Don’t miss the conclusion of “The Burning Flame”

In Part I of “The Burning Flame,” Brutus escaped the mountain of Belmont to find his son, Lorenzo. On the mountainside, Brutus finds a body scorched by plasma blasts. It looks just like Lorenzo and, knowing nothing of mirrorbeasts or the outside world, Brutus assumes it is the slain body of his son. He returns with the body to the guarded entrance of Belmont, trying to understand and trying to remain faithful to . . .

The Burning Flame

Part II

BY FRASIER ARMITAGE

Brutus neared the force field that shielded Belmont’s Gate.

His child’s corpse weighed heavily in his arms, and he struggled to reach for the device Julius had slipped him. He replaced his breathing mask over his mouth and pressed the device. The force field’s amber glow flickered before extinguishing like a dying ember, and the huge gate opened automatically, its grinding gears churning in a metallic scrape.

The Gatekeeper towered before Brutus, gripping his axe with hands of iron.

Brutus emerged from the mountain’s mist with Lorenzo in his arms.

“What do you seek?” the Gatekeeper asked.

“I come to return my child to the flame.” Brutus’s voice could barely be heard.

“None may pass.”

Brutus shook his head. It was that kind of talk which had killed his boy. His brows knitted together, contorting his face into a rage. “Tell me, if I were not permitted entry, why did the amber haze disappear? Why did the gate open for me?” Brutus asked.

The Gatekeeper pondered for a moment. “The gate has never opened for anyone.”

“None may pass,” the Gatekeeper said. Photo by Daniel Burka.

“Which is why you must let me pass.”

The Gatekeeper shook his head. “I must speak to the Council of Belmont first.”

“Speak with Councilman Julius,” Brutus said. “The Hoodsman will permit me entry. Tell him . . . ,” Brutus choked on his words. “Tell him . . . I have my son.”

The Gatekeeper spoke into his robe. Brutus fought back the bloodflame surging through his veins, urging him to wrench the limbs from the Gatekeeper and shoulder his way past. None would prevent him from returning Lorenzo to the fire below the mountain.

“Let him pass,” a voice called from behind the Gatekeeper. Antony stood panting, bent with his hands on his knees. “The Council wishes to see you, Brutus. Quickly.”

The Gatekeeper lowered his axe and stepped back. Brutus hurried with Antony through the levels and the smoke, down to the pillars. Antony didn’t speak a word to Brutus. He knew better than to stir the coals of a flame that was already too wild.

Up through the lift, the gears whirred. Doors opened. Brutus carried his son into the circle of robes.

“You disobeyed our order, Brutus.” The Council’s spokesman flashed his fingers in a ritualistic gesture.

“Then you should have left me on the mountain,” Brutus said. “Why did you allow me to return?”

“We are not without pity for you, brother. Besides, it is our creed that all who flout our ways be judged within this circle.”

“You would dare judge me?” Brutus yelled. “You who worship at an altar of sin!”

The Hoodsman glanced around his fellows. The shadow beneath his hood revealed no features, concealing his open jaw and the disbelief across his face.

“You worship flame, but your fire has done this to my boy.” Brutus held his hands towards them, forcing them to consider his son’s charred remains. “Look at his flesh. Look at it! See it scorched, as though he had fallen into the molten river. Your fire promised me that I would see my boy, and look! It has devoured him and spat him back out. And you dare to tell me that I have sinned, when you would have left him like this! Left him to rot beneath the fury of that torch beyond Belmont which sears the sky!

The shadow beneath his hood revealed no features, concealing his open jaw and the disbelief across his face. Illustration by Joe Cross.

“Had you stayed inside the mountain,” the Councilman replied, “you would never have
known his suffering. It is your own impudence which has brought this grief upon you.
Sentence shall be pronounced.”

“There can only be one sentence,” Brutus interrupted. He laid Lorenzo’s body on the ground and removed his breathing mask. “The sentence of death.” Brutus pounced towards the Councilman and slammed the mask into his hood. Blood spurted from where his face should have been. Brutus’s hands clasped at his throat. Years of mining trained Brutus’s grip, and the Hoodsman’s neck snapped beneath the pressure. He collapsed to the ground.

Around Brutus, robes flew. Hoodsmen attacked the fellows at their side, gowns flapping like wings as ornate blades sliced neon red through the chamber, and blood spilled into the circle. After the carnage, a stillness settled, and Julius emerged, peeling back his hood.

“Brother,” Julius said, “you truly are a fire. Too long has it taken to rid Belmont of its traditions. Your name shall be remembered for all time, alongside Portia the Great, our Guardian and Founder. Behold, Brutus the Wise, our Fire and Liberator.”

The remaining Hoodsmen stepped over the bodies of their fallen comrades, crowding around Brutus.

“My son.” Brutus reached through the litany of robes and crumpled Lorenzo’s body to his chest. “I ask to send him down the river, so that he may rest.”

“Brutus, my brother, you need not ask our permission.” Julius tore the robes from the body of their former leader. He wrapped the garment around Brutus’s shoulders and bequeathed him a ceremonial knife. “I hereby appoint Brutus to the Council of Belmont. Let the word go out among the people. There shall be a ceremony at Thinveil, where we shall send our fallen kinsmen to journey along the river of fire. The whole city will attend. Lorenzo will be given a noble procession, my brother.”

The Councilmen performed their solemn gesture in unison.

“Now, go,” Julius said. “Go to your family.”

Brutus staggered to the lift and back through the habitats. He coughed and sputtered as the smoke infected his lungs, but he cared not.

The airlock washed him clean of smoke as fresh air pulsed against his skin. He drank it in, soothing his throat where smog still festered. Beyond the threshold, Ophelia stood, her hands covering her mouth.

She shrieked as Brutus entered the hab.

“What is this?” she cried. “Sylvia, Rodrigo, leave us!” The children ran from the room, too afraid to question their mother.

“My love, I am sorry. But we have only a short time to prepare him for his journey downriver. I could not stand to embalm him anywhere but our home.”

“Who is that?” Ophelia demanded.

“Do you not recognize your own child? I’m so sorry, my darling wife. I thought I could return him to us, but I was mistaken.”

Ophelia’s eyes widened. “No. You get that creature out of my hab!”

“Creature? How dare you speak of Lorenzo that way!”

Ophelia quivered, her pale body thrashing as she reached for a kitchen blade. “You get that thing away from me, or I shall kill it!”

Brutus laid the body in the airlock and stepped between Ophelia and his son. She lunged at the corpse, but Brutus caught her hand and snatched the knife away from her.

“Get it out!” she shrieked. “It is not my son! My son lives. He lives, Brutus!” Her crimson eyes bled tears.

Brutus nodded. “I gave you hope, and you are not ready to let go of it.”

“Can you not see? You have brought a stranger into our home. My son lives. Where is my son, husband?”

She shook in his hands, and he released her. Ophelia paced through the hab, her limbs shivering, and she muttered her son’s name over and over.

A chime signalled from their door.

“Come,” Brutus said.

Julius entered, stepping over Lorenzo. “Brutus, I came to assist you with the embalming.”

“You are most kind, brother. But I shall wrap him myself.”

“Get it out of here!” Ophelia screamed.

Brutus rushed to Ophelia and leaned to her ear. “Leave us.” He signalled to the door, and Ophelia fled from the room.

“Does she know your son will sail the river with a hero’s honor?” Julius asked.

Brutus shook his head. “Ophelia does not believe that is our son. Look at her. She’s riddled with a maddening hope that he still lives.”

Julius raised an eyebrow. “And what of you, Brutus? Has hope abandoned you?”

Brutus flung the robes from his shoulders to the floor, covering Lorenzo’s body with it. He returned the kitchen blade to its place, and grasped the decorative knife of a Councilman, fixing it to his waist upon the cord which sheathed it. “May I ask you, Julius, why you are really here?”

He grasped the decorative knife of a Councilman, fixing it to his waist upon the cord which sheathed it. Photo by Yaroslav Korshikov.

Julius nodded, and removed his hood. “You are shrewd indeed, my friend. I came to find out what you intend to say at Lorenzo’s mourning. You shall have the whole of Belmont before you. What will you tell them?”

