This is probably the most slap-dash, rushed entry yet, as a number of other writing obligations (getting about 17 short plays together for a submission) took up my writing cycles this past week. Still, I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss a post (even if no one’s reading them) . So lacking any other ideas, I toyed in a very rough way with an intro to a Dying Earth novel idea I’ve had for a few years. This will almost certainly not survive as the actual intro, though, but you have to start somewhere, right? There are things in here that are mostly placeholders; terminology taken directly from what little I know of the genre that I plan to change later. And I don’t want to give away too much because part of what’s so awesome about this is the revelations that come in the full story.
So, really, this is just me throwing something out there with 2 inch wide margins and 16 point font so that I can turn in a paper on time. Yay me?
But anyway, maybe you’ll find something interesting in it. Enjoy!
On a Dying Earth
Aldric was picking through the remains of the abandoned city. It was not one of the Ancients’ cities—those were forbidden and, frankly, too dangerous go risk defying the Decrees—but one that had died within the past million years. Or two. Aldric couldn’t tell and didn’t care. The goal was, as always, survival. Find anything that could be traded for the planet’s rapidly dwindling resources or something that could be used to take them. Aldric preferred trade to violence, but an ancient weapon could fit either scenario, and it was good to have options when the Traders came to his village.
He dusted a thousand years of detritus off some alien object, one that certainly didn’t seem to have any value outside of curiosity, when the Memory attacked. He was thrown back from his perch on the mound of rubble with the force of the attack as the wave of energy slammed into him. He might have been bothered by the loud crack of his head hitting concrete, or by the warm trail of blood that ran down from the fresh wound, had he been aware of either.
The city was alive with people. Merchants in booths on the streets. Towering spires of sharply angled buildings. The murmur of voices so intense that it felt like the thrumming of a thousand insect wings. The streets were clean and smooth. Giant machines flew in the skies.
The Memory had slithered into his mind and latched there. He tried to force it out but was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t. He knew, from experience, that it was best to ride it out; to allow it to become disinterested on its own and leave as quickly as it had intruded.
Everyone occasionally was attacked my Memories, but Aldric attracted stronger ones than most. He’d buried that information and kept it from the Council of Elders. He didn’t want to be a prophet, but he would be pressed into service. Prophets burned and faded faster than others, and the expectations and demands on their ability to summon and control Memories allowed them no rest.
Initially, this Memory was hardly remarkable in what it showed. A vision of the past, before the lowlands were swallowed by the oceans and then reemerged as barren wastes when the sun began its slow death cycle. Before the holes started to appear in the sky. Before whole regions of the planet would merely vanish, excised from the land as if by careful application of a blade in a surgeon’s hand. These people were not Ancients, but they lived comfortably in their shadows. Using their technology and their knowledge. Better times, perhaps, but with their own perils.
Aldric saw himself look down at the device in his hand; or rather, the hand of whoever the Memory had burst from a thousand years ago. It was the same artifact he had found in the rubble, but restored to its original functionality, so he imagined. Though it was flat and mirror black on its surface, a glowing orb hovered above it. Words he couldn’t read, symbols, and images floated in space, transferring some vital information or another to the holder.
The Memory fixated on the images there, and Aldric felt a growing dread. Something that this artifact was showing was troublesome to its watcher. It conveyed a message akin to a revelation of doom. Aldric was suddenly struck with images of a cavernous space; some inexplicably large cavern where rows and rows of Ancient-built monoliths glowed and pulsed with energy. Whether the energy of the Ancient’s technology or some of the magicks from the dark regions of the planet, Aldric couldn’t tell. He could tell, however, that the monoliths were going dark, one by one. He sensed, carryover from the Memory squirming around in his mind, that there were no longer and Guardians to tend to these monoliths. Their darkening was counting down to a terrible outcome. As his heart raced, sharing the fear and panic of the long-dead witness to this brewing calamity, the Memory leapt from his mind, jolting him back to his reality. He managed to catch a glimpse of it, pulsing and throbbing in the air, a strangely insubstantial creature, before it was lost in the ruins.
It was of no matter, however, and Aldric knew he had to cut his scavenging expedition short. He could no longer run from his abilities. The Council had to know what he had seen.
He had seen the moment the sun began to die. More importantly, he thought there might be a way to save it.