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.”

Read Aphelion on Ao3
Explore Aphelion on Campfire

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.

Read Aphelion on Ao3
Explore Aphelion on Campfire

APHELION: CHAPTER 7 (2)

Of panic attacks and sorely needed naps, part 2.

Varrett woke to a tap of pressure against his stomach. Or, rather, a series of them. He nudged the headband up onto his forehead, cracked his eyes open, and watched Collin lob another balled up piece of paper across the room. It landed on Varrett’s midsection, bounced, and rolled to the floor. A pile of about a dozen more were scattered on the carpet.

“You were out,” Collin said as he scooted from one end of the room to the other, propelling himself forward with one foot while kneeling on his rolling chair. He upended a tray of surgical tools into a bucket, spun around, and kept scooting.

“Yep. I had a day, okay? This man earned a nap.”

“Hey, I don’t mind you chilling on my couch, but I got this feeling that’s not why you’re here? And you know I get a lot of feelings, so what can Col do for you?”

“I need de-dusting,” Varrett said, bribing his ass vertical (You’ll get a proper bed in your new future, promise).

“Hooo—” Collin spun his chair one more time before finally holding still and fixing Varrett with a genuinely curious look. The way he leaned on the chair with one knee and bent slightly sideways made him look even wirier than he actually was. “You got Pixie Dust up your ware? How? Watchu do?”

“Ehh, long story. Something-something don’t jack into a NetCaster.”

Collin cleared his throat. “That’s a very dumb thing to do. But, whatever. Come. Sit.”

Read Aphelion on Ao3
Explore Aphelion on Campfire

Thank you for reading. You still rock :3

APHELION: CHAPTER 7 (1)

We return for Episode 2: Welcome to Horizon’s Crown, in which we find out just what Sophya has gotten herself into and what has gotten into Varrett. Or at least we get an idea.

Once reasonably dressed and armed with a snack, Varrett left Mom with the Caster and went to get his ware un-dusted. The snack? A protein bar out of a box he’d looted an entire week ago, which supposedly came in all sorts of punchy flavours. Chocolate. Nuts. Assorted fruit and berries. Broken hopes and crushed dreams, etc. This one had come in a blue wrap with blue bubbles printed on and so he’d wagered blueberry (or one of the countless intergalactic variations of it anyway). But what he’d ended up with after scarfing down half had been 99% cardboard and 1% idea of blue, if blue had indeed been assigned a flavour.

Bleh.

He choked down another bite. His stomach roiled. Some of that was hunger and lingering exhaustion. The rest was a queasy unease over how the daemon was getting its grubby code all over his ware. But he’d cope. He had it figured out. Really. Collin would fix the daemon and then— right after getting scrubbed —he’d get a proper meal and crawl into bed. Or crawl into bed with a proper meal. Either way, he couldn’t fucking wait.

Walking a bit faster, Varrett circled halfway around Sixty before turning sharply into a wide stairwell.

・・・ “Elaya’s delicate little toes be blessed, that’s pretty,” the daemon exclaimed, right as Varrett got swallowed up by the stairwell’s colourful decoration.

He grunted, his eyes flicking left and right.

Children’s drawings crowded the stairwell’s base. There were dogs. Cats. Einlings. Dragons. Stick-figure people and stick-figure robots, and all the other what-have-yous that occupied a child’s imagination, all applied using lots of crayons or sloppy furniture paint with a too wide brush. Bleeding from the children’s art, like an innocent dream swelling into a neon haze steeped in pent up emotion, was a wealth of psychedelic graffiti. More of the same swept down the steps.

Surprising no one, the Distribution assigned janitors had once been at war with this particular stairwell. But its artists had been relentless and the art had kept coming back. By now, the spectacle followed Varrett all the way down to the next floor, exploding outwards to contrast the otherwise fifty-nine shades of professional desperation.

It was neat, alright? Which made the daemon’s comment more unsettling.

Why bother giving the thing taste?

