Discover more from Write More with Simon K Jones
A distant rebellion
In which we take a brief trip to Blue Towers
The Triverse is
Mid-Earth, an alternate 1970s London
Max-Earth, a vision of the 26th century
Palinor, where magic is real
Previously: Palinor is a world of feudal city states, caught in the grip of an elite group magic-wielding humans. Heavily class-based, with non-wielders and aen’fa cast as servants and slaves, the inequality across the continent has led to rising tensions. An insurgent group that had previously been causing trouble in Bruglia has just made its move far to the south, in the once-beautiful city of Blue Towers…
Catch up on the whole story by upgrading your subscription and downloading the ebook!
Rebellion was in the air. This was not unusual for Blue Towers, a city state known primarily for two remarkable things: first, it’s incredible waterfalls and architecture, and, second, its baffling penchant for extreme reinvention. Reinvention being a euphemism for coup, or insurrection, or revolution, or purge. Blue Towers had tried them all. Not forgetting that most polite change of all: regime change. As easy as changing the sheets on a bed.
Krystyan wondered what they would call this one. So many words and phrases, multiplied tenfold by the shared vocabulary of the triverse. He sat on the edge of a balcony, his bare feet splashed by a fountain below. The two Earths had their own impressive propensity for aggressive political change. It was rarer these days, these heady days of cross-dimensional cooperation and stability. Max-Earth was purported to be a perfectly balanced utopia, locked in a harmonious state by a fleet of omniscient fascist machines. Mid-Earth had largely settled into a handful of empires which operated a kind of mutually agreed stasis, neither expanding or contracting.
Palinor, as ever, did things differently. That was the nature of a world with a pantheon of living gods - well, three living and one missing, presumed dead. The other dimensions had to rely on belief, which was hardly a reliable metric by which to maintain a religion. Gods and magic were far more direct. And so Palinor remained a world of barely-restrained chaos, never forming into actual countries but remaining at the feudal stage of development: countless city states and loose, easily betrayed unions.
Blue Towers was contradiction made manifest: beauty and horror continually intermingled over the decades. Perhaps this latest upheaval could be its last for a time, and lend its people some respite. It had certainly gone better than the last time Blue Towers had shifted, when the infamous purge had seen mages ejected from the very city they’d constructed. Rumours of a planned takeover by wielders had prompted an uprising, with the exiles unwelcome elsewhere and some even being forced through the portal to Mid-Earth. Not a kind fate for a wielder, to be cut off from their abilities.
As tends to be the case with purges, it hadn’t gone well in the long run. Those who had forced out the mages had decided they rather liked being in power, and one purge tends to lead to another. Blue Towers had been under an especially dictatorial rule for years, its people and infrastructure crumbling while the lords stayed in their towers and enjoyed the spoils of violence.
No dictator can hold a population by force forever, as they had now discovered. He patted the head of one of the lords where it rested on the ledge next to him, its last remaining blood dripping into the turquoise waters of the fountain. Lykasra wouldn’t like such a vulgar display, but it had gone down well during the declaration in town earlier. This particular lord has been especially hated, given his predilection for kidnap, rape and murder. A nasty thug who had got lucky; right up until that luck ran out. Well, Lykasra could blow fire at him later, when they were done establishing the new citizen’s council. This was always the tricky bit. Even the best intentioned of revolutions had a habit of going insane shortly after success. That’s why Krystyan had put together this particular team, and had built a strategy that extended far beyond taking down the bastards in charge. One eye was on the many failings of history; the other on the future. He was designing a template for a new society.
He breathed in the humid air of Blue Towers. It was a beautiful place of crystalline structures, carved and formed into the natural rock of the region. The geography of the area was marked with fairy chimneys: red rock stretching up from the basin, like a pincushion. It had once been an arid place but the mages had brought water there centuries ago, re-routing distant rivers and creating a subtropical paradise of sorts. The waters always flowed at Blue Towers, and it was said that a rainbow could always be found there during daylight hours. It should have been one of the best places to live on the continent. Maybe it would be now.
