All posts by admin

The Osgord: Battle Stations

Thirty days after your encounter with the Matriarch, you awaken in your cabin to the claxon of the ship’s general quarters alarm. After fourteen similar drills, it only takes you about three millidays to don your armor. As soon as your helmet seals, your door opens with a belting roar, the uniform red light casting an eerie effect on the wardroom. Immediately, you’re up and out the main hatch, making your way into the central passageway, where many other crew members are making their way to their battle stations.

On your way to the forward cut of the ship, you hear the groan of the main counterbalance rotating around to join the central compartment as the ship’s spin comes to a grinding halt. There is a brief moment of drift to one side when the central compartment locks into position, and after, you feel yourself lift off of the deck. Enabling your magnetic locks, you bring yourself back to the ground and continue your way forward.

When you reach the forward breaking head, you disengage your magnetic locks and pull yourself through the manifold into a small airlock. As the abaft airlock closes, the forward airlock opens, revealing the workings of the Combat Readiness and Response Control Room, known to most as the Sword Room. The Captain looks to you briefly and nods. You nod back, making your way to your station as the Upper Northport Gunner. You take a seat and link into the interface panel, and immediately, your visor lights up with an entirely new display.

You are now looking, instead of at a small panel of figures on a dash, at a live feed of the outside of the ship, complete with extravisible sensor information displayed around the borders of the feed. Monitoring the parameters and finding nothing out of the ordinary, you issue an “all clear” from your station. The message is received by the Captain, who acknowledges and asks you to look out for any possible enemy activity. Of course, this is just a drill; but the Captain takes every operation, drill or otherwise, just as seriously as the life of any and all of his crew. You continue scanning the void for any possible signs out of the ordinary while reports shipwide come in, giving the all clear.

After the last station calls in, you begin to feel on edge. Not a single casualty has been reported, which is quite contrary to the very nature of a drill. Additionally, every senior member of ship staff has the same grim look on his or her face, and each one is enhanced with each glance at the central command console. Concerned, you open up access to all external sensors, compounding the data on your visor and reviewing it more thoroughly. There doesn’t appear to be anything out there, but–

There it is! Closing all but two of your views, you compare them once more. Sure enough, there’s an exaggerated parallax discrepancy between the two views of Osgord, still not much more than a pinprick at this distance. Nevertheless, it’s enough. “Anomaly spotted at Up-23, North-15, Port-71!” The report comes out from your external speaker in that eerily androgynous voice, but everyone knows whose voice is really calling out, and no one questions the validity of the claim, instead bringing their screens up to show the location surrounding those coordinates.

Immediately, calls begin issuing out from other stations, reporting similar findings of different natures. Each time a report is issued, the Captain nods and makes a small mark on the central command console. When the heat sensors report in, the Captain makes one final mark before standing tall and grabbing hold of the intracommunicator.

“This is the Captain speaking. There has been a confirmed sighting of a stealth-equipped enemy ship. Heat signatures indicate that it’s a repurposed Fregjyt-Class Storm Ship. It appears to be headed toward the planet Osgord. Reports were first received of a missing cargo vessel three days ago. GQ status was issued as soon as the Osgord entered the flight path of the missing ship and confirmed that there were no signs of the vessel. It is highly suspected that the enemy ship is on a bombing run, and I have every intention to engage.”

A few moments of silence ring out at these words. The Osgord hasn’t seen action in over a cycle, despite a very vivid memory of your own to the contrary manufactured by the Matriarch, and its crew isn’t looking to end that streak any time soon. As if on cue, the Captain continues. “I realize most of you don’t look forward to combat, but trust me when I say this is our duty.” He takes a look around the Sword Room and glares at his console once more before finishing: “Let’s go show those idiots why the Ginnung don’t go to the Core!”

Despite yourself, you join in for a moment as the whole crew shouts as one, men and women alike pounding a fist to their chest before returning to their properly stationed mannerisms. The Captain begins barking orders, and the senior officers surrounding him turn to their respective divisions. The chief gunnery officer turns to your division and orders that all guns be freed. You reach to your interface and begin to engage weapons when Shilo says, ‘Wait. Feel inside that ship.’

You reach out toward the ship with your mind, your glow burning more brightly. Upon looking inside, you realize the trap and shout, “Wait!” Your helmet disengages, and you practically trip over your seat scrambling toward the Captain, who gives you one quick glance over before picking up the intracommunicator once more and calmly issuing the order, “All hold.”

“What is it, Keria’Ledrii? You sensed something, I can tell.” His eyes try to scan your own, but he quickly has to wipe them. Staring directly into a Valkyrie’s eyes with the naked eye can be dangerous, and he rarely wears the recommended Captain’s Visor. Seeing that he won’t be able to look you in the eye with your helmet off, he sets his hand on your head and leaves his eyes closed.

For a moment, you are hesitant to tell him what you’ve felt, but then you feel aboard the other ship again, and your determination becomes hardened. “There are twenty-four bardag bombs aboard that ship, and it’s extremely derelict. I’m surprised it’s even capable of maintaining its stealth parameters. There isn’t anyone aboard that ship. My guess is that it’s on a suicide run to Osgord, and it flew straight through the missing ship by a freak chance. I don’t think anyone has been aboard that ship since the Ginnung Gap was first formed. As I suppose, it was on a bombing run and was riddled with holes in its hull. When the crew evacuated or while it was dying, they set the ship on a collision course with Osgord. The problem was that its engines were damaged severely, which is why its heat signature looks like a Fregjyt-class. As I see it, it’s clearly an original Vedr-class Storm Ship.”

The Captain nods, his eyes closed in contemplation. After a few seconds, he asks the question you knew he must. “Can you disable the bombs?”

You grab his hand from atop your head and hold it in both of your own, smaller hands. “I can’t guarantee that I’ll succeed, but I’ll try, Captain. I recommend that I board the ship using the Valkyr while you take the Osgord to a safe distance. When I finish, I’ll signal my return, and you can send me the Osgord’s coordinates.”

The Captain nods again, and you re-engage your helmet. After nodding at everyone in the Sword Room, you go to the center airlock and open it. Immediately, the massive pressure differential in the express tube pulls you into itself, closing the airlock behind you as you float swiftly toward the aftermost part of the ship, the hangar, where your Valkyr awaits.

The Osgord: Mind Games

You look blindly into the dark of your mind. As you stare through the realm of your subconscious, you find yourself walking through your home back on Nivlahim. You never thought very much of it, but now that it’s so far away, you can’t help but want to shed a tear over losing it. You stop for a few moments in your room to pick up the plush ulfr which had once been all you had of your mommy. Now, instead of a simple child’s toy, you have a warrior’s sword. You set down the stuffed animal and walk out of your room, determination writing itself onto your face. You have something to do.

Moving out of your bedroom, you find the family room to be in the same state of disarray in which you left it last. Looking about as you move through to the door, you see the residue of plasma discharge along with the massive corpses of the wyrms Shilo defeated with such deftness. Thinking back, you still can’t believe what happened. If you hadn’t tried to help, she may have survived. Then again, you may both have died. The past is the past, though, so there’s no real way to know now. No sense blaming yourself…

The doorway is demolished, but you step through it gently. On the other side, the heartwrenching sight of the lobby is there to meet you. After all, this is your own mind. What else would reside there beside your memory? Finished with the sorrow this sight brings you, however, you reach into the depths of your mind and restore the room to its state before the attack. The wyrms’ corpses disappear, and the massive light fixture is restored to its former state hovering over the center of the lobby. Apart from the lack of people, there is only one difference in the room from your previous memories: In the very center of the lobby, there is a black pillar with green light woven through the material like ribbons in the fog.

You walk toward the pillar, remembering the last sight you witnessed there: Shilo’s eyes turning dark. As you suspected, the entrance to Shilo’s mind is standing before you. You need to talk to her directly. You place your hand on the pillar. The world changes in an instant, a burning rush of wind pouring over you.

You find yourself standing on a road constructed of what seem to be large pebbles set in sand. Looking about, you don’t recognize the place from any of Shilo’s memories. The trees are even strange. Looking more closely, you can’t quite place what it is, but something about the color of the leaves is wrong. You straighten up and begin looking about for Shilo.

As you look about, you take in some of the stranger aspects of the world around you. The buildings are made mainly of wood, and the roofs appear mostly to be thatched. There are no pulse cars in sight, but there are short, wooden trucked trailers hitched to the yokes of large, four-legged beasts. You’ve never seen animals quite like them, but their similarity to hrossaks is remarkable.