Brutus shrugged. “What would you have me say?”

“That there is yet hope, Brutus. That Lorenzo dreamed of a day when fire might pass beyond these walls, and Belmont might take its place among its brothers, in a world beyond this tomb.”

“You seek peace with the world, Julius?”

The Hoodsman nodded. “It is written: ‘We must sow peace.’”

“Is it not also written that ‘There is no peace without sacrifice’?”

Julius took Brutus by the arm. “You speak truth, brother. I am sorry that the sacrifice which will bring us peace is yours to bear.”

Brutus pointed to Lorenzo. “You really think there can be peace in a world which can do that to a child?”

“You must see the future, Brutus. You must dream of what Belmont will become. Can you not see the fire of Belmont purifying the world of its fear? Of its hatred? The flame feeds all, and when it does, we shall bask as one in its heat and light. Speak of this. It is what Lorenzo would have wished.”

Julius turned to leave.

Peace. His son lay dead and Julius preached of peace. More lies.

Heat blazed through Brutus’s mind, devouring it. He snatched at the ceremonial blade. Its neon laser hissed. “No!” he screamed as he buried it in Julius’s back.

Julius cried out, but Brutus stifled it with his hand.

“I am a flame, Julius,” Brutus whispered. “I shall burn through this mountain and consume the world. And when the world is turned to ash, only then will there be peace.”

Julius’s eyes bulged. “Brutus!”

A twist of the blade snuffed the life from the Hoodsman, and he slumped to the ground beside Lorenzo.


Thinveil struck, and the city gathered in the lowest depths of the mountain. Behind breathing masks, the whole of Belmont crowded in the antechamber. At the far end of the cavern, a ledge fell away to the river of magma which flowed beneath the crust of the Globe. Beside the ledge, a group of Hoodsmen stood, blessing the embalmed bodies at their feet.

A ledge fell away to the river of magma which flowed beneath the crust of the Globe. Photo by Pawel Czerwinski.

Brutus approached from among the Hoodsmen and peeled back his hood. A horn blasted.

He raised his arms and the people fell silent.

“Hear me, brothers and sisters,” he began. “There is fire and family, and that is all. This is the creed which we have lived by. But my family has been taken from me. Not even my wife has the strength to witness the Great Passing today, choosing exile in her hab rather than bestowing her blessing upon our child. And so I grieve with you, my brothers and sisters, for the loss of my son.”

The people stamped their feet, and a thunder boomed around the cavern.

“Is it a coincidence,” Brutus continued, “that on the day Lorenzo was taken from us, a scourge robbed us of our most beloved Councilmen? If the flame has sent us an omen, it is better to heed it. But what meaning could there be in the death of one so young?”

“I have searched the runes and the oldest writings for an answer, and I see the fire’s wisdom in the words of my friend, and our beloved Hoodsman, who is no longer with us. Julius was the finest of men, with the noblest of hearts, and dreams greater than the smoke we breathe.”

“He once told me that if a fire cannot spread, it dies. There is truth in this. My son believed these words. As do I. Do you not agree with Julius’s wisdom?”

Again, the people stamped and slammed their chests.

Brutus nodded. “Julius saw a future beyond the mountain. And who among us has not yearned for what lays beyond these walls? The priests tell us that segregation is purity. But segregation has trapped us, and stopped us from spreading. Consider the mountain. The ore which we refine must first be mixed with stone and impurity. Only after it is mixed can it be refined. This sustains it. And so, too, must we think beyond this chamber if we are to sustain our ways, lest the fire die.”

Brutus coughed on the smoke in his lungs and turned his filter to its maximum output, tasting fresh air to calm his chest.

“Portia the Great,” he said, “the Guardian, and our city’s founder, established a policy of separation so that we might not leave this mountain and crave the delights beyond. We could never abandon the mountain, for every flame needs to be stoked, and that is why we must not lose sight of our ways. Yet, it was never Portia’s intention to prevent us from growing. Like a flame, we must spread, or the dream of Belmont will be over.”

The crowd gasped. A murmur rocked the chamber.

“Think of the children. My own, Sylvia and Roderigo, play games. They laugh. They live. As do your own children. But they will all end up as Lorenzo if we do not act now. Julius appointed me as Brutus the Wise. Heed my warning. If we remain trapped, more will die. We will suffocate in our pride. My son’s death has brought an end to the old ways. If we fail to take the lesson of his passing, then we too shall end up dead, with no-one left to sail us on the river of fire.”

The people roared with one voice. They beat their breasts and stamped so hard the stone beneath them splintered in cracks.

“I make a pledge to you, faithful Belmontians,” Brutus yelled, “that this day shall be the spark which sets the world ablaze. I shall not rest until our fire has burnt through the mountain. Our fire will judge those beyond this city. Any who take our ways to heart will be purified by the flame. And any who do not will choke on its smoke. We must consume the world. Now is our time. Who is with me?”

The crowd erupted in a cheer that shook the walls. A chorus of arms raised, saluting Brutus.

He waved, and it calmed the people. The remaining Hoodsmen behind him stirred.

“There shall be nothing hidden from the people,” Brutus cried. “Any of our leaders who refuse to lower their hoods to the people’s wishes will find their heads floating upon the lake of fire. What say you, Councilmen?”

The Hoodsmen glanced at one another, before they lowered their hoods and bowed before Brutus. The crowd’s frenzy grew, heat from their flailing arms matching the lava below.

The crowd’s frenzy grew, heat from their flailing arms matching the lava below. Photo by Hasan Almasi.

“It is settled,” Brutus said. “Our fallen family will feed the fire, and our kilns will rage all the better for it. But let us not fashion our ore into farmer’s tools or hover-barges. Let us forge weapons for ourselves, the likes of which no army can resist. And let us take the purity of our crusade to any who would question our ways.”

From among the crowd, verses of chantrock broke out. The same chant he had heard once before. “We are the mountain, and you are the flame,” they sang. “Rise and burn. Rise and burn.”

He lowered his son, along with the other bodies, over the crevice. Magma licked their limbs away, until they were no more.

“I am the flame,” Brutus sang, responding to their chant. “I am the flame, and the fire rises.”


If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Frasier’s “Pillars of Smoke,” which kicked off the entire Globe Folio series, and then Frasier’s “The Voice of Beasts.”

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Now you’re all caught up. But don’t worry, we have more stories from the Globe on their way soon!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Brutus must learn how to keep faith in the Burning Flame

In “Pillars of Smoke,” Lorenzo escaped Belmont and an arranged marriage. But he left behind his parents, Brutus and Ophelia, and the twins. Three days have passed since the “Night of the Rocket,” but none in Belmont are allowed to know of the life outside. In the city beneath the mountain, the Belmontians try to preserve their way of life and stay faithful to . . .

The Burning Flame

Part I

BY FRASIER ARMITAGE

Three Veils passed, but Lorenzo hadn’t returned. 

“Where can he be?” Ophelia asked. 

Brutus sat with his hand on his chin. 

“Brutus! Didn’t you hear me? Our son is missing these three Veils, yet you say nothing?” 

“Where are Sylvia and Roderigo?” he said, absently. 

“They are readying themselves for the service.” 

He nodded. “That’s good.” 

“What of Lorenzo? What did you say to him?” 

Brutus scowled. “You think this my fault? That our son would flee and not return because of me?” 

“You were the last to see him! To speak with him! What else am I to think?” 

“I have done nothing but care for this family and honor the flame. What more can I do?” Photo by Chirag Nayak.

Brutus stood, rising with the fire that burned inside him. “Our son is missing, and now you lay the blame with me! I have done nothing but care for this family and honor the flame. What more can I do?” 

“Please do not scold me. I worry for my boy. Is that so wrong a thing?” Ophelia shrivelled, tears cascading down her cheeks. 

Brutus unclenched his fists and wrapped his arms around his wife. “Come now, let the twins not see us like this. I’ve sent word to the Council. There are eyes in the smoke. If he is in the city, we shall hear at the service.” 

“And if he is not in Belmont?” 

