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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Winner Bellacuse Short Story Contest 34: Coming To Terms With Mortality

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Dec 27, 2008.

    Bellacuse - Last of the Seraphim

    I am a Seraphim. The last of my kind. And I am dying. Already I feel the sinuous coils of time tightening around my spirit. Is this how you humans always feel? Aware of your own decaying flesh, with each new breath the inevitable countdown of your own mortality? This is my reward for saving the last vestiges of humanity; doomed to a dead world. It is a dead world for there is no Flux here. No power, no life-force, nothing. What I would give for the twisting ribbons of indescribable colors that traced the forces of my world to be the last thing I look upon when my waning strength gives way to eternal darkness. This troubles me. Where will my soul go if there is no flux in this world? There is no life-force to rejoin here. When my flesh rots and my mind dissipates, what fate will my spirit face?

    Perhaps you humans will flourish on this soulless world for you show none of the effects from which I suffer. Then again, you have always been mortal creatures – we made you that way. But we always suspected you had souls. Were we wrong? I sincerely hope the evidence weighing against my heart bears false. Perhaps you fare well here because you never were tied to the Flux as we were. I pray that is why. Otherwise we destroyed our world, our race, for nothing! Never forget who it was that gave you life. Never forget who it was that gave you freedom. Yes, it was Seraphim that used you as slaves; that created you to be slaves. But it was also Seraphim that fought for your freedom. Fought for you believing you were worthy of the freedoms that we paid for with rivers of blood.

    My time grows short. I feel what small power I brought with me to this new world evaporating into nothingness. There is no Flux to draw from, to replenish with, and when the traces within me are gone I will die.

    I record the last days of the last battle that you will never forget the Seraphim that saved you.

    It was only three short days ago; three short days when Lucifius opened the portal over Al’Mergedon, the last of the great cities, and unleashed his legion upon us. Where he got the power to open a portal of that size, I shall never know. A great wreath of boiling clouds fully two miles in diameter erupted over our city, twisting the Flux unmercifully. We heard the sky scream that day. You humans cannot see the Flux, but if you could, you too would have cried at the sickly yellow, twisted with blood red that streaked across the heavens. A small mercy. We all saw the floating city of Eosphorus emerge from that great portal though. A massive circular wall, with great spokes arching towards the central hub where a gnarled Citadel sat, stretching its turrets skywards like great clawed talons; a deadly spider in its web.

    We thought we had months before he reached us. We should have had months. How did Lucifius open a portal that large?

    We had almost escaped, all of us. The Gateway that sits behind us in shambles in this new world is a mere shadow of what we created to save ourselves. The original, a massive double arch that crossed at right angles, gleaming despite being unpolished, it was made almost entirely from Cuerillum. Great spans arched away from it across the city, looking as though they belonged, despite having been hastily built from necessity. My specialty lies in other areas of the Flux. I am but a simple soldier, but I do know that we needed a strong connection to the six great pyramids surrounding our city that focused the Flux directly into the Gateway. And we only needed a scant few weeks to complete it.

    When Lucifius took those last few weeks away, we had no choice but to fight. To give what few humans we could the chance to flee through the unfinished Gateway. It led us here; to this world. A blessing that you humans can apparently thrive here, and a curse that this world has no soul. Lucky? Unlucky? I only know that your last shepherd must leave you soon. This voyage is yours alone.

    I digress. I must focus, although I must admit I feel substantially weaker than when I first sat down to write this.

