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The Garden


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#1 Offline Cederak

Cederak
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Posted Dec 23 2012 - 01:06 AM

The fourth entry in my Crystal Chronicles mini-series (preceded by Nascent, Rewriter, and Anhedonia - all of which have nothing to do with each other), I've returned to the short stories department for a less scientific take on the crystal core and dosage of mysticism. Enjoy. :)
 
 
 


The Garden

 
And the Great Being Tynovius held out his hand and pressed it to the queen, touching her with his power. Tynovius told her, "There will come a day where I must leave you, when my kind shall vanish from the earth and take to the stars. In my place, I present unto you twelve progeny—six sons and six daughters—beautiful scions born of my power and intelligence." Tynovius withdrew his hand and brought a dozen entities into existence around the queen, the heirs of his divine power.
 

—Excerpt from the Book of Isolation, Chapter 1

 
 
"Activate the chamber. It's time."
 
Verolais felt a jolt of energy shoot down through her body and the muscles around her eyes twitched weakly. Power quickly returned to her form and she breathed as if for the first time. Awakening from stasis reminded her of when she was born - an infinity of nothing abruptly halted by life. A rush of sound overwhelmed her, followed by the sensation of falling forward. She instinctively caught herself, her hands and knees touching the cold, metallic floor. She opened her eyes and found herself in a fog, paralyzed for a few seconds as old memories washed up like flotsam in her mind. Verolais took a few steps forward and her vision improved. She found herself standing in a large laboratory.
 
"Welcome back, Verolais."
 
The specialized sensors on his eyes and his protective gear were the standard attire of a scientist. Several others dressed very similarly began to approach Verolais, carefully studying her form. She felt rather uncomfortable with the unwanted attention and took a bold stomp forward.
 
Verolais eyed the scientists suspiciously. "Has another war begun?"
 
The first scientist shook his head. "You were awoken per Queen Emphyon's orders. It has been nearly twenty one hundred years since the World War, or any act of war for that matter."
 
Verolais rapidly blinked her eyes, taking in what she was hearing. "Twenty one hundred years, and my mother…is no longer queen?"
 
The scientist gave her a reluctant frown. "I think it would be best if you were escorted to Nexus Tower. Queen Emphyon will explain the situation to you there."
 
"Not yet," she growled. "Why has my mother been removed from the throne!?"
 
The scientist glanced at his colleagues and one of them took a slow step toward her. "Your mother is no longer with us. She passed over a millennia ago."
 
Verolais wasn't sure if it was the effects of coming out of stasis, but she was feeling decidedly emotional. She loved her mother, truly and completely. She was an inspiration to her and her brothers and sisters - the matriarch of the Kingdom of Crystal. To know she was gone left a strange taste in Verolais' mouth and a sickening feeling in her chest. She angrily marched towards the scientists, energies swirling around her hands. She wanted answers, but as they backed away in fear, Verolais deactivated her powers. She had nothing to gain from interrogating a few stasis pod analysts that couldn't be learned from the new queen, whoever she was. She looked back at the wall of stasis chambers and noticed all twelve were empty. When the World War concluded, her brothers and sisters all requested that they be placed in stasis until the day came that they were needed to defend the kingdom again.
 
"I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have intimidated you. I just found out my mother is dead…and I think I'm an only child now too."
 
Verolais quickly departed the room, searching the facility for an exit. Her body felt noticeably light and she looked down at her form. Instantly recalling that she had removed much of her battle armor before entering stasis, Verolais felt incredibly naked without it. She caught sight of herself in a long mirror that lined the corridor and stared back in dissatisfaction. Thin, separated plates of frost colored armor wrapped around obsidian muscle tissue, exposing the weak points her battle armor had protected. She slowly turned around before the mirror, paying close attention to the plating that hugged against the gentle curves of her frame. She could see the spines that jutted out behind her head—a pair above her audio receptors and a pair near the top of her head—all pointing backward.
 
An elevator opened at the far end of the corridor and Verolais scanned the distance between her and the transport chamber. Estimating it at ninety bio, she bolted across the room and sprinted for the elevator with everything she had. Without the added weight of her battle armor, Verolais felt unbelievably fast, covering the distance in a few seconds. She halted herself in the elevator's center and touched the selection screen to send her up to the ground level. Stasis hadn't weakened her in the slightest and Verolais flexed the muscles in her arms and legs. Her body appeared lean and lithe, but she was overflowing with power.
 
The elevator doors opened and Verolais silently walked by several more scientists, still uncomfortable with their stares and curious glances. Many centuries ago, the Kingdom of Crystal knew her as the Paragon, the military leader of the kingdom and the individual that led her homeland to victory during the World War. There was no arrogance in her success though, as Verolais acknowledged it was through the assistance of her brothers and sisters that the kingdom ultimately triumphed and drove back their enemies after one final push.
 