Brutus released Ophelia and retired to his chair, his hand returning to his chin. “Worry not, my love. If he cannot be found in Belmont, it will fall on me to decide what must be done. Let’s not fret over what we do not know.” 

Ophelia wiped her red eyes and puffed her chest, forcing an empty smile to her lips. “Sylvia! Roderigo!” she called, and the twins ran through the hab. 

Sylvia reached around her father’s leg and gave it a squeeze. He didn’t stir. He just sat there, staring into the distance. 

“Come,” Ophelia said. “Let us go and pay our respect to the flame.” 

The family departed through the airlock into the smoke-laden street. They grasped each other’s hands and peered through their breathing masks at the shadows of the other families of Belmont, all mingling outside the Pillars of Belmont. The whole city crowded around the sacred monument, and a single light blinked from a balcony cut into the foremost pillar. 

“Children of smoke,” a voice boomed through the city, bouncing off the stone which encased them in the mountain’s core. “We gather to cleanse ourselves. Fire purifies all it touches. Let us pass through the fire as one.” 

“Amen,” the crowd responded. 

“They grasped each other’s hands and peered through their breathing masks at the shadows of the other families of Belmont, all mingling outside the Pillars of Belmont.” Photo by Jacob Boavista.

A horn blasted three times. 

“Confess, and let your sins burn away.” The voice of the minister resounded among the people. Whispers echoed from each of them as, through closed eyes, they made their confessions. 

“Forgive me,” Brutus whispered so quiet that none might hear. “I should’ve listened better to Lorenzo. I should’ve heard him, instead of dismissing him the same way I would any fool who questions the wisdom of fire. I am as blind as a man who stumbles in smoke. And now my son is missing. Let him come back to me. Guide me to him. Let me see him just once again.” 

The horn blasted three times more. 

“Your words have been heard,” the priest’s voice thundered. “Now let the fire answer.” 

A scorching mist billowed from the pillars, blown across the river of purified ore that flowed from between the two titans. The mist spread through those gathered, dispersing its heat among them. 

“You have been heard. Now let the smoke wash you clean, children. May this Thickveil be a Holy Veil. And may you have peace.” 

The horn blasted a final time, and Thickveil struck. 

“Amen,” the people parroted before they turned back to their habs.

“Let me see him just once again.” Photo by Om Prakash Sethia.

Brutus turned, and Ophelia squeezed his hand. 

“Brutus!” a voice called from the crowd. “Brutus!” 

Brutus stopped and waited for the shadow that rushed towards him. Antony emerged from the mist. 

“Brutus, the Council will meet with you,” Antony said. “Come. They gather as we speak.” 

Brutus looked to the pillars, and offered a silent prayer of thanks, before he twisted to his wife. “Take the children, Ophelia. I shall return shortly.” 

She vanished into the mist with Sylvia and Roderigo. 

Antony led him through the milling crowd towards the foremost pillar. A stone door scraped open, and they moved inside the pillars. A crunch brought the stone behind them, sealing Brutus in. 

The hiss of air sucked the smoke out of the chamber, and Antony unhooked his breathing mask. Brutus followed, and the floor shook. 

Gears whined. A rumble caused Brutus to stagger as the lift drew him up the colossal shaft, through the pillar, to its peak. The lift emptied him into a dimly lit room, where men and women gathered in a circle, their bodies covered in hooded robes, and blood-red eyes glowed from the shadow where their faces should’ve been. 

“Come.” One of them beckoned Brutus into the circle. It was the same voice which had led the people in the cleansing ritual. “Speak.”

Brutus stepped into the midst of the Council of Belmont. “Is there news of my son?” he asked. 

“He is not in the city, my child. If he lives, he has abandoned us.” 

Brutus’s shoulders slumped. His fingers rubbed his forehead. “He may still be covered in mist. You know the mountains conceal all. It may not be too late for him.” 

“You know the law of exposure. Not even the minister at the gate has the freedom to reveal his face to an outsider.” 

Brutus shook his head. “If I could just get onto the mountain, I’m sure I could bring him back without anyone seeing.” 

“It is forbidden.” 

Brutus’s lips quivered. “But . . . he’s my son.” 

“He is a child of smoke. We all suffer this loss. But you know the writings of the Guardian. The Gospel of Portia clearly states that none may leave the mountain. You wouldn’t question the founder, would you?” 

“No.” Brutus clenched his fists. “I’m a loyal Belmontian. I follow the path of fire.” 

“A pure soul of Belmont. May the flame always warm and feed you. Amen.” They moved their hands up, rising to mimic a flicker of flame; the time-honored symbol of worship. 

The Council dispersed and Brutus turned back to the shaft. A hoodsman joined him as the lift descended. He peeled back his robe. “Brutus, I am truly sorry for your loss.” 

“Thank you, Councilman.” 

“Please, call me Julius.” 

Brutus bowed to him, but Julius grasped his arm and lifted him upright. 

“My friend,” Julius said, “not all among the Council approve of its piety. Or its decisions. In fact, there are some of us who are even—” Julius looked around him, although he knew they were alone as the chamber whirred lower and lower still. 

“Even what?” Brutus asked. 

“Can you be trusted with a secret, Brutus?” 

He nodded. 

“There are some among us,” Julius whispered, “who believe that Belmont should not be cut off from what lies beyond the mountain. That if a fire cannot spread, it will fade and die.” 

Brutus’s eyes bulged, and he grasped his chest. 

“Does this shock you?” Julius said. “When the Guardian wrote her manifesto in which she recommended to limit contact with the others beyond the mountain, it was only so that those who mined inside this rock may not become discontent. Complete seclusion was never her aim. She sought contentment for the people. How much contentment do you see among this new generation of Belmontians? Was your son content here, Brutus?” 

Brutus shook his head, stifling the lump in his throat. “He wished for a life beyond this place.” 

“And he was wise to do so.” Julius rested his hand on Brutus’s shoulder. “The priests preach that segregation is purity, but what is worth more: a lump of pure iron, or the mountain in which it forms? Blind devotion to smoke and fire will only lead to ash. I know you are loyal to the flame, and this talk is new to you. But I sense a purpose for you which Portia herself would smile upon. One in which you may prove yourself a true Belmontian.” 

The war within Brutus erupted across his face. The hoodsman spoke heresy. Yet, instead of rejecting it, Brutus listened. And more than that, he saw a spark of sense in it. Was this the heat that had tickled Lorenzo’s ears and led him to abandon his home? Lies. Lies. All these words, lies. And yet, they spoke to Brutus as the lift lowered through the pillar, and he couldn’t turn his ear away.

“What would you have me do?” Brutus asked. 

Julius smiled. “For many Veils, our group of adherents have sought to start a fire of our own in Belmont. But we’ve yet to find the spark to ignite it. Your son could be that spark, Brutus. I saw you clench your fists when you were denied the chance to search for him. What if I could give you that chance?” 

Brutus’s eyes danced aflame. “You mean it? You can get me past the Gatekeeper?” 

“Bring Lorenzo back to Belmont, and we’ll burn through this mountain.” 

Brutus nodded, but his chest sunk. “Julius, none will be hurt when this fire of yours is lit, will they?” 

“Brother, we seek harmony with those beyond. Peace brings no harm with it. You know this.” 

Brutus pictured Lorenzo’s face. He’d petitioned the flame to see his son one time more, and he had been heard. He grasped Julius by the shoulder. “I will be your spark, Julius.” 

“Meet me at the gate at Halfmist.” Julius returned his hood to cover his face. “For Belmont.” 

“For Belmont,” Brutus repeated. 

The lift hit the ground, and they disappeared into the plumes of smoke shrouding the city. 

Brutus’s breathing mask hissed as it worked to stave the smog of Thickveil from his lungs. He strode a path along the river, its molten heat radiating with a comfort that settled his beating heart. All the omens favored this decision. He glimpsed shadows through the mist, knowing the smoke held unseen eyes. Always had he believed the smoke concealed them, yet now he knew that all things were exposed to it. That even the shadows were consumed by its all-seeing haze. 

He scanned his hand against the access panel of his hab. Beyond the airlock, Ophelia waited for him. 

