dominions of the unrelenting


appendix ix

The Jeibi Scare

The azure clouds. That’s how I remember the sky that day. I had been walking the sacred grounds of the Tereasu campus. Where the order has taught the arcane arts and sciences for almost 200 years. It’s been six years since I left that cycle of my life. The strict adherence to the old magics left me unfulfilled and wanting. The underground culture of ecstatic practice and bacchanals tempted me from that rigorous study and bureaucracy, but eventually spat me out like so much chewed leaf. Yet I came back to this place now that life threatened to overwhelm me.
Two days before, my disoriented brain found itself awash in new information. Just rising from my beddings, groggily heading to relieve myself of that evenings alcoholic and herbal ministration, a psi-memo rang loudly in my mind like a reverberating voice of one of the lesser gods.

"I am sending you to the capital city of Iasczi. In Jeibi you will learn their foreign magics and alchemy. Their potions have cornered much of the known worlds... in that place you will become a man of worth."

It had come from my father. A midranking mage of the city conclave.
He had once been a cavalier in the previous regime, serving under the dictatorship of Tesselav. When the hero, Niana, was murderered, he joined the opposition.(Killed midtep, while disembarking the express floating turtle from SeasEnd to Highwall, with a magic arrow.) Teselav himself was the most ruthless man of his generation, killing four of her daughters’ husbands before she finally decided to move farther away.

A piece of parchment empowered to grant passage and secure lodging had been deposited in his inbox. The Iaczi Empire decided to open their schools to foreign scholars. A hard task, to be sure. Especially since their realm has long been shrouded in stories of grotesque acts perpetrated on the general population by state dragons.
(It’s said that once every two-and-third moon, they would offer all the daughters born that day to the rivers of Lihrang.)

The message lingered long in my mind. For the first time, in a very long while, I was unsure of what to do. Total Immersion. That was what the information cube I held in my hand called it. The entirety of that alien culture thrust on me with unrelenting savagery. My stay lasting for almost the lifespan of a hellion pixie.
This was not good. The language of the central Iaczi consists of a series of high pitched shrieks. I knew no one this side of the string that was fluent in it. The books would be in their thick scratch alphabet, read only with intuition and a lifetime of practice. I, personally, had no ability in languages. The most powerful language matrix spells would not affect me. Curse of my blood. The air in my lungs stayed still. My breathing slowed. Hands shaking, I stood.

Yesterday, my father’s winged drow brought me the parchment. Her paper wings jutting out from a hardwood round shell. The paper held tight between lips that were too humanlike for my tastes. She flew repeatedly into the iron frame of my window till I woke from the noise. My sleep had been fitful and unrestorative. The arrival of this document in the glare of the morning's shining star almost broke me. Time was moving too fast. Control retched from my hands. Winds carrying me towards the unknown.

This was an opportunity, of course. There was no denying that. And it was also an honor of sorts. The Iaszci are not well liked in these parts. (Which is probably the reason for this cultural exchange.) They control a small section of downtown, with their strange spells and foul potions lining the side streets. Conspiracy theorists say that they control a third of the city conclave as well as the flow of money in the state. I don't buy into all this, yet the swirling flakes in their eyes fill me with suspicion. Their gold weighs heavier that most. I was not sleeping well.

Messages arrived on my globe in the study. Blood relations came to my door. All wishing me well on my travels. Telling me how nice it is for me to finally do something with my destiny infused life.

That, I don't mind saying, hurt.

This morning, still clothed in the previous day's garments, I was roused by the TOKaTOKaTOK on my front door. My parents. Father with his cane rapping on the rune laden entrance of my porch. Clothed in the traditional off-white layers of flowing cloaks, his wild mane giving him that look of a caged lion. The only feature that diffused the aura of power was the belly that seemed to have absorbed the fat from the rest of his body. Mother was floating behind him, resplended in her mauve tresses. She was silent, recovering from a selective youth spell. Her favorite pastime. In his hand was the parchment.

Then it was in mine.

