half of anticipation, half of excitement, traveled down her spine. She'd been here once before, when she'd sneaked out of the Inner Vale to explore, but she wasn't allowed so far from home without an escort--someone who was sure to be dull and unpleasant, like her useless cousin Felix. Her father's camp was out of her sensing range, at least a mile behind. Home was a three-day journey south--although she could have made it in one if she tried.
Home. They couldn't exile her from her own kingdom, and she wasn't about to stick around and find out which horrible foreign kingdom she'd be sent to.
The trail smoothed and widened as she climbed, but she hardly noticed until she heard voices ahead. She swore under her breath. She could climb either cliff, but not without notice, especially when Sprites could sense as well as she. She reached out with her mind to sense them and then blanched. No Sprites, but humans, a pair of the unnaturally large creatures, astride even bigger horses. She glanced at the river below--could she climb down the cliff before they noticed?
They rounded the corner in an instant, a forest of knobbly legs and boots. Both were male, maybe a foot or two taller than she, but on the horses they seemed gigantic. Long frizzled hair hung past their shoulders, and bundles of all shapes and sizes dangled from their saddles, giving off such a disgusting mix of stenches that Keita stumbled as they drew near.
"Hullo!" one boomed. "What have we got here?" The voice might have been kind, but it was so rough and thick with accent that she couldn’t be sure.
Her mind went blank. She was so fast at thinking up excuses for her father and tutor--why didn't the thoughts come now? "I...I got lost," she choked out.
"You must have wandered a ways."
Before she could think of the answer, the second man leaned forward to study the trail behind her. “You came up through there? That valley looks like a good place for trapping but we’ve yet to find a way down.”
“There’s nothing you’d want down there,” Keita said quickly. Her father and his escort were still camped in the valley below.
The second man’s grin grew. “Humans,” he repeated. “You’re not human?”
She gulped as everything she’d ever heard about humans flashed through her brain. Dangerous, especially in mobs. No abilities, but fearsome weapons to make up for it. Her kind had hidden from them after their first bloody encounters 200 years ago, and few still believed in them.
She had to escape. “I don’t know what you mean. I’ve got to go.” She edged toward the cliff.
A hand gripped her wrist. Keita forced herself not to panic. She couldn't show them what she was--but how could she escape? And the humans were heading toward her father's camp. She couldn't go back and warn them. Her father, King of Spritelands, had ignored her plenty but until now she'd never known how little he cared. In front of everyone, without the slightest warning, he announced that she, not her twin brother Glen, would attend this year's summit council. Not because she might enjoy the journey or want to meet people from other clans, but because he wanted the other kings to look her over and decide which of their sons she would marry. Quite beside the fact that she knew no one outside of her own kingdom, Spritelands, the marriage would mean she would leave home forever. She would leave the mountains, the trees, the great river below. Even the sky, if she moved to a kingdom where the people lived underground. How could she live without seeing the sky?
She couldn't let them find out about Sprites. Images flashed through her mind: gathering at the Autumn Festival, all united, a hundred strong. Training with her favorite cousin Hunter under the great trees. No, she couldn't let these humans discover them. Spritelands was worth saving.
The group was passing a pine growing just uphill. One of the pine branches grew across the path, high enough to block horses but easy for the humans to duck under. Keita focused, sending her energy into the tree. The branch expanded, reaching downward, pointy needles sticking into the path. She smiled. Wood bending and plant growth were talents of hers—though undeveloped, of course.
“Hey! What's that?”
The two men were standing on the other side of it, staring with open mouths at the tree branch that had been growing before their eyes. Keita let go of the tree, but the damage had been done.
“Natives, I've heard of,” one muttered. “Talking bears, giant cats, people with wolf heads... but never, in any legend, have I heard of living trees.”
Living trees? What a stupid thing to disbelieve. But Keita thought she knew what he meant, and it gave her an idea. Keita pressed her energy into the tree. Its branches began to wave. Then she stepped out, where they could see her, and screamed.
Both of them whirled around. "Miss?" one called uncertainly.
Keita backed toward the tree while its limbs flailed around her. "Help! It's going to eat me!"
A human took a tentative step forward. She took another step back and felt rough bark against her back. She leaned into it and the wood swelled, growing outward around her. The men screamed. From her hiding place, Keita heard them thundering away. She felt them reach their horses and stampede eastward.
The men faded from her senses. She grinned and pushed her way out of the bark that shrank back to make room for her.
She wasn't going to run away.
She knew it was true before she knew where the thought came from. The humans had known she wasn't one of them in a second. She couldn't hide among them without risking her entire kingdom. The risk wasn't worth it. Too many Sprites knew her by feel for her to hide among the other tribes or live alone. They would find her, they would send her home. And strange though home had become recently, she suddenly knew that home meant too much for her to risk, even if she had to leave to protect it. She sighed and turned back the way she had come.
|Posted by Christie V Powell on August 8, 2016 at 12:25 PM||comments (0)|
The smell hit her first, rank with decay and death. A man with no foot sprawled across the ground in front of them, changing his own bandages. Two children were lying a few feet away, wrapped in blankets, their faces covered in red marks. Keita scanned the camp for a sign of a well person—surely someone was taking care of these people. She saw no one.
She hadn’t realized she’d moved until she heard Brian’s warning. She bit her lip. He was right—if she healed these people, they’d join the other camp, and stories about inhuman healers would spread like wildfire. Humans couldn't know about Spectra, she knew that, but how could she just stand here when she had the power to heal them?