“What news?” she asked. 

“I must leave at Halfmist,” he answered. 

“Leave? Where?” 

The less she knew, the better. He trusted his life to Julius, but the lives of his family were another matter. “I cannot say. But know that there is hope, my love.” 

Tears welled in her eyes. Her hands quivered. “You speak the truth?” she said. 

“It is all I know how to speak.” 

“Oh, Brutus. Do you have to leave? I’m not sure I can cope without you.” 

“All will be well, my dear Ophelia. Light a fire for me, and hope it doesn’t fade.” 

“Hope. Is that all you can give me?” 

Brutus folded his arms around her. “What else is there to give?” he said.  

“Hope is a dangerous thing to possess, husband. Hope alone would drive a person mad.” 

He pulled Ophelia to his chest and cradled her. He wished to tell her that he would bring their son home again. That all would be well. But silence settled in the hab, a silence he couldn’t bring himself to break.

“A father will always find his kin.” Photo by Ante Hamersmit.

Sylvia squealed from the playroom, and Ophelia pulled herself from his hold. 

“It’s okay,” Brutus said. “I’ll check on them.” 

Ophelia nodded, her shaking fingers covering her lips. Brutus entered the playroom and roared as loud as a kiln. The children scattered through the room, fleeing his stomping feet as he bellowed, giant as the mountain. 

“Where are those children? I’ll lick them up in my flaming arms!” 

The children ran, but he caught Sylvia and swept her into his grasp. He nuzzled his head on her stomach and blew kisses over her. She laughed, kicking her legs. Roderigo tapped his father’s knees. Brutus slipped Sylvia under one arm and scooped Roderigo in his other, peppering him with the same affection. 

“Father’s a fire!” Sylvia said. 

“Nice and warm,” Roderigo answered. 

“I burn for you, my children.” Brutus remembered the same game he used to play with Lorenzo. “There’s no hiding from your father, no matter how hard you try. A father will always find his kin.” 

“Is that true, Father?” Sylvia asked. 

Brutus pictured Lorenzo, lost in mist. “If I said it, it’s true.” 

They played the game again and again. Ophelia sat in the doorway and watched them play. Then the horn blew across the city, chiming an hour until Halfmist. 

Brutus kissed his wife’s cheek and left his family playing together. He grabbed his mask, his pickaxe and his jacket, and without another word, vanished into smoke. 

Through the city, Brutus ascended one level at a time. He climbed beyond the colonnades and above the pillars, where the once colossal drill had first chiselled out their mountain home. Smoke rose in a cloud, growing ever thicker as he reached the top of the shaft.

“Smoke rose in a cloud, growing ever thicker as he reached the top of the shaft.” Photo by Adam Bixby.

Julius waited for him in shadow. “Brother,” Julius said. “You are ready?” 

“More than you know.” 

A smile crept through the glass plate of Julius’s breathing mask as he shepherded Brutus along the passage towards the gate. “Have you ever met a Gatekeeper, Brutus?” 

“Not that I can recall.” 

“They are the most loyal of all Belmontians. They serve in isolation, shielding the mountain from outsiders. And yet, they must touch the outside and allow it to pass in safety within this rock once every six Veils. For how else are we to be fed with food and air? You see, Belmont is not so alone as you might think.” 

Brutus remembered Lorenzo speak of food and air, which Belmont traded with the other cities of the Globe. He had not wished to listen then. But he listened now. 

“We had a Gatekeeper join us once,” Julius continued. “Many Veils ago. But the Council discovered the plan to drop the gate, and he was banished forever. The gate opens once every sixth Halfmist to allow goods safely in and out. But we would’ve smashed the barrier that blocks us from leaving, the same wall which keeps that Gatekeeper from ever returning. So I ask you, are you ready, Brutus? You know what is at stake?” 

Brutus imagined the smiling faces of his dear wife and children. He must return those smiles to their eyes. Until Lorenzo was found, their eyes would never gleam again. What choice did he have? Even if he, too, might become banished from Belmont, he had to try. “I understand the risk.” 

“Good.” Julius clapped him on the back. “Here.” From beneath his robe, the hoodsman pushed a small device into Brutus’s palm. “This will draw the gate once, and once alone. It is how you must return, with Lorenzo in your arms. Do not use it until you are finished in your search. One use is all that it can produce.” 

“A gift from your Gatekeeper friend?” Brutus asked. 

“A relic from a former time. Which is what we will all become, unless you can bring your son home.” 

Ahead, the smoke thinned, and a group of Belmontians with ore-scorched masks huddled, waiting. Julius guided Brutus into the core of them. 

“We are the mountain, and you are the flame,” they chanted. “Rise and burn. Rise and burn.” They stomped their feet as they pushed through the thinning barrier of mist, repeating their chant. As their footsteps quickened, their voices raised, until they were running in the clear air, screaming the anthem at the top of their lungs. 

Through the thrashing limbs of those around him, Brutus glimpsed the giant air vents sucking up the smoke, and the tunnel which led to an amber force field, shielding a huge drawbridge and open gate. Beyond the gate, a cavalcade of hovercraft lined up with supplies for the Belmontians. 

The Gatekeeper stood at the far end of the drawbridge, between the open gate and the misty mountain beyond. Photo by Sergey Nikolaev.

Halfmist struck, and the force field collapsed as the horn shuddered the walls, rippling up from the kiln below. The Gatekeeper stood at the far end of the drawbridge, between the open gate and the misty mountain beyond. 

“Hold!” the Gatekeeper roared, as he ignited the laser of his axe and scythe. 

The masked men swarming around Brutus lit their picks. They broke formation, charging at the Gatekeeper. Shards of electrum flashed where the laser of scythe met pick, and the men wrestled the Gatekeeper from his post. 

Momentum carried Brutus ahead. Julius was nowhere to be found as Brutus left through the open gate, stumbling onto a new kind of rock. The men behind him dispersed, and a force field shot up the side of the mountain, masking it in an amber haze. 

Brutus gathered his footing. The mountain beneath him splintered into pieces. It seemed so unsteady, so fragile. Not like the solid stone carved inside the city. The safety of his refuge crumbled with the pebbles which scattered at his feet. 

“Lorenzo!” he called out. His voice carried through the mist. “Lorenzo, my son!” 

Brutus unhooked his breathing mask, and gulped the air. It dizzied him in an intoxicating rush. Never had he tasted air so light and yet so dense. It enveloped him, more so than the fog. 

He staggered down the mountainside, the only sound his echoing cry and the scuff of his footsteps over uncertain clumps of disintegrating rock. 

“Lorenzo!” 

He wandered for hours, calling out. As he neared the foot of the mountain, golden rays of sun broke through the mist, and he threw his hand up to shade his red eyes from the light. Never had he seen so bright a flame as the ball of fire in the sky. Everything blurred, so intense was the glow of morning. The stone reflected the light back to him, forcing his eyes shut. He stumbled blind until the ground leveled off, weeping tears in the heat. His skin burned. Sweat poured from his tattered clothes. 

“Lorenzo!” 

His foot struck a lump. It wasn’t rock. A soft, spongy form stretched out below him. He knelt to feel it and recognised its touch as flesh. 

Brutus ran his fingers across the body that lay before him. He dared to open his eyes, and there he saw the scorched remains of his son. 

“No!” he wept. “Lorenzo. My son. My boy.” 

He cradled the limp body to his chest. Tears drenched his child. Brutus cried out, his voice louder than the horn blast at Thinveil. 

“I asked that I see my boy once more. But not like this. You deceived me!” 

He slammed his fist against his chest, beating it as he screamed at the fire which had brought him here. 

“Why would you do this to me? Were the omens not good? Did you not answer my plea? Fire is supposed to be pure. But you are not a pure flame! You lie. Lies. Lies. All these lies. No more! You are to blame for this! I curse you, and I curse this ground, and I curse the world. Oh, Lorenzo, my boy. Can you ever forgive me?” 

Brutus picked up the body and turned back up the mountain. Into the mist, he disappeared, to return his son the way he’d come. All the while, he kept repeating the chant of Julius’s men. “We are the mountain and you are the fire. Rise and burn. Rise and burn.”