    How to describe the terrible feelings of defeat at seeing that monstrous floating city appear directly over our heads? I simply cannot. Lucifius’ legions emerged from that dire citadel, hovering above Al’Mergedon. Our brothers. Our Sisters. Seraphim like us, but set on a course of destruction. We call them the Wings of Lucifius. Lines of Flux gently floating away from each of Lucifius’ Seraphim in six long streams blazed brightly to my eyes as they controlled the flows of gravity around them, standing out against that sickly sky. Some humans I have spoken to claimed to have been able to see those Flux streams; claimed they look like six great, beautifully glowing wings. They didn’t look so beautiful to me that day. The air, already twisted and sickening with the discharge of that ungodly portal, grew even more charged as the attack began and Flux was channeled from every which way. I had little to do in those initial hours. I was far from my post, and far from my armor and weapons. Besides, it wasn’t long before the six great pyramids lit up the daytime and a shield fell across the city. It was hard not to empty my stomach with the amount of Flux being handled all about.

    Eventually, I reached my post and wrapped my Cuerillion armor around myself. This eased the nausea significantly as the crystalline structure helped deflect much of the stray Flux. Yet my relief did not last long as reports started coming in. I was sent to the north quarter to defend one of the breaches in the shield. When we got there, we found a massacre. Several of Lucifius’ bubbles had penetrated the shield, carrying his filthy creations with them. I had heard of these things being used in other cities over the last year. We called them the Fangs of Lucifius, though I have no idea what Lucifius called them. Twisted creatures created for one purpose, to kill humans. They stood only four feet tall, with rangy, long arms that terminated in hooked claws. Bony ridges protruded from their coarse fur all across their bodies, providing tough, natural armor. Their heads were flat and long, with deeply set eyes and flat, large teeth with only two thick fangs that curved downwards. And they were fast. Their deadly purpose was validated by the amount of dead humans filling the streets. Broken doors and windows, along with the screams, gave testament to the fact hiding indoors was scant defense. We got to work with grim faces. Deadly to humans though they were, they were no match for Seraphim. A pack of Fangs noticed us and turned to flee – no fools these creatures. I shifted time, jumping forward a hundred yards in the blink of an eye. Another shift and I was in the middle of them. They turned as one and lunged at me. My specialty with the Flux is time-slicing; a close combat skill that has served me very well. I shifted just so, and made my way cautiously between the three closest. It is very important not to touch anything when you shift, especially anything else that is moving. It is difficult enough moving against the air itself, which is why you are limited to very short shifts at a time. I remember early in my training, I had learned time-slicing very quickly, but had not yet learned that I should listen to my master. A novice lesson was for the master to toss an apple in the air while you were some hundreds of yards away, and you should slice the apple in half with your sword before it hit the ground. I was over eager. I shifted and, upon approaching my target, failed to un-shift before striking the apple. I broke my sword, my wrist, my arm, and the nose of the student the apple fragments hit. At least I learned after the first such accident.

    But again, I must concentrate. The air seems thicker now, doesn’t it? I notice you humans seem concerned with me, noticing for the first time my weakened state. I send you scurrying, like mice. I have not much time for niceties. Besides, you must learn to stand up on your own now. You must understand your creators will be there no more, standing over your shoulders, teaching, guiding, leading. What becomes of the wild flock?