A shout came from inside. “Krystyan! Are you done philosophising to yourself? We have to talk about our next move.”
Yana was right, of course, as she tended to be. With a happy grunt, Krystyan got to his feet and stretched. He took a last look at the disembodied head. They’d need to clear that up later. He’d need to clear himself up, for that matter - there was still a smear of blood down the front of his brigandine. The balcony led to an interior that was almost as light and airy as outside, such was the design of buildings in Blue Towers. The others were sat around a large conference table.
He looked to Myroslava, who was skulking by the far door. “What’s the latest from the town?”
“All quiet. Well, relatively. Some small scale celebrations. Everyone remembers the last time too much to go crazy. Waiting for the catch.”
“Probably for the best,” he said, nodding and chewing on his lower lip. “Gives Lykasra more time to get the new setup in place.” It was the first live test of the plan. They’d been seeding rebellion throughout the continent for years, but the opportunity to strike had suddenly presented itself in Blue Towers.
Walking slowly around the table, he looked admiringly at his crew. Maxim, who had proven once again his remarkable elementalist abilities. The man was a walking weapon. Slava, who had got everything in place ahead of time and had been working in the lords’ employ for weeks without them having any idea. Micrologists make such excellent assassins. Yana, always able to see five steps further ahead than anyone else, and always tapped into the planet through her physology. Pylpo, keeping them all alive and patched up. He’d found her hiding in the wilds outside Bruglia after a failed attempt to transit to Mid-Earth. She and Zlati had made a lucky escape from a gang of slavers. Zlati, young and impetuous and just like he had been at her age. She would go far if she stayed focused, he had no doubt.
“What are you working on, Pylpo?”
The girl was scribbling away on a piece of paper, and looked up in surprise, as if she’d only just noticed his arrival. “The usual,” she said, grinning with embarrassment. She held up the paper at arms length and stared at her creation. “Ah, so dreamy.”
Krystyan moved round to look at the sketch, showing a young human woman with short-cropped fair hair. Someone they’d spotted with Princess Daryla in Bruglia months earlier, who had inadvertently caught Pylpo’s attention and refused to let go. “You know, it could be thought of as a little creepy that you’re still drawing this person, despite having never formally met her.”
“I don’t know,” Pylpo said, pouting a little, “we faced off in that market. A connection was formed. Practically in a steady relationship.”
He gave her a condescending pat on the shoulder. Pylpo had a remarkable ability to simply remember things, which was invaluable for scoping out potential missions. Less useful when she became fixated on random details.
“Down to business,” Yana said pointedly, gesturing to an empty seat. Krystyan took the hint. “Our friend in Bruglia is telling us that the situation is worsening. The university and Chancellor Baltine are consolidating their grip on the city. But they’re clever, not like the brutes who were running Blue Towers. We can’t rely on citizen support, not yet.”
Krystyan nodded. “We need more allies in the region before we can even think about moving. A voice people would recognise.”
“She’s not ready for that yet.”
“Then she needs to get ready,” he snapped. “Now that we’ve done this here, now that Blue Towers has been liberated, we’re going to have a lot of eyes on us. We’re no longer just a nuisance.”
Zlati sighed. “Does it ever feel like the distance between here and there is impossibly huge? We know what we want to accomplish, but how the fuck do we get there, when everyone is lined up against us?”
“Mind your language,” Krystyan said, pointing a finger, “and this is why we do it one step at a time. A continent-wide revolution is impossible to pull off. But change one mind at a time, one city at a time, and sooner-or-later you’ll be in sight of your goal.”
Yana nodded. “We’re going to win in the end.”
Looking unconvinced, Zlati leaned back in her chair. “OK, it just feels like it takes forever.” She looked to Pylpo, across the table. “Laryssa has it easy! Relaxing on Mid-Earth while we’re here trying to change the world.”
