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The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) - Literature (13) - Nairaland

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:17am On Aug 07
@GeoSilYe I read your 'no wahala ma'am' in my mum's voice for some reason, especially, the 'ma'am' part, (except i read it as madam) lol. Anyway, thank you for understanding. I really appreciate how you followed the series from the start and how passionate you've always been about it. Thank you so much ma'am grin

@Dathypebruv I'm here oh! Sorry, you stayed up late. Next time sleep and wake up early, it will be ready when you wake up. As long as you wake up after 6 am sha cheesy
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:18am On Aug 07
Part 6
--------

“I rented out the cleaning room so that you can have a proper bath.” I stated, slightly amused by the imp’s fidgeting. Its fingers pulled at the bottom of its white shirt. After I spoke, the imp rose its head, bringing its attention back to me.

“I have proper baths in our suite.” It grumbled. “You know, to most people, a private bath like the one in our suite is seen as a luxury.”

Lounging in the large pool filled with cleaning salts, I could not disagree more. The public cleaning room in the lodging was similar to that in the Lastmain resort. It had the same three center ponds in the middle of the room, but it had no canal around the perimeter with running liquid. Instead, the center ponds were larger. “Take the clothes off.” I ordered. “And come inside the pond.” Sure, it had only cost a piece of merit to rent the entire room, but I’d only rented it so that Musa could enjoy the ponds. I had no problem sharing with other uspecs.

Musa exhaled as if I was putting unfair stress on it. Slowly, it pulled off the shirt it wore. I knew that the imp’s problem with unclothedness had nothing to do with its chest, as it slept most nights without its shirt on. It was the trousers that the imp never took off. We had been together for over a year now, and in that time, I had never seen the imp without clothes. Musa undid the buttons on its brown trousers and then it stopped, its fingers on the waist of its trousers, to stare at me.

“Do you have to watch master?” it asked, its voice strangled.

“I have seen Unclad imps before. I’ve even read about them.” I reminded the imp. I had spent good money and a significant amount of time on a tome about imps. The tome had made me understand some sights and word phrasings which I had previously found odd. For example, I learnt from the tome, that imps referred to their different spectrums as ‘genders’ and that they had two, males and females. Pictures of the different features of the different genders allowed me to place them. I even learnt about the terms ‘he’ and ‘she’ and others of the ilk, which had made no sense before, but became perfectly clear after reading the tome. But by far the most interesting thing in the tome was the description of the umanis procreation. Apparently, contrary to what I had previously thought on my first sighting, the imp features had no combat usefulness. Instead they existed for procreation, umanis were able to procreate without taking life. I found that odd, and the pictures I had seen of the act, even odder.

Finally, Musa stood Unclad.

The first thing I noted was that its feature had been cut off. Unlike the long, dangling parts which I had seen on other imps of Musa’s gender, Musa’s part was a stump. The imp walked uncharacteristically quickly towards the pond. Then it jumped into the okun. It was not as tall as I, so it had to drape its hands over the edge of the pond to keep from falling in.

“What happened to your penis?” I asked, remembering the correct term for that dangling part.

Suddenly, Musa brought its hand down from the edge of the pool and allowed itself to be fully submerged in the liquid. I frowned, wondering what the imp was doing. I counted thirty seconds before the imp came back up. It shook its hair, splashing drops of pink liquid on my face in the process. If it was any other imp, I probably would have sheared its hair off myself for that.

Eventually, it stopped. It leaned back against the wall of the pond, its arms going over the edge for support. Without looking at me it replied, “it was cut off.”

“In your umani life?”

Musa shook its head.

I frowned. “Here?”

It nodded. Still, it kept its gaze averted.

“Why has it not grown back?” I asked.

“Yielders.” It stated flatly. “They blocked life from going there. Where life cannot go, no other lifeforce can, not even growth.”

Life was a magic of the fogs, a magic controlled by spectra. It would not matter how good Musa was at pansophy, it would need spectra to be able to undo what the yielders had done. “Why?”

