Please note that there was a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on Percival posted yesterday. If you haven’t read that yet, you may wish to use the Previous Chapter button above.
A little over a month ago.
“I believe–” Those two words, spoken in a simple, quiet voice that was at odds with the sheer size and football linebacker-like build of their speaker, were punctuated by a dull thud as the head of the green-skinned man that he was holding two feet off the ground smacked into the wall. “–that a bit of context is needed here.”
Ulysses Katarin continued, his hand literally covering the face of the smaller, alien man as he held him against that wall, muffling the figure’s protests and threats. “You see, I was born in a place called Desoto. It’s a territory on Earth that no longer exists. My coming-of-age was spent witnessing my home being devastated and ruined by the creatures known as Fomorians. I saw my parents and sister tortured, torn asunder, used as experiments in their breeding programs. The destruction and loss of Desoto was so complete that the only option was to erase it from both maps and from history, to wipe it completely out of the minds of all humanity. I became a Heretic after seeing just what these creatures were capable of, just how far they would go. I became a Heretic to stop any other living being from witnessing the loss that I witnessed.”
His second hand moved up to close around the figure’s throat, just tight enough to hold him in place while he removed his first hand from the man’s face. “So,” he went on, “when you think of how to respond to my question this time, it is very, very important that you bear that context in mind when I tell you that this has been an incredibly long day. I am, as they say, not in the mood. Now, for what will be the last time you will ever hear me speak these words in this order while you are still capable of coherent thought: where am I?”
Before showing up here, Katarin’s last memory was of stumbling across… the Seosten. That’s all he could think of them as now, the person he was supposed to be able to trust. Obviously, they were possessed. Realizing what was going on, he’d tried to do something about it. Through the resulting struggle, his opponent had produced a small orb, and Katarin had found himself transported to this place. There had been soldiers here, soldiers who were obviously waiting.
Keechun, the green-skinned roughly amphibian-like humanoid who had, up to about two minutes earlier, been boasting of those soldiers’ prowess and power as they stared down the newly arrived Heretic, made a rough gurgling sound. The armed figures he had used to threaten Katarin with lay broken and shattered around the floor of the research facility. When the grip on his throat loosened just a little more, he managed a strained, “Not supposed to be you.”
“Sorry to disappoint,” Katarin replied. His eyes narrowed then. “But that doesn’t answer the question. Where am I? And now that you bring it up, who was I supposed to be?”
Even as he asked the question, Katarin focused on the man’s emotions. He’d killed a Stranger a long time ago that had given him the ability to read the emotions of anyone he was looking at. It gave him a distinct advantage in a lot of cases, particularly when kids in class were trying to get one over on him. And in this case, it meant he could probably tell if this one was lying.
“S-Seosten research facility Caleikas,” Keechun answered quickly. “You’re about as far from your–ehh, Earth as it’s possible to be. Without dimensional shifts, at top speed it would take the fastest ship in the Seosten fleet about two hundred and fifty years to get back to your planet.”
“Research facility…” Katarin murmured before straightening. “That–the Seosten who sent me here. The orb they used, it was meant for someone else. Someone you were waiting for. Who?”
The alien man looked like he wasn’t sure he should answer that, until a hard look from Katarin made him gulp before quickly explaining, “Th-the one called Chambers, the female that was–”
“Felicity Chambers.” Katarin frowned, straightening a little, which had the added effect of pulling his prisoner further up the wall. “Why were they trying to send Chambers to a research facility out in the middle of Seosten space?” he demanded in a tone that was even harder than before.
“Immune–she’s immune to their possession power,” Keechun managed to get out. “They want to us to take her apart, to find out why, how she’s immune. And it gets her out of the way. If she’s gone, they can focus on the other one, the founder’s descendant.”
