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  BLUE SHADOWS

  And Other Stories

  By

  Andrew Singleton

  Legal Notice

  Blue Shadows

  Copyright Andrew Singleton, 2010

  Smashwords Edition

  Cover Art Copyright Fiona Newall

  This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

  The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed.

  This book is a work of fiction, and the incidents and characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events, is coincidental.

  Where such permission is sufficient, the author grants the end user the right to strip any DRM which may be applied to this work.

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  A Brief Interruption

  Watchers

  Stormbringer

  Thriller

  Minion

  Night Watch is Lonely Business

  Deep Six

  Clockwork Child

  Legion

  Rummage

  Gesmas

  Blue Shadows

  Acknowledgments

  A Brief Interruption

  Hello out there. As of this time you are reading what will be the sixth version (bless you Smashwords for giving people access to prior versions.) And if you got it from somewhere else? Well unless it's either the hardback version from Amazon or one of Smashwords's partners then I will be annoyed since while I have no problems with people giving this thing out, sharing it, remixing it, post whole sections explaining at length why they do or don't like things as written, I don't like the idea of people making money off of me and not getting at least some cut.

  I am no Cory Doctorow, and I probably shouldn't try to be like the guy. However he has a philosophy about books and what You the People can do with them I rather like. As mentioned in the legal section nobody likely reads I've licensed this under a Creative Commons License. What's this all about?

  Well to be blunt it's a framework that lays out in corporate legal speak that I, the copyright holder, am explicitly granting a few rights to You the Consumer. However while we're here I might s well put it in plain english.

  YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO:

  Remix this content.

  Share with other people.

  Sample to your hearts content.

  The one thing I ask in return is you don't go behind my back trying to make money off the venture. I'd like to think i'm a very reasonable guy so if you want to make a comic to sell, or translate into a foreign language or make a series of short films or... Well whatever use comes to mind and you'd like to try making a buck I'm more than likely going to be up for talking terms.

  Unfortunately due to the economy, bills, and all the other unpleasant things in life i”m broke. Writing gets you nowhere unless your last name is King, Kingsbury, Graphton, Gresham, or are a celebrity in some other field and wrote a book. So I'm going to ask that if anyone feels like throwing a dollar or two my way and they haven't already purchased a copy.

  Donate to charity. Give to your local library. Donate to the Office of Letters and Light (the guys that run NaNoWriMo.)

  Now if you happen to want to give me money why not buy a copy?

  For a Physical Copy of This Book (sadly doesn't have the cover art the ebook version has.)

  https://www.createspace.com/3401537

  Of course if you want this in a different electronic format and don't want t ogo to the trouble Smashwords might be what you're looking for.

  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/171010

  Now, that done and said, on with the actual entertaining stuff!

  WATCHERS

  They were insubstantial, intangible, and immortal. They cannot directly affect the world we inhabit, yet they view their duties as vital to our survival. Some would mistakenly call them angels, or spirits. Though the first may, perhaps, apply, they never were human, which negates the second possible description. They could not, if we asked, say what they are watching for, but they maintain that it is important they keep vigil.

  Two of them were found by means desperate and bold. These two had been bound to watch a thing that was built of human hand and bound by the life essence of the world. They watched as the slabs of stone were carried into the room they had been summoned to. They watched during the months it took to shape both the physical form of the stone as well as the spiritual character of what the container was meant to become. At the cores of their being these two watchers knew that it was meant to lock away a great wrongness that could not yet be killed. Though they had been summoned and bound they could give no warning what this binding would do to the nature of the world.

  While the sarcophagus was being constructed, for it was intended to entomb something... hopefully till the end of days, other Watchers drifted to and from their enforced posts on either side of this desperate construction. In their own language they had communicated its intended use. All those that came to see them left feeling, though not in the way you or I would feel, a great sense of hurt by what was being done. It had to be done, that much they had seen, but knew that what they saw was the ruin to themselves as well as all other creatures that depended on the world's essence for their lives.

  Soon, too soon and at the same time not soon enough depending on how you counted these things, the making had been done. Both watchers saw the magi enter to work the final strands of life's essence around the grim construction. Her skin was dark, her hair and eyes light, but to them it didn't matter what a person's physical being looked like. They instead valued what some may call a person's Soul, or Essence. This woman's was a thing of light, though far from pure it radiated out from her, eclipsing all those around her. They saw in her essence streaks of darkness within that great light. She knows. Their conversation, though in truth it was more like talking to one's self because all Watchers were connected after a fashion, settled on this magus.

  She knows what this will do to the world and feels guilt. What must happen must happen, but she still sees it as somehow her doing. We forgive you Child, even though you will not forgive yourself.

