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Fireflies danced amid the tall grass. Wind whispered through as well, shifting the blades back and forth. The glowing insects flew in and out of the shifting maze. One tiny spark tumbled away and landed on the ground, the cinder fading to nothing as the wind stopped. Another gust from the wind tossed the blades back and forth in a dizzying wave, slashing through the insects and cutting them to piece. More luminous bodies crashed to the earth, quick as shooting stars, as dull black bodies and glittering wings fell beside them. The remaining fireflies rose above the grass and blew away in the wind, their lights scattering far and wide.

A larger, brighter light exited the woods around and stopped at the edge of the tall grass field. This spark was true fire, burning on the end of a wick, surrounded by a glass tube, enclosed in the frame of a lamp. A human hand held the lamp. The man, wearing only a plain sleeveless robe around his shoulders and tied at his waist, glanced left and right. The forest was dark around him, and the tall grass field empty. He plunged forward, his bare feet and legs wading through the grass.

When he was a quarter of the way through the field, more fire lights appeared behind him. Voices called out, shouting among each other. The man in the field held his lamp close to his chest, curling his body around the telltale flare. He trudged on, nearing the halfway point, his feet moving slower with each step.

Figures emerged from the woods carrying lanterns and torches. Some lifted their lights high, cried out, and surged together into the tall grass. The man in the center of the field dropped his lamp, slumped down on his knees, and fell face-forward. The tall grass concealed his body from view, though his sputtering lamp revealed the location.

The tallest figure at the edge of the field shouted, “Enter not the sword grass!” She waved her empty hands back and forth. “All who care for life, get out while you can!” The woman wore an embroidered robe with long sleeves that covered her arms, and a thick red sash encircled her waist. A semi-transparent veil, adorned by a black circle drawn with thick paint, hung over her face.

Those still at the edge of the grass stopped with grunts and soft curses. A few just a step or two in turned and leaped back out. Anyone farther into the field turned to each other with wide eyes and mouths opening to cry out.

Wind rushed through the meadow, and the people in the grass screamed. They fell into the grass, leaving the stumps of their legs behind. The screaming became shrill and horrendous. Their lanterns and torches dropped among them. The fires blew out with another vicious gust of wind, and the screams stopped. The field again became a tranquil lake of green. A gentler breeze blew through, tossing the red-spattered blades back and forth.

The people at the edges of the field converged around the tall figure. Some moved to help those with legs covered in thin cuts limp closer and sit in the circle of light. The tall woman folded her arms within the sleeves of her robe and stared out at the field. She nodded and spoke in an even tone.

“Call for a Green Speaker.”

The man had no face. He had a tall oval head, topped by a floppy straw hat, but from hat to throat there was only smooth, flat skin. His frame was lanky, and he wore a green snake-skin vest with overalls. In one hand he carried a tall walking stick and in the other a drawstring sack slung over his shoulder. His feet were bare and kept tapping this way and that.

People stared at him, as they walked by in the street outside the palatial building. The man with no face turned and waved his walking stick at them. The passersby gaped and walked away faster, whispering among themselves. The man shrugged and turned back to the building, his feet tapping.

Before him stood a massive wooden door, tall enough for something five or more times bigger than the faceless man to walk through. The trim was decorated with hundreds of wood carvings each no bigger than a human hand, depicting people in battle, in meditation, studying, working, or conversing with others. A pair of rectangular, barred windows were open at face-level on the door, and the rest was dense, unadorned wood.

The walls of the building consisted of uniform, square blocks of stone, each about half as tall as the faceless man. Towers sat atop the four corners of the building, and the roof was of red clay tiles. The other buildings nearby were smaller and all wood, sagging under the weight of thick, garish paint and ornate carvings of birds and beasts.

Taking the sack from his shoulder, the faceless man hooked one corner to the top of his walking stick and pulled the bag open. He reached inside, dug around for a moment, and pulled out a leather water-skin. The sack and walking stick he leaned against the door frame, along with his straw hat. Opening the water-skin’s plug, he placed his thumb against the opening and splashed a small quantity of liquid on his bald head. He plugged the water-skin and scrubbed his hands across his dripping scalp and head.

When the massive door creaked open, pulled by several grunting laborers, the faceless man was waiting. He held his hat in one hand, his head gleaming in the sun. A round-faced woman in a red vest stepped into the doorway and bowed. The faceless man tilted his head to her in return and retrieved his walking stick and sack. The woman turned around and walked inside, the faceless man put on his hat and followed her, and the laborers grunted and pushed the door closed again.

“I apologize in place of the Lady for any confusion, Green Speaker.” The woman glanced back as she led the faceless man up spacious halls and through arched doorways. “We had been expecting someone in ornate dress, like the Lady. But you arrived at the Gods Door, and your identity is undeniable. The Lady is waiting for you in her study.”

The faceless man nodded, his blank visage turning this way and that. They walked past many rooms filled with books, all tidy in their shelves. There were a few people within the libraries: Old men with gray beards draped over their shoulders, women with pearls braided in their hair, young people busy copying into blank books. Silence filled the air, broken only by coughs and chairs scraping the floor.

“This temple is empty.” The faceless man shrugged. “I’ve seen more people in a tomb.”

“Yes, the Lady permits only a few entrants, to keep our collection in good - ” The woman spun around and stared at the faceless man. “You spoke!”