Obviously. Obviously the orb had been for Chambers. No wonder they were possessing… The very thought made Katarin grimace, head shaking. Obviously, they wanted Chambers gone to get her away from Avalon. Couldn’t possess her, so they wanted her out of the picture. Plus, it would distract everyone. Wyatt, Gaia, Dare, Avalon herself, they’d all be distracted, focusing on finding Chambers instead of protecting Avalon. If it had worked, it would’ve been devastating.
“How long will it take them to set up another one of those orb things?” he demanded, glancing around the facility. If they were planning on sending Chambers here, he’d have to find a way to-
“Menses,” Keechun answered quickly. “Several menses. It takes time to build them, to charge them. Sending someone this far, banishing them from that world? It’s not an easy process.”
Katarin frowned at that. “Menses. What is that? Hours, days–wait.” He turned his head a little, shaking it. “How can I understand you? Why are you speaking English right now?”
“He’s not.” The voice came from behind Katarin, and he turned sharply to find a dark-haired man standing in the doorway. A man who didn’t set off Katarin’s Stranger-sense, which meant that he was either one of the species who didn’t happen do so, or he was actually a–
“Human,” Katarin announced, staring at the newly arrived man for a moment until the memory clicked into place. “You’re human-wait, I know you. You’re the guy from Eden’s Garden, the one who took off and disappeared a little while back. Holt. Haiden Holt.”
“Right,” the other man replied casually while strolling into the room. “But actually, it’s Moon now. Has been since I got married. Haiden Moon. Sounds better than Haiden Holt, don’t you think?
“And,” he added easily, “like I said, the answer to your question is that they’re not speaking English. I mean, there may be a few words in there that you recognize as English, but it’s not. First, the language we know as Latin is actually Old-Seosten, from their homeworld. As they spread out through the universe, that ended up mixing with a lot of other species languages. So when they came to Earth, we got Old-Seosten, what we call Latin in Rome. So, there’s probably a few words in English derived from Old Seosten that you’d recognize. More importantly though, what you just heard was UTL. Universal Trade Language. Think of it as like, an entire language that’s had an incredibly powerful bit of magic put on it so whenever anyone who doesn’t speak it hears something out of it, it gets automatically translated in their head. Took a lot of power to set up, but can you imagine trying to establish a universal empire on thousands of brand new worlds if the people you were conquering didn’t understand you?”
The man shrugged then. “But hey, guess you didn’t really ask for a lecture, huh? ” He took a look around then, whistling at the bodies. “Nice work.”
Squinting, Katarin dropped Keechun, letting the green figure fall to the floor before putting a foot on him so he couldn’t slither away. “That’s far enough,” he announced while reaching to the small container at his belt. Flipping it open, he grasped the handle within and withdrew a long staff with a three-pronged blade at the end: a trident, his chosen weapon. “See, I know about the Seosten’s possession power. And you? You’ve been gone an awfully long time.” Hand gripping his weapon, he focused on what he could feel from the other Heretic. From what he could tell, there was no deception. But then again, could he really trust that in this case? Especially since he hadn’t been able to sense deception… before.
“Hey, great, you’re one step ahead of the curve.” Haiden smiled, holding both arms out. “But I’m not possessed. Not sure exactly how I can prove that in the time we’ve got, but we do need to get out of here. The Seosten are sending a fleet this way. And fun as it is to take apart their outposts, they do kind of have an advantage when it comes to numbers and technology.”
“Haiden’s right,” another voice announced then, as a female figure stepped around the man in question and into view. “We need to get out of here while we can still avoid the… Ulysses?”
All thought of suspicion and anger vanished in that moment. Katarin’s eyes widened, and he lost his grip on his weapon while staring at the figure who had appeared. “Larissa,” he breathed out before taking several steps that way. The next thing he knew, he’d lifted the woman off the floor, crushing her against his chest while making a noise that was decidedly not man-like. But he didn’t care. Only one thing mattered now, one thought that drowned out all others. “You’re alive.”
