Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Dark side of the Drake 1.21

~~~Continued from~~~

2182 AD, Umber 1st

Jikana Enka had quickly become friends with everyone she met during her time as a rebel. It was through these friendships that she was able to learn from a Dragon Rider a few things about the Dragons and Dinosaurs. Although she couldn't understand Dragonspeech, her time studying the telepathic Verimagus arts had given her enough skill to roughly communicate with a Dragon. With their hierarchical societal structure, Jikana knew she would need to speak directly Queen Sdrankhn. At this time in her life, Sdrankhn* was maintaining a 50m long body, with a 60m wingspan. She was intensely intimidating, though legend spoke of a time thousands of years ago when she maintained an even larger bulk. Her current lair had been dug out of a small island on Tor Mta Lake in the Pset'na mountain range so that she could remain close to all of the major Omnistate dome cities, yet sufficiently remote as to remain undetected.

Jikana didn't know where the entrance to her lair would be, so she found a resting place in the top of a tree near the edge of the island from which she could observe and search for any movement. She slowed her personal passage of time, so that she could quickly observe all the activity of a 25 hour period in 25 seconds. In such a sped up view, it became clear from the flights of many pterangels† that the entrance was in a deceptive crevice on a cliff face on the western side of the island.

Jikana then sped her flow of time, and jumped as hard as she could, propelling her body through the sloshing air and seemingly reduced gravity toward the cliff. Time shifted twice more, reducing her perception of the flight to a shorter time-span, and then allowing her to leisurely reach out to the cliff face to slow down and utilize her momentum by ascending toward the hidden entrance. She scrambled over the ledge hidden behind the crevice and quickly looked around. With time still flowing faster for her, she was able to avoid the attacks from the 2m tall Utahraptors, and make her way deeper into the lair. With there already being no light in the cave, the dimmed light of slow-paced time would have been far too little light to see by - which is why she carried flares. She ran along the cave floor, wall, and ceiling, uncertain which direction was up or down. The occasional wyrhm, pigon or guardian Dinosaur‡ were her only indications of true down. After exploring a few side chambers, she rounded one last blind curve and discovered her prize speaking to a small pterangel.

Right as the sound-waves from a guardian squawking an alert reached the room, Jikana knelt on a ledge just out of Sdrankhn's reach at her eye level, and began projecting her thoughts of peace and her identity as friend of the Dragon Riders. She returned to a normal flow of time and waited alert for the Queen's response.

Sdrankhn growled almost too deeply for human ears to perceive, and the alarm ceased. She dismissed the pterangel and turned her attention to the intruder. Jikana tensed. The queen sat on her hind legs and lazily folded her wings around them, tilting her head to the side in inquiry.

Jikana relaxed, and projected her thoughts as she said, "Please forgive the intrusion, Queen. I am a wizard of Unimagus, having studied directly under her highness, Hawkica. I have sworn to harm none, yet I have participated in the assassination of Kair. I am distressed by my participation, and wish to leave humanity for a time."

Sdrankhn nodded in acknowledgement that she understood. There is no corner of Poskaena which will likely remain untouched by your cousins for long. What would you have me do?

Jikana was completely surprised by her ability to understand, "If it pleases you, I would live on Drako."