The faceless man tilted his head to one side, his face still featureless. “So did you. Are the rules here so strict that I cannot?” His voice did not come from any visible mouth, but from the walking stick in his hand.

The woman blinked and shook her head. “No - I mean yes to a degree but - how are you doing that? Speaking without a mouth?”

“Oh, that’s very simple. I throw my voice.” The faceless man bent down on one knee and rubbed a spot on the floor. “How are you today, old stone?”

His voice came from the floor, a little deeper in tone. “Not too good, everyone keeps stepping on me.”

The faceless man patted the stone. “Poor old stone. But you look well washed. They care about cleanliness here.” He stood and nodded to the woman. “See? Simple enough.”

She raised an eyebrow, frowned, then turned away. “Follow me, please. The Lady is waiting.”

Floor to ceiling shelves held row upon row of books, each packed tight among the others. In one corner of the room stood a tall metal book stand, half-hidden by a thin red drape, though the shape of a book fanned open could be discerned below. Other than books the room held a few chairs, a cushioned divan against the wall, and a wide oak desk.

In front of the desk stood a tall woman. She wore an embroidered robe with long sleeves that covered her arms, and a thick red sash encircled her waist. A semi-transparent veil, adorned by a black circle drawn with thick paint, hung over her face.

The round-faced woman stopped at the door, bowed first to the tall woman and next to the faceless man, and turned to leave. The two stared at each other in silence, until the tall woman inclined her head. She spoke in an even tone.

“Greetings, Green Speaker. I am honored and glad you could arrive so quickly, as this matter is of some urgency.”

He shrugged. “I was near enough to answer the call. You must be the Lady?”

The woman nodded. “I am more properly a Red Priestess-Adherent of All-Knowing Mar, not gifted in her magic but a follower of her teachings. The simple people of this town call me the Lady. You may do so as well if you wish.” She gestured with her arm to the door. “Unless you need time to prepare, shall we go now? I have soldiers protecting the area, but I do not like leaving them alone with it.”

He nodded. The two left the study, and the Lady locked the door behind her with a gold key. The Green Speaker’s head tilted at the key, but he said nothing.

Men and women in plain robes stood around the edges of the tall grass field, one person every five steps. They held bows and crossbows, and a few long farming implements including pitchforks and shovels. These guards stood facing outward, though a few would check over their shoulder into the field when an occasional wind rustled through the grass.

“This is my problem,” proclaimed the Lady, walking up and spreading her arms out toward the tall grass. “I assume you can identify this vegetation?”

The Green Speaker nodded, blank face turning this way and that. “But I hope you’re not thinking I’ll destroy something green for your convenience. All of nature belongs where it is.”

The Lady pulled her arms tight to her sides. Her voice was curt, “Of course I am not. My problem is that two nights ago a common thief stole the key to a very important lock and fled this way. We caught up to him entering the sword grass. He fell right there.” She pointed at the center of the field, her arm rigid in the wide sleeve. “I believe the key was still in his possession, but no one can retrieve it. Please, honored Green Speaker, perform this task.”

“Is that all? I thought you might have something difficult. Your local Green Priest could have done this.” The faceless man drove his walking stick into the ground and ventured close to the sword grass, bent down before it, and ran his fingers down a few individual blades. “Definitely sword grass.” He yanked his finger back and pressed the bleeding digit to his side. “Healthy, too.”

He stood and waded into the grass, one hand rummaging in his drawstring sack. When the wind blew through the grass, he whistled and the winds went around. The grass near him never stirred. He pulled his clenched hand from the sack and pressed a small, green, glowing berry to his throat. The bright orb sank into his skin and tumbled down to disappear into his chest. The green glow spread to fill his body, washing outward and disappearing, and the blood on his finger vanished, along with the scratches appearing on his legs from the grass blades.

Around the edges of the field, one by one, the guards turned and stared at the faceless man. Those who could see his face gaped or swore under their breaths. Some turned to the Lady, but she watched the Green Speaker with her arms folded and shoulders back.

The faceless man wandered deeper into the field, and ate a green berry every few steps. His feet squished large chunks of red meat and rolled over white bones. When he reached the center, he turned his head to glance back at the Lady. She nodded. The faceless man bent down to feel amid the grass.

The Lady whispered a few words to the nearest guard. They stared at her, then toward the faceless man. The message circled around the field from mouth to ear, and the guards clenched their bows and crossbows. A few near the end of the line sat down to massage their toes, or held a finger to their noses. The Lady sighed and whispered to the guard on her other side. Soon everyone around the field had an arrow or bolt ready.

The Green Speaker stood and raised his hand high, displaying a large bronze key. His voice came from the walking stick beside the Lady, “Is this your missing key?”

She nodded. “Yes, indeed it is.” Her arm reached toward the Green Speaker. “Throw it to me, please. Then you will have completed your task.”

He brought his hand down and held the key before his featureless head. “This key goes to a Commoners Door. Why would you have it? Why would someone wish to steal it?”

“We are in the midst of an emergency!” The Lady shook her waiting arm at him. “Simpletons keep trying to put their grimy hands on my books. If that door isn’t kept locked, the knowledge within my books will be soiled and destroyed. That is simply intolerable.” She shouted, “Give me the key or I will be forced to order my soldiers to attack!”

