[Pre-Nano] Surrounded

“Towards the far end of the city. Pass the fires. There!” Danhwa’s inner voice guided the massive dragon.

They landed on the outskirts of the city, near one of the many shrines that dotted the landscape. The shrine sat atop a hill, offering them a great view of the surrounding area. It was also near the sea. As they landed, Zhilbar let Danhwa tumble out of his claws.

The God rolled himself on the ground, allowing the grass to cover him in a cocoon. Within moments, it had covered him completely. Zhilbar, who had seen this happen only once many years ago, shrunk himself to human size again. The land was actually draining him of his powers, something he found incredible.

As he sat down to wait for Danhwa, an assassin came out of the shadows, running on silent feet. Zhilbar turned just a tad too late; the assassin’s thrust was unstoppable.

Unstoppable except for the fact that the same grass that had enveloped Danhwa now shot out of the ground to stop the assassin. Zhilbar coolly walked over to where the assassin’s sword had dropped and picked it up. It was a wonderful blade, but it hummed. That puzzled him, until he realised what it was.

“Danhwa!” he called his friend, turning to the bundle of grass.

“I know, old friend. The ancient Enemy lives again,” Ran sat up, naked.

The initial attack and explosion had caught the God unaware, but here in this sanctuary he had made for himself, healing was to be had. And because he had made a decision to stay here, the ground had accepted him.

“The Reptilian One lives,” Zhilbar turned to the assassin. Now the tailed one’s attack made sense.

“And by His will, thus you die,” an unfamiliar voice spoke, the wind carrying her words.

The two Gods turned to find themselves surrounded. Somehow, the ancient creatures had slipped through their senses and were now all around them. Zhilbar counted about twenty of them, all small fry. Yet he was not interested in killing them, but in learning what they wanted.

“Reelian lives then?” The catch in Danhwa’s voice surprised him.

“Our Master lives, no thanks to your treachery. For that, you must die,” the young lizard woman detached herself from the group.

In her hand she had a single katana. Zhilbar could see her blood dripping off the blade. She had bathed the sword in her blood. The only races that would do that would know that mortal blood often poisoned Gods; their body chemistry was completely different from a mortal’s.

“Danhwa…”

“It’s Ai’ru. He’s alive.” Danhwa’s voice was full of venom, low in anger.

“For the sins you have committed against my Master, you will die, Danhwa of the Pelequoi,” the woman proclaimed judgement.

“It’s not yet my time to die, child,” Danhwa replied, his eyes glowing golden and feral.

“So you say,” dozens of arrows flew at them.

Both Danhwa and Zhilbar took to the skies.

[Pre-Nano] Nightfire

The two of them watched from afar. With the exception of a few seconds’ delay, everything was going to plan. The man’s visitor, staying so late, was the only unexpected factor in their attack. Still, it was no matter. It would not affect the outcome of the attack.

“What’s wrong, Maiso?” his question broke her train of thought.

“Something is not quite right, Danijel,” she could not tell him more.

“The God will die, Maiso. Do not worry,” he took her hand with a smile.

She blushed, then looked back at the scene of the carnage. The assassins had boasted that they had killed many Divine Beings, but she did not trust them. The only mortals who could kill the Divine Beings were the Kamigoroshi clan, but if they could incapicitate the God that would be enough. She and Danijel would take over.

“Something’s wrong…” she breathed, releasing his hand.

Their hands stole to their weapons. She was right. There was a large roar and suddenly they could both see a majestic Golden Dragon take flight, growing in size as he soared. In his arms lay their quarry; the God Danhwa.

“The fools!” Maiso made to jump, but Danijel held her back.

“Do not be overeager, Sister. Watch,” he pointed to where the assassins were.

The Dragon floated above the area, his eyes on the smoking ruins of Danhwa. All around the neighbourhood, people were beginning to wake. Some had called the police, but no one had thought to look up yet. After debating with himself, the dragon fled, and the assassins followed. Apparently they were all working by the same rule.

The general populace must not know the existence of the Divine Beings.

“Now it gets interesting,” Danijel said.

Taking Maiso’s hand again, he led her away from the cliff and to the car. They would watch the battle happening on the outskirts of the city. The assassins claimed that they could take down a God; would they be able to take down a dragon?

