CatastrophicFailure

Whispers of the Kraken (Epilogue: Revelations of the Kraken)

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Hmm, might be stretching the definition of history a little far, but how would a race that is predated upon by mosquitos be able to develop into a technological society?

Or more on the history, I do not believe you have warfare in your backstory ( could be wrong), too busy watching out for the wildlife I imagine! so where is the source of the rivalry/antaganism between Ussari and the KSC?

Also, in your last (but one) post on the mission report thread you mentioned

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Behold, picturesque flight over Lake Athiland! Formerly known as Kingdom of Athiland.

How does such a thing occur, on a planet without nuclear weapons?

Then there is Cermia, just Cermia in general.

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9 hours ago, CSE said:

It's not that bizarre.

RatSquirrelFish. 

Full. Stop. :wink:

Tho it seems I must be doing something right, pretty much everything mentioned (except the skeeters, noted) was already in the "notes".

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Chapter 49: A History Lesson

A smiling Kerbal bounded onto the stage, tapping the microphone with his thumb as he did. 

Thump, thump-thump-thump, thump-thump!

"Do you wanna build a snowmaaaa--?"

The bottle hit him square in the face, and shattered. 

"NO!"

The beleaguered would-be minstrel dodged left, dodged right, raised a futile hand against the onslaught. 

"It... it doesn't have to be a snowman!"

"BOO!"

"SHUT UP!"

"GET OFF THE STAGE!"

"GO AWAY!"

"Ok, bye--"

A real bottle caught him squarely between the eyes with a clink, and knocked him out cold. The crook appeared from off-stage and removed him before his night deteriorated any further. 

"Predictable," Jerdous said, not looking up from his drink. 

"Saw that one coming a mile away," said Edmund, not looking up either. 

"Aye, aye," agreed Chadvey, "setting like this? Bound to happen sooner or later. 

"Hey, I happen to like that song," Burdous grumbled. 

Jorrigh just shrugged, and popped another beernut into his mouth. 

Valentina stared at the dazed and battered Kerbal now staggering away from the stage, "but... what is 'snowman?'" She asked.

Five pairs of eyes blinked at her. 

"Ugh, where did you find her?" Burdous groaned, putting a palm to his face and getting an elbow from his brother, "any way, that's my cue. My audience awaits!"

"Break a leg," Jerdous said cheerily. 

Burdous paused, looked back, and grinned, "thanks!"

"No, I mean seriously, I hope you break your leg, you jerk," Jerdous's expression never changed. 

Burdous scowled back at him, "I'm coming back with a spoon!" Then stormed off. 

"You two have... interesting relationship," Valentina said. 

"What can I say? It's a brother thing," Jerdous shrugged, "don't you have any siblings?"

"Uh, no... am only child."

"That's too bad, you're missing out," he grinned, "nothing like having a little brother to vent your frustrations on."

"Darn right," Edmund agreed from across the table. 

"Ah wouldn't know," Chadvey said flatly. 

"But..." Jorrigh added, confused, "you've got thirteen brothers?" 

"Aye, all older than me, can yeh imagine growin' up where hittin' yer brother back is a capital offense?"

"Yeah, but," he continued, "now you're brother's a king. That's gotta have some benefits, right?"

"Not all it's cracked up to be," said Chadvey, "now Ah'm stuck with you lot."

Laughs all around. 

"Y'know what you oughta do?" Edmund said, looking at him thoughtfully, "you oughta go out and find yourself a nice, naïve young princess, maybe the sheltered type. Claim your own kingship."

"Bah, Ah've no desire to be a king," Chadvey waved the idea away, "besides, Ah already tried that. Didna work out well, her sister was a bit cool to the whole idea."

"Sounds like the plot to a bad movie," Jerdous added, to more laughter. 

Valentina frowned at the cackling Kerbals, suspecting she was missing the joke again. 

"But," she said to Jerdous, "how is mister Burdous little brother if you are twins?"

"I'm older by a full twenty minutes," Jerdous grinned, sitting just a bit straighter, "he still hates to get up on time."

"Quite a contrast, aren't they?" Suggested Edmund. 

"Indeed, very different."

Jerdous rolled his huge eyes, "we are individuals, you know. We've never done anything ridiculous like make up our own language or finish each other's--"

"Sandwiches!" Ol' Sam set down a plate of the same, "happy hour special, Oi believe?"

"Um, we didna order anythin'..."

"Ya didn't?" Ol' Sam scratched at his head, "sure if'n this weren't the roit table. Blast, Oil have t' check the ticket again." He narrowly rescued the plate from Jorrigh and walked off, looking confused. 

Jerdous was slowly banging his head against the table, "why do I get the feeling that line is going to haunt me?"

Valentina thought she was missing something again. 

A chunky recorded guitar riff pumped out of the speakers, and Burdous appeared on the stage to a cheering crowd, running back and forth and working them up. 

"Is... not response I would have expected," she mused.

Jerdous nodded, looking amused, "Just watch..."

So she did, as Burdous jumped and sang and clapped and occasionally looked like he was trying to pass a kidney stone. Something about rocks in a hurricane. Yet he carried the tune amazingly well. She related this to Jerdous. 

"He loves the Solpugids," he explained, "knows every song by heart. He can even hit the high notes, even though it does sound like he's been kicked in the--"

"Nuts?" Jorrigh grinned, proffering the bowl. 

"Er, no, thank you," Valentina said. 

"Hah, hah, dontmakemekillyou", Jerdous sneered at a giggling Jorrigh, then turned back to Valentina, "...even if it sounds like he's been kicked in the shin."

"Did he ever manage to wrangle up those tickets?" Edmund broke in. 

"He did. Front row. And backstage passes. Still don't know how he managed that, I guess being the next up-and-coming Kerbonaut has its privileges," he glanced back towards the stage, "and here he comes now."

Indeed Burdous was, through a gauntlet of high-fives and waving hands. He really was very good. 

"And that, gentlekerbs," he said, taking his seat again and looking quite smug, "is how it is done."

"Is nicely done," Valentina said to him with a smile.

"No one asked you, you pinko impie Ooski," Burdous shot back at her without looking, earning himself an elbow from his brother, a tongue-click from Jorrigh, and a curse from Edmund. 

Chadvey rounded it out, "now, lad, that is just uncalled for!"

"Why is she even here, anyway? No one's explained that yet," Burdous sneered, "we don't need to be encouraging those people."

"Maybe because their rockets don't explode as much," Edmund tried to say, but Chadvey walked on him with:

"They're just people, same as you. They didna choose their rules any more than you did."

Burdous scoffed and stuck his... not-nose in the air, "I'll have you know that the United Federal People's Democratic Kingdom of Omork is a constitutional monarchy."

Jerdous snorted behind his hand, "yeah, good luck telling that to the Queen."