The Green Speaker stared at her, then around at the guards, and gave a slow nod. “So that’s why you needed a wanderer. You would need to kill anyone who could report you for withholding a key.” He pulled back his hand, and threw the bronze key toward the Lady. “The funny thing is you could have easily killed a Priest. But you requested a Speaker. That was your mistake.”

The large key flew over her head. “Fire!” The Lady shouted, and turned to chase down the key.

All around the field, the guards raised their weapons and loosed their readied arrows and bolts. The Green Speaker twisted his body and whistled. Winds swirled around him, knocking several of the arrows off course. The majority landed around him, and a few thudded into his body. His whistle became a shrill cry, and the winds flew him straight up into the air.

High above them his body squirmed and wriggled. He soared over the field, arrows flashing behind. His clothes sank below his skin, his body lengthened and formed a scaly hide, and he became a giant, glittering snake floating atop a thin cloud. Dark black slits appeared for eyes, and a gaping jaw unhooked and opened wide.

The Lady picked up the bronze key and turned around to the warning cries of her guards. Gliding down atop the winds, the snake’s mouth lunged forward and swallowed her whole. The rest of the snake’s body crashed into the ground behind, and the snake rolled and twisted on the spot, smashing the distended bulge in its body against the ground over and over until the skin was flat.

Then the snake wriggled, squirmed, and stood up as the humanoid Green Speaker again. One of his legs was gone, leaving an open flap in his overalls. He slung his drawstring sack over a shoulder and hopped to pick up his walking stick. “Anyone have a problem with that?” The walking stick curled down to form a crutch, and the Green Speaker faced the guards. “I’m full now, but I’ll go down the chain of command if need be.”

They dropped their weapons and shook their heads. Some fell to their knees in prostration. The Green Speaker nodded and limped away.
Short - Green Speaker
The world of High War is known as Five Gods because there was once five all-powerful gods. This piece takes place during that time. (During High War there's more like two, plus a few minor gods.) One of the original five was Red Mar, goddess of knowledge and record-keeper of the past. She taught that all knowledge is sacred and must be protected. Whether her priests should share or hide the knowledge they gathered was a hotly debated question. After all, should a goddess of the past protect knowledge for the betterment of future people? Or for the sake of the knowledge itself?
A man bought a house. It was a nice house, with two stories and a basement. The front door had good locks, and the back had better locks. The windows had very thick curtains, the fence was two meters high, and the driveway was protected by tire wreckers. Every night the man went home and slept very sound within his house.

The man was not a good man. One day he did a very bad thing. He did not come home to his house that night, or ever again.

The government showed up at the house. They checked the doors, but found them locked tight. They checked the windows, but found them protected by iron bars. They tried drilling through the walls, but found them protected by steel plates. The house was a very safe house.

The only way inside the house now was a small keypad entry. If a wrong code was entered too many times, the house would explode, destroying all the contents. As a standard safety precaution for explosives, the government called their bomb disposal unit and told them to blow up the house. This they did with great care.

But the government still wanted inside the house. They hoped to find many clues below the wreckage. So they called the house contractor. This contractor had always let them inside houses before, as deemed necessary by the law. The government thought this case would be no different and presented the contractor with their court order for the house to be searched.

The house contractor said there was no way inside the house now, since it was blown up. Some geniuses called to say they could get inside the house at any time. But the contractor maintained it was impossible to get inside the house. The government said it was too possible, and told the contractor to build a time-reversal ray to return the house to its previous state, at which point the government would get inside their usual way.

The house contractor said the court order was cool and all, but the house was destroyed and it wasn't their job to build a time-reversal ray. They claimed they didn't want to spend time and effort building the time-reversal ray. They also suggested that, while they could indeed build a time-reversal ray, doing so would make for many other dangerous possibilities in the world. They were worried what the government would do with the time-reversal ray, or what other governments would do with it.

The government said the house contractor had to build the time-reversal ray, because of the court order. They said they only planned to use the time-reversal ray for this one case and never again. The contractor still refused, so the government took them to court.

The house contractor is arguing their case, and public opinion is swinging in their direction. That branch of government charged with protecting our safety has given many arguments why the contractor should build the time-reversal ray, but their position is losing favor with other branches of government. And those geniuses still say they can get inside, no problem at all, any time.
Sketch - A Completely Meaningless Story
Sometimes you just want to write a completely meaningless story. After all, I did just finish a big meaningful novel and all. And next week, I'll be at SakuraCon! Anyone else going to be there? Oh, and the plan is to upload my High War style sheet that week!
Black banners hang from a vaulted ceiling. The walls and floors are gray stones in a plain crosshatch pattern. Five colors of stained-glass windows dot the walls high and low, most shattered to a few panes and open to the sky. Thousands of jewel-bright shards cover the floor.

A massive throne of black obsidian dominates the center of the room. In the throne crouches a large figure in black armor, leaning forward as if about to leap from the seat. Gold tracing adorns the armor’s closed helm, broad chest plate, heavy gauntlets and metal boots. The armor conceals the figure’s face and features, but not their voice, which rumbles like gravel tumbling down a mountain.

“You failed.” The large man reaches up to tap a tiny dagger hanging from his neck by brown, frayed twine. The dagger swings back and forth, its blade gleaming in the scant light. The large man continues, “And yet we succeeded with your effort. Any thoughts, Green Chief?”