[Pre-Nano Shorts] Rankle

This is a continuation of the Pre-Nano shorts I wrote in 2006. The short series shall now be called Ity, and will consist of Pre-Nano shorts I’ve written before. It’ll be taking place at the same time as the events of Dreamer’s Trilogy, but as a side story.

It was night when Lance and Ran met again. They had elected to have dinner at Ran’s home, so they were assured of privacy. Zhilbar decided against cooking and literally whipped up a few dishes. Over dinner, they spoke about Zhilbar’s many emanations and children; Ran had not seen them in some time. They skipped talking about the murder at the temple until dinner was over and the plates were empty between them.

Ran kept quiet hearing Zhilbar’s encounter with the child at the temple. She sounded like she was perhaps a Priestess, for her bearing and her behaviour towards Zhilbar. He himself had never heard the girl being described by Zhilbar. She had not been present during his initial negotiations with the girls, and he highly doubted that they would have sent an amateur to check out the place.

“The acolyte looked unnerved by her. It seems that once she knew the target was dead, she decided to leave things as it was,” Zhilbar leant against the pillar, watching as Ran trimmed his bonsai.

“That’s unusual. It’s not like them to give up so easily,” Ran was fairly sure that there was something happening that should not have been.

“So, what’s your next move?”

“The boy can look after things in the office. What did the child look like?”

Zhilbar grinned and projected an illusion of the girl in front of Ran. The illusion though, was incomplete. There was a section of her neck that refused to show, so the dark-haired girl looked like her neck was missing a vital piece. That surprised Zhilbar, but before he could do anything, Ran let out a soft whistle.

“So she wasn’t kidding,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“That missing neck means she’s protected by another Divine Being. It’s where the mark of protection was put on her. At least I don’t have to wonder if the rumours were true,” Ran sat down.

“Rumours?” Zhilbar raised an eyebrow.

“Someone said that the women were a front for a religious organisation. With that mark, we can be absolutely certain,” Ran rolled himself a cigarette and offered one to Zhilbar, who declined. “It’d explain their decision to pull back and why he was afraid of her. The acolytes only fear other religious, never a commoner, and rarely a God,” he took a long puff.

“They don’t fear Gods?” Zhilbar raised an eyebrow.

“Gods in this part of the Universe are bound by interesting rules. The ones in the East are allowed to intervene directly without the aid of their followers. However, they pay the price by being limited to one area. This area can be expanded, of course, but the expansion often requires physical expenses,” Ran explained.

He nodded as a look of realisation came over Zhilbar’s face.

“Yes, you see now why this land has so many shrines. It’s not just here, but all over what they call the Far East. Here, the presence of the Gods needs to be backed by shrines, churches, temples, and the like. It’s a boundary of sorts; even those that did not need such trappings in their original countries find that such trappings are necessary here,” Ran took another long breath of his pipe.

“What about the West?”

“Ah now, that, that’s a conundrum. The West, on the other hand, may move freely, but they can only act when their subject prays for it. Even then, they must ensure that the faith of their subjects are sufficient for the miracle they wish to carry out,” Ran explained further.

“That does not seem fair,” Zhilbar pointed out, to which Ran laughed.

“Not on the surface. The Easterners are very distrustful of Gods. They worship these Gods, but they’ve been exposed to demons, so their view of the world is multi-coloured. They don’t see things in black and white. I’ve heard stories of Gods who made the mistake of offering a miracle to a mortal who did not need it; they ended up arguing about the matter for years.”

“They must be patient then.”

“On the contrary, they’re not. They’re just very cautious, and they came from the stock that is very calculating. It’s something that’s hardwired into them.”

“So how does this relate to the girl and the acolyte?”

“Well, all disciples can be imbued with certain power. Bear this in mind, a God needs to play by the rules dictated to him by Karma and Chronos. A religious is bound only by what they think is best for their God,” Ran waited for Zhilbar’s horror.

Which was not long in the coming.

“Now you see why I chose to settle here.”

“I would have joined you earlier if I had known,” Zhilbar raised his glass.

“I would not have allowed it. As you can see around you, the outcome of such systems is that the mortals discount the presence of the Gods, learning to accept the miracles as part and parcel of nature. What they cannot explain, they investigate, as it should be. This world has reached that point where Gods are no longer really needed; they’ll survive on their own even without us,” Ran sighed.

“Yet you won’t leave.”

“I won’t…” Ran’s words were cut off as the two Divine Beings jumped up and onto the walls of the small garden.

