Shaper

A month and change after I issued a request for help on working on my newest/oldest project, the world I am developing named High Earth, I have news. More than news really because there is evidently something about Thanksgiving, or the food, that sparks my muse from hiding and makes me want to write. Now, its been a month since I decided I’d be working on this project again, and the fact that the Depositorium has been characteristically quiet during that month does not mean I have myself been quiet.

I’ve actually been dredging my old files, my old handwritten notes, even my old email archives and older forum I used to post some things on. Seeing as I have left High Earth alone for the most part for two or three years, much has changed, and most of you know that High Earth is a kind of metaphorical allusion to my life, the characters mirror those friend, acquaintances and enemies I have in real life. Phoerix is in fact a very real part of me, as well as being my online persona.

Names have been changed, both from their real world names to even their in world names. As I’ve grown over the last few years I have changed fundamentally, and while I’m sure most of you don’t really care all the nitty gritty, it matters a little. Originally, Phoerix was an orphan, a loner, and a great deal more “emo” than I cared to admit. I’ve made a few changes, and the characters, Phoerix excluded, are more archetypes than singular people. Because of this, it would have been inappropriate for me to keep the names as they were, as who they were.

I’ve mostly eliminated the races I’d wanted to add, because it was really just me ripping Tolkien and Jordan off. Granted, almost anything I do will be a rip of someone, and I’ll do more than my fair share of both of them, but for now, I’ll stick to what I’ve done.

Now, more than ever, I really ask for a little feedback. I’m not as happy with this as I have been with my past work, but it has some small potential. I know the naming is slightly confusing, and hopefully tomorrow I’ll force myself to post a little more information about shaping, Shaper, and the world. I’ve got handwritten notes all over the place with a lot of information on a lot of different things. So a little help, either on grammar or just ideas for a better bit of writing is more than welcome.

And now, finally, here it is. The actual bit is around five pages or so in Word, so a little longer than my past postings. And yes, I know, commas will be my downfall.

Shaper

The cool morning was slightly overcast; the resultant dispersion of sunlight illuminated the field and provided excellent, though sometimes painful, visibility. At the moment, the field itself was clear and grassy, level and roughly thirty tens across by ten tens wide. A tense hush had fallen over the pitch as two groups of seven humans garbed in red and light blue huddled together at either end near a line of suspended metal disks. A healthy distance away from the marked off rectangle, a mob of excited spectators quivered and jostled quietly. This field was about to undergo a profound and radical change.

Clad in a light blue with varying levels of armor overlaid were seven friends all familiar with each other from years of childhood and well versed in their roles for the upcoming game. Years of having fallen, tumbled, and plunged willingly into trouble together had hardened them and bound them together.

The White-haired young man in contoured armor was both the runner and the captain of the team. Thin and slightly shorter than average, he headed the hexagon pointed toward the center of the field. Flanking his right was a tall, lanky fellow with a thick Blue mane was likewise garbed in contoured armor, though with less cloth showing. To White’s left a man a few inches taller than himself and with a mess of Jet curls waited clad in massive steel plates that evidently bothered him less than the light armor of the other two.

Directly behind White was Red, a tall woman with brilliant red hair in long, lazy curls and no apparent armor. Adjoining her were Jade and Gold. Jade was a petite young woman with even longer, curlier hair a rich, earthy green and curve hugging wood armor, as if grown around her body. Gold, like Blue, was a tall, thin man with a mop of short goldenrod hair. An elaborate series of gears and spikes poked out of his armor, and small whirling noises issued forth, providing a stark contrast with Jade.

Finishing the seven was Sandy. This giant of a man wore at least twice the metal Jet bore, but unlike his smaller companion, visibly felt the weight. His light brown hair was cut short and thicker on his hands than the other players. His job was to stay and act as one last, physical wall of defense once the game started against the other team.

Across the field, mirroring rather than contrasting, were the seven red-garbed players. Each player had hair roughly corresponding to the blue team, and while gender or placement differed occasionally, the builds remained much alike.