"You do us all a disservice," Chadvey began, "Ussari has a long and absolutely fascinating history, and--"

There was suddenly a mad shuffling in the room, and a clatter of tables being scooted, chairs being moved, and toes being stubbed. Shortly there were a couple of hundred Kerbals sitting starry-eyed, cross-legged on the floor and staring intently at Chadvey. 

He blinked at them only for a moment before saying, "well, now, Ah s'pose we need to do this right, then." From somewhere he produced a seasoned old burlwood pipe, and soon the smell of bar was washed away by the pleasant, smokey odor of rum cavendish. 

"Now, then, Ussari can easily trace its history way back to the waning days of the old Roamin' Empire, and--"

A hand went up. 

"Er, yes?"

"Why was it called the Roamin' Empire?" A perplexed young cadet asked. 

"Well, accordin' to legend, the Roamin' Emperors spent so much time wandering about their empire that no one was ever really sure exactly where they were at any given moment. Made them quite hard to assassinate and gave the provinces a fairly high degree of defacto autonomy. And when--"

The hand went up again, "what's autonomy?"

"It means local rule and self determination. So when--"

"Did they really have vomitoriums?"

"Yes, lad, and they were used exactly for what it sounds like, it's been well documented. Now, then, when--"

The hand went up. 

Chadvey gave a patient sigh, "lad, if you keep asking questions, Ah'll never get to the Ussari part."

Two hundred pairs of eyes gave the incorrigible inquirer a nasty look, and the hand went down. 

"Where was I? Ah yes, now the old Roamin' Empire had been the paragon of civilization for well over a thousand years, and accordin' to some histories, at its height it covered nearly the entire landmass of Kerbin. Except for what we today call Cerima, of course. But around fifteen hundred years or so before the present, it entered a time of steep decline. Province rose against province, and regent against regent, smashing to rubble, as they did, many of the great Roamin' innovations like indoor plumbing and arches. Libraries were burned, hospitals were razed, even the very roads were pulled up and hurled at the opposing side. The whole world burned, and--"

The hand again, "did the emperor really play a fiddle while it burned?"

"No lad, that's just silly. It was a tuba." 

"So the world burned for years, and when the the last flames finally went out, an age of darkness descended upon it. Literally and figuratively, Ah suppose. Very little is known of this time, as most folks were too busy trying to avoid horrible deaths to bother writing anything down. Or they had simply forgotten how. 

"But eventually the world began to heal, as it always does, and the first post-Roamin' societies emerged from the ashes. Tribes of barbarians competed for scarce resources, sometimes cooperating, but usually just beating each other over the head with whatever was handy, and--"

"Was one of them named Conan?"

Eyes rolled, "no, lad, it was Cohen, the n is silent.

"Now on the vast plains of the eastern landmass, along the banks of the Never River, one tribe in particular began to distinguish themselves as being particularly good at not dying, and they called themselves the Ūs', which, ironically, simply means 'us.' As opposed to 'them.' In fact, they were so good at staying alive, that the clans of the Ūs' spread out into the unoccupied lands around them, and inevitably, into the occupied ones too. Whether the current occupiers wanted it or not. This led to infighting among the clans, and the tribes fighting the clans as well, and just when it looked like the first society in a few hundred years that was civilized enough to brush its own hair was about to crumble into ruin again and take with them anyone within swinging distance, a true leader appeared."

Chadvey glanced at the incessant hand-raiser, and seeing that he had actually ceased for the moment, continued, "as Ah said, records from this time are highly fragmented, but they all agree on one thing: within a generation, most of the clans of the Ūs' had been united by a Kerb who was given the name Vlad the Great. Also variously called Vlad Stăpânul Dimineața, Lord of the Morning, or Vlad Draculya, son of the devil. Or, more commonly..."

Suddenly the meager light shifted, illuminating his features from below and giving Chadvey's face a terrifying cast.

"...Vlad the Expaler!"

The crowd gave a collective gasp before Chadvey could raise a hand to his eyes, "and get that bloody light out of mah face!"

"Sorry, tripped," mumbled the A/V guy.

The hand went up again, "don't you mean Vlad the Impaler?"

"No, lad, quite the opposite, this Vlad had a penchant for putting people through trees."

Another collective gasp, and the hand slowly withered, its owner growing quite, well, pale. 

A different, rather hesitant hand went up, belonging to a young Kerbelle in cadet blue, "but... why would people follow such a brutal person?"

"Well, you see it's all a matter of perspective. If I told you half the things I've heard about this Vlad the Expaler, you'd probably wet yourself," the cadet scowled at this, but he continued with a wink, "and none of it is likely true. You mustn't put too much stock in legends and fairy tales. Old Vlad was certainly violent, but one Kerb's thug is another's hero, it largely depends upon which side of the tree you're on, as it were. He brought stability and the rule of law to people who had never known it, which allowed them to live in relative peace, so long as they stayed on his good side. Supposedly respect for his law, or fear of punishment, was so strong that in what became the city of Kernobyl there was a golden goblet set on a public fountain for thirsty citizens to drink from. According to the legend, it was never stolen and always returned to exactly where it had been left. Interestingly, the very name 'Vlad' can mean either 'he who has peace,' or 'the ruler of the world.'"

"Ooooooooooooh," breathed the astonished crowd. 

"Anyways, what Vlad the Great began, his son Vladimir finished, finally uniting all the various clans of the Ūs' under his own banner. To this day, the name 'Vladimir' remains very popular in Ussari-speaking lands, roughly meaning 'the offspring or close kin of Vlad.' As the tribe's lands and power grew, they slowly gave up their nomadic ways and settled down, building villages and towns and cities, and Vladimirimir, son of Vladimir, declared himself their first king. At some point, they adopted the language of one of their appropriated rivals, and began calling themselves 'Ussari,' or 'children of the Ūs'.' Around the time of Vladimirimirimirimirimir, the king gave up that bit of linguistic nonsense as he was spending a large portion of his day simply signing his name, and took to calling himself Vlad VI.

"Now when Vlad XIII came to power, the Kingdom of Ussari was very powerful in the region, but was becoming outshined by its neighbors, strong principalities and powers in their own right. So Vlad XIII commissioned a massive statue in his likeness, which he was sure was just the thing to strike fear and awe into his rivals. On the day of its unveiling before a gathered crowd, he proudly read the words carved upon the plinth in the old tongue, 'Vrei să pleci, dar nu mă, nu mă iei, nu mă, nu mă iei, nu mă, nu mă, nu mă iei' meaning 'I am the King of Kings, look upon my work, ye mighty, and despair.' And was promptly stabbed in the back by his twin brother Ivan--"

Chadvey was interrupted by Jerdous bursting into a furious coughing fit.

"Sorry, <cough>  sorry, don't mind me,<gasp>" he croaked, setting down his glass, "swallowed wrong <gag>."

"Careful, lad, you'll need to learn to control your breathing better than that if you're to be a spacekerb," Chadvey grinned, "now what was Ah saying? Ah yes, so of course Ivan--"

The hand once more, "don't you mean EYE-vin?"

