Another Sample: Tyche’s Lost

I’m pushing 45,000 words on Tyche’s Lost. It’s shaping up! To see how we’re getting along, I thought I’d introduce you to Forrest Blake. He’s a … survivor on Viukde Gamma, raised in a cultish society. It should come as no surprise the Ezeroc are behind it, which makes it a rough ride for our heroes, Chad and Saveria.

Usual caveats. First draft. No grammar checking. Confusion reigns! I hope you dig it anyway.

Inside the Altar, Forrest found undergrowth making its home. The space was blessedly free of vermin, but that was expected of a holy site. Gods wouldn’t allow their temple to be desecrated. He didn’t know which way to go. The air felt cool, the night following on his heels. Ahead, Gravedigger awaited. She was planning to kill his gods.

He wound through the starship, finding a hundred knick-knacks from the pilgrims who came before. All wore clothing like Gravedigger had when they’d first met. He felt doubt trouble him, but pushed the feeling aside. Doubt was natural in the face of faith. He must be strong.

Forrest found a ladder. A new deck under his feet, he could go left or right. Left felt the best choice. His feet walked halls of shining metal. He’d never seen so much alloy in all his years. The Altar was made of metal. His village scrounged to find fragments of it. The curated broken relics from the time before, but nothing worked. The Altar still worked; he could feel the hum of the walls come alive as he journeyed deeper within. Strange slabs bloomed with light at his approach, tracing pictures through the air with lines of light.

He heard Marla’s voice from a room. That couldn’t be right; she was still outside. He ducked into a large room. Benches lined the area, and a massive glowing rectangle sat at one end. Marla’s image was on the rectangle, but he’d never seen her like that. Her hair was the same short cut, but her eyes were different. Not the hard commanding presence of village elder, they held an uncertainty he wasn’t used to. She looked frightened, and pressed a device to her head. When the device fired, killing her, he gasped, stumbling, and fell to the floor. He jarred his coccyx, hissing with the pain of it.

It made no sense. Marla was outside, dressed like the rest of them. But the Marla shown in the rectangle of light had more vigor, and wore strange clothing that seemed to be made of metal. Were the gods testing him?

The image skipped, showing the gods come to take her away. Ah. This is from the time before. She came to the Altar, and they remade her. It made sense: to lead the village, she needed the gods’ strength. The Altar showed him what he needed to see. They would do this to Gravedigger, and as with Marla, all would be well. Gravedigger wouldn’t be frightened or confused like old Marla. She’d be reborn like Marla was now. Strong. Ready and willing to serve.

He got to his feet, rubbing his tailbone. He exited the room, finding two gods waiting for him. Forrest bowed his head, and the gods sidled away. They blocked his path back, showing him the only way forward was the direction he’d been heading. He picked up the pace, fingering the club that hung from his belt. If the gods could remake Marla with half her head missing, a few taps to Gravedigger’s head wouldn’t make much difference.

It felt like the heavens wanted him to hit her. Like it was destiny, but he’d missed his mark in the forest when they’d first met. He wouldn’t fail again.

Ahead he saw a hole in the side of the corridor. Gravedigger came through, head hidden behind a strange helmet. It connected to metal clothing like Marla wore in the rectangle of light. Gravedigger’s face was pale behind glass, but still perfect. She froze when she saw him, eyes darting to the gods at his back. She was frightened, not knowing what he knew. “Gravedigger. It’s all right.”

She didn’t accept the truth. He wasn’t surprised; he hadn’t either. She stepped back, but there was no escape. The corridor ended behind her in a massive metal door. There would be no running away. “They’re evil, Forrest. They’re the devil.”

He mustn’t frighten her further. He made his way closer, but slowed his pace. Forrest had to make her see. To believe. “They’re gods, Gravedigger. They’ll make it okay. For all of us.”

She looked past him at the gods waiting behind. Forrest felt there was too much at stake for her to make up her own mind. She’d come around, once the gods could remake her on the Altar. He hefted his club, slamming it into her head. She stumbled to the deck, arm up. He wound up, smashing the club into her head again. The glass over her face cracked, and Gravedigger fell to the deck.

The suit she wore whined, four arms whipping out fast as thought. Bright, actinic light spat from one, and it slashed toward his club. Forrest, even if he’d been ready, wouldn’t have been fast enough; the light passed through his forearm holding the club. His hand, wrist, and club clattered to the ground beside Gravedigger’s prone body.

Forrest screamed. The pain from his arm was unbelievable. It took over his world. He fell to the ground beside her. His arm ended in a stump, the end trailing smoke. The air smelled of charred meat. He wanted to throw up. Forrest drew short, gasping breaths, holding his ruined arm to his chest. He knew this meant he was for the Altar too. The maimed, the imperfect were sent here.

The gods who’d followed him scuttled forward. Instead of feeling safe, he felt horror. The calming presence he’d felt on his way in vanished like morning mist. The pain of his arm pushed all aside. The gods ignored him, lifting Gravedigger between them. They didn’t move to harm her like he had. Perhaps her metal clothing’s revenge on him was warning enough.

Forrest groaned as the gods took Gravedigger away. They didn’t want him. Even in this, he failed them.

Forrest wasn’t sure how long he lay on the floor of the starship. Long enough for eddies of air to take the stench of his wound away. His severed limb lay on the decking, unmoving. It seemed unreal. He could see bone. The cut was perfect, no jagged tissue. Perfect, just like Gravedigger.

Was she a god or a godkiller?

He couldn’t spend the rest of his days laying here. Marla would be worried. She would see his injury, and send him to the Altar. Something nagged at his thoughts.

The gods saw me fall, but didn’t take me to Altar.

It didn’t make sense. Forrest rose, fighting waves of nausea. On his feet, he looked the way they’d taken Gravedigger. There was no sign of them. No way to know where they’d gone. He looked at the hole she’d come through, and on a whim poked his head inside. It was a short passage, full of protuberances he could hurt his arm on. He had to know what she’d come from.

Forrest entered the passage. It was a short route to another room. It was behind the metal door, and in here lay death. The fallen lay on the floor, also not taken to Altar. Wasted, forgotten. Just like him.

He poked around, but the strange devices in here made no sense. He found a table filled with light, the remnants of Marla’s previous life held still in it, gods frozen in the act of taking her away. “Why didn’t you take me?

The walls didn’t answer, but Forrest felt it in his heart. The gods only wanted the best, the special, the exceptional. Marla was like Gravedigger before. Forrest was normal.  He found the couch with rents in the material. “What do you do with the people we bring here?” He let his fingertips roam the ruined material. “What would you do with me, if I was brought here?”

Forrest spent time looking about the room. His feet clanged against a small device on the floor. Picking it up, he noted it was the same one before-Marla held to her head before she ended her life. He turned it in his hands. One part was fashioned to be comfortable to hold in his fist. He did so, finding a hole for his finger. He touched the metal lever inside.

It made a noise like the crack of thunder. A piece of metal wall cracked in the direction the device pointed. Forrest dropped it, frightened, hustling backward. He shored up against the ruined couch. The device didn’t move, or make more noise. Gathering his courage, he went back to the device. It was well made, fashioned of shining metal. No markings adorned the surface, but for all that he knew Marla made it.

Marla used to be a smith. He felt it for truth. She’d made this device as a weapon. It lay in this room for years beyond memory, waiting for a new purpose.

Waiting for Forrest. He looked back at the rent in the wall. It was time to find the gods, and ask them why.

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