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The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) - Literature (2) - Nairaland

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Peaceyw(m): 12:51pm On Mar 04
Damn, this is so interesting. Those upsecs have a lot of rules ooo, patiently waiting for next update. I am still wondering what other rules they will have, hope it won't be too harsh.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:40am On Mar 06
@GeoSilYe yay!

@tunjilomo there's definitely some more twists to come in Nebud's life

@Fazemood thank you! I'm so happy you like it.

@Peaceyw shocked You think so? Yay! Is it a little easier to understand now (easier than the first posts)?
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Peaceyw(m): 10:42am On Mar 06
@obehiD yes, I think so
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:12am On Mar 09
Part 6
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A white glow filled the room, illuminating the canoe. I bent my head, my fascinated gaze fixing on the odd contraption from which the light came. But I did not move towards it, certainly not close enough to see how the artificial light was created. I stayed far away from the center table where the contraption was.

My heart pounded in my chest. I tried to hide the shivering, the signs of my fear, as I watched the bustling imps moving all around the canoe. I saw two doors in front of me, on the other side of the table. One imp came running out of one of those doors. The imp wore the same simple tunic as the ones above. It ran towards the left of the room, towards a curtain which covered the front of the canoe.

I watched as it pulled back the curtain, exposing two new imps, and the paddles which controlled the canoe. The curtain was drawn, and I was shut out again. I stayed where I was, at the base of the stairs which had led me down into the heart of the canoe. The imps cleaned the table, raising up the light-source. Then they moved into one of the rooms behind the closed doors and I was left alone.

I heard buzzing sounds coming from the light-source. Those sounds pulled my attention, drawing my focus long enough to distract me from my own nervousness. I welcomed the distraction, drawing closer towards the source. I was a few steps away from the table when the sounds of loud steps pulled my attention away.

I spun, my heart racing as I watched the noble one descend into the canoe. It walked distractedly, its gaze fixed above it as it came down the stairs. Then it stopped when it reached the bottom, its eyes darting around. All six of those eyes fixed on me.

Its eyes remained fixed on me.

It couldn’t have been more than a second which it spent looking at me, but it was the longest second of my life. There was an air of power around the noble one, it was power the likes of which I had never seen before. It felt as if it only had to snap its fingers and I would be dead. As if life itself bent to its will. I held my breath as it stared, and sagged in relief when its eyes finally darted away.

“Patrick!” It snapped. Its feral voice filling the bottom of the canoe.

The imps came running out of the room. They backed away from the noble one, standing a good distance away, and then bowed their heads in silence. Then the curtain at the front of the canoe was pulled back and the imp who’d walked in earlier, walked out. It drew the curtain behind it and walked over to face the noble one.

The imp stopped before the noble one and bowed. “Yes master.”

“We go to Fajahromo.” The noble one ordered.

“As you wish master.” The imp replied. “Shall I have food or drink brought to your room?”

The noble one shook its head curtly. “There will be no dallying. We will go by quicksand.”

“As you wish master. And your guest?” the imp’s empty eye sockets turned to me.

The noble one frowned. “Guest?” It asked, confused.

The imp inclined its head towards me.

The noble one turned. Its eyes glanced over in my direction and then returned to the imp. “That is de trop you fool. It is not a guest.” After saying that, the noble one walked into one of the rooms on the other side of the table. It slammed the door behind it.

The imp it had spoken to whispered hushed words to the other imps around it and then it returned to the area behind the curtain. The other imps broke up. Some of them followed the first imp behind the curtain, the rest went into the other room. The curtain twitched and an imp walked out of it. It walked passed me, not acknowledging my presence as it went on its way to the stairs. It walked halfway up and then stretched its hand upwards to cover the opening to the bottom of the canoe. Then it walked towards the room the noble one had gone into and knocked on the door.

“Come.” A growl came from behind the door. The imp walked in.

I started to relax once I was alone. A million questions floated around in my head. But as nervous as I was to face the great one, I looked forward to seeing a metropolis. Like every other de trop, I had never been out of my slum. In a single day I had seen more great uspecs than all the other de trop combined. I was sure of it. Just as my mind began picturing the big metropolis, the steady ground on which I had stood began to shake.

I fell on my tail on the hard-wooden floor.

The shaking got even more vigorous. I found myself sliding across the floor with each tremor the vehicle made. The canoe tilted downwards and I was sent tumbling towards the front of the canoe. Then it tipped up, and I rolled to the back. My body slammed against the staircase. I cringed from the pain. The canoe continued to tip upwards, as if it was soaring higher, above the sludge. Then it moved forward and came to a stop.

The door to the noble one’s room opened.

I jumped to my feet, my body aching as I desperately tried to hide my exertions from the tumultuous movement of the canoe. The imp came out and held the door open for the noble one. The other imps came out of the second room. They ran towards me, and then up the stairs. Hurriedly, they pulled the beams back, opening the canoe.

From the imps’ ministrations I could tell that we had arrived, but that fact was accompanied by a rather high degree of impossibility in my perplexed brain. I could not imagine how we could travel so quickly from the slums to the metropolis. Then I remembered the noble one’s order to travel by quicksand and it made sense. We had teleported. It was the magic of the hooni spectrum. Just thinking about the hooni spectrum reminded me of my neck scales and the execution that awaited once the great one discovered I was irira. Of their own accord, my fingers rose to my neck, gently stroking the neck scales. I couldn’t hide them anymore than I could hide my tail.

The noble one stormed out of its room.

My heart raced when it stopped at the base of the stairs and stared at me. “Come.” It barked out, before walking up the stairs and out of the canoe.

Warily, I walked after the uspec, my feet shaking as I prepared to face the great undead. I climbed the steps, taking them one at a time, as my curious eyes rose above me. As terrified as I was to meet the great undead, I was eager to soak up my first view of a metropolis.

I stepped out of the canoe and stood on its wooden covering.

----------------------------------------------------------
In the first burg in the second metropolis of Hakute
----------------------------------------------------------

My mouth parted as I studied the area.

It was a completely enclosed space. The walls were covered with a thick red material which seemed to have the unbelievable ability to produce light. This material let out a soft pink glow, lighting the area in which I stood. The pink hue which emanated from the material reminded me of the liquid in the okun in my slum.

I looked down.

The canoe had docked in the oddest sludge I had ever seen. The liquid in the ground was a much lighter shade of brown than the thick mud that I had grown used to. The liquid seemed light enough to swim through, but not as light as the okun, not light enough to drink. It baffled me to see.

“Excuse me, de trop.” A voice called out from behind me.

I froze.

A wave of anger rose in me so hard and fast, I thought I might stumble from the force of it. My hands trembled by my side and my jaw clenched.

“De trop.” The voice called out behind me. “Excu…”

The imp did not get to finish that statement. I turned around and slapped it so hard the imp fell. It lost its foothold on the top of the stairs and dropped, landing on the hard floor in the bottom of the canoe. In a blind rage, I made to follow it.

Suddenly, red fog surrounded me.

It enclosed me. The fog seemed to suck out all the air around me. I could not breathe from within it. I choked, gasping for air as I felt the life drain out of me. It was as if the fog had reached into me and was pulling out my life force, as if it was killing me. I tried to breathe, to fight against the fog’s powers, but my struggles were futile. I felt drops of blood seep out from my nose as my heart beat slowed.

And then it was gone.

The fog left, just as mysteriously as it had appeared. I dropped to my knees on the hard floor of the upper deck of the canoe. I inhaled, filling my deprived lungs as fully as I could. My hands landed on the ground as I tried to reorient myself. I breathed, panting as I did.

A hand clamped onto my shoulder and pulled, dragging me to my feet before I was ready to rise. The hand remained, holding me steady long enough for my legs to stop shaking and firm up underneath me. Then the hand went away. I followed the hand back to its owner.

The noble one was displeased. “You do not have permission to touch my slave.” It said. “Do you understand me, de trop?”

I shivered.

We heard a lot about understandings from the traders’ stories and so we knew that spectral magic existed and that it was a great thing, but I had never had spectral magic used on me. Now that my mind was clear and I could think back on what had happened, I knew that the noble one must have used its magic to alter my lifeforce. It was a type of magic gained from the understanding in the eyes of the boga spectrum. It was an understanding which allowed its owner to control the fogs. That was the magic that kept de trops walled up in our slums, knowing that if we crossed into the border-fogs we would die.

“It called me de trop.” My voice was small and weak, but even in my fear, I could not let the imp’s insult go unanswered. I knew that I was de trop, but for an imp, a slave to call me that, it was unthinkable.

“You are de trop.” The noble one snapped. Its eyes darted over me, sizing me up in an unnerving manner, and then its gaze stopped on my neck. It looked at my neck for long enough to let me know that it was not unaware of the scales that existed there, and what those scales revealed me to be. “You are less than de trop. Do not touch my slave again. Do you understand me?”

I felt another bout of rage, but this one was tempered. Where my anger at the imp had been a fierce onslaught, this one was a dull ache which built slowly in me. It was an anger without rashness, one that allowed for reason. My jaw clenched, but I forced the words out, “yes, noble one, I understand you.”

“Come.” It ordered.

Then it turned around and walked off the canoe, and I followed, all the while burning with a sense of indignation which I had no right to but clutched like a balm to salve my battered ego. The oddest urge rose in me. It was an urge so alien it shook me, and a desire so unattainable I quickly chased it away. But in that single moment, when the urge had been born, I was filled with a thirst to make the uspec pay. And in that single moment, there was a part of me that felt strong enough to do it. That thought scared me, just as it had scared me to own a feather more dazzling than the noble one’s. It scared me because it raised the possibility that I was more than I knew.

I pushed down the crazy thoughts and walked behind the noble one. I watched a little dazed as the noble one stepped off the canoe and walked, or rather fell, into the light liquid. The liquid swallowed it up.

I blinked.

Then I followed it. I took a step off the canoe and fell into the liquid. It wasn’t until the liquid pulled me in that I realized it was quicksand, and that I was being teleported.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:14am On Mar 09
Part 7
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The quicksand brought me to another enclosed area. This one was much smaller, and the ground was soft and formed around my feet, as it had in the slum after the imps used magic on it. I stood behind the noble one and watched the impatient tapping of its foot.

There were three sets of curtains around us, and a hard wall behind us. The curtains to the left and right were pulled back as four imps, two carrying bowls the other two holding cloths, came running out of them. These imps were like the osin which had come to our village. Their eyes remained in their faces and their skins were free of streaks. They wore beautiful colored clothing like the one the osin had worn. The clothing was in two pieces which covered their tops and bottoms separately.

The four imps stopped around the noble one and cleaned it. They wiped the brown streaks caused by the quicksand off it. Then they moved backwards to me and repeated the motions. They wiped me clean using a scented liquid and a soft towel. When they were done, they left, going back through the curtains to the left and right of where we stood.

The thick blue curtain in front of us was pulled back then. Another imp stood to the side, holding the curtain back so that the noble one could walk through. I noticed that this imp wore only clothing covering its bottom half and it had the black streaks and eyeless sockets of the imps who’d used spectral magic in my slum.

I walked in after the noble one.

I stopped, staring at the largest hovel I had ever seen. This living space looked so much grander than anything that the traders described. They had mentioned mansions and great houses where the greatest uspecs resided, but I could not have imagined this if they had described each feature in detail.

The room was circular with notches built into the walls, which held white light sources like the one in the noble one’s canoe. There were colored carvings done into the wall which seemed to tell stories I had never heard before. A long semi-circular table covered the right end of the room and on that table there was an assortment of food and drinks the likes of which I had never seen. A mixture of eyed and eyeless imps stood around that table in varying levels of UnCloth.

In the middle of the room there was a small okun with shimmering pink liquid. The liquid in the okun was so much cleaner than that in my slum. And around the okun there were four long beds. The beds were shaped very differently from the beds in my slum. These beds were covered with a type of foamy material and had cylindrical rests at one end. Two uspecs reclined on two of those beds. They lay on their sides with their arms on the cylindrical rests while they held grey cups and laughed.

The uspecs’ attentions were fixed on two naked imps strutting around in front of them. The imps jumped and kicked their legs in the air, before landing back on their feet and making some gyration motions with their arms. I did not know what the imps were doing.

I took my eye off them to continue my perusal of the room.

I was so obsessed with studying the room that it took me minutes to realize how cold it was. It was a very strange sensation. I was not used to cool air. The foggy air in the slum was hot and clammy. It clung to the skin, while the air in the room seemed to just drift by, sharing its coolness with me. I did not know how such cool air was possible, just as I did not know how such a clean okun was possible.

I realized that there was much I did not know.

“Domax!” one of the reclining uspecs screamed, its gaze fixed on the noble one. It stood up and smiled, and I was shocked when I saw it. The uspec was taller than the noble one, but it was missing two of its outer eyes. It was not the uspec’s physical appearance which stunned me as in that day alone, I had seen greater looking uspecs. It was the clothes. That was the first time I had ever seen an uspec wearing clothes. I could not believe it. The uspec wore black clothing covering its chest, and nothing below its waist. There were three golden bands on each of its arms. I looked at the bands, but my eye darted back to the clothes. I could not believe that an uspec would wear such.