As you approach the nearest one, you hear the sound of herd animals being brought in your direction. You turn toward the sound, but there’s a hill between you and the herd, so you can’t really see anything. While you’re waiting for the herd to approach, the beast behind you snorts. You jump at the sound, quietly laughing at yourself for being startled inside your own mind before reminding yourself that you’re inside Shilo’s mind, not your own, as strange as that is.

“Keri?” Shilo’s voice is easily recognized, but it’s strangely distant. Looking up, you see her herding a large group of big, fuzzy animals over the hill. Looking around, she almost seems perplexed to see you here, her face engulfed in concern. She pulls down her cowl and pushes the hair in her face behind her ear. “What’s going on? I haven’t heard anything from you for days!”

That’s odd. The attack on the Osgord was just yesterday. “What do you mean?” you ask. “The Osgord was attacked. You helped me figure out what was going on, and I got tossed into space, and then Keliar’di was there, andIgothurtandmyeyesdidntworkandtheworldwasallglowyand–”

“Whoa, whoa, Keri, wait up!” Shilo’s finally made it to you, and she crouches down to look you in the eyes. “I haven’t talked to you since our first night on the Osgord.” She looks more closely into your eyes, and her eyebrows raise at the sight of something. “Ahh. I see what’s happening. There’s a series of tomoweh in your mind’s eye. Someone’s implanting an experience on you.” You give her a confused look that clearly states you have no idea what that means. “Let me explain. When you woke up, and all those things were happening, you hadn’t actually woken up. You’re still unconscious.”

You sit down on the ground, crossing your legs and gathering your focus to think more about what’s being said. “So what you’re saying is that I’ve basically been having a terrible dream?”

“No, Keri,” Shilo says, sitting down in front of you. “You’re awake, but your mind is essentially imprisoned in the will of another. And considering the depth of space we’re in, there are only two people I can think of that would be able to affect your awareness so completely: The Monarch or the Matriarch. And since you’re not dead right now, I think it’s safe to say it isn’t the Monarch.” Shilo swings the bag strapped to her back around and into her lap. Reaching into it, she pulls out a ragged book that looks a few dozen cycles old.

“What’s that?” You reach out a bit, wanting to see what’s in the book. She just smiles and hands you a small, red fruit. You take a bite out of it. It’s crisp and sweet with just the right hint of sour. You smile. “What is this?”

Shilo’s eyes look over the edge of the now-open book and says, “I have no idea. This place is a bit of a mystery.” You give a quizzical look. “This isn’t from my memories. It’s from a vision given to me by the Matriarch when I finished my training. It’s not her vision, either. All Valkyries are shown the vision upon completion of their training. It’s from the old skies. It was entrusted to the Matriarch by a man she called, ‘outside of time.’ I’m not sure what that means, but if I had actually gotten to meet her and ask face-to-face, I’m not sure she’d know, either.” She smiles and returns to the book.

You take another bite of the fruit and take another look at the world around you. The color of the leaves is yellower, not because of season but because the star in the sky has less blue in its spectrum. The animals around you are all completely unknown, but you can’t shake the eeriness of the buildings. The village is so small, it reminds you of a bedtime story. Outside of time is probably a perfect description of anyone who’s seen this place in real life.

“Here it is!” Shilo cries out. You look back to her, your attention focused. “Well, that explains why we’re able to talk here… Oh, that makes sense. Hmm…” She tells you no details of what she’s reading, and it’s all you can do not to grab the book and read it yourself. Instead, you take another bite of your fruit. “Well, I can only think of one way to get out of this simulation, Keri.”

You have no idea what she has in mind, but Shilo has never let you down. “What do I do?” When you see her confident smirk, you can’t help but smile back at her.

“You have to try to reach out to the Matriarch and…” Shilo begins to fade into a dull gray silence. She stands up, grabbing your hand and pulling you into a hug, trying to tell you more before she fades completely, but you get nothing.

“Wake up, Keri,” the lie of a voice reaches into your ears like milk, but you can’t let yourself be distracted by this false reality. Opening your eyes, you look into the shining world around you. You’re back on the Osgord, though you suppose you never left, and this isn’t actually an accurate indication of your location anyway. You begin searching the void with your strongest glow. “Can you see?”

There it is! The planet is so far away, but the path of green light you feel can’t quite be hidden away. Too much effort is going into simulating the events onboard the Osgord. On the planet of the same name, you feel a presence stronger and warmer than anything you’ve ever felt, even compared to memories of your mother. Grasping hold of the sensation, you try your hardest to scream out to it with your mind, “I see YOU!”

For the third time, you open your eyes. This time, however, you know everything is real. You’ve been brought to the medical bay, and the Medical Officer scrambles over to you, calling over the communicator in her hand, “She’s awake, sir!”

Exhausted beyond reason, you feel the strength of your glow fade, sapping strength from your body as well. ‘Good job, Keri,” Shilo speaks in your mind. Smiling, you close your eyes again, saying, “I need to rest a bit.” As the Medical Officer grips your hand, you grip it back.

Then, another voice echoes in your mind, accompanied by that same warm sensation you felt before. As clearly as if it had been whispered into your ear, the voice says, ‘I’ve been waiting a long time for you, Keria’Ledrii. Enjoy your trip. I’ll be waiting just a bit longer.’