"No, lad, the proper Ussari pronunciation is Ee-VAHN. Now Ee-VAHN took the throne, of course. Quite literally, in fact, he took it right from the palace in Kernobyl and moved it to a huge fortress he had built just far enough from the Never River to keep it from wandering in and pinching snacks in the night. For all his fratricidal tendencies, he was a very lernéd Kerb for his time, and absolutely fascinated by the former glory of the old Roamin' Empire. Read everything he could find about them, and wanting to emulate them as much as possible, declared himself Emperor Ivan I. When neighboring kingdoms took issue with this, bit risky having an empire next door, after all, Ivan tore down his brother's old statue, and used an enormous siege engine he'd reproduced from Roamin' documents to fling bits of it at them until they buggered off. 

"From these humble beginnings, the young Ussari Empire grew and grew until at its height it stretched from the west coast of modern Cerima all the way to the Yaltik sea."

The hand in front went up again.

"So the Ussaris just went out and conquered everyone else?" The cadet said indignantly, then scowled and crossed her arms, "well no wonder it all went to crap!"

"Er, not as much as you would think," Chadvey smiled, "the Ussari Emperors and Empresses tended to be fairly pragmatic folks. War is expensive and risky, after all. Most territorial expansion came bloodlessly at the point of a pen, not a sword."

He paused, and scratched his chin thoughtfully, "well except of course for Katarine IV, who stabbed the King of Ibetia to death with his own pen when he wouldn't agree to her terms.

"But once again, lass, it all depends largely upon which side of the tree you're on. The sins of the Empire were indeed many. The greed of Ivan XXI, who came to be called, rather unimaginatively, 'Ivan the Greedy,' decimated the province of Erakonia. The famous open plains of Nusad were once covered in towering forests, until Feodor III had them all cut down to build an armada of tall ships. And the Empire was certainly not averse to taking territory by force and rationalizing it later. 

"However, those same battle-hardened troops allowed the Ussaris to repel the Bronze Horde when they swept down from the mountains of Yama. Its time under the control of the Empire is also the only period in recorded history when Cerima was at peace, and when that finally fell apart, the armada of tall ships allowed the evacuation of thousands of refugees to safety in Ibetia. As well, the Empire was always especially tolerant towards a nomadic people called the Kermanni, older than even the Roamin's, who were granted free passage anywhere in the land."

A hand went up, "wait, why was it called the Bronze Horde?"

"Well because Gold and Silver were already taken. And besides, they honestly weren't very good at the whole 'marauding horde' thing, Kerbals really have no business on horseback."

Now a new hand went up, "I heard they all believe in spirits who do housework in exchange for borscht!"

"At one time, perhaps, but that's just another fairy tale. A book of Ussari myths and legends would be even thicker than a book of Ussari history! It's often said that the Emperors and Empresses of old were able to amass and maintain such a vast territory because they were mystical beings who could wield objects of unimaginable power. Even more mysteries surround the Kermanni who wandered the land in their brightly-colored wagons, calling them keepers of ancient secrets."

"Pfft," snorted someone in the back, "so you're telling us they were magical? What a load of--" 

The crowd gasped. Wait, when did D.N. get here? Another new hand immediately went up.

"Any suf-fic-i-ent-ly advanced tech-nol-o-gy is in-dis-tin-guish-a-ble from magic," Valentina recognized the speaker as the earnest-faced cadet from the other day. 

"Well, now, that's quite profound, lad," Chadvey said, "how did you come up with that?"

The smiling cadet held up a comic book, "Dr. Trek Wars No. 42, 'Dr. Trek vs. Space Emperor Ping the Pitiless.'"

Then he turned to D.N., "and you shouldn't say bad words in public!"

"No one asked you, kid!" D.N. shot back. The cadet stuck his tongue out at him. 

"Children, children, please," pleaded Chadvey, "that's quite an interesting theory, lad, but you should never trust old fairy tales. They always have a perfectly rational explanation. For instance, there's a very pervasive Ussari legend about the huge lake in modern Athiland. Supposedly, it was once a nation that so displeased the Emperor that he called down fire and water from heaven, to gouge it from the face of the planet. And as if that weren't enough, he used also used his power to wipe the very memory of the place from the people's minds, so that no one would ever again speak its name."

The gathered Kerbals oooooohed once more. 

"But if you look to history, a similar tale is also told of the crater off the coast of Dachland, which always had close ties with the Ussaris even though it was never officially a part of the Empire. Today we know it's an impact crater, and probably millions of years old. 

"And of course, the most famous Ussari legend is that of Kerblutin, the Mad Monk. He was a friend and confidant to the Royal Family in the waning days of the Empire. According to the legend, he survived numerous assassination attempts until he was finally shot, stabbed, beaten, electrocuted, starved, defenestrated, run over by a carriage, hit by a locomotive, crushed by a falling tree, drowned in molasses, shot some more, hit by an errant foozeball, bitten by a rabid monkey, set on fire, crushed by a stack of newspapers, poisoned, shot some more, hung, beheaded, disembowelled, and drawn and quartered."

"Ouch," someone said. 

"And just before his head died, he was said to have spoken a prophesy: 'ye shadow of the first, ye whisper of the second, as empires rise and fall, so shall the revelation of the third bring the end of this age... and bring the hell that waits beyond."

Another voice, quietly, "w-what's that mean?" 

"Ah haven't the foggiest. But it's just a silly fairy tale, Ah just made half of that up and you weren't any the wiser," Chadvey said with a little wink. 

"Who... who did he say it to?" Asked the young Kerbelle in the front, looking like someone had just walked over her grave. 

"Why, Vladimir Kermin, of course."

"Who?"

"Ach, getting ahead of m'self, Ah am," he shook his head, "where was Ah? Yes, ok, like any other empire, even the Great Ussari Empire began to wane. After the Ceriman Crisis, it entered its own period of slow decline, with first this region then that one declaring independence, and hoping, usually correctly, that the Throne couldn't be bothered to do anything drastic. But with the calamity in Erakonia, it was greatly accelerated. This was a time in global history when nearly everyone, everywhere had grown tired of the very concept of monarchy, and various rebellions and revolutions the world over began to experiment with silly ideas like elected rulers and government by consent."

Two hundred faces stared blankly at Chadvey. He didn't seem to notice. 

"Anyway, by the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, not even the Empire had been spared from such nonsense. Now Nicholas did try to make reforms, and he wasn't really a bad ruler, the trouble was he also wasn't a very good one. Memories of the misdeeds of Emperors long past melded with the, ahem, enlightened fervor of the day, and it was only a matter of time. One Kerb quickly rose to the forefront, no one knows his real name, but he took the moniker Vladimir Kermin."

Yet another hand, "I thought it was Ker-man?"