As Verolais crossed the entryway that led her outside, she felt oddly comfortable with what she was seeing. She was in the kingdom's capital city, but if it was true that twenty one hundred years had passed while she sat it stasis, why was everything so familiar? The hover vehicles looked the same, skyscrapers remained as polished as ever, and even the biomechs walking about seemed too unchanged by the years. Nexus Tower stood out above all other buildings in the city and Verolais started toward it.
 
The city seemed wary of her presence and Verolais had a feeling they had all been expecting her. While the Kingdom of Crystal remained pristine and bright, it was eerily quiet. No one spoke to her as she walked and most tried to avert their gaze if Verolais glanced their way. She was tempted to scream out at them, to end their show and discover what exactly was going on. Employing the best of her resolve, she continued on, reaching the entrance to Nexus Tower within a matter of minutes.
 
Verolais stared up at it, the gaudy display of the kingdom's power. It was more than Verolais would've wanted, but it had always been her mother's home, not hers. There were certain things Verolais had never understood about her mother, disconnected from the trouble of being so…fragile. She remembered her mother as a strong woman, capable of great passion and great fury. In spite of how much more infinitely powerful Verolais was from a physical perspective, some part of her was always slightly fearful of her mother - fearful of the emotion that simmered beneath the surface much like the energy within Verolais. Verolais knew her own power well and mastered her control of it, but her mother had always been enigmatic and beyond total comprehension. Perhaps it was that air of mystery that drew a Great Being like Tynovius to her in the first place. Verolais found her father to be much more effortless to understand, catching the meaning to every riddle in his speech and finding comfort at how in tune he was with the universe. Tynovius, however, found a simplicity to life that Verolais never latched on to - a fact that made her smirk. She was her mother's daughter.
 
Royal guards stood aside as Verolais entered the palace, their helmeted heads simply bowing to her. She examined the sleek, obsidian visors of their helmets and noted the virtual displays faintly glowing in them. Such technology did not exist the last time Verolais was awake. Even their energy rifles seemed drastically changed from those she had seen when fighting in the war. She continued to the palace elevator, watching a guard activate the panel that would call the transport down. The door swept open and Verolais stepped inside, pressing the button for the top floor. She had visited Nexus Tower a day ago in her mind, but the reality that her mother would not be there to greet her upon arrival was troubling. The door opened again and Verolais purposefully marched out into the hallway, watching more of the guards bow their heads to her.
 
"Hello, at last," a female biomech called from the entryway to the throne room.
 
Verolais looked out at her, unable to speak as sunlight poured in from the royal chamber. The new queen had a silhouette that reminded Verolais so much of her mother. Her white and crimson gown flowed gently as she approached Verolais, traces of chrome armor peeking out from underneath. Her eyes were like diamonds, silver and sharp. Verolais could see confidence in those eyes, she could see the belief that she was fit to be queen. Verolais had never met her, but she disagreed with the notion entirely.
 
"I'm Queen Emphyon," she said, smiling. "Welcome back to Nexus Tower, Verolais."
 
Verolais glared at her. "You stand in my mother's house, wear my mother's clothing, and speak to me as though you were my mother, the rightful queen to this kingdom. You are not my mother, Emphyon, and you will never be my queen."
 
Emphyon frowned, taking a step backward. "Time has carried on in your absence, Verolais. You're not the only one of your sisters to question my authority and I was as sorry as anyone else when your mother passed. She led this kingdom through its toughest hours and I can never hope to best her abilities as a leader."
 
"No," Verolais replied sternly. "No you cannot."
 
"Despite the clear animosity you have toward me, you were awoken from stasis for a reason," Emphyon explained. "You are the last surviving child of the Great Being Tynovius and we need your help."
 
Verolais turned her head down. She had surmised her brothers and sisters had perished when she saw their stasis tubes to be empty, but now it was confirmed. Letting her instincts as the Paragon take over, Verolais ignored the emotional response to break down and mourn for the loved ones she had lost.
 
"I'm not helping anyone until I get some answers," Verolais said, marching toward Emphyon. "Why has this kingdom become so stagnant? What killed my mother, my sisters, and my brothers? And who gave you the right to be queen?"
 
"Come with me, Verolais," Emphyon offered, motioning her to the throne room.
 
Verolais followed, stepping inside the grand chamber from where her mother once presided over the entire Kingdom of Crystal. Glancing up at the ceiling, she beheld a massive stained glass depiction of her brothers and sisters fighting in the World War. Verolais led them into battle, the Paragon of the military that was charged with protecting the kingdom at all costs.
 
