Welcome to The Continent on Earth II, a post-royal revolutionized land filled with robots, beasts, humans, and half-humans, and ruled by the mysteriously absent and secretive Dark Prince Roland Rexus. The Continent is a place where a dark stain spreads, the sun no longer shines, where the rain is black, icy, and laced with metal shrapnel, and where souls are collected and owned like prized possessions. Rahda Plesti, a Class Zero citizen and an unorthodoxly trained assassin, descends upon the capitol city of Skyscraper City with one goal in mind: kill the Dark Prince and end the monarchy. But because of a secret she carries, Rahda finds that things do not go as planned as she discovers what Roland keeps hidden. She’s in the midst of war she doesn’t fully understand with consequences that not only impact Skyscraper City, the Dark Prince, and her own soul, but the entire continent as well.
“I wait for the Queen who will restore, who will reclaim, who will make me whole. Come, I breathe life into you, but first, I must take it all away.”
“Prophecy says the last daughter of the last high priestess will reclaim the continent. I both fear and pray for this truth.”
Skyscraper City is not usually this empty. It’s a little too eerie for what I expected this morning, which is a busy, bustling city inhabited with the odd mixture of royalty, vagabonds, personal pleasure servants, half-humans, and mechanized robots weaving in and out of the dirty crowds.
“But not today, Rahda,” I say to myself, clutching my meager belongings even closer to my body as I look around. Darkness moves in as the daylight fades.
Nothing feels right, not since I left my mentor yesterday and journeyed here. Turning in the direction I just came from, I observe the tall trees that lie south and the mountain range that naturally divides the continent in half. I can almost see, in the distance, where the Old City sits in relation to the rest of the mountain range.
A pang thumps my heart. I want to go back, but I know what’s expected of me, and I must continue on.
I briefly hesitate before I enter through the metal gates, the doors of which have long been removed, that separate the Dark Prince’s Skyscraper City and his Palace from everything else.
I glance up at half-built silver buildings. Even though their surfaces are coated with dried charcoal dust, the glinty material still reflects the gloomy, ashy-gray sky and the weak yellow sun-rays that barely break through the dense and permanent gray clouds.
It’s been a while since I’ve entered Skyscraper City, and even though the name is fitting, I’ve always thought of the place as Gray City. Dreary, rainy, and savage.
A fierce wind picks up, whipping my wool and metal fabriskin robe angrily at the black boots laced up over my calves. I jog left, out of the dry, dusty street, and duck under a shabby, pockmarked awning. I inspect the bright green signs that, in the Patroxi half-alien language, along with detailed pictures, advertise food, clothes, sexual favors, and drugs.
Ah… a Patroxi convenience store.
The wind picks up again and this time, a clap of thunder crashes overhead. Stepping out from the awning, I glance up and see the swirling gray-black clouds. Any second now, it’s going to pour.
Commotion in the Patroxi convenience store distracts me from the coming storm. The patroness, a tall, thin Patroxi half-alien, with thick black and orange braids and attired in a sheer fabriskin robe that leaves nothing to the imagination, shoos me away from underneath her awning.
“But the storm!” I shout at her in her own tongue and point skyward. Dear Goddess, I think. I don’t want to be caught in it when it comes down.
“No human step inside,” the patroness says in broken English as she looks me up and down with a scathing, black sneer. Her slim, gleaming fingers pluck something from the belt underneath her thick robe: an amber-colored blade. Without much of a warning—though I sort of expected it—her long arm swings at me and I easily jump back, away from the awning and into the street.
The Patroxi business owner looks up, and I watch as her features darken. Her face shifts, uncoagulates, turns translucent, and then hardens into some sort of mask-like shell, almost like a battle helmet.
Overhead, another crack of thunder vibrates my insides, and I attempt to reason with the patroness.
“Be gone,” she hisses at me in her own language, waving her small weapon around.
She sheaths her blade, unhooks the awning, and brings it flush against the metal wall. I hear a series of locking sounds coming from the inside just as the first acidic drop hits my shoulder. Then another. The black droplets scatter in front of me, splashing into the dust. Bits of black ice smack, smack, smack the ground. The wool and metal fabriskin robe should protect me against the rain.
Goddess, I hope so.
An electric charge fills the air around me, and I pull the robe’s hood over my head. Looking into the city, I can see the topmost part of the Palace Skyscraper blending into those dark clouds. I’m nowhere near my destination. Even if I sprint, I won’t make it before I’m drenched. Waiting may not work, either, since storms around here can last days.
I don’t want to meet him looking like a pathetic dog.
Who am I kidding? It’s rumored that the Dark Prince has returned to the continent, and even though he’s the reason I came back to Skyscraper City, I doubt I’ll see him. Without much choice, I run deeper into the Gray City as rain strikes me, thunder rumbles, and silver ribbons of lightning flash overhead like a trifecta of ominous warnings.