"Good catch, lad. Vladimir was a shrewd old fellow, and by taking the most popular name in the Ussari-speaking world, he became everyone... and also, no-one. And by changing his last name, something only Emperors had the power to do, he thus became both 'the close kin of Vlad I,' and also his defier. And when he spoke, millions listened. His words ignited a powder keg, culminating in the famous Octember Revolution. Which, by an odd clerical error, actually happened in Septober. 

"Emperor Nicholas was reluctant to deploy his army against the partisans, and many of his own captains went over to their side. The revolutionaries laid siege to Kermangrad and stormed the Summer Palace, arresting the Emperor and his family after a short skirmish. They were led in chains to the Fortress, and imprisoned in the East Tower there. Which now put the nearly-victorious revolutionaries in a bit of a political pickle. 

"You see, if they simply executed the Emperor, as usually happens in such situations, then he would become a martyr, and possibly inflame loyalist sentiment across the country. But if they just lock away him in prison, then he likewise becomes a rallying cry and a hero to be rescued. And if they banish him instead, well, there was no telling what allies and support he might raise from other nations. 

"And so it was, as Nicholas sat there in his cell, illuminated only by the light of the burning city beyond, knowing that his country sat on the brink of what was sure to be a bloody civil war such as the world had not seen since the Ceriman Crisis hundreds of years ago, that he did the one truly worthwhile act of his entire reign. He rent his own shirt, and using a piece of coal, wrote out a declaration of abdication upon it.

"Woooooooowwwww...." the crowd murmured in hushed awe.

"Vladimir Kermin now had his victory, but the question remained of what to do with the former Emperor. In another cunning maneuver, he swiftly crafted a document that came to be called the Agreement, and one way or another secured the assent of all the major factions of the revolution. In the end, Emperor Nicholas would keep his throne, and his head, and his family would be protected from all harm, present or future, lest the document be invalidated. And for his part, he ceded all power of the Throne to a provisional revolutionary imperium, and thus became nothing more than a f--"

And here, for an instant, just for an instant, Chadvey Kerman stumbled. Only Valentina was seated at just the right spot, to see his eyes loose focus in that moment. 

"...figurehead."

He quickly shook himself, and continued as if nothing had happened, "in the weeks that followed, a nascent government coalesced from the influential, and the imperium became the Imperium, a ruling body of eight Kerbals who would share authority equally and govern by consensus. Emperor Nicholas, with Vladimir Kermin at his side, would give speeches to crowds of thousands, all across the former Empire, his voice carried by the new electrical amplification technology, urging them to stop using their plough shares as swords, and instead work together for the communal glory of greater Ussari and her national siblings.

"And interestingly enough, it actually worked, and the vast country calmed. For the first, oh, decade or so, this new arrangement stood as a shining beacon to the world. The Imperium instituted sweeping reforms, addressed centuries-old grievances where they could, and allowed the various constituent provinces to move towards autonomy, turning the old Empire into a loose union of independent states. The economy greatly improved, and there was a chicken in every stall and a mule in every pot."

He paused, and put a hand to his chin, "or was that the other way around?"

"Anyways, things were going quite well until one fateful fall day. The Imperium, Emperor Nicholas, and most of the Royal Family were enjoying lunch at an open-air cafe in Kerbelsk, celebrating the record-quick completion of the famous Trans-Kerberian Rail Road, surrounded by foreign diplomats and press. With entertainment provided by the soon-to-be-famous Trans-Kerberian Orchestra. Sort of a 'look on our glorious Union and how well it's doing' kind of thing. Some say an argument broke out between Vladimir and Nicholas, but suddenly there was a titanic explosion. Dozens were killed, including most of the Imperium, all of the Royal Family present, many many foreigners, and both Vladimir, and the Emperor. In yet another interesting legend, supposedly there were witnesses who swore to their dying day that it was the Emperor himself that had exploded. 

"Anyways, the young Union was immediately thrown into chaos, and nearly dragged the rest of the world with it. Among the foreign casualties were three Kleptogarti senators and their Secretary of the Interior, the Grand Admiral of the Yaltik Navy, two Yaltik Members of Parliament, the Crown Prince of Omork, and the Archduke of Kerbia. The Ussaris, of course, blamed counterrevolutionary partisans for the blast, but the outside powers blamed the Union, for lax security or even deliberately staging the attack in order to destabilize its perceived rivals. One thing led to another, and for several tense weeks, the whole world teetered on the brink of a war to end all wars. But in the end, cooler heads prevailed. 

"Quite literally, in fact, as the weather was turning cold and no one was stupid enough to engage the Ussaris in winter!

"When the outsiders came knocking again the following spring, they found that the entire country had been shrouded in a steel curtain."

A hand again, "but... wasn't it an iron curtain?"

"No, lad, iron becomes brittle in the cold, and as Ah said, it gets very cold in Ussari. 

"The Imperium had reconstituted its self, and found a new Empress as well. By an odd stroke of luck, Nicholas's eldest daughter had not been in Kerbelsk that day, and along with her own daughter were the only members of the Royal Family to have survived. Well, unless you believe the ridiculously pervasive story that his youngest daughter had also survived, and that in the chaos she was spirited out of the country by agents unknown. But there's never been any real evidence to support that."

He waited for the thoughtful murmurs of the crowd to die down, then continued, "anyways, the eldest daughter was crowned Her Imperial Majesty Alexandra I, and with its power consolidated and its legitimacy secured, the Imperium shut the entire country off from the outside world and struck back hard against anyone within who had ever challenged them. Thousands and more were arrested and sent off to reeducation camps in deepest Kerberia, or the salt mines in eastern Nihacima, or worse, even a great multitude who had actually supported the revolution. In places, entire towns were depopulated. 

"This dark time came to be known as the Troubles, with only a handful of long-time allies like Gytep and Dachland having any contact with the country at all. So of course the outside world, having no real idea what was going on, decided the Ussaris must be up to no good and further distanced its self from the Union.

"The reinvigorated Imperium squeezed the country with a steel fist, dashing any hopes of autonomy and forging all the constituent lands into a new and far more centralized confederacy now calling its self the Imperious Union of Ussari States, with the ideal of uniting all Ussari-speaking peoples under a single flag. The ravaged province of Erakonia had finally had enough, and what had been only quickly suppressed unrest in other lands devolved into a full-blown rebellion. The Erakonians retreated to the rugged and inhospitable lands at the southern tip of the peninsula, and fought back with the ferocity that can only come from a cornered and desperate soul. They used whatever they had, farm tools, sharpened sticks, rocks... they made the Ussaris pay so dearly for every meter of land that the Unionists finally gave up and just left them there. The Imperium considers the area a breakaway province to this day, so when the foreign powers across the Yaltik Sea instantly recognized the weak local government that formed, it did little to help international relations. 

