PicnicAnts t1_jcdnlrv wrote

The bag was ripped mercilessly off her head and she blinked in the sudden light. Four men stood in the room while a fifth, lounging in an armchair in the back corner of the room seemed to sit up and pay intense attention to her. “I’m not whoever you think I am.” She managed dryly as soon as the gag was removed.


PicnicAnts t1_ja8c3sh wrote

It was in a sealed envelope.

Benji had known the end was coming and he had written each person a letter in that final week in the hospital. Some envelopes were thick, full to bursting with wadded paper, and other envelopes were thin, like Mike’s.

“I inherited this from my uncle.” He wrote. “Pyrokinesis is no joke. Don’t muck about with it, and DON’T TELL ANYONE. My uncle was killed for it, I was killed for it, you will be killed for it. I think if anyone stands a chance, it’s you Mike. You have the best poker face - use that.”

Mike paled thinking about the candles at Benji’s funeral, how the last match had gone out before he could light his candle and he had relit it with only a thought. Had anyone seen?

“Tips;” the letter continued. “Trust no one. I mean no one Mike. Burn this letter, in private, use matches, they will be watching everyone I touched or hugged goodbye before I died.

They want you for nothing good, don’t go thinking they’re looking for you to put out forest fires. They think pyrokinesis could be a gateway to other kinesis.

They will dig me up and dissect my brain like they did my uncle, so don’t be surprised to hear I am missing, but for the love of god act surprised.

This is not an emotional power, but emotion can and will rule your desire to use it. It can happen in the blink of an eye, a wandering thought about a weekend bonfire can bring a bonfire up right in front of you. If you’ve just done that, think about rain and it going right out. It goes both ways.

To hone this gift, You need to learn the difference between thinking about fire and summoning fire, they will pretty much be one and the same when you start out. You are so logical, I hope this is easier for you than it was for me. The learning is where they catch you. Mistakes are so easy at the start. Please be careful Mike.

P.s. don’t run. That’s how they caught Emily.”

Emily? Mike looked around. He was hurt. Benji had never mentioned anyone called Emily before, had he? Not only that, but his letter was so abrupt. Here, have this curse that killed me, goodluck bud! Not so much as a mention of their lifelong friendship, not so much as a farewell our friendship has mattered and I want the best for you… no, just this curse and a few vague tips about controlling it. Why had he never mentioned any of this? Had Benji not trusted him either? He scanned the letter again hoping the words were a joke or would change, but it looked serious.

He screwed the paper up into a ball angrily and went and flushed it down the toilet instead. If they, whoever they were, wanted the letter, they were going to have to wade through rivers of shit to get it.

Well, Benji might have run from the fight, but that wasn’t Mike’s style. Let them come when they would. He’d burn them all down, if he really had such power. He picked up his keys and grabbed his swim bag. He was 10minutes late thanks to that crummy letter and he had a feeling practicing the difference between imagined fire and summoned fire would be much more subtle under water anyway.


PicnicAnts t1_ja7etoo wrote

“You could trade the princess for your mother?” Elia suggested.

She was just a little too still for Garret’s liking. He shook his head slowly.

“Um… I don’t really believe in, y’know, owning or trading people?” He guessed. He hated how his nerves slipped into his voice, but this seemed to sate the dragon girl even if only momentarily and she leaned back, using her tail like an impromptu stool.

“Two guards escorted me here and put me in a rowboat. I didn’t really expect to survive getting into the castle, from the shore you can’t even see a way in.” His voice was calm and resigned now.

Elia seemed more curious than angry now.

“We’ll now that you’re here and you’ve found me, what do you suggest?” She asked.

Garret shrugged. He hadn’t given this part any thought at all. His shrug seemed to annoy her though, and her forked tongue flicked out into the air while her eyes narrowed.

“I could tell the king the princess is long gone but the dragon lingers, sleeping?” He suggested quickly.

“A lie.” She hissed, “the title passed to me.”

“Well what do you suggest?” He asked, sounding braver than he felt.

“I could eat you, as I did the others.” She suggested, her gaze unwavering.

“The others were greedy.” Garret rushed, a guess at best.

“That’s true. They deserved what came. You are just unfortunate.” She said.

She stood and paced around her gold pile, using her tail to brush the coins back toward the centre of it.

“What is your name?” She asked.

“Garret.” He managed. He pulled off his coat and wiped the sweat from his brow. “The problem I have, Garret, is that while you do not deserve to die, I cannot let you go. There is nothing you could say to sate the curiosity of the mortals. They would come in droves if they knew one survived it.”

“I could say-“ Garret interrupted, a sharp look from Elia silencing him momentarily. “I could say nothing, sneak ashore and run far, far away and never speak of it.”