If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Frasier’s “Pillars of Smoke,” which kicked off the entire Globe Folio series, and then Frasier’s “The Voice of Beasts.”

On Friday, we bring you Part 2 of “The Burning Flame.” Brutus returns to the guarded entrance of Belmont with what he assumes is the body of his son. He is called before the very Council he defied. And he must reconcile the loss of his son with his faith in the Burning Flame.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

The photos of “The Voice of Beasts–Part 1”

The photographers of Unsplash.com provided me with a great collection of photos for the very first story in Nights of Revelation, “The Voice of Beasts” by Frasier Armitage.

(If you’ve not read the story, you’ll want to read it first, as this post contains some spoilers.)

Superimposed image of figure wearing a hood standing on a mountaintop.

Coming Down the Mountain

Tom Robertson shot this moody, dreamy mountain-top shot in Skye in the United Kingdom. I assume it’s a multiple exposure because you can see through the person in this photo. It makes a beautiful image.

Tom also shoots some beautiful black and white images and artistic, moody and sometimes spooky photos. Make sure to check out his collection on Unsplash.com.

Tree’s Shade

Nathan Dumlao shot this desert view, which proved to be perfect for the Mirrim scene in “The Voice of Beasts.” Nathan takes mountain, urban, and travel photos. Find more of his work at Unsplash.com/@Nate_Dumlao.

Goggles

In the original photo, you can see the steampunk goggles are wrapped around a black bowler sitting atop an internally lit hat block. A very fun image! I love the subject of this photo and I love steampunk motifs. I can still recall the feeling of awe I had when I first saw steampunk costumes all those years ago at DragonCon in Atlanta.

Johnny Briggs, who hails from Scotland, shot this image. He loves taking photographs of “beautiful vintage and retro items, places, nature, and architecture.” Find more of his photography at Unsplash.com/@johnnyboylee.

Barge on the River

Erik Mclean shot this great photo of a rusting hulk sunk in the water. I don’t have any details on the photo, but it makes a mood shot for our trip down the Elizabeth River in our story. Erik likes urban, automotive and sky photography. He also has some very nice landscape and outdoors photos at Unsplash.com/@introspectivedsgn.

Savagelands

Zach Woolwine shot this sinuous dunes photo during a trip to Merzouga, Morocco. It provided a great image for the savagelands between Belmont and Whitehall on the Globe. Zack likes to take photos of cats, streets, food and San Francisco. Find more of his photos at Unsplash.com/@onebackpackphotography.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Don’t miss Part 2 of “The Voice of Beasts”

In Part I, Lorenzo escapes Belmont, the city beneath the mountain, only to find a harsh, blinding landscape and dangerous beasts. Ros saves him from a Mirrim attack, and the two head for Whitehall, following the purple streaks across the sky . . .

The Voice of Beasts

Part II

by Frasier Armitage

Wind shrieked as it battered Lorenzo. He craned his neck over the hovercraft’s edge and squinted through his goggles. 

“This is the place,” he said. “This is where the lights end.” 

Ros brought the skiv to rest below the ridge of a swollen dune. Lorenzo scaled the sand and peered over its peak, with her at his side. 

Whitehall’s towers glittered in the distance. Between the dunes and Whitehall stood a hulking monster of metal. Painted green and brown, it loomed from the ground like a mountain in itself, its landing gear propping it on insect legs. 

It loomed from the ground like a mountain in itself, its landing gear propping it on insect legs. Photo by Lynn Kintziger.

It loomed from the ground like a mountain in itself, its landing gear propping it on insect legs.

“Could it be a Mirrim?” Lorenzo asked. 

Ros peered through an eyeglass she carried on a necklace. “I’ve never seen one so big.” 

“Where did it come from?” 

Ros pointed to the heavens. “Only one place something like that could’ve been made. From the stars. It looks like the ships they used to tell us about in old fishermen’s stories.” 

“What stories?” 

“On long sailing voyages, we told tales to pass the time. Warships came from the Polity and landed on a world, forcing our ancestors to flee across the sky to this one. I thought they were just fairy tales.” 

“People came in ships like that to seek a home?” 

Ros nodded. “Apparently.” 

Lorenzo smiled. “Then we are the same. That ship and I. For am I not in search of the same thing?” 

Ros frowned. “I don’t think Belmont and space are in quite the same league.” 

“What do you know of Belmont? What do you know of these newcomers?” 

“I know they dress a lot better than you. Here. Take a look.” 

Lorenzo clunked the eyeglass onto his goggles and peered through. Around the giant frame, people stood in uniform, holding guns. They carried the authority of the Council of Belmont. Had they worn robes and hoods instead of guns, he would have feared them. As he peered closer, his stomach tortured him in waves of doubt. 

These people seek a home. We are not so different. That is why the smoke of their trail has guided me to them. It has to be. 

“What’s that?” Ros yanked the eyeglass from him. 

A convoy of transports swept across the sand from the direction of Whitehall. 

“A Mirrim?” Lorenzo asked. 

“Nah. More likely a welcoming committee. Looks like we missed our shot.” 

Lorenzo’s eyes widened behind his goggles. “You were going to shoot them?” 

“No. Our shot at being the first to offer a trade. Those Whitehall goons will beat us to the punch. Come on. The best place for us now is the city. News travels fast. Let’s make sure we get it first.” 

Ros slid back down the dune. 

Lorenzo halted at the top. “Should we not warn them of the Mirrim?” 

“By the looks of it, they can take care of themselves.” She pointed her fingers in the shape of a gun and mouthed ‘pew pew pew’ as she gestured her index finger firing rounds. 

Lorenzo shook his head and scampered down the dune. 

Not everyone is looking to kill something. There are some beasts who seek only some shelter and a little shade. 

Lorenzo scampered down the dune. Photo by Fernando Paredes Murillo.

They approached the hover. Lorenzo halted, pulling at Ros’s elbow.

“How do we know that’s really your baby?” he asked. 

She tutted and unfurled her gun. From the top of its barrel, she removed a shaft that formed a piccolo, and blew a melody through it. The ode drifted through the breeze until its sound touched the hover. At the end of her tune, its horn blared the final notes. 

“That was beautiful,” Lorenzo said. 

Ros reconnected the instrument to her weapon and holstered it, hauling herself on deck. Lorenzo followed. 

She struck out across the sand for Whitehall. Lorenzo didn’t totter as the hover leapt over the dunes. 

“You learn fast,” she said. 

“We have a saying in Belmont. ‘When burned, only the fool keeps reaching for the fire.’ I will not be burned a second time, Ros.” 

She flicked the hover onto automatic and scooped some fruit from a cubby in the helm-panel. Her eyes never left Lorenzo as she reached into her boot, grabbed a knife, and sliced a chunk of fruit, placing it to her lips. “What’s it like in Belmont?” she asked. 

Lorenzo perched on the edge of the hull, his eyes returning to the distant mountain hidden by mist. “Have you ever seen a furnace blaze?” 

“Of course.” 

“How far does the smoke rise?” 

She licked her lips. “Depends. Sometimes on a still night, it feels like it scrapes the most distant stars.” 

Lorenzo nodded. “Imagine if that smoke filled all the air. Made it impossible to see these stars you speak of.” 

“You’d choke.” 

Belmont is a furnace, Ros. Photo by DDP.

“Belmont is a furnace, Ros. The air is smoke. They’ve built pillars dedicated to fire, believing it protects them. But the flames imprison them. They cannot see or breathe or taste anything but its bitterness. Belmont is blind, Ros. As blind as I am without these.” He pointed to his goggles. 

She sliced another lump of fruit and it slipped down her throat. “Sounds intense. I thought Newlondoners had it bad.” 

“Newlondoners?” 

“It’s where I’m from. Newlondon. The last city. We spend our lives on the water. The sea, the river, you name it.” 

He raised an eyebrow. “But you get to sail where you wish?” 

