Saturday, November 25, 2017

Short Story - Strategy Lessons

Two Immortals sat together, one Dragon and one Balan, sharing their knowledge. Tonight, they discussed their enemies.

Jaydre frowned, staring at the table. "War is not my thing. You'll have to explain this slowly." The Baan fingered a glittering diamond, one of many jewels scattered across the surface.

Rabe smirked, the Dragon taking a sip from her cup of rum. "Funny, I was thinking the same thing about teaching and reaching hearts and minds." She set her cup aside before shifting closer to the table. "Where should I start?"

"This," Jaydre said, gesturing at the table. "You said something about how they're trapping and killing us."

She sighed heavily; his empathy let him know she felt sorrow for so many of the Immortals lost to the upstart mortal race. He understood her warrior nature, her need to suppress those who had not earned their position, even if he didn't share her opinion. He came from a place of Balance; the Humans could be taught, could learn to be great and spiritual and part of the greater Universe.

But the vicious genocide needed to be stopped first.

"They've been playing a long game," she said with disdain, taking another drink. "They understand how this current stage of the Cycle works, that Immortals have been caught in the web of physicality. We're vulnerable to all the whims of the flesh, and can lose our connection to the spiritual. We can die and be killed, and it seems to take so little to destroy us." He nodded, already understanding this.

Rabe gestured at the gemstones, bright and glittering between the pair. Some were small and barely seen, others were large and sparking with inner fire. "Think of these as Immortal souls. Even trapped in a single shape, they shine and attract. You can see them from anywhere, and they're easy to find. They can take strength from each other, and that lessens the worry of the wait. They all know they're jewels, and that they're better than sand."

Jaydre arched a brow, meeting her gaze. "But these Humans are Immortals now too. Aren't they also diamonds?"

Her lips lifted in a snarl, fangs bared as a reminder of her Chaotic Dragon nature. "They were not born as that. They stole their brilliance, and think that makes them as good." He leaned back from her anger, and she drew a shuddering breath before taking another drink. "Sorry. We'll leave that debate for another night."

Jaydre sipped at his tea, mulling the moment around. Rabe viewed the Universe differently, and he sometimes forgot the violence inherent with Dragons. His fellow Balans were neutral to so much of the Universe, were sometimes called The Grey Lords because of their balanced natures. While he mourned the loss of fellow Immortals, he could not feel anger at the Humans for learning to Ascend.

Ignoring her outburst, he gestured at the table as a return to the conversation. "How is it that these jewels are lost and obscured? They are quite bright to behold."

Rabe reached for a large sack beneath the table. "By swamping us gems with sand." She threw a handful of heavy dust over the table, letting it settle where it would. A few very small stones were darkened, and the mahogany table lost its lustre beneath muted beige in a few places, but the great jewels twinkled with seemingly no change.

He frowned, tipping his head as he met her gaze. "That doesn't seem very effective."

"At first, maybe. It's such a fine coating, barely there, barely worth the effort of cleaning up. What can a little dust do?" Rabe's voice was mocking; he knew empathically she blamed all those who had overlooked the threat, including herself. She tossed two more handfuls across the table as she continued speaking. "It will all go away eventually. It's not like sand can ever be dangerous." Another handful.

Jaydre stared at the dusty table, examining the scene with Balan eyes and knowledge. "The sand are mortals. Quickly spreading, quickly multiplying." Rabe added more sand, and he watched as drifts formed, covering the smallest of the gemstones, separating each gem from the other. "Cutting off the light."

She nodded, helping herself to another drink. "So many were lost before the danger was understood. And the more of us that are lost, the less chance there is to fight the upstarts. Our strength flags when we're cut off from each other. We'll all be replaced by those who stole their place."

He shook his head. "But I can still see the gems. They're not cut off."

"Look closer. Get down on the same level." The Dragon added more sand.

The Balan leaned down and looked across the table, eyes at the edge. Small drifts were now large mountains, flowing and growing, looming over the gems trapped upon the table. The little stones barely poked above the grains, and the large stones seemed much dimmer when seen from this angle. Landmarks were few and far between, and he couldn't recognize any of the shapes he'd seen from above. He sighed, stunned by realization.

"Exactly. How are we supposed to find each other when everything looks the same?" Her voice was saddened, though resolute.

"It's a wonderful trap," she continued. "And once there are enough little grains, they can be used to grind down the gems. They can be used to control the flow of movements." Rabe pushed the sand around, carrying gemstones with it. "And if you are watching for them, you can see the bright sparks standing out, can work to bury them." She shoved a wall of sand over a larger stone; it seemed to no longer exist.

"You admire them?" Jaydre was surprised by the glimmer of knowledge compared to her hatred of the Humans.

Rabe smirked, one eyebrow rising sharply. "I'm a student of war. This is an admirable strategy, no matter who came up with it."

"How do you propose to fight back? Violence won't do much against this tide."

She reached for one of the dark sapphires and nudged it. The sand shifted around the sapphire, forming ripples as she adjusted it. "By changing those around us. By reaching hearts and minds, and educating the lesser beings. Shine amidst the beige without drawing attention, without bucking the system. Make ourselves known but without resistance." She locked gazes with him, smiling softly.

An earlier comment came back to him. "You think I can do that?" Jaydre was stunned but honored, rendered speechless.

"Much better than I can." Rabe reached out a hand, offering to clasp palms for their bargain. "With a little help in the strategy department, of course." He clasped her hand, hope welling.

Maybe there was a chance for them to all break free.