“You could.” Elia agreed, finishing sweeping up her coins, “But the other problem I have here Garret is that one can only eat so much fish, and it has been quite some time since a human ventured here.”

“It does not sound like a pleasant life.” Garret said, unsure where he had even begun to form that thought. He lurched from sentence to sentence, each one so far a desperate bid for his life. That gave Elia pause.

“And lonely.” Garret added, his mouth dry.

“What other life is there?” Elia asked.

Garret quickly dismissed the idea of bargaining with meat. He could promise to bring her cattle and sheep and chickens, it would never be enough.

“We could kill the king.” He offered. “You could claim his vaults for your home?”

“And you would rule?” Elia snorted.

Garret shook his head. “I don’t care who rules. I just want to live.”

Elia snorted again. “Of course you do.” She said condescendingly. “You want to live your tiny eighty year life.”

“I do.” He said.

“I supposed you want your mother and sister to live too?” She asked.

“That… would be nice.”

“No promises.” The dragon smiled.

Somehow, this was the most terrifying thing she had done so far. “So.” She said. “What must we do to kill the king?”


PicnicAnts t1_ja7eq0v wrote

Garret’s pride died on his lips as he burst through the tower door. He had expected a petite creature, blonde silken hair and sky blue eyes. ‘I have come!’ He planned to say, ‘the dragon is slain!’

But the cobwebs and thick dust stopped him. Had anyone ever lived here? He cast his mind back through the great halls and winding corridors he had traversed to get here. Was he in the right place?

He quickly paced over to the window and threw it open, leaning out in an attempt to get his bearings. This was definitely the largest of the three towers, the others were so small he doubted they would make for comfortable quarters. Still, the instructions were very clear. A blonde haired blue eyed princess named Avera, locked in the ‘highest’ tower of Seaworth Castle. An ancient, crumbling ruin perched on sea stone, surrounded by treacherous and ever changing ocean, corals and stones. Just getting into the castle was a feat all it’s own.

Garret scanned the edges of the water for signs of a tower that might have been reclaimed by the ocean but could see nothing. He pulled back into the room and scanned it. A bed, desk, small privacy, a stove fireplace with water purification system neatly sat on top. He opened the closet and found dressed, he searched the desk and found papers, ink, quills and jewellery. Beneath the bed a pair of satin slippers. This definitely seemed like it should be the right place.

There was nothing for it but to begin searching the castle room by room. He crept back down the creaking stairs. He hadn’t found the promised guardian dragon yet and he was hoping not to. With any luck, the beast was sleeping in his hoards of gold in the main hall and he would stay that way.

And he was in luck, because if there was a dragon, he had not woken it. Yet now with every single room searched, Garret knew he was going to have to peak in at the creature because he had not found a single sign of the Princess Avera.

He gazed around in hope of a sign - any sign - of life elsewhere in the castle. There were tracks in the dust through all the main passages of the castle and in a handful of rooms, but none of the beds were used and the prints were a similar size to his own, other knights and lords searching the castle for the princess.

He stayed himself at the door and decided to just quickly check the tide first. If it was still out they would have time to escape, if not he would need to camp out somewhere safe, quietly until the tide went back out before risking waking a dragon. If anything, it had receded further than he thought it could.

The door, mercifully, did not creak. The room was surprisingly well lit, with huge windows running down either side of massive doors Garret imagined were to let the dragon in and out. But this room too was covered in dust, untouched. The pile of gold at the centre of the hall was certainly not large enough to hide a dragon, and he didn’t know of any dragon that left his gold unattended and dirty. He sighed heavily. So that was that, then, the castle was empty. A wild goose chase meant to keep greedy young lords busy. How many had died simply trying to get into or out of the castle?

He walked toward the pile and picked up a single piece of gold, examining it. It certainly was real gold. How many had come before him and left with full pockets, only to lose it to the ocean? He tossed it back on the pile and sat down, head in his hands. He would wait until the tide went back out in a day or two to attempt his journey home, and in the meantime would utilise what little fishing gear he had discovered searching the castle to feed himself.

Something did nag at him though. If there was never a princess or a dragon, why go to the trouble of leaving personal items in a singular tower? Why leave a small pile of gold for would be heros? Why had none returned to speak of it?

He got up and went to the window by the great wooden door and gazed out of it. A stone landing, and then nothing but ocean. He tried to push the door open, but it was too heavy for him alone. He contemplated sitting again to think about this all more earnestly, but even with no sign of a dragon anywhere he didn’t much feel like sitting on a pile of once dragon gold.