"Daughter of Tynovius," Emphyon began, "product of his love for a biomech queen, you have slept a long time. During the World War, we were the most advanced kingdom on the planet. Since you led our military to victory, we have not contacted the world outside our borders and none have come to contact us. After the first millennia or so of stasis, your only sister to opt out of the program, Diventia, spoke to your mother about Tynovius and the Great Being city that once existed far from our kingdom. Our kingdom possesses much of the planet's resources and while we've never had a need to journey outside our borders, your sister was adamant in exploring. The queen later told Diventia that Tynovius once spoke of a grand source of power that fueled the city and was to be left behind when his kind left our world. Convinced the power source was still there, Diventia was refitted with her battle armor and sent out from our kingdom with several high ranking elite knights. Neither Diventia nor any of the knights returned."
 
"The Great Being city," Verolais breathed. She remembered visiting it long ago, an interim made even longer by the stasis gap. "So, if Diventia never returned from the city, did my brothers and sisters leave to search for her?"
 
Emphyon sighed. "Sometime after Diventia left our kingdom, your mother fell ill. She became distraught and miserable from the loss of her child and slowly withered away. Since her death, each king or queen of this city has sent out another child of Tynovius to enter the city of the Great Beings and return with the power source. I'm sure you can piece the rest together yourself."
 
Verolais stared hard at the queen. "They died on the journey. But…why didn't you send us together?"
 
"The risk of leaving our city unprotected was too great," Emphyon replied. "Still, each of your brothers and sisters accepted the journey willingly. It is not a task to be forced upon a warrior and I can assure you that we expected their return. A prior queen commissioned the construction of a starship that would allow us to leave this world and travel the stars as the Great Beings did. To power it, though, we need an energy the likes of which only the Great Beings might possess. Your mother once said that Tynovius called it "the strongest fuel I have ever known." If such an energy truly exists out there, it would be immensely beneficial to the kingdom."
 
"If my brothers and sisters risked their lives to retrieve this energy, then I will take up their cause as well. I was their leader, their Paragon, and I will finish their mission."
 
"I want you to know, I'm truly sorry for all that you have lost," Emphyon said. "I know this can't be easy."
 
"It isn't," Verolais replied. "The last time I spoke to my mother, hugged her…I didn't think it would be for the last time. Perhaps if I had known this was coming, I would've done things differently."
 
"Your battle armor is still locked up in the weaponry hall," Emphyon said. "I'll have one of the knights allow you inside."
 
"Thanks," Verolais replied quietly. "I want you to know, whatever is waiting for me in the Great Being city…I'll be back."
 
Emphyon smiled. "I can only hope."
 

<<<>>> 

 
Verolais stared at her battle armor in silence. She reached toward the display case and grabbed the pieces that locked around her lower legs, protecting her calves, shins, and ankles. Two more pieces were attached to her thighs, clicking into place as they locked tight. A thin armor plate wrapped around her hips as well, securely fastened to her metallic form. Another armor pair was connected to her shoulders and ran down her arm, while a separate piece protected her forearms. Verolais placed a flexible back plate against her shoulder armor and locked it further into place on the small of her back. Her hands and feet were well-protected on their own, leaving one final piece to be fitted on. Verolais took down her breastplate and locked it against her body, looking down at her heartlight as the armor clicked together. It was exposed, unable to properly cycle the energy within her if it were constricted. Verolais was a well-seasoned fighter, unconcerned with leaving her heartlight unprotected. The power she wielded had always made it a nonissue in the past.
 
The once and former Paragon headed off from the royal palace then, returning to the disturbingly silent city streets. Receiving stares and unnerved glances from the biomech citizens, Verolais did her best to ignore them, to imagine herself anywhere else. She marched confidently toward one of the local matter transmitters and tried not to pay any notice as civilians began to walk with her. Once she approached the machine, Verolais input a coordinate request and stepped into a beam of light within the transmitter. In an instant, Verolais was shot across the kingdom to the far western edge of the wall, standing in an entirely separate transmitter.
 
Verolais stared out at the metallic silver wall, a thick and sturdy barrier from the mysterious world beyond. It was perhaps ten bio high, maybe higher. Verolais ran at the wall then, ascending it quickly as her feet pushed her higher against the cold metal, propelling her over the obstacle and into thin air. Below, a grand waterfall sent a torrent of liquid blasting into a basin. Verolais would either drop into the water far below or land another seven bio out on the ridge beyond. Without missing a beat, Verolais lunged herself forward, closing the gap and catching the cliff with her right hand. Keeping a steady momentum, Verolais threw herself upward and front flipped onto a soft patch of grass.
 
Verolais suddenly felt very alone. It reminded her of the battlefield. A soldier can rely on her fellow troops for morale support and covering fire, but it is her own skill versus that of the enemy that often determines her survival. Verolais knew this well, having led the kingdom's military through so much. Her comfort in battle had left her somewhat broken in society, sometimes unable to properly adjust to that calm lifestyle. Verolais felt as ease, glancing back down the side of the waterfall for only a moment. She slowly turned her attention to the world outside of the kingdom's immediately surroundings, studying the far distant landscape.
 
