nice to meet you... i'm estella grace.

from sydney and austin, but currently living in singapore.
you built me palaces out of paragraphs

if sunny v. is the official older sister, i'm the cool aunt.

black lives matter

Message to Readers

First new piece in a while. Right now it's barely anything. I want to genre-bend so hard that James Cameron will call ME up. Summary: ancient civilizations in space, paired with slight religious (well, in terms of mythology, anyway) undertones.

skylarks over sunrays

December 2, 2020


There was a myth, Torren remembered, one that had been told and retold for centuries amongst his people.

Seeking both discovery and liberation, a father and his son craft an apparatus to take to the skies like majestic falcons or powerful eagles, golden feathers glinting in the early morning light, carried away to new heights on the winds of pure chance. But as freedom is always fickle, the father warned his son not to succumb to it, and forbade him from flying too close to the sea or to the sun, as it would pose a risk to his contraption. The unspoken truth, of course, was lost on his tongue: he feared for his son’s safety and wanted to protect him as best he could. After many years of honing and refining their creation, they finally soar away together, navigating the last stars of eve. Even so, untainted and unadulterated liberty - the kind without care, rhyme or reason - made for a potent drug, and the young were almost always the first to fall.

Icarus had the sky, the sea, the world at hand. But if you fly too close to the sun, you get burned.

It was the kind of story that was shared through generations, a cautionary tale meant initially to discourage children from misbehaving. Never judging or subtle. Immortal, unchanging. Most stories were.

When Araion told it, he’d chide a little bit, joking about charred wings and chastising Torren about constant vigilance and the dangers of tipping the scales to imbalance.

“Better keep one eye open, Tor-u. Anyone could fall from grace, but it takes sheer lack of restraint to reach the point of no return. But that is not us, çiv luen. You and I know the real meaning of the story, don’t we? It’s to remind individuals of their limitations. Everyone has them, and it’s a dangerous line to dance between defining yourself by them and ignoring them completely. It’s balance, Tor-u. Something you’ve yet to learn, otherwise you’d stop hoarding the calamyites and let me eat one for a change!”

Araion was convinced there was always bound to be a line to just how far someone could go.

Torren had no idea why this particular story was coming to mind now. Sitting up aimlessly to adjust a dial by his bed, he strode over to the bay windows and drew the shades to view the one-way looking glass behind them.

Quickly crumpling a memo tacked to his wall, he inhaled deeply before going about the process of rewinding the eight or nine chrono-docks he kept placed at various angles. This was something he had to do every morning. If he wasn’t precise about it, they’d wind up sounding their tolls and he could risk losing Kaldureinn.

He didn’t want to think about that alternative.

By this hour, the marketplace beyond the looking glass had barely opened, which meant there were only a few individuals milling around. Most sols Torren observed it, it was crowded and colorful, tones muted through Kaldureinn’s view.

The sols were always shorter than they seemed. Maybe he would do four or five supply runs in a week. He spent a lot of time gathering materials for the devices he framed the walls with: protective screens, specific dials, unwavering thermostats.

The thermostats were especially important. One small increase in temperature and his life could be on the line.
It didn’t have to be much. Two or three degrees higher could pose a serious risk to his health. If Kaldureinn wasn’t kept at exactly ten degrees, a stat that was non-negotiable, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to survive the repercussions. No Aivscene could.

Everything had to be kept in a constant cryogenic state. He’d lost count of the number of thermo-regulators he’d built to keep the cold in and the heat out.

Routine checks were necessary in Kaldureinn. Even the slightest fault could have uncertain consequences.

Because Araion was right when he said that everyone had limitations. This was his.

There were logs in Kaldureinn, too - the kind stored in those large, color coded binders. He kept them as a means of testing the devices. Although he’d never admit it to himself, he also used them as a way to keep track of the sols he’d spent shut behind Kaldureinn’s walls.