    The Fangs of Lucifius, terrible to humans as they were, served as merely a distraction for we Seraphim. And distracted we were. Following them through the rent shield came the Wings of Lucifius. Our brothers. Those Seraphim that refused to acknowledge your souls and your freedom. Like a plague, they came down upon us. Those bright ribbons of Flux, usually so beautiful, turned ugly as they were channeled to weapons of death and I desperately countered the streaks of superheated air that rushed towards me. Makeshift shield formed around me as my troop helped me in my exposed position so far ahead of them. I shifted as the first of the Wings landed before me and moved to flank him. He shifted too and we circled each other warily. Time-slicing was my specialty however. I went deeper, forcing my way through the air, shielding myself as best I could against the incredible friction-generated heat. His eyes grew wide as I slowly edged behind him. I shifted back to real-time and cut in one smooth motion. His armor blazed as it tried to counter the crystal-focused Flux running the length of my sword – but to no avail. He fell just as I leapt to one side to avoid the channeled Flux I sensed to my left. An explosion ripped the ground, showering me with rubble. Before I could get to my feet, the air was sucked from my lungs. I had not felt that channeled at all. I fell to the ground, clawing at my throat with my hands just as I clawed for the Flux with my mind. There must have been another of them blocking me for try though I might, I could not channel a drop to save myself. I would have died then, if not for the timely intervention of a Gaurdian. The fifty-foot behemoth crashed through the remains of the town houses, raining rubble down upon me once more, Flux swirling bright blue all around it. The crystalline structure that laced its massive frame glowed in sharp pulses as it absorbed and redirected the Flux attacks that stabbed at it from all sides as the Wings tried in vain to destroy it. The guardian sent out one pulse of its own, blinding in its intensity, and the Wings collapsed to the ground as the Gaurdian sucked the Flux from them just as the air had been sucked from me a moment ago. Just for a heartbeat, the Gaurdian denied them the power, but that was all it took. With no way to defend themselves, the behemoth channeled in thirty or more directions at once, burning the Wings of Lucifius where they lay and in less than a second, the tide was turned. We quickly destroyed the remaining Wings as the Gaurdian lumbered off, searching for more enemies and leaving a wake of ruined buildings behind it.

    Our battle in that street was typical of what we faced over the next two days. And hour by hour, our great city shield weakened further. More and more pockets opened up. We couldn’t kill enough Fangs. For every one we killed, three more took its place. They avoided us as best they could, but you humans… By the end of the second day, I don’t think there was a Seraphim in the city that could take the time to hunt them anymore. Our every waking hour was consumed in fighting our brothers. And the city burned.

    We regrouped that second night under the banner of Uziel. Uziel created the Gaurdians. And he was the first to don the mighty armor, knowing that once entombed within its confines, once intertwined with its mechanisms, he would never again see the light of day with his own eyes. He became the first Gaurdian over four hundred years ago and has watched over our city since that time. That night, he watched over the Gateway as Gabriel himself toiled desperately to activate it. I wish I could say that I spoke with the greatest of our kind, Gabriel, that night but I cannot. He stood before the Gateway channeling more of the Flux in and around the mighty artifact than I thought possible for one Seraph to handle. The archways leading to the city edges glowed brightly as raw Flux was pumped directly into the structure from the pyramids.

    The tattered star banner of Uziel hung limp and ragged from the shoulders of that fifty-foot monster, the crystalline armor spattered with mud and rubble and blood and guts. Scorch marks up and down the massive frame bore witness to multiple times his Flux-absorbing armor had almost been overwhelmed. But he stood proud. I stood with him, along with a ragtag assortment of Seraphim that had banded together from the remains of decimated troops. That night was the finest of my life. I stood with legends. Uziel, the mighty warrior and Gabriel, the savior.

    A crowd of humans huddled in the square, filling every available corner of the plaza. Crammed along the fountain walls, up the library stairs, all up and down the buildings filling everything. Where else did you have to go? I see you all now, huddled around the sparse copse of trees, silently regarding me as I sit here and write, worry and fear plain on your faces; a pale reflection of that horrible night. What will you do when this dead world succeeds in sucking the last of my spirit? Will you still huddle amongst yourselves, waiting for me to arise and lead you once more, or will you cease huddling and live for yourselves?

    It was the dawn of the third day when Lucifius came. No longer content to fight from the heights, weakening our shield with his awesome power, he had come to strike at the heart of our city, he had come to strike at the gateway and remove any hope we had of saving ourselves. The tattered rays of the morning sun glinted from the armor of his legions as he led them at us in a swarm. We rose to meet them knowing in our hearts that all was lost. Instantly the air came alive as Flux twisted and writhed with our struggles. Thin lines of rusty red Flux radiated towards us by the hundreds, each with deadly promised. Our shield-makers worked frantically to undo as many as they could, but some worked through, erupting into massive fireballs. We countered. Within moments we were among them and I worked my hardest, time-slicing in minute quantities to conserve my strength, shifting just enough to jump my blade through their defenses. I pulled deeply on the Flux, shielding myself as best I could in the melee. With us engaged so closely, there were no more explosions. Instead, we attacked directly. I reached out with the Flux to scramble minds, to superheat air and burn, to blast them with walls of solid air. Many attacks were turned aside by their Flux absorbing armor, and many more were shielded against, just as I shielded myself. I killed most with my sword. A lull in combat and then he was in front of me. Lucifius. I charged with three of my brothers, soaring to meet him in battle. He turned his terrible gaze on us and I felt a great hand clutch me from the sky and dash me to the ground below. Such strength!