Verolais had fought off the kingdom's enemies outside the western wall before. This could hardly be the same place. The fields had been reclaimed entirely by nature, far off cities consumed by overgrowth. They had succumbed to the war with entropy, crumbled apart. There was no sign of any civilization out here, only the wall at Verolais' back. She continued on across the fresh grass, untouched by sentient life for ages. This land belonged to the planet again, as Tynovius had often expressed a desire to see. Living in harmony with the forces of nature, rather than in a constant, bitter struggle with them, was where Verolais' parents differed. Her mother was a simple biomech creature, devoid of the untold power the Great Beings possessed. Before meeting Tynovius, she had lived the life of a biomech for centuries. Biomechs built walls, roads, towers, airships, and kept nature at bay if its beauty stood where they wanted any of those things to rest.
 
As night began to fall, Verolais had covered a great distance by simply walking. She had entered the ruins of the nearest city, a metropolis she could not recall the name of. She had fought campaigns across the world, but the only name that was important to her was the Kingdom of Crystal. The streets were wrecked and buried, entire regions of the city flooded out into a small lake. Where a great menagerie once stood, only the remnants of empty cages and exhibit stages remained. She had encountered fauna roaming the ancient streets, now winding paths that predator or prey traveled for hunting or escape. The beasts, held captive for the amusement of biomechs, now owned the city. This was the territory of animals and Verolais was a foreigner in their midst. As the last flickers of sunlight ran away from the night, she prepared herself for what must come next. This was the jungle, after all.
 
The kingdoms knights never ventured far from the realm, unaware of just how strange the land beyond had become. Verolais could hear the growls and stirring movements of animals in the dark, stalking her, analyzing how threatening she might be. Sweeping a corner, a large, cat-like creature came into view. It's leg muscles were strong enough to push a kingdom soldier over and tear him asunder. Verolais stood her ground, stomping against the broken concrete in the dirt. The beast took a step forward, stomping its clawed foot against the ground. It would not tolerate her intrusion.
 
"Let me go," Verolais whispered, her voice calm and even.
 
The beast growled angrily at her, taking a couple steps back. Verolais could tell it was preparing to strike.
 
"Let me go," Verolais repeated, taking a step back as well.
 
The beast was patient, waiting for the right moment to present itself. Verolais turned away and moved as though she were about to break into a run. The colossal animal leapt into the air and moved in for the kill. Verolais spun back, placing her hand out at the creature. Her palm became illuminated by gleaming, silver energies. A circular barrier of crystalline energy came into existence between the beast and Verolais, causing it to smash its head against the crystal wall before landing with a hard crash. Verolais flicked her wrist and sent a jolt of electricity into the creature, causing it to flee. At roughly three times the size of Verolais, it had never encountered such a powerful prey.
 
Verolais swept her hand across the air, firing several sharp crystalline daggers out into the grass. They plunged into the dirt and shattered, immediately catching fire to the ground. Verolais had delivered a warning to anything watching her confront the beast and now that warning had become an outright threat. She was not to be toyed with. Verolais had made similar displays during the war, striking fear into the heartlights of the kingdom's enemies. The Paragon was the most confident, swift, unstoppable force ever known to her world. Even the Great Beings were capable of compassion, showing mercy when their enemies may not deserve it. Verolais was a staunch defender of the Kingdom of Crystal and, if you threatened her mother, you threatened her. Her eleven brothers and sisters did not see things quite so black and white, but Verolais tried not to think about that much. She didn't consider her world view a perfect one, but something must've stood between the others and their objective. It must've killed them. Verolais couldn't afford to be killed. She was a military leader. She was the final guardian of the kingdom. She was the law.
 
"Stop where you are!"
 
Verolais froze. She must've been walking all night, suddenly realizing sunrise was on the way. Several armed biomechs stood in the distance, brandishing energy rifles. Instinctively, Verolais summoned a crystalline shield bubble and a pair of crystal blades in her hands, charging them with electrical power.
 
"Put your shield down and drop the weapons!" one of the soldiers ordered.
 
Verolais hadn't expected anyone to be roaming out in the wilderness, let alone a seemingly well-coordinated military faction. She dropped the energy shield and allowed the blades to fade into millions of crystal bits, carried away by the wind.
 
"Identify yourself, please," the soldier told her, cautiously approaching.
 
"I am the Paragon of the Kingdom of Crystal," Verolais said. "Let me pass."
 
The soldiers loaded their weapons and took aim at her. Verolais narrowed her sight and engaged a new set of crystal blades, dashing forward through the hail of gunfire. She evaded every shot and ran one of her blades straight into the chest of one of the soldiers. His fellow gunmen turned and beheld a terrible sight. The soldier had been impaled on Verolais' blade, held aloft by her arm. Screaming out in both pain and terror, his body began to turn to crystal dust, swept away by the wind as Verolais' first blades had been.
 