He could sense it. The empathic power he’d inherited meant that Katarin could sense the woman’s relief and joy. She was doing nothing to hide those feelings as she clung onto him. “Ulysses,” she repeated tenderly. “Oh my God, you have no idea how glad I am to see you.”
“Larissa.” It was all he could do to find his voice enough to say the name of his long-time friend. “Larissa, how are you–what are you–how?” Something caught in Katarin’s throat, and he leaned back, holding the woman in front of him to get a better look at her. It had been so long, years since he’d seen Larissa. She’d been a student of his, and then a colleague. But most of all, she was a friend. Losing her had been a terrible blow. One that he had experienced many times before, of course. And yet, somehow, that one had hurt even more than most.
“It’ll take a long time to explain all of it,” she quietly, yet quickly informed him. “And Haiden’s right, we need to get out of here before the Seosten reinforcements show up. They’re still too dangerous for even three of us to take on in a straight fight. We’ve got a ship nearby.”
“Ship,” Katarin raised an eyebrow. “As in a spaceship… yeah, you’ve got a lot to explain.”
She grinned at that, hugging onto him even more tightly than before. “I will. And you can tell me how my girls are doing. It’s… it’s their first year at the school. They are… they are at the school?” When he nodded, Larissa looked like she was going to say something else, but stopped herself. Head shaking, she pulled him by the arm. “But we’ve gotta get out of here first.”
So, with a last look back toward the bodies scattered around the floor and the green-skinned figure huddled in the corner pretending to be invisible, Katarin followed the other two Heretics. He didn’t know exactly what was going on, why Larissa had ended up out here, or how they were all going to get back home. But he did know one thing with absolute, crystal-clear certainty.
Whenever they found a way back to Earth, he was going to bring Larissa back to her family.
The gray-skinned orc-creature let out a bellow of rage, which was cut off into pathetic gurgling as Katarin’s hurled trident took him in the throat. The weapon lifted the creature from the ground, sent him flying backward a dozen feet, and impaled itself (with the orc dangling by the throat) in the side of a great, stone tower that lay in the middle of this otherwise barren field.
“So what you’re saying is,” Katarin started while teleporting himself next to his weapon in order to yank it out so that the orc could fall back to the ground, “the Seosten magicked up a full language just so everyone they run around conquering would understand what was happening. And in our case, so they’d be a bit more comfortable while they were busy enslaving or mind wiping humanity.” As he spoke, the large dark-skinned man flicked a switch on his trident. The left prong began to glow green, even as he made a swift upward motion with it, followed by a sharp, outward thrust that moved straight out before sweeping down once more.
In response to the motion, a solid four foot wide pillar of earth (or ground, at least if they couldn’t call it earth) tore itself up. It followed Katarin’s gesture, dirt and rock moving like snake, weaving through the air before slamming into one of the winged demon-like Strangers who had been diving in toward them. The pillar of earth caught the flying creature, slamming into it hard before the downward gesture sent it down to piledrive the thing straight into the ground.
In the same motion, the man kept swinging the trident around and backward without bothering to look. The gray-orc, who had been struggling to pick itself up even with the traumatic damage to its throat, was impaled once more. That time, one of the prongs of the trident went through its left eye. It made a weak, gurgling noise of pain before collapsing lifelessly to the ground.
Katarin had been doing this for so long, over a hundred years by that point, that he barely noticed the pleasurable sensation of both Strangers’ deaths giving him their power.
Nearby, Haiden rose from the body of the Stranger whose chest he had driven his sword through. As his glowing bronze aura faded along with Katarin’s own silver glow, the man replied, “Pretty much. Seosten and other aliens have influenced some of our languages like that. Lots of Old Seosten words here and there, like I said.” He flipped the sword up and around to transform it into its shotgun form so he could take a shot at one of the nearby creatures, “Does make it easier to communicate with outsiders once you learn the UTL though, so that’s one thing.”