Thanks for reading!
That was a fairly standalone piece, albeit with a lot of fun callbacks for readers who have been here from the start.
Couple of things to put on your reading list this week. First up there’s this response to my earlier thoughts on serialisation, which works as an excellent continuation of the discussion:
I also stumbled upon this piece of micro-fiction over on Notes which is fabulously creepy:
Short stories, and micro-fiction especially, are so good at conjuring a world into existence that then continues to expand in the mind of the reader long after. Less is more, for sure.
Oh, and Substack last night posted something worth reading. A new manifesto of sorts:
A bit light on details, but I like the vibe.
Also! I got back to the sketching game this week. I fiddled around drawing a new tiefling character that I’m playing in a D&D game with some friends, and was quite pleased with the results. Here’s a portrait:
And here’s a full body pose:
Every sketch I make is a step toward being able to make a comic. One day….one day.
These ebook giveaways are still going if you need to top up your bookshelves:
Right! Lots of stuff to excitedly point to in this one.
This is another one of those chapters which perhaps doesn’t focus on the obvious. A big revolution, with street battles and political assassinations sounds exiting, doesn’t it? Except I chose to pick up this particular story just after all of that exciting stuff. This is the quiet, tense aftermath of violence.
A few reasons for that: I wanted this to be a one-shot, for starters, and directly showing the rebellion would have immediately expanded it into a multi-part storyline. That felt like the wrong pacing at this point in the season. Also, while we’ve seen these characters before (more on that in a moment), we’re not especially familiar with them. Diverting into a multi-part story with a completely separate set of characters, away from our core cast, felt like it would have been a mistake.
Long-time readers with good memories might have started twitching at the mention of Blue Towers, wondering if they’d heard of it before. And you have! It was featured in the storyline ‘Backdoors’, which was way back in December 2021. In fact, the purge mentioned by Krystyan is also reference in ‘Backdoors’, and forms the motivation for that story’s guest character Petr.
The rebels have also made prior appearances. They showed up just over a year ago in June 2022’s storyline ‘Expeditions & interrogations’, which was when Clarke and Styles travelled to Palinor to escort a prisoner back to Earth. You may recall there being a confrontation at a market between Princess Daryla and some now-familiar troublemakers.
Some of the rebels made a second appearance in ‘Bombings’. As that storyline got underway and the chaos spread through the triverse, we got to see Yana leading a group on a heist mission that rapidly fell apart.
Two of the rebels, Pylpo and Zlati, may sound extra-familiar - and, of course, they mention someone called Laryssa right at the end. There’s a rather horrid dramatic irony to their assumptions, as anyone who read ‘Traffic’ in November 2021 will understand. In fact, Laryssa even got her own bonus chapter in the form of her diary. That’s the first time Pylpo and Zlati were mentioned.
I don’t think you need to know or remember any of this stuff for today’s chapter to work. But I hope it’s rewarding for anyone who has read the whole story so far, especially if you’ve been here right from the beginning. It’s the kind of referencing I always find satisfying - not random retconsor made-up connections, but character and plot points that were always there from the start.
The last reference isn’t to my stuff but to a cult children’s animation. Yes, Yana’s line “we’re going to win in the end” is a direct reference to the remake of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Referencing a kids show might not be the most obvious move for Tales from the Triverse, which is very much not written for kids. I watched the show between 2018 and 2020 with my son, who was around 7 years old at the time. Much like Into the Spider-verse, I could tell it was actively expanding his understanding of storytelling while he was watching it. The first couple of seasons were fun but more kid-focused, but the back half of the show morphs into something more sophisticated - it has one of the best finales to a TV show I’ve seen. To say I was unexpectedly invested is an understatement.
Anyway, that’s why that’s there. The show and’s work in general is always a reminder to me to put more effort into my characters and the emotional verisimilitude of what’s happening in my stories.
Retroactive continuity - aka making shit up as you go, often to fix plot holes of your own making.