Kneeling before the large man with his face a helm from the floor, Rusty nods. “All be going well with the beast horde, until the ones - ”

The large man on the throne clears his throat. “I said you failed. You had the numbers, but you wasted your advantage attacking that wall. The warriors created by the ritual have cunning and athleticism, but you lost many pushing them to learn the bloodiest and most basic form of warfare. If not for the Red Chief and White Chief’s aid, the Army could have held you off indefinitely, or escaped through their Circle at any time.” He grunts and waves his hand from side to side. “But continue explaining why the arrival of a few more soldiers on the other side changed the outcome.”

“They be more than a few,” Rusty growls. “They be coming in waves. The first be led by a man who, with due respect, be a match for you. The second wave be the kingdom’s high-ranking troops you be warning us to avoid, and they be slowing the White Chief’s creations. The third wave be led by a beast shape warrior who be defeating a dragon.” He glances up from the floor at the man in black armor. “Among them be those four the White Chief speaks of, and they be defeating the invincible machines, which be causing the defeat of the beasts.”

The man on the throne grunts. “That is the way of war, Green Chief. You must prepare for the other side to surprise you.” He taps the hanging dagger again. “Though life has taught me all is well that ends well. You are still young at this. At least admit you were outmatched.”

Rusty looks down again and shakes his head. “I be an equal to any of them. In single combat, I be defeating one of the four. Only by request from the Blue Chief be that one still alive to turn back the final push.”

“I have talked with the Blue Chief. She had her reasons,” the large man pauses, then shrugs. “With which I do not agree. But we are not talking about her. You, Green Chief, should have realized something important from this. Where before you thought yourself big, now you know you are small. Do you see that?”

“I only be forced this once to see the perspective of the small. I still be deserving to wield power. I must gain more. The power I had be not enough.”

“I thought as much. Green Chief, you cling to power.” He taps a finger of his metal gauntlet against a knee. The gold and black face plate of his helm stares down at the man before him. “Would you gain power at the risk of your life? Would you trade your sanity for power? How far would you go to steal power from the gods?”

Rusty spits the words, “That be obvious. Yes.” His voice slows. “But the gods? I be a man. I be achieving the power a man can achieve. As much as the gods be permitting me.”

“Well said. But do you think the gods control your life? Suppose a man could become a god.” A breath of silence hangs in the air. The man in black armor tilts his head to one side. “What kind of god would you become?”

“A god who brings terror and destruction to the weak. A god who inspires and leads the strong.” The man in the green cloak harrumphs. “To be weak be a great sin, one I be purging from the world.”

“Is that so?” The large man taps the hanging dagger. “In nature there is strength in weakness, and weakness in strength. I am no expert on the subject, but you should know this much as well.”

Rusty shrugs. “The world be built on a structure of power. Those who be strong eat those who be weak. The weak be trying many tricks to avoid the jaws of the strong, but in the end the weak be weak and the strong be strong.”

“You fear you are one of the weak.”

The man in the green cloak jumps to his feet and clenches his fists. He stands as tall as the sitting man in black armor. They stare at each other, eye to eye. The man on the throne taps the hanging dagger, silent and calm. Rusty relaxes his hands.

“I be powerful.” He looks away and whines, “I be ashamed to use a trick of the weak. I never be doing so again.” He smiles. “I be strong to admit shame. The weak be afraid to do so.”

The armor helm nods. “A fair point, Green Chief. Without admitting our faults, we cannot reach our potential.” He grunts, a soft and wheezing sound. “Then while we are on the subject, tell me this. What is the potential of a man? What is your potential?”

Rusty scowls, and stares down at his hand. “I would be the ultimate predator.”

“You are a man already, Green Chief. We stand above all other species on this world. What else is your potential? Look higher.”

The man in green frowns. He looks around the room, glances to the ceiling, then stares at the ground. “I be not knowing, sir. What be higher?”

The large man in black armor leans forward and rises to his feet. He has the sturdy proportions of a Small Folk, but the height of a tall orc. The hanging dagger swings forward, then back to smack against his chest until he stops it with a hand.

“Have you ever been a father, Green Chief? Waited outside the birthing room, heard that first cry, rushed in to see your strong, healthy child?” He grunts, walks away, and approaches one of the windows, glass crunching under his armored boots. “Have you ever been the general of an army? Woken at the crack of dawn, drilled your troops, led them into battle and told them where to die?” Reaching forward, he leans against the window frame and stares out. “Have you ever been the king of an unruly city?”

Below the window is a steep roof, then a castle grounds. Garden plots cover most of the available space, filled with fruits and vegetables. Then the land slopes off, drops a short distance, and becomes the gentle hillside of a city. Here and there, houses are burning. Figures in cloaks of five colors stalk the city streets. The air is heavy and silent.

“Father, General, King. I have known each, and from each grown.” The gold and black face plate of the armored helm turns back to the man in green. “Not from what I gained, but from what I gave up. Blood, sweat, years of my life. That which I lost, made me the man I am. That which couldn’t be taken from me, was my truest power. Do you understand, Green Chief?”

Rusty walks up beside the large man to stare out over the city. “I be losing much of late, so soon after I be made Green Chief. It be incredibly frustrating. The only thing that no one can be taking from me,” he pauses to glance down at his hands, “be my claws.”

The large man in black armor grunts. “Things can be replaced. People come and go. Even your body will fail you.” His gauntlet fist clenches. When he removes his hand, the timber of the window frame is cracked. “What cannot be lost is skills and expertise. I learned the arts of war through endless trials and painful failures. These skills have uses in many situations. Someday I will make a difference in this world with them.”