A projectile, hurled over the wall, landed in the garden and exploded. It had been aimed at no one in general, but the destruction temporarily blinded Zhilbar and Ran. As the smoke cleared, Zhilbar growled and took a step back.

His assailant came out of the smoke to attack him head on.

“Foolish!” Zhilbar let that slip, and raised his hands to ward off the attack.

His assailant hissed, and turned in mid air, a tail wrapping around Zhilbar’s human neck. Faster than the eye could follow, Zhilbar was lifted bodily and thrown to the ruined garden.

It was a move that was sure to have broken his back, but Zhilbar was not human.

“Urgh!”

The cry from Ran distracted Zhilbar’s attention, but the lizard attacker was jumping at him. Swiping the lizard away as he would a fly, Zhilbar went to find his friend.

The attackers were to realise that they had attacked the wrong pair.

Queen of Daggers, pt 2

Crossposted to Fiery Notes.

When she rematerialised a few moments away from the temple, Maiso did not hesitate. The usual disorientation that followed a displacement was shaken off in her determination to reach her destination. She went immediately to her small hiding place just inside the borders of the city to an old and hidden shrine. It was here that her God and Master had first spoken to her all those many years ago, and she had protected it ever since. He had met her in many places, but this remained one of their favourites.

Despite the bravado she proclaimed, she had not expected to see those eyes again, and especially not so soon. Had the years really passed that fast? They would have had to, for the child to become a woman. By Mio, but that had been a shock. She had taken the form of the girl without knowing who she truly was. That was a mistake she intended not to repeat again.

As soon as she stepped into the shrine, a feeling of peace and tranquillity fell upon her. The steps she took towards the altar assured her thus. The God was here, and he was present. Sometimes she had to call upon him, but today he was here. She felt the day’s surprise falling away.

“My Lord, thy servant begs your permission,” she went down on one knee before the tablet decorated with flowers.

“Speak, child,” he was in an unusually generous mood today.

“As thy ordered me, so I returned,” holding her hand in front of her, she slashed her wrist.

The black blood fell into the bowl in front of her, draining her and the memories of the woman she had earlier taken. The woman’s memories were many, and privately she had wondered if the Lord meant to kill her, for she was very sure that she would run out of blood before the woman’s memories were drained, but the Lord did as he would.

“That is enough, Sister,” a tender hand closed over her bleeding wound, the scaly blue green skin contrasting pleasantly against her own light green skin. The newcomer also healed her wound by his touch, holding her wrist firmly. “Father, you will drain her if she continues,” Maiso could only look at the handsome young man as he held her wrist. She was already feeling dizzy from the loss of blood.

There was silence for a moment, and as Maiso’s strength returned, she sought to remove the man’s hand from her. Yet his hand was firm and he stood a great deal taller than her. He was more reptilian in look than she was; her human heritage as shameful as it was, had given her body a slight hourglass shape even when she was in her true form before the God and short dark hair over her head, in what the humans called a boycut. He, on the other hand, was merely tall and powerful; he lacked the muscularity the humans had, but his body was slim and he was hairless.

“Take a care of this child, my son. She is dear to my heart. My child, listen to him, for he shall be my voice in the absence. Be prepared; the Daughters of Death know you still live and they will hunt for you. You must find the Keys before the Daughters find you, and take hold of the Gateways by the coming of the Third Moon.”

The presence left, leaving Maiso bereft and empty. The bowl was empty though, in front of her, even though she knew that it was half-filled earlier. He had accepted her offering at least.

“Come now, Sister. We have not time,” the male pulled her to her feet gently and left the shrine holding her closely. There would be time enough for introductions later.

As they left, Maiso could feel an illusion spell settling upon her. By the time they left the shrine, she had reverted back to her previous human form of a tall, black-haired woman with grey eyes. He, she sneaked a glance, stood taller than she was, with dark hair, a chiseled face and boyish eyes. Yet there was a care about him when he supported her.

He hailed a cab and directed the man to her apartment. Within moments, not even being able to ask how he knew her address, she was asleep.

Queen of Daggers- Ch 1

Bit of a rush job, but I am satisfied for now with this story. Will probably bring it more into line with Keys to Twilight later.

