The Floating City
By Jason Beirens

The Magus sat in his room which was devoid of anything aside from himself and the large black doors that gained him entrance into it. The room seemed endless; there were no curves, no windows, no decoration at all, only blinding whiteness. It was the meditation hall; it was where he went to commune with the gods and spirits. He would spend many hours and sometimes days locked behind the great black doors. He would speak with mother moon, and Bellows, and Yahweh. Other times demons might appear before him and tempt him into their service. Belial tried many times, Beelzebub, and a dark force beyond any other, Darius. He fought off all attempts to corrupt him, to take his life or soul. He was to remain the Magus. Ghosts would haunt the white space, and whisper secrets to his waiting ears. His waxed mustache twitched at some, his bristle beard lowered in shock at others. Through all of it, all the temptations, conversations, and secrets, his eyes remained closed. He dared not look upon those he communed with. He thought it to be far too dangerous.

He opened his eyes at last, as the last of the spirits left.

"Something is wrong."
The old man sat in the branch, a small line tied to his big toe. A hook and wriggling worm at the other end deep within the water. His bald head reflecting the bright sunlight, blinding the birds passing by. Some knocked into each other and the old man laughed with a hoarse low voice. The cliff below him sheer and deep, he sat comfortably watching the horizon and feeling for a bite.

Feeling a tug on his toe he looked down quickly and in that moment the horizon went dark. A giant floating city came into view, as big as Yanysgone borough, maybe bigger. The old man looked up as he pulled in his catch, a fat razor fish. His eyes widened as the shadow passed quickly over his head.