Amala charged into the crowd, searching for her father. Across the camp, a boy staggered in, pulling a cart. He stopped, dropped the crosspiece, and helped a frail old man out of the cart. Next he lifted out a small child, and another… how many people fit in there?
The older boy looked up. “Did you come back to help?”
Keita couldn’t speak.
“Some people come help. But they get sick too. I’ve lasted longer than most. That’s my dad. My mom caught the fever, and then my brothers, and my sister’s got it…”
The little girl in his arms was listless, her face red under the dirt. Her eyes were open, though, and when her brother stopped talking she focused on Keita, as though the girl knew she could make a difference. How could Keita not help?
Suddenly Brian whipped the pack off of his back and began digging through it. He pulled out the ragged toy Lucy had given to Keita. “You see this?” he asked.
The girl and her brother nodded.
“Well, this ball is magic. If you touch it, the magic can make you better.”
Keita stared. “What are you talking about?”
Better to have them believing in magic toys than people, right? he asked silently.
She held the ball out to the girl. “Try it.” Weak fingers stretched out, and as they brushed the worn fabric they bumped Keita’s hand.
The suppressed power burst from her. The boy cried out and leapt back. His sister dropped from his arms. She yelped, but it was a strong cry. Then, her eyes full of wonder, she climbed to her feet. Her face was not so red, and her gaunt cheeks had filled in. Her brother stood. “It works,” he breathed.
Before Keita could blink twice she was surrounded. The people pushed and shoved and clung to each other, and her energy jumped from contact to contact. The camp was no longer silent. It rang with shouts and cries and laughter.
The sun was sinking. Keita had not realized how long she had been working. The last drop of sunlight disappeared and she sank to her knees. “Thank you,” she told Brian. “I think… I will be happy later. Right now a rest might be nice.” And she dropped.
|Posted by Christie V Powell on July 13, 2016 at 10:25 PM||comments (1)|
This is a legend told in Spritelands to warn young Sprites of the dangers of humans.
Once upon a time, a young Sprite girl called Aiyana lived with her family on the coast of what is now Lectranis. She was a natural healer, and her parents did everything to get her the very best trainers. However, her training was halted when her parents died in a winter storm. A neighboring Lectran family took her in, and though they were not cruel they did not love her. Though Sprites do not usually eat, she was required to find food for her new family.
One day Aiyana spied a dark shape out at sea. She had not heard of the humans, who had arrived on a similar vessel years earlier and built a small settlement further north. This ship had blown off course and landed far from the others. Aiyana watched the strange, Spectra-like creatures land, but because her village insisted that the humans be left alone, she did not approach. Still, she often stopped on her daily forages by the sea to look at them.
Aiyana soon discovered that the humans were doing poorly. Ill equipped for surviving alone, many caught diseases and perished. When winter approached, Aiyana knew they would not survive. She abandoned the laws of her village and offered her assistance to the humans. The humans were amazed as she healed them, one by one. She taught them to feed themselves by gathering food from the sea, as she had done for her Lectran family. The human colony survived, and in gratitude gave their settlement their version of her name, Hanan. Eventually Aiyana moved in with them, using a small abandoned cabin as her own.
The news of Hanan's magical healer spread. Many sick people visited, and she healed them all. Even today, the poor and ill are treated well in Hanan, now a bustling human city. But one group of men saw opportunity while others saw healing. They laid in wait, deciding to catch the young Sprite and take her overseas, perhaps collecting money for her healing in the land over the water. They tangled her in immense nets and threw her into a cage with mesh bars so tiny that she could not escape. She called for help, but her human friends, those neighbors she trusted and healed, served and protected, would not hear. Her captors took her aboard a ship and she was never seen again.
After her abduction, and many other attacks, the Sprites abandoned humans completely, disappearing into their forests with strict rules to avoid all human contact. The other clans followed, until today when few humans know that Spectra exist. But take caution, for their cages and their ships are still ready.
|Posted by Christie V Powell on July 22, 2015 at 11:10 PM||comments (0)|
Hundreds of years ago, the first year according to our calendar, human explorers landed on the gentle beaches of our land, in the region of Lectranis known as Hunan, or Human Landing. They found good farmland backed by the Shield Mountains, with the rich prairies of central Lectranis to the south and the great deserts of Nomelands north and west over the Shields. Those first explorers called the land Vesspucia, though even now they argue over whether it is a large island or small continent.
Further explorations revealed the rich variety of climates across our land. They sent colonists, who built a new town at the first landing place, a home base from whence other parties could set out to explore. They soon ran into their first Spectra. The Lectrans treated them well, interested in their culture and new materials they had brought with them, but other clans were less friendly. The humans were wary with every clan, and rumors flew, with strange words like ‘magic’ and ‘witches’. Violent conflict began, and after many years, the Spectra went into hiding and all but disappeared from human awareness.
Spectra written history begins from this point. While the Spectra did have a system of runes, painted onto rocks or carved into trees, the humans introduced a more comprehensive written language, and paper for portable records. Within two hundred years the Spectra language had all but died out, and only a few scholars could read our runes. The Spectra also adopted the human calendar and began counting years, starting from the year humans landed on our land. Thus, when we say the Spectra went into hiding in the year 22, we mean that it took place twenty two years after human discovery.