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When the Wheel Runs Sideways

edited February 2016 in SotA Stories

Running, lurching, stumbling, he careens down the packed earth that serves as a road. Panic is in full control now as blood streams from a hundred ragged gashes, each drop pulling him a tiny step closer to death.

When he arrived here, Tachys had been caught up in the newness of it all.  The world pulsed through him, making him feel so much more alive than he ever had in the old world.  There the magic was as real as here, but there was an order to it, a structure that it followed, and so it had come to feel so very, well, ordinary.  Casting in that world had been more like having a polite conversation over tea with your overly civil uncle, rather than an exercise in craft and power.  Here, there was something more raw and primal about it, something that made you twitch with the barely constrained potential of it all.  That thrumming potential fairly pulled you out into the wide world around you, and you were too breathless to bother to kick and scream as it dragged you to the next horizon.

Then there was the invincibility, or at least the feeling the power promised him. It was as if every fiber of him knew nothing could stop him, regardless of the risk or danger. At first, he had managed to restrain himself somewhat, allowing only pure exploration to soothe the raging torrent inside.  This had worked for a time, but as he spoke to the locals, learning they had not just words for people like him (they referred to him as an outworlder or avatar, of all things. How they knew on sight had been something he had wondered on more than one occasion), but a prophecy as well. He soon learned of the many troubles in the land.  Monsters were coming out of the woodwork, it seemed, and this was all supposedly tied to the arrival of these outworlders.  This made him feel somewhat responsible, and so with some weapon skills he already possessed, and after reining in the local variant of magic so that it responded to his call, he took his valiant, invincible, outworlder self, and set out to right these wrongs. 

Which had led him to his current predicament. 

While his hand-to-hand skills were nothing to sneeze at, the fire he felt in his blood also burned with an equal intensity in the local fauna, both mundane and monstrous.  This led to him underestimating a small pack of wolves, something that had been a minor nuisance on his world.

Not so here.

His first encounter with an outrunner had seemed to be going his way, but the savagery of the beast had set him back on his heels, so much so that he could barely remember the fact magic existed, much less cast it. Thus, he turned and made quick use of those heels... in exactly the wrong direction.  What had been certain evasion became a desperate bid for survival as he rounded a copse of trees and ran smack dab into the rest of the pack.  A few more minutes of snapping jaws and snarls and frantic dodging later, and he was running for his life just ahead of said pack, all slavering for his blood.

There was a nearby crevasse, one where he might be able to wriggle his way to continued life, if only he could make it there ahead of the growling pack of fury nipping at his backside. He chanced a glance back to gauge the distance remaining to him, which turned out to be the worst, and last, mistake of his life.

As he looked back, he failed to notice a medium-sized stone jutting from the ground a few paces in front of him.  

In less time than it took to utter two expletive-laden syllables, he was tumbling to a stop in the dirt, and the pack was on him.  

A dozen tooth-rimmed maws bit and tore at him, transforming his panic-ruled world into one of searing agony, until one of those maws savagely, and mercifully, ripped out his throat.  The pain didn't end immediately, but the darkness that swallowed him, as his remaining life-blood roared in his ears, was not long in coming, bringing with it sweet oblivion.


Well..


...it should have.


The roaring in his ears rose in volume and pitch until it was the wailing of a thousand lost and tormented souls. Then the screaming ceased, leaving a dull roaring in the background, stitched through with a chorus of whispers that heralded the arrival of the darkness. But as it encroached on his vision, it flattened and thinned into a dark veil that was laid between him and the world, blurring all the details and somehow making them seem less relevant.  On his side of the veil, it was as if he had been transported into the void, to walk among the stars and the Ether that separated them.  

