Less than Living

The Elves were proud when conquering
They came across the sea
So long of life! So fair of limb!
They laughed so merrily
When they called us less than living,
Brief and brainless, born to die
Just the fodder for the fire
In a brighter Elvish eye.

The Goblins came in columns, cast
Of shot and brass and steam
And their shake-you-break-you engines
Left us dust and smithereens,
Each a number less than living
Brief and brainless, born to die:
The bloody hands and broken
To the Minds that Artify.

But the dawn comes all-a-sudden,
And a sword in every hand
And we’ll scalpel out the stubborn
Make them zombies where they stand!
Leave them truly less than living
Brief and brainless, born to die
To fertilise the poppy fields
The rosemary and rye.

Not to be Taken: Act 1, Scene 1

While Ivy settles in at the underwater base, other things are happening that will eventually have consequences for the Leaders. This is one of them.

Enter Prologue


As everyone knows, true magic is forbidden in the Asonian Empire. Mages have always wrought havoc for Ason, bringing firestorms, plagues, floods, or legions of undead on any Imperial citizen who happened to annoy them, so it isn’t surprising magic is illegal.

But outlawing magic doesn’t make it impossible, and using magic to fight the criminals who use it would make the kings and queens who used it just as guilty. Therefore, the Imperial Academy of the Lesser Magics was established to create and teach completely non-magical methods of equaling the skills of mages.

Our story begins at that Academy, on a March afternoon in early first semester.


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In Council

The Leaders finally do something for Ivy to record.

As I hurried to catch up, Jim pulled a device of some sort from an inner pocket. It was a clear plastic box with a screen, holding a lump of plasticine festooned with random electronic components. He held down several buttons, and spoke into a hole on the side. “Call: Clarisa. Council. Five minutes. Policy.” Several lights flickered, the object beeped twice, and a bit fell off and landed in the bottom of the container. Jim shook it, and put the device back in his pocket.

Jim turned around, and waved for me to catch up with him. “We must continue. As for that? It is said, among the Isikyus, that none but a fool relies, for a vital task, on something beyond their understanding. I follow that advice.”

“I see.” I presume the Isikyus also said it more clearly.

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The Raralandra

More of Ivy’s orientation in the underwater base.

Lunch was another bowl of the monotonous porridge. I made the mistake of asking how it could possibly be a balanced diet, and was treated to a lecture on exactly how much effort had gone into making sure it had the correct amounts of about 50 different nutrients. For this reason, there was allegedly no need to have any sort of condiment or flavouring with it; all those cost extra. The news didn’t improve the flavour.

I was too new here to have a conversation with anyone, so I sat in a corner chewing laboriously through the bland meal. Eventually, after scraping out the last of the tasteless gruel from the bowl, I had to meet Siersi Raralandra. I climbed slowly down the stairs, and stood before the door. It didn’t look like it was concealing a temple of evil, but how would I know? I knocked hesitantly, and waited.

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On History’s Page, Part 1

Our narrator has just arrived in the mysterious and remote base of some sort of evil organisation.

I’ve seen several “fortresses of evil” in my time. Mostly, they seem to fairly quickly attract the attention of the authorities, and they find out how little their power actually is in comparison to a sovereign state. This one, though, seemed fairly old; the white paint covering the walls was wearing through in places, and the metal floor beginning to rust. That was surprising, that this remote undersea base had somehow survived long enough to accumulate rust, when some evil leaders don’t manage to keep their building standing long enough for the first coat of paint to dry. Whoever it was running it, they knew what they were doing.

This was the sort of thing I lived to investigate. I have the power to turn invisible, and made my living, then, sneaking into this sort of base to report on what happened inside, but getting here had not been easy even for me. I had to stow away on a submarine bound for somewhere suspicious, keep hidden behind stacked boxes long enough to get some sleep on the journey, and then escape into this building, apparently an distribution centre for whatever illicit goods were being transported.

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