Only in Berkeley could you see

A triangulated chorus of

Voices calling you to be

The change or

Give change.


The man

Who said, “Thanksgiving

Is genocide, racists use jetplanes,”

By the produce stand standing against

Food waste. By the side the floor is carpeted

by free books about “our Lord and savior,” marketed.



Once one relinquish their hold onto their senses, they deem themselves puppets, rats after a piper. They laid down their lives for their masters, for reasons forgotten and dubbed duty.He was once like that, so fixated by visions the golden stretches of time promised before him that he knew exactly what vision they would fall for. 

He cut down another of Claude’s goon entrapped in his spells, a shadow of his blinded past. The illusion of despair had a good number of them: they break and bend, the slightly stronger weaklings lose themselves under a wave of his hand. He hated the scars he paints upon the spirit, for the flesh is much more adept at healing than the soul.

A blur flitted across the corner of his eyes, the king of rats, “Claude, you traitorous, cowering lecher!”

Here the smart ones among the soldiers paused, they are not disagreeing with their supposed enemy; the named bastard did not pause, but hastened his pace as he dashed for escape and supported Horatio’s claim.

He took that chance and gave chase. There was the fact that Claude knows the region better, but that was counterbalanced by the fact that the priest was not prone to exercise or the sword. Still, the man’s capabilities in the dark arts was not one to be slighted.

Claude almost thought himself free, assumptious that the cries of his men meant at least the preoccupation of the stubborn Etzian-prince-general-advisor. So he allowed himself rest when those sounds of death became muted by distance, catching his breath and scouting the bushes and attempted to hear over the loud screams of nature. 

Then a swish of air, a silent shadow and a low growl, “You vermin,” The rat addressed flinched at the cold of a blade that found its rest against his neck, scoffed. “Release that young Nokshan now.”

“You haven’t lost your touch, my good Horatio,” 

“Save your words to save your life. Release that girl, Claude.”

“It’s too late for her salvation,” The priest shifted against the blade upon his neck. “She’s lost her purpose.”

“As though you stayed true to your own.”

“Oh, don’t be so harsh now,” Claude chuckled, winced as the blade cut just enough into his throat. “Perhaps this was my purpose all along, and it was you who merely misjudged my character.”

“Misjudged or not, I am sure I did not misjudge the fact that you are human and I could very much behead you. Must I repeat myself?”

“If you intend to kill me regardless, what’s the incentive?”

Horatio scoffed, “A significantly quicker death, perhaps.”

“Ah, aren’t you generous. I can only wish the same upon you.”

He sensed impending doom and evaded, the mountains where he stood sustained a gaping scar. Even the film of dust could not mask the bright blue nor the glint of a bloodied blade. 

“Ah, so you plan on hiding behind your puppet,” Well, he should have killed the Priest right there: but that act may very well kill the Nokshan by contract and…why did he care for Eridani’s fate again? 

Still, his first question was only answered by another strike, and he saw it, evaded it, measured the fledgling. Funny, that her puppets should be more skillful than she: she relied upon the pure, superhuman strengths the Creator gifted her. Besides, The Nokshan sword was no longer foreign to him, he spectated too many brutal trainings Lyra begged her contractee to give. The experienced general stepped through a crack in her offenses, twisted the brute weight and wrenched it free from its unworthy wielder. The sword was grounded by Horatio’s feet, and he saw the hilt, recognized the simple handle, flinched, “Did you steal something from your brother?”

The young Nokshan was furious, but the human’s reminder lighted her features, “How can he claim possession over anything if he is dead?”

If Alde is dead, then what of the contract? What of Lyra? Horatio didn’t know he could hate Claude more, “What have you done? Was overthrowing any semblance of order in our own world not enough that you must also ruin the Nokshans?”

“Are they not our keepers of peace?” Claude mused. “Clearly, they are just failing miserably.”

From the corner of his eyes he spotted the graceful landing of those animated corpses, he winced a little at the idea and the gaping flaw of Claude’s logic, “Does the existence of guards justify an assassination?”

