Okay. I had so much fun writing The Burning Seas. Thaddeus Howze declared that the flash I wrote this morning was insufficient, and demanded more. Thaddeus Howze is a newcomer to the musings and writings of one Mark Gardner, and unaware of the depths of my depravity. I have granted Thaddeus Howze more of the story, but in a fashion you regular readers have come to know, love and fear. Here is a second tale to Chuck’s prompt, and I’ve worked in another Inspiration Monday prompt as well as Sunday Scribblings 2 and S.M. Cadman’s Margaret Atwood prompt. I chose a line on page three of Oryx and Crake. Here’s another 1000 words for all parties interested:
SHIELD: THE PRESENT
A burst of bubbles raced to the surface, disturbing a freshly shucked body. The hollow carapace was placed there as a warning to all other crustaceans. Death awaits those that… Shield sighed and released a bubble of air. He was so bored. Nothing ever happened since…
It’s been a year, he thought. No one could’ve seen it coming.
He tried to suppress the thoughts, but he might as well tried to hold back the tide. He should’ve recognized the signs. Granted, he didn’t train as long as a Joy or a Don, but he walked his own beat by the time he was fifteen. He doubted any of his childhood friends would recognize him now. His training under the Don was rigorous. He gained muscle mass in those two years.
He and the other Shields wrestled sea life to demonstrate their prowess. He was proud to have risen in the ranks. The Don had singled him out for this assignment. It wasn’t special treatment, but recognition of his skills. In three more years, his accomplishments would put him in an enviable place for attracting a mate.
Shield’s head popped out from the silt, and his translucent arm lashed out and seized a crustacean scuttling about. I’m the master of all I survey, he thought as he examined the crustacean in the low light. The multiple armored legs writhed, attempting to find purchase on Shield’s arm.
His other hand came out of the silt, the debris falling and forming what looked like a veil of mud. He wiped the silt stubbornly clinging to his arm on his chest and returned his attention to his prey. The rock came down on his dinner with precision, and the crustacean was cleaved.
Shield spent no time sucking the contents from the armored legs. He crushed the carapace between two rocks. His molars were perfect for grinding, but the baleen that occupied the front of his mouth was worthless.
Only the Shield of the Protectorate was allowed to kill lower species for sustenance. It was a taboo that Shield flaunted, his arrogance befitting a warrior of his position. Don had frowned when Shield gobbled up some invertebrate under the great arch.
Shield’s hand brushed the scars left by the invertebrate’s tentacles left as it tried to escape death. No one had believed he could do it, but he choked down the slimy tissue. Arch patrons were horrified by the violence and the fine mist of red diluted in the water around Shield’s face. Wispy tendrils of red followed Shield as he found the closest Healer.
Shield shook his head and focused on the movement of the water. Even as deep as he was, he could feel the tug of the moon. Not that he’d ever seen the moon. Just as his privilege of eating lesser species instead of straining krill or eating from the vast kelp and seaweed fields, only Joys and Dons ever swam to the surface. He felt the tide ebb and flow. Back and forth, back and forth. It cycled the same rhythm as his heartbeat.
The ebb and flow had been a constant in their great city. Sadness overcame Shield. He looked off to where the great city still stood abandoned.
It’s only been a year.
Back and forth, the tide of an unseen moon still exerted its influence. But, the melancholy… No, he realized, I know what causes our sadness.
Shield climbed from the silt blind he had constructed, and swam across the surface towards his former home. A home abandoned because of him. If only he’d been more observant. If only he had been stronger. But, he was the strongest of his class of Shield of the Protectorate. He was the future. If he couldn’t’ve stopped it, then who could?
As shield closed the distance between himself and the sunken city, he felt the warmth and light from the Light of Joy. She was incapable of fleeing the city. Her crystalized form floated in a perfect position. Joy filled him with… well, joy. He felt the blood pour through his veins. He knew only a few songs of the Light of Joy, but her presence filled him. Her sacrifice to all her people was an epic gift, and his skills, no matter how great, paled in comparison. There was no rest for the blessed.
Back and forth – ebb and flow.
The closer he got to Joy, the more alive he felt. It was as if she called to him. Shield paused within sight of the leeward side of the city. Joy was overpowering, but he felt something else as well.
Menace threatened to steal his joy – both the feeling and the young crystalline girl. Menace was held at bay, but Joy’s strength slowly faded. She had maybe a year until the ebb and flow that ruled the world took her as well.
Ebb and flow – back and forth.
Shield dared not encroach the Menace further. Joy would overpower his finely tunes senses and Menace would strike him unawares. He sat cross-legged on the seabed as was a custom of the ancients and marveled at the Sunken City. He wished he could stay in that spot forever, basking in her glow.
He felt the Menace circle above. The Menace was contrary to the ebb and flow. The Menace was… Well, it was a menace. Shield took one last look at the abandoned city and turned to head away. Staying within Joy for too long had deleterious effects on him.
Shield floated, but something caught his eye. Something advanced on the city unaware of the Menace. The strange figure had brown hair, and was dressed in the fashion of the ancients. Her hair was a shock, but the color of her skin… it was a pale white. Shield had never seen anything so beautiful.
She landed and peered through the arch, her shoulders slumping.
Her feet actually touched the sea floor!
She took an uneasy step… How quaint!
Shield stepped towards her, ignoring the Menace circling above.
Next: Tower of Light