“Where others ask us to sail. Most of us are doomed to debt. We’re not a rich city. Not since pollium stopped washing up on shore. We don’t have the spires of Whitehall or the glass of Westminster to fall back on. So we sail where people tell us and hope that’ll be enough. You got family in Belmont?” 

“I do. And it would’ve grown had I stayed. They’d already matched me.” 

“Matched you?” 

“Chosen me a bride. And from a good family, too.” 

“You were gonna be married? Why didn’t you?” 

Lorenzo’s brows knitted into a web. “When it comes to my life, should I not have a voice?” 

“So you ran away?” 

Lorenzo stood. “I would rather die screaming than be forced to live without a voice. If I’d stayed, I’d have been no better than that Mirrim lying at the foot of the mountain.” 

Ros nodded. “What was her name? Your bride?” 

“Narissa.” 

“Pretty.” 

“There are prisons with pretty names, too.” 

She tossed him the other half of the fruit. He caught it, and she offered him the knife. 

“Eat up,” Ros said. “You don’t want to enter Whitehall on an empty stomach.” 


A line of yachts and barges snaked up and down the river, all the way to the city’s gates. The whole Globe had come to Whitehall, following the lights in the sky. 

Three Moons had circled the heavens and twilight had settled by the time Ros passed safely through the checkpoint along the road to Whitehall. 

“Come on,” she said, as they passed the city’s gate. “It’ll be quicker on foot.” 

She grabbed Lorenzo’s hand and dragged him through a maze of gleaming glass towers. Dusk played its swooning song in the fading auburn light. 

As night settled, a cavalry of bulbs lit up the city, twinkling brighter than the stars above. Crowds gathered in the restaurants and bars to sample Finsbury’s finest food. Whitehall was alive with expectation, a city brought to life by whispers of what might lie beyond its walls. 

“Let’s get a table,” Ros said. “It’ll be the best way of finding out what’s happening.” 

“How? By eating?” 

“By listening.” She winked, yanking him into a colonnade of restaurants where the diners collected outside, and a thousand voices mingled in a symphony. “Table for two,” she said to an automated waiter, who flashed her a holo of the empty seats, and she selected the ones closest to the biggest table. 

Whitehall was alive with expectation, a city brought to life by whispers of what might lie beyond its walls. Photo by Alexander Popov.

A white light glowed from the chairs, vanishing as they took their seats. 

“I’ll have a grilled skycrawler, medium rare, with a side of greens,” Ros said. “What about you?” 

“Same,” Lorenzo answered. 

“And two ales.” 

“Ales?” Lorenzo cocked his head. 

Ros licked her scarlet lips. “Trust me.” 

He shrugged. “Very well. Two ales for me as well.” 

She giggled. “No. Those two ales were for both of us. You know what? It doesn’t matter.” She dug into the pockets of her waistcoat and fed the credits into the mechanised server. The automaton slunk away, its gears humming. 

“We have nothing like this in Belmont,” Lorenzo said. “We eat with family.” 

“Family is important to you, huh?” 

“There is fire and family, and that is all. At least, that’s what my father told me. He would never have dreamed of a world where people ate together. He would’ve called them beasts and carnivores. He could be like that. Always so devoted.” 

“Not a bad quality to have in a father. Devotion.” 

“I tried to make him see. To open his eyes. But he wouldn’t listen.” 

“Listening is how we learn. Speaking of.” Ros raised a finger to her lips, and tipped back in her chair. She swept her sun-goldened curls behind her ear and tilted her head towards the cacophony of voices ringing from the table behind her. 

She tilted her head towards the cacophony of voices ringing from the table behind her. Photo by Nils Stahl.

Lorenzo did the same. 

“I heard,” a man’s voice said above the others, “that someone from each city has gone to meet with the Polity.” 

“It’s definitely a Polity ship then?” a woman chimed. 

“Didn’t you recognise it from the ancient texts? I always said those technical documents would come in handy,” another man blustered.

“Tosh and nonsense. You’ve been petitioning the libraries to burn those documents for years,” the woman said. 

The automaton interrupted Lorenzo’s eavesdropping with two plates of steaming food. 

Ros sat forwards and leaned into the aroma rising from the plate. “Smells good, right?” 

Lorenzo nodded. I’m not eating with these strangers. I’m eating with her. There’s a difference. 

He scooped up his utensils and copied Ros as she carved her skycrawler into bite-size morsels.  He picked at the charred breast of the skycrawler and inclined his ear to the conversation on the table behind. 

“Well, if it’s the Polity,” the woman said, “we shouldn’t be just sitting here waiting for them. We should take the initiative and attack.” 

“Attack?” the man questioned. 

“Absolutely. You know the Book of Shakespeare. The Polity are the reason we ended up on this world in the first place.” 

“You think they mean to subjugate us?” 

“Isn’t that what they did before?” she asked between mouthfuls of food. 

“How many of their ships could they have sent?” the man said. “But instead, they chose a single vessel.” 

“A rather large, single vessel, if you ask me. Don’t you think they were making a statement?” 

“What statement?” 

“I don’t know. How about ‘don’t mess with us if you want to live’? I tell you, if we don’t act now, they’ll disrupt the peace here.” 

Lorenzo shook his head, slamming his cutlery down and gulping his ale. 

“What is it?” Ros asked. 

“Those people behind us,” he said. “They’ve already sentenced the newcomers to death.” 

“They’re Whitehallers. If they had their way, everyone would be sentenced to death. You might want to take it steady with that ale.” 

He swigged the dregs of his first glass. The drink stung the back of his throat, but his head never felt so clear. “These people just want a home,” he shouted. “Anyone who can’t see that is as empty as a Mirrim.” 

He glugged on his second glass of ale. A hand tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to face the man from the table behind, his brown eyes swirling as Lorenzo tried to focus on them. 

“You might want to keep your voice down,” the man said. “Not everyone takes as kindly to the thought of the Polity as you do, friend.” 

Lorenzo wheeled on the man, swiping his hand away, losing his balance as he stood. “Listen, friend, I come from the mountain. They come from the sky. What’s the difference? If you want to kill them, you might as well be killing me.” 

“Lorenzo, sit down!” Ros glanced around as a hush settled among the diners. 

Lorenzo pressed his finger on the man’s chest. “You’re scared because they have a big ship and carry guns,” Lorenzo said. “Well, don’t you carry guns? I never saw a gun until today. But look!” Lorenzo pointed at the man’s hip, where he holstered an antique pistol. “You’re all killers.” 

“Is it a crime to protect ourselves?” the woman said. “We have to keep the peace somehow.” 

People who started shouting their mouth off might find themselves catching a blast. Photo by Daniel Stuben.

“Peace? You say you want peace, but you don’t want peace. You want control. There’s a difference.” 

“Sit down, Lorenzo!” Ros stood and reached out for him, but he shrugged her off. 

“You should listen to your lady, friend,” the man warned, and he tapped the pistol. “People who start shooting their mouth off might find themselves catching a blast.” 

Bloodflame flashed across Lorenzo’s eyes. He snatched at the man’s weapon and yanked it from its holster. A raging fire coursed through his veins. He wrapped his hands around the pistol and bent the barrel until it almost snapped in two. 

The man stepped back. “What are you?” he asked. 

“This is the only way to peace, friend,” Lorenzo said. “I’ve lived my whole life trapped inside a cage that others made for me. But no more.” 

As Lorenzo stepped forwards, people around him reached for their hips. 

Blue lightning flashed over the crowd.

“Should we not accept these newcomers with open arms?” Lorenzo called out. “They are the same as you. The same as me. Do not be poisoned by how tall your glass towers reach. No matter how high they seem, they are still just glass. Who will join me in welcoming the Polity? Where is your—” 

A shot rang out across the colonnade. Blue lightning flashed over the crowd. Ros snatched at the knife in her boot and hurled it at Lorenzo. Just before it struck his face, the path of the blast met with its metal, disintegrating it in a fizz of light. 

Lorenzo fell to the floor, gripping his goggles. The flash overwhelmed him. The sound of a tussle bombarded his ears. Pounding fists silenced grunts. Boots slammed into flesh. Glass crashed all around him, as the frenzied air whooshed past his face. 