Not that Torren wasn’t grateful for his haven. He thrived on solitude, and Kaldureinn - the dwelling he constructed for himself from an abandoned watchtower - provided it. He also knew that it wasn’t exactly legal for him to be occupying it, even if no one else ever came and went.

Kaldureinn was safe, sheltered, far out of harm’s way. It was ideal for someone like him, someone who valued their own space above all else. No one would ever, ever think to look inside an old, stone watchtower on a border moon. Other than the sprawling mass that was the marketplace below him, this border moon was all but uninhabited. Plus, it was equally small.

He was the watcher. The witness. Content to observe and note silently. Well, sometimes he’d muse to himself, if only to hear the sound of his own voice. But he never felt trapped or cramped in Kaldureinn. It was his sanctuary.

The walls were covered with his many devices, of course, accompanied by memos and notes to himself. Since coming to Kaldureinn, he’d tried to obscure almost every stone with a piece of his own mind and soul. Lines from Aivscenian stories and poems written by him in Saluvian codes were inked wherever there was free space. Sometimes he would sketch, as well; if he saw something of interest behind the looking glass, he’d try to copy it down on a spare piece of parchment or a stone unmarked by ink or metal. But interesting things were always few and far between.

At least, that’s what he believed.
                                                                                        ~//\ \~

If you were Aivscene... should you ever choose to venture out of Achlyt; boreal, ancestral home planet Achlyt... you were in constant danger.

Torren rolled his eyes at the thought. It wasn’t because someone was forcibly - or purposefully - oppressing Aivscenes in particular. Laws of an unfair standard had never truly been imposed upon the people back in Achlyt. Maybe the reason for that was because the st-raternity knew that Aivscenes had more than enough to deal with. Seemed fair.

It wasn’t anybody’s fault, though he knew the myths would tell it differently. When Torren was very young, his father would reprimand Araion for spreading them around.

A biological error, he’d said to his elder son, as if in some mere attempt to explain thousands of years of adaptation in a single sentence. An evolutionary flaw.

Safety had always been a priority. And it would continue to be, even if Torren believed himself to be the only Aivscene on this border moon.

Heat was a danger to all Aivscene folk, and Torren had built up defenses against it over the course of the years he’d spent in Kaldureinn. The bay windows were made of tinted tempered glass, almost completely heat-proof. He was glad that they faced an angle away from the rising sun in the mornings, but he’d never been one for taking chances. The many regulators, placed at odd angles on the walls, were designed to maintain the continuous draft and they were never, never to be tampered with unless absolutely necessary. He’d built dials and rods to conduct and collect ice in the winter months, for storing. Water was one of his most important resources. He could freeze it in the units he’d built into the stone, conserving it for weeks on end. Plus, it was incredibly useful when leaving Kaldureinn for supply runs.

Goddamn supply runs.

Because this particular border moon was especially close to the sun, that meant Torren was in danger every time he ventured out of his dwelling. Just perfect. He’d cover every inch of his skin with breathable wear - layers and layers of material to avoid exposure. Before doing so, he’d line the inside with insulation and ice hackles - which were frozen canisters of water in various lengths, contained in thin units made from composites. They served the same purpose as down feathers. He preferred cooler colors and muted tones - never black, though. Too risky. Mostly he stuck to subdued, light greys and discreet shades of blue. Torren also sported a hood and mask over his mouth and nose, with a smaller ice hackle placed on his tongue.

He didn’t speak in supply runs if he could avoid it (his practice in blending in over the years came in handy), instead making exchanges and trades, selling some of his more useless devices for scrap and spare ortivs. He’d purchase food and newer materials with his earnings, if only just to maintain the lone lifestyle he had grown accustomed to.

Today’s supply run was more of the same, going through the motions of preparing for the week ahead. Of course, a new compressor was a necessity for one of the older units. He also needed another water receptacle and made a mental note to trade copper shavings for one.

He caught a glimpse of himself in the eisoptro by Kaldureinn’s entrance. Same as always. Messy light brown hair, deep hazel eyes, his dark skin sporting its usual greyish tinge. This was good. It meant there had been no serious temperature shifts in the last hour. Nothing in his appearance ever particularly surprised him, but today the face staring back at him seemed more sullen than usual, if that was even possible.

“Get out of my head, Araion,” he muttered, and the words cut through the silence like a whetted blade.

Before leaving, he made sure to log the date on the ephemeris by his desk. He knew damn well what today meant, and he wasn’t sticking around to dwell on it.

Pulling his mask over his nose and mouth, he eyed the marketplace as he locked up Kaldureinn behind him, ensuring there’d be no uninvited visitors during his absence. He knew an old watchtower would be prime real estate for vendors and salespeople looking to expand their stalls. As far as people knew, Kaldureinn remained desolate and abandoned, a derelict without a soul.

It has a soul, thought Torren bitterly as he navigated the streets, stopping every so often to cool down a little. Even if it’s really well hidden.

He said nothing as he approached a familiar stall, copper shavings at the ready. The saleswoman there had known him since he’d come to the border moon, and (as it seemed) took pity on him enough to let him abide in his silence. He exchanged the shavings for the water unit, and watched as she discreetly slipped a few extra ortivs across the table towards him, giving a small nod of the head. He had sketched her from memory many times, and he valued her kindness. In secret, of course.

With the extra coin, he’d definitely have money left over even after purchasing the new compressor. His left hand automatically travelled to the ice hackle he wore on a nylon string around his neck, tucked under his shirt. He’d modified it to continually maintain his body temperature, keeping him cold even when the sun cast its shadows across the stalls and rows of sellers and products. Fortunately, clouds were obscuring the sky today, and Torren could keep his head down and not have to worry too much.

After deciding he’d purchase more food supplies before making tracks back to Kaldureinn, a voice suddenly rang out behind him, appealing with someone in front of him to slow down.

At first, he didn’t think much of it. Kaldureinn was within sight, his eyeline fixed on its sealed doors.

He could still hear the person behind him calling out. This stressed him out a little, and he started walking a little faster in the direction of the watchtower.

Go away. Go away. Leave me alone.

The voice was easily identifiable as female, and he didn’t think he’d heard it anywhere before. It was undeniably pretty (clear as day, like a melody piercing his silence), and this irked him far more than he cared to admit.

She was calling to him. Not to someone in front of him, to him. To Torren.

He wanted to call back to her. Tell her to leave while she still could. But that would mean turning around to face her, and he definitely did not want to do that. It would also mean breaking his silence, something else he wanted to avoid. So he’d ignore her and pretend not to hear her requests.

Multiple “excuse me”s and “hello”s. A couple of “hey, you!”s. But she kept asking for help or advice about something, and the last thing he wanted was to turn around and assist her like some common vendor or information droid.

The tungsten stall’s that way, ma’am.

Torren was almost to Kaldureinn’s entrance. Gripping one of the large door handles with more force than he intended to, he raised his left hand to input the familiar passcode. In doing so, he felt his right arm drop further down to rest by his side as his shoulder pushed the door open ever so slightly.

The girl behind him had picked up her pace, a fact he’d noted with a twinge of annoyance. She’d sped up to stand next to him, and he desperately tried to force his way into the watchtower, to shut her out for good before she could continue bombarding him with irritating questions about matters of which he had no concern for.

No doubt.

He could hear her breathing behind him, inhaling and exhaling rhythmically.

“Hello?” she said, softer this time. “I… I was wondering if-”

He moved away from her, pushing with all his strength into the door, pleading silently with it to open faster. Part of him was glad it was this heavy, as it ensured that few people would be able to swing it open with no problem, even with the passcode lock he had on it.

“Hey!” she called, moving towards the two inches between the door to the outside world and Kaldureinn within. Little red alarm bells began to go off in Torren’s brain as she did so. Abort. Abort. Abort. He couldn’t risk it, no matter how much- “Hey!

The first thing he felt was a soft hand on the tiny patch of exposed skin between his sleeve and his glove. He flinched almost immediately, but this was nothing compared to what followed.

A burning sensation of white-hot agony shot its way around his wrist and up his forearm in mere seconds. Snatching his hand away instantly with an involuntary cry of pain, Torren clutched his right wrist in his left hand, desperately trying to stem the throbbing.

Cool down. Cool down, please. Deep breaths.

The skin around his wrist was an unhealthy shade of red, blistered and badly burned as if he’d stuck his hand into a lit furnace. Breathing deeply through the pain, he turned abruptly in Kaldureinn’s open doorway to stare at the girl who’d scalded him.

She was small in stature and frame, with long, wavy dark brown hair that easily brushed her skinny elbows and fell around her shoulders like a teak-tinged ocean. Her eyes were wide, wide like a bird of prey’s, and they were a deep shade of teal blue. He found he couldn’t quite stop staring at them. Her cheeks were flushed slightly, but her skin tone was a pallid grey, something he noted with a growing agitation.

When she locked eyes with him, her thin eyebrows shot up instantly. “I… I d-didn’t-”

Before he had time to register her emotion, Torren wrenched himself into the watchtower quite forcefully, and threw all his weight against the door behind him, slamming it in her face.

His heart was racing, pounding a million miles a minute. He was breathing heavily, still clutching his scorched wrist, shaking his head as he sat against the doorframe, willing her to go away with every neuron in his brain.

A couple of minutes passed before a soft knock sounded against the steel. “Hello? I’m… I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Her voice trailed off. “Please open up. I feel terrible.”

Torren hugged his legs, leaning against the door all the more forcefully. This stays closed. Leave, hemera. Solarise.

He scowled, muttering to himself. “If this is your idea of a joke, Araion… it’s not funny.” Torren felt himself forcibly tense. She’s still there. “Punish me any way you want, but… oh, aise… anything but this.

“Please,” she called again. “I… I know you’re in there. And I know it’s not my place, especially after… w-what happened, but… I was wondering if you could h-he-”

Torren slammed a folded screen he kept in Kaldureinn’s entryway. It shut loudly with a definitive crash of finality, letting the hemera on the other side know that he wasn’t interested in talking to her now, or ever.

“I-I’m looking for someone. I’ve been looking for them for a while now, and I’ve traced this object back to this marketplace. One of the saleswomen told me to talk to ‘the hooded dweller in the watchtower’... and she led me to you. And I’m really sorry if this inconveniences you in any way… or if I hurt you earlier… b-but I really needed to talk to you. And… and I never would have approached you if it wasn’t urgent.” She paused. “Because it is. Urgent, I mean.” Another pause. “Do you… by any chance… know of a H. Leivyn?”

Everything fell silent as Torren tried very hard not to black out at these words. A hemera… in Kaldureinn… searching for… them.

This couldn’t have been Araion’s doing, even considering what sol it was. He wouldn’t even have been able to dream up something like this.

No, this was the kind of thing that only ever really happened in the myths his brother used to preach. The very myths Torren had grown to refute.

Oh, screw you, Araion.

Torren wrenched open the door, coming face to face with her.

“How do you know that name?” he asked, his voice gravelly. There was a dangerous undertone to his words, one that he hadn’t intended on layering.

 But it seemed to fit.


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  • December 2, 2020 - 8:21pm (Now Viewing)

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  • R.j.Elsewhere

    Omg I’ve missed you and your writing!!! I’m so happy to see a familiar face. Thank you for that one comment on my piece, it was lovely to see. Once again, this is a gorgeous piece and I haven’t read something this amazing in a long time. It’s rare to see such control and cohesion in longer stories but of course someone with your talent could pull it off!!! Welcome back :)

    10 months ago
  • AJ - Izzy

    Oh my gosh, I've missed your writing so much! This is amazing, I was so captivated and wow, just amazing. You were one of the first people I encountered on here, I was just going looking through and spotted your name, it made me so happy :DD
    Amazing writing as usual <33

    10 months ago