Claude had little mind or verse to respond, a puppet swept him off to safety. Horatio thought about a route of escape, looked for a crack in the poised forms that now enclosed him, “Why did you kill him, Eridani?”

“Your words cannot influence me.”

“I credit myself more well-versed than your master-rat, so I wouldn’t be so dismissive about the effects of my words.”

At this Eridani armed herself again, took a wild swing, he parried, side stepped; the other Nokshans leapt forward, a rapid enclosure of sharp blades. Then he saw it, a sealed ceramic container on the gravitational path to crash into a puppet’s head. It brought its blade into an upward arc and shattered it, he took the crack in the defenses and broke through, before the broken glass landed he landed a blow to the puppet’s sword arm, leapt back. A cover of dense smoke erupted from where the container was. A few more shatters sounded amongst the screen of smoke, and he was on the edge of it, the choking effects only so slight though the Nokshans and their superhuman senses suffered. He looked up to the facade of a rider backed by the sun on the hills above. The stallion reared, gave in to its rider’s insane demand gallop full speed down the hill. A madwoman, Horatio grinned, yet the most rational. 

She swept by, he lept on, and together they galloped away in the screen of smoke. 

“My little prince always needs rescuing,” She teased, he scoffed.

Paper Bag


of them 

sat down 

next to me,


They are forgetful of where my

eyes are, I tried to

remind them but they forgot my 

eyes so couldn’t see my


At least stop dropping your pen. Themore you reach across the floor and brushed my

legs, the further you

get from my regards. I contemplated

kicking. Contemplated.

Today is different. I am still here

early, yes, and one of them

picked the seat next to mine out of the

rows of empty seats and forgot I

can see, AGAIN. I took out a paper bag

I stole from the cafe.

No, though I am disgusted I love my gut

enough to not throw up and scald my tongue with acid.

I tore the mouth of the bag, you stopped looking below my eyes, noticed that I noticed, left.

The only puke this bag will

hold is my word vomit.

Again and again and again and again.

Metal Vultures

Am I a snowflake

for fearing those wings?

The batting, heavy, to make

mute of us little earthlings.


Metal vultures paced,

I clutched my mace.


The armed man marched,

shielded and weighed by

sticks and alarm, parched

senses under the sunny



Am I snowflake

for being enraged?

For loving love and not hate,

for wanting a voice, a choice, some reasoning.


Metal vultures paced,

My heart races.


She told herself that she was just flying. But no, no, death by disembodiment tangled in branches rushed at her, and at some point she stopped trying to convince herself until she heard him.

“Lyra!” The voice, the touch, the arm that wrenched her away from the fatal trajectory of gravity and drew her against him.

She opened her eyes again, though her world flashed white from agony and she clung onto him and dear life.

Her eloquence and self-awareness for hypocrisy, though, she did not hang onto as she commented, “You look horrible.”

And it was true, he was too pale and the angles of his cheeks protruded and she could feel the thick bandages encasing his torso, but he smiled and everything felt as though it would be fine, “I missed you, too.” He muttered as he frowned at her wounds, running a hand over them and mended despite her claims that she would be fine.

A powerful beat against the winds and they soared, “I am sorry,” she muttered.

“No, none of that now,” Perhaps his senses were still numbed by painkillers and medicines, perhaps he just couldn’t hear them over the beats of inexplicable irrationality, a “you saved me on multiple occasions as well,” would have sufficed but no, his free hand drew her to him by the cheek, and he was about to tell her, for he was sure, now, no contract could have muddled his feelings and she deserved to know, he wanted her to know, “Lyra, I…”

An arrow accompanied by a rain of its brethrens shattered any time for sentiments: he drew his wings together, spun aside. In hindsight, this was all very bad timing, he cursed his medicine-muddled brain.

Then from afar sounded a loud crash, a beast’s cry elicited a cacophony of pained wails: Jiube made a toy out of the archers with a swipe of bloodied claws.

For a second, she was trying to close her eyes again, pretend that the dark fabrics of his cloak was the night sky as she snuggled against him, hoping to forget. What was he going to say? She wanted to ask, but his grip tighten, “There are more of those puppets.”