The past month (or Mensis in both Latin and Old Seosten, apparently) had been… incredibly busy. Katarin had learned enough to know he could trust Haiden Moon, as well as a lot of other things about all that was going on. But this was the first time they’d returned to this particular conversation about the language similarities. It had come up again since the three of them had eavesdropped on the orders being given to this same group minutes before ambushing them.
The last of that patrol that had stood in their way fell into two bisected halves, revealing Larissa in her water-form. Her arm was raised, a water-whip extending from her hand. It was that whip, a whip made of water, that had cut the Stranger in half lengthwise with a single lash.
She paused there like that, obviously taking in the rush of pleasure as her pink aura flared up before speaking. “When I first got here, I thought they were speaking some indecipherable alien language. Turns out, it was just Latin.” Pausing, the woman added with a briefly thoughtful frown, “I guess I really should’ve paid more attention to that class back when I was in school.”
Finally satisfied that the field was clear, the three of them walked around the stone tower where Katarin had impaled the earlier orc, toward the entrance that the patrol had been protecting. There was a metal door there, but Haiden simply made a sharp grasping gesture and the thousand pound, two foot thick thing crumpled itself into a ball and fell aside with a loud clang.
“So what do you think this place is?” Larissa asked while they moved in through the opening. Her voice echoed slightly through what turned out to be a large, empty space. Across the chamber, there was a set of stairs leading up further into the tower, and more leading down.
“All I know,” Haiden replied, “is that one of the shards from that banishment orb is here. Which means as soon as we grab it, we’ll be one step closer to being able to undo the spell, so I can get my memory back, get my wife back, and get home for our kids.”
It was… frustrating. Katarin had figured out very quickly that Haiden was the father of Vanessa and Tristan. But every time he told the man any of the details about that, he had forgotten. The same went for whenever Larissa tried to tell him what she knew about his wife. Just like a memory spell. The Seosten sure loved those.
Descending down into the depths of the tower basement, it soon became obvious that the place had been a prison of some kind, though it hadn’t been used for that in a very long time. What it was being used for, as well as who that patrol had been working for, was anyone’s guess. Not to mention the question of why it still looked like some kind of Earth medieval tower.
The basement was almost as empty as that first floor had been, save for one thing: a five foot wide, six foot high cage in the middle of the otherwise barren space. And in that cage sat a figure, faced away from them.
“I knew you’d come.” The voice was male, and it cracked a little as if from a long period of disuse. “I knew you’d make it here. It’s why I held onto this.” Without looking back to them, the figure held up a dirt-encrusted hand, revealing what looked like a small shard of black glass.
“The orb piece,” Haiden breathed, moving that way before stopping himself. “Who are you? How do you know what it does or that we want it? Why are you in that cage in the middle of nowhere? Why was there a small army guarding this place?”
“The tower is from Earth,” the man in the cage replied, his voice hoarse and dry. “They wanted to ensure that I had no way of leaving it, and did such a good job that they had to transport the entire thing here when they took me off the planet. Then they… mostly forgot about me. It’s been too long. I don’t matter that much to them anymore.”
“Who are you?” Larissa spoke quietly, moving forward a step. “Why did they imprison you and then forget about you?”
Slowly, the man reached out a pale hand to catch hold of the cage bars. He pulled himself up, bones creaking as he did so before turning to face them.
“You,” Haiden blurted, taking a reflexive step back in surprise. Beside him, Katarin said the same thing, while stepping forward.
“Him?” Larissa blinked in confusion, looking back and forth between the men. “Him who?”
“Yes,” the man in the cage confirmed quietly. “It’s me.”
“Dries Aken,” Haiden explained, without looking away from the caged man. “Hieronymus Bosch’s son-in-law, his daughter’s husband.
“And the man who killed Bosch himself.”
I can almost one hundred percent guarantee that no one saw that coming right up until the very end. Yup.
