P. 1


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Published by: chrissyjohnson5 on May 15, 2012
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My hands stink.

They smell like those disgusting beans that I’ve been shelling now for seven months. I’ve tried to get rid of it. But soap is rare and generally discouraged since it contaminates the water and they say that there’s only so much available. The only other thing I could do would be to burn the stink away, which I’ve done. But my Fire Warping was severely weakened in the war. Where I once could clean away dirt and bacteria in a rush of flame, I can barely light a spark on one fingertip. So much for the High Lady Priestess of the Phoenix Temple. I march home with the rest of the people of Norsc village. It’s been a long and exhausting day of shelling beans. The faces of the villagers are as gray as the clouds overhead. Clouds that trap the heat that pounds down on this small valley. Even though Norsc is in the foothills of the mountains, I’ve yet to see it snow here. Another consequence of the Black Phoenix’s renewed presence in the universe. We march to the village square to the base of a very tall tree - the one they say survived the Burning seven months ago. Already these people have come to revere the tree because most living things here died. They blame their own actions - something about humans destroying the world with their own carelessness. They say the gray clouds are punishment from Virohmin and now they must suffer. Myself, I know what really happened. This magnitude of destruction could never have been done by humans, no matter how long or hard they tried. Worlds have a way of compensating for such things. No, the Burning that brought about this suffering and deprivation could only be brought by the being that sought to destroy all life on all worlds. Still, it’s hard to tell people of such lofty ideas when they’re scrabbling in the dirt just to survive. There is a line and I get in at the end as fast as I can without knocking anyone over. The quicker I get in line, the warmer my rations will be. It’s the gloppiest, most rancid-smelling grainand-oil mixture imaginable, but it’s even worse if it’s cold. If I hurry, I can get my alloted cupful and take it home before the Vertis come out to prowl the village. I don’t know why they do that. It’s not like anyone has the will to do anything wrong. Nobody talks to anyone in line. The only sounds are the Verti calling out “Next” every so often and the cries of small children being shushed by their mothers. I see one mother, no older than me it seems, trying to hush an infant. The baby’s cries remind me of the weary families who came to the Phoenix Temple seeking refuge from the Golden Talons in the early days of the war on Shydone. The people who’d been driven from their homes in the Northern Provinces because Ayden Virici said they weren’t devoted enough to the Black Phoenix. They escaped the riots and came to Fireball Peak where they could find a place to establish themselves and start a new life. I’d even taught some of their children at the Temple. And I watch this woman and her child and wish there were such a place in this world.

scoops up a ladle of the mush and dumps it into my tin cup. “Don’t you know that child is taking food away from the rest of us?” another woman snipes. I don’t stop until we come to my hut a few streets over.instead of the forest green uniform.” I tell him.Lady Jendra tran Avalon . I try to be gentle. The dry grass structure is hardly private.” I say. “Come here.I can feel them.and fast. I used to give my full name .but they don’t like ladies on this world. While I argued with Verti Garl.or if he’d been a woman wearing a drab gray shift . “What are you going to do to me?” the woman is near tears now. But they slip away so easily.” I hiss to her. but it’s better than leaving her to the crowd in the square. just like everyone else in the village. My nerves send tiny shocks through my skins as they searched out Fire-charge particles.a younger man . I take my cup of slop and turn to leave. I hold out my palms and spread my fingers. cracking my knuckles.The line moves and people are getting restless. the people behind me in line have started complaining. “That thing should be put down!” someone shouts. “Jenny. “Feed you so you can feed your child.” the Verti in charge of distributing rations looks tired.Warp already!” Finally my skin turns pearly and a tremor of warmth spreads across my palm. “I won’t hurt you or your baby.” I say and march up to the woman. I place the tin cup on my palm and . They’re there . I’m at the front. Another Verti . I take her by the arm and pull her out of line. The woman’s baby won’t stop crying and people are getting upset. but she’s had so much antagonism thrown at her that she flinches. “Name. but the baby keeps screaming. I have to do something . “Can’t she shut that parasite up?” one man says. “That’s what got us in this mess!” People are really mad now. He takes my name and motions me to the large rusty pot on the stump next to him. “Damn particles . “I’m sorry. If he’d been wearing the drab gray jumpsuit . Soon.” the young mother apologizes over and over. he’d look the same as the rest of us.

