The Cloud Warden

Icarus Santese stood as still as a statue, his left palm against his forehead and right palm over his heart. The chipped and worn amphitheatre around him was barely visible beneath verdant vines which thrived on the warmth retained by the stone. Small brown birds flitted about in the early rays of dawn, feasting on insects drawn to the vine leaves. Two acolytes sat waiting silently for him to conclude his morning mind flight.

He could see the clouds part to reveal the land below. Not the land as it truly was, but the land as Augma saw fit to reveal it; mostly grey with key features in double size and bold primary color. Ancient runes guided his attention through a series of ritual devotions; a high banking circle observing the horizon, a low perimeter sweep along a band of impossibly clean obsidian rock chip surrounding the sanctum, a medium height cast westward over the Sink, and then as his namesake required, a high altitude cloud walk. Having completed the devotion, the runes dissolved and Augma released his familiar’s vision to truesight. Full definition colour high above the clouds burst forth with rich warm yellow from the sun, a spectrum of blues from the sky, and the pristine white of cotton wool cloud formations. This was his favourite part of the morning routine, he guided his familiar to bank and dive, quickly dropping to the cloud line and running along the cloud roof, a feeling of ultimate agility. Finding a break in the clouds he ran through and raced toward the lake, hoping to catch a glimpse of any game wandering in the area. Jarringly Icarus’ mind eye turned blood red and hundreds of angry tiny runes filled his consciousness. He frowned and returned to his own truesight, dropping both hands to an inverted V.

The acolytes rose at the sudden movement and one spoke in a quiet yet firm voice “What ails Augma, does she send a directive?”

“Near the lake, my familiar falters. Raise a signal to the elders that we go to tend the fallen.” Icarus mounted his sledway which rose two feet above the ground. He folded his arms impressively and invoked in the strong inflection of all incantations “Westreechautarabund”. The sledway slowly turned and accelerated through an overgrown stone arch, gaining speed it shot him over the healthy grass of the inexplicably flat landscape below Domain. The air was fresh and had the earthy richness that comes with morning dew. Birds took the the sky squawking behind him, startled by his silent steed, only noticing his presence by the rush of wind left in his wake.

His familiar had faltered but three times under his wardenship, and never like this; so violently, so fully. It was a grave omen in a dangerous time and he pondered what it meant as the sledway sped him westward.

The sledway slowed gently as it neared the obsidian chip death ring. Icarus turned to observe his acolytes in the far distance manually guiding their steeds for they could not yet inflect the correct tones to invoke this location. Lowering to the ground, he dismounted and took a thin rod from the sledway, and an obsidian marble. Both stowed in his garb he then took what looked like a toy bow and a quiver of arrow. The bow was small but no toy, it was a gift from the Fabrequatar empire far to the East beyond seven mountain peak to peak sights. Dull green, compact, the drawstring on perfect pulleys such that the bow itself barely bent at full draw, but it could drive an arrow further and straighter than the powderbreath devices of the ancients.

The first acolyte joined him, bearing a long enameled staff. The second overran, his sledway thumping to the ground just short of the ring of death. Icarus frowned and admonished “Move with care. Danger awaits an ill omen, we must be as the swallow before the storm.”

Assembled, they began the passage chant together in the inflection of incantation, arms upraised, spinning slowly in a circle “Oh great Augma, heart of the cloud, see us now, hear your servants, that we may safely do your bidding, grant us passage.” The obsidian chips glowed blue and they walked through unharmed. Once through the chips faded to black once more. A beatle ventured onto the rock and was incinerated, its shell smoked briefly and was completely consumed, no trace remained. The three set off jogging toward the forest before the lake.

---
They encounter an enemy force of robots, an industrial mech exoskeleton earth moving equipment, under the command of a cyborg.
---

Icarus had never before had cause to deploy the eternity marble, and paused for a moment to search his mind as to whether such measures were truly required by the situation. He calmed his mind and weighed the temporary risk to his kin against the unretractable action before him. Yes, it must be done. He clasped the eternity marble tightly in his left hand and made the chant of banishment. The rod in his right hand glowed white with energy. Icarus continued the chant, closing his eyes and entered his mind eye.

He threw the eternity marble high and raised his rod, speaking the final words “Fatal sentence in protection of Domain.” His minds eye focused on the enemy from the perspective of the eternity marble and the scene before him flashed bright white for an instant. Icarus felt a rush of heat through his blood as his enemy vaporized into a green mist that caught fire and then burst outward into columns of black smoke. He quickly banished the feeling with a mind cleansing mantra “impartial and fair, calm but swift, bringer of justice to deliver peace”.

Returning to his truesight he caught the eternity marble deftly and quickly returned it to its holding pouch. With reverence he blessed the departed “Great Augma watch over the departed, may their molecules be as star dust returned to the universe, to travel unrestrained by lesser bindings.”

---

Icarus rarely met with Savant Enseers. They were an enigmatic breed, and dealing with them always left a bad taste in his mouth. What a deprived life to lead beneath the roots, buried from all the wondrous plenty he enjoyed on the wide plains of his Domain. Icarus turned his nose up at the Enseer's flabby, pasty appearance. A man who was a foot shorter and slightly balding. What they ate deep in their caverns, he did not want imagine. Yet the duties of Cloud Warden and his vows bound him to protect and defend Domain in its entirety; above and below. He was steward to Enseer endurance as directly as to any other in Domain.

“Grant passage” the Enseer spoke quickly with hint of irritation, and raised his right palm. Such blatant disrespect for the sacred! Icarus was shocked and visibly annoyed, but Augma saw fit to turn the entrance ring blue. Icarus spoke the proper chant and spun in honor to the great benefactor. The Enseer rolled his eyes and tapped his foot with arms folded but remained silent until Icarus made his way through with dramatic strides befitting of a Warden.

“Microblog trending indicates that political unrest has reached an unstable peak. This insurgence is just a taste of what is to come. You really need to get your people inside the center proper and engage with drones and perimeter defenses. I know this is difficult for you to accept, but we are going to be under full scale attack soon, on a scale that you simply cannot deal with as you have been. As you know, operation of the field defenses are encoded to your DNA after the separation of responsibilities code, so I can only assist you and your kin with information.” His speech was entirely in the inflection of invocation, Icarus could barely follow the words even with his rigorous daily study of the mystic ways.


3 comments:

  1. Nice work! Now can we get CoderX to narrate it...? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream
    I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been
    To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen
    They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed

    Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace, whose sounds caress my ear
    But not a word I heard could I relate, the story was quite clear
    Oh, oh.

    Oh, I been flying... mama, there ain't no denyin'
    I've been flying, ain't no denyin', no denyin'

    All I see turns to brown, as the sun burns the ground
    And my eyes fill with sand, as I scan this wasted land
    Trying to find, trying to find where I've been.

    Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace, like thoughts inside a dream
    Heed the path that led me to that place, yellow desert stream
    My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon, I will return again
    Sure as the dust that floats high in June, when movin' through Kashmir.

    Oh, father of the four winds, fill my sails, across the sea of years
    With no provision but an open face, along the straits of fear
    Ohh.

    When I'm on, when I'm on my way, yeah
    When I see, when I see the way, you stay-yeah

    Ooh, yeah-yeah, ooh, yeah-yeah, when I'm down...
    Ooh, yeah-yeah, ooh, yeah-yeah, well I'm down, so down
    Ooh, my baby, oooh, my baby, let me take you there

    Let me take you there. Let me take you there

    kashmir- led zeppelin

    ReplyDelete
  3. go the cloud warden!

    ReplyDelete