Circus

“Nooo!” someone suddenly shouts from a doorway. Everyone turns to look as a bearded old priest in grey robes is running in.

To facilitate speed as he runs from his Tower to the court, he is holding his robetails so high you can actually see his knees! This shocks silent both King and court.

You never see the knees of a priest. Any priest. Let alone one so old and dignified as this one.

By now, everyone including Storm has recognized the running priest. Despite his unusual attire of ordinary priest’s robes. Despite the run that lacks all official bluster and plomp. The priest is none other than the High Bishop of the King’s Citadel himself!

What could possibly be so urgent it sends the High Bishop running? Makes him forget all dignity? Reveal his knees???

The court cannot quite decide whether to be amused at the circus of a High Bishop acting so completely out of character, or utterly terrified at what could be the cause of such insanity. They turn to their King for guidance.

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Battle

There’s a battle that will be fought right outside the King’s Citadel late that evening. All Storm has to do is stay alive till then, and she will get away.

Not an easy feat for the destroyer of the Trident about to be tried for her crime. Not easy at all.

Storm is brought before the King and his court shortly after noon. So many hours between this and the battle to come.

The Royal Constable of the Greenseen district prances about so proud in his fancy costume. He’s explaining all he has heard about her crime, followed by how heroically he himself has brought this dangerous villain all this distance from the ends of the Greeseen district to the King’s Capital to stand trial before the King himself!

This is his moment. His time to shine.

He does good enough a job of it to be liked by some. He is thoroughly disliked by others.

His career at court will be short. Ending with a knife between his ribs.

Before then he’ll be happy for a while. Imagining he has made it. He is on his way at last.

Now it is time for Storm herself to be addressed, and by the King himself, no less.

“What have you to say for yourself, girl?” the King asks. “You’ve destroyed an ancient and sacred item. An item no one was ever supposed to touch. How do you excuse such reprehensible action?”

The King… He does not know what the Trident is. Some fool has left him in the dark… Ah, yes, his father died before did tell him… No matter. He will find out.

“I have not destroyed it. The Trident cannot be destroyed,” Storm replies.

Storm stands brave before the King. She does not bow, nor shiver in fear. She does not cower. He may be a King, but she is so much more now.

The Storm she used to be is experiencing terror. “The King can kill me any moment and no one will care at all but my family at home,” she thinks to herself. The Storm that she is now laughs inside her mind. “The king may try. He might even succeed at killing this vessel, but the Trident will survive.”

“I am this vessel!” the Storm she was protests. “You are so much more,” replies the Trident. “You have always been so much more. You only did not know it until now.”

The battle inside her rages on between the Storm she was and the Storm she has become. The Trident. Even as she awaits the battle that will be her chance to live. Even as the King laughs, incredulous.

“You claim you’ve not destroyed it?” he asks. “Well, where is it then? Do present it to us, by all means.”

The whole entire court laughs together with the King, while Storm considers doing exactly that.

Curtain Falls

The curtain falls for the last time. All our shows performed. All our bows are taken.

The lights go off on stage. Lights go on for the audience who are leaving.

I look at you. The hero of our play, who loved so bravely this young fellow. Who kissed me at night between performances.

Your parents are in the audience.

They are waiting for you now.

They still think you were only acting.

I look at you, and wonder. Must the play go on? Now the show is over.

Shall we leave here holding hands?

Escaping All

Escaping all had never been so tempting a prospect as there and then. Oh, Ruby had dreamt of leaving her family a million times before, but now, face to face with the reality of her husband in their bed with some other woman… Nope. Not to be endured a moment longer.

So she left. Escaped it all. Started over someplace else.

Never once looked back. Never even wondered how their children coped with their mother disappearing.

Let her husband deal with that.

She built herself a beautiful new life in a different part of the country. She changed her name. Her profession. Her appearance. She changed her everything.

Now, if only she could change her taste in men.

Ten years later Ruby, now called Helen, walked in on her husband having sex with another woman in their bed.

What else was there to do but escape it all? Start over someplace else.

Laughter

Waking up to the sound of laughter. Where is she? In the King’s Citadel jails. Who is laughing? The prison guards. Why? They are watching someone eat a rat. How does she know that?

She just knows.

Just like she knows what the King himself had for breakfast.

He did not think there was rat in his sausage, but there was.

The butcher has a rebellious helper, sneaking in rats under cover of the night. Adding droppings too for extra spice.

The King is fine, though. He’s spent enough time in the trenches as a boy to have grown resistant to all sorts of things.