The noble one bowed slightly to this uspec. I stared shocked, imagining how great this new uspec must be for the proud noble one to bow to it. “Salutations Fajahromo.” The noble one greeted.

“Salutations my friend!” the other uspec smiled. It walked over to the uspec still reclining on the bed and poked it with its knee. “We have a guest Raban.” It said, its voice slightly scolding.

The uspec rose its head up long enough for me to see that it only had two of its outer eyes filled. Then it dropped its head back without speaking.

“Salutations Raban.” The noble one greeted.

The reclining uspec grunted and the standing uspec laughed cheerfully. “Come Domax, join our party!” The uspec’s head tilted to the naked imps doing strange things as it said, “we are watching what the umanis call dancing.”

The reclining uspec burst out laughing. There was something amiss in the laughter. I could not place it, having never heard anything like it, but it was a sound that left me feeling disturbed.

“No, but please accept my gratitude for the invitation. I must not dally.”

The uspec walked closer. It stopped by the dancing imps and whispered something to them. The imps stopped their movements, bowed and left the room.

“No!” the reclining uspec whined. “Noooooo!” It dragged the word out as if in pain. “No! No! No! No…”

“Raban.” The standing uspec snapped, cutting the other uspec off.

The reclining uspec whimpered and then began to whisper to itself, mumbling loud enough to be heard, but not too loud to be spoken over. The other uspec ignored it, speaking over it as it walked closer to the noble one. “That is right.” It said. “I heard rumors that my progenitor sent you to a slum to avenge its osin.”

I gaped as I realized who the uspec was. I should have known from the name, Fajahromo, Fajahr – omo, child of Fajahr. This was the offspring of the great undead, the duke of the second metropolis of Hakute.

The noble one nodded and then its head turned to me. That was the first time that the uspec realized that the noble one hadn’t come alone. Fajahromo looked at me and smiled. It was a warm smile of friendship. I did not know why such a great uspec would want to be friends with me, but I couldn’t stop myself from smiling slightly back at it.

“A gift.” The noble one said. “I know how much you…desire uspecs such as this.” The noble one paused. “Perhaps this will settle my debt?”

Fajahromo’s eyes remained on me. It walked closer and studied me. There was so much cunning in those eyes. Its gaze racked over my body and I felt myself stiffen in defense as if to protect myself from an unknown evil. I could tell there was more to this uspec than the friendly mask it wore.

Smiling it asked, “What is your name my friend?”

I was shocked that it would call me friend.

“You can see what it is.” The noble one’s voice lowered. “It is de trop, it is an irira de trop. You can call it whatever you want, and if its smart, it will be grateful to you for keeping it alive.”

Fajahromo ignored the noble one. “What is your name my friend?” it asked again.

“Nebud, sirga.” I replied, adding the ‘sirga’ tittle which was the generic honorific for all higher born uspecs.

“Salutations Nebud. Welcome to my home.” Its warm smile never wavered.

“Salutations sirga. I am grateful.” I replied nodding.

Fajahromo’s smiling face turned to the noble one. “Of course your debt is settled my friend. We should drink and jubilate.”

The noble one shook its head. “I must return to the great one.” It said.

Fajahromo paused. “I assume the great one’s troops saw you take Nebud. What will you say when my progenitor demands the uspec?”

“It is irira. I will say it was a grave sin to let it live and I could not suffer the founder’s wrath. I will say I killed it. My imps will bear witness.”

“My progenitor thinks so much of the imps it may just listen to them. I would never take an imp’s word. But the founder’s grace be with you my friend.” Fajahromo said.

The noble one nodded. “The founder’s grace be with you Fajahromo.” It turned, gave me one last condescending look and then it began to walk away. It stopped midway through the curtain an imp held open and turned around to say, “be careful with that one, it hates imps.” And then it left.

I was stunned. I didn’t hate imps, I just expected them to know their place.

Fajahromo laughed. It warded me towards the center of the room and gestured for me to take the bed closest to the one it had been resting on. Then it reclined on its bed and I sat stiffly on mine, not knowing what to do or say. I was all too aware of the uspec’s scrutinizing gaze on me. I wasn’t sure what was expected of me, so I just remained as I was and let it have its look.

The other uspec said, “who?” in a loud screeching voice that made me jump.

Fajahromo chuckled. “A friend Raban.” It said. “Its name is Nebud.”

The other uspec, Raban, looked away uninterested.

I was close enough now to see the uspec, Raban’s, form. Raban seemed about as tall as Fajahromo. It had four golden bands on each of its arms. I wished then that I knew what those golden bands stood for, so that I could tell how great the uspec Raban was.

“Kyrie.” Fajahromo called.

An imp with its eyes removed and black streaks on its skin came forward. The imp wore two sets of clothing. “Yes master.” It said, kneeling by Fajahromo’s bed.

“Bring food and drink for my guest.” It ordered.

“Yes master.” The imp rose and walked over to me. It knelt by me and asked, “what shall I bring you domina?”

My chest swelled as the imp knelt by my feet and called me domina. I had never been called that before. It was an honorific given to ‘important’ uspecs. An imp would only call its master ‘master’, and it would call every other important uspec domina.

My gaze rose to meet Fajahromo’s. I did not know of any other meal except for the jeja stews we made in the slum. I couldn’t begin to imagine what manner of delicacies this great uspec would have.

As if sensing my distress Fajahromo ordered, “make it a tray Kyrie.”

The imp nodded and rose. “As you wish master.” It said before leaving.

“Friend. Friend.” Raban chuckled as its gaze turned to me. It laughed aloud suddenly, and I frowned at it. There was something off about the uspec. Raban just continued laughing and drawling “friend, friend” in a singing tone.

With nothing else to do, I retreated into my mind and thought about the events of the day. In hours my fate had shifted from sure death in the okun, to almost sure execution by a duke, and then now complete uncertainty as I sat in the duke’s offspring’s home. The noble one’s words echoed in my head hauntingly. It had said that Fajahromo desired uspecs like me. What did that mean? Did it desire de trop uspecs or irira uspecs? Neither of those seemed like a good thing. I couldn’t think of a single reason why an uspec would desire unwanted ones or abominations.

An imp stopped in front of me. It placed a short stool by my legs and walked back. Two more imps came forward. One carried a large plate filled with a variety of things I had never seen before. It put the plate down on the stool and stepped back, making way for the last one, which carried a decanter filled with a strange purple liquid and a cup. The imp poured some of the purple liquid into the cup and left the decanter on the stool.

It was in staring at the food that I realized I was hungry, famished even. I turned to look uncertainly at my host. I didn’t know what the custom was for eating in the presence of great uspecs.

Fajahromo smiled and its eyes lit. “Eat.” It said.

I bowed slightly to it. “Gratitude sirga.” I said. Then I turned my focus to the plate and wondered what to start with. There were orange round things, long black pipe things, white square things, and some oddities in irregular shapes and having colors I could not place. I reached for a white square and warily put into my mouth.

I must have groaned because Fajahromo burst out laughing.

I was too delighted by the food to be embarrassed. It was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten. I reached for another thing and was equally delighted. My face filled with a smile as I ravenously gobbled every item on the plate. Tastes that I had never known existed flooded my mouth and every new bite felt like a trip to a foreign paradise. I was sad to see the plate empty. I reached for the cup and took a sip of the drink. It was as if an orchard filled with a variety of fruit had sacrificed its wares for my benefit. I gulped down the rest of the drink in my cup.

“So, Nebud my friend, tell us about life in the slum.” Fajahromo ordered.

Raban’s head rose. “In the slum?” it shrieked.

“Yes Raban. Our friend Nebud is from a slum.”

“De trop!” Raban squealed excitedly. It was the first time I had ever seen anyone that animated at the mention of an unwanted uspec. “De trop!” it clapped its hands and smiled. “De trop!”

“Shhh Raban, let Nebud tell its story.”

I turned to Fajahromo and did as it ordered.

I told my story.

It wasn’t much of a story. But I tried to read them as I told it and so I spent long moments on the things that made them laugh, like some of the more lavish stories the traders told, or the way it felt to step in sludge. It astounded them that there were parts of the spectral existence still covered in sludge. I told them about our hovels and the simple life we lived filled with jeja stews. And they appeared sympathetic for me. I learnt from them that there were actually spectrums that considered our jejas to be a delicacy. We all laughed at that thought.

My story continued, from the day to day of my boring life in the slum, until finally I reached the fateful day that had changed everything for me. It wasn’t news to them that I was irira, and so I did not feel the need to hide it. I told them how I’d been sentenced to death and how the noble one saved me. They laughed when I described the delights that the day had revealed. Like the variety of imps, the great uspecs who could fly, the noble undead, the canoe and themselves.

I spoke for so long that I even surprised myself. I had never spoken that long before, and I had never had anyone listen to me as Fajahromo did. It was a strange feeling, but as I spoke to it, I felt as if I truly were what it called me, a friend. Raban laughed and injected some riotous comments every so often, but I could tell it was listening and that made me happy. It made me happy to capture their attentions so fully.

We must have talked for hours about life in the slum.

When we finally stopped talking, Raban was already asleep. Fajahromo and I continued speaking. It asked for more details about the imp I had molested and the eye I had taken, and I supplied it with all the information it wanted. It wasn’t long before my discomfort eased completely and I was lounging on the bed, as Fajahromo did, and laughing with the uspec as if I were its peer.

It felt nice to have Fajahromo as a friend.

Then Fajahromo slowly drifted off, and I found myself lying comfortably on the bed. I knew that I would live and that it was due to the debt the noble one owed Fajahromo. It was a thought that brought me much joy and relief.

As I slowly drifted off into sleep, I dreamt of the great life I would have as a friend of Fajahromo, the duke’s offspring. I could already see my ailerons filling and flourishing. I could see my outer eyes filled. I was so in awe of this new uspec, that I imagined myself wearing clothing as it did. I owed my life to this uspec and in my heart I swore it my loyalty. What a great friend Fajahromo would be, I thought as my mind went dark.

I heard the splash of liquid as a foot walked into the okun.

The sound woke me up.

My eye fixed on Kyrie as it knelt by its master and shook it. I did not move, I did nothing to show that I was awake. I just watched in silence.

Fajahromo woke up and turned its eyes to the imp. “What is it?” It asked.

“I just got word master, your progenitor is on its way here.” Kyrie replied.

Fajahromo jumped up.

“Have a portal prepared and fetch me a change of clothes.” It ordered.

“As you wish master. Where will you be going?”

“I’d hoped to delay this by a few more days, but I must take the de trop imp to the pits now. My progenitor cannot see it here. Hurry!”

I froze.

Will the twists and turns of my life never cease?

My friend, Fajahromo, planned to take me to the pits. The pits. Just thinking of it made me shiver. The pits were where irira went to die. Death in the okun would have been kinder than the pits.

4 Likes

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Peaceyw(m): 11:21am On Mar 09
Wow, another masterpiece, I was just smiling sheepishly when I was reading the story. Waiting for next update.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by phoenixchap: 11:23am On Mar 09
Patiently following..
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by monalicious(f): 7:23pm On Mar 10
Hi obehid
This is another interesting story
Thanks for d mention
Although I miss my osezele
But I'm really looking forward to this one
What's happening na, no updates for over 2 weeks
We are waiting oh. Thanks.

1 Like 1 Share

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 5:33am On Mar 11
@Peaceyw thanks. I'm so glad you're enjoying it. I can't lie, a lot of the time I smile sheepishly as I write this story grin

@phoenixchap thank you for being so patient about following cheesy grin

@monalicious Thank you, glad you like it. shocked but I've posted 4 chapters over the last two weeks. I posted 2 the Saturday before last and 2 two days ago.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by monalicious(f): 7:12am On Mar 12
obehiD:
@Peaceyw thanks. I'm so glad you're enjoying it. I can't lie, a lot of the time I smile sheepishly as I write this story grin

@phoenixchap thank you for being so patient about following cheesy grin

@monalicious Thank you, glad you like it. shocked but I've posted 4 chapters over the last two weeks. I posted 2 the Saturday before last and 2 two days ago.

I haven't been getting notifications oh. Sorry, my bad. Lemme quick quick go n check it

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 10:25am On Mar 12
Nice work Obehid, Nebud story I can guess has a lot of twists and turns before we get to the destination. smileyNice work sweetheart.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 8:16pm On Mar 12
I just wish someone could see me laughing now. Nebud, see ya life.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by monalicious(f): 9:51pm On Mar 12
Just caught up. Now I can't help but scream more more more more more. Nice work obehid. Ur level of imagination is unimaginable.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:30am On Mar 14
@Fazemood Thank you. Yes, Nebud's story has a bit of twists and turns, but I'm really trying to get us to the destination faster than the previous books. Let's see how well that goes.

@tunjilomo lol!

@monalicious I like that 'unimaginable imagination'. Thank you!!! grin
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 5:34am On Mar 16
Part 8
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I lay still on the soft bed, my mind whirling as my heart pounded in my chest and my eye stayed locked on Fajahromo.

The pits.

I had never been more despondent in my entire life. As I lay on my bed, every dream I’d had over the past few days came crashing down. It became painstakingly clear that I would never be all that I dreamed to be. I would never see my ailerons covered fully with dazzling feathers. I would never gain an outer-eye, never get an understanding and never use spectral magic. I would never own an imp slave. I would die as de trop. Worst than that, I would die as a nameless de trop amidst the riotous cries of a frenzied mob.