All about him, scintillating spheres danced and moved, filled with an energy that felt familiar to him, but was dissimilar to the shadowy, yet somehow luminescent webwork that formed his own essence. There was an overwhelming disorientation, as his 'eyes' told him the lay of the land, but nothing that resembled 'up' or 'down' could be felt.  Aimless and trackless, he wandered without true knowledge of where he needed to go or why, despair weaving itself throughout his being as he began to feel eternity yawn at his feet like an unending chasm lined with snapping jowls and foam-flecked teeth, threatening to tear at him forever.  In what seemed like singularly unending instant, he teetered at the edge of that chasm, until he heard a calm, monotone female voice intone:

"Your thread has not completed the weave, avatar."

A gentle hand scooped him up, as if cupping water from a clear, still pond, and then cast him into the chasm.

What happened next made him long for the experience of being torn apart by the wolf pack like a babe yearns for a mother's caress.

Imagine, if you will, having been separated into your constituent fibers, strand by strand, yet somehow, all the nerves are still intact, still firing, and every single one screaming pain at your brain.  Now, dip those fibers into some acid and then some salt for good measure, so that the screaming is transformed into a symphony of agony more sublime than the magnum opus of the most talented torturer that ever lived. Finally, while this is going on, your fibers are slowly and purposefully stitched back together from the toes upwards, so that long before you have lungs to gasp with or a mouth to scream, most of your body is grasped firmly in an agonized clench that would put rigor mortis to shame. By the time you do have a mouth, your lungs and throat are so raw and exhausted, all that comes out is a barely audible wheeze. Finally, the old woman that has been knitting you back together is finished, and you are dropped to the ground like a disappointing sweater that is too much trouble to fix. 

This is how it felt as Tachys al'Fahn experienced his first, and hopefully last, "death" as an avatar in this recently adopted world of New Britannia.

After he recovered enough to rise, he noted the signpost pointing out the locations of South Valeway, Braemar and West Ravenswood, and solemnly swore that if it were up to him, Veimor was going to remain lost for quite some time.

Comments

  • edited September 2015
    Another awesome work!  Best description of death in NB I've seen so far.

    You like your wolves don't you? :)

    Ok, I have a few suggestions as always, but overall it looks great!.  I will make suggestions in stages as I can go through this...

    he careens down

    You start the story off in mystery of who this guy is.  However, one of the most important elements of story is giving people a chance to react to characters.  You only keep it a mystery if there's a reason to surprise it on the reader later, because it holds back the reader from engaging the character fully.  Here, there's no surprise really, so no reason not to share it at the beginning.  Then someone can start by saying "Oh, this is about tachys that great writer and cool guy! Yeah I definitely want to see what this is about."  You'd be surprised at how much difference knowing a name makes in relating to a character.  Trust me, it will be much more engaging to start with your name!

    Panic is in full control now, as blood streams from a
    hundred ragged gashes, each drop pulling him a tiny step closer to
    death.


    No comma after now.  Beware the use of the comma!

    The world pulsed through him in a way that nothing ever had, made him
    feel so much more alive than he ever had in the old world.

    Style point - in same sentence the same words repeated sound a little off... "ever had" is used twice.  I would change one of them. You could replace "in a way that nothing ever had," with an "and".

    a stricture

    Did you mean structure? Either could work, but structure seems more like what you're describing.

    Casting in that world had been so much like having a polite conversation
    over tea with that uncle that is present in nearly every family tree.

    Three "that"s.  There are other words you can use.

    You know, the one who is civil to a fault, and must abide by dictates of propriety.

    No comma after fault.  Only use one when the conjunction joins independent clauses.

    that made every beat of your heart make you twitch

    Something that made --- make.  Successive "makings" sounds a little off.  Again, word choice can be different to sounds better.

    More later!
  • Yeah... it was a really late night thing that hit me after reading your story *grins*

    I'll roll through these when I gt a chance :D

  • Spellbinding. Definitely up to your usual excellent standard. I'm only sorry that I am unable to contribute any useful suggestions, since your writing is somewhat above my skill level.

  • All those, and a few more edits made ;)  Thanks, Vyrin!
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