APHELION: CHAPTER 13, Mall-evolent

In which Varrett’s shopping trip turns abys-mall.

Varrett sat his haunted ass down on one of Olof’s hard plastic chairs, folded one leg out over the other, and fell into fidget-hell, his foot bouncing and his fingers tapping out a rhythm against the knee he’d stuck out to the side.

Two Runners shared the station with him. One up at the desk, arguing with Olof about how it wasn’t his fault verge coils looked like fuel injectors (they didn’t), and one sitting a chair off on the left, a WreadSheet in his lap. Varrett’s eyes slid from one to the other. The first dude was Buzz (not his actual name, but, like, his Runner’s nick). The second one was plain old Dave, who’d been a nine-to-five accountant with a love for extreme sports at the side. Buzz had started out as a street racer.

Varrett’s fingers kept drumming.

Oh, he was fine.

Absolutely fine.

Peachy, really.

Wasn’t like he hated waiting and wasn’t like he had only one singular thought running itself ragged in his head.

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Aphelion: Chapter 12

We begin Episode 3: Any Other Way.

“We’re creatures of habit,” Ellen said, her tone a bit wry. “God forbid we don’t get lied to by a politician for too long or don’t have to pay rent. We’d go feral.” She motioned to the sofa. “Go on. Sit.”

Sophya manoeuvred through the miniature city, and when she sat, a cheese grater shaped tower had itself toppled by a large, stomping reptile kind of thing.

Dinosaurs, the Earthers called them. They were fascinating, in a way, what with how some looked eerily similar to Reaper Devils; a mystery about as thick as the one about how Earthers had known dragons as nothing but figments of their collective imagination.

“We even have bars.” Ellen leaned forward, her elbows on her knees. She was studying Sophya and Sophya, predictable, disliked that. “Restaurants, too, though you’re hard-pressed finding a big selection, a bit like our markets.”

What was she trying to do? Comfort her? Reassure her? Get to the point of everything is going to be alright, even though that’d be a horrible lie and she really had no one but herself to blame?

“There’s even theatre, if that’s your kind of thing, with nightly shows over in the first tower. They perform old Earther plays on even days and Aestling ones on odd days.”

・・・“Oh! Can we go? We must go.” SIN had stretched herself over the back of the sofa, her whiskers twitching and her paws kneading at the air. “There’s absolutely no way we are not going.”

Sophya winced.

“See,” Ellen continued, unaware of Sophya having herself peer-pressured, “Horizon’s Crown isn’t the end of the world. I like to think of it as end of world adjacent, if you will.”

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Aphelion: Chapter 9 – 11

We conclude Episode 2: Welcome to Horizon’s Crown.

At the tender age of fifteen-and-something Varrett had given in to peer-pressured curiosity and bought what he’d assumed to be a flake of dragon scale.

He’d squeaked his way through the purchase with the elegance of a freaked out teen, and then he’d carried the thin, red chip in its tiny tin for weeks before he’d finally worked up enough rebellious courage to lock himself into his room onboard the Dream of Neverland. She’d been moored at an orbital island above Yaer’Ard right then, her navigation and communications systems in pieces after a rough ride through the Well. Repairs had been slow. Money tight. And he’d been too young to care about any of it.

He’d dimmed his room’s lights to the point of them being useless, had laid back on his bunk, and plopped the flake on the tip of his tongue. Then he’d waited. And waited. And waited, the Neverland quietly cycling through her routines beyond the cabin bulkheads.

Dragon flakes were meant to crack your eyes open, to let you see through those mortal trappings blinding you so you could spy on people’s souls. Including your very own. That’s what it said on the tin, anyway. Literally.

Well. That’d been a load of bull, hadn’t it?

When the dragon scale had finally hit him (hard), it’d been shit. He’d hallucinated for hours, had seen the Neverland’s walls turn liquid and threaten to drown him, and watched in helpless horror as squirming tendrils made from molten iron had tried to squeeze the life out of him.

But it’d all just been in his head. The hallucinations had sat on the surface, a trip hardly any worse than his first horror VR flick experience, with the exception that he hadn’t been able to unplug. Fucked up as the shit he’d seen had been, he’d known it hadn’t been real, even if it had done its very best pretending.

