Almagest Vignette

The shaper stood in the crumbling window, looking at the city below.

   It was drizzling, the sky grey, the rumble of thunder lost amid the vibrations of factories beneath him. A dull rhythm of lightning painted the horizon and the Strait of Almagest beyond in flashes of white.

   “Mistress,” came a meek voice from behind the shaper. 

   Lysuntha turned and stepped down from the window and saw two of her attendants and a demiurne holding up her iron mantle, ready for her.

   The attendants removed her dress and then turned their attentions to her corset, unbuttoning the tight garment, revealing pale skin beneath and round occlusions where the mantle would be married to her body. The attendants clothed her in a heavy leather skirt before patting her down with antiseptic powder, making sure it went into the occlusions. 

   The shaper lifted her arms, ready for the padded harness to be placed onto her. The attendants fasted it along her back, covering up skin that was still marked by the corset. On top of this the demiurne lifted the iron mantle. 

   A marvel of the technarcane method, it married the shapers’ art with the height of technological advancements. Once donned, it would cover her chest and back like a metal shell, concealing intricate machinery that interfaced directly with her motions and thoughts, enhancing her acts of shaping thricefold.

   The attendants painstakingly attached the mantle to her body, connecting umbilical cords to her occlusions one-by-one until the mantle could be suspended from the harness.

   Finally, the demiurne lifted a steel cowl and bolted it into place, obscuring Lysuntha’s face.

   “It has been repaired, Mistress,” said the demiurne. Its features were concealed beneath a heavy hood, its grey eyes barely visible. “after your last foray into Essevera.” 

   The shaper fancied the demiurne was grinning. “What would I do without you,” she purred.

   “Shape the old fashioned way, I suppose.”

   “How boring.”

   “Please return in one piece, Mistress.”

   Lysuntha reached for her forearm and felt scar-tissue, barely healed from her last battle. She sighed and stepped forward. One of her attendants handed her an aluminium staff. It too had an umbilical, and the demiurne quickly screwed it into place, linking it to the mantle, and, by extension, the shaper’s mind. She tapped the staff on the floor and left wordlessly.

She was crouching behind a broken wall, the rubble digging into her side, where the iron mantle failed to provide any protection.

   Parts of the wall were exploding in a shower of concrete as dissident snipers shot at her, pinning her down, preventing her from  

   It was useless, there was nothing she could do. She turned to the auxiliary captain and shrugged. The movement was obscured beneath her heavy armour, but he understood her. 

   “We need to hike it or those barker’s ‘ll get us double-quick,” he said.

   “I’m open to suggestions, Gastal.”

   “You’re the artist.”

   “You’re the muscle.”

   Gastal’s face soured, and he shook his head, “Right, maggots,” he shouted “how about some covering fire for the artist?”

   Around them, soldiers grimaced, checking their weapons. Some reloaded, others checked their equipment belts for grenades. They nodded their readiness and Gastal whispered, “on three.”

One, he mouthed. 

   The soldiers steeled their eyes

Two.

   Lysuntha nodded, loosening her grip on the staff in preparation for her attack. The hairs on her body stood on end as her eyes flooded in blackness. She was focused, could see the world through the Atramenta. 

Three. 

   Grenades arced out of the soldiers’ cover across the rubble-strewn street, towards the enemy lines. In the chaos of the resulting explosions the soldiers sat up, taking potshots with their rifles.

   Lysuntha jumped up, lifting the staff above her, levelling it at the enemy lines. 

   Lightning licked across the courtyard, flaring like a whip being cracked dozens of times in a few seconds. The sound was frightful, causing the troops taking cover there to panic. Some emerged from cover, frantically trying to put out the fires that covered their bodies and equipment, only to be shot down by the Almagest troops.

   Lysuntha strode across the courtyard, flickers of lightning arced, across her equipment, from her staff to the ground. Her fingers tingled and she flexed them as she walked, calmly. 

   A dissident hiding in a building across the courtyard stood the rubble, levelling his rifle at the shaper. Without looking, Lysuntha had her free hand raised against the figure, lightning jumping between her fingers. She opened her hand quickly, fingers outstretched and the lightning jumped from her palm to the disdident. His hair caught on fire and blood gushed from his ears and nose before his body collapsed to the flood, lifeless.

   The courtyard was silent. 

Lysuntha returned to her chambers, exhausted. She wanted to sit down on her couch, but could not - the iron mantle prevented her from relaxing. She’d been away for 3-days straight and had only just returned to the Fourth Precinct barracks that morning, but hadn’t been able to return to her quarters after debriefing the Precinct heads. 

   Her attendants had come to her, followed by the demiurne, and were removing her mantle. 

   “Mistress shaper, your shoulder,” gasped one of them.

   Lysuntha touched her shoulder and felt a deep gash, the blood still wet. She could barely feel it. 

   “Still, you came back in one piece, Mistress,” said the demiurne.

   The shaper was too tired to smile.

   She gestured for them to continue with the ritual of removal and stood motionless until they were done. When the demiurne left with the last piece of the iron mantle, she told the attendants to run her a bath.

   Just as she was about to step into the steaming bath, one of her attendants returned, “Mistress shaper, you are needed in the Precinct offices. 

   Lysuntha closed her eyes and sighed. “Get me my clothes,” she said. 

©2018 by Nate Mangion