His vision returned and he glimpsed a shadow darting in front of him. Then an explosion lit up the sky. Sparks rained down on the plaza of diners, before another boom signalled a hail of light. 

Ros knelt beside him, grabbed her piccolo and blew a tune into it. 

Then she stood and a flurry of air knocked Lorenzo back as a thunder of fists rocked the plaza even more than the explosions in the sky. 

Above him, a hover descended, its horn blaring. 

A hand grabbed Lorenzo and dragged him to his feet, forcing him up the rungs of the hover as eruptions overhead ignited the heavens. 

Lorenzo stumbled over his feet, and the hand pushed him behind the helm-panel, before flinging the hover through winding city streets. 

Drones pursued them, but Ros turned her pistol to them, and blue blasts swatted them out of the sky. 

“What was all that about?” Ros said. 

He raised his head. There wasn’t a scratch on her. “Ros, are you okay?” 

“I’m fine. Which is more than can be said for those Whitehallers.” 

“You saved me. Again.” 

“What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. Now are you gonna tell me what got you so riled up?” 

Another boom thundered overhead as sparks speckled the sky. 

“What is that?” He pointed up. 

“Just a little light show to celebrate the arrival of the Polity. Something I overheard at dinner.” 

“So much talk. So much hate. Why can’t people just accept one another?” Lorenzo shook his head. “My whole life, talk has kept me caged. I’m sick of it. I’d rather be in the company of Mirrims than listen to their babble.” 

Ros swept through the city gate and plunged into the darkness beyond. She eased off the throttle and switched it to automatic, turning to Lorenzo and running a hand across his cheek. “You don’t know what you’re saying. Come on, let’s get you sobered up,” she said. 

“No. Ros. I know exactly what I’m saying.” He took her hand in his. “Those people, they’re dangerous, Ros.” 

“Nothing I can’t handle.” 

“No. You don’t understand.” He gripped her hand. “I wish I could explain it. Thank you for saving me. For listening to me.” 

She smiled. “You really think the Polity are harmless, don’t you?” 

“I believe the only harm they bring is the hatred their presence stirs in the hearts of others.” 

She rose and pulled her pistol from her hilt. “Okay, Lorenzo. I believe you. But until we reach the river, I have to keep watch. There could be any number of beasts stalking us right now, and we wouldn’t hear them coming.” 

Lorenzo shook his head. “We’re safer here than back in that city.” 

“What do you mean?” 

He stared at the flashes of light raining down on Whitehall. “It’s not the beasts without a voice we should be worried about. It’s the creatures who speak which are most to be afeared.” 


If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Frasier’s “Pillars of Smoke,” which kicked off the entire Globe series and then Part 1 of “The Voice of Beasts.”

In two weeks, the next installment of Nights of Revelation will take us to the desert dunes of Westminster in Shanel Wilson’s “The Sands of Change.” As the leaders of the oil fields and the glassworks feel their grip on power slipping, the next generation begins its rise to power. And the Polity’s arrival on the Globe only quickens the flow in the hour glass.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

At long last, we bring forth Nights of Revelation

On the Night of the Rocket, in the mountains of Belmont . . .

The Voice of Beasts

Part I

by Frasier Armitage

Purple streaked across the heavens as Lorenzo staggered over the mountain. Mist saturated his view, and a trail of violet blurred through vapor. He followed the light’s path as it burned above him, before it altered course and lowered as a distant speck. Then the lurid glare faded, but its afterglow still fell in shards of purple light, painting the sky. 

The glow drew him, pulling him towards a sanctuary of light. Its trail was a road stretching out above him, beckoning him away from the mountain. Rocks jutted from the ground in random clusters. The only road to follow was the one above him. 

He inched forwards, beginning his first reluctant steps away from Belmont, and the life he left behind. Each stride strengthened his resolve, and as the distance between Lorenzo and the city grew, so did the surety of his heart. 

Navigating a way down the rockface of the mountainside strained the muscles which the mines had nourished. His tendons stretched as he clambered down steep embankments and clawed his way across narrow ledges.

The ground levelled, and a causeway wound a path towards a faint amber shimmer which danced over a gate. Everybody knew about the Gatekeeper who kept watch over the mountain, but he’d never pictured the gate that led to Belmont until he saw it now. He shied away from where the bizarre haze shielded the entrance, and took the road leading down the mountainside. 

Dawn approached as Arrant Moon rose, reflecting the sun’s light. Day opened up to brighten the sky, and Lorenzo squinted through the onslaught of golden fire. His red eyes had never seen the sun. Twilight scorched his vision with disorienting intensity. He staggered as the world around him blurred in a blinding white. 

Mist thinned until it vanished, the last barrier between the raging sun and his innocent eyes. The sound of water trickled across the flatland. A tree’s shade gave him a moment’s relief, and a shadow emerged in the direction of the water. He tottered towards it, feet dragging him forwards as daybreak fractured the world around him.

“Hey!” he called to the distant shadow. He flapped his arms. “Hey!” 

The shadow sharpened as he neared it. A figure. They raised their hand and fixed a gun on Lorenzo. 

“Help!” he cried. 

The barrel of their pistol thundered as a bolt of blue plasma flashed. The shot brushed past his shoulder, whispering as it flew beyond him to strike a form behind. A body thudded to the ground. Lorenzo fell to his knees and turned to see a young man splayed lifeless. Plasma scorched his skin in burns and blotches. 

But at the sight of the man’s face, Lorenzo fell. He shivered, pointing at it, his jaw agape. Staring back at him was his own face. A perfect replica of his own body lay dead on the ground before him. 

Footsteps followed the shot, and the figure emerged from shadow. They holstered their gun and offered Lorenzo a hand. 

“That was close,” they said. “It almost had you.” They hoisted Lorenzo to his feet, their face a blur. 

“What almost had me?” Lorenzo asked. 

“It’s a Mirrim. A mirrorbeast. Deadliest creature in the savagelands. It’s a good job you yelled, otherwise you’d have been the one lying in a heap.” 

“That thing is a creature?” 

The figure nodded. “A nasty critter. The only thing they’re good for is target practice.” 

Lorenzo bowed. “Then I owe you my life.” 

“Pfft. Are you kiddin’? You gave me the chance to shoot a Mirrim. If anything, it’s me who owes you. Where are you heading to anyway?” 

Lorenzo shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m following the sky.” 

“Okay. That doesn’t sound crazy at all. Why don’t we start with where you’re heading from?” 

“I come from Belmont.” 

“Belmont? Is that a joke?” 

Lorenzo shook his head. “I swear it.” 

It’s a Mirrim. A mirrorbeast. Deadliest creature in the savagelands.

The figure leaned closer and peered into Lorenzo’s squinting red eyes. “Well, would you look at that? A real-life Belmontian. That explains the outfit at least, or lack of.” 

“What do you mean, outfit?” 

“Your clothes. Those rags barely cover you.” 

Lorenzo picked at the strands of fabric hanging loosely from his body. “We have no need of clothing when mist covers us.” 

The figure’s hands rested on their hips. “I don’t know the rules in Belmont. But if you hadn’t noticed, it’s not exactly misty today. Come on. I’ve got a spare set of clothes in my skiv you can use.” They turned and slunk into the distance where the sound of rushing water cascaded. 

Lorenzo tried to follow, staggering blindly. He waved his hands in front of him, shuffling across the plain.

“Are you okay?” they yelled. 

“The light,” Lorenzo said. “It’s so intense, I can barely see.”

They appeared at his side. “Here.” A pair of goggles was pressed into his hand, the lenses tinted dark as coal. “We use them for sailing into the sun.” 

He fixed them around his head and the light dimmed, softening everything into focus. The figure before him took shape. She smiled through thin lips, her yellow hair a mane of curls, and her startling blue eyes glistened like two hot flames. Clothing wrapped around her slender frame, hiding her body in oil-stained folds, and her waistcoat matched dark leather boots. 

“Better?” she asked. 

Lorenzo pirouetted to take in his surroundings. A river flowed not far from where they stood, and a machine that must’ve been her skiv hovered above the water. Behind him, across a flat plain, at the foot of the mountain where the mist clouded, lay the creature’s plasma-blistered body. 