He tried to speak, but his voice failed him. He tugged at the rope he had attached to a stump up the top of the cliff. Octopus Joe was startled awake as the rope bounced on his chest. As he opened his eyes he saw the last of the shadow passing over. The sunlight beamed back at his masked eyes. He sat up suddenly and without thinking brought up his old friend, Haypenny Jones.
Joe watched the floating city pass over Blue Hill Beach, the shadow dancing over the nooks and crannies, bringing midnight in midday. Gang members looked up, and saw only pipes spewing forth effluence and smoke. As it continued to pass overhead rows and rows of turning wheels came into view. The Deuces looked up out of their window and quickly ducked out of the way of stool falling past their window. They slunk back into their small make shift palace to gather their generals and discuss this new development.
The floating city hovered over Xersis, the massive engines whining causing the gigantic fans to turn. The birds of the city flew away into the Black forest, and beyond it to the moors that surrounded them. The rats and mice quickly found their ways through the underside of the city, the labyrinthine sewers and lower streets under foot bridges. The vermin made a mass exodus. Many shop keepers and derelicts walked out into the open streets and watched as the day became dark.
None knew what to make of this new thing. The constables stood and stared as well. In everyone’s minds there was rioting and murders and wanton destruction galore, yet no one moved. They only stared, up and over, and around. The pitch blue sky was turned black and grey.
They stared.
"My heart is heavy," Haypenny said.
Joe put his hand on his friends shoulder and gave it a light squeeze.
"You and your kind can go from here, back to the ocean and fairer places. Me and mine cannot. This is our home. If this is invasion, then it is death."
Joe spoke slowly and stiffly, his voice contraption deep in his maw.
"I will stand with you."
Haypenny eyes teared up a bit; he put his hand atop his friends, and then collapsed.
Through the masks reflective goggles, tiny numbers read out, and the infrared vision it had enabled allowed Joe to witness the orange and reds of life, give way to cold blue hues.
Joe looked down at the razor fish; it was flopping around trying to breath, bleeding green ooze from the hook hole. Joe picked it up, took out the hook and tossed it off the cliff, back into the Haunted Ocean.
The floating city stopped then, it was over Deadmans Moor. The borough was tossed into night.
The Magus came out of his meditation room, through to his quarters, and out onto the grand balcony, which looked out onto his city. Peering down at the city seeing night, he was at first confused. Then he looked up into the turning fans, and pipes and engines. He screamed.
A few weeks had passed since the arrival of the floating city. Contact had been tried by the Magus' constables. No reply. The Deuces tried their own ways, nothing. Many parties of warriors and diplomats landed on the floating city and came back a few hours later, quite puzzled. The city simply hovered, and spat out its refuge through pipes and grates. The magus had hired a crew of creatures, men, women, hylech, and undead, to clean the streets. Every hour on the hour, the crew would go out into the borough.
Joe had a plan. He had taken a day to think one up and the last ten or so to prepare.
He got a shamans prayer book, his blunderbuss', lots of rope, and two blessed blades. The blades took the bulk of the time. Shaman Jonsie Vinesse the lower, was not much for the blessing. She was more than capable of doing such things, it just took a lot out of her. A Higher Shaman would have had an easier time, but Joe was set on her.
Joe shimmied up the rope, and found himself on the edge of the floating city. The streets were clean, except for a few marks of oil and tar from the crafts that had landed here from his city. Birds had begun to settle in the eaves of the short buildings, none of them looked to be higher than three or four stories. Some seemed even to have thatched roofs. It all seemed quaint, comfortable to Joe.
All at once it struck him. Maybe others had figured it out; maybe the Great Magus of Xersis had made sense of it. Joe realized this was a fairy tale place. As a child in the orphanage he was told of the magic floating city. It was, according to the tale, run by fairies, sprites, gnomes, and the leader was a giant. Who was a benevolent creature full of love and hope. The giant was defeated by a dark creature, and evil wizard, or demon, depending on the version. Joe looked around nervously.
The sense of unease he felt here made him shiver. The shivers were complimented by quick movements in his peripheral vision, small dancing red lights, and a ghastly moan from somewhere in the distance. He readied his blunderbusses and made his way up the main street, following the moans.
The city seemed dead, uninhabited, it was not silent though. Joe kept his eyes constantly moving. The mask vision did not pick up anything. No red marks to follow, only the moans. For a second he thought the floating city might be haunted, but how would that explain the near constant stream of feces falling into Deadmans Moor.
'There must be life.' he thought, and quickly turned to face a small fairy. Automatically he pointed his weapon at it. The large barrel, looking like a cave to the fairy creature.
A fading sparkle shimmered around its perfect little body. The wings fluttered slower and slower.
The mask vision showed very little heat coming from the fairy. It twitched then, and fell to the ground, its arm pointing to the largest building in the city. Joe looked in the direction of the building, and then back at the fairy.
"What is happening here?" he asked out loud..
He was answered then.
"The city is dying. It has been infected by an evil. The magic’s cannot cure or stop."
The voice was soothing, low, near a whisper, yet serious. Before he turned Joe knew it was the Magus. He began to bow, but the Magus stopped him.
"All others seem afraid. They come back to Xersis shaking, something has changed in them. You and I seem the only two immune."
Joe motioned to the dead fairy.
"Yes. She may have been the last one. Let us hope I am wrong though. You hear the moaning as well?"
The Magus seemed a bit startled by the voice, and then all expression left his face.
"Let us go towards it."
"The large building up ahead?"
"I would think so."
Large doors, at least twelve feet high stood before the two brave souls. Intricate designs of times of war, and times of peace adorned the wood, in high-relief. Two elaborate handles sat eight feet from the ground, pearl, and gold leaf covering them. The creatures were varied in the design, fairies, dwarves, gnomes, humans, and one giant. The Magus studied the door for a second and then suddenly pushed on it. At first softly, it didn't move, then he put his full strength into it. Joe immediately began to help. The door would not move.
The two looked at each other. Joe then pulled out his blunderbusses and fired two shots into the handles. The door moaned open.
"It seems the magic cast, did not have a defense against science." The Magus smirked under his beard.
The room before them was small, surprisingly small. The giant sat holding his stomach. Vomit covered his tunic. The smell was horrible. Inside the mask, Joe's tentacles wriggled in disgust, as he re-holstered his weapons. The Magus in his midnight black robe walked slowly up to the giant and touched his leg.
"What has happened?"
The massive creature looked down towards the two visitors, saviors.
"Bad magic." the words spoken in a low, low register. More exhale then speech.
The three creatures collected in the room, Joe put his weapons away. The Magus sighed. They all knew they were waiting for something. They were waiting for the evil creature to reveal itself. To make itself known, to somehow reveal its soft underbelly, it's one overriding flaw. Somehow they knew it was waiting for them to defeat it. The giant would at times exhale deeply, impatiently, waiting. Either for death or completion, neither Joe nor the Magus knew.
After a long while of nothing happening, a dark figure walked solemnly into the room. It was human size, a sharp ink black head moved from side to side. Two eyes, crimson with smoldering fire blinked absently. Its body seemed to move with the wind. Strips of itself flitted away, replaced by other bits moving in, to replace them. It stood before the three, and then sat cross-legged on the floor.
"I have been waiting for a champion, or champions to face me. I have been waiting to be destroyed. I am so very tired, tired of it all."
It's jagged head lowers, open to slice through. No one moves. All that is heard is the heavy breathing of the giant.
"I could not, can not give up, you see. I have to be defeated. It is the rules of the game. Fairy tales are all about rules. How one should never talk to strangers. Why a child should never eat a candy house. How a young woman if treated poorly, will end up happy in the end, living as a princess in the grand castle. So strange, tepid, annoying, endless.
"I wish to let it all go away now. We on this floating city have been playing this game, this pantomime, for so many endless years. I..."
The giant moves, shifts. Joe and the Magus look back at it.
"We play our parts. I am constantly dying. I dislike it, but it is for the children, for their own good. They must know that evil sometimes wins. You defeat me, and we move on."
"It has been recorded for the ages in countless manuscripts, scrolls, plays, books, why must we continue to play it out?"
The giant moved back against the wall. His face contorted, his eyes squinted and his mouth twisted.
"I knew you couldn't answer me."
Joe felt an itch in his head, something was going to happen. He looked to the Magus. He seemed oblivious, infatuated with the strange conversation. The dark creature moved then, and Joe fired a shot into one red eye. A porcine scream echoes through the room. The giant shifted again, his palm open. He attempted to crush the Magus. Joe fired another shot and hit the giant between the eyes, it fell back dead. Its heavy breathing ceased. The dark creature squealed, and fell into itself.
"Thank you." was heard between fading screams.
The Magus and Joe made their way off of the floating city. Joe repelled down and the Magus drifted towards Xersis as a leaf would fall from a tree in autumn.
Where the Black Forest meets Deadmans Moor is where they landed together. Away from prying eyes of the Deuces spies or break away groups of constables.
"What do you make of that then?" asked the Magus.
Joe shrugged his shoulders,
"A little."
The dark foul air around them then lightened. The floating city then disappeared into the ether. No pops or fizzles, no flashes of light. It was simply gone.
The two creatures looked up at the sun. A few clouds passed by. Then the Magus looked to Joe.
"A book, blades, and guns. None, but the guns of any use."
Joe shrugged again, then shook a huge twine of rope, hanging now from nothing.
"Ah yes, rope. It is staying put."
The top of the rope could clearly be seen, but it did not fall. It went up to nothing.
Completely out of character for both creatures, they left the rope, and told no one of it.
Over the years, the rope became part of the Black forest, invisible in amongst the trees which still grow closer, enveloping the city of Xersis with each passing season. Joe visits it once a year, and suspects the Magus does as well.
Neither has seen the other since.


Word Count:2475
Jason Beirens

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