I was so engrossed in my thoughts of the death that awaited me in the pits, that my mind acted slower than usual. My mind was so slow in fact that I missed the return of the imp slave Kyrie. I missed Fajahromo taking of its shirt. But I wasn’t distracted enough to miss the sight of the uspec’s chest.

I gasped.

Fajahromo swiveled. Its eyes locked on mine and for a second, I feared I saw a glimpse of the real uspec behind the guise of Fajahromo the friend. That uspec was cruel. There was murder in the uspec’s eyes, murder and all sorts of unimaginable savagery. Then Fajahromo returned, and the cruelty left its eyes.

It smiled.

There was something about that smile which left me feeling chilled. I imagined it had to do with how quickly Fajahromo’s face had changed. In the blink of an eye, the uspec had gone from fiend back to friend.

I shivered a little.

“You are awake my friend.” Fajahromo’s tone was light, a little teasing.

I swallowed nervously, my eye still fixed on its unclothed chest, then I nodded. I took a deep breath and sat up. My heart thumped against my chest. This time the beating of my heart followed a more orderly rhythm. Perhaps I had finally accepted my fate. I knew I would die. How could the uspec let me live after what I’d seen?

Fajahromo, its gaze never leaving mine, spread out its arms and let the slave clothe it. “You see why I call you friend?” it asked, a smile on its lips.

I swallowed and nodded.

Fajahromo turned so that the slave could fix the pieces of the cloth together, and my gaze fell on the uspec’s tail. It was a tail fully grown. The end twitched a little, but it remained on the ground. I took my attention to the ailerons and noticed that those were also mostly filled. The feathers were not as dazzling as mine, but that was of no consequence to me, not in the face of what I’d seen on that chest.

The slave’s work done, Fajahromo turned back to face me. It watched me for a while, its gaze pensive, but the smile never left its face. Then it said, “rise my friend. We must go.”

An awful thought crossed my mind at that moment, and I was so terrified of the prospect of the pits that I almost did it. I almost blackmailed the great uspec. I knew what I’d seen, and the uspec knew as well. I knew what it was, I knew that it was just like me.

I knew that it was irira.

When the uspec had taken its shirt off, it had revealed a chest and back filled with cyan spikes. Those spikes where the distinct feature of the boga spectrum. The boga spectrum eyes could give an uspec the understanding of fogs. It was the understanding which the noble one had used on me earlier, it was an understanding which could give an uspec the power to use spectral magic to take another creature’s life. The spikes on Fajahromo’s upper body, combined with the tail, showed that it was a crossbreed, a kute-boga crossbreed. An irira, an abomination just like me.

And so I thought to blackmail it, to threaten to expose its secret if it took me to the pits. To tell the world that it was irira. I didn’t have to ponder on the idea for long to realize that it would be a foolish thing to do. I couldn’t name what I had seen in the uspec’s eyes when it had caught me staring at the spikes on its chest, but it had not been pleasant.

I had no doubt that this uspec would kill me without blinking if I crossed it. No doubt at all. And I was irira, the only person who knew I was here was the noble undead, and it had made it clear what it thought of me. It wouldn’t care if I was dead. No one would care if I was dead.

I had no choice. So, I got up from the bed and stood warily in front of Fajahromo, my ‘friend’. “Where do we go sirga?” I asked, pretending as if I didn’t already know.

Fajahromo studied me for seconds before replying. If it suspected that I had been awake the whole time and overhead what it said, it didn’t show it. “To another friend Nebud.” It said.

And then I saw it, the knowledge in its eyes. It knew. I was sure of it, it knew that I had heard it all. It knew that I knew and it was watching to see what I would do. But what could I do? There was no place I could go. I was alone in a foreign land. I was completely at its mercy.

I nodded, accepting its answer, and the uspec smiled.

“Raban.” Its voice was gentle as it walked over to the other great uspec and shook its shoulder. “Rise Raban.”

Raban rose and jumped up from its bed as if it had been chased right out of its sleep. Then it turned wary eyes to me and lurched towards me. There was so much malice in its face that I found myself moving back. Fajahromo stopped it before it could come any closer to me. It turned to face Fajahromo and then it laughed. It laughed so loudly I was sure that it would wake every imp in the hovel. Then it stopped suddenly.

Fajahromo spoke to Raban in a different tongue, one which I couldn’t understand and Raban laughed some more of its eerie laughter. And then it began walking.

“After you my friend.” Fajahromo said, waiting for me to precede it. Any hope I had harbored for an escape, faded in the face of Fajahromo’s determination.

I followed Raban. It led the way back through the curtain I had come in through with the noble one. Kyrie held the curtain back as Raban walked past it.

A hole had formed on the ground in front of us. That hole was filled with quicksand. Raban squealed excitedly before walking into the quicksand. I looked behind me, and found Fajahromo standing there, its smiling gaze fixed on mine. My lips quirked as my mouth tried its best to return a convincing smile. Then I turned back around, took a deep breath and walked into the quicksand.

We were teleported to a small enclosed space.

There were wide curtains in front of us. Four naked imps stood by the curtains with buckets in front of them. Three of them dipped their hands into those buckets and pulled out wet cloths. They wrung the cloths and ran over to us with them. The imps wiped away the streaks left from the quicksand.

As the imps worked, I felt my legs shaking. The cloth the imp used to clean me was not as smooth as the one that had been used in Fajahromo’s hovel. I tried to force my mind to fixate on that, and not the feeling of doom which threatened to devour me. My heart drummed with fear in my chest and I could do nothing but stand still and wait to see my fate. It was the first time in my life that I had felt helpless.

For some reason, standing here with these great uspecs, and knowing that they intended to give me to the pits felt more dreadful than being in the okun with Bentuj and the uspec’s from my slum who’d meant to drown me. I couldn’t understand why I had faced one end with courage, fighting with each breath I stole from death’s grip, while the other I walked into resigned. Perhaps I had known then how inconsequential Bentuj was. Perhaps I had known that I stood a chance in a fight against it.

Not with Fajahromo. There were demons in Fajahromo’s eyes, demons that scared me. Bentuj had been a simple uspec. It would have taken no pleasure in taking another’s life. Not Fajahromo. Fajahromo had depths even I could see. The uspec was not one to be trifled with. If it was Fajahromo’s will for me to die, I knew it would be much better for me to accept the death and seek as much solace in it as I could. Much better than trying to fight against one like Fajahromo.

The imps moved back, taking the cloths with them. They returned the cloths to their buckets and held the curtains aside.

Raban walked in first.

I followed after the uspec. As I walked, I felt that odd sensation again. I felt a spark of hope. Here I was, for the third time in two days, facing a sure death, and I felt hope. My hope came from the oddest source. It came from my ‘friend’ Fajahromo. “You see why I call you friend?” The uspec’s question came back to me. It was irira, just like me. It was odd, perhaps even a little asinine, but I was sure that Fajahromo would not want me dead. I was sure it would feel as much comfort in my existence as I did in its. Suddenly, the uspec who’d brought me the fear of death was the same one with the promise of salvation. My thoughts seemed so contrary I decided to turn my focus from them, to the room I stood in.

The room I walked into was lit by the same white light-source which I had seen in the canoe. There were three of them hanging from different locations. The room had a long table and a stool as its only furnishings. Two imps stood behind and to the sides of the uspec that sat on the stool.

My eye widened when I saw the uspec seated on the stool. It was the first pious one I had ever seen. The pious ones were the uspecs who moderated the orders. They were in some sense the keepers of our society. Their fields of expertise ranged from justice, to procreation, to education and even to dissemination. They were the ones with the power to turn a regular imp into an imp with spectral magic. They had a deeper understanding of spectral magic than all other uspecs. It was a sacred position.

My eye fixed on the fraise on the uspec’s neck. The fraise was a thick red cloth which the pious ones wore. It fully covered their necks and the top of their shoulders and chest. A pious one’s fraise had symbols on it, which showed the order it belonged to. I could tell from this one’s fraise that it belonged to the order of Procreation.

It took me a while to realize that the pious one was returning my frank assessment. It studied me as thoroughly as I studied it.

It did not seem pleased with what it saw.

Not that I was surprised. I could not stop myself from thinking of the pious ones as religious, and every religious uspec had a duty to uphold the founder’s will. And so, a pious one could not allow the commitment of a grave sin, could not allow an irira to live.

“Salutations pious one.” Fajahromo greeted. I did not need to turn to know that it had that smile on its face. But I did turn, I turned to confirm, and there it was. I had never known another uspec to smile that much.

“Salutations.” The pious one replied grudgingly, its eyes never departing from their study of me.

“I am here for my sibling, Takabat.” Fajahromo stated.

The pious one’s eyes slowly lifted from me to rest on Fajahromo. Those eyes which had stared at me with disgust focused on Fajahromo with scorn. It was a strange thing for me to see an uspec regard Fajahromo with discourtesy. I realized then that in my mind I had raised Fajahromo up higher than any other uspec.

“Is your visit familial or is it related to the pits?” The pious one’s eyes darted to me for a few seconds after it was done speaking. There was something in that look, a meaning which seemed to be reserved for Fajahromo as I could not decode it.

“The pits of course.” Fajahromo’s voice turned hostile to match the pious one’s. “What other reason would I have for bringing an irira here?”

“What other reason indeed.” The pious one mocked.

There was something else going on between them. It was evident in the mockery from the pious one and in Fajahromo’s stiffening. I turned and saw its hands clench by its sides. The smile was completely gone from its face. In its stead was a mask of pure loathing, all of which was directed at the pious one.

“Takabat?” Fajahromo asked.

The pious one was quiet for a while and then it spoke. “Your progenitor sent for it. You must deal with me.”

“I will wait.”

“No.”

“No?”

The pious one’s lips tipped up as an awful smile crept onto its face. “No Fajahromo. You and your sibling disgust me. I have been forced to watch as you conduct your backhand deals, as you insult the Founder. Well no more. I will assume that you are here to do your duty and so you have brought this irira to face the founder’s justice. I will assume that you have brought this irira to gift its life to the pits of Hakute. I will assume this because the contrary would be unthinkable, especially for an uspec of your status.”

I could hear Fajahromo’s breathing change, as it heaved. But it remained silent.

“Fetch the irira.” The pious one ordered, and an imp left its side and came towards me.

That was when the fear really set in. I had allowed myself to get lulled into a false sense of security by watching the uspecs speak. I had allowed myself to forget that I was in the pits and that irira never left the pits alive. The imp came towards me and the reality of my situation set in. Not even Fajahromo was powerful enough to save me from death. I had been spared a peaceful death in the okun, to die in the pits.

The imp stretched out its hand reaching for me, and I steeled, anger slowly rising in me as I became indignant that this imp would dare to reach for me. The anger was so much better than the fear that I was happy to let myself dwell in it.

I didn’t need to.

Fajahromo’s tail rose and it wrapped around the imp’s neck. The imp’s hand rose to the coiled tail and tried to pry it loose.

“How dare you?” Fajahromo snapped.

My heart swelled with pride. I smiled. I saw in Fajahromo’s defense what I had been searching for from my friends in the slum. Loyalty. The uspec had not known me for that long but it was willing to fight for me. It really was my friend. It was a thought that brought unparalleled joy.

“Unhand the imp.” The pious one commanded.

“How dare you?!” Fajahromo’s voice rose and I realized then that its question had been meant for the pious one and not the imp.

The pious one rose slowly to its feet. “Unhand the imp!”

“Do you know who I am?” Fajahromo’s voice was filled with so much rage, I felt it. It was as if the uspec’s anger had a life of its own. For a moment I felt that rage, like a force in the ether. I felt it push slightly against me, like a homeless uspec begging for shelter, and then it was gone. I felt a sudden pang of loss. I wished I had opened the door and let the rage in. I wished I had known how.

“You are nothing.” The pious one snapped. “You are the twenty-second offspring of the duke of the second metropolis. Twenty-second.” It laughed condescendingly. “Your fool friend is more likely to become something than you are. Even as crazy as it is, Raban will surpass you. The wisest decision you ever made was to tether yourself to that fool. Raban may be an idiot, but it is the idiot third offspring of the Kaiser of Hakute. It will at least own a burg. And perhaps you will manage the burg for it. That is all you could ever amount to.”

I was shocked speechless. Raban was the offspring of the Kaiser of Hakute. The Kaiser! I could not believe it. I had shared my story with the offspring of the Kaiser.

“Now unhand the imp.” The pious one continued. “Or I will make sure the Kaiser is made aware of what you use this sacred place for. Your progenitor will disown you in a heartbeat. What use does a single uspec have for twenty offsprings? It will kill you with its own bare hands before it lets you discredit it to the Kaiser.” The pious one stopped to calm itself. “Now unhand the imp and deliver the irira to the pits as you came to do. Then we may part as friends and your sacrilege need never be known. What do you say my friend?”

Seconds ticked away as I waited for Fajahromo to respond. I waited for it to use its magic to reduce this pious uspec to nothing. It was a sacrilege just to think it, to wish ill on a pious one ordained to the founder’s service, but I was already a sacrilege. It didn’t even occur to me how much of my faith I had lost in the span of days. All I knew was that Fajahromo was my friend and that it had fought for me. I knew it would continue to do so.

