This is part of an ongoing steampunk fantasy story. See the introduction to get at the story from the beginning.

We skirted the base of the smaller pyramid and came to the other side, now directly in front of the large temple. To the left spread a field dotted with hundreds of skinny stone pillars, each about the height of a man. Two faces adorned the top of each pillar: one human and one animal. Writing and pictographs clung to every inch of the stone, running in spirals. Behind the stone pillars were more stone figures, several dozen. These were also about the size of a man, but were sculpted to look like ogres, or something equally terrifying from some Spectre Tale.

To my right, another field, this one as smaller with a platform. We stopped about twenty yards from the center. Stone pillars circled  the platform on the ground, and three half-finished ogre sculptures sat just behind them.

Mouse was on top of the platform with one unfinished stone pillar. Skinny and pale, his long black hair had been tied back into a sort of ponytail. In one hand, he held a long blade. His other hand was free to stroke the one stone pillar on the stage with him. There were several workers around, but he didn’t look at any of them. Mouse just stared at the ogre sculptures as if they were an audience begging for an encore. His slimy smile sent nausea into my stomach.

Two workers dragged the carcass of the animal I’d killed up onto the platform. Next a couple of the rebels led a man onto the platform before Mouse. The prisoner was about my age, or maybe twenty and wore a black and crimson uniform with a tortoise shell helmet. Ilsan Infantry, Telim Division by my guess. He looked like he’d been a prisoner a long time. The rebels forced the soldier to kneel in front of Mouse. 

The soldier resisted. Ilsan pride swelled in my chest. We were better than these savages. At least the prisoner hadn’t forgotten that.

The rebels tied him like a swine and left him with alone with Mouse. Mouse closed his eyes, stock still, drumming his fingers on the stone pillar at his side. Then the drumming changed. He moved his fingers back and forth in patterns as if drawing on the stone. His breathing became deeper. The prisoner seemed to settle.

Mouse opened his eyes in a flash. They had gone yellow, entirely yellow. He grinned and his cheek bones seemed sharper. His demeanor tighter. No longer a pale boy. Not even a human. Mouse had become something else. Rabid hunger swam in his gaze when he looked down at the bound prisoner.

He removed his hand from the pillar and slowly touched the soldier’s shoulder.

Mouse’s lips twitched like a feral animal. The soldier closed his eyes, fighting no more.

What happened next, I’ve tried to forget.

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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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