"And of course," Chadvey sighed heavily, "there was the matter of the Kermanni. The Union has always closely guarded any information about what really happened, but the most reliable sources say that somehow the Kermanni, all of the Kermanni, were wiped off the face of the planet, not unlike that unnamed kingdom in Athiland centuries ago. And not even the stringent Imperium suppression could quell the rumor that the Kermanni were betrayed by one of their own, and what a heartless, dark soul that must be."

He let the relation sink in for a few moments, until the murmurs once more died away, before continuing softly, "but, like it always does, time heals all wounds. The Union weathered the Troubles, and its steel curtain emerged from that fire well-tempered and harder than ever before. For a long while, the world outside simply forgot about that enormous blank spot on the map, while the Imperium and the vast resources it now completely controlled fueled the building of an industrial powerhouse to rival anywhere else in the world. Alexandra I had a turbulent and fairly short reign, there in her gilded cage in the West Tower of the Winter Palace, and died rather suddenly when it caught fire one night. She was succeeded by her young daughter, crowned Alexandra II.

"The Imperium still holds unquestioned authority over the country, it's only been very recently that relations with the rest of the world seem to have thawed a bit. Though personally, Ah think it's better when people talk to each other. Hiding behind walls rarely fosters dialogue, no matter which side you're on.

"And what would you have to say to all this, Major?" he suddenly turned to Valentina, snapping her out of the daze she had been in. It took a moment for her to recover, as Chadvey looked at her with an softly contemplative gaze.

"I... might have put some things, bit differently, but," she slowly shrugged, "I cannot say that you are wrong."

Before he could respond, another new hand went up, belonging to one who had the bewildered, cross-eyed look of someone whose brain had nearly reached capacity, "how... how do you know all this stuff?"

"Er, well Ah suppose that's the advantage to being thirteenth in line for a throne," Chadvey grinned, "Ah've a plethora of resources but few expectations, so Ah like to keep busy. Been thinking of getting a law degree, just for the sake of it."

With no more memory available to run critical subroutines now, the hand-raiser's brain finally shut down, and he toppled over, twitching a bit. No one seemed to notice. 

Chadvey looked out over the crowd, many of whom looked ready to follow the other Kerbal's example, "now, are there any other questions?"

"Is... there gonna be a test on this?"

"Aye, multiple choice and short answer, but you won't have to know dates."

A collective wave of groans washed over the gathered, and another hand went up.

"Um... do they really have three-foot-long mosquitoes there?"

"Meters, lad, only barbarians measure with body parts. But no, there's no meter-long mosquitoes, that's just another silly fairy tale."

A loud slap drew attention back to Valentina, who looked around with embarrassment as she removed her hand from her face.

"Uh, excuse, please," she smiled nervously at the sudden attention, "...was mosquito..." 

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
Flarping typos!

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Well, what was supposed to be a quick "Hmm, that's mildly interesting, moving on..." chapter morphed into this 5700-word monstrosity, and I still wasn't quite able to address everything. So, some specific answers below, and for the unmentioned things (like Cerima)... you'll just have to wait & see :sealed:

Spoiler

 

@CSE As you surmised, I don't really see much of an "age of discovery" on Kerbin. A fairly simple boat could nearly circumnavitage the globe, there's very few places that are more than a day's sail from the next place over, and there's even a flat-ish spot in Cerima that might make a portage possible. I think the early Proto-Kerbals would have spread quite quickly across the planet, and the brighter minds would have realized pretty early on that the world is round (whether or not they would have been burned at the stake for such heresy remains to be seen. Or maybe just fed burned steak. Bronze-age chieftains could be fickle.) Among other things, this is what led up to the early near-global civilizations like the Roamin's.

@KSK Well, you see, the Empress [REDACTED], but they certainly do not live forever. :wink:

@Shania_L I'm sure it's clear at this point that Kerbin is not, unfortunately, completely devoid of war, but Kerbals have managed to avoid much (but not all) of the conflict that has so plagued others in the multiverse of fiction (or reality). They're fairly pragmatic beings after all, and going to war interferes with the traditional constant consumption of snacks. When one runs out of snacks, however...

I ended up taking a significant cue from KSK & TenKey here, and how they handled the subject. For better or worse, the collective desire for "us" to clobber "them" remains an effective vehicle for driving plots.

...and now I remember I completely forgot to throw in the part about picking a fight over which end of an egg is the right one to open. ;.;

 

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure

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11 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

And of course, the most famous Ussari legend is that of Kerblutin, the Mad Monk. He was a friend and confidant to the Royal Family in the waning days of the Empire. According to the legend, he survived numerous assassination attempts until he was finally shot, stabbed, beaten, electrocuted, starved, defenestrated, run over by a carriage, hit by a locomotive, crushed by a falling tree, drowned in molasses, shot some more, hit by an errant foozeball, bitten by a rabid monkey, set on fire, crushed by a stack of newspapers, poisoned, shot some more, hung, beheaded, disembowelled, and drawn and quartered

Well thank goodness he wasn't kicked repeatedly in the shin or stabbed with a spoon. :)

Epic history lesson though. 10/10, would read again!

 

 

Edited by KSK

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11/10 did read again. You certainly put a lot of effort into this

Just have to assume Val was hallucinating on that beach, which wouldn't be too much to expect tbh!

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On April 4, 2016 at 1:11 PM, Shania_L said:

11/10 did read again. You certainly put a lot of effort into this

Just have to assume Val was hallucinating on that beach, which wouldn't be too much to expect tbh!

An interesting theory, actually. After all, Val's sanity has been called into question on multiple occasions.... and there's obviously a reason she was missing from Shadows... ;)

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Chapter 50: Rain

There was no launch the following day. Or the day after. Or the day after that. Instead it rained. 

And rained. 

And rained.

And rained!

It rained the likes of which Valentina had not thought possible before. It rained in the taiga, of course, during the brief, muggy summer, but never anything like this

It had rained for four days straight. And was still raining. First it had rained this way, then it was sunny, then it had rained that way. Rain was supposed to go down, not sideways! She had tried to go outside, and it had rained in her ear. So no more of that. Her ears still hear little squish-squish noises if she shook her head. She even thought that, at one point, it had actually been raining up.

And rain was also supposed to be, well, rain. It had rained fish. Thousands of flopping, gaping, bewildered fish. Then yesterday it had been golf balls. The novelty of watching them ricochet between buildings had quickly worn off, as the constant ping-ping-ping made sleeping impossible. And now today, it was raining frogs. The frogs, at least, didn't seem to mind much, using their webbed feet to sort of glide or at least aim their descent at whoever was unfortunate enough to be stuck outside in this nonsense. Even now, through the window of her room, Valentina could see great masses of them hopping randomly about down below. She was sure she had seen one singing and dancing with a little top hat and cane, but chalked it up to lack of sleep and water in the ears. 

Well, probably. 

Raining frogs did seem to carry a certain ill boding with it, though. 