The goal of the game was relatively simple; get to the ball in the middle of the field and put it through one of the disks on the opposing side of the field to score. The team with the most points after two halves won. In practice, the game was much easier said than done. “Physical interaction” was a euphemism for the abundant raw body contact. And that was without taking into account the reason for the game’s name: Shaper. All the players on each team were themselves Shapers; individuals with a natural, limited control over various elements, one from each branch. And each player had a specific role, function and ruleset.

“Shreet!” A shrill whistle rang out over the field, inciting a burst of energy to the fourteen players on the field, and a roar from the spectators. One player from both teams stayed behind at their line of rings as the rest pressed on toward the center of the pitch, where an oblong ball lay alone. The blue team charged forward, in a lengthening delta formation.

From both ends of the field wind began to rise, colliding into itself near the ball, whipping up clouds of sand and dust. White was fairly flying toward the ball, his contoured armor cutting a path through the obscuring haze and catching the wind from behind him. A small tempest was converging on his course for the ball and a collision increasingly seemed inevitable.

Temperature dropping the closer he drew to the ball, and dust devils spinning around him, White finally reached the ball a hair before the charging cloud. A girl with long, Milky locks materialized in front of him and tore past his side, wind following to rip at the ball in his grasp. Erupting in front of him, a massive rough stonewall grew from the ground, blocking his way, and a hard blow to his knees almost knocked the ball out of his grasp again.

Milky had pulled a tight corner and slammed into his back, aiming to strip the ball but had slipped on a small puddle of water just before hitting him. The stonewall ejected a huge Brunette and stopped growing. The grass started to reach out and bind itself and entangle itself around White’s ankles, making movement difficult and slowing his progress around the wall. His charge checked by some unseen force, Brunette lumbered languidly as if walking into a strong gust or over-encumbered. Jet dove into view from an improbably high jump, slamming into the larger man with a sickening thud.

Both the grass attached to his ankles and the woman to his knees slipped, and White felt beads of water dripping over him. Seeing his opportunity, White strained and broke free, bursting away and tripping into a roll. Scrambling up, he reached the end of the wall that had hampered his progress and was met by a blast of hot air and blinding light. A long wall of fire mirrored the stone one he had just left burst up, hiding a tall Crimsoned man. A strong gust of wind picked him up from behind and he charged through the wall, praying the depth wasn’t too great.

Flames licked at him, his lower section smoldering but remaining mostly intact while his upper cloth started to burn and drop away. The metal in his armor began to warm as he pressed on, quickly becoming uncomfortable. After a short eon, the flames parted and he was met with the Crimson man he had glimpsed before. Face tightening, Crimson was blindsided by a smoking Gold and the wall quickly dissipated. Blitzing past his fallen victim, Gold set his focus on the metal disk nearest White.

Close inspection of the metal disks would reveal them to be an iris mechanism; with blades able to swing outward to open the disks into a ring. Planting himself deliberately about three tens away from the ring, Gold pointed at the disk and sent out a cord of arcing lightning. Slowly, methodically, the iris opened into a new ring about three across that instantly held the entire field’s attention. Renewing their fervor, the spectators began to outdo their opening cheer.

Weaving in and around the rapidly cluttering pitch, White advanced upon the ring. Only two figures stood between him and his goal; a small Raven headed girl, and a stocky Blond male, a tad taller than he. Blond ignored White and darted toward Gold. White blew past Raven, the wind to his back speeding him along. Without warning his moment was arrested, and he moved as though waist-deep in honey, like Brunette had appeared before being tackled. Still running, trying rather, White reached back and hurled the ball forward toward the open ring.

The ball oozed along slowly until it was a double arm-length away, then it jumped and flew on. The ring was closing slowly now, Gold and Blond locked in a grapple, their armor sparking and smoking even while reaching out to aid their bearers. Wobbling again mid-flight the ball turned first one way then the other as Raven and White fought for control of the path. Each pair on the field was now locked in their own duel, shaping the field to their advantage, or keeping the other from doing the same. Laboriously, the ball clipped one of the closing blades of the iris and flew through.