    I lay on the ground in a daze, broken and bloodied. What had I been thinking? As I have said, I am but a simple soldier and he was one of the Archeons. From where I lay, I saw Uziel surrounded by a brilliant nimbus of orange and blue. The Flux stormed about him as he sent great blasts into the sky, ripping the Wings of Lucifius by the dozens. That’s when I saw Uziel’s Flux pattern shatter and Lucifius appeared above him. It seemed to me they spoke for a short time, but from where I lay, I could not hear. And then the air grew hazy around them both as they struggled for dominance. Rubble and debris flew outwards in a great circle around them. Whatever humans were huddled close by were knocked backwards and away from that terrible duel. Uziel sent out a blinding pulse of brilliant blue light but as it reached Lucifius, it twisted into nothingness. Lucifius held his hands wide and tendrils of smoky grey Flux floated towards Uziel. Each attempt to dissolve the attack was defeated and the tendrils slowly wrapped around Uziel.

    It was then that I was hauled to my feet and a shock ran through me as I was healed. When I could raise my head, I saw that it was Gabriel himself. He spoke to me then. He told me what I must do to open the Gateway. That though the Gateway was still not ready, it would at least operate. Where it opened, he did not know for there was no time to finish the calculations. And then he was gone; gone to join battle with Uziel against Lucifius. I wish I could say I knew who won. It’s possible that Lucifius and his legions were destroyed. It’s possible that his floating city of Eosphorus was overcome. It’s possible that we never needed the Gateway at all, and all we have done is banished a scant handful of humans to exile and doom one poor soldier to death. But the last sights of that dreadful morning…

    I took my place at the Gateway and began to open it. You humans were herded towards it, ready to pour through. And pour through you did, when at last the Gateway shone. We could have saved you all, if not for the explosion that knocked me through and, I think, destroyed the Gateway.

    So here we are. Alone in a new world.

    I have been thinking about this world. I believe there is no Flux here because there were no souls here before this day. I believe that when my spirit separates from my flesh, there will be no Flux to rejoin with because mine will be the first. A new Flux. This dead world is drawing it from me, eager to live. But killing me in the process. Will you humans join with me when your souls leave your flesh? You must have souls. You must. And so this is my last commandment to you; the last charge of your dying shepherd. Cultivate your souls. Embrace your spirit for you are slaves no more. The days of the Seraphim are over. I cannot prove my belief that you can breathe new life into this world. You must have faith. This story belongs to you now. It is up to you how it ends. Only be thankful that you lack the power to tear your world apart as we did.

    I must go now. Cultivate your souls and join me one day.
     
  2. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Congratulations Bellacuse.
     
  3. othman
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    Yeah, congratulations, you deserve it Bellacuse.
     
  4. Doug J
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    Doug J Active Member

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    Whoa! A lot here - but I gotta tell you - I loved this.

    And this will not be a very good critique because it's like eating a lot of fast food stuff for years and years - and then you sit and eat at a very nice place with linen table cloths and a meal of Beef Wellington, potatoes prepared with whipping cream and Wisconsin butter and tiny carrots seasoned with safron (sp?) and fresh garlic.

    And someone asks, "how was it?"

    I can only say this took my breath away. Thank you. And after I fully digest it - I will try to write a more intelligent and helpful critique. Wonderfully done.
     

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