At least I thought it would.

I watched stunned as Fajahromo released the imp. My legs seemed frozen to the spot as my shocked eye stared at Fajahromo.

“You should be more careful of who you make an enemy of.” Fajahromo said. “You may have won this round, but this is not the end. Come Raban.”

And then it was gone.

Just like that, Fajahromo, my friend, left me in the pits. Without saying a single word to me, it had left me there.

“Send it below.” The pious one ordered.

As it spoke, I stared at the curtains Fajahromo had just walked through. My mouth hung open. I was too stunned to think, too shocked to be afraid. The flapping of the curtain slowed as the last evidence of Fajahromo faded.

And then it was truly gone, and I was alone. Fajahromo had left me alone to die in the pits.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 5:37am On Mar 16
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VOLUME TWO
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Part 1
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In the First Metropolis of Lahooni
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I was so different in those days. Sometimes it baffles me to think back on the time and realize that I had ever been that young and that naïve. I had been full of trust. I saw a friend in every uspec who smiled at me. It did not take long for the pits to cure me of that affliction.

Now I look back on my life through the colored lens of age and ponder even deeper on the choices that I made for you, my offspring. I sent you to the pits when you were young, it couldn’t have been more than ten years after your birth.

I will never forget the look you gave me when I left you there.

But how could I explain? Fear is not my emotion and so I can not read it as easily as I can pain and anger, still I could read yours.

You were so full of it.

It is not my way to coddle, it has never been. This is not because I do not know how, although I must admit that I do not. It is because I have been forced to see what the world really is. And our world is no place for a weakling. I learnt that in the pits. I learnt a lot in the pits. I learnt far more than I could teach you.

I will never forget the way you had looked at me before I sent you there. There had been so much hope in your eye, and awe. You were in awe of me. It was a sentiment that made me smile, one that on more than one occasion made my chest swell with pride. But there was too much at stake for me to let pride get in the way of your safety.

We were at the brink of the great war, and we knew it. You and I had responsibilities, more so than any other uspec. You did not know what those responsibilities were, but I knew and that was why I sent you to the pits.

The years we spent apart were the hollowest of my entire existence. I hope you find comfort in the pain our seperation brought me, if there is any to be found. But you came out of the pits stronger. The hope in your eye was gone. When you saw me, you saw an uspec with flaws, not one to awe at, but also not one to trifle with. You became wary of me, how could you not after hearing the stories etched into those walls. But even in your wariness, you were never afraid.

The pits did to you what they did to me. The pits forged us in fire. Everything I am today I owe to the pits. It was a horrible time, a despicable way to live, but it was life, and it was an education I could not get from the most learned one.

Again, I diverge. Back to the story.



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In the pits. The third burg in the second metropolis of Hakute
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I could not say that I had missed the sludge.

The imps had taken me to a large hallway. We stopped with our backs to the wall and the imps just stood there, waiting. The place looked bleak. There was a narrow path in front of me and cells were built in to both sides of the path. The ground was sludge and the air was hot and clammy, just as it had been in my slum.

A tall imposing uspec came out of one of the cells to my right. The uspec had a belt on its waist and a thick wooden baton hung from it. Its eyes scanned me as it moved towards me, the baton swinging as it walked. My gaze locked on that baton and I swallowed nervously. I knew that the baton meant that this uspec was a warden. It stopped in front of me and jerked its head at the imps.

The imps left.

The uspec remained standing in front of me. It sized me up, its single center eye roaming over my body. I tried to hide my fear when its gaze stopped on my neck and it sneered. I focused on my own study of it. It was a physically intimidating uspec. It wasn’t quite as large as the warriors who’d flown into my slum, but it was definitely taller and larger than the other great uspecs I’d seen.

The uspec’s arm came out as it reached for me. Suddenly my fighting instincts came out and I struggled to evade the uspec’s grasp. It was as if my previous state of calm acceptance and resignation to the situation had fled. And in its place was born a desperate need to flea.

I tried to run but my efforts proved futile. The uspec simply grabbed onto my arm and held me still as if it had been expecting it. I continued to twist and turn, and when that didn’t work, I began to fight. I kicked with my legs and threw blows with my free arm. It was all done without any particular rhythm or thought. I fought like a maniac.

And the uspec laughed.

“You will die easy irira.” It said. “Easy.” And then it continued to laugh as I continued to fight. Then I felt a hard object slam into the back of my head, and I fell onto the sludge ground unconscious. The last thing I heard was the sound of the uspec laughing.

I woke up in sludge, and for a moment I forgot where I was. For a few blissful seconds I thought that I was back in the slum. I could almost hear Junte’s laughter. Then I tried to get up and found that I couldn’t move. My feet were somehow trapped in something.

I opened my eye and all I saw was darkness.

I panicked. I twisted, turning my body in the sludge, but my lower body wouldn’t move at all and my upper body only swiveled in the sludge. I reached beneath me to extricate my feet from whatever they were stuck to. My hands met with a hard surface. I traced my fingers from the callused surface up to my legs and frowned. I repeated my actions, and my fingers met with the same textures.

It was as if my legs hadn’t simply been chained to something but had instead been ensconced in it. As if my feet were somehow buried in the hard surface. I could not move.

That was when the real panic set in. My arms came out, thrashing around in my desperation to find or learn something more about my surroundings. My hands kept flailing until finally they came in contact with another object.

I heard a grunt.

The object moved and my arms could no longer reach it. I realized then that I was not alone. Wherever I was, there were other uspecs too. I forced my mind to calm down and my ears to listen, and I could hear little sounds. I heard distressed breathing, sounds of sludge being shifted, and muffled sobs. There were a lot of uspecs in the room.

I pulled my arms back towards me and formed a pillow with them. Laying my sludge stained head on my arms, I listened. By far the most disturbing sound was that of the uspec crying. It was so faint I knew the uspec had to be trying desperately not to let it out, but it obviously was incapable of suppressing the emotion. It was disgusting. I could not imagine how an uspec could reduce itself to the point of crying. No matter how low life brought me, I would never succumb to tears. Suddenly I was filled with an uncontrollable urge to tear my legs free of their hold for no other reason than to shut the crying uspec up.

Tears.

I was beyond the point of irritation. An uspec who would cry was a disgrace to the entire race. I clung to those tears. I listened to them, absorbed them, and let them distract me from the darkness and my immobility. I let my disdain of an uspec who could cry fill my mind, driving away the fear. It was better to think of the crying uspec than to think of my life and the painful death that awaited me.

But after a while the tears lost their novelty. I found my mind drifting away from the crying uspec to other things. In the next few hours I allowed myself to dream. I indulged in hope. As soon as I did, my fears seemed funny. Of course I wouldn’t die. How could I, when I’d made a powerful friend?

Fajahromo. I expected the uspec to come back. I couldn’t believe that it would leave me there. It was my friend, it was just like me, and so of course I knew it would come back for me. It would come back with its progenitor’s warriors and tear the whole place apart until it found me. It would save me.

That fantasy kept me sane and distracted for the first few days as I imagined all the different ways Fajahromo would come to my rescue and the glorious life I would live when it took me out.

Then came the smell.

I could only identify it because I’d smelled it before. The first time I’d smelled it was after the uspec who’d taken me in died. I had been so young and completely unaware of what it meant for an uspec to die, that I hadn’t known the smell of rotting flesh meant that the uspec who’d taken me in was dead. Bentuj smelled it and took the uspec’s corpse away.

That was what I smelled then. The smell of rotting flesh. There was at least one dead uspec there. It probably died of starvation. I was sure that days had to have gone by in the darkness. I was certain of it. Which meant that it had been days since I’d last eaten. I could feel my hunger. I could also feel the weakness that came with not having eaten for days. There were times when we’d gone without food in the slums. Times when the jejas had been too hard to catch, or when we’d simply become unable to take another bite of the disgusting things.

I heard the uspec cry again and for a moment I almost understood the level of desperation that could lead to such forlorn tears. Almost.

In that second, as I inhaled the pungent fumes of a stinking carcass, one thing became imminently clear to me. Fajahromo was not coming back. I realized then that there were even worse ways to die than in the pits. I would rather die fighting than rotting.

After all, that was the real pits. Uspecs pitted against each other, fighting to the screams of a mob. The traders had told us stories of the fights they’d watched in the pits. We had learnt the most about the different spectrums from the stories of the fights. I remember being puzzled when a trader had said that being kute in a kute spectrum pit was not a blessing. I had thought it was a kindness. Kutes were saved from fighting in the pits, why wouldn’t that be kind?

Now I understood. At least when you fought you knew how the death was going to come. You could see the blow being struck and it was final. It was more painful than being drowned in the okun, but it was better than slowly rotting away. I imagined myself becoming so desolate that I succumbed to tears and that thought removed whatever doubts I had.

I had to get out of this place.

And so I did what the trader who’d liked me warned me never to do. It had said it was the quickest way to get oneself killed in Hakute. It was almost funny how I’d gone from fighting death to embracing it, and now, hoping for it.

I cleared my throat and begun to sing, thankful for the memory that kept the lyrics in my head. While I did not know the meaning of all the words and the implications behind them, I was well aware of the fact that I was pointing myself out as an irira and daring them to fight me.

“Hair of horns and a chest of iron. Irira!
Skirt of tails and a neck of scales. Irira!
Not one but all. Not weak but strong.
Say you, ‘Tiyoseriwosin?’
Say I, ‘Uspecipyte’.
I am iron strong, unbreakable, I see you shake.
Standing my ground, while I hear you quake.
Against me you set your best?
Apologies, but to death they are next.
Say you, ‘Tiyoseriwosin?’
Say I, ‘Uspecipyte’.”

As soon as I was done singing there was silence. For a moment I was left to wonder if in my fear my voice had been too low, or if the uspecs were just too weak to care. But then I listened and noticed it was a different silence. While the silence which had existed before was a silence filled with little sounds. This was a complete silence. The crying uspec stopped its tears. The uspecs who’d been shifting around in the sludge seemed to have stopped moving. There was a dearth of sound.

And so I sang it again.

And was stopped before I was even halfway through the song.

Suddenly, the room filled with light.

An uspec carrying a white light source walked into the room. I had to blink for a long time to give my eye enough time to get oriented to the light. I heard groans and sounds of pain as the other uspecs adjusted to the light. It was my first view of the room lit. I had to swallow down the bile that rose in my throat. They had packed us together like jejas in a small can. Everywhere I turned there was another uspec.

But not just any old uspec. Iriras.

Every uspec in the room was a kute irira. We all had tails and something else. I had never imagined that this many iriras could exist.

“Who?” The uspec with the light asked. Like the previous warden, this uspec also had a baton on its belt and nothing else.

The other iriras dropped their gaze so that their eye didn’t meet the uspec’s. They shrunk away from it, in their own unconscious declarations of innocence. The uspec’s eye traced the room. It went from one innocent face to another until its gaze finally settled on me. I cannot imagine what it saw in me because as soon as its eye met mine, it reached for the baton.

I sang again. As the warden came closer, I continued to sing. I cannot say what possessed me to sing so loudly or to continue to sing when it was already obvious that I was guilty, but I sang and the warden’s anger grew. I found myself getting angry too. I felt the warden’s anger, just as I had felt Fajahromo’s. And again, I was filled with an inexplicable sense of loss when I could not take its anger. It was a strange sensation, but I did not have time to dwell on it.

The warden had reached me.

Its baton was about to descend on me when a strong voice stopped it.

“No.” the voice said. It was familiar. I had heard the voice before. “Let us indulge it. The irira thinks that it can kill our best? Then let us give it our best.”

The warden was shocked. It turned around and I saw who the new uspec was. It was the pious one, the one who had sent Fajahromo away, the one who had denied me my friend. It didn’t even glance at me.

“Take it to the pits and set it against Juwara.”

Gasps filled the room. I had never heard of Juwara, but from the pious one’s words and the gasps from the other iriras, I guessed that Juwara was the best fighter they had in the pits.

I smiled and started singing again.

“Shut it up.” The pious one snapped.

Even as the baton descended, promising with its swift approach to knock me into oblivion, I continued my song and thought of the coming fight in the pits. From the traders’ stories, to be the best fighter in the pits was not an easy thing. Pitting me against their best meant that finally, I could be sure of my fate. It meant that, at long last, the twists of my life had come to an end and I could be assured of a quick death.

What a relief.

2 Likes

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Peaceyw(m): 10:21am On Mar 16
'what a relief' lol, this nebud is just crazy, I want to see what will happen in the battle against juwara.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 1:04pm On Mar 16
Obehid left me hanging. What happens next will be surprising, something tells me.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 9:22pm On Mar 17
Hmm, I really can not place what I feel right now for Nebud,but what I can say is it's a hard life for it at the moment.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by spixytinxy(f): 1:26pm On Mar 18
W0w it bn a while, have missed alot fa, @obehid nice work even though u did not ask of me.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by spixytinxy(f): 1:26pm On Mar 18
W0w it bn a while, have missed alot fa, @obehid nice work even though u did not ask of me.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 9:34pm On Mar 19
@Peaceyw hahaha yes, I agree Nebud is crazy haha. And the battle with Juwara is definitely...we'll find out soon wink

@tunjilomo Well...I really hope it is surprising grin

@Fazemood Poor Nebud, hopefully something good comes out of this tough period in its life

@spixytinxy Welcome back! Lol, sorry oh! I'm glad to have you back and I'm happy you still like it grin
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:59am On Mar 23
Part 2
-------

I opened my mouth to breathe and for a second it felt as if I was drowning. In my mind I was back in the slum with the uspecs holding my head in the okun. I drank the liquid of the okun, gulping it down as I fought to breathe.

