Sleepers: A Numenera Story

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This was the beginning of a long series of stories set in an RPG universe. I may start again or may change the setting as the RPG authors don't approve. I am making no money from this.

Submitted: September 27, 2018

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Submitted: September 27, 2018

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While they slept in a pod, they could effectively live forever. Vitality was pumped through the body via magic older than gods. Atrophy did not exist. Elaborate spells and restorative fluids worked in unison to protect against mind and body degeneration. Time was irrelevant when sleeping.

 

When the awakening begins, the air tastes dirty, stale, and has the distinctive metallic tingle of nano-magics. In moments, after the buzzing spells of regeneration are cast, the air becomes fit to breathe and my chest expands to take it in. My first gasps were always deliberate, as unknown years of unexercised muscles slowly regain their memory and begin to work with purpose. Although mostly numb, I can sense straps and firm bindings holding me in place.

Opening my sleep-heavy eyes, I just make out details of my confinement. Using the glow of various artifacts of another era I can see an inner wall of synth and stronglass. It is a tight fit. I am reclining, almost standing, against thin padding; faintly aware of the jumble of tubing, wires, and connections to my head and torso. I try in vain to free an arm. I am powerless. I have to wait. When I have more strength, I will try to look through the observation portal. For now, my fingers can only find the smooth fabric of my bed.

 

The priests would wake you slowly.

Numenera would make you strong again.

 

Another sleep. How long had I been out this time?

Constrained in the pod as I was, I strained to see objects through the observation glass. There was light and life out there. Sleepers, secured as I was in their own pods, appeared as barely visible wisps of life. Countless other Sleepers, twinkling softly in their pods; each with their own lives, skills and memories, waiting to awaken.

I controlled my breathing and tried to relax. Soon, I would began to feel the aches of awakening. There would be strong pangs of hunger. My limbs would grow restless and begin to fidget and twitch to silent impatient rhythms. Every nerve of my body would seem ripped open as if someone poured magic energy directly into my muscles. And the worst? Having my emotions and true memories return in a massive tidal onslaught of consciousness. In my solitary anguish I always screamed and sobbed. It didn’t matter that no sound would leave my pod. It didn’t matter that no comfort would come until after the awakening was over. I would always scream.

Only your faith can heal you.

With my eyes closed it took more than a little concentration to calm my heart and remember my training. I would survive the awakening and become stronger from it.

Waking, blood returns to my heart

Waking, blue fire is in my veins

Waking, my brain erupts with thought

I am alive!

I am alive!

I am alive!

This time, the ordeal seemed especially terrible. Though I can never remember specifics, I know this awakening was awful. My muscles had seized to life, over and over again. And even while I was still bound to the pod-bed, I passed out many times from exertion, only to be shocked back to awakening by the life-giving artifacts monitoring the pod. My throat was worn and sore from crying out.

Aeon Priests healed me remotely by the very same magic that seemed to torture me earlier. I was fed nutritional and healing potions via tubes attached to my torso. Time was unmeasurable during the awakening. Days, weeks? It was a very long interval before I finally sensed stirrings outside my pod. Then, with a jerk and clank, the pod started to move. The fairy lights of the other sleepers shifted and faded from my senses as my pod travelled amongst and past them. I was journeying to my first destination. Still restrained by my bindings, I was confined to do no more than ride out the vertigo-inducing movement.

When at last my pod stopped moving, my bindings loosed and the airtight seal broke with a whoosh of cool, clean, outside air. Freedom! I inhaled deeply as the healing faculties of the pod provided my body with a dismissive jolt of energy. After pulling away the combined jumble of wires, hookups and straps I left the pod with the joy of an uncaged animal. Eager to move, eager for companionship, I stretched my muscles and waited for my eyes to adjust to the peaceful morning sunrise.

Four other pods touched down soon after my emergence. One capsule gained my attention immediately. There was light within the pod that I could see without looking – mystical power that I could sense even through the synth and stronglass capsule walls. I knew the occupant of the pod immediately. She, who was limitless with her magic and was as bright to me as light incarnate, was an Aeon Priestess. She was Farrah, the witch who worked miracles.

I stood close and kneeled before Farrah’s pod. When she emerged, she moved with otherworldly grace. I felt her glance, yet I could not discern her face. Farrah was too radiant, with silver hair and pale features that only complemented her brightness. She was almost painful to behold. Acknowledging me with a soft touch on my shoulder, her fingers were warm on my skin. She walked past me and opened the fifth pod - the supply pod. From a compartment inside, she took a small bag and a shimmering white micromesh robe.