They were five approaching shadows preluding their master whose plumes matched the too-blue sky.

“Leave me somewhere,” she invited no arguments. “You can’t even defend yourself holding me.”

“But…” in a fruitless search for a better reasoning he resigned, shifted as another arrow sailed by.

He dove for the ground, pulled up gently for her to find earth as he glided back into the skies, meeting their pursuers with a single spin and a deafening clang as he ended the smooth arch in a puppet’s shoulder. She was amazed by his agility before, but she was mesmerized by the way he brushed the strikes and the burdens of gravity aside, slipped out of a sword’s reach with a bat of his wings. She paused in her track, found herself gaping, but thought better and continued to run; clangs thundered above, a puppet cried out and plummeted following its head. She grimaced and attempted to maneuver her way out of the twisted woods. A clang, a crash, a flitting shadow. A hint of a paranoia made her look.

…But he was weaker than Eridani remembered, he didn’t already dispatch of her goons and she wanted to pretend that it was because she became stronger, but no, no he readjusted his grip upon his sword too often, bit his lips too much, his breaths broken like his frame.

He looked terrible. Her king was not supposed to look like a shadow of himself, and above all, her brother was not supposed to be capable of a look as vengeful as that glare he deigned to spare her.

“What have you done?” His eyes asked, she asked herself.

What have I done, he looked at me with the same disdain as the other Nokshans. As though to agree, yes, she was cursed after all.

“Why did you choose that human?” He hardly registered her question, darted back for a breath from her incessant pawns.

“Eridani, I cannot believe you,” His gentle voice was more harsh and hoarse than she remembered. “I had to.”

“She forced you through the contract?”

“No, none of that. She’s…she’s my fated one.”

“A mere human?” Of course, the Creator obstructing His subjects from becoming all-powerful. “But a human, a weakling like her? A filthy, simple –”

“I will not tolerate another word against her,” He was the king for a reason, Eridani did not even see the blur of shadow as a blade found its way against her neck, his voice was so commanding from behind her, so menacing. “Not even from you.”

“Are you so deeply bewitched by her?”

The drums of irrationality finally stopped because he knew its name, knew its concurrent race with his heartbeat, and his only duty pronouncing it, “Yes.”

“What? How could you so shamelessly say so –”

“ — She is the most determined, strong, and all in all the most admirable individual I have ever beheld,“ Why was his voice shaking? He knew he never said a thing he was more certain of. “I love her.”

“You…” This was no brother of hers. A puppet. A shell. No king of hers should be this…vulnerable. Animalistic anger overtook her senses, and she grabbed his blade, pulled, the pain didn’t register but her brother’s senses did as he instinctively sought to protect, released the hilt in fear of his resistance cutting his little sister.

Weakness, she cut those bonds so was free from those weaknesses. She saw his eyes then, widened with a splinter of horror, realizing her resolve as she turned his own blade on him, her bloodied hand clamped around the weight of her conscience, a sharper cut any blade can deliver, the weight of his and her decision. But, her hands carried through in a single stroke and bathed in guilty red.


She wrenched her blade free, trying to ignore the fountains of red that pooled like wine in a Creator’s parable. Her heart thundered as the circle about her grew tighter, the skin of her palm was ready to break at each painful clash against sweat, leather, metal, hastily uttered spells.

She looked up, the bluejay was watching her every move from a higher slope. A misaimed spear distracted her, and she guided the thrust across the radius of the circle into an unsuspecting swordsman. She glanced up again, but the bright blue was gone. A wild guess prompted her to swing, spin, the sting of her raw palm proved her right.

“Did he teach you?” Eridani hissed, shoved and sent her stumbling backward and the soldiers scattering as they knew better than to interfere. “Why would he teach such a pathetic thing?”

“You are not your brother’s keeper. Aldebaran can do as he pleases,” She was uncertain if it was wise to provoke that Nokshan as blue feathers bristled, a hateful glare chilled her spine.