I was drowning.

I began to panic. I could hear sounds. It sounded like there were a million uspec voices in my head. They made a sound that felt familiar to my ears but that my addled mind could not place in its state of half consciousness. But as my mind woke up, the fogginess of my last sojourn in oblivion fading, I began to understand the sound.

I realized that they were laughing. A million voices in my head and they were all laughing.

Slowly, I opened my eye, blinking a little warily at first as my eye tried to adjust to the natural light of the orange dots in the sky. Then opening it fully and leaving it open long enough to see why the uspecs had been laughing.

They were laughing at me, or at least at the flailing I had done to keep myself from ‘drowning’.

I jumped to my feet and stared at the oddity beneath me. I was standing in an okun. It was one unlike anything I had seen before. The liquid in the okun was murky, much murkier than the okun in my slum. But it was surprising, because the okun was so shallow. I had never imagined a shallow okun. One that I could lie in horizontally without being fully covered by the liquid. It barely reached past my ankles.

I blinked, my wide eye opening even wider as I rose my gaze up from the shallow okun to the roofless ceiling and then to the rows and rows of uspecs surrounding me. With varying amounts of trepidation, I reached the conclusion that I was in the pits. Obviously, I had known from the pious one’s words that I would be brought here to fight. But I had not imagined this. I had not imagined that there would be so many people.

My mouth hung open as I stared upwards, turning around and around in circles as I gazed at the crowd. They laughed at me, some called out taunting insults, some dismissed me, but they all laughed.

As I stared at the pits, I gained a new appreciation for the traders and the stories they told. I realized then that I would never be a great storyteller as I could not think of any way to describe the awing effect of standing in the pits and gazing up at all the people who had come to watch me die.

The okun which I stood in was circular. It was a somewhat large circular arena with nothing but pink liquid in it. The air seemed a lot clearer than the red fog which I had grown used to in the slum. Outside the circle of the okun arena, there were short wooden stands and behind those stands benches filled with people. The benches started at the ground level and rose all the way up for at least twenty steps. Beyond that I knew that there were more benches, but I could not see them because those benches were hidden by a thick red fog.

The lower benches appeared to be broken up into four sections. Behind me, there were rows filled with uspecs having different number of eyes and eye sockets, but they all had the tail of a kute. The same could be said of the uspecs seated in front of me. Both of these rows of uspecs had a very thin layer of fog in front of them. The layer was thin enough that I could see through to the uspecs behind them, but not so thin that I could not tell it existed. Between the sections of uspecs there were imps.

I gritted my teeth as I stared at the imps who’d joined the uspecs in laughing at me. It was a shock to see imps, and so many of them. Did their masters let them out to watch uspecs fight? I could not believe that a master would do such a thing. Where was the respect? I had expected to die, and when I knew it would be here, in the pits, I had expected to die for the entertainment of other uspecs. But to die for the entertainment of imps?

I clenched my jaw and looked away. At least I could seek solace in the fact that it would be the last humiliation I would be forced to endure.

The laughter from the mob stopped and its place rose cries of applause, of loud cheers, and endearments. Slowly, a chant began to rise as the mob cheered.

“Juwara!” they all cried out in unison. “Juwara! Juwara! Juwara!”

I turned to my side and noticed that a hole had formed in the ground in front of me. The liquid in the okun seemed to have formed a low wall around the hole. A green head rose from that hole.

I let out a small cry as I watched the rest of the uspec appear.

I took a step back. And then another one.

The uspec rose completely from the ground and the mob went crazy.

“Kill the irira!” a voice called out from the mob.

“Kill the irira!”

“Kill the irira!” The cry was picked up and it began to rotate with the cries of “Juwara!”

The uspec’s gaze fell on me and I swallowed nervously.

It was a giant. It was by far the tallest uspec I had seen. It was taller and larger than the warrior uspecs who’d flown into the village. I stared with a wide eye at the uspec who had all of its outer eyes formed but only its one center eye filled. As I looked at it, I remembered the tales the traders had told, of how fighting made an uspec grow physically. They had not been exaggerating in their descriptions of the fighters in the pits.

The uspec took a step towards me and I took a step back.

My gaze ran over its bare chest and then stopped at its waist. It was of the soaru spectrum. That much was clear in its features. I was so captivated by those features that I almost forgot that I was about to die.

The soaru spectrum had long cyan tentacles which came out of their waists covering their legs and falling all the way to the ground. Those tentacles had suckers on the other side of them, which could grasp another uspec and make it impossible for the uspec to break free.

The uspec took another step towards me and my attention returned to the present. I took my eyes from the long tentacles which swayed as the uspec moved towards me. I felt an overwhelming urge to run, and I almost indulged it. Until I remembered that there was nowhere to run, and that this was the fate I had chosen.

Now that death seemed so close I began to wonder how bad decaying would really have been. At least it would have been a peaceful death. This giant of an uspec did not seem capable of impacting a peaceful death. But it would be quick, I reminded myself. And so, I stood my ground and waited for death.

The uspec stalked towards me. It was two maybe three steps away from me when I heard it.

“Filthy irira!” it said. “Kill the filthy thing! Kill it Juwara! Kill it!” The voice dripped with derision, with disdain for me. For me!

My gaze fixed on the imp who’d called out the insulting words and I was overtaken by anger. I could not believe the gall of the imp to insult me. Me! In my rage, I moved. I ran right past the giant uspec, shoving it a little in the process.

I think the uspec was stunned and that was why I got a few steps away from it, before it remembered to react.

I was so blinded by rage that I completely forgot about the pits and about the uspec I was meant to fight. The only thing on my mind was reaching the imp who’d dared to insult me and reaching into its mouth. I wanted to hold it by the neck and rip out its tongue. I wanted to make it cry in pain as I had the osin who had come into my slum and insulted me and my friends. My heart thumped with a rage induced bloodlust. I had to punish it.

Suckers grabbed onto my leg and pulled me back. I was pulled down. I landed hard on the firm ground underneath the okun. Still, I was desperate to get to the imp. I couldn’t see beyond my rage. I felt the sucker which had grabbed onto me and I reached down with my hands to pull it off. It didn’t matter how hard I pulled against the tentacles, the suckers refused to come off.

An unexpected blow landed against the side of my head. I felt it. I felt the pain as the blow was followed by another and then another. The pain filled me. It warred with the anger I felt, and the emotions kept me alert. They kept my heart beating to make the imp pay and they kept me fighting.

The giant uspec reached down and it grabbed my head in its massive hands. It released my leg from the grip of the suckers on its tentacles and pulled me off the floor with its hold on my head. I felt the pressure of its hands exerting force on the bones in my head. Then its thumbs moved to cover my center eye and they pushed down on it. The pain just kept coming, over and over again. But the anger would not die. It made me fight. It made me fight for no other reason than to make the imp pay.

Somehow my flailing hands reached for my neck. I dug out one of the tiny scales which had grown in my neck, and I stabbed the sharp scale into the giant’s hand.

It dropped me.

With the scale still in my hand, I scrambled to my feet and continued to run blindly towards the offending imp.

Again, I felt those suckers grab onto my leg, depriving me of reaching my target. In a mindless rage, I reached down and cut off the part of the tentacle which had grabbed onto my leg. I sawed through the tentacle with my neck scale and watched the piece of it release me and drop into the okun.

I continued towards the imp.

The uspec stopped me. It grabbed onto the back of my neck from behind, lifted me up, and it turned me around to face it.

The uspec was angry.

Like the previous times with Fajahromo and the warden, I could feel this uspec’s anger. The anger had a lifeforce and I felt it. I felt it grow. Unlike the previous times, something stranger happened.

I spoke to it.

I was in so much of a rage that I felt the lifeforce in my anger reach out to the lifeforce in the uspec’s. It was as if my anger had a voice of its own and it could communicate with the uspec’s. I tried to reach for it, to take the uspec’s anger, to absorb it and add it to mine. But the uspec’s anger resisted. It wouldn’t come to me.

My gaze locked on an uspec standing behind the thin wall of fog.

It was the noble one, the one who had gifted me to Fajahromo.

My rage increased as I remembered the insult the noble one’s imp dealt me. I remembered how I’d yearned to make it pay.

The noble one got angry too. But it was only a little angry, nowhere near as angry as I was. The lifeforce in my anger reached out to the lifeforce in Juwara’s anger again. This time I didn’t try to take the anger in myself, I combined it with the noble one’s anger and sent it back to the noble one. I took all of the giant uspec’s anger away and gave it to the noble one.

Juwara was stunned. It stared around the pit dazed as if it could not think of what it was doing there. It looked lost and confused. Its perplexed gaze turned inquiringly to me. It still held me up by the back of my neck, but it seemed to have lost its drive to kill me.

I rose my hand to its neck, placed the edge of my scale against it, and cut. I drew a long deep line across the uspec’s neck and its blood came shooting out, spilling all over my face and chest.

It let go of me and fell lifeless into the okun. I landed in the okun, still in a fit of rage. My eye darted over to the noble one and I saw it being held down by other uspecs. I could feel its rage, the rage I had given it. The rage seemed to have driven the uspec into a mindless frenzy. It swung at all the uspecs around it, fighting off their grips as if it were crazy.

I did not care about the noble one.

I took my gaze from it back to the imp who’d yelled out the taunts. With clumsy steps I ran towards the section the imp stood in. The moment it realized I had come for it, it began to panic. I grabbed hold of the imp and pulled it down from the stands into the okun. I knelt on top of the screaming imp and put my scale into its eyes. One after the other I scooped the imp’s eyes out.

It cried and begged for mercy, but it wasn’t enough. The imp’s feeble cries could not pacify me. It wasn’t in enough pain to soothe my rage. I wanted more. I wanted to kill it, to stop it from ever insulting another uspec.

I slammed my fist into the imp’s mouth, forcing it open. Then I grabbed onto its tongue and I cut. I cut the tongue off. It choked on its own blood. The blood stained its face till there was nothing of its milky complexion showing in the face. But it still wasn’t enough. I reached for its right ear and begun to cut that off with my scale, when I felt a hard blow to the side of my neck.

A hand clamped onto me and I fought it. More hands clamped onto me and I fought them all, desperate to return to my act of punishing the imp. But there were so many hands and the grips were relentless. Still I fought them. I fought with every fiber of my being to get back to the imp. But the hands that held me would not let me.

As I continued to fight, my captors returned the favor. They hit me with batons and kicked me. I felt feet landing painfully on my belly, some went to my sides and my head, and as the pain increased, it took over the anger. My anger began to fade and as it left, it took my drive to keep fighting and the stranglehold I had had on my consciousness.

The beatings continued until all of my anger was gone and all that was left was pain. There was so much pain. It was as if the anger had somehow numbed most of the pain from the giant uspec’s beating. Now that the anger was gone, that pain combined with the new pain and it was all too much to bear.

I began to slip into unconsciousness.

Before my mind went blank, I heard the cries of the mob. “Irira!” they screamed. “Irira! Irira! Irira!” they chanted.

My eye closed.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:00am On Mar 23
Part 3
-------

A blunt object poked at my ailerons. I fidgeted on the hard bed in an attempt to chase the poking object away. But as I turned in my bed, I felt an explosion of pain. Everything hurt. My head, my body, my legs, every part of me felt like it was under attack, as if tiny creatures had entered into me and were gnawing away at my insides. My first instinct was to yelp, to share my discomfort with my surroundings, but I didn’t.

As I woke, I remembered my last moments of consciousness. I remembered the fight in the pits. And even though I could not remember how I had done it, I remembered that I had killed the best fighter in the pits. It all seemed to have happened in a blur. One minute I was preparing myself to die and then next I was possessed by an anger so consuming that it devoured every other emotion in me. I remembered fleeting moments of pain accompanying the anger, but when I was in its throes, the anger had overshadowed the pain.

I remembered the lifeforce in the anger. I remember feeling as if there was a language I shared with the anger and being able to communicate with the anger. It hadn’t felt as if I could control it per se, it had felt more as if I could cajole it. As if I could ask it to move. And it had, the anger had moved when I wanted it to. It had left the giant uspec, giving me the opportunity to kill the greatest uspec in the pits.

But this was strange, because I had never heard of a thing like this before. The entirety of my education came from traders, and the traders had discussed spectral magic. They had talked in detail about the different spectrums and the magic that they could get once they gained the understanding, but they had never mentioned communicating with emotions. They had said that certain emotions were tied to certain spectrums, but never that emotions had a life, that they could be spoken to and reasoned with as I had Juwara’s anger. The traders had never said that.

So, as the pain rose to new heights in me, I found myself twisting even more to increase it. With each movement I made the pain sharpened. But I had a theory. I was a kute-hooni crossbreed. I knew that the hooni emotion was anger. So, if there was a lifeforce in anger and I could reach it, then I must be able to reach the lifeforce in the emotion tied to the kute spectrum. I had to be able to find the lifeforce in my pain. It was just possible that I had never been able to reach the lifeforce in pain because I had never been able to stay conscious long enough to feel it.