You have sworn to harm none. Does this extend to my daughters and our slaves?

"Indeed. I will harm no multicellular organism with a nervous system. I eat only fruits, plants and fungus that I cultivate."

What if one of our slaves tries to eat you? Will you abandon your oath then, as you did with Kair?

Feeling pangs of guilt and a hint of anger which she quickly suppressed, Jikana replied, "Although I participated, I personally harmed none. Nevertheless I am more adamant tha-"

Suddenly an Eodromaeus leapt at Jikana's jugular with its sharp teeth flashing toward her death with lightning speed. Jikana reacted automatically, nearly stopping the flow of time compared to her perception. She grabbed the now harmless dinosaur gently by the ribcage, and allowed time to flow around the beast enough (though too slowly for it to react) as she gently guided its mass to the edge of the platform. She returned to her original spot and resumed regular time. The Eodromaeus slid unharmed off the edge and spun around as it grappled the drop-off skidding down the face of the rock to the floor below.  Jikana resumed, "I am more adamant than ever that I will not harm a living creature."

Sdrankhn swiped her clawed wing at Jikana with speed that nearly broke the sound barrier. Jikana again reacted quickly enough to completely avoid harm, this time appearing in the same location moments after the negative air pressure subsided. I am convinced that you will survive without harming my daughters or our slaves.  Do you have a preference for your temporary territory?

Jikana replied, "Indeed. I would like to live on the dark side of Mt. Drake."

The queen rose from her position, and made her way to the entrance while Jikana followed. Sdrankhn launched herself out from the cliff and circled around to land on the plateau above. Jikana leapt upward from the entrance and landed gracefully next to the queen. Sdrankhn gazed into the twilit sky above, I am unfamiliar with the names human astronomers grant the features of my planet. Which mountain would that be?

Jikana sought the mountain in the eastern edge of Drako, a mountain which was so tall that from Pskaena it appeared to be a deformation of the edge of the planet whose far side was never visible due to the tidal locking of the two planets. She pointed and mentally projected the image of the mountain.

You have my permission to live on the Mountain of ----- (this part was unintelligible to Jikana, she assumed it must be a word without translation). Though I cannot provide transport. In addition, we will require a favour from you at some time in the future, before you perish. We will not expect you to betray any of your principles so long as you remain true to your oath.

"Thank you, most benevolent queen. I accept your terms. I will not be needing transportation. If it pleases you, I will be on my way."

Curious how the tiny mage would find her own transportation to the neighbouring planet, Sdrankhn nodded.

Jikana closed her eyes and concentrated. Sdrankhn stared at her for a few moments, until a stray noise momentarily caught her attention. She flicked her eyes in the direction of the noise, and by the time her eyes darted back, Jikana had disappeared. Sdrankhn tasted the air, and glanced all around, unable to determine any direction Jikana might have gone, and not sensing any disturbances of air flow like she had in the cave. On a whim, she looked upward with her extremely enhanced vision at the mountain Jikana had called Mt. Drake. At first she didn't see anything unusual, but a few seconds later she saw a tiny humanoid figure rounding the pinnacle of the mountain and descending onto the far side.

Sdrankhn spread her wings and glided back to the room in her lair where she had been, summoning the pterangel she had been speaking to, and then resumed her regular correspondences.