This? This shit right now?

It was worse. Oh, it was so much worse.

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Aphelion Lore: The Ein and their Einlings

Today, I would like to bring you some Aphelion creature lore! In particular, I’d like to introduce the Ein and their Einlings, a Reaper sub-species that inhabits Aphelion’s verse.

Check them out here or have a look over on Campfire Explore.

Art by the always amazing and gifted @nikoschrissis.

Ein are creatures the size of a donkey.

They are slow and sluggish and will mind their own business as they wander, almost as if the world around them isn’t of any consequence, to the point where there’s a good chance you’ll see one walking into a wall – only to do it again, hoping the wall had moved.

And that is how they spend their lives. Passive. Quiet. Noses to the ground, grazing.

And a back full of Einlings.

They host up to twenty of those small, exceptionally active and playful creatures and carry them to wherever they need to be. Which, usually, means buildings. The small Einlings fit perfectly into the inner workings of structures both old and new alike, where they repair anything from wiring to more complex machinery. To achieve that task they often hoard wire and scrap to bring back to their Ein for keeping and to reuse later. Which often ends with their Ein covered in wires and electric scrap braided into its fur like makeshift armour.

Incidentally, Einlings are also known as mischievous thieves, picking up anything small that isn’t nailed down and even remotely useful (or just shiny enough).

Einlings do not fare well without their Ein and their flock. While it is possible to keep them separate, an Einling without its group is always at risk of falling into inertia.

Ein and Einglings are relatively common in the settled systems, even beyond Trero’s reach. A hatchery exists somewhere within reach and dragons will deliver new flocks on occasion.

Art by the always amazing and gifted @nikoschrissis.

Appearance

Ein look like a wide-backed cross between a donkey and a sheep. They have floppy ears, stubby tails, and cloven hooves. A coat of long, curled wool covers them from head to hoof and a layer of feathers spreads across their back.

Unfortunately, the wool can grow so unruly it often covers their eyes. Fortunately, they have their Einlings to pull the wool back or trim it.

Einlings, on the other hand, come in all manners of variations, though here’s what they all have in common: They’re small. Lithe. Have bodies that resemble squirrels or ferrets, and nimble, three-fingered hands with opposable thumbs. Some have wings allowing them short flight and others strong tails that grow out a meter long (which is a few times the actual Einling’s size). And then there are those that have very large, wide ears and those that have antlers – and some that have all of the above combined.

Their bodies are covered in short, soft fur coming in browns and blacks and whites and some have feathers. But not all.

Einlings also have a peculiar set of teeth: Half their mouth is equipped with small, sharp teeth and the back where there might be molars are instead flat, sharp cutters they use to cut through wires.

Art by the always amazing and gifted @nikoschrissis.

Symbolism

Einlings represent childish joy. Their likeness is often turned into good luck charms and frequently adorn children’s bedrooms.

In turn, Ein are often associated with parenting and providing. Orphanages tend to feature them in one way or the other.

Art by the always amazing and gifted @nikoschrissis.
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APHELION: CHAPTER 8

I am way too excited about those two dorks meeting.

A man barged in.

While the door had slid open with a quiet hiss, the man who stalked through had a look about him that said he’d have rather thrown it open. With a bang.

He was tall, had wide shoulders and long legs, and came dressed in streetwear thrown together from high-top sneakers, jeans, and a white linen shirt. Nothing on him wasn’t in one way or the other crumpled, from the bunched up folds on his jeans to the scrunched up bandana sitting snug against the sides of his head. Black hair grew in a thick bushel down the middle of his skull and was only partially kept in check by the turquoise bandana. The rest was in wild disarray and did its best to cover up the implant extension sitting above his right brow; the sort you got when you didn’t want more wires and chips crammed into your brainpan. It was arranged in three small triangles fitted against each other in a neat row.

Sophya noticed all of that because the man stared at her with an intensity that convinced her she’d suddenly gotten smaller. A lot smaller.

Fear ballooned in her chest.

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