It was a simple question, but Musa’s voice was filled with so much pain I began to doubt the simplicity. “Can we not discuss it?” Before I had a chance to respond, it spoke again. “Can we move to the other ponds now master, the salts are burning.”

I nodded. We walked in silence to the long pond behind the rounded one. We swam so many laps in that pond that I eventually lost count. I knew that Musa was using the swimming as a deflection, and for now, I let it. By the time the imp pulled itself out of the pond, I could hear it panting. I dropped into the last round pond with a smile on my face. “Why did the yielders do that to you?” I repeated the question.

Musa sighed. “Please master.”

“Tell me.”

Its face turned again. It leaned on the side of the pond opposite me, but it turned its head so that its sockets didn’t meet my eyes. “Imps cannot procreate in the spectral existence, but some of us are still able to achieve the pleasure associated with intercourse. When an umani dies without ever having intercourse, its body retains the ability to have it in the spectral existence. I died a virgin master. So, when I came here, I could…make love. There were a few girls who also died the same way, three in the years that I served the Kaisers of Lahooni. The first two I met, left after some time. But the last one, the last one spent a millennium with me. I found her after she died. She died a few months after her fifteenth birthday. She was beautiful. We lived together for a thousand years and then my masters died and master Salin, the new custodian of Lahooni took over. I told you that its slaves did not like me. It was because they liked her. They did not die virgins and so they could not have the pleasure of intercourse, I think they hated me for that. It was why they fought me, they wanted the love that I had.”

“Love.” I repeated the word. I knew of love between progenitor and offspring, and even that was a rare thing. But love between two unrelated uspecs?

Musa smiled. “Yes master, love. One of the imps who hated me was master Salin’s osin. It whispered ills about me to the master and when the master’s anger reached a peak, it sent for me. My love, she loved me. She came running in, so defiant, pointing fingers at the master’s imps. She would not be stopped. Master Salin was not one to be spoken to in that manner. It sent for yielders and it had them take her away, to be sapped. It was going to do the same to me, but one of its slaves told it that sapping was too good for me. They chose castration instead.”

It was a sad tale. I could not imagine the love that Musa spoke of, but I heard the loss in its voice. “And that is why you hide your body? You are ashamed of your cut penis?”

Musa nodded, but it did not speak.

“The yielders took something from you, why are you giving them more? Your pride is your own. It is yours to keep, yours to wield, do not give that to them too. I see no reason for shame. You are the most accomplished imp I have ever met. Clothed or Unclad, you should walk with your head high.”

Musa’s head turned so that it was staring at me. It remained silent for a long time before saying, “thank you master.”

I nodded. “If I ever get the magic of manipulating life, I will let you siphon it from me. You can take back what they took from you.”

Musa smiled. Its lips parted, but no words came out. I noticed that its gaze had moved from me, to the entrance. Immediately, I swiveled. Two uspecs stormed into the cleaning room. They both had two golden bands around their arms. They were dressed in blue leather. As they got closer, I noticed their belts and the swords sheathed there. They both had four outer eyes, none of which were imp eyes. So far, the only people I had seen in this port with imp eyes were Marcinus and its sibling Manus.

“Salutations banneret.” One of them said, its eyes darting over to Musa before returning to stare at me. “The first imperial, Manus, requests your presence in the Chateau.”

Requests? I thought. What would these fine nobles say if I politely declined? Not that I would. I welcomed ever opportunity to go to the Chateau. The more I went there, the closer I would get to uncovering the mystery of Marcinus.

“Salutations noble ones.” I greeted in return, bowing my head to the appropriate level. Luckily, my neckcloth never came off my neck outside the suite, if not, I would have been in serious trouble. “Please give me a few minutes to go back to my suite and dress properly.”

They both nodded. I pulled myself out of the pond and waited for Musa to do the same. I could not help but notice how quickly it ran over to its clothes. The speed with which Musa donned the trousers was truly impressive. It kept the shirt off as we walked. I grabbed two towels before we left the room. Musa got one to dab itself down and I did the same with the other.