Anger was different from pain.

When I felt rage, it motivated me, strengthened me. It kept me alert and kept me driven towards revenge. Pain seemed to have the opposite effect on me. When I felt pain, it was as if my body preferred to shut down to spare me of it. As if my mind had deemed me too weak to manage the pain and as such it was shielding me from it. I refused to oblige my mind as such. I wanted to feel the lifeforce in the pain. I wanted to know if it existed, and to see if it could be of use to me.

It was plainly evident to me, that for me to communicate with another uspec’s pain, the lifeforce in mine had to come out. I assumed that it worked the same way as my anger, and I had only been able to speak to the other uspec’s anger when mine was dominant, when mine was alive.

I continued to writhe on my bed, exposing myself to more and more pain. My mind began to grow foggy, but I gritted my teeth and tried to force myself to stay alert. I was so satiated with pain that I paid little heed to the finger poking at my aileron. I continued to writhe.

“Stop it.” A voice said.

I refused the voice. It was trying to deny me the lifeforce in my pain. I had to find it, I had to teach my mind to stay alert long enough to reach it.

Hands grabbed onto me and held me down. Those hands held me immobile, stopping my body from moving. I felt a spark of anger rise in me, and as it did, the fogginess in my mind receded. That inspired me. I realized then that I had to combine the both of them, to stay alert long enough for the pain to reach the front. At least until I trained my mind to endure the pain and then I wouldn’t need the anger.

I was eager to get started. But I had to deal with the hands first.

I opened my eye, tilting my head upward so that I could see the uspecs holding me down. A wave of anger rose in me when I saw that it was imps. As soon as my gaze locked on the imp’s eyeless face, it took its hands off me and ran away. I noticed that all the hands holding me had suddenly gone and I heard the sounds of feet slapping against sludge.

I clenched my jaw, welcoming the pain as I forced myself up from my lying position, to sit on the bed.

The bed.

I frowned realizing that a lot had changed. I had a bed. I was not in the room with the other iriras all waiting to rot to death. I was in another room. This room was so much smaller, but it had a bed, and a curtain draped over the entrance. The imps stood horded together as far away from me as they could get. Even though they had no eyes for me to read, I could see the fear in their posturing as they stuck to the wall.

I smiled. I had now become an uspec that imps feared. It was long overdue.

I took my attention to the other side of the room, and was taken aback when I noticed an uspec sitting on a stool in front of me. The uspec had all of its eye sockets formed and four of its outer eyes filled. My gaze went to its neck and I saw the fraise. Another pious one.

“Salutations pious one.” I greeted apathetically. The greeting was perfunctory, it came from years of learning of a society with the customs and rules of a hierarchy that we de trop never planned to need but were forced to learn regardless.

The pious one’s face was emotionless. It did not stare at me with the scorn I had come to expect from the religious. It must know that I was irira, so why did it not make it clear that I was disgusting?

“Tiyoseriwosin?” the pious one asked.

I was dumbfounded. It took me a long time to remember that the word the pious one spoke came from the song that I had sung when I had been trying to get away from the rotting iriras. I remembered the exact line from the song then, and I remembered the line that came after, but I refrained from using it, choosing the truth instead.

“Forgive me pious one, but I do not know what it means.” I confessed flatly.

The pious one smiled and then it burst out laughing. It laughed for so long and so hard that I worried I had another Raban on my hands. Was this another crazy uspec? I had not even known that crazy uspecs were possible, but if the Kaiser’s offspring could be crazy, I was certain it was more common than I’d thought.

The uspec sobered. “Salutations.” It greeted. It had a smile on its face. The smile reminded me of Fajahromo, not because it was similar, but because it was so different. Unlike Fajahromo’s, the pious one’s smile felt warmer somehow.

I did not smile back.

“What is your name?” the pious one asked.

I almost replied, spitting out my name, but then I stopped myself. I don’t know why I did, I couldn’t think of what was suddenly so precious about my name, but I felt the need to protect it. I remembered the chants of the mob after I’d won my fight and I replied, “I am irira.”

The pious one pulled back in shock. The smile on its face wavered. “I know what you are. I am asking who you are.” It said.

“I am irira.” I repeated.

It sighed. And then nodded as if in acceptance. The pious one turned to the imps by the curtain and tilted its head towards them. Two imps left. My gaze went back from observing the imps to looking at the pious one. I found that it was studying me.

“It is said that you hate them.” The pious one’s voice held a note of mild curiosity. “That the sight of an imp turns you barbaric. Why?”

I did not hate imps. I had no feelings towards them. I only got angry when they insulted me. Did I not have the right to not be insulted by slaves? I was an uspec and they were imps. There was an order in the world and as a de trop irira, I was aware of my place in it. Why weren’t the imps? I kept my thoughts to myself. To the pious one I said nothing. I don’t know why I refrained from opening up to it. Perhaps it was the malice brought on from my anger at the pious one who had put me in this situation. If not for that first pious one, I would still be with Fajahromo, my friend. That pious one drove Fajahromo away.

The pious one sighed. “You have dazzling feathers.” It said, after a long pause. I almost missed the plural, feathers. I had more? It seemed to be aware that it had piqued my interest, because it smiled and said, “very dazzling feathers. One of a kind.”

“Feathers?” I asked, unable to stifle my curiosity.

The pious one’s smile grew. It nodded. “I counted at least ten on your ailerons.” It went on. “I was also told that your tail has grown longer than it was before the fight, and that you have formed an extra eye socket. The pious one who brought you in told me that.”

The mention of the first pious one brought back the feelings of resentment. That was when I had my suspicions confirmed, I did hate it. I hated it for taking me away from the glorious life I could have had with a wellborn irira.

The pious one seemed to notice my distress because it asked, “What is wrong my friend?”

I snapped. It was hearing that ‘my friend’ that pushed me over the edge. “I am not your friend.” I said. My voice sounded different to me. It was deeper, more menacing somehow. Had this changed during the fight? “A pious one took me away from my friend. I will not call another pious one friend.”

The pious one’s mouth hung open in shock and then it shook its head. “Fajahromo is no friend of yours.” It replied cryptically.

I frowned and turned my face away refusing to believe it. Of course, it would lie to defend another pious one.

I heard the stool move as the pious one stood. “You were born here. I remember the day you were born, I remember the sight of your progenitors. One of your progenitors had the same dazzling feathers that you do. Isn’t it funny how life comes full circle? I thought I would never lay eyes on you again, but now here you are.”

My head snapped up and my gaze locked on the pious one’s face. I could not think of what to say. “Who are you?” was the only question that came to mind.

The pious one smiled. “I am the pious, Gerangi, fifth prelate serving under the magistrate of the order of Procreation. We preside over the birthplace of Hakute.”

The fifth prelate was a high position. It was the sixth highest pious one in the port’s order. I knew that the magistrate was the head pious one in any port’s order and that the pious ones all served under it.

“Why are you in the pits then? Is procreation so boring that you must be entertained by watching uspecs die?” the question came out before I could stop myself.

The pious one chuckled. “I am not here for the entertainment. This is where I reside. This is the birthplace of Hakute.” It said.

My mouth hung open in shock. “But…” I sputtered. I cleared my throat. “This is the pits, is it not?”

“They are one and the same my friend.” It smiled at me. “And if the day should ever come where you get yourself out of fighting in the pits, I will tell you who your progenitors were. Till then, take care of yourself my friend. Perhaps I will see you again.” It gave me one last smile, and then it walked out, leaving me with more questions than I desired.

The imps that had left came back with a bowl and a long roll sticking out of it.

Food.

I watched ravenously as the imps walked with trepidation towards me. The one carrying the food came further. It placed the food on the stool where the pious one had been seating, and then it turned around and ran out of the room.

I was finally alone.

I reached for the food and the pain came back as I stretched. In my discussion with the pious one I had forgotten about my resolve to find the lifeforce in my pain. I picked the hard roll out of the bowl and used that to scoop up the gruel served in the bowl. It was the worst thing that I had ever eaten, but I was so hungry that I didn’t care.

As I ate, I thought of the pious one’s words, and the promise it had made before leaving. It had said it would tell me who my progenitors were if I ever made it out of fighting in the pits. The words only inspired the slightest traces of curiosity in me. I did not care who my progenitors were. Knowing who they were and what they’d done with their life would have no impact or bearing on me then. I was de trop which meant that I was unwanted. I was sent to the slums because my progenitors decided that they did not want me. Why then should I want to know who they were?

Were.

I realized then that it had used the past tense, probably meaning they were dead. Which was even less reason for me to want to know more about them. What use was a dead uspec’s name to me? I found the idea of the pits being the birthplace of Hakute widely more fascinating. If the pits was also the birthplace, then this was where every undead came to procreate. I still did not know how uspecs procreated, but I could not help puzzling at why a place associated with death would be the same place associated with birth.

Once my bowl was empty, I placed it on the foot of my bed and took my mind back from the thoughts of birthplaces and progenitors, to the much more interesting topic of finding the lifeforce in my pain. And so I forced myself up from the bed. The pain was so overwhelming my mind went blank instantly.

I woke up sprawled over my bed and I did it again. This time I remembered the insult that I had been dealt by the different imps. It was not enough to send me into a fit of rage, but it was enough anger to get my blood boiling and to keep me alert. But not alert long enough to reach the lifeforce in my pain.

So, I kept on passing out from the pain, waking up and continuing. I did not stop. Days went by as I pushed myself. I put so much strain on the internal wounds that they could not heal, and the pain never died. But with each time I exerted myself, I felt my body growing a little more resistant to the pain.

Sometimes I woke up to food on my stool and I ate. Sometimes I woke up to imps gawking at me from behind the curtains. One look at them and they scampered. I never ventured past the curtains, never wondered what was beyond my cell. I was obsessed with finding the life in my pain. All other curiosities were pushed to the back of my mind as I continued to subject myself to the worst torments.

I did not give up. And nine meals later, I found it. I found the lifeforce in my pain. It was in the moment right before I passed out, but I felt it; I felt my pain roar to life, and as my eyes closed, I knew that the next time I would be able to last longer with the pain.

Unfortunately, I found out when I woke that the next time would not be in the comfort of my room, but in the arena of the pits.

3 Likes

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by sampz: 7:35am On Mar 24
yeaaaaa

1 Like 1 Share

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by tunjilomo(m): 4:51pm On Mar 24
Keep it going. More inspiration to you.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Peaceyw(m): 9:04pm On Mar 25
wow, I'm so loving this, wondering who is fighting with next?
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 9:52pm On Mar 25
Prideful Nebud
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Rynne: 6:07pm On Mar 27
ObehiD thanks for tagging me,am honoured....though m late to d party but m fyn
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 1:59am On Mar 30
@Rynne thanks for joining the party wink I'm honored to have you back. Hope you enjoy!!!
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:00am On Mar 30
Part 4
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I woke in much the same state as I had been the first time I fought in the pits. I was lying in the shallow pool of the okun. This time I fared much better as I was already aware of my surroundings. I pushed myself off the floor and the pain I felt was almost enough to send me back into the okun. Gritting my teeth, I tried to ignore the pain, choosing instead to take my attention to the study of the crowds which had come to watch me fight. I hadn’t thought it possible for the stands to be any fuller, but they were.

This time, my presence was met with silence. There were no avid fans screaming out my name at the top of their lungs as they had after the last fight I’d won. But there was also no laughing. There was no jeering, not taunting calls for the death of an irira. It was as if the entire populace of people there were waiting, as if they could not imagine my presence and so they waited to see if I was a myth or a legend. As an uspec who had lived off stories told of the fights in the pits, I could imagine how the retelling of my last fight must have gone. And so I could hazard a guess as to the queries plaguing the viewers’ minds.

Had they come to see yet another myth disproved? Would I show myself for the weakling they expected me to be and by so doing grant them a peaceful return to the normalcy they craved? Or had they come to see a legend born? Could I make the impossible possible?

I took my gaze from the crowds to the hole which was forming in the okun. I watched my challenger arrive with a feeling of feverish anticipation. I was not eager to fight, but I was eager to feel the lifeforce in my pain. When I had found the anger, I had been in so much of a rage that I could not enjoy the lifeforce, could not luxuriate in my seeming ability to communicate with the emotion. But the pain would be different. I knew it.

The silence in the arena grew. It was a pregnant silence, one heavy with expectations. Who would it be? I wondered. It was not as if I knew any of the fighters’ names, but I had an inkling that if it was an important uspec, the crowds would inform me.

I saw cyan horns first. Over ten cyan horns emerged from the ground. The horns sprouted from the uspec’s scalp. They took me back to the day in my slum when Junte had stabbed the imp. I knew that it had only been mere days ago, but it felt like the slum was a different lifetime.

As soon as the rest of the uspec’s head emerged from the ground, the crowds went crazy.

“Killman!” they screamed. “Killman!” they chanted its name differently than they had Juwara. “Killman!” the screams became even more frantic as the uspec emerged fully from the ground.

