Zenith’s Edge: Tempest
In the dark loam of this universe, sources of light are few and far between.
Through this loam a Great Lumbricus wriggles ponderously. Ne feels nir way: skin reacting to electromagnetic fluctuation. Sensing something, ne pushes in that direction. Invigorated by chemical reactions occurring within nir clitellum (where six cocoons are forming), the worm’s consciousness narrows to the present. Ne reaches out to the life-source ahead with metaphysical precision, an awareness forming in nir mind of a slowly spolling discworld with four dense orbiting sun-moons emitting intense waves of light and radiation: one white, one red, one yellow, one black.
The Great Lumbricus drifts, observing the world indifferently until the cocoons mature and are discharged, then on ne goes about nir inevitable business, leaving nir offspring behind.
The cocoons ride radiation waves toward the discworld, exuviating as they enter the atmosphere. The previously impervious cocoon casings crumble to release ethereal clusters of softly luminous protomatter. Four of the six clusters are drawn toward one side of the discworld, scattering wide across the craggy landscape. The remaining two drift circuitously to fall upon the other side, one descending into a vast forest, the other straying further inward. Trees give way to wild hills; still the cluster drifts on the wind, translucent fibers pulsing. A wide river snakes across the landscape and beyond lies a vast cultivated area of colourful and diverse flora: Garden of the Lyal.
The cluster slips along a breeze into the garden, past the vegetative opulence along the shore of the river, over a verdure lawn, past a grove and on to sculpted pathways where a floricultural variety of Lyal stroll, socialising and showing off blooms. One of them spots the soft pulse of light in the sky and points with cupped hand, its petals trembling as it exclaims, “There’s something,” in a shrill voice. “There’s something!” Heads flourishing a variety of corollas turn to stare, and soon there’s a murmur of assent. There is something. Several voices shout, “Cati!” calling out for the Garden’s guardians.
One of the thick-skinned giants strides over to see what the commotion is about, at eight and a half feet, more than double the height of the average Lyal. Nir bulky body is a waxy green scattered with dark areoles, each sprouting vicious glochidia and a thick spine. The Cati, nir name is Tek, spots the cluster as it drifts over a hedge and dips toward a circular patch of rich soil inhabited by six Lyal younglings, little more than short stipes with incipient fronds at this early stage of their development. Tek runs, agile enough despite nir bulky legs. Heedless of usual Garden etiquette, ne leaps over the hedge, but is too late to stop the cluster landing in the patch like an insubstantial sheet, covering one of the younglings. The protomatter begins to resolve immediately, fluxing into the soil and the life sprouting from it.
and more Cati come: two wearing digging tools shaped from hardwood branches,
and another carrying a net weaved from thick grass. The rounded end of Cati arms
sprout one or more sharp spines, so nirs tools are built to fit. Under Tek’s
instruction the two Cati begin to dig a trench around the affected youngling,
whose tiny fronds are already beginning to wither and brown. Where nir stipe
meets the soil, a clutch of small translucent eggs spontaneously evolves from
the protomatter, unseen. What Tek does see is thin tendrils spreading across
the soil toward the edge of the trench. Ne gestures to the Cati with the net,
and together they hold it taut while the two diggers deposit the contaminated soil
and youngling. Instructing the diggers to remain behind to watch for any signs
of taint left in the soil, Tek leads the net away from the centre of the garden.
Ne’s never seen anything like it; hopes he can get it quarantined before it
spreads. The Lyal keep well away as they pass, though the chattering never
Tek cannot be faulted: almost all of the protomatter is quickly removed to a remote part of the garden, out of bounds to most Lyal. But one tiny translucent worm escapes: freshly hatched from an egg, squirming onto the net and through a gap in the weave as it is being lifted out of the youngling patch. The thing plops onto the soil and slithers toward the nearest shelter, burrowing to nestle amongst the roots of one of the younglings. There, it dissolves, and at that moment a great confluence occurs: the merging of Lyal, Lumbricus… and something else.
* * *
Far away on the craggy coast of the discworld, an Eerise sits on an outcrop, wings tucked close to her back, legs crossed beneath her. The space before her is dominated by streaks of pink aurorae, with the white and red sun-moons in prominence. When a thought enters her mind, she pushes it away. Still, she cannot suppress the burgeoning feeling inside that something important is going to happen. When eventually the vision comes, she feels relief, though the experience is often distressing.
Some time later the Eerise comes back to herself, raising her ridged head to a sky now glowing orange as the yellow sun-moon takes ascendancy. She rises gracefully, stretching delicate limbs, and turns away from the edge of the world with a look of profound sorrow on her face. Soon she runs, spreads her wings, and flies.
* * *
Deep in the forest, Aauru sits in his sanctum, dark eyes reflecting the flames dancing from the firepit before him. At the centre of the glade, what must once have been magnificent tree now stands dead: trunk twisted and bent, eight large branches stretching out with a plethora of offshoots like cracks in the ochre sky. Despite its condition the tree is far from lifeless, home as it is to a glorious array of fungi, insects and bacteria. A copse within the glade serves as Aauru’s sleeping area; a river runs by; the whole area marked by his scent. He is master and mystic to others of his kind, the Bestials.
Aauru barely registers the usual howl and growl of his tribe beyond the boundaries of his sanctum. In the palm of his clawed hand lies a small piece of Kernel, harvested from a Lyal of refined pedigree. He considers splitting the smooth green matter in two to make it last, but dismisses the idea quickly. He feels… no, not reckless… a sense of purpose. He carefully pushes the Kernel into a nutshell, squeezes it shut, then places it in the edge of the fire. Soon his snout wrinkles at the fragrant aroma, his heart quickening in anticipation. The Kernel bakes, and finally Aauru takes his wooden scoop and retrieves the shell, standing to take it away from the fire to cool.
He walks over to the tree, his shrine, and sits on a large protruding root, tipping the shell onto the ground and rolling it about gingerly with his claws. Then he picks up the shell and pulls it open, salivating. Still he must wait, or the Kernel will burn his tongue, and he wants no distraction from communion. Finally, he takes the soft Kernel with nimble claws and flicks it into his maw. Piquant juices tingle his taste buds; one soft bite and the Kernel disintegrates, is swallowed. Already he feels waves of intoxication rushing through him, his perceptions widening. He howls excitedly and runs to the river, wading in. He drinks of the waters and immerses himself, auburn fur darkened when wet.
Aauru raises his head above the water, the yellow sun-moon a vivid pulsing presence in the sky. He howls in worship and is rewarded suddenly with fresh vision and instinct. Something ruinous has come to the world, and though he does not fully comprehend what that means, he knows what he must do. There is an other. A Lyal, yet not. He must gather his kind: his tribe and any others that will follow, and attack the Lyal. This will not be their usual savage raid, but a prepared strike. Aauru will find this other and harvest the Kernel, consume it. If he does this, he will be rewarded. If he does this, he just might survive what is to come.
* * *
Leigh Wright is the curator of Wyrd Daze
He is writing speculative fiction in his Zenith’s Edge multiverse:
There are six of them: Normal, Tempest, Wyrd, Nadir, Faust and Zenith.
They have existed, in one form or another, since the beginning of time.
If they die, they are reborn again unto a new world…
Leigh’s alter ego The Ephemeral Man makes sonic paintings and strange art.