We walked with the noble escort to our suite. Each time I glanced at the nobles, I couldn’t help but notice the indifference on their faces. For some reason, the nobles chose to remain outside our door while we prepared ourselves. I had so little to put on that it did not take me long to get ready.

Musa stopped me before I walked out of the room. It held our newly purchased bottle of aqua-sight in its hand. I smiled in relief as the imp waited for me to sit, then it carefully placed five drops of the liquid in each of my filled eyes. “Five?” I asked.

“Five hours of extra sight. Just in case.” It replied.

“Do you think this will work?” I asked, playing around with the ring the imp had given to me. This ring was black. It had been made by my sire, Calam, and kept a secret so that only few knew of its existence. Musa said that Calam had locked the secret to making it away, but it had been on the uspec’s finger when it died. Musa had taken it. It was the last thing it had of Calam. But it gave it to me, because it said that I would need it more. The ring was a seeker, it searched for pansophy in any uspec it came in contact with and sent whatever it found back to the one wearing it. Musa said that only two of these rings existed. If the pious found that such a contraption was possible, they would stop at nothing to get their hands on it. I was just happy I had it. At least with the ring I would know if I was ever in contact with one who had pansophy.

“Of course, it will.” Musa’s voice almost sounded affronted. I chuckled.

Fully garbed, I walked back to the door, Musa at my heel.

“The imp stays.” One of the nobles ordered. “Manus only wants you.”

I saw the fear Musa tried to suppress. Did the imp think that I could not survive a meeting with another uspec without it? I nodded at the nobles. “Stay.” I ordered, slightly pushing the imp back into the suite.

The fog turned hard before the imp could utter its protests. I knew that it wanted to, and I knew that if we were alone, it would have. But Musa knew better than to disobey me in front of nobles.

The nobles led the way to the Chateau, and I followed.

We followed the same route as I had the day before, when the imps had come to fetch me at Marcinus’ behest. We walked in the humid clouds past the rich dwellings, to the portal room. The portal took us to the cloud bubble which took us to the Chateau’s entry bubble which was lined by armed guards. Then we walked into the entry room with the guards blocking the entrance to the Chateau. The nobles escorting me took my weapons, handing them over to the guards for safekeeping. Then we walked into the palace. This time though, instead of going down towards the gymnasium, we took the first right, in through a wall of fog which took up a large amount of space. I was led past strange, but obviously well-furnished, walkways, to a final suite.

Four guards stood on post in front of the suite. They bowed to the nobles and stepped aside, pulling the curtains to the room open.

The room I walked into was filled with lounging beds. They were narrow beds, made for entertaining. Uspecs lay on several of the beds around the room. The center of the room had a much larger lounging bed and an uspec with four golden bands on each arm laying on it. There was a long table by one wall in the room. The table was filled with food and drinks, and had two imps standing by it. The imps were dressed as the other royal imps had been. Unlike the ones in the gym, they did not sit and chat merrily. They stood with their hands folded behind their backs. I liked the temperature in this room. Is was cooler than it was outdoors, but not nearly as cold as it had been in the gymnasium. The walls of the room appeared similar to that in mine. Made of clouds then, I concluded. The walls emanated a mix of red and gold light. It was very different, giving the room a rather unique ambiance.

The nobles left me. One of them walked over to claim an empty bed in the room, the other went to help itself to some of the food on the table. It had filled its mouth twice, before it poured purple wine into a goblet and drank greedily. A few gulps away from draining the cup, the uspec seemed to recall my presence.

“Manus!” It called out then. “Your banneret.” It gestured with its almost empty cup towards me.

Immediately the scattering of conversation ceased as all the uspecs in the room turned to stare at me. The first thing I noticed was that they were all soarus. The next was that they were all nobles. The lowest rank of nobles in the room were the ones with two armbands. There were no made nobles or descendants of made nobles here.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:18am On Aug 07
The uspec lying on the middle bed rose. It turned to stare at me. Immediately I recognized it as Manus, the uspec who had stared down at me from the balcony in the gym. It wore nothing but its golden armbands.

It stood for seconds before I remembered myself. “Salutations imperial one.” I greeted, curtsying deeply.

