Based on Crazy World characters and themes created by Daniel Barnes.
Beyond the Island of the Sun Gods, the beast dwelt in the deep sea. Garute was a two-ton biped whose footsteps thundered upon the sea floor. Like his legend, Garute was a freak of nature.
In the bough of the lone tree, a Letol, that struck out from the seaside cliff and reached for the three setting suns miles beyond the Island of the Sun Gods, Rust Wing sat beside his Azurian son, Allmark Six, and told him of Garute. From their spot, high up in the bough, the turbulent sea so far below them looked as still as the Mirror, that great monumental obelisk splitting the busy sky above the Imperial Port, something Rust Wing saw only once, from the harbor, in his forty-two years. The lengthy arch of fronds from the crown of the Letol resisted the turbulent wind that scoured the face of the sea cliff. It held the man and his son in relative calm.
“It is in these waters beneath our feet. Garute, a beast our kind has not encountered for an age, lurks beneath the surface and deep in the bottoms. He is one amongst the fallen Pillars of Desolation.” Rust Wing watched Allmark for any sign of fear. It was by no accident they sat in the welcome arms of the Letol. They essentially had a balcony seat for a show not many who participated in would survive. Something beneath the sea began to stir. Quiet wavelengths ran through Rust Wing. He watched his son for any sign of fear.
His son sat still. “How many Pillars were there in the beginning, Da?” The branch they had climbed out onto began to grow well away from the massive trunk that stood straight out from the top of the sea cliff.
“There were thirty Pillars of Desolation that we know of but it is believed in some tribes that more than three hundred existed before the first quake.”
Allmark Six looked down upon the deceptively placid waters and imagined the eyes of Garute upon him. He imagined it was death or something severe and akin to mortality. The roiling sky above them churned gray and blue. “I feel like we’re under the surface of a bigger sea, Da. When do we return to Hortaos?”
“I don’t know that we can ever return to the border town,” Rust Wing said.
“I want to tell you about Garute. Then we can discuss the future.”
“Promise you won’t forget. I want to know when we can return to Hortaos,” Allmark Six said.
“I promise.” Rust Wing patted his son’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Da.” Allmark relaxed in the firm glove of the Letol tree’s foliage, which formed itself to be a seat. The Pillars of Desolation designed Letol trees eons ago and dispersed them wildly across Desolation. They bound Letols in concern for the humanoids. In turn, it was made a crime punishable by death to destroy a single Letol. That law was eviscerated in the Fourth Council of Platinum City.
“Garute was once a shepherd of the deep. He could pull the ships of the Aqua Marines from the Northern Sea
to the Ice Sheets in a day’s time. He could pound the sea floor and send up a wave to knock their foes back to the ports from which they’d set off.”
“The Aqua Marines? Of the first humanoid settlement?”
“Precisely. The underwater base they’d settled to remain undetected by the Delta 3 tyrants who chased them from the birth planet,” Rust Wing said.
“What was the name of the birth planet, Da?”
“And where was that? Precisely?” Allmark said.
“Fourth planet from the star in the Milky Way that burned out a half light year ago.”
“Marsearth,” Allmark said, rolling the word over his tongue and contemplating the birth world lost to the apocalypse of the dead star. “What became of them?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Rust Wing closed his eyes and clenched his jaw. A muscle in his neck quivered involuntarily. He put a hand upon it to hide it from Allmark.
Allmark looked upon his father’s face and memorized the deep scar that ran like a canyon from his ear to his collarbone. The sky began to shake above the sea, clearly miles from the Letol they’d nestled in. It caused some alarm in Allmark’s mind and he pressed closer to his father’s side. Rust Wing sat like a rock. He knew what was happening and what’s more, he was glad that young Allmark would be witnessing it. “Lest we forget,” his father said and pointed to the disturbance in the sky where a scrim of rouge began to spread from the seam that had shown in the clear blue sky. A crimson veil bled out and covered the arc of the atmosphere in an opaque vapor.
“Father?” Allmark cried.
“It’s fine, son.” Rust Wing patted his son’s chest with a firm palm. “It’s as it should be.” Then he laughed. “Besides, the Letol will keep us safe from the Vermillion incursion. Watch this. They won’t be here long.”
The sea tossed like a child’s bath and the foam it produced swirled in a thousand whirlpools. Columns of waterspouts rose and threw a thousand of the most haggard and rough Aquamarines Allmark had ever seen.
“Da?” Allmark said and his mouth stood open upon the last vowel as he watched the swirl of battle—thousands of Vermillion Slidedivers and Windwalkers breached the seam exploding violence beneath the crimson vapor. No match it appeared for the Aquamarines.
Rust Wing took a cylinder from his leathery grink bag and handed it to Allmark. “Look, son. Look as close as you want.”
Allmark took the cylinder and stretched its far end a bit. He peered through the lens and found himself a few miles from the battle in the sky. His body fell back against the soft bark of the Letol. He pulled the cylinder from his face and looked to his father for assurance.
“Get closer if you dare, Allmark.”
He drew the cylinder to his eye and stretched the far end even farther from his face. He found himself then in the midst of a chaotic, absurd, and violent dogfight. The red blood of the Vermillions and the blue blood of the Azurians flew in mists and jets across his purview. He felt himself falling. He put a hand to the soft bark of the Letol to reaffirm his true location. Satisfied, he stretched the cylinder as far as it would go and found himself looking upon a beautiful girl in what he assumed to be the Dunes of Zorax.
“Too far?” Rust Wing said.
“I, uh, I’m not sure what I just saw.”
“You’re all the way out,” Rust Wing said and pointed to the far end of the cylinder nearly three feet beyond Allmark’s steadying left hand. “All the way out. You saw a piece into your future.”
A wall of water four miles high rose up from the surface. The sea floor below glistened in the red light Desolation’s three suns cast through the Vermillion vapor. Upon the sea floor stood Garute.
“Look, Allmark! Garute, he lives. Don’t tremble with fear, son. He is surely busy with the battle at hand.”
Allmark could not speak. He didn’t blink for a minute. Garute captivated his mind so that he almost could not so much as breathe. His body froze in awe.
The wall of water embraced the Vermillion fighters and pulled them down to the sea floor.
“The word undertow doesn’t even suffice.” Red Wing grinned. “They got what they had coming, Allmark. Never trust Red.”
The seam swallowed the red vapor and the clear sky returned. The three suns of Desolation clearly set, rushing to bring the dawn to Bordertown, the Island of Solace, and Wolf’s Head Bay.
“The Pillars are real.”
“You’re one of a few living who’ve seen one now.”
Allmark Six rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. His head ached. Garute put a fear into him he couldn’t name. Years from now, in the Dunes of Zorax, he would feel that fear again as he faced the girl at the end of the cylinder in his hand.
“What’s wrong, son?”
“Who was she?”
“Good question. You’ll find out one day. Count on it, son.”
“I never saw her before.”
“But you will, Allmark. You can be sure of that. As sure of that as I’m sure that the Vermillion horde was just pushed back to the hellscape of their prime origin.” Rust Wing motioned for his cylinder back. He racked it down into its stored position and placed it back in his grink bag.
Photo of Garute courtesy of Daniel Barnes