She sighed, and stared out the window some more. Burdous's rocket had been hurriedly returned to the VAB just before the storm. She had the impression that this sort of thing was not unexpected around here. Apparently, weather like this was not all that unusual, not even the non-rain rain. Huge storms like this would regularly sweep in from the sea to the east, get stuck up against the mountains to the west, then sit and drop their rain for days or even weeks on end. It seemed like a very poor location for a space center, equator or not. 

At least the drainage system had been well engineered. There were very few puddles on the concrete aprons, and the rivers of runoff were mostly confined to the streets and walkways. Nearby, street lamps cast pallid, yellowish silhouettes of light in the torrent of droplets and small amphibians. It was midday, but outside looked black as night. This darkness had lingered for nearly three days, now, too, permeated only by the occasional flash of lightning. 

Ill boding. Ill boding, indeed. 

...in the old histories, I found things that were... troubling...

Dibella's words came back to Valentina as she stared out into the gloom. Chadvey's words, too, had been... troubling. Valentina was no scholar. The whole of her "official" education had been during her time in the State homes. It was hard to study when much of your time was spent avoiding beatings, or administering them. Even then, she had known well what propaganda was. Her deda had always been less than forthcoming about the past...

...never, ever make noise...

...see it for what it is.... see, and know...

...do what you must to survive...

See it, then ignore it. Never question, never challenge. Valentina had known well enough that the instructors painted a stilted picture of history, the brave and selfless revolutionaries... the corrupt Emperors... the drive for justice after the former's betrayal...

Was Chadvey telling the truth? He certainly had no reason to lie. She wondered if the instructors here painted a similar picture. Maybe, people were just people, and sometimes did horrible things. But... the stories... the Kermanni... were they really--

She jumped back at a sudden thud against the windowpane. 

"Aaaaaaaaaaah!" Screamed Valentina. 

"Ribbit," said the frog. 

She frowned, and tapped at it through the glass where it clung by its suction-cup feet. It waggled its gullet at her. 

So she sat back, and rested her chin on a hand, "what say you, frog? Are you like me, cast out of your home into a strange place, and not sure what to do with yourself?"

"Ribbit," said the frog. 

"Do they have fairy tales where you come from, frog? Perhaps of a prince, who at True Love's first kiss, turns into a handsome young toad?"

"Ribbit," said the frog. 

"My deda, he knew many fairy tales. He would tell them to me, on long, terrible nights when it was too cold to go outside, even for him. I thought they were just stories, until a voice began to whisper in my head. I still hear it sometimes, in my nightmares. I try to pretend it is not there. Now, I am not sure."

"Ribbit," said the frog.

She sighed, and switched hands, "I miss my friends. I miss my home, such as it is. I worry about them. Something is not right there. Something is not right here. But... somehow... they are different. I fear, if they find each other, something horrible will happen. Perhaps, I am here to find something too?"

A shiver rolled down her spine. That odd little ball of vague emotion flared in the back of her mind for a moment, then was still. She pushed the feeling away.

"A chill. It is said, in the taiga, that when you feel a chill, someone has walked over your future grave," she shrugged, "it is cold there, chills come often."

Leaning back and stretching, she stared up at the ceiling. The window-frog continued to regard her unblinkingly. 

"I think all these things, then try not to think them. It is best this way. That is what is always said. I wonder, what sort of fairy tales are told in this land? Before I left, someone told me the streets here are paved with gold."

She leaned forward and looked out the window, "they seem paved with water and your friends, at the moment. Streets paved with gold, what an odd thing to think."

A hand went to her chin, "or was it paved with cheese?"

Her belly loudly announced its preference for the latter. 

"Ribbit," added the frog. 

She frowned at it, "you know, your social skills could really use some improvement."

The frog looked at her, croaked loudly, then jumped from the window. Distantly, she heard the muffled, rather distinctive scream of one who had just unexpectedly taken a cold, wet frog to the face. 

Valentina huffed, and blew the errant lock of hair from her own face. And... there was still the matter of J.R.'s offer. The Kerb could give that frog lessons on sliminess, but... would a consultancy really be so bad? Layland Heavy Industry's rockets did seem to deliver on their promises, after all. They had proven absolutely reliable back home, even built under license. And they kept improving. Perhaps she shouldn't judge the company based on only one of its workers?

Her stomach grumbled again. When had she last eaten, anyway? Time was strange when it was always dark. She should really go down to the cafeteria for a snack. 

Anyway, she would have to take the offer through the proper channels, of course. If anything, this J.R. was not a fool, he would have thought of that. And already have an answer. Would it really be so bad, just offering her input for the betterment of the space program? Dibella. Tercella. ...Sergei. Maybe... maybe she could prevent another--

Lightning flashed outside, making her jump. Ugh, if these Foreigners just launched a couple of weather satellites, a storm like this wouldn't...

The sky sparked actinic blue again, and an electric jolt ran up Valentina's spine. She peered closer to the window. There... betrayed by the lightning...

Hello mah baby! Hello mah honey! Hello mah ragtime gaaaaaaaal!

She gasped, and jerked upright. Blinked once, twice, looked again...

Send me a kiss by wire, baby mah heart's on fire!

Breath tight in her throat, Valentina shook her head, rubbed at her bulging, red-rimmed eyes. Not there... just a figment...

If you refuse me, honey you'll loose me, then you'll be left alone!

Her heart pounded in her chest. Sleep deprivation! Sleep deprivation can do funny things to a person. Just water in the ears, and sleep deprivation, and... and... low blood sugar! Low blood sugar, that's all, just need a snack. Trembling, she looked back out the window into the darkness...

So baby telephone! And tell me I'm your ooooooooooown!

The chair toppled over as she threw herself away from the window, a scream rising in her throat. She stumbled over it as she stepped back, hands raised in warding. Not real... Not really there... Just a fairy tale...

The telephone rang, and she bolted from the room. 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure

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Ahhh, the classic CatastrophicFailure blend of strong characters, creeping menace and laugh-out-loud humour!

I nominate "Distantly, she heard the muffled, rather distinctive scream of one who had just unexpectedly taken a cold, wet frog to the face." as the single best line in any KSP fanfic ever. :D

 

Edited by KSK

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6 minutes ago, KSK said:

Ahhh, the classic CatastrophicFailure blend of strong characters, creeping menace and laugh-out-loud humour!

I nominate "Distantly, she heard the muffled, rather distinctive scream of one who had just unexpectedly taken a cold, wet frog to the face." as the single best line in any KSP fanfic ever. :D

 

I don't know, it has some stiff opposition, "come at me fish, I break you", or even "Did you just punch out the Kraken?" Then ofcourse there are all those amazing lines Catastrophic has yet to write, the word 'ever' is just asking for contradiction.

However in the name of science I feel that we need to know just how distinctive this scream is, I will need a cold wet frog and an unwilling victim.

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Ahh, true, true. Punching out the Kraken was a quality moment for sure. 