I rushed out the door, pushing my way thru them. They threw immobility spells at me, but my blood protected me. Mouthing a few quick incantations, I side-shimmered. Out of their sight and range, I finally resolved to think things out. I usually did so in my study, with diagrams, flowcharts, and the like. I would fill them with possible outcomes, pros and cons, solutions and remedies, spells and counter spells, the proper weapons for the proper circumstance. But I was not in my study. I was walking in the harsh morning star. Wearing the wrong sandals, the soles of my feet losing more skin each step, rubbing the wrong way.

A lot of people walk in shimmer. I wasn’t used to it. Wasn’t something I did. But the more I walked on, the better I felt. In shimmer, the world is out of focus. Details are indistinct. Everything in one-dimensional grey. Passing by the eastern gates, my eyes were drawn to an amber crest of a flaming skull. I was at the keep of an old friend. Or enemy. Depending on who you ask. Having nothing better to do, stepped back into realspace and knocked.

We hadn't seen each other in about five years. The time it takes to cook a bronze dragon. His brother (whose name I didn't remember and felt too awkward to ask) let me in. the stone walls and floors kept much of the humid air at bay. Lighting was scarce. Candles and burning incense provided the only source, apart from the open keep entrance.
It was customary to leave it ajar since the death of 3rd knight of the bones. (by the name of LLewylyn, I believe. my friend’s great-uncle. not that he was all that great. the story being, that he was stoned to death by a crowd for running over a 3 little girls and dwarf in various parts of the city. with a runaway manure cart. he would have been safely in the keep were it not locked by the servants.)

Februarian Lonicaris LaVille stepped from the shadows of the stairwell. He was naked except for the bearskin pouch over his groin.
( Their clan having long abandoned armor. probably due to the fact that LLewylyn would have made it over the wall if he weren't weighed down by steel)
my memories of our friendship was spotty at best. Of all people, I knew him the longest. As children, we learned the runic alphabet together. And spoke of banned grimoires during high tea. Many a time during our stay at Tereasu, bad evaluations would have gotten me barred if not for certain paperwork-eating gremlins. We bred and sold them for fun and profit. We had fought together and also against each other. The time apart had clouded my recall. I wasn't sure if who was supposed to be mad at whom and for what. I assumed there was a maiden involved.

I stood. In my soiled clothing, reeking of the stink of travel, suddenly awake to where I was. We clasped arms. Brothers of the folded cloth. An old salute, but it was welcoming. I smiled. Drinks were offered and accepted. We sat on iron chairs, made from abused armor, and drank from wooded goblets. And we talked. He was invested in a new form of magic involving help with delicate spells thru globe-talking. I wasn't really listening. I told him I had been earning my way as a merchant of sorts. Collecting rent on some properties an uncle of mine owned. He nodded and made no outward expression. This was not work that was praised. It took no magic. Aside from the occasional cleaning and anti-gremlin spell, it was work anyone can do. Even a centaur.
(Centaurs leave their spoor everywhere. every hour, on the hour.)
We spoke of old battles and new ones. I told him the story of how I met a dominatrix single mother when our talk-globes got crossed in the ether. He told me of the how love spell tattooed on his back failed and how hard it was to remove. (Usually, one of the paramours would die as a result.)Then I told him of my worries. He listened. And growled. Then listened some more. I breathed. Just talking relaxed me. For a short time, we were youths again. Thinking alike and smoking alchemical herbs. Words flowing like a spell. By the time I stood to go, not a piece of furniture was on the ground. Everything was floating round the cavernous hall. We shook hands and spoke of hitting the mountain taverns someday soon.

Tereasu. The rock. The order of the folded cloth made many changes to the plaza. Flowing water and massive statues dot the landscape. I stood outside the meditation hall. The largest of its kind. Carved out of bedrock. It was almost empty. I walked towards the center, where a homunculus of the great suffering ox hung from the ceiling. It never moved. Once, when I was a boy, I stuck inside and screamed at it. It didn't acknowledge me. Then again, it wasn't supposed to. The mind was its element. The only use for its physical form was to aid visualization during meditation. I knew this. I sat down on one of the benches carved out of the floor and hummed. It was easy to fall back into. Almost all beings knew this magic system. All the private study devoted to KIA and runes and sigils. I end up humming like I did as a child. Sigh.

