Saturday, September 15, 2012

Introducing: Homer's Oddity!

I've started a new project.  It's called Homer's Oddity, and can be found here.  It's a steampunk/swords & sorcery retelling of The Odyssey, and it begins thusly:

This tiny dot I hold within a jar
Which fell into my hands that fateful day
Controls yet all that is both near and far
Which is, then, why I keep it hid away.

For while I struggle still its pow'rs to learn,
And as I wander lost amidst the rules,
I know that many others out there yearn
This speck of energy to hold, as jewels

Might well adorn the crown of kings but be
Mostly locked away, hidden mark of might,
Ill-gotten gains cementing the mighty
Into their reigns, though never earned that right.

An accident, this burden: yet, my dream
Is that it may help me regain my queen.
--Homer's Sonnet, 1

 ___________________________________________________________________________________

There once were rules.

Well, one set of rules, anyway.

Once, when Telemachus was just born, or so he was told by Penelope, when he was a baby, the world followed only one set of rules.

"Up used to always be up," she'd say to him, when he was a boy.  "When you were little and you dropped something, it fell to the ground."

"Always," she would add.

Telemachus looked out at the feast he did not want and sighed.

He picked up a goblet of wine, carefully, lest it begin to droop or suddenly burst into flames or become sentient, and eyed it warily.

Then he sipped it.

Out of curiousity, he held the goblet out at arm's length and then deliberately overturned it.

The wine stayed glued inside the cup, refusing to pour out onto the grounds and spill over the parapet onto the revelers below, the partygoers who would not leave and who he desperately wished would go.

He turned the golden cup back rightside, peered into it.  The wine sat there, slightly translucent.  He could see the bottom of the cup.

He sipped it.  It poured into his mouth as it should have.

He wondered where his father was, as he did twenty, thirty, one hundred times per day.  He wondered if he should go see his mother, see how she was doing on the funeral shroud she had promised to weave and which had not been completed, not in 19 years.

Down below, he saw two large, bearded men lean over and harass a servant girl, pawing at her legs as she walked by.  One of them tried to trip her, and she stumbled, almost spilling the tray of meat slices and fruits she carried.  The men laughed and pelted her with apricot pits, the seeds falling to the floor amidst the mess his few remaining hired helpers struggled to clean up each night, working around the drunken bodies of carousers, rapists, thieves, and other less-than-desirables that passed out in his banquet hall each day.

Enough, Telemachus decided.  Enough is enough.

"Once, there were rules," he heard his mother tell him, the words echoing from his memories of being a little boy and watching walls vanish only to reappear made of bricks instead of wood, memories of there being dragons one day and abominable snowmen the next.

Once there were rules, he thought now. That applies to more than just the laws of physics, of nature.  He saw the servant girl peering at him from behind a curtain where she had taken refuge.  He could tell, even at this distance, that she had tears in her eyes.  He motioned for her to leave.  There will be rules again, he decided.

"ENOUGH!" he tried to roar.  He was only 19 and so it was not as commanding as he had hoped, plus the acoustics of the banquet hall had shifted, but it was loud enough and it captured the attention of those down below, or at least those who were not so drunk or stoned that they could not focus on him standing there, on the pathway above the hall.

"I have decided!  You all must leave.  All of you.  Get up.  Take your pants, your shirts, get clothed.  Go home.  Take your weapons and your toys and your drugs, and leave my house, my mother's house, my father's house.  You are not welcome here.  You have never been welcome here and you will never be welcome here.  You are destroying our house, squandering our wealth, and killing my mother, who mourns every day the loss of her husband and my father.  You are forcing her into seclusion and not letting her properly work through her emotions.  You have caused our loyal friends, our longtime helpers and servants, to leave in terror and disgust.  You gorge and drink and smoke and rape and root through our house, destroying our things and our people.  Some of you have been here nearly as long as I have and I was born in this house!  You have no right to be here, and you are not wanted."

He took a deep breath.

"SO I TELL YOU: LEAVE AT ONCE, OR FACE MY ANGER."

A deep silence fell over the hall, and then the laughter started.  The two men below him started throwing apricot pits at him, and then others joined in, and soon Telemachus stood there, pelted with silverware and cups and a pipe and rinds of fruit and bones of chicken wings and a beer can (They found the beer! he noted with resignation.)

He stood there, refusing to be bowed by it.  For nineteen years, he had put up with this.  He was no longer going to kowtow to them.

Eventually, they stopped, and one of the men below him, one of the Apricot-Throwers, bellowed:  "You are always good for a laugh, young Telemachus!  But why would we leave?  Why would we go from outside of this house, where the changes are less frequent, where the wealth of generations of your family provides us food and sustenance, where we can spend the Shifting Times in relative safety, and where we know that eventually, your mother will have to choose one of us to marry, and that person then will take over whatever is left of your holdings?  Why would we leave?"

Telemachus thought of the holdings that remained.  Did they know of the Flashpoint?

"She will not marry you, or any of you," he told the man.