The temple had been quiet for most of the day. When there were no examinations or special occasions, it often was, simply forgotten by the people. Still the temple maidens on duty swept and cleaned the temple as they were assigned. The ones on duty always noticed a young woman coming to the temple to pray in the early hours of the morning and just before sunset, when school ended. By her clothes she seemed to be a student of a nearby private school. She only appeared when there was no one around; she never came to the temple for the various festivities.

Today, unusually, the young woman was standing in front of the well in a simple calico dress with a wide sunflower hat. Bowing before the temple, she caught the eye of the youngest temple maiden who was sweeping the leaves in a corner. Waving her over, the girl bowed again before requesting to see the abbess. The maiden looked surprised, but turned away. Before she could take five steps though, the ancient abbess was already coming to see the young woman, supported by one of the older nuns.

“You are early,” the old woman said.

“My Lady bid me come early, to see to your comfort,” the young lady bowed even deeper than before.

“She is courteous as always, even if she does perform a distasteful task,” the crone reached out from the nun’s hand to the girl, who supported the old woman almost effortlessly. “Come, sit with me under the shade. Midori, get us some tea,” the old woman commanded.

“You are not a Child of the Goddess,” the old woman stated a fact as soon as the other nun was out of earshot.

“No. You might be tempted if I was,” the younger girl smiled.

“She knows me too well.”

“The temptation for eternal life and youth is something everyone underestimates the desire for, even if they have lived a long life,” the girl said simply.

“You humans always have something new to discover. That’s why I stayed on for so long,” the abbess’ eyes were beginning to glaze over.

“I am not human,” the girl’s quiet voice forced the old lady awake.

“The Elder Gods and Divine Beings are all gone, child. So are the demons. If you be but a remnant of them you would be better off human,” the old lady laughed bitterly.

“Only to those who do not seek them, Elder Crone. The Lady bid me to ensure your knowledge is not lost,” the girl had held the old woman’s wrist since they sat, but now her grip tightened and her hand turned green.

“By…” the old woman struggled to pull herself away but could not.

The girl’s eyes narrowed and became reptilian with odd irises. It was the only noticeable change on her face, though the hand holding the older woman had turned green and scaly. It was also a firm grip that threatened to break the older woman’s wrist. The older woman’s eyes turned a similar shape against her will, but they were old and unfocused. She had no more fight left in her, as the younger girl siphoned her energy away. The green scales spread from the younger girl to the older woman’s; she sought the woman’s cellular memories.

“No!” the old woman breathed, fighting the intruder, but the girl was already in her mind, digging into her memories.

“You… cannot…” the girl’s face danced before her eyes.

“You have betrayed the service of the one you called Lord. Consider this your punishment,” the girl leaned her face closer till the old lady could smell her breath, “And a gift, Mother,” the look of horror was enough to suffice as the old woman finally expired.

A soft cry accompanied by the crash of delicate cups reminded the young woman that she was not alone. She turned and got to her feet quickly, heading to the stunned woman at a dead run. As she raised her scaled hand (now with sharp claws) to strike, it was deflected by a sword. The holder of the sword had the same sea-blue eyes as she did, with the same golden hair framing her face. The difference was, the girl holding the sword was holding the sharp end and with a single twist, would have cut off her fingers if she had not jumped backwards.

“Maiso!” the other girl identified her.

“So… you are the latest Miakan. How interesting. I did not think you would be this powerful in your current form,” her scaly green hand reverted back to a normal human hand, but her appearance had changed.

She was no longer a blond haired young woman with sea-blue eyes, but an adult woman with grey eyes and short black hair. Her skin was lightly tanned and she seemed to have gained a few inches in height in that short moment. The nun’s reaction was almost predictable and unsurprising.

“Demon!” she made the signs to ward off evil while Maiso laughed.

“You had a demon leading you all these years and you never knew it! What a bunch of jokes you humans are!” she laughed, but ducked almost immediately after as a projectile came towards her. She evaded it, and it made a firm “thunk!” sound as it landed.

It was a smooth pebble with streaks dancing across its surface. Maiso looked at them in shock, as the nun prepared more pebbles. The girl standing in front of her raised her sword and Maiso took the hint. She left the battlefield, willing her essence away. To have casted another illusion like what she had done to impersonate the newest Miakan would have been suicide, especially since the girl was rumoured to have a sister who was an illusionist herself. It was safer to simply run.

“Maiso…” the Miakan whispered the name as the woman faded away.