It stood in front of me in the okun and I took my time to look over it. The uspec was about the same build as the warriors who’d flown into the slum. It was not a giant like Juwara. It had long strong arms which would have no difficulty in strangling me to death. Large ailerons emerged from its back, but I could not tell how filled they were. It had strong feet and a face with all its outer eye-sockets formed. Like Juwara, none of the outer eye sockets on the uspec’s face were filled. It was not irira, as the only features it had were the horns, the distinct features of the mejo spectrum.

I gaped with fascination at the horns. They were impressive, by far larger than the horn which Junte had had. Some of the horns curved slightly, some seemed straight, almost like the spikes I had seen on Fajahromo’s chest, and some bent in strange wriggles.

Killman smiled and then did something that I had not expected. It jumped up, landing with a large splash which sent liquid all over the front of my body. Then it began to run around the edges of the arena egging the sycophantic screams of the crowds. When it had entered the arena they cheered it as if it were a star, some sort of legend which lived in the tales of stories passed on for generations. Now they cheered it as if it were a god. It was disgusting to watch.

Killman stopped in front of me. It smiled a patronizing smile of false sympathy as it asked in a booming voice, “are you ready to die my friend?” Its voice was strained, as if the muscles in its throat had to work more than they desired to force the foreign tongue out. But it had spoken in the kute tongue and so I could understand it perfectly.

I did not speak.

Killman did not seem interested in my response, or lack thereof. It turned around to face the screaming throng and yelled, “are you ready to see the irira die? Are you ready to see Killman kill it?”

The mob screamed even louder. “Killman!” they roared. “Killman!!” They yelled, but they refrained from answering its question. Unlike the last time when they’d been begging Juwara to take my life, this time they did not mention me at all.

“Then I will oblige.” Killman screamed, as if it had taken their answers as an affirmative. It grabbed onto two slightly bent horns on the edges of its head and it pulled the horns out. Then it ran towards me.

My eye darted over to the stands and there it was.

I blinked a couple of times as the noise of the crowds faded away when our eyes met. It stood in the first row among one section of uspecs. It stood out from the other uspecs around it because it was the only one with the golden bands around its arms.

A surge of pleasure rose in me when Fajahromo smiled. I knew that I had been right all along. Suddenly, I felt guilty for the doubts which had been in my mind, I felt guilty for considering that this uspec had not truly considered me a friend. Because here it was, here to free me from the pits. I vowed never to lose hope in it again.

Then my head snapped to the side so violently I had to push myself to the other side to keep from falling. I blinked, dazed by the violent blow which I’d received from Killman. That punch took my attention back to the fight. But even as the pain exploded in my head, a new resolve had come alive in me. Fajahromo was back, I thought with hopeful glee, Fajahromo was back to set me free.

Killman’s hand swiped in the air bringing the sharp end of the horn to close contact with my stomach. I lurched backwards just in time to miss the weapon. Its other hand was already drawing closer. I side stepped when its left hand came towards my face, and dodged the blow it had aimed at me.

My eye darted to Fajahromo. I noted that it no longer stood alone. Raban stood beside it. Even from so far off I could see the crazy eyes fixated on me. It was almost as if Raban was panting in its excitement for the fight.

As I returned my attention to the fight, a pang of fear begun to rise in me. Where was the lifeforce in my pain? I wondered. I was in more pain than I had been in the past few days. Each movement I made seemed to spur the pain further, but I stayed on my feet, dodging Killman’s blows with a deftness brought on by a sheer desire to live which I hadn’t felt for a long time.

Killman seemed to be adapting to my evasive moves, because it faked an attack from its left side, which had me swerving to the right and then it stuck its sharp horn into my side.

A loud cry came out from my mouth before I could lock my lips trapping the sound within me.

Pain exploded in me.

And in the midst of that pain I found myself smiling. It will come, I thought, finally the lifeforce would come. And so, I just stood there, my arms hanging uselessly from my sides, my body racked over with so much pain that I could not move even if I had wished to. I stood and awaited the awakening of my lifeforce.

I waited in vain.

Killman’s hand wrapped around my neck and it laughed. It lifted me up in the air and I felt myself shake from the force of the guffaws it released. It laughed so hard and so heartily it felt as if the entire arena would vibrate from the sheer force of the laughter. Suddenly, the entire place filled with laughter. Over a thousand voices all laughing at me.

Broken and resigned, my eye darted towards Fajahromo. It did not look surprised. Unlike the previous times when our eyes had met, it did not smile. There was no tilting of its lips, no gesture of friendship. My heart ached with a sense of loss I had never experienced before. I heard the crowds laugh and the sound only served to chafe my already raw feelings.

Just lifting my arm to Killman’s face seemed like an insurmountable task, but I was determined. I was determined to fight back, determined to put that smile back on Fajahromo’s face and get my friend back. I put all the strength I could muster behind the blow which landed on Killman’s distracted face.

The uspec’s shocked gaze locked on me. It was as if it had not expected me to fight back at all. It frowned, displeased by the token effort I put up, and it did not leave me guessing long as to what its retribution would be. Killman pulled me forward and slammed its forehead into mine. The pain was so much I felt my eye moisten. I swallowed the tears, disgusted with my body for daring to produce them in the first place.

Killman pulled me back then, and slammed its large fist into my face. It held me up so that I was at the perfect height to receive the blows and then it just punched and punched and punched until I was sure of death. I had thought that the pain I’d subjected myself to in the past days had been a torment, but Killman taught me new depths of pain which I had thought impossible. With each blow of its hard hand against my fragile head, I wished for the oblivion, for the defense my body had retreated behind during previous moments of intense pain.

But as each new blow landed, sending my body into new heights of torture, I realized the real repercussions of what I had put myself through over the past few days. Contrary to forcing the lifeforce in my pain out, which had been my intention, I had instead taught my body to withstand it. I had taught my body that unconsciousness was not a recourse to overwhelming amounts of pain. I had taught my mind to stay alert.

I was a fool.

Killman released me and I fell on my stomach in the okun. The liquid rushed into my mouth when I landed, and the pains I felt rose to new heights when I made contact with the hard floor. But I had gotten a respite from the assault. Or at least so I thought.

Killman grabbed onto my tail and lifted me up by it. “Irira!” it screamed. My gaze remained fixed below as my arms and legs hung uselessly beneath me. Drops of my blood fell from the gash in the wound Killman had made and landed into the okun. I watched with a glum sense of fascination as the drop of blood became indistinguishable in the pink liquid. Was this why the arena was an okun? So that blood wouldn’t stain the ground?

“Irira no more!” Killman promised.

I could not imagine what the uspec meant by those words until I felt the sharp end of its horn tear into the base of my tail, ripping the side off. I jerked in reaction, straining Killman’s grip on me. Killman released me. This time I fell on the tail which had just been cut. I fell into a sitting position, and the hard ground underneath the okun pushed the ripped edge of my tail into my body.

My mind went blank.

This was pain to a degree which surpassed the paltry blows which Killman had given me. The pain of my own tail being forced into my body seemed to be my undoing. Apparently, there was a level of pain that even I could not endure. So, as I felt my mind go blank, I smiled, happy to know that I would wake in possession of the ultimate freedom, one only death could provide.

My mind slipped, my eye closed, and I was just at the fringes of consciousness when I felt the lifeforce.

The lifeforce snapped me out of it, pulling me back to full consciousness. That was when I felt it.

It was all around me. There was so much pain surrounding me. Suddenly, I could feel it all. I could sense the pains of hundreds of whipped imps, of battered uspecs, of wronged uspecs, of lonely uspecs, of desolate uspecs. All the pain combined, and I reached for it. I reached out through my pain to take the pains of the frantically screaming mob, and I gave it to Killman.

The pains of thousands of people all settled on a single uspec.

Killman howled as if it was deranged. It stepped back, moving away from me and dropped the horns it had fisted in its hands. It swiveled, turning its back to me, and then howled, crying out over and over again. But the frenzied mob just swallowed up its bellows and screamed even louder as if interpreting Killman’s cries for cheers.

I saw my opportunity and so I seized it.

I jumped to my feet, ignoring the pain the action wrought, and bent to grab the horns that Killman had dropped. I ran over to the uspec and tore into its flesh, slashing at the back of its knees.

Killman howled and the crowd went silent.

Killman dropped to its knees in the okun. I released the horn in my left hand and grabbed a hold of one of the horns in Killman’s head. I used that horn to tilt Killman’s head backwards and then I dug the horn in my right hand into its throat. I pulled the horn out and repeated my actions. I stabbed its neck as if I was crazed. I could feel the energy of the mob change as blood poured out of Killman’s neck, but I did not stop until I could no longer feel it twitch.

Then I released the uspec, and it fell into the okun.

“Irira!” the chant started slowly.

“Irira!” it was picked up.

“Irira!” they cheered with new vigor. “Irira.” They repeated. “Irira! Irira! Irira!”

I turned in a bit of a daze as I noticed the three sections on their feet jumping and screaming out my name. My gaze scanned quickly over the mob, but they held no interest to me. Their chants brushed off my skin. There was only one uspec’s applause I craved.

Again, my eye darted to where Fajahromo stood with Raban. In the back of my mind, I noticed that that section of uspecs were the only ones not cheering for me. I noticed that while the imps and other uspecs screamed, yelling and jumping, the uspecs in the section Fajahromo stood gave me menacing looks filled with disgust.

“Hair of horns and a chest of iron.” A lone voice begun the chant from the section behind me, the section of uspecs who had been cheering me on.

“Irira!” more voices joined in.

“Skirt of tails and a neck of scales. Irira!” The voices boomed now, and it was almost as if every single uspec behind me was singing.

The uspecs in the section Fajhromo stood in begun to riot. “Sacrilege!” they yelled. “Sacrilege!” They screamed for silence and made threatening motions towards the other uspecs, but the ones behind me would not stop singing.

“Not one but all. Not weak but strong.
Say you, ‘Tiyoseriwosin?’
Say I, ‘Uspecipyte’.”

The uspecs in Fajahromo’s section were livid. Some of them flung themselves at the fog and were instantly repelled by it. They tried to break through the fog which surrounded their section, but they could not. The light fog was an inviolable barrier, and as the frenzied uspecs tried to reach through it, I finally understood what the fog was there for.

Their efforts did not stop the group of uspecs behind me from singing.

“I am iron strong, unbreakable, I see you shake.
Standing my ground, while I hear you quake.
Against me you set your best?
Apologies, but to death they are next.
Say you, ‘Tiyoseriwosin?’
Say I, ‘Uspecipyte’.”

After the song was done the uspecs returned to their chant of, “irira!”

And somehow, on some level, I understood that I was the reason for the sudden rift which had formed between both sections. I also understood that the rift must have existed before which was why the uspecs had been broken into sections, but I could not understand how I had accomplished the task of inciting such a riot. Not that I put much thought into it.

All of my focus was on Fajahromo who had returned to smiling at me. Even Raban screamed. Although, what and why it screamed I could not tell, but it screamed and clapped and laughed, and in that moment, I did not mind Raban’s insanity. I smiled at my friend and waited for Fajahromo to tear through the fog with its progenitor’s warriors and free me from the pits.

I waited patiently with a smile on my face.

And for the second time that day, my wait proved in vain.

Fajahromo nodded at me and then it turned around and walked away. Raban followed, clapping excitedly. While I was left there, and all I could do was stare.

I am ashamed to say that I was so desolate, so heart-broken that my eye filled with moisture.

I pushed it back. I would not cry, I did not know what it was in me that was so disgusted by tears, but I would not cry. In my entire life, I had never been as close to tears as I had been as I watched Fajahromo leave, but I did not succumb to them. Instead, I finally learnt the lesson I should have learnt when it left me at the behest of the pious one. I learnt that it was not my friend.

I learnt that an uspec could not be trusted solely because it was irira as I was. I learnt that uspec’s had layers and masks of deceit, and thus to put one’s freedom in another’s hands was insanity. My heart turned cold and I dreamt of the day that I would make Fajahromo pay.

The liquid in the okun pulled back, forming a hole in the ground. The hole which was revealed showed a hard ground covered with sludge. That sludge turned slowly from dark brown mud to light brown quicksand. I knew it was meant for me and so I stepped into it, resigned to spend the rest of my life in the pits, loathing the uspecs who’d put me here.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:00am On Mar 30
Part 5
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It wasn’t till I left the arena that I realized the level of pain I was in. My head throbbed, pounding as if Killman’s blows had been absorbed and were now being recreated within me. I could feel the trickle of blood flowing from my side, from the wound which Killman’s horn had inflicted upon me. I stood still, too wary, or perhaps too indifferent to care. At that moment I did not care where I was or what awful fate would befall me next. I cared nothing for nothing, and I almost considered slinking to the side to sit and rest my head against the walls while the blood dripped out of me. I considered letting myself bleed to death, it seemed a much easier fate than the one that now loomed over me: the promise of a life fighting for the entertainment of others.

Then footsteps sounded and I turned to find the curtains shoved aside and two wardens walking in. I noticed as they approached me that I hadn’t even taking the time to study my surroundings. As the wardens moved towards me, their batons swinging from their belts, I took my time to study the small pentagon shaped room. The walls and ceiling were the same dark shade of brown as sludge, but the ground was different. The ground was light brown, it was the color of quicksand.