He kicks and struggles against them. Still. He gives a sputtering cough through the stitches in his lips. but it isn’t enough. One of them punches him in the chest. I’ve never seen a Verti with a weapon and I know this world doesn’t have Elemental powers.. balding and a little paunchy. the Monitor drops the rock onto the man’s chest. Blood spurts out of the man’s nose and mouth. “Our planet is weakened!” the crowd repeats in a monotone. He raises his arms above his head and everyone around me does the same.The Monitor stands in front of the tree. . He lowers his arms long enough to pick up a large rock that’s been sitting at his feet since the ritual began. I am aware of the Vertis surrounding the square . The man struggles for breath and against the Vertis “Pay for your crimes to Virohmin!” the crowd yells. The crowd keeps their hands in the air while the man dies. The man doesn’t make a sound. I follow suit. even though this is not a religious exercise I subscribe to. At the last syllable. His mouth has been sewn shut. “We know our shame!” “We know our shame!” the crowd repeats. “Virohmin demands payment!” Behind the Monitor. The man looks from one Verti to the other with pure terror on his face (it’s the most emotion I’ve seen in anyone all day). He’s a tall man. His face starts turning purple. The man tries to breathe through his nose. “Pay for your crimes to Virohmin!” the Monitor screams.. I never say anything but let my silence speak.soldiers sent to ensure that everyone pays proper respects to Virohmin. No one says a word. all waiting for his last breath. he stops struggling. I’m not sure what they’d do if someone didn’t follow the ritual. Finally. no one’s ever gotten out of line. two Vertis appear dragging a man between them. A sickening crush of bone and lungs rings out across the square. “Virohmin demands payment!” The Vertis wrestle the man to the ground. “Our planet is weakened!” the Monitor calls out. The Monitor steps up to begin the ritual. My loyalty remains to the Phoenix Avalon. He raises the rock high above the man. but they are stronger than a man whose eaten nothing but gray mush for seven months.

accidental or otherwise. I have a nice little grass hut and the rations detail comes by morning and night with the same food everyone gets (a cup of some grayish-green grain mixture that I have to swallow about six times before it finally goes down). And humans are to be punished for their negligence. I wouldn’t mind torching this prison. What kind of god asks for such things? I wish Phoenix Avalon were here. “May the blood of the guilty heal our world!” the Monitor cries out in triumph. instead of repeating his words. This time.just enough to create a tiny flame on my fingertip. Which is probably why I have such disdain for the morons who perpetuate the fears that keep these people from escaping. I’ve seen this same scene played out every week these seven months. I know what destroyed this world. In the early morning light. All I know is that deception and thirst for power caused it. Seven months since the great battle between Ayden Virici and the White Phoenix split my home world of Shydone . Almost as one. At least. Fire kills trees and animals and people and it’s bad for the air. I know what destroyed so many worlds in this universe. . Enough to remind myself that I still can do this. I don’t know how it happened. No one can. why war on my world was the catalyst for this tragedy.apart. I look down at the ground. I can congregate at midday with the others as we bow under the tree in the public square in penance to Virohmin. This hut would go up like a pile of dead grass (which is exactly what it is). I’m allowed to leave for work at the granary up the mountain every day where I mash huge bins of these weird beans into a pulp that looks suspiciously like my meals. that’s what the people in charge say. I don’t dare try anything more. Except the people here would hunt me down and punish me for using fire. Not much .“Virohmin accepts payment!” the Monitor shouts to the crowd. each person takes a handful of dirt. puts it in their mouths. Oh. though. I know because I have a piece of it in my hands. chews on it and then spits it out. the crowd kneels to the ground. I raise my hand to my face and Warp a few particles of Fire. who I surmise is the god the people of this world worship.and the entire universe . But I can never leave the village. It’s been outlawed since the Great Disaster that nearly destroyed Virohmin. even though my power’s been weakened. I can’t risk any wayward sparks. *** It’s been seven months and no one’s let me leave this place. And it had nothing to do with fire or any piddly disaster that humans could have engineered .

Seven months since I was flung throughout space to this backwashed world where people only eat grain. All of them are idiots. Idiots. outlaw fire and worship weeds. .

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