As for your thirst for batrachian knowledge, may I humbly suggest equipping the good patrons of the Grieving Burrick with a bucket of frogs each for the next karaoke night. :)

 

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I think poor Val is feeling a little homesick. Nice transition from the interlude back to the main theme, with extra tension building (that's one of the R&D labs).

CWF2TF.

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12 hours ago, CSE said:

with extra tension building (that's one of the R&D labs)

Stolen :cool:

12 hours ago, CSE said:

CWF2TF

CWF2TF?

12 hours ago, KSK said:

batrachian

Had to google this. Answer?

Quote

another term for anuran.

<facepalm>. But once I figured it out, this is the word I was looking for the whole time and couldn't remember! 

13 hours ago, KSK said:

I nominate "Distantly, she heard the muffled, rather distinctive scream of one who had just unexpectedly taken a cold, wet frog to the face." as the single best line in any KSP fanfic ever. :D

Tooting my own horn aside, I'm gonna have to agree. It even makes me chuckle. Still. Came to me the other night in that weird have asleep/half awake phase as I was nodding off. Went into an uncontrollable giggle fit. Woke the wife up. Got slapped.

As y'all can tell, I had entirely too much fun with this one. Thanx for all the kind words.

 

13 hours ago, Shania_L said:

However in the name of science I feel that we need to know just how distinctive this scream is, I will need a cold wet frog and an unwilling victim.

Check local laws, the Common Face-Seeking Frog is a protected species in many areas.

12 hours ago, KSK said:

may I humbly suggest equipping the good patrons of the Grieving Burrick with a bucket of frogs each for the next karaoke night. :)

Also stolen. :cool:

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I have no idea how accurate this is but apparently batrachus is either the Latin or Greek root meaning 'froglike'. Sounds more Latin to me personally, although I've most likely mangled the grammar beyond recognition to arrive at batrachian.

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11 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

CWF2TF?

I'm going to guess this stands for "Cold Wet Frog To The Face". :)

You have a real gift for humor. Dreaming up a joke is one thing, but getting the delivery just right is something else. And you do it so effortlessly it's almost scary. Really good read, as always. 

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12 hours ago, Ten Key said:

I'm going to guess this stands for "Cold Wet Frog To The Face". :)

You have a real gift for humor. Dreaming up a joke is one thing, but getting the delivery just right is something else. And you do it so effortlessly it's almost scary. Really good read, as always. 

better acronym decoding than me, Google just sent me back to this page. And thanks. We are always our own toughest critic, but I remain convinced I have somehow channeled some tiny speck of the late Terry Pratchett.

On April 7, 2016 at 10:56 PM, KSK said:

I have no idea how accurate this is but apparently batrachus is either the Latin or Greek root meaning 'froglike'. Sounds more Latin to me personally, although I've most likely mangled the grammar beyond recognition to arrive at batrachian.

the "ch" indicates a Greek origin, I think, but according to my autocorrect, you are correct. 

 

Im on a new work schedule now that looks like I'll have a lot more time during the day. Next chapter should be up tomorrow. Maybe. 

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Chapter 51: The Cheeseburger 

Valentina made her way down through the halls of the Kerbonaut complex, eyes wide and unseeing. Or, perhaps, seeing again and again. She wandered into the cafeteria, plodded through the slow moving line, past banks of heat lamps watching over red-tinged, foil-wrapped food. That, at least seemed to be universal. She distantly wondered if institutional cafeterias were the same the world over. The dishes might be different, but--

Actually they might not be. Generic, carelessly prepared meals gradually lost distinction the longer they sat. Maybe this all had once been Cosmodrome borscht... or would be in the future. A vast conspiracy of comestibles, reaching to the highest levels! Maybe even--

Valentina let out a long breath. ЬЯЗZHЙЭVS SHФЗ, she really was hungry! Something plopped onto her tray. A foiled lump and side of the ubiquitous soggy deep-fried potato slices that came with every meal. She frowned, looked up... and started back a step. This scowling lunch lady could give the Imperium themselves lessons on facial hair. Just one mole could give them lessons on facial hair! Valentina smiled awkwardly, took her tray, and slinked out. 

She found a seat at a long table off in the corner. The room was quite empty, most people seemed to have battened down in their own quarters for the duration of the storm. That was logical, she thought, as she watched an errant frog hop across the floor. At least the windows were amphibian proof. She poked at the lump on her tray again, half expecting it to poke back. What had the tag said it was again?

"You look like you've seen a ghost."

The sudden voice made her jump as if she had more than seen.

Valentina blinked, "mister Jerdous? You do not look so well yourself..."

"Haven't been sleeping," he sighed, "plus, I took a frog to the face earlier and that just sort of spoils your whole day." He glared at the one on the floor. It waggled its gullet defiantly. 

Indeed, he looked quite pale, with dark bags under his eyes Valentina hadn't noticed before. She motioned to the seat next to her. 

Jerdous smiled and sat with his own tray, "so what's your excuse?"

"Bad dreams. And also, golf balls. Is very strange weather here."

"Been pretty mild this winter, actually," he shrugged, "last year was pretty bad, it rained jellyfish at one point. I'd happily take the frog, instead. I've heard it's rained sharks before, too, but that just sounds ridiculous."

She gaped at him, then frowned, "now, you are making fun of me."

"Honest truth," he returned, raising a hand, "I can personally guarantee the jellyfish." Then he shuddered. 

"How is even possible?! Frogs? Sharks falling from sky? Sound like bad movie."

She thought for a moment, "very bad movie."

"Perfectly rational explanation," winked Jerdous, "these big storms tend to spawn funnel clouds. They suck up whatever they touch and dump it somewhere else."

He watched the frog on the floor hurk up a golf ball, which bounced away down the aisle. 

"Hmm, this one must have passed over the golf course next to the swamp." 

Valentina put a hand to her face, "why you no launch weather satellite to monitor such storm?"

"We tried," Jerdous said sheepishly, "they blew up."

A subtle tremor in the floor announced yet another breakthrough at the research center. 

"You have many things blow up here," Valentina frowned. 

"Can't argue that point," Jerdous sighed, looking more tired than ever, "now even my flight's in jeopardy."

"What? Yours? Since when? Is only few weeks from now."

"Couple of days," he shrugged, "neither rain nor sleet nor batrachian air assault will keep the Board from its meetings. A couple of them have completely lost faith in Rockomax, more will probably follow. With no replacement for the Orbit capsules, there's rumblings they might shut the whole thing down."

She turned to him, "you were once at, how you say? Cutting edge. Only months ago. Why all this now?"

Jerdous leaned back, stretched at a knot in his shoulder, "I wish I knew. We have a replacement ship, even if DUOS is just a small step. Not much life to it in the best case, crew of two, three or four days' endurance, already obsolete thanks to you folks. There's three of them sitting in storage, flight test articles. But Rockomax can't come through with a booster."

"Well..." She thought for a moment, "um, pragmatically, are there no other options?"

His eyes flicked to her, "Layland keeps pushing their products. And the Board is finally starting to listen. It's..."

