“Any luck?” he asked. She hesitated. She was trying not to find what she knew would be there. And as she passed the light over the stone carvings, she saw it: a bare spot where the inscriptions, lost secrets of ancient Menurabi, were now truly lost, and a circular marking carved over it instead. She pulled out a mid-sized book from her traveler’s bag, holding it in both hands, and recited magic words; her eyes glowed, and in her field of vision, the magical forces of the world were laid bare and visible. The arcane mark shone a dark blue and was indeed a glyph of a solar eclipse with a stylized zigzag, either lightning coming down or a toothy maw of darkness swallowing the sun.
“You have indeed, again, demonstrated quite the feat of agility,” the teacher began, before Asoka cut him off. He had risen from sitting with a tumbling roll while the master was speaking, unfolding to a standing position, drinking his tea from his tail and holding up a furred hand to pause his speech.
“I do not expect a warm welcome,” the Human Spirit said, as another figure moved into view; it was a familiar face stepping out of the shadows, a man with a large green-glowing wolf walking beside him.
It had barely been even a day since the volcanic eruption. Most of the streets were still deep with soot. At least, those streets that weren’t completely buried or burned by active lava flows. I had survived, somehow, thanks to this curse. I didn’t dare take shelter with any others, and that turned out to be a good thing. I can usually handle stress, as a medical doctor, but in a life-or-death situation, I can’t always prevent the change that comes with being a werewolf.
(This story contains some dark imagery and themes, and may not be suitable for all audiences. Reader discretion advised.)
I thought that she’d be just another tournament contestant: that I could knock her down with just three punches or so, let the ref announce that Choi Park was the winner yet again, and move on to my next guy. I am very glad I was wrong.
Within moments they reached the interior of the palace complex, using the rooftops to bypass all the closed gates that tried to stop the spread of fire and movements of the enemy troops. “At this rate the whole palace will burn,” Yang remarked to the qirin, the divine creature’s hooves barely touching down on ancient roof tiles. “If the barbarians of the northwest can’t seize the capital, they will be more than happy to destroy it.”
Chan was feeling cooped-up in the laboratory. It wasn’t that he minded working for the professor, mad though he was, but the strange devices he made, often with no practical purpose (besides destroy everything, somehow) made him feel a little disconnected. He might read the news about the outside world, or see social media posts from this friend or that friend, but usually it was just work. The lab takes up too much of my time, Chan thought. He looked up from his printouts to the clock, and when he saw it was almost noon, he stomach growled, as if trained, on cue.
A sleepy woman pushes off from her desk, gliding over in her rolling desk chair to the screen with the flashing icon. “! NEO detected. Preliminary analysis rating at 10 on the Torino scale. Verification required.” Half-asleep she reads the message without understanding, once, twice, but by the third time she wakes up. A lot of people will be woken up, soon, for what the message means.
The apsara, or nymph, knelt at the water’s edge. This was her home, a clean pool fed by the great river, which eventually flowed out of the wooded wetlands and beyond to the floodplains and seas. The pool was but a few feet deep, like a wide natural bathtub, part of a large collection of pools in the hilly landscape. The forest and its creatures loosely surrounded the apsara’s abode like the walls of an open house, branches as the roof chattering with birds and monkeys.