"Then I will marry her!" the man roared, and laughter ensued.

"YES!  We will all marry her!" another man said.  "Why wait? There are no rules, and haven't been for a long time!  They will never be restored, will they? The Shifting Times will never end and eventually this world, all worlds, all men, all women, all children, all things will crumble into chaos, the entropy dragging us apart and betwixt!  Let us all marry her, now!"

The cry rose up unbidden: The men began to chant: "Penelope! Penelope!  PEN EL O PE!"  and those who could stand did so, grabbing weapons where they could and food and drink where they could.  A swirling, heaving mob of men began to move towards the stairs that would lead them in a spiral up to where Telemachus stood with his goblet of wine, and past that to the broad staircase that led to the third floor, his mother's quarters.

"STOP!  I forbid it!" Telemachus hollered, but his voice was lost amidst the ongoing chants of PENELOPE! and the tumult of drunken, armed men climbing the stairs intent on raping his mother and taking her by force... and his remaining hopes of getting them to leave, of using the wealth he had to find his father, to restore order and rules would go with her.

The Flashpoint.  The Singularity.  The Coin.  They must be protected, as much as his mother, if not more.

He moved back, to the base of the stairs, standing on the third stair up.  Faux marble felt smooth and safe beneath his feet.  The stairs had been cobblestone most of the morning. He was glad of the shift.  This time.

He stood alone.  He would not call the help, would not ask them to face this danger, too. He pulled out his Fire, shaped almost like a pistol but rounder, sleeker, even cobbled-together as it was.

It was small comfort.  Even with the amount of power it could channel from Nether, it would not hold up to the fifty or so men that swarmed into the corridor, some of them nearly careening over the ledge in their drunkeness.  They moved towards him.

He held up the Fire, and said "STOP! Or I'll shoot."

They stopped, and one of them pointed, and said "What... is that?"

He pointed the Fire at the man.  "It's a Fire.  You've not seen anything like it before."

Behind him, a voice said:  "I stand with Telemachus."

The voice was a growling rumble, and he turned to see a large misshapen man behind him, holding what appeared at first to be a bagpipe -- but the bag was clenched in the man's arms, and all the larger pipes were not pointed skyward, ready to make music, but instead were leveled at the crowd.

He thought for a moment that he saw a beautiful woman, small and slender with short hair and small breasts, naked but for a tiny loincloth and a necklace, but it was gone.

"Where did you come from?" A man, one of the Apricot-Throwers, demanded.

"It's a trick!" Another yelled.  "An illusion!  Telemachus deceives us with his illusionry!"

"It's a Shift!" said another.  "He didn't know it was there!"

The ogreish thing said to the men: "Go. Go back down to the banquet.  You must leave and not come back."

The Chief Apricot-Thrower laughed and held up his knife.  "You don't scare me, Ugly Man," he said.

And he changed his grip on the knife, quickly, flipping it around and throwing it towards the man.  As it flung through the air, end over end, it began to glow brighter until as it reached Telemachus and the Ugly Man it hurt to look at, and it exploded as it reached them, all taking less time than the blink of th eye.  Shrapnel flung in the arc the knife had been thrown, and Telemachus knew he and the Ugly Man would be shredded, the tiny pieces would burrow into them and through them, propelled by the explosion, leaving pinpricks in their front and fist-sized holes in their backs.  Shrapnel Knives were horrifying weapons at this range.

The particles fell to the floor, not a single one touching him or the Ugly Man.  There were gasps from the assembled drunken mob.

"GO," the ogre said again.

The mob hesitated, and the Apricot Thrower began to fumble with his pockets.

The Ogre breathed into the small tube of the bagpipe thing, and flares of radiation shot out from the ends of the tubes, sparkling rays of diamond-flecked light lancing from six separate sources, and the men those rays struck screamed with the pain of burning.  Telemachus saw skin peeling off them, and guessed it was gamma rays being shot.  He could feel the heat over his shoulder.

The men who had been hit fell to the ground.  The others began to fall back, some slowly stepping away and others turning and running.

"GO!" The ogre shouted, and the men ran as a group, leaving their fallen cohorts laying in agony, all of them pounding back down the stairs in a frightened rabble, all but the Apricot Thrower, who had gotten something out of his pocket, a small mirror, as it turned out.  He held it up, peered into it and looked in surprise at Telemachus and the Ogre.

"Athena," he said, quietly, as Telemachus held his Fire up and pulled the trigger.  A small dart shot from it, whistling as it found its mark in the man's arm.  The moment it did, a blue flame spread from the dart onto the arm of the man, who dropped the mirror and shook his arm, motion that caused the blue flame to grow hotter and spread to his shoulder.  The Apricot Thrower took one last look at them and ran, trying to dampen the napalm flames that were engulfing him.

In moments, the entire house fell silent, all the men having left.

Telemachus turned to talk to the Ogre, but the Ogre was gone.

His mother looked out from the top of the stairs.

"What is going on?" she asked him, quietly.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Look for more installments as time goes on!

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