His father was wise to have sent him there.

Cruel.

But wise.

How does Storm know this?!

She sees it all as clear as daylight before her eyes in an instant. It’s as if her ability to see a thing once and remember it always now no longer needs even looking at a thing for that one, short glimpse in the first place.

Anything she turns her attention to she knows. It’s already in her mind, as if she’d been there as witness when it took place.

It is all too much!

The guards are still laughing as Storm struggles with her mind to find a way to switch it all off, and then it’s gone. A silence in her mind, even as the guards fall silent outside her cell.

After an hour or so of blessed silence, Storm makes the mistake of asking herself “What was that?” The Trident flashes before her eyes, and fills her once again.

This time the laughter is the laughter of all who have ever touched the Trident in the past and in the times to come. This time the laughter is her own.

Outside her cell, the guards shiver when they hear the sound.

The City of Missing Streets

Time was running out. They had to find their way out of this City of Missing Streets, and fast.

Trouble is, the city was missing all the streets that could take people either in or out. And all the while, the clock was ticking. And all the while, the monsters were creeping closer.

There was no way they were going to get out of this alive, now was there?

There was not.

Mission Complete

Wow. They were done.

After years and years of hard work, so much effort and travel all over the world, they were finally done. It was all mission complete.

Nothing left to do.

They’d done their research. Made their proposals. Designed and perfected a training for others. Been everywhere to offer that training to millions and millions of people.

They had changed the world.

So… Now what?

Their mission completed, what else was there for them to do?

Not much.

Not much of anything, really. Nothing truly worth their while.

Oh, they dabbled. Did a bit of this, a bit of that.

Drifted apart.

Couldn’t quite find their place in this world they had changed so fundamentally.

There was truly nothing left for them to do. And so…

One by one by one, they each ended their own lives.

Mission. Complete.

The Emperor’s Outfit

The Emperor’s outfit was full of bling. Desperately trying to make up for the unimpressive appearance of the man himself.

There were diamonds. There was color. There were sashes. Medals of every kind.

What had he ever done to deserve those medals?

I mean… He did kill his father, the previous Emperor, but apart from that, what had he ever done?

Nothing, really.

Just wore his fancy outfits and stood before a crowd without a smile.

Such an empty outfit full of bling.

Military Precision

That’s all they need, really. Just perfect, military precision. Everything. Exact.

Each and every glass placed the exact same millimeters distance from the plates.

Every asparagus angled exactly so.

Every slice of duck the same thickness. Thinness, really.

Everything else precisely in its place.

All the guests aligned.

And then the birthday girl comes, and makes a mess of all. No respect for anyone’s effort. Just party, party, party, party, fun.

One should think by the age eighty seven, she might have learned some manners. Settled down a bit.

But no.

Towers

The King’s Capital is famed for its high Towers. They rise to such incredible heights they are visible for miles and miles around.

Nowhere else upon this world do buildings rise particularly high. It is customary to always build things close to the ground. Low and sprawling. Never high.

Only the King’s Towers in the King’s Capital dare defy the sky.

Storm, of course, has read all about the King’s Towers and how they were constructed behind the King’s Citadel. Yet she would never have expected to actually get to see them with her own eyes.

People do not travel much in her world. They tend to stay where they are born.

Two and a half weeks after waking, that whole time chained up, unwashed by anything but the rain, left to the mercy of the elements both day and night, Storm catches sight of the King’s Towers in the horizon. The closer they get, the more impressive they are, until finally the King’s Towers appear every bit as magnificent as she always imagined them from the drawings she had seen.

Storm is worried about what will happen to her once they actually reach the King’s Capital. She knows that criminals and traitors are sometimes pushed down to their deaths from the highest of the Towers. She also knows that others starve in a different Tower that houses those the King wants to suffer a far slower ending.

One of the other Towers is a place of torture. There information is gathered using most ingenious methods of causing excruciating pain.

As magnificent a sight as the Towers are, Storm does not want to be on her way towards them. Alas, she has no choice. Eventually they will reach their destination.

Storm  is carried on the back of a horse cart through the gates of the King’s Capital. On through the crowded streets towards the King’s Citadel, behind which the King’s Towers rise to their unbelievable heights.

They enter the King’s Citadel late in the evening. Storm is taken from the cart, finally unchained, and locked up in a cell for the night.

At least she now has a roof over her head, Storm thinks, as she listens to the unfamiliar sounds of the city, and the more familiar sound of rain. She falls asleep feeling oddly grateful for the roof and for the rain.