~~~To be continued~~~

*Queen SDRAnKhn is the most powerful and skilled Dragon.
†Pterangels are pterodactyl-like creatures that Dragons use as messenger pigeons.
‡Wyrhms keep caves clear of organic decay, pigons consume wyrhms and are the primary source of protein for other Dragon Lair dwellers and guardian Dinosaurs are various carnivorous Dinosaurs whose sole role is to keep out intruders.

Dark side of the Drake 1.2

~~~Continued from~~~

232 AO, September 2nd

If there's one thing I was certain of in the early morning hours, it's that real lizards or dinosaurs don't have eight legs. They have four legs. Therefore, the thing I was seeing must be either an hallucination or a dream. It wasn't moving, so my groggy mind had time to process. Lets see. Two meters long and wide, tip to tip. Eight legs - one, two, three...., yes eight. Clawed tips. Eyes? Only two. No wait, four mini eyes in each socket, so that made eight. Wide jaw with single lower mandible, and two prominent narrow fangs. No spider abdomen, only a flat abdomen between its lower and upper two appendages and a short tail. No creature I had ever heard of matched this description. Very nightmarish. But if this was a nightmare, I would be panicking by now. Therefore this is real. Therefore I should panic.

I slept with my gun in my arms*, so I slowly angled the barrel at the centre of the... Spider lizard? Splizard? Lider? Ugly. I fired. The shot ripped through flesh, and Ugly squealed in irate shock as he leapt away from me toward the entrance, tangling itself in the web it must have spun the night before. Ugly tried to scramble at me, moving its limbs fast enough that if it hadn't been tangled, I wouldn't have stood a chance. Overcoming my shock that a heartshot didn't stop it sooner, or cause more bleeding, I fired between its eyes, and watched it slump, still twitching its legs.

Short fight. And I was very lucky. I started to realize just how lucky I was as I took stock of my surroundings. The entrance was completely webbed off, making escape impossible. There was a large worm-shaped cocoon of Ugly-silk where Ugly had been focusing his attention before I shot him. I thought it was an egg-sac until I cut it open with my bayonet and found a still-breathing paralyzed 8m python. I killed it so it couldn't cause any trouble. The silk was not easy to cut through. It was sticky, stretchy, gummy and tougher than tendon. After working on the entrance until I could leave, I took a closer look at Ugly. He was very flat. He could have been hiding deep inside a crevice in the cave and despite his size I wouldn't have noticed. Caves were not safe. Out of curiosity I ran a tracker algorithm on the image of the ground in the cave and around the entrance currently compared to the night before.

As the reconstruction played, I saw Ugly arrive at the cave just as I was nodding off to sleep. The image sped up as he worked on the web to cover the entrance for over 2 hours and highlighted when the snake snuck past him, heading for my juicy sleeping body. Ugly must have noticed, because he stopped his construction long enough to paralyze the snake, and wrap him in silk. After Ugly finished sealing the entrance, he began snacking on the snake. I only slept for about 4 hours. If I had slept longer, I would have been wrapped up as well. If the snake hadn't shown up, I would have been dead. If Ugly hadn't shown up, I would have been dead. If Ugly wasn't a glutton, I would have been dead. The fates on Drako offer no forgiveness.

My comms static clicked and in a panicked voice Mertabhai shouted, "What just happenned?"

"Relax," I said, "nothing I couldn't handle."

"Nothing you couldn't handle? Your best defence against the night-stalking predators of this planet is to hide in a cave, and now as far as you know there are no safe caves. You'll have to risk sleeping out in the open for the next 7 nights in order to make it to Mt Drake."

"I have the Triple S tent. I'll be fine."

"Do you know how many combatants have died in their 3S tents? Plus, don't you think the crew members back at the base would like to know about this new threat?"

"They have their dome, and the other guardians. They're safe enough."

"And you're still convinced you can save our parents, so you won't even think about helping the people who you know could use your help?"


He went silent, so I reran the route finding algorithm negating the search for caves etc, favouring locales that would be away from common game trails. The new route shaved an extra 6 hours off the total journey time, so I set out right away. I saw the dead volcano, Mt. Drake peaking up from below the horizon, and I still had over 60km to travel today to make good time. I sent a dragonfly bot to scout the route ahead for wildlife. I didn't want to accidentally run into another carnotaurus. Or, frankly, anything else for that matter.

The rest of the day was quiet. My brother must have been in a mood, he didn't even try to talk to me. I made good time, and only stopped to eat when I came across a fruit-tree that tested good-to-eat. It must've had caffein in it, since for the first time since I landed I stopped craving coffee. As the suns dipped below the horizon, and the daytime lit up my homeworld, Pskaena I gazed into the sky. The Spiral continent in the southwest was awe inspiring. From the ground they were boring, monotonous swampy tracts of land between salt-marshes. From Drako they were like the first moments of the swirling pattern of milk being mixed into black coffee. I could just make out the islands of my ancestral home, Gaeli in the Northwest. I felt like the wolves of Gobland, and I wanted to howl in yearning anticipation for my homeland and the love of my family. But my desire to avoid attracting the attention of every hungry nocturnal predator for miles around quelled the thought.

I found a tall tree and began my climb toward a safe place near the top. A notification alert started bleeping in my peripheral vision, but I figured it was just my brother texting me, so I ignored it and silenced the alert. When I reached 45m up, I figured I was high enough, and I set up my 3S tent on a particularly thick branch.

My mornings were very unlucky. Perhaps it was the lack of caffeine. Perhaps the fates of Drako were grumpy that the fates of Pskaena could have coffee and they couldn't. Perhaps I should have checked the alert instead of silencing it. I might have chosen a different tree. In case you are wondering, the alert had been from my tracker app. It was warning me that a large opportunistic predator had made its bed on top of the jumbled roots of this tree. The nearby river was its primary hunting ground, but the gnawed Iguanadon bones hidden in the roots indicated that it would eat any prey dumb enough to chance by. I would probably fit its dietary criteria.

When I awoke and got out of my tent, I looked down on a 15m long heavily muscled alligator-like dinosaur. This was one of the largest species - a Spinosaurus.

~~~To be continued~~~

* All guardians were equipped with Vanlandic riffles which disassembled themselves to prevent reverse engineering if they were out of an authorized soldier's hands for more than 3 hours.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Dark side of the Drake 1.1

~~~Continued from~~~

232 AO,  September 1st

Bullface was, of course faster than he looked. I seriously regretted not waiting for my exoarmour*. He sprung from his hiding place faster than a beast of his tonnage should fairly have been capable. Out of time to find a good hiding place, I switched on my enhancements and charged my rifle. His maw opened in anticipation, already salivating for my flesh, and he let out a low growl of intimidation. I wasn't certain that normal caliber rounds would do enough damage. Fortunately this had been anticipated.

Bullface had narrowed the gap, but I wasn't happy with the targets he was offering. So at enhanced speed, I charged. At the last moment, when I knew it would be too late for him to shift his momentum, I dodged to the right, and spun toward the prime target of his heart. Well, he shouldn't have been able to change his momentum, but he did. He whiplashed his neck to his left, slamming his open jaw into my chest, cracking my ribs and puncturing the skin in the process. Pain flowered from the impact, blinding me momentarily. Pain suppressants and coagulants pumped through my system, temporarily allowing me to continue the fight. Bullface's tactic would have debilitated a normal human sized prey. It just offered me a clear shot. As my back slammed into the ground and I skidded to a stop, I took general aim, relying on the autotargeting to hone in on the vitals and let loose 2 silent armour piercing rounds. I didn't expect to see a change in the beast's features, but the look of surprise was unmistakable.

Nevertheless he didn't give up as quickly as I had hoped. He wasn't going to fall before he managed to chomp me where I lay, so I sprang to a crouch and launched myself to maneuver behind a nearby tree. I turned and watched as Bullface, splattering gore in his last desperate stomps, futilely sought his final revenge. He fell on the other side of the tree, and finally stopped breathing and kicking, his open eyes staring at me as the light faded.

Sensing a levelling off of my adrenaline, the pain suppressants eased off enough to remind me that I needed to see to my survival before I moved on. I applied field bandages, allowing the minimedics† to do their job while I prepared to find shelter.

On Pskaena, when surviving in the wild, it is best to light a fire as soon as you can in order to scare away nocturnal predators. On Drako, that would be a very bad idea. Instead, I flipped my visor down and switched on my HUD display to find the nearest shelter‡. There was a nearby craggy outcropping with a shallow cave which would suffice, so I sliced off some dino-beef, found my way to the shelter and flamelessly cooked supper.

The suns dipped below the horizon and darkness descended. I pulled up my map of Drako, projecting it on my visor so that it appeared to be behind the blank rock wall I was staring at, and reviewed my progress to the goal. Not great, but not terrible. At a reasonable unrushed pace I could be at the base of Mt. Drake in a little over a week. Of course that would be over a week in the most deadly, inhospitable territory ever encountered by mankind since the expulsion of dragonkind from Pskaena.

As I was picking out possible routes between conveniently located caves and crevices, I heard my comms static click on, followed by the voice of my brother, Mertabhai, "Yo!"

"Merty, how are you?"

"Not bad. I'm glad to see your heart's still beating."

"Ha, you know I wouldn't let a bit of wildlife stand in the way of my goal."

"No, you always were a bit bullheaded. But in all seriousness how are you?"

"I've been better. I was attacked by Carnotaurus. Nothing I couldn't handle, but I underestimated him a bit. I won't make that mistake again."

"Good. Did you check to see if the drones were collecting data on the dinos inhabiting this area?"

"Merty, please. Of course I did."

"... And?"

"And there's nothing. Most of them have been taken out. I guess the locals think they're meaty flying snacks, instead of valuable information gathering spies."

"Skan it! How are you supposed to be prepared if you don't know what to defend against?"

"Don't worry, bro, I got it covered. The drones did manage to gather some intel first, and infrared satellite imagery has given us an idea of the population density around here. I know what to watch out for, and I know how to deal with it when trouble comes." I didn't have any clue. It was a lie and we both knew it, but it was comforting for both of us too. No GPR could have detected the horror and no flying drone could have seen the terror that lurked in my unpeaceful morning to come.

Mertabhai said, "I don't think you can handle all of the trouble headed your way - the trouble that you are bringing on yourself."

"Merty, don't start with that-"

"Listen! You don't have to do this! You shouldn't do this, it's not right. What would mom say?"

"How would I know what mom would say? For that matter how would you know? I'm doing this because I have no choice, Mertabhai."

"There is always a choice. Turn back now. Go back to the dome, and claim you were separated from the group by accident. Tell them you were scouting ahead and your nav equipment malfunctioned. They'll be grateful enough to have an extra gun, they'll purposely not look any deeper."

"It's too late."

"Brother, it's never too late."

"Yes it is! It's too late for mom, it's too late for dad, and its certainly too late for me."

"I understand. I had to try. Please don't kill yourself in the process."

"If that's what it takes... I'll do what I have to do, to do what I know must be done."

"Your courage of conviction certainly isn't lacking."


"What will you do if you fail?"

"Failure is not an option."

We chatted a little while after that, until I fell asleep. Eight double jointed scaly grey legs stalked around the opening.

~~~To be continued~~~

* Exoarmour was invented 465 years ago in 1964 AD. The dome was programmed to begin construction of exoarmour for the use of the guardians, but said armour was only available to the guardians who entered the dome to put it on.

† Minimedics are cybernetic micro-organisms engineered in 2045 AD to aid the rebellion by speeding up repair of wounds.

‡ Miniature AT drones had been sent out in advance of the dome landing, to map out caves and crevices using GPR. In the absence of any nearby shelter, all survival packs were equipped with Triple S Tents which masked scent, sight, and sound.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Dark side of the Drake 1.01

~~~Continued from~~~
2181 AD, December 35th

The deed was done. Despite her personal horror at the very idea of taking a life, she had been convinced that there was no other choice. Jikana Enka had helped assassinate Kair IsMatis. By then, everyone was aware of the atrocities committed, and many had already attempted to take his life. But they hadn't sworn to do no harm. Technically she never personally harmed Kair, but without her skill, it would have been impossible. Jikana is a practitioner of Unimagus, one of the most difficult forms to master, easily requiring hundreds of years. Among her skills is the ability to manipulate the flow of time. Her skills allowed the team of assassins to complete their task before Kair could react.

Now that it was over, the weight of her guilt was too heavy for her, so she decided to leave. Pskaen was too small and too crowded to hold the burden. Leaving a message for her handler, she sought out a Dragon for assistance.

Her message:
I know it was for the best, but I need time to heal. If I'm truly needed, you can find me on the dark side of Mt. Drake.
-J. Enka

~~~To be continued~~~

Friday, 9 January 2015

Dark side of the Drake 1.0

232 AO,  Sexember 36th

I had been digging through the histories associated with the 2000 year war. Everyone else is so desperate to get as far away from that period of time, that most schools cover the entire period in one month of one semester. Williard Gawddum's writings have been especially insightful, despite his thinly veiled efforts to the contrary. He tried so desperately to disprove the existence of certain fairytales, that I had to ask myself why he protested so dreadfully.

