Having finished up Chapter 2 of Red Sky At Night, I've sat back and decided that it needs a short break, during which the other stories of the setting will catch up. Red Sky will return once the other serials get closer to the next chapter's date.
Ye gads, I'm running multiple serials with a metaplot, just for the hell of it. What am I thinking?
(And yes, this storyline will eventually have connections with Twilight of the Second Age, Red Sky At Night, and The Dynasty's Shadowed Light. If you haven't read them or don't want to, no worries. It'll be a while yet.)
The newly shaped being walked through the desolate land, his mind reeling from all the concepts that he was being forced to acknowledge.
First, there was walking itself. Time was a concept that the being was having serious trouble getting used to. How did the shaped stand it, this drudging monotony of motion? Once, it was enough to say, â€œI amâ€, and he would have been at his destination, without these endless hours of travel.
Admittedly, he did not have a destination, but that would not have been a problem before, either. In the purity of chaos, all things were a destination.
The being shook his head, which in and of itself was a new experience. How quickly the world had changed. It seemed like only moments before that he had been one with all the others, a nameless and formless host that had risen up, stunned by the sudden collapse of the hated shaped onesâ€™ defenses. They had flowed across Creation, bringing purity in their wake. The shaped were weak and foolish, and none could stand before the Crusade. And thenâ€¦
And then shape had intruded. And the being had found himself here, trapped among the shaped. For days he had walked, sensing a faint patch of home nearby, but he had not understood the concepts of distance, and the journey was far longer â€“ and less interesting â€“ than he had imagined possible. Another new concept, for him. Boredom.
The being was so absorbed in his own thoughts, he did not realize that he had reached a dwelling-place until he was halfway through it. Touch warned him first, the changing texture beneath his feet suggesting that many shaped ones called this dwelling-place their home, and he looked around to see their oddly-formed domiciles and beasts. He stood for a moment, considering them. How weak, and inglorious they were. The concept of objects that were less than breathtaking to look upon was one he had begun to understand, but he felt that he would never accept it. What possible reason could the Shaped have to defend this horrible place? They simply could not understand the glories that they were denying themselves.
A sound caught his attention. He paused, searching his memory, when it came again, a sort of piercing cry. It intrigued him, for though the second sound was unique, different, he knew at a thought that it had come from the same being as the first. He imagined, in fact, that he could recognize the beingâ€™s call if it came again, and wondered at that. His theory was proven true a moment later, and he moved towards the sound, entranced by the strange consistency of these unique noises.
It took only moments for him to come across the source of the noise. Two groups of shaped faced each other. To the beingâ€™s jaded eye, their competition seemed less than even. One group was made up of beings almost as dirty as this town, wearing rough clothes and backed against the far wall. There were dozens of them, it was true, but they did not seem to be prepared for the competition ahead. The other group, by contrast, wore rough garments made from cured hides, and had weapons of wood and steel pointed at the first. Nearly twenty in number, they were laughing and carrying on as though the pitiful mortal objects they were gathering had actual value. One of them had taken a member of the second group, and was examining it closely, prodding it with a spear to keep it from moving.
The being stepped forwards, looking over the groups. It seemed somehow unfair to him that one group should have such an advantage â€“ where was the sport in a game so tilted? It might be the way of this shaped Creation, but it was not his way. On the other hand, he had no interest in the shaped, and was about to go on his way when one of the beings of the second group noticed him.
â€œEre, now, whoâ€™s that?â€ The being spat on the ground in time with its words, guttural and vile, nothing like the elegant phrases of home. â€œI thought this town was poor, mayor! Not so poor you canâ€™t have a lord, ehn?â€ It pointed to another of the frightened beings, who cowered in fear. The being frowned. It had never been in the presence of so many of the shaped before, and something new was stirring within it. Proximity to these beings brought a new taste to his palette, something he had thought impossible in the shaped world. The being gestured, and half the men broke off, surrounding the being. â€œWell, sir, you look odd, but that armour looks valuable. I think Iâ€™ll have it.â€ The shaped laughed at its own joke, and the beingâ€™s jaw tightened â€“ a sensation that surprised him, as he had not known it could do that. He decided that something would have to be done about such insolence.
With a gesture, the being shaped wind from the sky and gathered it in his hands. â€œI do not like you, sir. Your thoughts are base and lack even the faintest glimmer of the grander world.â€ With a gesture, he brought the wind around, and the Shaped was lifted high into the air, too shocked even to scream. â€œYou are not worth the time to battle properly.â€ With a flick of his wrist, the being sent the Shaped sailing away. Now it screamed, for a moment, before a tree arrested its progress with commendable force. The Shaped surrounding the being stared in horror for a moment, then broke and ran in all directions, abandoning their loot and their comrades in a desperate dash for freedom. Amused by their scampering, the being threw winds after the slowest, speeding their passage into various objects, but killing none. There was no grace in their movements, no underlying understanding of how a retreat might be made more properly of interest, but there was something that the being had never encountered before â€“ earnestness.
â€œAreâ€¦ are you a god?â€ The being shook himself out of confused contemplation of the retreat, to find the Shaped that had been examined had stepped up to him. It gathered its garments around itself like a shield, and seemed torn between desperate hope and desperate fear. For a moment, the being considered the question. It would be simplicity itself to destroy this town, to evoke some of that earnestness he had seen in the other group of Shaped to examine. But something gave him pause. Looking around at the Shaped, all watching him with their strangely unique expressions, he wondered. The Shaped had defeated the shapeless. There must be some strength in this world that he did not yet understand. Further, the pocket of Home he had sensed was very nearby now, and he thought it might help stave off the parched nature of this world. And finally, he admitted to himself, he was simply curious about them. How could such limited creatures have such rich emotions? It seemed as though this village had been placed here just for him. Why not take advantage of their need?
He looked down at the shaped being â€“ a girl, he could tell on closer inspection. He nodded his head once, feeling her relief soar around him like the richest game of the Unshaped as he replied. â€œWhy yes, my dear. It appears that I am.â€