Tag Archives: fantasy

Sand Pits

There was a time in Lotharia, you weren’t nothin’ lest ye had a sea gem. Sea gems was as blue as the sky, maybe bluer, and as beautiful as the stars. Everybody called ’em sea gems, though, on account of they shade of blue being way darker than the washed out sky above ole Lotharia. Some say a merchant from the coast is the one brought ’em here and that’s how they got the name, but people who say that’re dumber ‘n rocks ’cause everybody knows that them stones came outta the Sand Pits just south of the city. Course, some people don’t like to talk about it no more.

See, the area south o’ the city is dryer than a basilisk’s belly and just as rough. Hot as fire, too! Somehow, though, somebody figured out that buried in that dry cracked earth there was sea gems. Only problem was the conditions was so bad, ain’t nobody wanted to go mine ’em. Then somebody got the bright idea that they could make people dig ’em up. Course, Lotharia is civilized folk – nobody wanted to force that kind o’ work on nobody it ain’t fit for. So then somebody asked, ‘Well what ’bout prisoners?’

After a lot o’ talkin’, it was decided that people who had committed the worst o’ the worst kind o’ crimes would get sentenced there. The kind we should just kill off, probably, but sometimes people just don’t feel good about doin’ that sort of thing. Anyway, that was ages ago.

While all them paper pushers got the project started, some other guy went about figurin’ out the best way to get the rocks out. He ultimately figured to dig a giant pit that stepped down in levels, with tunnels branchin’ off each one. At the very bottom, they built a place for the prisoners te live – if you could call it livin’. Into the side o’ the pit, they built the ole Overseer’s house. This smart guy that figured out about the pit, he also figured out how to keep them prisoners in check. This was prolly a good idea since it was going to be the baddest of ’em all trapped in one place.

Then an Overseer was hired, the prisoners was brought in, and the people o’ Lotharia got they sea gems. Became a real hot trade item an’ the city got real fancy after that! Only problem was the people stopped carin’ ’bout the pit they came out of.

Once the minin’ op started, a big ole cloud of dust rose up in that pit. The city people didn’t care because that just meant they di’n’t have to see in and whoever was in there – well, they deserved it. But the people inside the pit? They couldn’t see out. That smart man figured out the pit must’ve also figured there’d be dust, ’cause he’d made some special lights you could see through it all.

A few years later, it was all outta sight, outta mind. People didn’t notice that the people goin’ into the pits weren’t comin’ out and I guess they didn’t think to care. Prisoners, though… they started prayin’ for death before gettin’ sentenced to the Sand Pits. Lawyers started makin’ even prettier pennies off it all, too. This put the Overseer in a bind, though, on account o’ he started runnin’ out of prisoners to run operations. But the people? They still wanted their gems. Guess the city officials turned a blind eye when the Overseer started buyin’ people off the slave caravans that started runnin’ through. Real shady business, that.

Slavery ain’t legal in Lotharia. They got a lot o’ laws there protectin’ people and makin’ sure the right thing gets done. Guess that’s why people just assumed that things was still a-okay down in the Pits. Long as they had them pretty stones, they was happy. Went on a long time, that did.

Some folk say the sea gems, they got darker on account of all the blood it took gettin’ ’em out.

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A Conversation over Rice and Rat

It’s amazing how much war can change a person. When this all started, he’d been tremendously unsure of himself. Even just the sight of blood had made him squeamish! Now he was up to his elbows in the stuff. Of course, Jackson still seemed miraculously the same… but he knew that’s how Jackson wanted it. If you don’t talk much, it’s pretty easy to seem no different. Olivia had become even more a pillar of strength. She seemed strong even when the bards weren’t singing their encouragements nearby – it amazed him. The soldiers around them either seemed tougher and hardened, or looked like a bridge that was about to give under the weight at its center. It didn’t take him long to realize something needed done about this.

He felt foolish after approaching Jackson about it – his response was that war did a good job of sorting the strong from the weak. Essentially, he didn’t care and just saw it as the natural course of things. Olivia humored him, at least. “What would you do for them, then?” she asked.

“I don’t know.. but we have to do something,” he responded, knowing that sending them back to the battle would be sending them to their death; or they’d desert, which was only delaying their death until they were caught and executed for treason.

Olivia sighed, staring at him pensively. He could almost see the gears working behind her tired eyes. She needed sleep, but she’d probably bite his hand if he told her such.

She posed another question, “Have you tried talking to them? Asking why they’re in such a state?”

“Of course! They’re terrified! Not everyone is suited to staring down a sword.”