"Let me pass," Verolais repeated, this time more sternly.
 
The soldiers ran for their lives, heading across the vast plain and as far from Verolais as they could get. Meanwhile, Verolais felt herself getting back into the swing of battle. She couldn't imagine why soldiers still cared about gunning her down after so many years, but she also knew they had underestimated their enemy. Verolais had been thrown into the wild, armed only with her own power. She had seen the cruelty and savagery of biomechs on the battlefield and felt no compassion for them taking up rifles now. The way she saw it, if you were prepared to fire a gun, you were prepared to face the consequences of pulling your trigger.
 
Verolais continued across the plains through the morning and much of the afternoon, deciding to pick up the pace a bit. It was no great exhaustion to cover a couple dozen kio every hour, never encountering another biomech along the way. Verolais started to wonder if she'd imagined the early morning encounter, possibly a strange side-effect of the stasis process. Nearing the late afternoon, however, her theories fell away. Verolais halted her trail when she cleared a massive hillside and stumbled upon her destination. An ancient Great Being city rested in the valley below, appearing to be active and functional. Upon closer inspection, even more of the soldiers like she'd seen earlier were patrolling the outer perimeter of the city. Something in the back of her mind told Verolais that the object she required was in the heart of that city.
 
Towers of bronze and ruby shimmered like gems in the late afternoon sun, their edges moving and readjusting here and there. Great Beings were flighty, unable to stay constant very long. They longed for activity, and their city was a reflection of this. The only problem was that it was no longer their city. Verolais could see more and more biomech troops outside the city limits, watching her, waiting for her. No one fired, no one called out, no one did a thing. Verolais didn't like things being that easy - it was suspicious. Much like in the kingdom, Verolais entered the streets of the city and received nervous glances, worried stares and reluctant examinations. She was devoid of answers all over again, but as Verolais came closer and closer to the center of the city, she felt herself coming closer to some kind of truth. At last, her feeling became reality.
 
The heart of the city was a lonely garden, sustaining fresh grass and sweet, colorful flowers. Verolais entered the garden, studying the architecture of several stone objects all around. The structures varied in size, some built as grand statues of long forgotten Great Beings and others of mysterious devices, the products of their technological knowhow. At the center of the garden was a pedestal, upon which something important was made to rest. Verolais found it odd that the pedestal was empty instead, but she didn't ponder for long.
 
"Hello, dear sister," a familiar voice called out.
 
Verolais felt as though her muscles had frozen over, unable to move at first. She whirled around and caught sight of where the voice had come from, unsure if what she was seeing was real. She was looking at Diventia, her sister, and the first of Tynovius' children to leave the kingdom. Verolais felt her mouth hanging open, not quite ready to reply. Diventia remained as beautiful as she had ever been, always considered the most gorgeous among Tynovius' daughters. For all the skill Verolais possessed in battle, Diventia possessed splendor. Every line, every contour of her body exuded attractiveness, all culminating in her intense, lemon eyes. Her armored form was adorned in auburn and amber, her tawny face smiling intently. Verolais never paid much mind to all the attention Diventia received for her looks, but having thought her dead a day prior, she could see something about Diventia she had never noticed before. First of all, she hadn't aged a day since the war ended. Second of all, Verolais considered that Diventia might've been the most beautiful thing that ever lived. It was almost scary how stunning she was and Verolais took another step backward.
 
"It has been a very long time, Verolais," Diventia said, her voice rich with charm. "Well, for me, at least. I have waited so many years for the Paragon of our mother's kingdom to walk into my home."
 
Diventia marched toward Verolais like the mighty ruler of a thousand legions, a chrome scepter in her hand. Atop the otherworldly rod was a transparent spherical case that contained a brilliant golden jewel, a floating crystalline gem that shifted about itself, glowing like a miniature sun.
 
"Hello, Diventia," Verolais was finally able to utter. "What's on that scepter?"
 
Diventia turned her head up to the crystal core and smirked. "This is a present our father left behind for us, situated atop the pedestal behind you when I first found it. My touch brought this entire city to life, all possible through this little energy reactor. Tynovius recorded a message within it, asking the son or daughter who discovered it to make a choice. We could return home with it, prancing back to our pathetic, weakling mother, or leave it where it lay and join the Great Beings in their collective."
 
Verolais narrowed her eyes. "Never speak of our mother that way. She was a stronger queen than you or I could ever be!"
 
Diventia laughed, returning her focus to Verolais. "There are soldiers with their rifles trained on you all around this complex. And yet, I know this truth does not trouble you. We are more than soldiers, sister. We are more than kings or queens. We are goddesses, meant for thrones far more exalted than our mother could ever imagine. Our brothers and sisters could not see this, the idea that we might rule the world did not sit well with them. I rejected running home to mother or chasing off after our father and became a goddess here. My subjects have watched your every step since you left our mother's kingdom, because I commanded them to. Short of the Kingdom of Crystal that chooses to keep itself trapped in darkness, I have achieved control of the entire world with this crystal core at the heart of my own kingdom. And now that you have come, the last sentinel of mother's realm has left it defenseless."
 