“Where is the tree?” he asked. “The one that gave me shade so I could see you?” 

“The Mirrim was the tree,” she said. “It took a couple of seconds to shift from one form to another. That’s how it hunts. To match its prey, it becomes its prey.” 

Lorenzo shuddered. “Why did I not hear the creature approaching?” 

“That’s the one way to know if you’re dealing with a Mirrim or not. They make no sound. They can’t. Something about the way their skin changes means you’ll never hear them coming.” 

“But I heard it fall.” 

“Thanks to my plasma rounds.” She took her gun and kissed the barrel. “This baby’s never failed me yet.” 

Lorenzo frowned. “How does it work?” 

“The gun? You just point and shoot. What’s the matter? You never seen a gun before?” 

Lorenzo stared at the corpse, transfixed by how easily it could’ve been him. “What should we do with it?” 

“Let it rot. It’ll be a warning to passersby. Now are you coming, or not?” She raised an eyebrow and sauntered to the machine that floated above the water. 

Lorenzo followed her up the rungs of the craft, the cold metal tingling his fingers as he hauled himself onto the hover’s deck. 

She rooted through an old sack and tossed him some clothes. 

“Thank you,” he said. 

“No problem. You can pay me back later. The interest isn’t too steep.” She winked. 

Lorenzo frowned. “What do you mean ‘pay you back’?” 

She rolled her eyes. “Let me guess, you’re gonna try and tell me there’s no such thing as trade in Belmont, aren’t you? How gullible do you think I am?” 

“The fire feeds all.” 

“Not unless you feed it first. Everything’s a trade. See?” 

Lorenzo rubbed his chin. “I have nothing of value to give you.” 

“Not yet. But when word there’s a real-life Belmontian roaming around gets out, having you owe me a favor might come in handy, if you catch my drift.” 

Lorenzo fumbled the clothes over his tattered rags. “I can tell you my name, if that’s worth anything?” he offered. 

“Well someone’s got a high opinion of themselves, don’t they? Safe passage downriver and fresh clothes just to know your name. What are you? Royalty?” 

“What would you give me for my name?” 

“I’d trade like for like, if you’d accept those terms?” 

“Alright. I accept. I’m Lorenzo.” 

“Rosaline. But you can call me Ros.” 

“Ros? That’s a short name compared to my own. I’ll take these as compensation.” Lorenzo glanced at the clothes he wore, the leather jacket and canvas sailor’s trousers, tucked into thick boots. He straightened the goggles over his eyes. “How do I look?” 

“Like you still owe me, buster,” she said. 

Ros stood at the hover’s prow and worked the gears with the grace and skill of an artisan. Engines roared as she slung the skiv around, and shot off down the river. Lorenzo toppled onto the deck. Spray rushed up the side of the barge, splashing over him. 

Ros stifled a giggle into her sleeve. 

Lorenzo peered over the hull’s edge, wind whipping his hair back. He staggered on deck, the motion throwing him from side to side. “What manner of beast is this?” 

“It’s no beast. It’s my baby.” 

“You said that about your gun. Are all your babies so deadly?” 

Ros smiled. “Did you see those lights last night?” 

“I can still see them.” Lorenzo stared at the purple trail leading across the skies. 

“Really? I don’t see anything.” Ros shrugged. “Must be those pretty, red eyes of yours. What else can you see?” 

“I see you. And this baby of yours. The land. And the sky. And a purple trail leading that way.” 

“Towards Whitehall. It’s where we’re heading now.” 

“To follow the lights?” he asked. 

“Something like that. If you can see the afterburn, maybe your eyes would make a fair trade for those clothes.” 

Lorenzo backed away, his face aghast. “You can’t have my eyes. Or else how would I see? Is this what the world is like? Full of people swapping limbs for finery and fetishes?” 

“Pipe down, sailor. Your eyes can stay where they are. I just want you to show me the way. To the spot where they landed. That’s not too high a price to ask, is it?” 

Lorenzo puffed a breath of relief. “I accept your terms, Ros. For what reason do you seek the purple sparks?” 

She smiled. “Who knows what these newcomers might have to trade? Now, fair warning, this might get a little bumpy.” 

“Bumpy?” 

Ros slammed the hover over the riverbank. Its pads reverberated as the ground undulated below. Lorenzo’s legs wobbled, and he gripped the helm. 

Ros pushed him off the controls. “Keep those eyes peeled, Lorenzo. We’re heading into the savagelands. Quickest way to Whitehall. But Mirrims could be anywhere. Got it?” 

Lorenzo nodded. 

They passed over the wilds of the savagelands in silence. But silence was the mark of the Mirrims. Lorenzo wanted to speak just to prove that he was still himself, but Ros hushed him with a look. She stalked the horizon with a predatory gaze, her hand resting on the hilt of her gun. 

They passed rocks and the odd outcrop of grass, but could trust none of it. Not even the sand. Who could tell if a single grain was not a beast waiting for them, lurking? 

In the distance, another barge ploughed across the bedrock and dunes. Their silhouette warped in the sun’s heat. 

Ros nodded towards the craft. She placed a finger to her lips, and drew her gun. 

Lorenzo understood. 

The hover pulled alongside Ros, and she signalled with her arms to the captain of the barge, counting down from three, two, one. 

She blasted a horn. But no blast came from the hover beside her. 

It tilted to ram her and she fired a burst of plasma at the hull. Blue plasma burst like lightning across the hover as its metal shell writhed, morphing in and out of shape. The ship convulsed, and Ros fired again, before it collided with her hover, shunting it off course. Ros fell from the helm, and the gun clattered across the floor. Lorenzo toppled and when he rose, there were two of Ros on deck. He reached for the gun, and scooped it in his hands. 

“Lorenzo. It’s me.” There was only one voice, but both of them moved their lips. 

“Quiet,” he said. 

Sweat poured down his brow as he glanced from left to right. Which of them is Ros and which is the creature? 

“Lorenzo! It’s me! Use your ears!” 

“I said quiet.” They both stood by the helm. “I just point and shoot, right?” 

Both Rosalines nodded. 

“Okay. You.” He signalled to the one nearest the throttle. “Step forward.” 

They shuffled in front of the rudder, out of sight from the Ros that stood behind them. 

“Where do I come from? Both of you point on three.” Lorenzo said. “Three. Two. One.” 

The first Ros spun and pointed to the mountain in the distance. So did the Ros behind, at precisely the same moment. 

Lorenzo shook his head. His hands rattled on the pistol. “Change places. You go behind, and you in front” 

They swapped. 

“On three, I want you to point to your baby. Three. Two. One.” 

The Ros behind pointed one arm to the deck and her other arm at the gun he held, and the Ros in front frowned, pointing at their stomach. Lorenzo fired. The blast rippled over her body as plasma ignited her skin, charring her to a crisp. 

The remaining Ros picked up the Mirrim and flung it over the side of the craft. 

“Thanks,” she said. 

Lorenzo’s shoulders relaxed at the sound of her voice. “You said your baby never lets you down. Does this settle our debt?” 

She snatched the pistol from him and holstered it. “Keep your eyes peeled.” 

“We’re nearly there,” he said. “The purple sparks gather ahead.” 

Ros swung the hover in the direction Lorenzo pointed. They sped across the dunes, ever closer to discovering what manner of monster those lights had belonged to; ever nearer to where it lurked, waiting for them in the sand. 


If you enjoyed Frasier’s story, please make sure and share some kind comments below. If you would like to see how this story began, read Frasier’s “Pillars of Smoke,” which kicked off the entire Globe series.

And make sure to check back Friday for Part 2 of “The Voice of Beasts” by Frasier Armitage. Ranging from the harsh desert of the savagelands to the glass towers of Whitehall, Part 2 is filled with a race, a brawl, and a chase.

Finally, view the beautiful, original photos used to illustrate “The Voice of Beasts,” learn about the photographers, and follow links to their other work.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

P.S. Now you can enjoy the Globe Folio from the beginning:

Act 1: Night of the Rocket

Act 2: Nights of Revelation

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross