Chronoscope: K-Outland //progenitor _1.5

​The meeting-place beckoned up ahead, the setting sun embracing the giant tree in the coming twilight.


Small eddies of dust and cottonwood puffs danced in the rays.

The ground and the grass smelled lush, full of memory. The scent invaded him, goaded him, kissed him.


His blood continued to drip onto the dirt as his boots scuffed along the road.

In front of the word ‘dead’ is a decent place to put the word ‘almost’, he thought.

The lacerations would heal in time. The defeat, at the very least, could be learned from.

His vision blurred as the tree got closer.


He slowed his pace, slowed his breath. Vision returned. Mostly. 

The tree waved its arms in worship of the sinking sun.


His breath caught.

There was a note tacked to the tree.

He steadied himself against the trunk and pulled the note off, wiping the sweat from his eyes with his forearm.

He looked around, and saw the desolate peace of nature staring back. Nothing else.

He read the note.

>Take care of yourself.
>You need to heal.

He looked up, nodding at nothing in particular.

She hadn’t bothered to sign it. No need.

“Mmhmm. Yep.”

He spat into the dust with force, and almost crumpled the note before creasing it delicately and sliding it into the only pocket that wasn’t spattered with a mixture of bloods.

He slept there until sunrise, bandaged himself as best he could, and continued on the western road.

Having the rug pulled out from under your feet is one thing.

Waiting in a place such as this, he reckoned, amounted to suicide, which is another thing entirely. If the bandits didn’t blow your face off, the echoes and whispers from the path behind would surely drown you.

Cordell walked.

The cottonwood waved in the wind, and bid him farewell.

Chronoscope: K-Outland, Intro II

“Well?” she asked, green eyes smiling under a mass of white hair. “Do you want the story… or the truth?”

The boy blinked. He hadn’t prepared for anything… profound. Most of the time, an adult (even a great-grandparent) had sat him down with the notion of “Alright now, listen to this and GO TO SLEEP.” He knew, for instance, that B always came after A; and that the hero was generally allowed to kill or break whatever got in his way, and that the girl was always waiting for him since she had nothing better to do.

But this? The story? The truth? He tried to concentrate as he nursed his glass of milk.

She waited.

“Um… which one is more exciting?”

She pursed her lips and sucked at her teeth for a few seconds.
“Well now… that all depends on what excites you. There is Dark in the story. We revel in it. The Dark is engulfing, and comforting. It fills in the cracks and holes of life. When we sink into darkness, in sleep, our minds create and live in stories.

Yet there is Light in the truth. It illuminates and cleanses, and sometimes is uncomfortable. When we are awake, we argue the Light; especially our own version of it.

It is said that Light travels fast, little one. Faster than anything. But wherever the Light goes, the Dark is there. Waiting. This is not a battle, so much as a… balance.”

His eyes were wide as he contemplated the universe at large for the first time. He felt as though he was vaguely in trouble for something he couldn’t remember doing.

“So,” she said, “choose.”
Her mouth turned up the wrinkles in its corners.
“Which one? The story… or the truth?”

The boy looked at her for a few seconds, testing invisible waters.
“Why can’t we have both?”

Her eyes widened slightly.
Her head cocked back as she laughed.
“Oh!” she said, still chuckling. “There may be hope for you yet.”

He grinned and sipped his milk.

“I’ll do you one better than the story or the truth.”

He leaned in closer.

“I’m going to tell you what’s real.”

Chronoscope: K-Outland, Prologue


The word rolled off her tongue like silk and judgment.

He stared back, unblinking for a moment in the challenge.

“Why.” More statement than question.

You,” she pointed, “are scared. Actually scared, and I’ll spare no veracity on your account. It’s pretty cute.”

“So?” A shrug. He stuck his pipe back in his mouth, tugged at his cowboy hat.

The breeze brushed at her cloak, draped over the stone chair.

The white tabernacle sat in a small clearing, long unused, in the low woods near the coast.

Light played down soft between layers of leaves.

“I know what you’re gettin’ at.”

“Do you now.”

Her leathers creaked as she crossed her legs.

She uncrossed them.

“Never did like doing that.”

“You do realize what the stakes are. Game’s kinda changed there, little killer.”

“Yep. We were talkin’ about you. Why d’you think I went ronin?”

“’Cause you got scared?” A dry smirk. Perhaps a touch of admiration.

“Focus now, little killer. You want to see, or not?”

The card danced through her fingers.

Their horses, tethered a little ways off, pawed the earth as they ate.

“Why do we keep comin’ here?”

“Yeah, now you’re gonna get all existential on me. Have you seen that shit on the outskirts lately? Christ, humor me here.”

He laughed. “What the hell do we deserve? Ever figure that one out?”

She snapped her fingers, and small blue flames danced across the air past his head.

A bird sang through the sudden silence.

His eyes narrowed. “This hat’s a relic, y’know. 20 X. Probably get a couple bags of rice for it, if I had the desire.”

“Do you?” The dry smirk given in return.


“Have the… desire?”

“Just show me the—“ She slammed the card on the tabernacle.

“Knight of Wands.”

“Huh.” Like someone had just shown him an interesting rock.

Her eyebrow arched. “You know what this means?”

“I know it means any damn thing you want it to.” He tapped out his pipe, stowed it.

She stood. “It’s there for what you need, genius. Take it or leave it.” Started towards her horse.

He got up and debated following; she’d already thrown her saddle back on.

“Please. I’ve seen the face of God. He needed a shave. Next?”

He sighed, and followed to the horses.

She handed him the deck. “I’ve got more.”

He laughed quietly. “Somethin’ to remember you by?”

She tilted her head.

“You need objects for that?”

His arms found her, without warning, pulled her in.

Her hand twitched, in want of her gun.

Her breath caught, and the heat between them was a tangible thing.

“When you comin’ back to the Table?” he asked, softly.

Shrug. She let go and mounted up. “I dunno.” Her cloak didn’t hide her eyes.

He tied down his staff and got on.

She started to ride off.

“Hold on.”

She stopped. Tilted her head slightly.

“Hold on to what?”

“Just hold on. Ok?”

She turned, and nodded. Rode without looking back.

The air carried a faint mist with it through the sunlight. He took his pipe out, letting the horse take him in the general direction of his new destination.

He tamped it a few times before taking one long draw, and made little clouds in between the vernal air and the weight of everything else.