The Osgord: Eye Opening

You’re running. You aren’t sure where you’re running or why, but you are most definitely running. Looking around, you see nothing but dark. There are no distinguishing features in your vision to tell you where or even what anything is, and you see no landscape or trail, yet you keep running, focusing on silent breathing. Only there’s no breathing, either. You listen for the sound of your own feet and hear nothing. You feel for your own heartbeat and feel nothing. You stop running only to realize you hadn’t actually been moving. From the inside of your own mind, you scream, ‘No! No, please! Not again!’ But there’s not even a whisper of sound.
‘Keri, dear, don’t be frightened.’ That voice… You know that voice, but it’s impossible. You hear it in your mind once more, ‘Oh, sweet little Keri, it’s alright. Don’t cry. Open your eyes, sweetie.’
You open your eyes. You’re not yet a cycle old, and you look up out of your crib into the peering eyes of a beautiful woman. She’s not young, but neither is she old, though the creases in her face imply an age far beyond that of her shining, green eyes. Her expression is one of concerned fear. She turns to one side and calls out, “Plua’die, come quickly! Keri is awake, and I have to feed her.’ Her words, you notice, run a bit long, but this is normal. She’s always been like that.
A man you always find to be exceptionally tall walks into the room and reaches down into your crib. You reach up and begin grasping your fingers at his face, so far away and yet so close and so wonderful. He smiles at you, and picks you up, grabbing you under your armpits and spinning you around him until you coo and grin at him. He smiles broadly, his graying whiskers lifting like the great big, well, lifting things. You giggle at the thought, and he pulls you into a gentle hug. You wrap your arms around his neck as much as you can, but it isn’t much.
He begins to lower you down, and you turn to see your mommy reaching out from her seat to hold you. Her grey-blue hair spills over her shoulders as she leans over her frail legs to grab you. Her hands are a bit bony, but they’re mommy hands, so you don’t mind. You look up into her eyes and are entranced by the green light emanating from them as she whispers, “Open your eyes, Keri. Don’t be frightened.” You don’t understand and simply coo again, reaching your hand–
You awake to a great booming sound. You unstrap yourself from your bed, moving away just in time for a great crashing vibration to go through the ship.  ‘Shilo,’ you think, ‘what’s going on?’
Another boom precedes a great groan of metal as the rotating semi-cylinders through the central fuselage of the ship come to a halt, and the little simulated gravity that was left vanishes with the rocking of the compartment. ‘We’re probably under attack. I’m not sure who would be attacking this far into the core, though. This doesn’t bode well. I need to think.’
Shilo retreats into your mind once more while you prepare for the possibility of battle. You shed your nightgown and petticoat and pull out the tight garment used as the primary neural interface with Valkyrie armor. You step into the gelatinous material and zip it up. Despite your best efforts to avoid it, the zipper snags twice, and it takes you a full milliday to zip it all the way. Once you’ve finished, you wrap your hair tightly and pull the hood of the undergarment over your head.
Another crashing sound is heard, and you kick away from the bulkheads to prevent yourself from being knocked around while you pull the main armor pressure suit on, sealing the suit once you get the choker around your neck, a rush of air passing over your face as the suit removes all pockets of air between itself and you, at once expanding inward slightly to apply standard pressure across your whole body. The cool sensation of your undergarment’s inner gel layer warms slightly, maintaining appropriate skin temperature which will lower if it detects your muscles warming. Bracing yourself for your least favorite part of donning the armor, you twist the release on the choker indicating that the seal has been formed comfortably, and there is a slight whirring sound as plasma needles insert sterilized intravenous catheters to monitor your hormone levels, to allow fast transfusions if necessary, and to allow you to maintain proper nutrition and hydration without removing your armor. You make a face as the excretory interfaces are carefully placed with an awkwardly gentle seal.
Once that ordeal ends, you begin attaching equipment to the pressure seal, servo motors squealing and humming as the various pieces of equipment are latched and screwed into place. You add canisters of blood, water, and various nutrients, vitamins, and proteins in solution. A box full of smaller canisters attaches to your chest, the canisters inside containing various drugs and hormones for automatic emergency treatment. Swinging it over your back, you attach the main DPU and air supply system. Once you’ve finished attaching the various weapons and such that you may need, you begin adding the armor segments that fit over it all.
Another crash as you place the final segment over your back startles you a bit, but you ignore the noise and finish setting it in place, and the segments all press inward, connecting to one another and creating an appearance that would prevent the uneducated eye from seeing that the armor is, in fact, more than one piece. You pick up Shilo’s sword and swing it around to an inverted sheath on your back, the sheath over a head taller than you despite extending almost a whole arm’s length to your side. You turn around to grab your helmet.
A long, grinding sound approaches you from the forward external direction, and you quickly pick up the helmet and shove it over your head, the main seal coming into place with the visor still deactivated just as the sound accumulates to a roar as your bulkhead is torn apart, and the compartment instantly depressurizes along with the area immediately surrounding your eyes, your sight taking in the sight of a rounded ship sweeping past followed by an opening to the dead of space, into which you are immediately pulled, your eyes screaming in pain. You close them as tightly as you can, your voice joining your eyes in their scream when your boots fail to magnetize in time to prevent you being vented into space. You feel yourself tumble as your eyes begin to boil, and there’s a thud as you hit the other ship.
The plasma visor finally initializes just as your breather kicks in, air rushing over your burning, frozen eyelids, and pressurized air works its way into your lungs. You can hear a thunk as your magnetized boots fix themselves to the hull of the enemy ship. Through the metal, your audio sensors begin to pick up the sound of alarms and shouts, though there is no sense of panic. The shouts seem to be a simple attempt to speak over the sound of the proximity and impact alarms. You feel your way across the hull, still refusing to open your eyes as tears and blood work their way through your tightly shut eyelids. You feel what seems to be a bioswitch and engage it by using one of the intravenous catheters to draw blood and pump it through a pipette in the thumb of your armor. The switch retreats into the hull to reveal a handle, which you turn to open the hatch into an airlock. You work your way inside and close the hatch, air filling the airlock with a whooshing sound.
You press your eyes tighter in pain, concentrating as much as you can on bringing your glow up and feeling outward into the ship. There are only two people inside. As soon as you feel them, however, they both turn toward the airlock and start advancing toward it purposefully. You feel their focus on you and realize that this wasn’t meant to be an
attack. It was a search and rescue. She may not know you, but you recognize the feeling of Keliar’di from Shilo’s memories.
The door to the airlock opens, and you manage out a weak, “Stop the fight. I can explain everything,” before losing consciousness, your small body too weak from the ordeal.
You coo again and pull at your mommy’s hair. She smiles gently as she removes your hand’s grip. “Everything’s going to be just fine.” Your bottle comes into view, and you immediately go for it. Your mommy’s hand caresses your head, and she looks to your daddy with a joyful face. It’s a face you’ll never forget. After all, it’s one of the last faces you’ll ever see on your mommy.
You awake and remember the pain over your eyes, which you squeeze more tightly closed immediately. Tears squeeze their way out into the air, and you realize you don’t have your helmet on. Then, a soft hand presses against your forehead gently, and an impossible voice says, “Shh, it’s alright. Don’t cry. Open your eyes, sweetie.”
In an act of almost sheer incredulity, you release the pressure over your eyes and open them to a sight unlike any you’ve ever seen. The world around you is a mass of multicolored light, and you feel like you can see through the very bulkheads into the vastness of space. And staring down into your eyes is a light brighter than any of the others with eyes as bright a green as you’ve ever seen. You realize now that your eyes aren’t actually working. Your glow, however, is seeing for you.
A figure of light moves over to the green-eyed light and whispers something. You can see their minds lighting up, but you don’t know how to make sense of it. The green-eyed figure speaks with that same, impossible voice, “No, that can’t be right.” The other figure nods slowly as if to assert that whatever she was just told is, in fact, very true. The green-eyed figure becomes brighter and looks to you again, her thumb caressing your brow.
“Keria’Ledrii, is it?” You nod, and she continues, “I’m your mother’s sister, Qzcia’Ledrii. I’m so sorry about your parents and Shilo, but its all going to be alright. You’re on the Osgord again, sweetheart, and we’re all at the dock orbiting the planet Osgord. You made it. We’re going to do what we can to fix your eyes, but I’m afraid I can’t make any promises. I’ll talk to you more on the other side, alright?” You nod again, and a dim light is placed over your face. A few moments later, and you’re out again.

The Osgord: Wardroom

Dinner reminds you immediately that you’re on one of the Armada’s best ships. Large bowls of fruit and vegetables from the arboretum on the bottom deck are lined up down the center of the table along with platters of fresh mirchn and fiskr grown in that same artificial habitat. The colors alone are enough to make your mouth water. There are small bowls filled with various insects, oils, and nuts, too, but your adventurous sense of taste doesn’t yet stretch that far. Your own plate is filled with a large, dark salad with lots of fruit and a moderately sized cut of fiskr on it. After some gentle prodding by the Osgord’s Chief of Nutrition, you agree to add some oil and nuts to the salad, along with a small, red fruit you had originally thought to be a berry but which had a much more succulent taste. Apart from the small meal with Shilo before the encounter with the wyrms, you haven’t had a bite to eat since the attack on Nivlahim, so you dig in as soon as the benediction is finished.

“It’s Keria’Ledrii, isn’t it?” The nutritionist sitting beside you seems to be attempting conversation. You set down your fork, returning yourself to the appropriate mindset for engaging in conversation and taking that time to swallow your food.

“That’s right,” you reply.

He continues, “Did I hear the Cap saying that you were on your way to train as a, umm…” his throat catches for a moment before he manages, “a Valkyrie?” His eyes briefly catch on your hair, and he makes it a point not to gulp out of apprehension. You’re not used to this type of response to your appearance, but some of Shilo’s memories surge up for a moment, particularly ones of a nasty incident between the monarchy and the Blue only about twelve cycles ago, more than a lifetime for you but not even half of one for the man beside you. There is a very violent reason that the Valkyries came into light and became the only group independent of monarch control those several cycles ago.

“Yes, that’s right,” you say again. “My sister was a Valkyrie, and my mommy was one of the Blue before their official formation.” The mention of this causes a twinge of discomfort to spread across the table like a small explosion. “My daddy died a little while ago, and then my sister found me, but then she died, too.” As the words make their way out of your mouth, they grow progressively slower and further apart, tears welling up in your eyes upon realization of the full tragedy of it all.

You notice when you finish speaking that the previously tumultuous table was now silent all but for the sobs of a girl only five cycles old. Nonetheless, the sobs don’t stop, and the men and women surrounding you make no effort to look away from what you can only see as a broken child. None of them can know the pain you feel, and none pretend to. Quite different from the petty consolations you’d received upon your mother’s death from strangers who’d never truly known her as you did, the respecting and gentle gazes you receive now are those of men and women who have known similar pains and have experienced great loss themselves and, thusly, who know that the pain they felt was not the same.

So you cry. You cry for your mommy and daddy. You cry for Shilo. You cry for the friends who hadn’t been evacuated. You cry for every life lost in your city and every heart broken over this war. When the sobs finally begin to peter out, and the slim hand of one of the female officers makes its way to your shoulder, you look into her warm, blue eyes and realize that the only person you won’t ever have to cry for is yourself. The room remains silent until you wipe your eyes and nose, quietly thanking everyone. “Thank you. I’m sorry if I ruined your dinner.” You give a halfhearted smile, and a few chuckles make there way around the table.

Suddenly, as if it had been no one’s idea at all, the wardroom began to fill with a somber dirge of a tune:

“In lonely nights,

The shadows fill the room,

And the nightmares

Hang my heart in gloom.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.

“We once had dreams,

But never now fulfilled,

Stillest waters

Ripple now with guilt.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.

“The cold of night

Has reached my lonely heart.

But golden gates

For your good soul part.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.