"You used that crystal core to kill our brothers and sisters," Verolais reasoned, angrily staring her sister down, "and now you would ask me to join you? I will not aid your campaign to conquer the Kingdom of Crystal."
 
"No. Why would the golden child dare to hurt mother, right? When the twelve of us defended her borders and protected her citizens, it was you, the almighty Paragon, that mother loved above all others. I have spent years cursing your legacy, always knowing you would be the last to arrive. Even some of our brothers and sisters, despite their apprehension to take the world for ourselves, wanted to see you taken down a peg. Can you blame us?"
 
"Don't try to put me on a guilt trip, Diventia," Verolais replied. "I was a modest defender of the kingdom like the rest of us. And if I proved myself worthy enough to lead the military, I won't be treated like a criminal for performing to the best of my abilities. You're truly the prettiest entity I've ever known, but your jealousy says otherwise."
 
Diventia was fuming. "You are the final threat to my kingdom and no real threat at all. I allow you into my home, as I have allowed each of my siblings, and you have refused my kindness. The world has forgotten you, Paragon Verolais, but I am about to show this city why yours is a worthless title."
 
Verolais drew her hand to the side, materializing a blade of crystalline in her grasp. "You asked for this."
 
Diventia pointed her scepter at Verolais, instantly paralyzing her sister in place. Verolais felt herself being lifted off the ground and hurled backwards, slamming her back against the pedestal. At once, a portal rippled to life, creating a dimensional gateway above the pedestal. Regaining control of her body, Verolais leapt away from the portal, eyeing her sister's reaction to it.
 
"That's unexpected," Diventia muttered.
 
"Where does that portal go!?" Verolais questioned.
 
"I don't know," Diventia replied, aiming her scepter at Verolais. "Hopefully somewhere you won't like."
 
Verolais felt herself lifting off the ground again, using every bit of her energy to fight the influence of the crystal core. Diventia was still trying to hurl her sister into the portal, but Verolais was strong enough to keep herself locked in place. She hadn't imagined her journey would end in a confrontation with Diventia, but it didn't change much for Verolais. Whatever the cost, she needed to separate her sister from the scepter.
 
"You were born a product of the Great Beings!" Diventia shouted. "You were a gift, a treasure that was made to lead these lesser creatures! Your time here has left you damaged and less than whole! Do not fight your fate!"
 
Verolais tried to tune Diventia out, carefully manipulating her own crystal energy skills. Diventia was using the crystal core to move her, but Verolais was trying to feel for any trace of crystal energies like her own within the core. If it possessed even an iota of that energy wavelength, Verolais could manipulate it.
 
"I can see you are only a product of war now," Diventia continued. "You're trying to understand yourself in a world that has changed drastically and no longer needs you. If you truly care about your efforts as Paragon, why not do what is best for the survivors of that terrible war?"
 
Verolais mentally caught the energy wavelength she had been feeling for, pulling the scepter from her sister's grasp and throwing it across the garden. Diventia's scepter flew through the air and into one of the statues, shattering the casing at the top. Both sisters watched in anticipation as the mysterious crystal core within was released. The scepter dropped to the ground immediately, but the golden crystal object hovered in midair for a moment, still spinning serenely. Without warning, the core exploded to life, releasing massive amounts of power. Diventia examined her body, watching trails of sparks fly up and down her form. Verolais noticed the same, feeling the crystal powers within herself growing unstable. Struggling against her own body, Verolais raced for the crystal core, taking it in her hands as the dimensional gateway began to rumble and screech. Diventia attempted to retrieve the core from Verolais, but before she could, her sister hurled it into the portal. Diventia screamed out in anger and shock, diving after the crystal core.
 
"Diventia!" Verolais called out in a warning.
 
Diventia, consumed by her lust for power, caught the crystal core just as it entered the portal, pulled in with the object. Seconds later, the portal exploded, sending a chain reaction of explosions out through the city. Verolais watched as the technology her sister did not fully understand, the devices that sustained her kingdom for so long, were damaged beyond repair all in a single moment. Without the knowledge of the Great Beings, Diventia's city would become another ruin on the planet. Unconcerned with the biomechs that devoted themselves to Diventia's cause, Verolais didn't waste any time wondering what would happen to the soldiers and civilians living there.
 
No one attempted to stop Verolais from leaving the ancient city, with the soldiers using weapons that had been wirelessly connected to the power of the crystal core. Their guns were now nothing but blunt, metal objects - hardly a concern for the female who was now undeniably the strongest entity in the world. Resolving to return home to the kingdom she still considered her mother's, Verolais recalled the starship Queen Emphyon spoke of. Verolais vowed that she would find a way to power it and pursue Diventia across the stars, for she already possessed a guide. When Verolais touched the crystal core, it interacted with her own power, creating a link between them. Verolais could faintly sense the core somewhere out in the vastness of space and, wherever Diventia had gone, Verolais intended to seek her. She would not allow Diventia to misuse the power of the crystal core any further.


Edited by Cederak, Jan 06 2014 - 11:20 PM.

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#2 Offline Aderia

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Posted Jan 01 2013 - 09:27 PM

Dear Mr. Cederak!

 

     Hiya!! I was really happy when I saw you wrote another short story. I went straight for my awesome pens to write you a letter again. Then I remembered that my scanner is really poopy quality, and you wouldn't be able to read the letter. So I'm typing my letter again. =/

 

     I wanted to write earlier, you see, but holiday stuffs got in my way. So happy New Year!! I hope you get to write a lot more awesome stories this year.

 

     I think that one of the things I like most about all your stories are the names that you come up with. They got smiley faces (stickers this time!! =D) on my printout. (printed out, by the way, on snowflake holiday paper, to my mother’s annoyance. Mais, je ne regrette rien.) The family words you used like daughter, father, mother, and so on, I liked that too. It gave the story plush-ness. And that got smiley-face-stickers too. They’re sparkly and come in 3 different colors.

 

     It was fun following your character through the paragraphs of your story. It was like an adventure!! I got to see all her powers and leaderlyness and root for her when the bad guys were after her and boo her evil stepsister and all that jazz. (I didn’t have stickers for all of those things, though. That was just in my head) And just like in your other story I wrote a letter for, the character learned a good growing up lesson in the end. With greater power comes greater responsibility not to do stupid things =) or something kind of more or less maybe possibly along those lines. (?) I’m glad Verolias got to see that lesson up close because she’s so strong too. I would be sad if she turned evil too.

 

     This was a good story and lots of fun to read =D And I hope my letter makes it to you so you know that. 

                                      

     Sincerely,

 

          Your biggest fan

 

=)


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#3 Offline Cederak

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Posted Jan 01 2013 - 10:46 PM

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Dear Ms. Aderia,[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Thank you for saying such kind words. It seems fate has once again separated me from seeing your Christmas pens at work. I've had quite a busy holiday myself, what with people to visit and dishes to prepare. Somehow in the midst of all this, I found a moment to break away and get some writing done. A Happy New Year to you as well, miss. May it be an improvement to all of your 2012. ;)[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]I am glad you brought up my use of names. I happened upon your request in the OTC to hear about how writers develop their names and I'd like to personally answer you here. The process is one of wondrous chaos, drawing inspiration as my eyes scan the keyboard, gliding my vision from letter to letter. In a matter of moments, the process builds such names as Verolais, Diventia, Emphyon - words that mean nothing to me until I give them purpose. Born from such happy coincidence, these serendipitous names are just another facet in the writing process. I think it's quite special that they merited colorful stickers and holiday paper (Vivez pendant le moment, oui?). The Garden is as much a story of family and legacy as it is an adventure, so I understand the "plush-ness" you spoke of.[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Verolais embarks on a journey that challenges her resolve and character, coming out the other side as the strong woman she always was on the inside. Or as much of a woman as a female biomechanical life form can be. :P  At any rate, each Crystal Chronicle has a lesson to be learned and you've explored them nicely thus far. It's easy to hamper a female lead by forcing her to rely on others, but Verolais is lone traveler, prepared to wage a one-woman war on anyone who stands in her way. She's endearing and sweet, but not to be crossed. In short, I wrote her as something of an ideal human in my eyes - flawed, but far from broken. :lol:[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Thanks again for your beautiful letter; I do hope to hear from you again soon. :)[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Yours Sincerely,[/color][/font]

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]Cederak[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"] ^_^[/color][/font]


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#4 Offline Tolkien

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Posted Jan 15 2013 - 04:27 PM

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]To Whom It May Concern,[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Enclosed please find the requested short story review, rendered with care by the SSCC. In addition, this letter serves as final notification and summary of contractual obligations concerning Mr. C.C. Cederak I. Payment in the form of services rendered may be called in at any time. Maintain current passports and identification in the eventuality of international travel (non-reimbursable). Furthermore, you are advised to maintain a current life insurance policy and final will and testament (funeral expenses covered).[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Sincerely,ManagementSSCC Department of Critiques and Corporate Espionage (SSCCDCCE)[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]---[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Forget the fine print. I’m jumping right into the review here:[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Very good story. I definitely enjoyed this one. It’s fun and interesting to see how the Crystal Core was worked into a new role and a new universe here. The world of the Kingdom of Crystal and the characters populating it are all very vividly described, and the dialogue is quite natural throughout. My favorite scene was probably the opening scene, as we are introduced to Verolais as a character. Her relationship with her mother--even though her mother never appears in-story--is definitely well-crafted and lends further depth to Verolais’ personality. That, coupled with the evocative description and vivid realization of your world, makes for an extremely enjoyable story, overall. Well written.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]In fact, in the end, I can’t say that I have all that much to critique. I managed to find a few things, of course, but it was a search. Thanks for making me work. Someone’s got to do it.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]We’ll start from the beginning:[/font]

 

A rush of sound overwhelmed her, followed by the sensation of falling forward. She instinctively caught herself, her hands and knees touching the cold, metallic floor. She opened her eyes and found herself in a fog, paralyzed for a few seconds as old memories washed up like flotsam in her mind. Verolais took a few steps forward and her visibility improved, finding herself standing in a large laboratory.

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Odd change in Verolais’ position: on hands and knees in one sentence, then on her feet a sentence later. Easily fixed.[/font]

 

"Welcome back, Verolais," a biomech greeted.
"Has another war begun?" she questioned, suspiciously eyeing the scientists.

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]A couple slightly redundant dialogue tags. There may have been more, but these were the ones that jumped out at me.[/font]

 

Nexus Tower stood out above all other buildings in the city and Verolais started on her way for it.

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]“started toward it”?[/font]

 

---

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]A general note on pacing: it feels a little off near the middle of the story, right around the point when Verolais leaves the city. Mostly it has to do with a rushed sense of time passing, starting here:[/font]

 

As night began to fall, Verolais had covered a great distance by simply walking...

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]The narrative then describes Verolais’ travel through the ruined city. There are a few passages of exposition, and then she encounters the beast. That scene progresses pretty quickly, and then suddenly:[/font]

 

...She was the final guardian of the kingdom. She was the law."Stop where you are!"Verolais froze. She must've been walking all night, suddenly realizing sunrise was on the way.

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]This didn’t feel like “all night”, mainly because most of the time Verolais spends traveling is described in narration. Adding in a comment or two about time passing during that exposition might help shift things along. Also, the sudden introduction of the unknown soldiers was a bit jarring. So far in the story it’s implied that the wars are all over, and I expected Verolais to be a bit more surprised to see soldiers still wandering around after 2100 years. Not a big deal though, since I realize it’s accounted for later on.[/font]

 

---

 

Upon closer inspection, even more of the soldiers like she'd seen earlier were watching the outer perimeter of the city, staying on patrol.

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Odd phrasing. Maybe just “...even more of the soldiers like she'd seen earlier were patrolling the outer perimeter of the city.”?[/font]

 

---

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]There were a couple more minor issues with pacing in the final few scenes, although nothing major. Mainly just a sense that events were being rushed along once Verolais discovers the city. The fact that no one acknowledges her approach to the city, even though soldiers had attacked her previously, seemed a bit odd as well, although you did acknowledge the oddness of it explicitly and it was explained (somewhat) later on.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Still, I was expecting a bit more showing than telling when Verolais enters the city itself, but that’s mostly because I thought she would have to infiltrate the city, rather than just walk in. The final action scene was pretty well-paced in comparison though, and I suppose I really don’t have anything else to mention on that front.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]With that in mind, I think I will conclude things here. Once again: nicely written. Always a pleasure.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]JRRT[/font]


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#5 Offline Yukiko

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Posted Jan 15 2013 - 10:37 PM

Verolais took a few steps forward and her visibility improved, finding herself standing in a large laboratory.

 

 

I just noticed this when I was reading over Tolkien's review.  I believe this is a dangling participle, but if it isn't the sentence still sounds awkward.  It's as if her visibility found herself standing in the room.    Also, you should use "vision" instead of "visibility"; visibility implies that Verolais is the one becoming more visible. 

 

I would modify it so it looked something like this.

 

 

Verolais took a few steps forward and found herself standing in a large laboratory as her vision improved.

 

 

or

 

 

Verolais took a few steps forward and her vision improved.  She found herself standing in a large laboratory.

 

 

I'm very sorry for excessive nitpicking, but you know what they say about details. =P


Edited by Yukiko, Jan 15 2013 - 10:39 PM.

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#6 Offline Cederak

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Posted Jan 15 2013 - 11:05 PM

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]@Tolkien: I must say, that introduction is hilariously awesome. Very cool of you to commit like that. Also, thank you so much for the review. I edited in many of the changes you suggested, and I'll have to work on the pacing in the latter half of the story when I have more free time. Glad you enjoyed the story. :)[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]@Yukiko: Excessive nitpicking understood, from one critic to another. ;)  I made the edit as per your last suggestion.[/color][/font]

 

[color=#000080;][font="verdana, geneva, sans-serif;"]-Ced[/color][/font]


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