  They watched the woman twist the strands of essence in a loose knit cage through the roughly worked stone. Her weaving was good and strong, but they knew it would eventually fail against the thing she hoped to contain. It may hold long enough for the world to recover. Even if all but a scant little of its light is bound to hold Nemesis in place the wounds it has suffered will heal. They watched her add complexity to the second and third layers of her weave. No rug-maker or weaver, no matter how good, could hope to match the delicate and intricate weaves she worked and lay on the stone. What will happen when it breaks free?

  They mused over what may happen while they traveled with the magi and her burden to a different place, one blasted of any recognizable feature. Here her Nemesis waited for her. Where the magi's essence had been radiant light threaded with guilt and personal grief his, though he no-longer really qualified as human, was a man-shaped hole in the world. Where he walked if the ground was not already dead the essence of anything living flowed into him. Around him and through him was Death, yet he wasn't finished. He Hungered. They felt that gaping bottomless gnawing hunger in him and though they loathed and despised his very being they had room within themselves for pity.

  When the two beings fought they saw that though the magi was experienced and d
etermined she would, without some sort of outside help, fail. Nemesis had her in a cage of his hunger, light being siphoned away from her in a pitiful attempt at satiating his hunger. Once, they knew, she had been an apprentice of his. Once she had looked up to this man as learned and wise. Now he saw her as only another source to feed off of.

  They felt pain at what they did, for it violated fundamental parts of what they were. They reached to one of those that lay dead and worked the world's essence into it. The man had once been someone the magi had gone to in an attempt to raise an army against the raising tide of corruption Nemesis worked in the world. He had been a good man once, and he was all but dead. They wove, wailing and screaming in pain as bits of themselves flowed along the strands.

  It has to be done.

  He took a shallow breath. His heart beat.

  What had once hung to this world only by brute force of stubborn will slowly rose. The spear he carried had been blessed, once, against demons. It had failed him when his life had depended on it. His movements were deliberate as his grip on the spear's haft changed. Nemesis was too clouded by feeding to realize that he was behind her, so did not, at first, realize that he had a gaping wound through his chest. the magi took a ragged breath as she shoved Nemesis into the sarcophagus, and the man the Watchers had revived fought against the black threads of non-essence to move the heavy lid and make the prison complete.

  The watchers wove more of themselves into the man, as the magus was too far away to close the prison before Nemesis freed himself. They felt themselves fading but continued weaving until the lid was closed. The magi went to him then, probing him delicately with weaves meant to Heal and Restore. There was nothing physically wrong with him, but the man was changed. She knew that he was now much like she had become since she had been bound by her former master. They would find a place, possibly as far away as the other side of the world, to bury Nemesis, and pray that it would be enough.

  The Watchers saw two of their kind fade from this world to ensure that the one they called Nemesis would be sealed away. Their sacrifice would be remembered even though the remaining members of their kind knew that though the man's essence was strong and good there was now a seed of darkness growing within him.

  Have pity on us for our ignorance. We did what we thought must be done and pray only that ruin will be averted. Forgive them for their ignorance for theirs will be a hard life without the light of the world to fill them. Forgive her for what she thought was the only way to give us all a chance at life. Give her peace and solace in the time she wanders this world.

  STORMBRINGER

  To: Samuel Crane

  From: Jason Frost

  Subject: Further material for #1884 - 5

  All entries pertaining to Eugene Smith's account of the Goliath construct take place within 1884 and are to be cross-referenced with reports made by Captain Edward Fawkes concerning the death of his third crew (Report #43 according to the old indexing system, and #1884 - 5 under the new catalog. If other relevant documents are found at a later date they are to be filed, or re-filed under the new system). The journal entries listed below have been copied and archived with permission from Robert Smith, eldest surviving descendant (legal documentation on the matter should be filed with these entries).

  The following entries are taken from the journal of Eugene Smith (1857 - 1914)

  Begin transcription

  May 4th

  It has been a month since we originally set out from Independence. Much of that time has been spent either in the saddle or belly down on the ground observing. I'm thankful that my initial fears of disagreements and or violence sparked by Bell’s African ancestry and Yuri's supposed allegiance to the Confederacy have so far been unfounded. Regardless, it seemed advantageous to get an agreement amongst our entire party to agree to leave politics, religion, and other equally sensitive topics unspoken for the duration. Are we not, after all, here for a common cause?

  Beyond the mundane and routine problems that arise from any trip of this length, broken equipment, occasional grumbling, and other minor issues; our luck has been favorable and kind. The plains have met us with their gentle and expansive beauty. Our base camp is in good order and well provisioned. Hunting has been tolerable, though consisting exclusively of small game till this point. We will take what we can get, but given the price of Buffalo hides back east I would prefer these great lumbering beasts to our current fare.