I have found them.

Wizards. Do. Exist.

But I am not interested in them. At least, not most of them. As far as I can tell, there is only one who can help with my problem. And She isn't even on Pskaena. She is on Drako. Her name is Jikana Enka and I believe I will be the first human to lay eyes on her in 232 years. She seems to have dropped off the face of the planet at the fall of the Omnistate. Or rather, as I believe, flew off the face of the planet. That's why I boarded the Kwartilho, one of the three cargo shuttles sent to establish a base on the Planet of Dragons - Drako. It wasn't as hard as it might sound to get on the roster. It's surprising how few people are actually ready and qualified to colonize a planet.

Before we even launched, the Drako orbital station crew assembled and deployed the modified dome printer*. By the time we arrived with supplies (weapons) the dome was already completed. From the station I looked out on a vista that is difficult to describe. I saw my home rising over the horizon of Drako. It is remarkable how similar my home looked to Drako from this distance. Our trip to the surface was beyond thrilling. The heat-shield prevented us from seeing anything directly, but the orbital station monitored our drop and transmitted zoomed-in video as we descended. Mt Drake loomed in the distant East, and we could see Pterodactyls and herds of Nigersauri flee from our bright meteorite. Many times I was inspired to abandon my personal quest and fulfil my obligations to the crew. When we were low enough and slow enough, the pilots took over and landed near the dome.

I squeezed my rifle in anticipation as the doors opened on the sunslit alien planet. We were about to be the first humans to walk on our orbital dance partner since the fateful first brave Drakonauts lost their lives 2 days after landing. Nothing happened. There was no greeting party of carnage that our worst fears had anticipated. We, the guards, filed out first, and set up a perimeter around the three shuttles as the scientists and crewmen gathered vital equipment and were shepherded to the centre of our wagon circle. Once ready, we marched to the dome, leaving behind the shuttles which would later be driven remotely into the safety of the dome.

I knew that this would be my best chance to leave the party unnoticed. I worked my way around the rear of the group, and while the majority of the group was skirting a large boulder, I hid behind some foliage.

Make no mistake. Drako is deadly. There was a very small chance that I would survive for long, extended only a short time by the extra ammo I had taken with me. The first night I was lucky. The only explanation I can think of is that the predators were still cowering from the violence of our arrival. But my luck didn't last long into the next day. Carnotaurus isn't exactly small or quiet. But when you are prey on the move, you are bound to find a lurking hunter. I spotted it across a field, and started backing into the cover of the trees behind me. Have you ever seen an owl perched in a tree when it spots a mouse hiding down below? It's remarkable how chilling it was to see the Carnotaurus subtly shift its 8m length as it honed its attention on me. I judged the distance, and guessed its speed. I only hoped that it wasn't faster than it looked.

~~~To be continued~~~

* A dome printer is a solar powered automated factory that uses local resources to construct an airtight armoured dome. This artifact of the Omnistate era was previously used to quickly and safely repair damage from Rebel attacks on dome fortified cities. The technology was modified to drop from orbit and assemble itself first, and then construct the 300m dome without the need for humans to die while giant meat eating lizards enjoy a rare delicacy. This dome was placed over an underground water reservoir. The air is purified with artificial chloroplast leaf.

Pskaena and Drako orbit one another and together they orbit the suns Zule and Veela. They are a binary planetary system orbiting a binary star system.

Thursday, 8 January 2015


Inspired by the periodical storytelling of Charles Dickens, I am going to attempt to create this periodical storytelling blog. In it, I will write short stories (and hopefully some not so short) set in the fictional world of Pskaena (aka Pscaena). Some may be related to or inspired by current events.

I am also a fan of interaction, and constant improvement so please leave your comments.