The uspec walked over. I saw the top of its green legs before I heard it say “Rise banneret.”

I stood.

“It is Nebud, is it not?” It asked, its eyes taking their time to peruse me.

I took the opportunity to study the uspec too. It was thin. It stood tall, at about the same height as its sibling, which made it about the same height as I, but I could tell from its lack of bulk that it was not a great fighter. That was as much as I could say, there was nothing particularly descriptive on its face to let me know how it felt about me. It did not smile with wide teeth as Marcinus had, but neither did it scowl.

“Yes, imperial one.” I replied.

The uspec nodded. “Tiyoseriwosin Nebud?”

This was the question that I had been waiting for since I walked into this port. I had thought it would come in an inn, perhaps surrounded by commoners. Never in my wildest imagination had I thought that it would come in the Kaiser’s chateau, from the lips of the first imperial, the first offspring of the Kaiser. “Uspecipyte.” I replied, fully aware that this was an Uspecipyte port.

Manus smiled. It was not the full smile its sibling had. Rather, it was a slight smile, one only made visible by a small movement of the corners of its lips. It stretched out its hand then saying, “you are among friends Nebud.”

I shook the uspec’s hands. I almost jumped when my thoughts were filled with ‘no pansophy’. The ring really did work. “Gratitude imperial one.”

The uspec nodded. “Come.” It ordered, before letting go off my hand, and leading me through the circle of lounging beds. It pointed to an empty bed to the right of the one it occupied, and I sat. Manus sat on its. “Will you eat?”

I shook my head. “But I would appreciate a drink.”

Manus nodded. It snapped its fingers and moments later an imp was handing me a glass goblet filled with purple wine. I took a sip and waited.

“You probably do not know this, but you are considered a hero around here.” Manus spoke with a flat tone.

“I am?” I asked, my shock unfeigned.

“Yes Nebud. You see, an assassin came into the Chateau two nights ago and tried to kill my younger sibling. Mara, the swan you rescued, killed the assassin before it could strike Marcinus in its sleep. You know swans produce okun?”

I nodded.

“They also produce lit okun. Did you know that?”

“It is a thing I have heard of imperial one.”

“Marcinus was saved by Mara, and seeing as you are the one who found Mara and brought the swan back to us in time, you indirectly saved Marcinus. We all owe you a great debt banneret. Name what you want, and it will be yours.”

I shook my head. “There are few things I hold sacred imperial one, the frosted beasts are amongst them. I could not, in good conscience, allow the frosted beast to remain in a cage. It was luck that had me in the kennel at that time, and luck that had me return the sacred creature in time for it to come to the imperial Marcinus’ aid. It was not planned.”

I don’t know why I added the last part, but as soon as I did, I saw Manus regarding me differently. Its center eyebrow rose as its eyes studied me. Then it smiled wider this time. “Well said.”

I heard a bit of commotion by the entrance before the curtains were pulled open. One of the guards walked in. It bowed to the uspec. “There is an imp here for you imperial one, it says that it was sent from the high Salin.”

Manus gestured with its hands for the imp to be let in. ‘Salin?’ I thought as the imp walked into the room. It dropped to its knees in front of the imperial one, bowing till its forehead touched the floor.

“What is it?” Manus demanded.

The imp knelt upright. “A letter from my master, domina.” The imp offered an envelope to Manus.

Manus nodded, then it flicked its fingers in dismissal. The imp bowed again before leaving. I felt a sudden flare of anger at the imp. Had this been one of the imps who had led to Musa’s castration? A voice of sanity pointed out that the chances that it was the same imp was slight.

There was silence as Manus opened the envelope, pulled out the letter and then read the contents. Manus snorted. The sound seemed to take over the room as the uspecs, myself included, turned to face the imperial. Large spherical globs of hail appeared in the air. The hail stuck to the paper in the uspec’s hand, and instantly, the paper was consumed by a crimson inferno. Once the paper decomposed, the inferno went away.