  There have, as yet, been no sign of Indian activity in these parts; for which I am truly grateful. We are in their territory and hunt the same animals they make their livelihood off of. Though I fully understand and sympathize with their desire to be left alone and to keep outsiders at bay, for they have made a living off of this land for longer than any of our families have existed on this continent and view us, rightly so in my opinion, as invaders. Having said this and feeling as I do I still must continue in my current efforts, for this work has proven to be the only thing I find myself both capable of as a means to earn a living, and enjoy doing.

  May 7th

  Its been three days since I've written last and do so now to record that we have sighted a heard of Buffalo. I wish I were capable of drawing, or that Thomas could be convinced to reproduce the scene. As soon as the horses have been readied Yuri, bell, and myself shall follow the herd close while the rest of our party follows at a far slower pace due to the need to carry the mules, supplies, extra provisions, and the general necessities should we be fortunate enough to fall any of the massive creatures.

  Evening

  Yuri and I discuss what had brought us out here while Bell was tending the horses. Yuri, it seems, had grown disillusioned with those that continued to try reviving the Confederacy. When pressed he cited that those that claimed to pine for the way things were had degenerated from the ideals of proper conduct and, while blaming their sorry lot on everything but themselves, took their anger and frustrations out on the colored population. He admitted to possessing slaves and showed no remorse for having done so, for that was how things were at the time. While he admits that he was wrong in doing so, he had done what he could to give those that worked under him the best care he had available to him.

  At some point during Yuri's explanation Bell had returned. Not wanting him to feel left out I had asked for his take on the matter. His reply struck me both as genuinely unexpected, and yet at the same time it feels profoundly fitting so I leave his exact words here for the sake of posterity.

  "The buying and selling of human families is immoral and sinful, but it would be equally immoral and sinful for me to do anything but ask that they seek forgiveness for what they have done and do my best to not seek retribution for events no man can change."

  These views summed up my two companions nicely. The conflict I had feared might come about seems to have no chance at materializing and, so far as I can tell, the two men seem to get along quite well with each other. This relieves me, since hearing improbable and tawdry tales around the fire at night, and good-natured banter during the day is most preferable to the alternative.

  May 8th

  We sit hunkered in the darkness dumbfounded and in awe of the apparitions clashing amid the storm. I know not if we share some sickness or madness, but each agrees that we are seeing the same things. So I continue to record these events despite never being able to share this experience with the wider world for fear of being declared mad and locked away from society.

  What we first took for a giant statue, or monument left for reasons unknown, has been boarded by no less than a dozen men, possibly more for I was alerted to this activity midway through their efforts. After these men entered the misshapen figure through an opening in its hind section it rose from its crouching position, extending and flexing misshapen elongated arms, smoke billowing from its mouth, and loped across the plains on all four of its limbs. It appears man-shaped, though its legs appear far shorter and uniformly thick, and its arms reach down, in my estimates, to below its knees were
this impossible construct to stand to its full height. This feat, in my opinion, is an impossibility because of the large cannons, which Yuri insists are naval guns, though I fail to see the distinction between the two terms, mounted one over each shoulder blade and seemingly able to use the shoulder joints themselves to pivot and aim.

  Yuri and I both agree that if these cannon are functional rather than decorative the behemoth's purpose as a war machine is plain as day. Where we disagree is on who would be capable of its construction, or even gathering the money needed to buy the materials for its construction. He believes that it is a weapon the Union army had created, much as it had created the Monitor, but I disagree. While the Ironclads are an impressive and terrifying sight, they pale in both difficulty of construction and ability to induce fear as what lay ahead of us.

  Perhaps an hour has passed since the Giant had started moving, and though it advances towards us I gain no sense that it even notices our presence here. Its movements remain a mystery as we seek shelter from a fierce storm that's blown from all around us. Our horses are frightened and, despite Bell's best efforts and years as a horse handler neither Yuri nor myself wish to approach. The tether that keeps them from running should hold despite their efforts. I hope it does, since I don't look forward to having to walk back to camp and I fear how the others, seeing our horses running fearful and riderless, would react.

  More time has passed, the horses finally calmed and beginning to settle despite the wind, and we've caught sight of what the Goliath construct is here for. When I first saw it I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, it has always been my experience that birds do not fly in this weather, yet all of us agree it was out there. As I watched it dive and claw at the iron beast, which produced little if any reaction, I tried to take note of its features in hopes of asking any friendly natives we might come across at a later time.

 
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