She looked agitated. That’s not the response she was looking for, “Of course they’re scared. We’re all scared, whether we admit to it or not.” She shot a cautious glance toward Jackson, who was a fair way off but no one was truly sure how far those long ears could pick up sound. Seeing that Jackson seemed oblivious to her previous comment, she continued, “But some can be brave if they have something to fight for. These men aren’t here because they want to be – we volunteered, they’re here on orders. Whatever cause the King is fighting for, most of them could care less. Some take comfort that their death will feed their family for a long time to come, others want glory. Pipkin over there,” she nodded to a boy with reddish brown curly locks sitting by the fire, “he’s got nothing to go back to. If he dies on the field, he takes comfort that it won’t be a slow death in the grip of hunger.”

Olivia shoveled a spoonful of brothy rice and rat into her mouth, eyeing him as she let the information sink in.

“So I just need to give them something to make their sacrifice worth it? Why can’t we just find someone to give them more training? Better training! They need confidence, not consolation,” he argued.

“Tr’ning takesth time, moneh, und fud,” she explained around her mouthful of food. Ladylike was certainly not a quality Olivia prioritized. She continued after swallowing, “Those are three things we’re fresh out of. Give them something to live for. If you can’t do that, give them something to die for. Find out why they’re so afraid of death, then give them something to believe in that’s greater than their fear.”

He pondered this for a while. Olivia took the opportunity to scrape was was left in the bowl into her mouth, then stood to excuse herself – she still had to report to the captain before the sun set. He nodded, and thanked her for the advice. She smiled and they clasped forearms. As they did, he placed a hand on her shoulder. “Take care of yourself,” he said.

She gave him a chiding look, “You know you’re supposed to save that magic for people who are actually wounded…”

“What?” He drew his arms back into a stretch. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. You know, you look tired.. should really get some sleep. Take that as an order, Sergeant – a doctor’s order! Now, get going – I have injured people to tend to!” He made shewing motions with his hands.

She turned to go, leaving those chiding eyes on him a few extra moments to drive home her point. He turned his body back to the sick tent and his mind back to finding something that could combat the fear of a painful death.

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Creative Something #8 (based on a dream)

The Captain exited the former library by way of the upstairs balcony, surveying the destruction of a horizon that was now blanketed in the darkness of night. Light poured from the building behind her, creating a soft glow around it that served as a barrier against the creatures that lurked beyond its protection. She always felt a sleeping dread that their power systems would somehow fail, that she would fail, and their camp would fall into the darkness as so many others had; that her people would be ravaged and shredded by its demons. But it was a fear she had to keep to herself, particularly now. They had a visitor.

In her heart, the Captain knew that not all visitors were bad. Some simply had managed to survive and needed a place of refuge. However, others were daring infiltrators from other camps who came to scout out supplies they may be able to steal. Some had no interest in joining their clan, but rather overtaking the location for their own group – some people didn’t like sharing, though there was likely room enough for all. Still others had been driven mad by the darkness, and those were the most dangerous.

People who had been lost too long out there, thinking they could survive in a world that was no longer their own, no longer the world they’d once known, they became confused. The fear gets to you, after a while – the fight that keeps you alive takes over. Some could be saved from this trauma, if given the right treatment, but most were too dangerous and a threat to her people. The Captain and her crew had enforced strict policy against people Wanderers, as they called them. She was convinced, as most were, that these rules were what had kept them alive.

She could already see the man as she descended from the balcony, the steps rising to meet her boot-clad feet, those platforms she’d already utilized swinging from back to front, descending with her as she continued. If she’d stopped, they’d stop as well and hold her suspended in mid air. It was a simple magic, but quite useful. The stranger appeared to be wearing a modified Navy uniform with those distinct blue camouflage pants, a blackened protective vest, and a dark beret. He looked strong, with a determined set to his jaw, as he stood confrontationaly before one of her own soldiers. If she did not intervene soon, there would be a fight; and that would be good for no one.

“Have you come with a purpose, or did you just want to pick a fight?” She directed her question, obviously, to the stranger, then shifted to her own man, “Jones, stand down. I don’t want everyone coming here thinking that we’re rabid dogs in need of putting down.”

By the time she finished speaking, she’d reached the bottom of the enchanted stairs and stepped onto the cold cement of the light-flooded plaza below. The planks that had constructed the steps flew up, returning to their resting spot beneath the balcony, as she extended her arm to the stranger and gave him a wide smile. She was aware it probably wasn’t a warm one. He straightened, shoulders back, and eyed her skeptically.

She said, “I apologize if my comrades offended you. We don’t take kindly to those who may be Wanderers, as I’m sure you can well imagine. I’m the Captain. You asked to see me?”

The man took her hand and gave it a firm shake, still eyeing her skeptically, “Butler. Jermaine. Formerly of the 182nd, Bravo Company.”

The Captain gave a curt nod, still smiling, then extended her other arm toward a make-shift lookout tower where one could observe the darkness beyond, “Shall we, then?”

Jermaine Butler, former navy man, crossed in front of her. Before she followed, she dropped her smile and gave a meaningful nod to the group of soldiers that had detained him. They dispersed, returning to their duties, confident that the Captain would handle the matter appropriately.

To be continued…

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