I walked out with no closure. Feeling the star heat on my face, I sat on a bench at the plaza. The grass was as green as I remembered. Old memories flood back. I take the parchment from my back pocket and look at it again. There’s a spot at the lower left hand side. A spot for a mage-print. All I have to do is touch my thumb to it. A jade dragon would come, saddles and all, to take me. I’d have to be in Jeibi within two days if I wanted to go thru with it. Adventure and alienation. Horror and wonder. Alone.

This was a good day. Haven’t had one like it in a long time. Looking to the future had me look to the past. Not so easy for one used to only dealing with the present.

I stand, a smile on my face and the wind in my hair.




The Path To Serenity moved along at forty miles an hour. It was a monolith of a machine, hued with splashes of black, brown and olive green, a centipede of metal and bulletproof polymers. She was the first to be produced of the new generation Ground Carrier fleet. This was her virgin voyage to battle.

Admiral Armando Castillos was in command of the carrier and her twenty-three crew members. The captain of The Path To Serenity took the battlefield position of x-o and his second positioned herself at Monitor Station. Both where honored to be under the man who developed the modern GroCa.

They had a compliment of marines situated at the center stage of the multi-segment transport. Warriors, side by side. The cramped space making the body heat raise the temperature in the compartment. They silently listened to their personal audio devices, ignoring all stimuli. Bathing in dull amber light, waiting for it to change to green or red.

Castillos remembered the early days. The days right after the Fall. When civilization collapsed. For the republic, at least. It wasn’t anything as dystopian as nuclear war or the aftermath of catastrophic disaster. The end was brought on by the rise of the military. It was just under a decade after the new millennium. After repeated changes in the government, the military decided to bring order to the situation. Fifteen years later, much is still not known about the details. One thing is certain. Brother was set upon brother, and blood soaked the motherland. Members of the United Nations decided not to interfere, given that all sides lacked the moral imperative to be supported. The elected government had been accused of fraud and had only come to power because its predecessor was forcibly ejected. On the other hand, Asia had an awful track record when it can to military juntas. Either way, the country did not have enough oil to make it worthwhile. The rebel factions had quickly taken over most military installations with the help of the communist resistance forces. Until, of course, the reds turned on their new friends. Everything happened inside a week. Then gunfire became the new theme of the streets.

He was a member of the newly-formed Civilian Militia. It was made of the smallest demographic in the country, the middle class. Together with the 404 infantry and the Presidential Guard, this was the last of the armed fighters for the civilian government.

Following his captain, Castillos’ squad found themselves in the military junkyard near the bay. They cut had contact with all other forces. The small group of twelve had two engineers and five mechanics with them. They found the carcasses of dead tanks and tons of armor plating suitable for their use. Small thin smiles, almost invisible, traced their young battle worn faces. All had lost someone in the carnage, and running away no longer felt like an option. It was time to take the fight to them.

The admiral looked at the swivel monitor at his side. Readouts showed the outlines of their target destination brought by satellite imagery. Spies had reported that the base had gone rogue and had acquired a new weapon. Peace had been tenuously achieved by sweat and sacrifice. He was not about to let it slip away because of one general with delusions of grandeur.

“What’s the position of the Hammer of Tor?” he said, pressing the button on his Comm. Module to send his voice via the Bluetooth headset to the Mon-Station.

“Forty meters to our portside, sir”

Another button

“Comm, tell Captain Macutay to use the secondary route and increase speed to full ahead. He is to take out that road block with rockets and give us mortar cover while we go in.”

Codes were entered and beeping noises signaled acceptance.

It was a hot and humid summer day, famous in the pacific for its draining effect on both land and man. The fighting had subsided. There was no central ruling body, only bandit groups holding territories. Ideology had fallen to the wayside. A crescent shape of a parachute was visible in the sky. Relief goods dropped by the International Red Cross. Hundreds flocked to it, ragged and malnourished men, women and children, their skin baked by the sun and gaunt to the bone.

Men emerged from the shadows, gunfire erupting from them. Strafing the crowds, they parted the sea of humanity quickly. From the tops of houses and broken windows, from corners and doors, they flooded the street. The bandidos of Malate. They loaded supplies to their jeeps and occasionally took potshots at the rabble.

Then, from the distance, dust rounded a corner. The sound of mechanized thunder battered the asphalt.