“In sweetest fields

Of golden felmag hum,

We’ll run again

When my day has come.

Though you have left,

You’re never gone.

I’ll keep you with me

In this sweet, sad song.”

A few moments pass as you realize that the song is finishing slowly throughout the ship, having made its way through bulkheads and open doors and hatches. It’s a song the crew knows well, having sung it for plenty a fellow, and you feel as though you’ve just witnessed the exposed hearts of these men and women as must as they have yours.

The executive officer of the ship quietly takes a drink and clears his throat. “We may not know your pain, but we know ours well enough to say that if you keep moving forward, time heals all wounds.” A hushed assent makes its way across the table as various men and women look down in memory of those they had been singing for. “Now, I’m not sure how good you are on a quarter-grav platform like this, but there’s only one way to keep moving forward on a ship like this, and that’s working. The captain may have gotten to welcome you to the ship, but I would like to welcome you to the crew of the TAS Osgord, if you’d have it.”

You blink away the tears in your eyes. “It would be an honor.” Everyone smiles. No one expects you to become a fully qualified spacer, but they know how much it means to have something to do, particularly in the hard times. You, of course, take the offer to heart. You plan on becoming the best spacer you can be in the time it takes to reach Osgord.

The Osgord: Boarded


Shilo’s call almost seems distant, but you realize upon opening your eyes that it had come out of great necessity, waking you just in time. Standing in front of you, magnetic locks engaged, is a looming figure reaching toward you. In the moment it takes you to register the figure’s pristine red uniform and shaky hands training a small hand repeater on you, you spin weightlessly through the air, kicking that very repeater from his hand, bringing yourself to the deck where your own magnetic locks engage upon command. As you reach up to grab the weapon from the air, however, you register the considerably less shakily aimed heavy repeaters in the hands of similarly uniformed figures standing in the main door to the hold, your dipulse the only thing standing firmly between yourself and them.

Just before you do so, Shilo’s voice sounds off once more in your mind, ‘Don’t put your hands up.’ You comply, instead swiftly grabbing the repeater and pulling the trembling and disoriented figure behind you into a headlock, the small weapon trained on his skull while his body stands between you and the figures in the adjacent ship.

‘Good,’ Shilo speaks into your mind. ‘Now, say exactly what I tell you…’

“This is a Valkyr,” you speak loudly to the figures in red. “The Armada has no jurisdiction here. State your intentions.”

The central figure releases his weapon, leaving it floating harmlessly in the air, and steps forward, his own hands raised. “I am Lieutenant Captain Gildr Khuda’Mundi, and I’m the commanding officer of the TAS Osgord. We picked up your ship on our sensors, and there were no responses to our attempts to retrieve identification. I made the decision to investigate. When we realized what kind of ship this was, further attempts to communicate were made unsuccessfully, so we boarded to see if help was needed. It was upon seeing the two bodies on the deck that I gave the order for weapons to be drawn. It’s my understanding that Valkyr crews consist of only two Valkyries. Furthermore, you’re the smallest warrior I’ve seen in my whole life, and I found your presence and armor suspicious enough to warrant taking necessary precautions. The man in your grips right now is Junior Sergeant Pil’die Carden. He’s a member of my medical personnel, and I’d greatly appreciate it if you would release him, identify yourself, and explain the quite interesting situation we all seem to find ourselves in right now.”

While he waits for you to make your decision, the Lieutenant Captain makes no attempt to move toward you or back to his men, instead calmly standing next to the dipulse, looking at it with a mild fascination, as if you are of little interest to him. Though you commend how collected he is, a simple probing of his mind reveals him to be in a state of immense stress, his thoughts clearly focused on the safety of his men but coolly sorting through the facts. You remove your focus from him, reaching out around you and realizing that your ship has actually been brought into the main hangar of a Minor Carrier, a detail which could have caused the Lieutenant Captain to have seemed more threatening only moments ago.

“I will not disarm, nor will I tolerate any attempted boarding beyond this hold.” You realize upon hearing it that the age of your voice is being masked by the androgynous voice of your helmet’s external comm. “I do, however, expect that you remain armed as well, in the interest of perceived fairness. Your men will return to their normal duties while we go over the details of the situation. If these terms are not agreeable,” you continue as Shilo cues you on, “I take no quarter, Lieutenant Captain. There will be no survivors.”

Personally, you find the words all to be a bit harsh and out of character, even for Shilo. Even so, you wait for the Lieutenant Captain to nod before releasing the Junior Sergeant, who walks as calmly as possible away from you, his shipmates grabbing his arms as he passes out upon reaching them, pulling him back out of the ship and into the hangar. The door closes slowly behind them, hissing quietly as its seals are formed.

The Lieutenant Captain removes his helmet and begins looking around the compartment, leaving the helmet resting neatly in the air. His eyes catch hold of the dipulse, and you can almost see him disassembling it in his mind. “Well, now that we’re alone, would you mind identifying yourself, Valkyrie? I know you don’t have to do so, but I’m putting myself at quite the disadvantage here just to speak with you. I certainly wouldn’t mind knowing what you’re doing here with two dead Valkyrie bodies, either. As a matter of fact,” he looks up at your helmet, as if he can see right into your eyes, “I’m incredibly curious why you’re even in my sector of space. Thor is about a quarter of a turn around Linthia.”

You choose to be upfront with him. “I’m not on my way to Thor. I’m heading to Osgord.”

The Lieutenant Captain gives you a critical look. “I can tell that much, thank you. I’m more curious why you’re going to Osgord with two dead Valkyries in a ship designed to be piloted by two of the same, likely the two that are dead. And you still haven’t identified yourself.” He crosses his arms, and you cock your head a bit at the motion.

“No, I haven’t.” You can’t keep up this charade any longer. “I’m Keria’Ledrii Khuda’Cronell.” You take off your helmet, and the Lieutenant Captain’s eyes widen. “I’m not a Valkyrie yet, but I’m on my way to Osgord to meet someone very important. Possession of this ship has been granted to me through Valkyrie protocol Freija.” The protocol is obscure, but Shilo seems to think its contents are similar enough for the application to be sound. Besides, the Lieutenant Captain is clearly distracted by the revelation of your age.

After a few millidays, though it felt like centidays, the Lieutenant Captain uncrosses his arms and lets out his breath. With it seems to come the burden of trying to figure out what to do with you, and his posture belies an increased state of ease. “Well,” he says, “whether you’re a Valkyrie or not, you didn’t miss a step disarming my medic, and you’ve got their hair, so I’m going to assume you’ve got their powers, too, to some extent. That means that if I want to keep my crew safe, I only have two options.”

Your interest is piqued at this. You don’t remember him having any option other than letting you go on your way. Shilo makes no indication that you should speak, either, so you choose to say yourself, “And what are those options, Lieutenant Captain?”

He eyes you for a few moments, unsure if he should be disturbed by you or not. Finally, however, he speaks. “Well, the first option, which my men would probably prefer as much as you would, I’m sure, would be to let you go.” You cock your brow at that. That implies that he prefers the second option, which you still can’t figure out. “The second option,” he says, “would be to keep you aboard but away from my men. They may be of no safety concern to you, but you’re of one to them, and I need them working. We have a spin on most of the ship. The hangar area isn’t on one for obvious reasons, but something tells me you haven’t been treated for zero-gravity travel, which I suspect is why your stasis pod shows recent use.”

You look over at the pod. You haven’t even thought about it since the boarding started. Surely enough, though, its hatch is wide open, the contents slightly billowed outward, though not spilling due to a lack of gravitational forces. A trail of liquid is hovering in the air where you drifted out of the pressurized pod. Upon Shilo’s advisement, you say, “Well, there is no point pretending I have. You’re obviously not a fool, and I have no need to hide my goings-on. So which option will you be choosing?”

The Lieutenant Captain smiles at you like he would at any other child, and for a moment, you remember that you still are one. “Well, Keria’Ledrii, I suppose I should welcome you aboard the Osgord.” He grabs his helmet, and you do the same, putting yours on just before he opens the main door and waves down the squadron of Glidjumprs waiting on the orher side, continuing to speak as he leads you out. “He’s the only pup in his class. It’s a quite different design from ships like the Deathbringer. This ship is designed with stealth and defense in mind.”

Certainly, it must be. Everything seemed so rounded. The fighters in the hangar all had mirrored surfaces with stealth geometries, the crewman were all wearing auto pressure suits, and the exposed framework had massive cross beams which could likely withstand a fall from orbit on one of the standard worlds.