For the second time the whistle blew and play paused. A flag unfurled on either side of the field and the score was recorded. The crowd went wild, cheering or groaning loudly as their loyalty was rewarded or tested. No longer a pristine emerald lawn, the field had been changed into a maze, part jungle, part pond, part stone labyrinth, with scorch marks and rubble abounding. Glass pillars and sheets were cooling, giving a beautiful shimmer to the ground.

Some time later the game had ended and after shaking hands, both teams helped reset the field. The stonewalls were lowered and smoothed into the ground, plants withdrawn and the turf reseeded and healed. Gold and Blond attended to their rings disks after making minor repairs to their armor which had both sustained considerable damage during their frequent skirmishes. The final score was five to four, home team advantage and the final game to a perfect regular season.

Heading back to the gym to change and clean up, both teams congratulated the other on their season and split a small ways apart. Arms around each other’s shoulders both for camaraderie and support, the victors stumbled along. White addressed his team, “Twelve to nothing; a perfect season! Who would have thought a group of misfits like us could have pulled it off?” Belying his slight build and slightly short height, White’s voice rolled out in a soft, deep rumble. Helping him more than the others was Jade with an arm around his waist.

“Ah dunno know about you all, but I had no doubts.” Sandy’s voice slurred a little; a lazy crawling that somehow managed to sound like it was speeding. He slapped a massive hand across White’s back, eliciting a string of coughs and nearly knocking Jade and White over. He smiled broadly at his handy work and hauled them back up.

Jade yelped as she attempted to steady White and herself. “Kath!” Her voice had a soft, melodic tone to it, and more than a small helping of a mothering here. “Neither of us need a drop right now, Phoerix especially.” Her armor was blackened and fractured in several places, unlike the almost untouched, though greasy, armor Kathoplizo wore.

Red grinned and stayed by Blue, both less worn and beat than Phoerix or Jade, though a good deal more dusty, muddy in Blue’s case. “You might want to leave off the extra weight between matches next time though,” Blue quipped, a twinkle in his eyes, noting the slight bulge around the plates in the larger man’s armor. “I would hazard a guess that one or two of those goals were preventable, at least in your more limber preseason state.” His voice rang clear, easy to listen to and warm.

“Now now, Hetaires, lets be civil.” Red spoke up while smiling all the harder at Kathoplizo’s grateful look to her. She continued, false charity making her voice slightly abrupt and sarcastic, “At the beginning of the season he could have blocked both those last two easily. You should have been more specific.” Her smile fell into a laugh as the grateful look dissolved into an exacerbated groan.

The teasing and joking continued up to the gym where the girls split off. Jade left Phoerix to his friends and moved off with Red, saying, “Aerin and I will meet you in the gym when we’re done changing.” They headed indoors giggling to themselves leaving the five alone outside shaking their heads before continuing on their way.

Once inside their own rooms, they began discarding their armor, dented and dinged from the game. “I’ve got to say Nicolai,” Phoerix mumbled from under his threadbare blue tunic and armor, “you’ve gotten much better at making these. Much easier to move and guide myself in.” Finally off his body, the armor looked like a shelled armor skeleton bound by worn cotton.

Nicolai nodded his thanks at the compliment, quietly fiddling with an intricate locking mechanism in the front of his suit. Still slightly sparking, the suit slowly eased Nicolai out of it and depressed itself into a neatly folded pile, gears spinning and quivering. “Aerin can be quite helpful when she puts her mind to it. She’s got a natural aptitude for metalworking.” The blond’s voice rushed out, almost spinning like the gears in his armor, methodically. “And yours, Lampros?”

The final member had already laid his armor aside, tossing the various bits aside lightly across the room until they crashed in a heap with loud bangs. Smiling quickly and gratefully, Lampros chuckled, “Quite the masterpiece. I think that earth fellow has a little more respect for people a tad smaller than himself now.” He winced as a knee buckled slightly, and grunted. “He does know how to hit dirty though.”

Having removed their uniforms and stored their armor, the five donned loose short pants and light blue shirts similar to those they wore on the field and headed toward the gym. Inside they were met with an open, hardwood floor and clean lighting. A few balls form the game laid next to the door they entered through and Phoerix picked one up, calling out, “Nicolai, go deep!”

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