The ground carrier The Path To Serenity neared the base with its cruising speed of 65 mph, combat loaded with 2050 ready rounds and 2220 stowed rounds of 40 mm. Admiral Castillos stood, crouching somewhat to prevent his head from touching the ceiling, barked orders.

“Arm all weapons, deploy AutoGuns and check targeting, increase speed to full. Marines, run weapons check.”

In seconds, the barrier was at all but decimated by the rockets of The Hammer of Tor, and finished off by the nearly indestructible front armor of the barreling carrier.

Soldiers fired on it, emptying clip upon clip. Bullets were useless on the triple-treated armor. Turrets on the carrier moved swiftly, with almost no sound, and unleashed hellfire on the enemy. 40mm guns loosed chaos all around sustained by smoke grenades peppering the landscape.

Then the lights went out.

Built from the bodies of three Armored Personnel carriers and the guts rigged from weeks of scavenging abandoned electronics stores and car lots, the Volunteer appeared from the ghosts of the past. Built in the new age of ground warfare and from the remains of the old republic.

High-hardness armor plating to stop any attack, multiple gunports for every angle, twin turrets with mounted mortar to take out any armored foe. Just under 11 meters long, she wasn’t pretty. Like a toy built a boy with ADD, she looked like a stunted caterpillar. Welding tacs clearly seen, tape crossing the body vertically, hoses running along the side.

The bandits paused, frozen in place by the unknown and uncertainty. Gun barrels emerged pointed at them from every gunport of the closing vehicle. The ground shook harder and the thunder boomed louder.

This would not be the last mission of the Volunteer.

“What the hell was that?”

The Path To Serenity ground to a halt and darkness filled it. Castillo removed his headset. The blue lights of his module were dead.

“Go to back-ups. Activate manual controls. Give me status reports.” This was the weapon. An Electromagnetic Pulse generator. The great equalizer.

Red emergency lights came on. The panic in the eyes of the crew became visible. This was why he wanted to lead this incursion. He had the experience they lacked. Their training focused on the technology. His was on the battlefield.

“Retract AutoGuns and attach triggers. Marines, man the gun ports. Fire at will” he used his Admiral voice, strong and confident.

The marines were sure and steady. They pulled back the armor from the ports and opened fire on the troops surrounding them. The crew quickly regained their bearings and the carrier came back to a semblance life. Panels were removed and tossed aside. Electronic stations were abandoned and positions were taken next to cranks and levers. Movement started again.

“Radio the Hammer and tell them to pull back. Best speed to the motor pool.”


An Abrams tank crept from the back of the mess hall. Its turret swiveled. Mounted on it was a mortar array. With the Ablative shielding offline…

“Do we have rocket control?”

“No, sir.”

Almost shouting, to be heard over the non-electronically sound suppressed engines, Castillos gave his order. Features hidden in the shadows.

“Turn portside 30 degrees, all speed”

He went to the troop section with a heavy bag he took with him when he came on board.

“You and you. With me.” He told two crewmen.

“Pull those cranks. On the double.”

“Sir?” they both said, uncertainty in their voice.

“Now.” The admiral voice again.

The tank commander took aim and prepared to fire. Through his viewfinder, he saw the side of the carrier turn expose itself to him. The perfect shot. He smiled. Then it faded. The center opened like the door of a delorean. And the figure of a man appeared. The commander increased magnification. He could see the man was smiling. On his shoulder was a stinger missile.