When you reached the wall of the hangar, you followed suit with the Lieutenant Captain and released your magnetic locks before gliding into a ring which ran along the edge of the hangar. Once in it, you’re caught in a current of air which is pushing you both faster along the curve of the ship and farther forward. Your feet hit the deck, and you almost fall backward as you realize that it’s now spinning beneath you. With a silent cheer, you smile at your first experience with simulated gravity.

You take a few tentative steps toward the Lieutenant Captain before coming to terms with the fact that you aren’t going to accidentally push yourself away from the deck, despite feeling much lighter than you did back home. You remember that Nivlahim is more than twice the mass of the average core planet and realize that this is a simulation of about one fourth standard gravity, just enough to permit the necessary conditions to prevent bodily repercussions from very low gravity with the proper exercises.

About midship, the Lieutenant Captain stops, crouches down, and opens a hatch beneath him before gliding down with an ease only possible in space for most. You follow suit and feel yourself grow heavier when you hit the deck of the wardroom. Looking about, you see officers tensing up as you pass, looking to their commanding officer and trusting his judgement as best as they can. At this point, you’re very glad you put your helmet back on. They can’t see the terrified little girl on the other side of your visor.

The Lieutenant Captain opens a door on one side of the wardroom, and you follow him in. Once inside, you notice the bed and desk, both simple and utilitarian in design. There’s an open door on the other side of the small cabin which leads to the head. On the bulkheads are various connections and nozzles for maintaining life support in case the adjacent compartments are vented. Protruding from the desk is a DPU interface, its screen black.

“This will be your cabin until we reach Osgord. You’re free to roam about the ship, but I ask that you do not inhibit my spacers’ ability to do their work. We’ll be to Osgord within thirty-five days if all goes well, and they’re eager for world leave, so they’ll do their best to make it shorter if they can.” The Lieutenant Captain gives you a smile and begins to head out the door.

“Thank you, Lieutenant Captain Khuda’Mundi.” The words come out in that same androgynous voice, but the tone was heard well enough. You meant it.

“You’re aboard my ship now, little Valkyrie,” he replies. “It’s easier for everyone if you just call me Captain.” The smile on his face grows wider before he adds, “You’ll probably be alright on the Osgord without the armor, too. My spacers have nothing against Valkyries, and the troopers on board are friendly enough. I’d imagine you’d feel more comfortable in clothing more suitable to a young girl’s taste.” Just as he speaks, one of the troopers shows up outside the door with a small box that holds your personal belongings, labeled, “Keri.”

“Thank you, Captain,” you say, taking the helmet off to do so. The trooper blinks a couple times, but there are otherwise no indications of his shock. You smile and take the box from him as the Captain steps out of the compartment.

As he closes the door, a face of realization springs onto his face, “Oh, and there’ll be food in about ten centidays. I invite you to eat in the wardroom with my officers just outside this cabin, in my personal wardroom if you so please, or in the galley with the enlisted personnel. They’ll all be eager to meet you. We’ll make further arrangements afterward.”

The door closes, and you hear a hiss as the airtight seal forms. You set your helmet down and open your box, pulling out a green dress with pretty flowers as you begin to unfasten the seals on your armor.

Memories: Fatigue

You can feel the fatigue caused by your consciousness beginning to set in at last. It was, of course, only a matter of time. The stasis pod has a limited number of measures to keep its occupant alive nearly indefinitely, but those are specifically designed for the unconscious. Your wakeful state is consuming more energy than the pod provides, and you’re slowly dying. Still, now is not the time to panic. Panic distracts thought, and that would only accelerate your death.

You are reminded at this time of when you were alone in the city, before you found Shilo. You had wandered for so long, trying to find just one living person, but the residences which had even still been occupied when the Valkyries came were few and far between, having already been evacuated. Where people had still been alive before the attack, however, you found only bodies or remnants thereof. Wandering out too far, you had gotten lost in the smoky streets. You would certainly have suffocated had you not remained calm and resolved your situation rationally. Now, you must do likewise. You set back into Shilo’s memories.

Zhilo’di Khuda’Cronell, Age 6, Processing Zone, Blue Selection Grounds, Undisclosed Location, Osgord

Shilo steps out of the ship with tears drying on her face. Though it has technically been several days since her parents’ death, the event was only minutes ago from her perspective. She wipes her eyes as she looks around, the other girls looking a bit shaken but none quite so much as her.

Taking a few moments to collect herself, Shilo marvels once more at the sheer number of girls and women with blue hair of various shades and amounts, some with only a few locks of blue, others with only a few strands of hair that aren’t blue. Looking around, she tries to find anyone without hair like her own. She can’t.

Trying to figure out what she’s supposed to do, Shilo searches the crowd for some sense of order. Her attention is grabbed when she sees the flight attendant who had grabbed her earlier directing a group of girls into a multi-line formation, calmly giving orders that Shilo can’t quite hear. She opts to move closer and quietly sneaks into the back of the formation. For a moment, she thinks the woman has noticed her, their eyes catching, but the woman quickly continues her visual scan of the formation, either not noticing or choosing to ignore Shilo’s appearance.

“When you get to your quarters,” the woman says, “you’ll have five millidays to sort through your things before forming up and prepping for uniform issue. You may not be Academics yet, but that’s no excuse not to act like ones. Now, we’ll start off with a light jog. Follow me.” With that, the woman takes off in what couldn’t have been any less than a full sprint.

Shilo’s group takes off after the woman, who somehow turns around in the middle of her sprint, her face still calm and collected as she says, “Stay in formation! If you can’t stay in a simple formation like this during a light jog, how can any of you expect to be admitted to the Academy?” Shilo’s face turns to stone as she realizes that she could still fail admission. She doesn’t find the run particularly difficult to maintain, but many of the other girls are falling out of the formation, not sure where to line up. As the formation falls apart, Shilo looks up at the woman who clearly isn’t actually a flight attendant. The woman looks around at the faces of all the girls before locking eyes with Shilo.

As she makes eye contact, Shilo tries to reach out toward the woman’s mind in an attempt to ask if there’s anything she can do. She gets no mental response, and she’s not entirely sure she even succeeded at contacting the woman until she notices a slight smirk appearing on the woman’s lips, turning around to face forward once more, as if to say, “I can’t see anyone breaking ranks if I’m looking this way.”

Shilo picks up her speed and pulls to the front on one side, saying, “Line up on me!” The girls to her side quickly straighten up, the ones behind them coming slowly into a line again, most of them struggling to maintain pace, but soon the girls move all the strugglers to the middle, encouraging them as best they can to stick in formation. The middle of the formation stays a bit unstable as the strugglers fall out of line and are pushed gently back into it by the faster girls behind them.

Many of the girls are losing their belongings to the path as the things they carry fall out of bags or their hands open up to push strugglers along, but they’re too focused on keeping formation to worry about it. One girl drops what seems to be a stuffed ulfr, and her eyes grow wide. Panicking, she stops and turns back to pick it up. Shilo doesn’t look back far enough to see what happens to her, but soon she hears muffled shouting, and the girl doesn’t return to formation. Silently, she thanks the Great One that her satchel’s pouches are all tightly secured. Soon, however, tears come to her eyes as she recalls who secured them, and she pushes the thought aside, focusing on the run.

After what seems like several rosts, the woman leading Shilo’s group slows down, and the formation follows suit, many of the girls out of breath. They stop, and the woman faces them, pacing in front of the formation. She instructs the girl opposite Shilo in the front of the formation to lead everyone inside in a single file. The girl steps outside the formation and begins to tell her fellows what to do. Before she finishes speaking, however, the woman comes up to her and whispers something into her ear. In response, the girl looks at her incredulously, her eyes confused.

“Right, then,” the woman says as she paces back across the front of the formation, “You there.” She looks at Shilo, who meets her gaze with a hard but silent determination. “You’ll be leading everyone inside now.” Shilo nods in response but says nothing, waiting for the woman to break eye contact first before focusing on the task. After a few moments, the woman turns around and goes back to pacing, that same smirk vaguely visible on her face.

Shilo isn’t sure exactly what the other girl did wrong, but clearly doing the same thing will do no good, so she tries a different approach. She sends out a mental instruction to the other girls in formation, detailing when to enter formation, and starts walking inside, the girl behind her following and the other columns soon falling in behind her own just as instructed.

When Shilo gets inside the building, she finds herself inside a hallway. Unsure where to go, she begins probing the location. Most of the eastern side of the building appears to be a simple dining hall of some sort. At the end of the building, there seems to be a large bathing room and a kitchen beside it. That only leaves the western compartment. She turns into it just as she reaches the entrance.