He releases the window, turns, and opens his hand toward Rusty. “But enough of that. I have an offer for you, Green Chief. You have seen the White Chief’s godly form. You know what his ritual did to those orphans. You have heard what his Dancers did before vanishing. Now I would give that same power to you. I would like to make you our first MEK soldier. Will you accept?”

Rusty gapes. “What? The ritual? I be told it only works on children. That an adult be tried, and they be dying.”

“That was an early version of the ritual.” The large man shrugs. “Ask the mages for specifics, they will explain better than I why the ritual now works. The White Chief also assures me your mind will remain yours with this version. If all goes well, you must control this power with dignity and grace. To do less would bring danger to us all.”

The man in the green cloak stares at the offered hand. “What be the chance of it working? Be there remaining risks?”

“The truth is, we don’t know.” The hand remains in place, open and waiting, and the large man nods. “But we can only test this ritual on a man trusted as one of our own, because the power they gain will be enormous. And the latest version still requires much energy, meaning that someone of strong body and mind is needed, a soldier still in their prime. You fit every requirement, Green Chief.”

Rusty grins. “Then I be taking the chance.” He places his hand in the other and shows the other man all his teeth. “I be stronger even than you after this, Black Emperor.”

The large man gives a dry chuckle and shakes their clasped hands. “We shall see, Green Chief. We shall see. Go now, and make what preparations you must. When you are ready, visit the White Chief.”

They part. The man in the green cloak bows his head once and backs away a half-dozen helms, then swirl his cloak around and walks out of the room. The large man in black armor turns back to stare out the window.

A soft giggle comes. A Small Folk coalesces in the air, wearing a trailing white robe with gold trim. Floating above the large man, Kem smiles down at him, his glowing white eye open.

“My lion, are you sure? You risk losing that amusing lamb with this.” The white eye closes and the void black eye opens. The Small Folk smirks. “I can pick a suitable slave, test the ritual, and kill them afterward. You should be the first official transformation, and a glorious god of war you shall be.”

“Do you not understand, White Chief?” The large man in black armor does not turn, but speaks toward the window. “A well-trained army is like a good suit of armor. Each piece supports the others, creating a unit far stronger than any individual. But the Green Chief does not work well with others. He is expendable. Either the ritual provides us a dagger to throw into the eye of the enemy … or the ritual fails.”

“A win-win. I love it!” The Small Folk chortles. His void black eye closes and the white eye opens. “That poor lamb. His fate is sealed.”

The Black Emperor grunts. “He chose his fate, clinging to power. I am giving the man what he desires. If he cannot see his folly, so be it.” The large man sighs and stares out the window. “White Chief, we have entered the next stage of this fight. Do you think we are prepared?”

“This will be the simple part, my lion.” Kem spreads his arms. “A few staged Beast attacks around the world and they will prepare for war.” The white eye closes and the void black eye opens. “When the Demons arrive, the world will march under your black banner to defeat them, with the MEK soldiers at the fore.” The Small Folk grins. “The carnage will be greater than ever seen!”

“Perhaps. But there are no small battles in war. My intuition says the true fight begins now, first to control this land and then the world.” He turns and stares up at the Small Folk. “White Chief, I hope you will give your best in this fight. The fate of this world depends on it.”

Kem closes both eyes and bows his head. “As you say, Black Emperor.”
High War - Chapter 29
Epilogue complete! High War complete! … Is this an epilogue? Generally the epilogue wraps up the story, giving brief clues to the fates of the characters involved, showing their happy or unfortunate endings. All I did was tease the next book, actually the third book but who's counting. Is this a good ending? Aside from the city getting taken over and the heroes being sent away, is this satisfying? Rusty, who declares himself to be powerful, ends up a tool of someone else. The Black Emperor has plans to save the world, which sound similar to plans floated by a certain other group. That's a comeuppance and a hint of things to come. Satisfied?

This is a part of my High War project, a story set in a fantasy-ish world. I believe my preview image comes from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences; there will be occasional violence, language, and adult themes. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to discussing the chapter if you have a comment for it.


Next: taking a break for a while … but the link to Planar War will be here!
Anime Journal - Hell Girl by Cobrateen
Anime Journal - Hell Girl
A warning: Spoilers! Lots of Spoilers! Spoilers abound in this document.

I was watching Hell Girl (I recommend everyone watch Hell Girl) and started keeping a journal for the episodes, basically to write down my opinions about the ideas of each episode. They get longer and longer because I was finding more to say about this increasingly interesting series. This is an anime about how humans can be full of hate, and that idea strongly resonates with me, I even wrote a thing about it once: This series gets me, and I get this series. So, are you sure you haven't scarred anyone?

I used a regular formula for each episode's recap:
Target: the person who disappears
X: used as shorthand for Target
Victim: the person who pulls the string
V: used as shorthand for Victim
X's crime: this is why X gets sent to Hell, not my thoughts on how just it is or is not
Verdict: sometimes I agree with X going to Hell, sometimes I don't, this is where I talk about that
Plot: after a while the series introduces ongoing story arcs, this is where I talk about that
LOL: just whatever amused me

Mature Content

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Where before there was a road, now there is not. The mountain range still sits to one side, and a marsh to the other. The road going back is still present, as is the road leading to the O-shaped lake and the mountain city. In the space between all these are large columns, sharp stone spikes, and slabs of rock thrust up everywhere. The bodies of people and animals lie scattered across the cracked landscape, diced or burned black. A red muck coats the ground around the messier kills.

The steel gray giant stalks through the stone columns. Its body is dotted with empty chambers, and it carries a black spiked flail in one hand, a black curved dagger in the other, and has a loaded black hand crossbow attached to one wrist. The round tube eyes glint and twist, and the giant swings its flail past a stone column. The head of the flail curves around the column on its chain and slams against the back side, splashing red across the stone.

The blue giant carrying the Cleaver circles a forest of close stone spikes several times. It turns and walks away, dashes back, and makes a running leap into the air. The giant lands on the tip of a spike with one foot, then tilts forward to cartwheel across the next few spike tips. The Cleaver stabs down between two close spikes, and emerges dripping red.

The bark armor giant stands before the paladin in black. The giant hops up and stomps its feet against the ground. The paladin holds out their arms, and the two spikes that emerge from the ground on both sides of them melt away into mud. Forming their black spectral scythe, the paladin slogs forward through the wave of mud. The giant raises its arms, and the dirt under its feet lifts it some ten helms up in a thick column. The ground under the paladin drops away, forming a deep pit with the paladin trapped at the bottom. The giant swings its arms forward, and its dirt column tumbles forward, filling the pit.

The black robed giant floats in the air, towering above fifty or so Army soldiers and Beastmen. Also among them are Captain Artorius and Reth, staring up at the giant. IT fires beam after beam down at the crowd, its robe pulsing with each blast of light. Klax, Jorg, and the paladin in white stand at the head of the crowd, their arms up. Swarms of bright bubbles swirl in front of them, intercepting the blasts. The giant shows no sign of stopping, while the three below are panting and sweating.

Dashing toward the crowd’s flank, the blue giant comes flicking its Cleaver back and forth in front of it. Reth runs out to meet the giant, the demon’s gold sword growing to match the Cleaver’s size. The demon pulls back his sword. Before he can swing forward, the giant darts forward and its weapon flashes through the demon several times. The diced demon body and gold sword vanish in a burst of golden hair.

Reth reappears crouched on the giant’s blue back, whole and unharmed, and stabs his sword into the giant’s neck. White ichor sprays from the neck wound and drenches Reth. The two giants near the crowd pause. The blue giant drops its Cleaver and spins around, reaching and grasping for the demon on its back. The robed giant turns an arm cannon toward the blue giant, tracking the demon but not firing yet, while its other arm resumes firing on the crowd.

The bark armor giant approaches the crowd from opposite the blue giant, and the steel gray giant arrives opposite the black robed giant. Now the four giants have the crowd surrounded on all sides. The steel gray giant drops its flail behind and pulls a long black scimitar from its body, leaving another empty chamber as large as the weapon’s hilt. The gray giant swings its scimitar toward the crowd, the wind from the strike sweeping aside a row of shields and cutting through their raised spears.

A roar comes behind the steel gray giant, from a burly man wearing a shawl of furs. The man leaps high into the air, his eyes closed, his mouth a wicked sneer. Flame spreads from his hand to cover his body, and he pulls back a burning fist. The Monster punches the center of the steel gray giant’s back, and the giant’s body spasms. White ichor geysers from the gray giant’s chest opposite the punch, and rains down on the crowd.

The Monster digs in and clambers upward, hand over hand up the giant’s back and neck. It hops atop the giant’s head and - now at eye level with the other giants - throws its arms back to roar. The steel gray giant turns the black dagger in its off-hand and stabs upward at the Monster, which leaps away from the attack. The gray giant’s eyes follow the Monster. It aims and steadies the black hand crossbow on its wrist, and pulls the trigger with its other hand. A black bolt the size of a lance pierces through the Monster’s chest just under the flapping shawl of furs, leaving a hole bigger than its head where the heart should be. The Monster cries out and drops to the ground among the crowd.

Over on the blue giant, Reth is stopped on the giant’s shoulder, staring at the Monster. The blue giant grabs the frozen demon, winds up, and throws him at the bark armor giant. The black robed giant fires a few shots after the flying demon, and the bark armor giant swings its gauntlet fist at him. Reth spins in the air to avoid the beams and slides along the bark armor, then grabs the arm and scampers up toward the torso. The bark armor giant begins trying to grab the wily demon, while the blue giant picks up its Cleaver.

Captain Artorius walks toward the blue giant. Several soldiers try to follow her, but the captain holds up an arm and directs them back. She lifts her glowing claymore and takes a wide stance. The blue giant leans down in front of her and jabs a few times with its Cleaver. The captain’s glowing claymore meets each strike, steady despite the overwhelming force. The giant swings faster and faster, slashing and chopping and thrusting, moving only the one arm.

The glowing claymore swings faster too, pulling the captain’s hands into every parry and block. Captain Artorius winces when her arms are pulled from one side to the other. The two swords move faster than can be seen, and the blue giant is still only moving one arm. Using its height, the blue giant attacks from above, forcing the captain’s sword up and then behind her head.

The giant’s other arm reaches down below the flashing blades. The large blue hand flicks the captain in the stomach. Though in armor, Captain Artorius chokes and falls to her knees. The two swords continue clashing, and the giant flicks the captain in the chest. She falls to her side and then to her back, the glowing claymore still flying back and forth to block every strike from the blue giant’s Cleaver. The giant stops attacking, raises the Cleaver high into the air, and chops down.

The two swords meet with a ringing blow, and the Cleaver snaps in half along a few jagged lines going down the blade. Fingers away from Captain Artorius, the tip thuds into the ground. The handle and a small section of the blade remain in the giant’s hand. Crouched low, the giant stares at the broken weapon. At the same time the glow fades from the captain’s claymore, and the blade crumbles to dust. Her arms release the handle and flop to the ground. With the blue giant not moving, several soldiers run from the crowd and pull the captain back in.

The eyes of the steel gray giant gleam. It tosses the black curved dagger over toward the blue giant, holds the scimitar under one arm, then reaches for its leg and pulls out a chamber. The black innards become a bundle of crossbow bolts, and the hand crossbow pops open when the giant goes to load a new bolt. It points the weapon down at the crowd and fires.

The Monster stands among the crowd and deflects the giant bolt into the ground with one hand, sending a shower of dirt behind. Its other hand is held to its chest, where strands of flesh like thread cover the closing gap. The Monster staggers a few steps forward, whimpering and baring its teeth at the giant. Another crossbow bolt hurtles down, and the Monster deflects it again.

With the gold knife held between his teeth, Reth scurries around the bark armored giant. He moves on all four limbs, his hands and feet gripping the surface. Again and again the giant smacks the palm of its gauntlets against itself, always too slow to catch the demon. Finding no openings elsewhere in the giant’s bark armor, Reth runs toward its face.

The bark armored giant turns its back to the crowd, hops forward into the air, and belly-flops against the ground. A wave of dirt spreads outward, forming a ridge around the impression left by the giant’s body. The giant sits up, white ichor pouring from its face like a bloody nose. Reth is lying on his back in the dirt, his body only moving with little spasms, the gold sword pointed upward. The giant claps its hands together. The ridges of dirt flow inward to form a conical mountain over the demon, with only his face still visible.

The paladin in white points toward the opening in the circle of giants. The blue giant is still staring at its broken weapon, while its other hand creeps toward the large black knife. The steel gray giant and the black robed giant are still firing, though all their attacks are intercepted. Moving as one, the crowd of Army soldiers and Beastmen charge out past the bark armored giant and away, fleeing toward the mountain range or the marsh. Only the Monster, Klax, Jorg and the white paladin stay behind.

A large orb of fire forms over the white paladin. Under cover of the bubbles of light, he steps forward and draws his longsword. The orb of fire sends out flame streamers to slice against the giant’s black robe. When the flames come close to the giant books hanging on chains, the black robed giant stops firing its arm cannons and floats backward, away from the orb of fire.

The paladin in white points a hand toward the bark armored giant. Klax and Jorg skate away, and the white paladin waves his longsword toward the black robed giant. The large orb of fire flings itself against the giant. A giant white hand emerges from the sleeve of the black robe, catches the orb, and brings it up near its face. The paladin in white swings his longsword back and forth, but the orb of fire does not move from the giant’s hand.

One of the giant books reels up on its chain into the robe, and emerges from the giant’s other sleeve after a moment held in a second hand. The book flips open, and the giant stares down at the pages. The orb in its hand changes to crackling lightning, then solid ice, then a dripping ball of purple-green slime, and back to fire.

The giant crushes the orb in its grasp and turns its gaze toward the paladin in white. It gestures its open hand at the paladin, and a column of flame arcs down from the sky to engulf him. The flame becomes a bolt of brilliant lightning, then a spike of solid ice, and finally dissolves into a puddle of purple-green slime. There is nothing remaining of the white paladin.

The Monster turns toward the bright flashes of magic. It licks its lips, rubs its closed chest, and dashes toward the black robed giant. A few large crossbow bolts hit the ground behind the Monster. The blue giant swings the giant black dagger once, but the Monster ducks under the slow strike. The bark armored giant turns away from the trapped demon under the mountain and beckons toward the steel gray giant, which nods and tosses it the black scimitar. The steel gray giant pulls a black cudgel from its arm, and the three giants with black weapons follow the running Monster.

The black robed giant gestures toward the Monster. Many arcs of fire and lighting rain down from the sky, along with spikes of ice and puddles of purple-green slime from below. The Monster dodges around them all, the wicked sneer back on its face. The black robed giant switches out the book in its hand for arm cannons, and sends beams of light at the Monster. A few of these beams cook the Monster to a char for a moment before the skin regrows.

The Monster leaps forward through a beam, and flames cover its body. A burning fist pulls back, and the Monster punches one of the giant hanging books. White ichor sprays out from the spot to cover the Monster, and the book reels up under the robe. The Monster clings to the fluttering black robe and wipes itself off, then hops over toward another book.

The black robed giant looks up as the other three giants approach, their black weapons raised. A hand emerges from the robed giant’s sleeve and holds up the hem of the robe. The other three giants start smashing their weapons against the robe, with the Monster deflecting the weapons or escaping around the robed giant’s backside. The three other giants surround the robed giant and attack the Monster wherever it appears.


White auras surround the four giants. The bits of white ichor still dripping from them dry up, and the wounds vanish. The Monster howls and screams its rage, while busy dodging the attacks.

Klax and Jorg are huddled beside Reth, digging away at the dirt covering him even as more flows down. The demon stares at the fight and grimaces. “This. Is hopeless now. We. Will die if nothing is done.” The orc beside him grunts and digs faster, his glowing black hands scooping out large sections of dirt.

