Banishlands

Posted: October 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

banishlands

 

Excerpts from THE BANISHLANDS:

Some guy once said the world would end with a whimper instead of a bang. That son of a bitch had no clue what he was talking about.
–A survivor

When the king was born the people knew it in the land.
When he brought them a queen they knew it their eyes.
When he gave them work they knew it in their hands.
When he taxed them beyond measure they knew it in their bellies.
When he brought them war they knew it in their blood.
And when he died they knew it in their hearts.
–The Lamentations

——————

Excerpt 2:

They turned the corner and the path ended at a wall of blackness.
The portal was perfectly rectangular and the stone of the cavern walls had been smoothly cut in some bygone day so as to fit its dimensions perfectly.
“Hello, Mr. Pepper,” Em’lee whispered.
“What’s that?” Daw asked.
“Nothing. Just something Elder always said.”
“Ah. Who’s Pepper?”
“He invented the teleportal, I think. Or maybe he just made them and someone else invented them. Pepper is dead, any way you cut it.”
Daw nodded. “Well. That’s all there is,” he said, and gestured to the blank darkness.
The dead teleportal seemed to absorb all light. It almost hurt to look at it. Em’lee kept expecting to detect something far beyond it’s featureless black surface. There was a sense of depth to the solid black plane that she knew, subjectively, could not be there.
“Gives me the creeps,” Daw said.
To the right of the doorway, embedded into the stone, was the combination bank – three rows of ten numbers each, zero through nine. Em’lee could read the numbers, but she didn’t want Daw to know that she could do so. She was certain that she had already raised too many questions about herself in his mind.
He noticed her gaze. “Yeah. What’s that?” he gestured to the combination bank. “And how does it work? That is, when it does work?”
“Well,” she began slowly, uncertainly, “I seem to remember that you press one button in each column, then the portal turns all silver, then you step through. But you’re right,” she added, hastily, “this one doesn’t work. The portal isn’t supposed to be black. I think it’s very dead.”
Daw laid his pack on the floor at his feet. He scratched his head.
“What?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said slowly. “Maybe there’s something we can do to get it working again.”
“No!” she blurted, then regretted it.
“Why?” he asked. Then added, “I get the feeling that there’s something you’re not telling me.”
Em’lee bit her lower lip. His eyes were on her, and she knew he could read her expressions like, well, a book. She was almost sure, though, that he wouldn’t know a book if a whole library fell on his head.
“Okay,” she said. “It’s like this. If you somehow accidentally and miraculously got it working again, I can’t think of anything more dangerous that you could do.”
Daw then asked what she knew he was going to ask it even before he did. “Why?”
“Why!” she exclaimed. “Always ‘why.’ Can’t you just believe something when somebody tells you?”
“No,” he said flatly. “And neither can you. We’re lobos. We choose our own path, and Felker be damned.”
Em’lee gasped. It was a small, brief thing, but Daw caught it.
“You,” he said. “You’re no lobo.” He took a single step back and away from her, held his lantern up until its full light shone on her dirt-marred face. “Let me see the back of your neck.”
“No,” she said.
Daw laid his hand on the hilt of his sword.
“Turn around,” he commanded. His voice had a vehemence to it that brooked no argument.
She turned, facing away from him. A tear slipped down her cheek and her lips quivered. She knew that with a single word she could stop him in his tracks, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
“Please,” she said in a whisper. “Don’t hurt me.”
“Lift your hair away from the back of your neck.”
She did so. “Please. Don’t.”
Daw saw the star. The small five-pointed tattoo of The Magus. The Sign of Felker itself.
“You’re a mage,” he said.
She turned slowly around to face him. The sword was half-drawn from his belt.
“I – I couldn’t tell you.”
“No,” he said quietly. “I suppose not.”
“I could have stopped you,” she said. “I could have frozen you with the Hold-word. Then I could have either killed you or robbed you blind. Or both.”
Daw laughed. It was a chilling sound in the narrow space.
“Yes,” he said. “I know you think you could have. I’ll have to give you credit there. But, no, you couldn’t have.”
Her eyes widened. “And why not?”
He smiled. “Because,” he said. “I have a cypher. Everyone knows the Mages and Magic-users can’t cast spells when there is a cypher close by.”
“I don’t cast spells,” Em’lee corrected, but she didn’t offer any more.
Daw bent and picked up his pack. He opened a small pocket, removed the crystal and held it up. It glittered in his lantern light, casting a thousand small multi-colored fragments of light. The spots danced on their faces and on the walls of the cavern. They both turned to regard the teleportal. There were no spots of light there. It absorbed them.
“Wait a minute,” Em’lee said. “It’s not dead. I think…”
“I think it too.”
“It’s… nulled. Oh no.”
“Does that mean what I think it means?” Daw asked.
At that moment the darkness on the surface before them turned from pitch black to slate gray.
“Yes,” Em’lee said. “It’s in receive-only mode. We’re about to have company.”

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