He sighed, "complicated."

"Much here is, it seems," Valentina said softly, "in my country, things are simple."

Jerdous eyed her again, nodding, "there's a lot of sentiment involved. Loyalty to Rockomax, if you could call it that. And resistance to Layland."

"Politics?" She asked. 

"Politics," he spat. 

"I hate politics!" they said together, and laughed. 

The two sat in silence for a time, considering their trays of institutional fortitude, the world moving obliviously around them.

"Aaaaaah! I slipped on a golf ball!" <thud> 

Jerdous rubbed his bulging, red-rimmed eyes, then moved on to his temples.

"You really do not look well," Valentina observed, "perhaps you should see doctor?"

"Oh, I'll be fine," he said, with just a bit too much effort, "the darkness makes it worse. The weather will clear up in a day or two, and I'll be right as--"

He glanced at the frog, "er, better. Just tired. I have nightmares a lot. The golf balls don't help." He moved his jaw in wide circles, as if trying to make his ears pop.

"Indeed, I do know what you mean. The bad dreams, they come to me, too. Old memories, things long past," she tried to give a comforting look, "what troubles you so?"

"You know," he chuckled, "as a scientist you're always supposed to have a sort of detachment, not let your work get personal. You once said I study dead people. Well, that does put a certain light on it."

He turned, and suddenly looked into her eyes with great intensity, "tell me... do you... have you... ever felt like you've been privy to something no one else knows? No one else in the world?"

With effort, Valentina kept her face neutral, wondering if he had noticed the slight widening of her own eyes, "what... do you mean?"

Jerdous turned away, looked down at the table, but she thought he wasn't seeing anything at all, now, "like... a secret. Something deep, even arcane. Do you know what I mean?"

The Münstone grew cold once more, but Valentina didn't notice. Could he know? The voice... the feeling... the not-rightness... No, no, surely she was misinterpreting. Missing something in the translation, that must be it.

Jerdous continued, almost trance-like, "as an anthropologist, you're supposed to be detached, objective. You read some awful things, but you just chalk it up to a primitive society's tool for coping with what they can't understand."

"Ribbit," said the frog, as it hopped obliviously along the floor.

"You don't talk about it, not if you want get past your first fellowship. Not if you want any respect in the field. But... some part of you... always wonders..."

His eyes were glassy, unblinking, staring through the table... the floor... the globe.., "wonder. Curiosity. You have to have those, comes with the territory, part of the job, but always kept in check. But... what if... one of those long dead people was right? Their dreams, their fears... what if some of it might be true? In digging after them, what if you've dug too deep yourself... and found the Balrog?"

"M... mister Jerdous?" Valentina said, growing unease enveloping her like a shadow. Slowly, she reached out a hand.

"I've seen... so many things... so many things, now... I've seen... I've seen..."

"...mister..?"

"...One culture..." he stared obliviously as a tear slipped down his cheek, "they believe, if you ever saw the real face of the Creator, you would surely die. But... what if the opposite is true? What if you saw the real face of the Devourer... and wanted to die..."

Then he turned to her with hollow, desolate eyes, "...but couldn't?"

"...Jerdous?" Her hand touched his shoulder; as if burned, he recoiled and screamed, drawing stern looks from the sparse spattering of other diners. His head jerked this way and that, gasping, his uncomprehending, panicked eyes seemed to be seeking... 

For a moment, they fell on Valentina, and he drew back again in fear, then his countenance suddenly shifted. 

"Hah! Hahahah!" A forced smile split his face, "really had you there for a moment, hahah! Just some architect humor for you there, hahah. Anthropologist. Hah. Hahah!"

He ran his hands over his sweat-streaked face, burying it in them for a moment, "hah... hahah...hahahohboyI'vegottagetsomesleephahah... hah..."

Valentina narrowed her eyes, "are you... all right?"

"Who, me? Never better!" He exclaimed with that same strained grin, "just tired, that's all. Hahah. Never do well when I don't sleep. Hah."

His eyes darted around, "oh, hey! You haven't even touched your food! Better eat up before it gets cold."

Then flatly, "not that it would detract from it that much." 

Valentina looked at him a moment longer, then sighed. Her belly grumbled in agreement. She really was quite hungry. Must be throwing her perceptions off. After all, she'd seen also just seen a singing--

She shuddered, and turned to her plate. 

Hmm.

A stubby finger poked at the foil. Cautiously, she peeled it open, alert for any sign of resistance. Curious. Some sort of sandwich. Ok. She gingerly peeled back the layers one by one. 

Bread, stale. Covered in some kind of seeds. Not that unusual.

Ketchup and mustard. Fair enough, they put ketchup and mustard on everything here. She was starting to gain a taste for the stuff. 

Squishy, uneven tomato slice. Far past its prime, but not that bad. You could get tomatoes back home even, if you knew the right people. 

Lettuce, limp. Not unexpected on a sandwich. But now... what's this?

What is this?

Under a slice of semicongealed cheese so rubbery it could be used for tire tread was a flat lump of...

Sausage? Squashed meatball? 

She poked at it hesitantly again, "what is...?

"It's a cheeseburger," came Jerdous's flat response.  

Valentina gave him a sidelong look, then picked the 'cheeseburger' up. Well, it certainly wasn't borscht, or even onna stick, but it couldn't really be that bad, could it? Deciding the risk was preferable to further hunger-driven visions, she closed her eyes, took a bite...

And instantly, visions exploded across her mind! Grand, sweeping vistas of... of... a white-headed bird of prey soaring over pale yellow fields of wheat! Spacious skies and majestic purple mountains towering over fruited plains! And.... and....

She chewed some more...

A... guy with false teeth... and a really bad wig... <chew> standing in the front of a boat... while his <chew chew> buddies row him across the river... in winter? <chew> No, late fall... 

Valentina's brow pinched. This was certainly an odd and very... specific vision...

But she shrugged, and kept on chewing. It distracted her from thinking about what she had just seen in Jerdous's eyes. 

Mmmmmm, cheeseburger!

Edited by CatastrophicFailure

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2 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

At least the windows were amphibian proof.

That's not fair. I haven't finished grinning from the last one.

I hope Whispers is proving as awesome to write as it is to read.

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But...but... no pickle on the cheeseburger.

Hmmm, dill pickled cucumber. Sounds pretty Ussari to me. Might have broken that good ole all-Kleptogartian imagery.

Which means... Oh sweet Kraken, they know...

The Comestibles Conspiracy! It's real, I tell you! Real! Real! REAL!

No doctor, no I don't need that nice pill. No really. Noooooooo.

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So when does Jerdous turn to the dark side in this storyline?

And yeah, dill-pickled cucumbers on the cheeseburger? 

Also, the Foreigners use some kind of drug in their hamburger meat, yes?

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"A vast conspiracy of comestibles, reaching to the highest levels!" 

And not only on Kerbin!

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