What she meets as she walks inside the compartment is not what she expected. On the south side of the room, there is an arrangement of stasis pods, lockers placed beside each one, while the north side is mostly empty with an assortment of items against the walls. Shilo opens the nearest locker and places her things inside it, reminding those behind her that they have five millidays to form up.

While everyone else is talking to one another, Shilo pulls out her book and opens it to the page where she had placed her photograph as a bookmark. Tears begin to tread down her face, but the moment is quickly lost when the woman in charge of Shilo’s group comes into the room and walks directly to Shilo. “It’s Zhilo’di, isn’t it?”

Shilo blinks, her eyes meeting the woman’s for a few moments before responding, “Yes, it is. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” The woman asks. Her lips are pursed and to one side, as if she’s trying to decypher a particularly difficult puzzle.

“I know I was supposed to be in a different group, but you were the only person I recognized.” Shilo’s tears begin to make their way out of her again, but the woman crouches down to meet her at eye level.

“Honestly, do you really think I would have let you join this group if it were that important?” The woman smiles. “You did miss my introduction, though. I’m your Candidate Chapter Commander, Keliar’di. Like everyone else here, I’m a Khuda’Cronell. Since that would get a bit confusing, we just use given names and nicknames here. We’re all sisters in a way, after all, aren’t we?” She smiles gently. “I knew your mother at one point, Zhilo’di. Qzculi’Adri was one of the best instructors at the Academy. I’m sorry about what happened, but I don’t recommend dwelling on it. The selection process here can be complicated at times, and it’s always difficult.”

Keliar’di stands and looks at her bare wrist. Somehow, though, it seems that there is some unseen information that she has gleaned from the glance, and she begins walking to the northern end of the compartment, where most of the other girls have gathered. Shilo quickly puts up her book and makes her way back to her spot in the formation.

“Right, girls,” Keliar’di says after the full time has passed, all the girls having returned to formation early, “you may have noticed that there are no beds here. There are only stasis pods. Now, those of you who were tired before the flight here may have noticed an interesting effect of stasis: It completely restores your mind while you’re under. It turns out that stasis only requires about five centidays for that effect to complete itself, making stasis much more efficient than regular sleep and leaving the days longer and more open to training and lessons.

“Now, you aren’t going to go into stasis every day for the rest of your lives, of course.” At this, a few girls sigh in relief. “While stasis restores your mind, it doesn’t reduce physical fatigue very much. It removes the fatiguing chemicals from your body, but your body has no opportunity to restore its t
issues while you’re in stasis, so eventually, you will need to sleep. The selection process isn’t so long that that will be a concern, but there is one concern that I must address about stasis.

“Your mind can wake up during stasis. It’s not typical, but it happens. Of course, a working mind consumes more energy than a static mind, so if your mind awakes, but if you fail to fully exit or re-enter stasis, you can very easily die. Normally, this is resolved by having someone monitor the condition of those in stasis, which we will have. However, there is always the chance that the person monitoring your condition fails to notice that you’re awake. In that case, you need to know how to save yourself. This is how you’re going to do it…”

You return from the memory to a dizzying sensation, a signal that you’re very near death. You’ve spent too much time in the memory. There’s a very good chance that you may have taken too long listening to Keliar’di and are now going to die regardless of what you know. Still, you refuse to panic.

Focusing on what you learned, you do exactly as Keliar’di told Shilo. You carefully remove all thought from your mind except that tiny amount of focus allowing you to remember. Then, you visualize yourself going to sleep, allowing that dizzying sensation to sweep over you as you think about black silence and stillness. Finally, you let go of even the memory and focus on being absolutely still, commanding your muscles not to move, then your lungs not to breathe, then your heart not to beat, then your mind not to think, and finally even your eyes not to glow. You sink into the blackness.


You gulp for air as the pod releases you from stasis. Your mind reels as your brain comes all the way back online. You are startled a bit at the age of Shilo’s voice when she calls out in your mind, ‘It’s alright, Shilo. You’ve made it out. Everything’s going to be ok.’ You choose to believe her as everything fades to black again while you slip into a genuine sleep.

Memories: The Good and the Gruesome

You refuse to panic. Panic is for those who have exhausted all possible solutions. You are still in the middle of discovering all possible solutions; therefore, you have no right to panic. You reach out with your sensing abilities once more, confirming that you are, in fact, still in the dead of space. The inability to breathe, however, is what is truly driving you mad. You want so badly to breathe, to hear your heart beat, or simply to open your eyes. Attempts to enhance your glow state are still useless.

You have just returned from a memory you know to be the last time Shilo saw your parents. You know the designation number on the side of the shuttle in which they just flew away all too well. Shuttle 86492VI87S2M932O was the shuttle in which your parents suffered an all but fatal crash. The very thought that, even with the aide of Shilo’s memories, you will never see your parents in a new setting again causes you unfathomable distress. The fact that you’ve now reached a point where you’re sorting through memories of a person older than you is troubling in itself, as well.

You begin to work your way into a new memory, but something stops you. You haven’t been prevented by any outside force from entering the memory, but you are immensely troubled by something you cannot quite grasp. Then, it occurs to you. You return to the previous memory.

Zhilo’di Khuda’Cronell, Age 6, Qzcivden West Interplanetary, Qzcivden, Thor

“Alright, Shilo, do you have everything you need?” Shilo’s mother moves her hands through Shilo’s satchel, ensuring that Shilo does not encounter a lack of necessary supplies. Her long and nearly entirely blue hair, a rarity even among her peers, hangs softly on either side of her gentle face in tightly curled, glossy locks, her lips pursed as she sorts through Shilo’s belongings. After a few moments, she stops and starts fumbling through her own belongings. “You’ve forgotten your picture album at home, Shilo. Here,” she hands Shilo a picture of the two of them when Shilo had just been a baby, “this one is my favorite.”

Shilo takes the picture and slides it into her book so she won’t forget her spot as she closes it to hug her mother. “Thanks, mommy.” Her small arms wrap around her mother’s legs tightly before she’s picked up and held in a reciprocated hug, her mother’s eyes leaking a few tears.

“Now, remember, sweety,” Shilo’s mother begins again, “you’re going to be in stasis for the entire trip to Osgord. If you wake up, there’s a technician that checks in on you every three centidays. Just be patient and start counting in your head. Don’t worry, though,” she adds as a slightly panicked look crosses Shilo’s face, “you’re probably not going to wake up. That’s very rare.” Shilo’s face relaxes considerably, but not all distress has been cast off of her face. Shilo’s mother pushes the young girl’s long hair behind her ear, and a tear comes forth. “Oh, this is probably going to be the last time I see you with long hair, isn’t it? My little Shilo is going to be a pilot. I just know it.”

Shilo hugs her mother more tightly and asks, “Do I have to go now? Why can’t I wait for my schooling to start here, with you?” Her eyes say all that isn’t spoken: And why aren’t you coming with me?

At last, her father speaks up, ruffling her hair. “Come on, then, Zhilo’di. You know Blue girls have to wait for their admission on Osgord. That’s where legends say the Matriarch lives. I don’t think anyone’s even met the woman in a few hundred cycles. Some stories say she just lies awake in stasis and somehow sends the signal either accepting or denying admission from inside her pod.” His face drifts off into the morbid thought for a while. How lonely and maddening such an existence must be. “Of course, other legends say she’s one of the Valkyri’din and just spends most of her time invisible. And if you were an immortal among the ranks of the Valkyri’din themselves, would you let yourself be carted off to other planets just to watch over the newest students of the Blue and see if they’re worthy?” His smile returns in full force at the silliness of the remark. “Besides, I’ve heard that if she’s really pleased with a candidate, she’ll even come down from wherever she lives and introduce herself.”

Shilo grins widely, her eyes on fire a bit with excitement. Every Blue girl’s dream is to meet the Matriarch, after all. Even her mother can be heard on occasion musing how wonderful it would be. Obviously, Shilo imagines herself being one of those rare girls who meet the Matriarch. “Do you think I can do it, Daddy?” Shilo steps lightly onto the floor as her mother sets her down.

“Do I think you can do it?!” Shilo’s father exclaims as if the very idea that he would think otherwise were absolute foolishness. “Of course you can do it, Zhilo’Biornn.” He stoops low to hug her. Shilo steps into her father’s arms and receives his warm embrace, her eyes closing as they both take a moment to enjoy some of their last time together before she leaves. Shilo has always been a fan of biornns, and in addition to getting her an entire room full of stuffed varieties of th
e animal, her father long ago took to addressing her by the pet name of which she’s now so fond. “You can do absolutely anything you want. You’re a very talented young lady.”