The other sleepers did not seem to be affected by her brilliance. The large one, a glaive, was also known to me. He moved to the supply pod and worked at removing his gear. In contrast to Farrah’s calm patience, he wasted no time strapping on a thick plate of armor over his broad chest and back. He then pulled out a sizable shield and a spiked metal club from the capsule. Stepping away from us, he swung the club in smooth, powerful arcs.  His name was Ajax, the weapon master, and he was sworn protector to Farrah. After a few swings, he noticed me and frowned.

I involuntarily broke eye contact and silently cursed myself for appearing weak. Ignoring him, I joined Farrah at the capsule and took my supplies; a simple, razor-sharp knife, a curved blue sword, a backpack, and soft leather armor jerkin containing hidden pockets of items. I then moved away from the pod, checked the contents until I was satisfied that everything was present. I had no reason to fear Ajax. I have skills of my own.

I sensed a weirdness in my senses, a feather-soft but unmistakable pull on my inner sight. Looking up, I saw the fourth sleeper emerge from his pod. It was a skinny boy, wearing naught but fiber padding. After emerging, he too breathed in the morning air and stretched in the sun. Visually, he was almost as pale as Farrah and moved in a similar graceful manner. Yet, to my inner sight he seemed to be Farrah’s opposite. Even though I could see him plainly, he was dark to my unique senses; visible yet invisible. Everything about the boy felt wrong. His youth and vulnerability were out of place here in the wild. His darkness was strange and pulled rudely at my focus – it was as if the boy’s manifestation wanted the unseeable to be seen.

The boy, unaware of my scrutiny, recognized Farrah immediately. He walked directly to her, with no trepidation. I restrained the faintest twinge of jealousy as he seemed familiar to her. On the outside, he even looked like her, with silver hair and slight features. Farrah greeted the boy in her sing-song voice as the boy waved happily and stood next to her. Watching the two interact was uncomfortable. His darkness battled Farrah’s steady light. He was a dark vacuum as she radiated. Both seemed unaware of the conflict I could see plainly. The child handed the witch-priestess a small cypher from the supply capsule. She thanked him with a whisper.

I could watch no more of their interaction. The boy could be counted on for nothing anyway. The boy was young and what little dark magic he possessed would be wild and untrained. He would only slow the team down. Confirming my thoughts was the carefree way the boy carried himself. He was naive and should not be here.

 The large glaive also had doubts. He glowered at the child. “Why is he here?” he asked finally. Even after awakening, Ajax’s voice was large and booming. There was nothing gentle in that one.

If Ajax’s tone tested Farrah’s tolerance, there was no hint of it. She didn’t even flinch. The boy didn’t flinch either. But he also did not speak. He looked up at Farrah.

“Calm down, Ajax.”

There was kindness in her voice and the soft words were instantly soothing. Although I couldn’t look directly at her, I knew she was smiling. I didn’t understand why the boy was here either but I would never again think to question it.

“Right then.” Ajax didn’t sound convinced, but he dropped the subject and looked back at Farrah. “Let’s get on with this.” He pulled out a synth object, circular in shape and small in his hands. He looked down at the oddity, then up at the horizon. “This direction,” he said finally, pointing. I saw Farrah concentrate and speak some ancient words. The five pods shimmered and disappeared from view.

It is said that long ago this plain was a great sea, full of life. Now the land appeared desolate. But everyone knows there was no such thing as a truly barren desert. Crafty creatures and hardy vegetation hid underground, wary of predators and protected from the Ironwind. They were rarely seen unless they were hungry, and hunting.

I led the way, as I could detect things the others could not. I let my senses flow around my party and the surrounding terrain. Behind me, I could feel Ajax plodding through the desert sand, with the dark boy and bright Farrah walking behind him. The witch-priestess passed the time telling stories of old magic and mystics. Every now and then Ajax would call out corrections if I wavered off course.

When the sun was near its zenith, Farrah provided food and gave each person a blessed pellet to swallow with water. It was a temporary fix she said, to keep the party moving until they reached the destination. True to her description, the heat felt less intense and my hunger never returned. The blessing heightened my alertness too.

A few hours later, I happened upon an oasis and knowingly took a circumspect route to avoid it. The water, the lumps of lush grass, and cool shade under large leafed trees was a sham. I knew from fairy tales that the trees was carnivorous, as were their symbiotic partners: large spitting reptiles that looked like grass mounds.


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