Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Microstory 1412: Secret to the Grave

Combined, Escher Bradley and Rothko Ladhiffe had a ton of experience living on a cold, dark planet with limited resources, and very limited human interaction. There were a lot of skills they never picked up, though. They didn’t know how to communicate with others, and most importantly right now, they didn’t know how to spy on people from a distance. They both decided to keep themselves a secret from the town that mysteriously made its way to their world through a portal. While their friend, Hark was okay with that on principle, he did want to come up with an endgame for this plan, and the other two weren’t sure they ever wanted to. Again, they were far less experienced with people, and were kind of afraid, though they were equally afraid to admit it. So Escher and Rothko split from Hark for now, always intending to return at some point rather soon—which would not happen for years. They were trying to get a better look at the townspeople when a scouting group stumbled upon them. The scouts wanted to find a fresh source of water. While their one water tower managed to come through the portal intact, it wasn’t completely full at the time, and they knew it was going to run out eventually, if someone didn’t figure out how to get them all back home. They figured it was a good idea to plan ahead, and understand what this world had to offer. It was too soon for such a journey, however, and they were naïve to think that they had any clue what they were in for. They were heading in one direction, believing they would stay safe from the time monsters that plagued their town upon arrival, which all seemed to be coming from elsewhere. Springfielders would later learn that this was more of a coincidence, and that no place on Durus was safe, but that would do the scouts no good. Now, being a town of less than thirteen hundred people—and even less now, because many had died in the initial attack—everyone knew everyone. Even if there was someone any given individual didn’t recognize, in a group of seven, it was practically impossible to come across two strangers whom none of them knew at all. So who were these two young men? Were they visitors who had found themselves caught in town when catastrophe struck? If that were the case, why were they so far from the border already? They would have to be up to no good.

Escher and Rothko knew they had to be honest with these people. It was crazy that they had been living in this horrible place alone, but the explanations the scouts were coming up with in their respective headcanons were worse. The two-thirds Trident didn’t want anyone else to know they were there, for reasons the scouts didn’t bother pressing. These two clearly knew how to live here, and how to survive the monsters, so it was best to keep them on their side. They would keep their secret for now, but they wanted guidance in return. Escher and Rothko agreed to lead them to Watershed, which was still the only ongoing source of water for the planet. They would teach them more in time. It would have been too difficult to explain how they protected themselves against the monsters, because it required powers the scouts didn’t possess, and a diplomatic relationship with the monsters’ overlord. Without this agreement, the scouts were fair game, so when a band of bygoners came to feed off of their memories, there was nothing Escher and Rothko could do. It was almost as if Effigy had sent this particular type of monster, so the two of them would stay hidden. That was not what they wanted to happen, of course, but at least their secret was taken to the grave, and they could refocus on their mission. The real problem was that this awoke a darkness in Rothko that would have terrible consequences years from now. Until then, however, they felt like there was no choice but to move on, and leave the victims behind. They didn’t even bother trying to help the scouts, who were now blank slates, with no idea who they were. Fortunately for them, one scout survived by hiding behind a boulder. Her memories remained intact, but she never said a word about Escher and Rothko, because she knew now that they were as powerful as they were dangerous, and could not be trusted. She escorted the bygoner victims back to the border, then ran off alone in the direction of Watershed. It took her a few days to actually find it, but in doing so, she ultimately saved her town from certain destruction.

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