Shilo opens her eyes as her father releases her at the sound of a low chime and looks to his wife. It’s time for their shuttle to leave. Unfortunately, Shilo’s flight doesn’t board for another few millidays because it’s running late, but the shuttles have been running early all day. They have to leave before she can take off. “You’re going to do great, Shilo,” Shilo’s mother says, giving her daughter a quick kiss on the forehead before making her way to the shuttle. Shilo looks at the shuttle preparing to take her parents home, leaving her here before she flies off to another planet by herself for the first time.

“We love you, Zhilo’Biornn. We’ll be praying for you. I promise we will, every day until we see you again. Drigan’di will be so sick of our prayers that she’ll answer them just to get us to shut up.” At this comment by her father, Shilo laughs, her white teeth showing as she grins widely, wiping away the tears that have worked their way forward, a few of the green hairs she received from her father working their way through the blue and across her face. He smiles back, his left hand running through his green hair as he puts his right around Shilo’s mother, the two of them stepping back into the shuttle. They wave as the door closes, the designator ‘86492VI87S2M932O’ easily visible in white against the fading red hull of the shuttle.

The bell indicating that Shilo’s ship is boarding sounds, and Shilo continues to wave as she turns away, listening to the hum of the shuttle’s drives starting back up. She turns back and sees, across the terminal, the shuttle start to take off as she makes her way into the entryway of the ship that’s to take her to Osgord. An attendant helps her along, pressing her hand lightly against Shilo’s shoulder, just as the unthinkable happens.

As the shuttle begins to take off, one of its drives explodes, sending shockwaves through the terminal and across the entire dock as bodies fly like rag dolls through the air and across the room. Shilo watches, almost as if in slow motion, as the shuttle spins and rolls out of control away from the terminal in reaction to the explosion, one entire side of the shuttle simply gone, replaced by a horrifying scene of bloody carnage. Then, the shuttle slams into another shuttle trying to fly out of its way, folding tightly upon itself as the two shuttles are driven down into the water surrounding the docks. Just as it seems nothing could get worse, another drive can be seen exploding in the water.

“No!” Shilo screams, but her own is muffled by the roar of thousands of others screaming with her. Robot crews can be seen running toward the scene just as others run away, the scene of the terminal turning quickly from a terrifying moment of shock to a fully terrified cacophony of panic, wreckage, and bodies. The attendant beside Shilo puts her hand up to her ear to better hear an order from the ship’s pilot and quickly drops it, moving instead to push Shilo into the ship.

Shilo hears the roar of interplanetary drives fully warmed up as she’s pushed through the entryway and into the main compartment of the ship. She barely has time to take in the strange appearance of the ship, which seems to be filled with much more women and girls with blue hair than she expected, before the attendant presses her into a stasis pod with a slight glow in her eyes, her brown wig falling to one side to reveal tightly wrapped blue and red hair beneath it.

As the stasis begins to set in on her, Shilo takes one last look around, seeing all the other confused faces in freshly sealed stasis pods beside peaceful ones in pods already fully active. Shilo closes her eyes and holds her book tightly against her chest, fully aware of the only possible outcome of two such massive explosions on her parents. They can’t be alive, but she still is. She begins to whisper a prayer to Drigan’di as the stasis finally catches up with her. The prayer won’t be finished until she awakens on Osgord in a quarter of a cycle.

Your mind reels as you return from the memory for the second time. There is so much to learn from that memory that you had never thought about before now. You once asked your daddy why he said that vague, almost subjectless prayer every day. He couldn’t remember. Now, thinking on it all, you’re surprised he remember to say it at all.

You think back to the scene of the ship. There were so many Blue girls there, and yet there are so few Valkyries. You wonder for a moment how selective this Matriarch must be that most of those girls never became Valkyries. Then, you think back to the destination Shilo had you program into the Valkyr navigation systems before entering stasis. You didn’t program Thor as your destination. Right now, as you silently float your rock through space, you are heading to the planet Osgord. You wonder for once what awaits you there.

Hungry for knowledge and still hoping to get out of this wakeful stasis which your mother once assured Shilo was very rare, you make your way into Shilo’s next memory. It’s time you start your training, after all…

Prophecy of the Dragon

Prophecy of the Dragon

Stars shall fall.

Worlds shall burn.

Councils dissolve,

A Monarchy’s spurn.


Two races remain,

At peace and at war,

Two fates divide them,

Their sorrows outpoured.


Soldiers shall live,

Light People be lost,

And evil shall find them,

Unspeakable cost.


Seeds shall scatter,

Their legacies great,

And outward shall carry

In vaults numbered eight.

A home once lost

Will be again found.

A world once great

Will bear a glass ground.

The Angels shall hide.

The Ghosts shall haunt.

The Crown shall destroy

With no détente.

The Red Dragon’s birth

To Blue warrior’s womb

Shall take that Crown,

The Void its tomb.

A king born to flames,

The Dragon shall fly.

For the Blue Water Planet,

His tears will she dry.

Innocent children

Shall fall to the blast.

A traitor amidst

To darkness be cast.

But in this a light

Can yet be found

For to the Red Dragon,

A sight beyond sound.

To Red Dragon King,

The righteous dictator,

Shall be born Gold Phoenix,

Her white light the greater.

The Red Dragon’s bride

Shall find the great Eight,

And all the old worlds

Shall cast out their hate.

Gold Phoenix, she rises,

Sword of ages in hand.

The Light People follow,

Their worlds again grand.

Red Dragon, his bride,

And Gold Phoenix breathe,

Their breath light the stars

As worlds lost unsheathe.

Red Dragon shall sleep

Beside his Blue bride,

And Gold Phoenix risen

His eternal pride.

And Ancients shall find them,

Their company great,

And in Risen Phoenix

Form eternal State.

Memories: The Story of Feliar’Gadi

The ringing pain of absolute stillness rocks your mind as you make your way out of another of Shilo’s memories. You take a few brief moments, or perhaps they were several hours, to contemplate your predicament once more. Somehow, your mind has released itself from stasis to the point where you’re even able to use your higher sensory abilities to a limited extent. A few attempts to enter into an enhanced glow state, however, have convinced you that your body is still entirely static.

A few wanderings in and out of Shilo’s earliest memories have left you a bit shaken. You had  never known your mother to be so young and full of life. Her pregnancy with you, after all, had almost failed due to the aging sickness that tears at Valkyries who have lost their healing abilities. You may not know much about the accident that had almost killed both of your parents, but you do know that it left your mother’s mind and abilities severely diminished, and your mother had never recovered fully before stepping through the Great One’s Doors. Now, seeing her so full of life and wit, your remorse over her passing is redoubled.

You wait a few moments before remembering that you cannot currently shed any tears. In fact, you’re surprised that you can even access memories since your brain shouldn’t technically be working right now. You have a working theory on what may be happening, but you don’t want to get your hopes up until you can at least figure out how this might have happened. Then, you might be able to figure a way out of the situation. You make your way into yet another memory, and you can’t help but think that Shilo must have repressed some of her childhood memories as this one seems to skip ahead quite a bit.

Zhilo’di Khuda’Cronell, Age 6, Basilica of the Great Sword of Drigan’di, Qzcivden, Thor

Shilo is standing in a large crowd between her mother and a man with a disciplined, military look about him. The basilica’s large, mirrored ceiling looms over the massive crowd of people, all of whom are wearing robes, most of them white but some near the front green. In the back of the basilica and the forefront of the crowd, standing before the altar of the Great One, is a piscopoliteer in a red robe reading from a text.

“…At that time, the great Spirit of Faith descended upon Feliar’Gadi, and he slayed the men who had come to his household to take him.” The piscopoliteer’s voice echoes through the basilica and out into the forum as he reads aloud the sacred texts. “When he had done so,” he continues, “Feliar’Gadi took the hair on the head of each man and wove it into a great rope, which he used to tie the men’s bodies together. He then carried the men to the temple of the local Dragons. When they looked inside his heart and saw that the Spirit of Faith was with him, the Dragons were filled with fear that they would be discovered, for the Spirit of Faith holds power over the Dragons when She calls them by name.

“And so, Feliar’Gadi lay before the altar of the Dragons the bodies of the men he had slain and said, ‘See, Dragons, how I have slain these, your minions.’ For the men had been filled with the corruption of heart that Dragons bear from Hikar’Diferus. But the Dragons, fearful that the Spirit of Faith would look upon them with scorn and fill their eyes with the sight of their misdeeds, did not reveal themselves and remained hidden.