The Small Folk wipes at his brow and looks back with wide eyes. “There must be something. Light would not allow this to happen. There must be something!”

Reth grins. “Your. Gods are funny. Gods. On my world protect their people. Gods. Appear to fight with them. Where? Is your god?”

Jorg pounds his fist into the dirt. “Our gods are busy. They give us strength to fight our battles.” He glances back at the fight. “If I could bring Light or the Damned God here, I would.”

“You. Would?” The demon stares at the orc. “I. Made an offer to you in my fortress. Accept. That offer. Give. Me your worship.” He smiles. “I. Had almost gained enough power from the animals. I. Could save us with a bit more.”

Klax stares at Reth. “Worship you? As a god?”

The demon nods, smiling at the Small Folk. “You. Could worship me as well. Your. Faith is strong. With. The both of you I could perform miracles.”

Jorg looks back at the fight. “If it would save Zarah, I’ll do it.” The orc stares at the demon. “Can you save Zarah?”

“I. Won’t know until I try.” The demon rests his head against the ground and closes his eyes. “I. Do not understand what happened to her. I. Can send her somewhere else though. She. Will have time there to save herself. I. Cannot because I am weak.” He glances up at the orc. “I. Wish to help her. She. Is my friend. Please. Worship me.”

Jorg nods. “How?”

Reth smiles. “Gods. Are worshiped the same everywhere. Send. Me your thoughts. Give. Me praise.” The orc nods and bows his head. The demon turns to Klax. “And. You?”

“No.” The Small Folk stares down at the ground. “My thoughts can only go to Light. Light has given me all that I have. Light tells me not to look away from him.”

“I. Understand.” The demon smiles, and points his chin toward the fight. “Go. And help that monster fighting those things. You. Need his help for what will happen next.”

Klax nods, stands up, and skates back toward the fight. Reth grins and watches him go. When the Small Folk is nearing the fight, the demon closes his eyes.

“I. Have just enough.” The demon’s voice does not emerge from his mouth, but comes from every speck of dirt, from the wind, and from Jorg’s lips. The soft voice intones, “One. Truth brings together all things. One. Truth separates all things. The. Universe is one. This. Truth is the universe. I. Fold this truth. I. Fold the universe.”

A black gate appears in the sky above the four giants. They look up from beating the Monster. The edges of the gate swirl and rotate, and the entire disc drops down over them, and the Monster, and Klax. The black gate hits the ground and vanishes, leaving nothing behind. Where it landed, the ground is flat.

Reth’s head sags down. His tongue lolls from his mouth. Jorg opens his eyes and stares at the demon. “Are you alright?” He turns and looks behind him. “You did it. You actually saved us.” The orc squints. “Where's Klax?”

The demon gasps, “I. Must rest now. Guard. My body until I wake.”

Jorg nods. He scoops at the dirt, pulling out small handfuls of the loose material. The orc frowns, and stares at his hand. “Damned God, give me strength.” His hand does not glow black, and he looks to the other hand. “Light, grant me your first blessing.” No orb of light appears. Jorg frowns. “Now even the gods are not answering?”
High War - Chapter 28.3
And that's it. The final chapter. I'm planning a quick epilogue to sum things up, essentially bookending that chapter 0 with Rusty and Twigs, but the story of Book 1 is over. The heroes did their best. They were too late to do anything in Burroughs, fought bravely in the battle of Goldenburg, and were instrumental in defeating the Beastmen army at Foe Hall. This is the way things go sometimes. You do your best, but sometimes that isn't enough. So in Book 2 the heroes go on a journey, and in Book 3 they return to save the day. The Phoenix Army won this one, that was always a foregone conclusion, but I hope to see the heroes triumph in the end.

This is a part of my High War project, a story set in a fantasy-ish world. I believe my preview image comes from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences; there will be occasional violence, language, and adult themes. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to discussing the chapter if you have a comment for it.


These are the critiques I have given for :icongrammarnazicritiques:……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
  • Listening to: Pandora: Electronic Cardio Radio
  • Reading: Mechademia: War/Time
  • Watching: Case Closed , One Punch Man


Ian Chisholm
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Favorite Quote: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

I'm here to tell my stories. I love Anime and I'm aiming at a career writing the scripts for original animation, but for now I'm a writer-in-training creating worlds and characters and telling stories with them for my amusement. I'm always searching for people to collaborate with, especially visual artists; if you read something here that inspires you, I would be interested in enlisting you for a creative partnership with the goal of making something awesome. And I'm here to learn and help others learn. I want advice on how I can improve, I take on prompts and requests to sharpen my writing skills, and if you'd like a critique or some proofreading you only have to ask.

My 2016 avatar is a fused MEK from my High War story. I drew it (yes, I draw, rarely) to show the players back when the idea was a D&D campaign. You can't see it because I scanned it and shrank it down; but the image is wrong anyway, the MEKs have changed quite a bit after some mecha design advice and then writing them. Still, the original is amusing.

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brainlessbunny Featured By Owner May 9, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the fave~:heart:
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dafk189 Featured By Owner May 8, 2016
Thanks for the trade!
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m-iituna Featured By Owner May 8, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
ayy thanks for the trade :peace:
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ChoFerry Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2015   Digital Artist
Thank you so much for the fav!! *o*
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