In a part of my mind I was aware of the fact that the quicksand from the arena had brought me here, to this strange furniture-less room, but I hadn’t connected the dots. I could not imagine how it worked yet, that is, how the quicksand knew when to act as the portal for teleportation and when not to, but I finally knew how the journey from the cells to the arena was made.

The wardens stopped in front of me. Both of their hands went instantly to rest on the head of the batons hanging from their belts, as if they expected a fight from me. My apathetic eye rose to study the sneering faces of the wardens. With very little care, I noted that these wardens looked just like the previous wardens I’d seen. They had all of their outer eyes formed and none of them filled. They were big, but not as imposing as either of the uspecs I had faced in the pits. And from the looks on their faces they found me to be as revolting as the first pious one.

I did not care.

I took my gaze from their disgusted faces to the curtain they’d walked through.

“Come.” One of the wardens snapped. It turned and begun to march forward. For a moment I stood still, my body too tired and in too much pain to crave any sudden movement. I paid for my lethargy when the second warden pulled out its baton and slammed into the side of my head.

There was an explosion of pain in me as I absorbed the blow. But I found myself dwelling on something else, I dwelled on the lifeforce I felt. It was not as it had been before, it was somehow different this time, as if the lifeforce hadn’t been born anew, but instead had simply being alive in me the whole time and I had been too out of my mind to care. Whatever had prevented me from noticing it was gone, as the lifeforce remained alive in me even as the sharp pain from the warden’s blow receded to a dull ache.

Suddenly, I was infused with new life. The lifeforce burnt in me with an energy that I could not explain. It did not take away any of my pain, it just seemed to make me more aware of the pain within me, showing me that there was more to the pain than just pain.

I began walking, distractedly following the warden as I let the lifeforce educate me. It was as if the lifeforce was one with the pain, but also different, like a superior member of the same species. I focused on the pain in my side and somehow became aware that the wound, while dangerous, would not kill me in seconds. I had at least an hour of slow bleeding before I would exsanguinate. Next, I turned my attention to my head and learnt that although it felt as if my brain was being split in half, there was no serious damage which I wouldn’t recover from with time.

I stopped focusing on the pain then. I hadn’t realized how much focus had gone into the communication I’d had with the lifeforce until I was out of it and my dazed eye blinked, taking in the new surroundings.

“...but that is where you go to clean.” The warden leading me seemed to be finishing up a conversation as it pointed at a sludge covered path which led to large curtains. It turned to the left and I blinked wondering how we could have moved so much without me noticing.

In that moment I had a terrible premonition of how dangerous it could be to get lost in my lifeforce. It was different from speaking through my lifeforce to other people’s pain, when I had done that I had remained in full awareness. But in examining my own pain, I had lost all consciousness of my surroundings. It was a knowledge that filled me with so much trepidation I chose to focus instead on the path in front of me.

We walked into a large circular room. The curtains leading into this room were pulled back giving unobstructed access into it. There were several large benches and tables scattered around it. There were several uspecs seated on these benches. They had bowls in front of them and they ate the gruel in those bowls with pieces of bread. I couldn’t help noticing how silent the room was. There was no conversation, no light-hearted discourse as the uspecs ate. Some of the uspecs broke from their meals to watch me and I could feel the hatred emanating from them. One stood, stared pointed at the scales on my neck and spat onto the sludge in the ground. Then it walked out.

I was not even a little bothered by its obvious derision for me. I turned my focus to the front of the room, where four imps stood behind a smaller table with two large black pots on it. These imps like all the other imps I’d seen in the pits were naked.

I veered to the right, following the warden leading me.

“You eat here.” The warden said monotonically before pulling aside the much smaller curtains and walking through them. The curtains fell from the uspec’s hands and snapped shut in my face. I pushed the curtains aside and let them fall after me, taking a bit of pleasure at the grunt the second warden let out when the curtain closed in front of it.

We walked down a narrow walkway which led to yet another set of curtains. The warden held back the curtains but remained standing on the other side of the room. It gestured with its head, making sure I knew that I was to go in. I walked into the room and the curtains fell behind me.

Two new wardens stood inside of the room, by the curtains. I spotted them through my peripheral vision, but my attention was too focused on the room in which I stood, to pay close attention to them.

The room was filled with the stench of herbs and spices. There were two rows of bed-like structures and on three of these structures lay unconscious uspecs, with different bandages wound around various parts of their bodies. I concluded that I was in an infirmary even though I had never been in one before. The row facing me was sparser than the one closest to the wall, it had three large spaces between the beds with curtains obstructing my view of the rooms behind them. There were more curtains to either side of the room.

I began moving forward, drawn to study these large bed-like structures, but a warden’s bark stopped me.

“Wait.” It said.

And so I stood, resigned to study the beds from my current position. I noted that the beds were higher, much higher than any beds I had seen before, and that they had a seemingly soft brown material on top of them. The awing part was that the beds had holes in them, with a net like material which dropped underneath them. I looked at the uspecs who lay on the beds and noticed how their bodies lined up so that their ailerons fell through the holes and into the nets. I gawked at it.

One of the curtains in the wall in front of me was pushed open and a slender uspec walked out of it. The uspec’s gaze was behind it as it walked into the main room. It nodded at the room it walked out of and turned to face me.

Another pious one.

I clenched my fist and fought down the storm of anger which filled me.

The pious one walked towards me. It had a straight face and four filled outer eyes. It stared at me with speculation.

“Fools!” the pious one screamed when it stopped in front of me. It poked at the flesh around the wound on my side and screamed at the wardens. “Fools! You leave a bleeding uspec standing? Fools!” It turned wide eyes to the curtain it had just walked out of and yelled, “Thelma!”

An imp ran out from behind the curtains as the pious one continued its close inspection of me. I began to relax when I studied the symbols on the pious one’s fraise and noticed that it was of a different order from the previous pious ones I’d met. It was of the order of Remediation. They were the healers.

“Master?”

“Take it to Ward 1.” The pious one commanded.

“Yes master.”

I followed the imp as it led me away from the curious sight of a pious one scolding two uspecs for their careless treatment of me. Granted, the pious one’s scolding did not come from a place of personal concern for me, but it came from an impartial concern for an injured uspec and that was just as gratifying. The pious one had not seen an irira, it had seen an uspec.

The imp held a curtain open and I walked into a smaller room. This room had a single tall bed on one side of a drawn curtain. I made to move to the other side of the curtain, but the imp stopped me with softly spoken words.

“Please lay here domina.” It said, gesturing towards the bed.

I turned to the imp and frowned at it. I could not imagine what my face looked like as I made my displeasure at its interference known, but the imp did not seem the least bit perturbed. It smiled at me instead. I shook my head, my frowning becoming even more severe as I studied the smiling imp’s face. I could not imagine what it meant by the genuine smile. I could feel its concern. An imp concerned for me…it was disconcerting.

“Please lay here domina and I will treat the wound in your side. It must be very unpleasant, yes? Just lay here and I will make it better.” It tapped the bed, and I found my feet moving towards it. With narrowed eyes, I watched the imp closely as I sat on the bed, wondering what its motives were. Kind deference from an imp was not something I was used to.

I lay stiffly, feeling the odd sensation of my back lying on a surface which was not my ailerons. The ailerons fell into the nets underneath me and I had to admit that these beds were more comfortable. It was strange to fill my back against the soft material, very strange indeed.

The pious one burst into the ward muttering, “dumb oafs” underneath its breath. It came directly towards me and placed a hand on my forehead. I couldn’t help gazing up at it and wondering what it was doing even as it calmly commanded, “sleep now.”

Instantly, mind went dark as if driven into slumber by the pious one’s words.

I woke to the sounds of hushed voices. I blinked languidly, my mind searching frantically to recall where I was. I turned and felt the restriction of my ailerons hitting against the edges of the holes carved into the bed. I remembered where I was then. I remembered the fight with Killman and the infirmary I’d been taken to. As soon as the memories came, I expected the pain to come back too.

I waited for that, but there was nothing. No pain, it was all gone. But the lifeforce remained alive in me.

I was just about to sit up in the bed when I heard the sound of a curtain drawing and feet moving in the sludge. On a whim I closed my eye and pretended to be asleep.

“It will live then?” A familiar voice asked. It did not sound happy.

“Yes Maxad, it will live.” Another somewhat familiar voice replied. The uspec sounded piqued. “Excuse me.” I heard footsteps and then the sounds of the curtain being drawn and falling back into place.

“We should kill it.”

A voice laughed. “Do you fear it so Maxad?” This voice was new, completely unfamiliar.

“I do not fear it Takabat.” The familiar voice spat out venomously. “I am only speaking reason. Look at what it inspired in the arena. Regardless of what goes on outside the pits, there has always been peace within. The last time the irira fought the uspecs almost brought the bloodshed in here. We cannot let that happen again. The birthplace of Hakute must remain above the chasm.”

The unfamiliar voice laughed again. “Maxad, Maxad, you cannot push your Kuworyte agenda in here. It is forbidden. Like you said, the birthplace of Hakute must remain above the chasm.”

There was a heavy silence.

“Takabat,” the familiar voice was slow, deliberate, “are you declaring yourself Uspecipyte?”

There was a tsking sound followed by chuckling. “Of course not Maxad, I am simply saying that the birthplace of Hakute must remain above the chasm.”

A sigh. “What do you say Gerangi?”

I almost stopped breathing when I heard the familiar name. I froze, and then I worried that the pious one Gerangi would be able to sense that I was awake.

“Think Maxad, the irira cannot die outside the arena. The birthplace of Hakute must remain neutral, above the chasm. This irira is the first bone we’ve had to throw to the Uspecipytes. If it dies, it must die where they can see the cause of death and not blame us.”

Silence. “You are right Gerangi, wise as always. Perhaps we can help the irira along in its death. A little bit of pansophy and the irira will go down easy in its next fight. Only the founder knows how its survived this long.”

“I forbid it.”

A gasp. “Careful Takabat, your true colors are beginning to show.”

“I am the second prelate in this order, and I forbid it. If anything is done to this irira I will know, and I will have your head for it Maxad. That is an oath. I swear it by the founder.”

The words were followed by the sound of angry footsteps storming out of the ward, and then the curtains falling.

“I long for the day when that lineage is brought down. They are all Uspecipytes you know, all of them, to the last unworthy one. It still boggles my imagination that that nonentity Fajahromo had the gall to come here and make demands of me. Fajahromo brought this irira to me and now its sibling, Takabat, fights so resolutely for it. What do you think they plan to do with it? Why are they so invested?”

“Your guess is as good as mine Maxad.” Gerangi replied.

I could place them now. Maxad was the pious one who had taken me from Fajahromo, it was the one I hated. I did not yet know how I felt about Gerangi.

“How has it survived? How does an untrained de trop kill two of our best fighters? It is impossible…” Maxad broke off. “Unless…it cannot be, can it?”

“You speak in riddles Maxad.” Gerangi replied.

“Can it be kun?” Maxad asked. “Is it possible?”

Gerangi inhaled sharply. “It would be detrimental to the birthplace of Hakute if a kun born here was sent to the slums. I would think carefully before voicing that again Maxad.” Gerangi’s voice sounded strained as each word was pronounced carefully and distinctly.

Maxad sighed in resignation. “Of course, you are right my friend. Of course. The irira will die then, soon. Luck can only take one such as this so far.” I heard footsteps leaving then, and the sound of the curtain being drawn.

I waited a few moments before daring to open my eye, just in case there was anyone left. My patience paid off. I was just about to open my eye when I felt a soft touch on my head. For the second time since I woke, I froze.

As soon as the uspec touched me I felt my thoughts being taken. It was as if someone had reached into my mind and pulled out the thoughts in my head, leaving me with a frightful feeling of emptiness. Then suddenly, the thoughts were returned making me question if they’d ever been gone. I heard footsteps leaving and as soon as the footsteps left, I heard Gerangi’s voice in my head.

“Master it my friend. There is only so much luck that is believable. Master the emotions, they can be controlled. Do not simply yank, seep, that is, take in bits, control the uspec by controlling its emotions and then every adversary you face in the pits turns from a foe to a potential instructor. Let them teach you how to fight and then slowly wean yourself off using the emotions to win. Learn my friend, and you just might live long enough to make it out of the pits.”

I jumped to a sitting position in my bed, my eye flying open as I took in the room. All of the uspecs were gone and I was alone, just me and Gerangi’s words in my head. I was short of words. How was it possible? How did Gerangi know about my control of emotions? How was it able to put its words into my head? It was as if it had simply taken my thoughts and returned them with an added thought of its own. But how was such possible? This was nothing like the spectral magic I had been told of by the passing traders. Nothing at all.

But as I settled back into a lying position on my bed, I reflected on the uspec’s words. Of course, it was right. I couldn’t rely on the emotions completely, because I could be caught. And if I was caught, something told me Maxad wouldn’t have a hard time convincing uspecs to kill me then. I didn’t understand most of the pious ones’ conversation, but I understood that Maxad wanted me dead and I was loath to give it what it wanted.

I would live long enough to kill it. I just had to ‘master it’ Gerangi’s words rose in my head. ‘Learn my friend,’ Gerangi’s voice said, and suddenly I started to believe that it really was my friend. I did not trust it, not as I had Fajahromo, but I allowed that it may not mean harm to me as the other pious one did.

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