“But Feliar’Gadi remembered the day that his family had been slain and remembered the faces of the Dragons, and he untied the bodies, reclaiming the rope he had made from their hair and saying, ‘Teach me the names of these Dragons, my Lady, that I may call them out by name and bring to them slaughter.’ At once, the Spirit of Faith spoke the names of the Dragons into Feliar’Gadi’s mind, and he repeated them, saying, ‘Come out, Dragons, in the name of your Lady and Mother, Drigan’di, and in the name of the Great One.’

“When he had said this, the Dragons were forced out of their hiding place and into his sight. But when he saw the fearful faces of the Dragons and their bodies, so sickly and fearful, he was filled with pity for these beasts. For they had been forced into their state by the corruption of Hikar’Diferus. ‘Oh, Great One,’ Feliar’Gadi prayed, at once falling to his knees with his hands outreached, ‘free these poor creatures from the burden of their dark father’s endless corruption.’

“When they heard this, the Dragons were filled with their father’s anger and charged at Feliar’Gadi. But Feliar’Gadi could not strike them for pity. And the Spirit of Faith poured forth from him and looked upon the Dragons, who rose to strike Feliar’Gadi. The first and greatest of the Dragons there saw her and took on an appearance of great pain and fell to the ground, turning to dust. The second Dragon, too, saw the Spirit and was filled with pain and turned to dust.

“But as the Spirit of Faith looked upon the third and least of the Dragons, the Dragon cried out for mercy and fell to the ground on his own, saying, ‘Forgive me, Mother, for the will that drives me is not my own, and I am too weak to fight it.’ But he would not look upon the Spirit of Faith for fear of her scorn. At this, the Spirit of Faith returned to Feliar’Gadi, whose eyes filled with Her light. Feliar’Gadi rose to his feet and placed his hands upon the Dragon, whose body was at once restored.  The Dragon looked upon Feliar’Gadi and saw the Light of Drigan’di in his eyes. Immediately, the Dragon rose with joy and began to praise the Great One, for he had been restored to the ranks of the Valkyri’din.”

The piscopoliteer looks up from the text and says, “Such are the words of the Great One, spoken to us through his servant, Yisha’idi.”

The response rises up from all the crowd standing in the basilica, “Blessings and thanks be given to the Great One.” Upon saying this, they sit upon their heels on the floor and attend to the piscopoliteer’s interpretations.

“Daddy,” Shilo whispers to the man sitting beside her, “Who’s Drigan’di?” A few eyes surrounding them dart quickly to Shilo and her father before returning to the speaking piscopoliteer.

Shilo’s father shifts slightly on his heels before leaning closer to his daughter and saying, “Drigan’di is the Spirit of Faith. She’s also the leader of the Great One’s army and the Mother of the Valkyri’din. She’s the one who gives us the strength to resist the influence of the Dragons and follow the Great One’s Will.” He looks away from Shilo and to her mother.

Shilo’s mother nods with a gentle smile before taking Shilo’s hand and locking glowing eyes with glowing eyes. “It’s Drigan’di that gives us the light inside us, Shilo. She is outside of time and space, and she is all throughout it at once. She brings us closer to the Great One and protects us from His enemies. She’s the example of perfect choice and trust in the Great One, and she is our Eternal Mother.” As Shilo’s mother finishes speaking, Shilo eagerly begins to raise another question but is interrupted by the piscopoliteer’s invitation to pray. The crowd stands, and as they sign the Sword of Drigan’di, Shilo smiles, her eyes glowing a bit brighter.

The memory fades, and you are again alone in the prison cell your own body has become. This time, however, you are filled with a slight sense of peace that had not been present before the memory. Your parents’ description of Drigan’di may not have been the most complete, but you know now at least that you have encountered Her. You wonder for a moment why no one names their children after Her, but the thought doesn’t linger for great length.

Your patience renewed, you make your way once more into the vaults of Shilo’s memories.

Memories: Hunting Trip

You awake to the diffused red light of Valkyr 43’s cargo hold. Your mind races as you realize your eyes will not open. You also notice a severe tinnitus resonating in your ear. You realize with a sharp and failed attempt to gasp that your body is still in stasis. But, then, why are you–? You reach into the ship with your mind, searching for any life signs beside your own. There are none. You expand the reach of your search, and find that you are in the depth of space, the interplanetary void. You’re also completely alone. ‘Shilo?’ Your internal voice almost seems to echo inside your head. Shilo does not reply. If your heart were beating, it would do so more rapidly at this point. Unfortunately, it isn’t doing anything right now.

You search Shilo’s memories, which are still accessible, for an idea toward what may be happening right now. You find yourself unable to make sense of the material through sheer access without Shilo’s assistance. This leaves you with only one choice: You have to sort through each memory in chronological order and learn what you need to know for yourself. Shilo’s consciousness is still in stasis with the rest of you, and it’s of the utmost importance that you understand what this is so that you can solve your current predicament. If you continue like this for the entire journey to Thor, your mind won’t survive. You start with the earliest memory you can find: the hunting trip.

Zhilo’di Khuda’Cronell, Age 5, Skogr Forest

“Can you see it, Shilo?” A woman speaks to a young girl, Shilo, while dropping to her perch on the branch, her motion almost birdlike in its gracefulness. There isn’t a sound as the woman moves onto the branch, which moves no more than it would have had there been a mild breeze. Her long, almost purely blue hair falls into perfect, wavy locks as it settles against her back. She points in a direction slightly right of forward, her eyes trained on Shilo.

Shilo looks in the same direction as the woman, her eyes training on a small Lake Wyrm, its ulfr-like snout sniffing at the air as it climbs up the side of a distant tree. Its forward paws clench at the bark of the tree with razor-sharp claws while its rear flippers bat at the tree in a typical hunting pattern. A nearby bird hears the wet beating and responds with a low-swooping scan of the water, looking for the creature that so clearly just slapped the water with its fins. As it passes the wyrm’s position, however, the bird sees the predator turn its head toward him. The bird manages a few rapid beats with his wings before the wyrm lands on him, enveloping his wings with its flippers and digging its claws into his neck, already biting into the bird as it passes into the water.

“Yes,” Shilo replies, her eyes fixed on the point in the water where the wyrm just plummeted. Her mouth is still slightly open as the ripples fade.

The woman ties her hair up into a recursive bun and pulls two small knives from the leather pouch tied to the side of her leg. The first knife, she places into her hair, securing the bun. The second, she hands to Shilo, smiling gently. “They all do that. I’m not sure why the birds haven’t caught on yet, but it works, so that’s how they hunt. You’re going to counter it with this knife.”

Shilo gives her a quizzical look. She’s clearly not sure how the knife is going to counter the wyrm’s hunting method. “How?” The question is simple and childish, as innocent as if she were asking how to tie a bow rather than how to kill an apex predator with a single throwing knife.

The woman smiles patiently as she explains, “When the bird is passing, the wyrm will jump from the tree to the bird. Any other time, and she’ll hear this knife long enough before it reaches her, giving her plenty of time to move out of the way. At that exact moment, though,” the woman grinned, “the wyrm can’t change direction. She can’t dodge. In fact, if you throw the knife right through the bird’s neck, you’ll get her clean in the head every time.”

Shilo grimaces at the thought of a knife passing through both a bird’s neck and a wyrm’s head at the same time. Nevertheless, when the woman asks, “Ready?” Shilo nods.

The woman points again, designating Shilo’s target. A wyrm only a few trees away has just started batting her tree. Dead silence runs through the two as they watch the wyrm’s prey approach. The bird flies around the edge of the tree, expecting to find a fish or small water mammal. Instead, he only finds smooth water. The bird caws lightly at the sight in surprise, but continues his glide around the tree. As he passes beneath the wyrm, the predator’s head turns toward him, her front legs kicking out from the tree and turning it about.

At that exact moment, the woman glances slightly to her side toward Shilo, whispering directly into the girl’s mind, ‘Now!’ Shilo, however, grimaces and hesitates for a single moment, long enough for the wyrm to drop with h
er prey into the water before the knife passes through the point the wyrm had just been, planting itself into the bark of the tree.

Clearly disappointed in herself, Shilo looks to the woman, expecting a similar expression from her but instead finding a kind smile. “Sorry, Mommy.”

The expression on Shilo’s mother’s face grows even softer as she ruffles her daughter’s hair. “It’s no problem, Shilo. We’ll just get a different one…”

The memory fades, and you find yourself once again alone with your thoughts. Were it not for the stasis, you’d certainly have produced tears at the memory of your mother and Shilo’s so young. As is, however, you simply focus your resolve and move onto the next memory. This is going to take a while…