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed that little chapter. Next time, we’ll be popping back into the main storyline to see what Flick’s up in the new arc! Which will include a time-skip to jump forward about three weeks for the New York trip. So there’s that to look forward to. 😉
Thanks for reading, guys! Tags for this chapter are: Dries Aken, Haiden Moon, Keechun, Larissa Mason, Let’s Be Honest‚ ’Aliens Enchanted An Entire Language To Sound Like English For Our Ears’ Is Less Of a Stretch Than Some Works Go Through To Explain Why Everything Isn’t In Subtitles., Professor Katarin, Thank God Larissa Finally Gets A Happy Reunion With Someone.
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Your explanation for the language similarities would be more than enough if I wasn’t taking so many linguistic classes this semester. As it is, even considering the Bystander Effect, it just makes me cringe. Sorry. That aside, wonderful chapter! Poor Haiden, though. The memory spell meaning they can’t even reassure him about the twins is just plain cruel.
The Seosten had a whole research facility ready to recieve Flick and “take her apart.” It’s interesting that they were going to default to that after they never went as far with Larissa in the years they had her. Unless “take her apart” means something other than dissection.
Liesje’s husband, eh? Does that make him Avalon’s x-great-grandpa or did Liesje have her ancestor later?
And English is a trade language. English. One of earth’s most contradictory and confusing languages is used for intersteller trade. I guess that says something about how complicated other species’ languages are.
It makes him Avalon’s relative, yes.
I take it as what happens when you start mixing hundreds or even thousands of languages.
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Reblogged this on Twilit Dreams Circle.
Its hard to read when you’ve done some linguistic in your past, but its an okay justification. You could have done without/ with less pseudo-explanation though
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lol, yeah, it’s more meant for a layman explanation, not someone who is an expert in such things. But if it helps, assume that a lot of it is made up by the Bystander Effect to explain human language without having aliens around.
That said, it’s not meant to stand up to deep scrutiny, it’s just a story. I just use the BS-Effect (see what I did there?) to explain inconsistencies. 🙂 Thanks though.
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So… I guess Haiden and Larissa had heard about plans to kidnap Flick and were waiting for her.
On the other hand, I’m very confused how Dries got that shard piece, as I assume it was broken long after his imprisonment. The shards somehow went all over the place. Maybe they went to people from Earth?
He got it because the shard showed up at his prison, and he just held onto it. The shards did indeed go all over the place, including one into his cell. 😉
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I just noticed there’s also a mini-interlude on deck that goes 8: Katarin, Larissa, and Haiden meet up in Seosten space – 3000 words.
Yeaaaah, lol. Oops. The commissioner has been contacted and offered the chance to pick something new with the same word count. Thanks for pointing that out.
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Little nitpick that I have brought up before, but the initial part of this where Katarin saw who the Seosten was possessing and then refused to think their name made it really hard to keep my belief afloat. In general any time I read something like that it just feels like the author hiding information in a heavy handed manner. I get not wanting to reveal that information until you are ready, but I also can’t imagine anyone actually cutting their thoughts off right when it is narratively convenient like that.
It really is a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things, and I do enjoy the story overall, but any time I read something like this it brings me out of the narrative just a bit.
In Mini-Interlude 16, Katarin said that he and eight others once took down a Fomorian blood shield over the course of an hour. At the time I assumed that meant he was an adult Heretic during the Fomorian invasion, but here he says he was coming of age at the time and became a Heretic after the invasion started, so either he started using Heretic magic much more quickly than I would have thought, or he’s tangled with one of the surviving Fomorians in the time since the invasion.
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To clarify, I meant to say “He’s a good guy, isn’t he?”
Don’t worry, there’ll be answers relatively soon. You may have gotten far enough to reach them by now. 😉
Koren: Mom, remember when I said I wanted to be an astronaut?
Abigail: Not now, Koren, the side characters need their time to shine in space before we do- *phone rings*
Abigail: *picks up phone* Hello?
Katarin: The fuck did you just call m-?
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Haha, how dare she.