He left the colours (and musings about code with artistic preferences) behind and followed the hall wrapping around the central courtyard into a crowded Fifty-Nine. Down here, restaurants, overpriced shops, and tacky bars had been gutted to make room for everything one might need if one was trapped on three floors of shared misery. But that didn’t make it a bad walk, all things considered.

Even with the daemon falling in step with him, its naked feet padding over the dirty floor.

Read Aphelion on Ao3
Explore Aphelion on Campfire

Thank you for reading, you rock.

Worldbuilding: The Ward

An image of a sphere suspended in a circle by a set of chains.

Vigilance. Protection. Servitude. 

Between the Dawnfall and the Calamity, Trero’s population was left in shambles. 

Civil wars. Warlords. The culling of Sare. A constant fear of another Reaping. And, of course, the dread of the Rain of Fire ending everyone and everything. It wasn’t until a group of nobles and their knights decided to band together and turn the tide against the despair sweeping the lands, that Trero finally saw hope again. 

The (since then fallen) houses of vil Faer and vil Carne are credited to have been at the heart of the Ward’s creation. They’ve designed its crest and coloured its banners and wrote down its first charters. 

The Ward was formed for three reasons:

  • Regain control of the lands after the second recorded Reaping (the Calamity)
  • Prevent the next Reaping and find a way to stop the Rain of Fire
  • Turn the world away from culling the Sare and, instead, control them and put them to work. 

The colours

All of the Ward’s heraldry is designed around their sigil as well as three colours. 

Rich Red: Protection
Vivid Green: Vigilance
Gentle Ocher: Servitude 

If you ask Trindram (or any Sare, really), oppression and terror never received any colours, but remain a part of their creed. 

Organization and Governance

The Ward is an independent group of marshalls spread across every corner of Trero. Their word is law and they bow to no one. Not kings, nobles, or even the once in a while odd wanna-be emperor. 

Divided into chapters, each group has either a specific purpose or is assigned to a particular region. 

Such as:

Knights to the 1st chapter. Designated as the overseeing body of the entire Ward, including the prosecution of their own members who violate their laws.
Knights to the 2nd. Dedicated to preventing Reapings and the prophesized Rain of Fire
Knights to the 9th. The Range’s chapter in the north.

Ranks and how to tell them apart

The Ward has a relatively flat rank structure, beginning with its council made from envoys of each chapter and moving through knight captains, knights, and eventually ending with the Sare under their thumb. Every six years, a steward is elected from the currently acting envoys to take on a governing role.

  • Envoys and stewards wear two-shouldered, short capes. The colour and embroidery vary based on their chapters. Often, if the chapter belongs to a region, it will include the envoy’s home sigil. 
  • Knight Captains, the highest military rank, wear a short, single-shouldered red cape on their left. This is meant to represent their role as protectors and guardians of all. 
  • Knights, the most common rank, wear the same, except in green, representing the Ward’s constant vigilance.
  • Sare pressed into their service receive a simple, ocher cape which they wear on their right shoulder. Sare with a specific talent, such as Medica, are further identified with their designated colour stitched on the shoulder cape.

Worldbuilding: Reapers, Part 2

Image source: Unsplash 

Devils

Today, we’ll muse about another subclass of Trero’s Reapers. The Devils. 

They are what sin created and Hell is where they’re from. It’s said that sinners and the unworthy are cast off to spend eternity with them – never to walk the Trails or have their feet touch Trero’s ground again.

Types

Devils come in a few different types. There’s Reavers. Harpies. Seadevils. Hounds. And Vek.

Reavers

When you mention Devils, the first thing that comes to mind are the Reavers. To the point where Devil and Reaver can be used interchangeably, which distresses scholars something fierce.
But there’s a good reason for that. Reavers are, undoubtedly, the most dangerous of the lot. They’re cunning. Relentless. And Reaping or not, they’ll prey on people with an enthusiasm that makes it look like they’re hunting them for sport.

Appearance

They resemble wingless, bipedal dragons, with long necks and an even longer tail to keep their balance. Feathered in mostly green and brown, they can vanish into foliage quite effectively, though not like they have to. Not with their long arms ending in claws so sharp they can slice cleanly through steel and teeth strong enough to do the same.

Behaviour

Reavers live and hunt in packs, though never in groups larger than six. They have an incredible vocal range, allowing them almost flawless vocal mimicry, which some have honed to the point of being able to fake human language. In particular because they seem to have made it their past time to hunt people for sport. Even when there’s no Reaping happening.

And they are, without contest, credited the most kills during Reapings, tearing mercilessly through villages and cities. Its what earned them the name Reaver.

Symbolizm

Fighters and gladiators often associate themselves with Reavers and like to decorate themselves in their feathers and carry marks inspired by their likeness. Aside of that, Reaver-like images are reserved to represent Devils and the consequences of a sinful life.

Harpies (Airdevils) & Seadevils

These devils are less likely to actively search out humans to hunt but are incredibly territorial. While Harpies are winged creatures of bizarre humanoid shape, Seadevils come in different shapes and sizes altogether. Some are gigantic, large enough to rival the biggest of dragons, while others are no bigger than dogs. As their name suggests, Seadevils live in Trero’s oceans, rarely moving up large rivers into the mainland. They may come looking like a twisted fish, or equipped with long, thick tentacles. Either way, they’ll attack and sink anything or anyone daring enough to sail too far out.

Symbolizm

Harpies are often associated with being unclean. Seadevils are favoured as marks for port cities as symbols of endurance.

(Sare) hounds

Sare Hounds are a very particular sort of Reaper altogether. For one, they are domesticated. Ever since the Ward has come to power, they’ve been snatching the Hounds up right after dragons bring them from Hell – which is when they are no more than small pups.

Oh, and they’re blind.

Appearance

As the name suggests, Sare Hounds look like… hounds. Large, lithe, with narrow chests and strong legs made for long distance running. They have thick, leathery skin and are mostly bald, aside of some feathering running over their head, neck, spine, and down along their long tail where they often come together in a wide plume.

Their most startling feature are their eyes. Which is to say their blind eyes. They have no pupils, rather their eyes look like thick, dark purple orbs set deep into their sockets, their surface sprinkled with gold and silver dust.

Some liken their eyes and the patterns of dust in them with the Trails. Even going as far as to say that they’ve stared at the Trails longingly for so long, they caught motes of their light in them, forever blinding them.

Behaviour

Wild Hounds roam in pairs. No one knows how those pairs form – except that one day two lonely hounds will meet and then never again part. They hunt together. Sleep in a pile. And wander and wander and wander, never staying in one place for very long.

Their meals mostly consist of regular prey animals, which, they locate with uncanny precision, though they’ll hunt people just as effectively if the opportunity arises.

It was their incredible skill at tracking – especially tracking Sare – that made the Ward begin domesticating them, training them for one purpose and one purpose alone: Recognise, find, and track Sare. Hence, Sare Hound. A task they are uniquely qualified for, as they see the world by scenting the Hem around them, picking up on every soul and imprint that flits through it. From the vivid, rich soul of a Sare, all the way down to the smallest grain of sand.

Symbolizm

Trackers and hunters like wearing marks inspired by Sare Hounds, though mostly it’ll be Ward chapters that fly banners or bear sigils that resemble their hounds.

Vek

These large, feline creatures get an honourable mention, because they aren’t exactly Reapers. Not any more, anyway. Because unlike every other Reaper out there, Vek don’t rely on dragons to carry them down from Hell. No. They have, somehow, managed to break that reliance and developed the ability to reproduce.

Now they live in family groups, mate, have kittens, and die of old age just as if they were any other normal animal.

Appearance

Vek (sometimes referred to as Sapvek) are large, feline oddities covered in short, silken fur and a plume of feathers along their spine and down their long tail. And where the feathers and the fur meet, they have a stripe of bared skin that glows an eerie blue at night and often webs out along their body like the fingers of a lightning strike.

That blue glow comes from them licking the sap of Trero’s lantern trees – the most common trees spread across the land. And the home of Vek families, who live far up in their branches from where they hunt creatures both small and large.