The wooden ceiling above him creaked with age. He gazed up, finding quickly something gazing back through a gap in the slats there. He gasped and his hand went to the hilt of his blade, but it was all he had time to do before the creature was on him.

How had she reached him so quickly?

She pressed him against the thick wooden door with giant, human like hands that ended in the brutal claws of a dragon. Scales rippled over her jaw, shoulders, hips and knees. She stood like a human, with huge wings flaring from her back. She stood tall as a house, her tail whipping like that of an annoyed cat behind her. She snarled at him with sharp, pointed teeth, uncanny in a human face. Her blue eyes looked furious.

“P… Princess?” He managed to gasp.

She dropped him.

“Another one then.” She hissed. Her tongue was forked.

He coughed and scrambled to his feet. She was so eerily beautiful, something between human and dragon, he felt compelled to be near her.

“Sorry uh… the king… sent me?”

The dragon girl did not look impressed.

“I don’t want your gold, if that matters…” he trailed off.

She still did not seem impressed, but her tail settled into something of a more gentle sway than the casual whipping.

Garret decided to forge ahead. She may have been beautiful, but his skin crawled all the same. She was at the very least still part beast, and powerful at that.

“My mother was sick.” He said in a rush, “and she went to the king and he saved her on account of he wanted to have my sister for his harem, my mother didn’t agree but my sister did and in any case that meant they were both saved only the king didn’t let my mother go on account of, uh…” Garret stumbled over his words as the dragon’s steely blue eyes watched him, unblinking, “ on account of that giving him a certain amount of leverage, and, uh…”

“So he used your mother to convince you to come get the princess.” The dragon stated.

“Yes, uh… Are you Avera?”

The dragon snorted. “Her daughter, Elia.”

“Nice to meet… you?” Garret ventured.

“I wish I could say the same.” Elia said, her tail whipping again.

“Sorry, did I do something? I uh, I put the gold coin back.”

“Yes I saw.” Elia said coldly. “Finish telling your story.”

“Well he just said he would kill my mother if I didn’t come here.” Garret finished with a hapless shrug. “I didn’t really have much of a plan.”


PicnicAnts t1_j9m9rfd wrote

If anything, the discovery of what their marks meant had made humanity bold.

A dig in Greece, of all places, had turned up the equivalent of a second Rosetta Stone, allowing for translation of an ancient long forgotten language and thus, the marks every human now bore on their arms.

After the rapture, humanity had basically just milled around in small towns, abandoning the larger cities in search of more manageable resources. Keeping the power on for a small town was easier than figuring out city grids and those towns usually had nearby water, the land required for growing food and wildlife to hunt.

But now, almost 300 years later, with a substantially larger population, they were returning to the cities in droves. Those that had stayed in the cities - in hospitals, hardware stores and the like - were not altogether welcoming, but a shared goal as big as this was enough to convince them to let others in. Especially when the others brought fresh livestock like cattle, chickens and sheep.

The ambition now was to record history and to create it. The long obsolete space programs were re-ignited and globally, every country began to organise armies.

There had been a lazy peace, with 4/5ths of the population gone. More than enough resources for those who survived. Each community largely policing itself without the rules that had previously prevented them from say, killing a rapist or pedophile. Life was safer in a number of ways. Although getting hurt badly was effectively a death sentence without the infrastructure to support a full medical staff. Passionate people pursued their passions undisturbed. Progress ground to a standstill and education was just maintained. The most valued skills now were practical over intellectual.

However now humanity knew they weren’t alone. They understood at least some of the language of the creatures that had done this to them. And the thought that there was no point in killing them had rallied them back into their previously held notions that they were powerful. In control. Indestructible. They were angry for their ancestors. For the lives they might have been able to live. But mostly, humanity was indignant. Who exactly thought they could harvest HUMANS? And just walk away like it was nothing?

The space race was on, and not just by way of shuttles. Humanity collaborated and bickered and toiled. They referenced old sci fi shows for inspiration. What they had lost they clawed back, and the world surged back into an era of progress. They stayed QUIET. They studied, they learnt, they bred. The untied globally, and agreed against war. They had just one battle in mind. One really big battle.

For the next five hundred years humanity refused to leave its own galaxy. Even when they were entirely capable of it. Even when their weapons could obliterate everything in its path, even when their shields could block everything, or contain nuclear blasts. Even when every scouting mission came back safe. Even when every indication was that they were ready, humanity toiled for more.

They had lived for thousands of years without anything like this, so they felt they should have thousands of years more. But the thought these god like aliens could return any time drove them. They would not be satisfied until they were their own gods. Until they could find them with their scouts and go undetected. Until they could learn their weaknesses fully.

They would not be satisfied until they could send a message back to the aliens in their own language. We are coming.