“You don’t deserve to utter our King’s name,” The Nokshan growled, launched herself into a fiery of slashes and haphazard jabs and, while Lyra saw through those and parried or avoided or suffered only minor scratches, the last kick landed square upon her stomach, crushed her against jagged barks of an ancient trunk.

She gasped, fell to her knees and looked up just in time to see Eridani’s blade burying into the tree where her neck had been. Her heartbeat roared oppressively accompanied by numbing agony; but still, her body moved on their own accords as her elbow struck the wrists, stole the half-lodged sword then blunted and stunned with the back of the hilt.

“Arrogant, misguided Nokshans do not deserve to serve the Creator if she cannot even grasp the concept of respect,” Lyra held the tip of a blade against the young Nokshan’s throat, pinning her to the earth.

“What are you going to do?” Narrowed eyes pierced her and Lyra almost forgot she was the one holding the sword. “Kill me? What would my brother think?”

“Don’t pretend that you care for him. You are the one who animated your own father’s corpse against him.”

“Do you not do the same? Parading your dead father’s face to gain power for yourself, threatening your kinsmen into submission?” She spat, “Who is worse, then, one who walk in the muck, or one who walks in the much and preaches as though she is untainted?”

Wrong, this Nokshan saw not the constant greyish tumult behind her forced smiles, the noises, the resolve that gathered her into a form. Wrong, this assumption saw not the narratives, the pain and scar she earn every time she donned the mask of her father, the selfless justifications.


The air behind her split, she attempted to dodge, but she sidestepped too late and the blade caught her waist.

She snapped around, brought together her sword and the confiscate blade to block another heavy blow. There were two, those lifeless Nokshan puppets, who remembered their sword and spells but not their life and tales. Eridani had already regained her ground and armed herself with a passing soldier’s blade. Lyra glanced from one puppet to another, marked the remaining spirits trapped within, the gentlest breeze made her side sting and her abused back ache.

A puppet stepped forward, she dropped a sword and raised a hand between them. In a blink, she could feel the air pressure of the strike reaching her, but she connected with the disgruntled spirit first. The blade landed upon the shoulder of her outstretched hand, blood, she just saw the single strand of spirit within her hand.

Come, she asked and it left its shell behind. The sword cutting into her stopped its malicious track, fell limp as the sack of tortured flash fell forward. She stepped back, watched the lifeless form join dust.

“You…how…” Eridani’s shock was hardly noticed by Lyra as the latter took the chance to run, broke through the dented circle choking her with an explosive spell.

“Give chase, your idiots,” A shout from behind, she bit her lips and sprinted against jolting pain.

More than thrice she nearly twisted her ankle dashing full speed down the overgrown hill, the last occasion being that a blockade of soldiers had obscured the narrow mountain path where she came. She darted into the cover of forests, ducking a hurled spear while swallowing in attempt to quench the fire creeping up her throat from her lungs. Dense green shadows and panic made her a moth, drawn to lost directions and the first bright spot of light offered over the bough of a slanting, rotting tree. She ran towards it, skidded to a stop, swallowing the bitterness of impending doom.

Of course, she had to be trapped to a cliff, panting like an old horse while her world shifted in twisted visions of blood loss and agony. It was an abrupt outcropping of rock, the mocking stage for her pathetic demise either by falling off the crushing heights or rushing into the soldiers emerging from the shadows like hell’s minions.

“Give up, princess,” A captain stepped forward with a sword and declaration drawn. “Surrender now and the Grand Priest may even absolve you of your follies.”

“No,” She clutched stubbornly to her blade, to her crying wounds. “I don’t need a pest to absolve my sins.”

The general guffaw over her blasphemy was hushed by the Captain’s order to ready their attack as she grimaced, she neared the edge of the fall.


She jolted, Alde?



She barely summoned a shield to block the first shower of projectiles, and the last arrow undid her spell, grazed her chin as she tilted her head, her world spun. Where are you? I…

I will catch you, jump.


“Surrender, princess.”


She gasped, killed logic and turned and leapt, squeezed her eyes shut to fall.