SIGIL by Chaote9



Gabriel sat in front of his computer screen. Elbows on the desk, face cradled by his hands. He was running a program called Google Earth, providing him real-time satellite footage. He was scanning the English countryside when he spotted something. There. He zoomed in again. A mile across and a half a mile wide. Probably only visible from the sky. He took a puff from his cigarette and studied the figure. Most people called them crop circles. But, oddly enough, sometimes they didn’t have circles. This one did. Every crop circle was different. All appeared overnight with no trace of the makers. Many stories of where they come from exist in the minds of men. Natural weather phenomena, swirling energy patterns, aliens.
At these explanations, Gabe would only smile. A quiet smile. Hidden. But not hidden well. He knew what they were. And this one had a signature. It was one of his. The old man. His teacher.
Given the nature of these things. Gabe didn’t know what this symbol was trying to do. Even from the screen, he could feel the power.
He was going to have to act fast.
Pushed himself from his pc. Almost leaping. With long quick strides, he crossed his spartan apartment and directly bent over to open a black wooden chest on the floor. Obviously being used as a chair in this sparse living quarters.
He took careful stock of what was inside. Rings of various shapes, designs and ornamentations. Carefully. Purposely. He put a ring on each of his fingers. The two extra rings he put into his front jacket pocket.
There were also various crystals that he put in a small leather pouch A cell phone. An mp3 player, bottles of prescription drugs, a flat black rock, a pair of opaque shades and a variety of objects that certainly didn’t share any perceptible category. He shoved it most of it into a small green pouch bag that he slung across his shoulder
... Other objects he stuffed into the various pockets of his cargo pants... he was getting ready. He didn’t know what for… but he knew he was going to have to do something.
He put on his shades…
And he rushed out the door.

On the computer screen, the program went on default. The round shape of the earth continued to revolve. All across different points of the globe were similar crop circles. Each different. But each had a signature. 3 circles at the bottom with a line across them.
These were sigils. A global hypersigil was being built.


dialogue that creates itself from the depths of my subconscious (subtitled: a meme by chaote9)

computer voice: primary systems offline.
guy:well, shit.
computer voice: secondary systems offline.
computer voice: tertiary systems offline.


21 (A literary monologue, of sorts)


I am twenty-one. Not only is it my age, but also I consider it my name. Because being twenty-one means being in flux. It is not just a number; it's a state of mind. Funny that something so mundane can be so universal.

Oddly enough, some people just don't get it. The clincher is that some of them were even born the same year.

And on that note my woman has chosen to walk in through the door. (Note: I am not using the term 'woman' in a derogatory sense at any way, at least not this time.) Her name is Myke. I know it's an odd name for a female, but be rest assured that she is one. (almost ended a sentence with a preposition.)

"Hello." was all she said. But with enough coldness in her voice to make a shiver run down my spine.

Now I know this is going to be bad. Never trust a woman when she opens a conversation with one word. (Now it's derogatory.)

"What's up, babycakes?"

I don't even get an answer. She just flashes me that condescending look that goes so well with her ancestral Latin facial structure, especially with high heels.

"Alright, how about another approach. What did I do wrong now?" I figure the longer a woman keeps quiet; the worse it's going to be.

Apparently, I had laced my remark with a little too much sarcasm. Witness to that is the modified roundhouse/slap I received on the left side of my face.

"Ow. That's going to leave a mark."

Now I wish I hadn't given her those boxing lessons.

"You insensitive, self-centered, misanthropic…"

I had pretty much stopped listening after she said misanthropic. Took my nicotine and THC stained brain some time to process the word. When I finally rejoined my body, I finally heard the reason my cheek was going to be sore for the next couple of days.

"…just like you to cutoff all communication lines without rhyme or reason. What am I supposed to do? Wait till you decide you wanna get laid for you to come see me?!?"

Now what was I supposed to do? What she said was all true. Even worse, I was aware of it. So I came in close and pressed her to the wall so she couldn't attack. The right thing to would be to tell her the truth that I'm too immature to have a serious committed relationship.

Instead, I responded with the old standby.

"No need to wait."

Sex is good. It's all good. After you’ve achieved emission status, you really don't give a shit about anything anymore. A guy in a ski mask and a gun could come in and I would have just smiled and given him the A-OK sign.

I even like the cuddling. Maybe I'm more in touch with my feminine side than I thought.


Since I couldn't sleep with Myke moving around between the sheets, I put on some clothes and headed out the door to soak up the atmosphere at the testosterone-laden bachelor pad of a friend.


"Alright already! Shut the hell up!"

Always the paranoid type, Bud opened the door with the chain on and a baseball bat in the hand.

"Hey, T.O.! It's you. Just gimme a sec." He said with a wide grin shining under the long strands of his chest length hair.

Even at 2 a.m. the guy was happy to see a friend. I guess that's why we all call him 'Bud'. That and the fact that he has killer weed. Evidence of which was the sight of a limp figure on the floor. I recognized him as the suicide watch champion of the world, known by the nickname, 'Red'.

"What's THIS guy doing here?"

"I had to take him in. Going through some serious depression again."

"What is it this time?"

"What else?"

"Ah. Women problems. I'm really getting anxious for the day he actually goes through with it and kills himself."

"That's not nice."

"Screw 'nice'. Time we started acting like badasses. Didn't you hear the news? They're killing all the nice


With a final twist of his fingers, the blunt Bud was rolling turned into a heaven-scented stick of perfection.

"Enough of this talking about social injustice and shit. Let's light up this bad boy and it'll dissolve all your ills into smoky nothingness."

Burn, baby, burn.

Suddenly, an image flashed behind my eyes. You know the feeling. It's like being in contact with a higher power. An intense premonition of doom. A flutter of wings behind the iris.


"Yeah. Who is it?"

While Bud answered the phone, I lit up. I just couldn't resist the temptation of a virgin load.

By the time he finished the call I was well on my way to my happy place.

I woke up on the couch. Right at my feet was Red, still passed out. After shaking him into consciousness with my foot, I learned that the Sultan called in Bud.

The Sultan was an old acquaintance of ours. In our wild college years, he saved our asses more than once. 'Course there was another side to the guy. Sex, drugs and a whole lot of unnecessary violence. Now don't get me wrong. I like the occasional bar fight. Relieves tension. But this guy led a pack that looked for trouble. I never look for it. I just smile when it comes my way.


"....everybody hurts .."

It was my cellphone. My mom was on the other end. Some men were looking for me. I hung up.

They were tiger's men. Guy just won't let up. So I cheat at a card game. So what? So I have sex with his wife and his sister. So what? So it was at the same time. So what? A guy should learn to not take things so personally.

I once heard a story bout tiger. He grew up in a small village in Thailand. Son of some famous kickboxer. Groomed to be the second coming. He killed a guy his 1st time in the ring. And on the 5th. And the 9th. They kinda had to ban him from competing.

Damn. I was gonna need a wad of cash, quick. And then bud came back with news that made me believe in fate again.

"We got a job."

"What is it?"




Damn. This was gonna be a tough one. Some death penalty shit to deliver to who knows where. Being a courier has its advantages. You get 5% of the sale and people know that you don’t get to make decisions. Of course you’re also considered expendable, which I don’t really appreciate.

Without knowing it, I was grinding my teeth while I was thinking. Loud enough that Red woke up.

He wiped his eyes and said, “ I’m in.”

Fade out.

chapter alpha
ready, set………

“No way in hell I’m goin on a two day trip without supplies!”

“Uh, T.O., this is a comic book store.”

“I’m well aware of that, bud. But it’s a comic book store inside a mall. So you guys get some beer and munchies while I peruse some reading material.”


“I heard that!”

With the end of that exchange, bud and red headed down to the ground floor towards the liquor section of the supermarket. As usual, their appearance drew a lot of staring. Bud walked with an aura of secure arrogance gotten from discovering the secrets of the universe thru weed. His hand, covered with various silver ornamentation, was on red’s shoulder as he guided him into movement. Red was wearing his clothes from work. Collared shirt and khaki pants. What was unique about him was the reddish hue on his face and the uneven shoulders. An appearance of perpetual drunkenness. Even as he had joined the quest, it seemed that his strength was less than it used to be. He dragged himself with every step. Bud was thinking that it might not have been a good idea to toke up before leaving the house.

“So… what kinda alcohol should we buy?” asked Bud as he ran his fingers thru his hair.

“Don’t really care. How about a couple of six-packs of san Miguel and some of the hard stuff.”

“How about this?” responded bud as he reached for a bottle of jack Daniels at the counter.

“Cool. Now for some food.”

“Do we meet t.o. back upstairs or do we wait here?”

“you call his cellphone later. we should get some chips and…” and red voice trailed off. They had just paid for their purchase and heading for the junk food section when he stopped dead in his tracks.

“What’s up with you? Looks like you’ve seen a ghost. Or a porn star. Or a ghostly porn star. Maybe Savannah?” Bud was expecting red to laugh when he turned his head to see what his friend was looking at.

“Ohhhhhhh shit.”


to be con't...