It took every bit of control I had to keep myself from over-reacting to the uspec’s display of magic. I had seen spectra used by Fajahromo, but always in dire situations, for fighting. I had never seen spectra used so casually, not as this imperial just did. I knew the magic it had used, it was the magic gotten from the mejo eyes, the ones that change temperature using hail.

“Good news?” an uspec asked.

Manus’ jaw clenched. “No.” It spat out. “The growth was not found. Five hundred pieces of worth gone, a halcyon’s epic lost on the trail.” Unlike the banneret and the adherent whose epics were the tales of the service they had rendered to earn their nobility, a halcyon’s epic was the amount of money it had spent to buy its noble status.

“Does the high Salin know the cause of death?” another uspec asked.

“It says it was imps. A roomful of uspecs saw the imps collide on Reynard and kill it. Arbiters located the imps and had them sapped, but no one found the growth that Reynard was carrying.”

“Reynard.” I said, repeating the name. It was strange how memory worked. How at times I had to toil to recall an uspec’s name and at others it just came. For some reason, Reynard’s name just came to me. I remembered how it had died, bleeding out on the table I had shared with it and its friend Tantan.

As soon as I spoke, the eyes snapped to me. They all peered at me then. It became obvious that in its anger, Manus had forgotten my presence in the room. By saying Reynard’s name, I had made them aware of their oversight, and pulled their attentions back to me.

Manus frowned at me. “A friend.” It said by way of explanation. “You need not concern yourself. In fact,” it turned to nod at one of the nobles who had brought me here, “you may go.”

“Was the Reynard you speak of killed on the inter-port trail?” I asked, ignoring the imperial one’s command. I spoke on an instinct, I could not say why exactly I felt as though I had to be part of this conversation, but something pushed me forward, prompting me to speak.

Manus’ hand rose in the air, halting the approach of the noble it had summoned. “Yes, how did you know?”

“I was there when it died. It shared my table.”

“Then you saw the imps that killed it?” Manus asked.

I knew that it had indeed been killed by an imp, but not in the way Manus described. Not that I would ever reveal Xavier’s name, talking about Xavier would lead to the pits and I was not carelessness enough to mention that. “Imps?” I asked, hoping that my look of shock was at least passable. “You are mistaken imperial one, Reynard was not killed by imps.”

Gasps of shock filled the room, seemingly coming from every corner. “Who killed it then?”

“I do not know.” I lied. “No one saw what did it. Reynard was killed by a knife that floated in the air.”

“Spectra?” One of the nobles asked.

“Be silent you fool.” Manus snapped. “Spectra does not work on the inter-port trail. It had to be pansophy. Tell me Nebud, how well versed are you in pansophy.”

I shook my head. “My knowledge is limited imperial one. I only know some of the lifeforces. But I agree with you, it had to be pansophy. Whoever killed Reynard was invisible, the person was without appearance.”

“A pious.” Manus spat the honorific out as if it was an insult. “They killed Reynard.” It stopped speaking and turned to study me with a carefully neutral face. “Marcinus says you hale from the forgotten kingdom of Murekute. That you came here by way of Hakute. Is this true?”

“Yes, imperial one.”

“Tell me, how did you survive in Hakute? Hakute is, after all, a Kuworyte port.”

“I am an excellent fighter.” I replied, a lopsided grin forming on my face.

Manus smiled then. For the first time, it smiled with its teeth partially exposed. “You are certainly amongst friends.” It placed special emphasis on the word ‘certainly’ in a way that made me suspect that it heard something in my response I was not sure I had intended. Had I spoken too sarcastically? “Tell me everything about the day Reynard died. Leave nothing out.”

I spoke then. Starting with my arrival in the inn. I mentioned Tantan and how it had invited Reynard to our table. I talked about its slaughter. I was careful to omit the part about the finger writing the message on the table, that was too close to Xavier. I talked about the inquisition after, about how the arbiters, yielders, and the magistrate had questioned us, and then let us go. When I was done speaking, I noticed that a serious expression had formed on Manus’ face.

“Reynard was born in Katsoaru, it was a close friend of mine Nebud. We grew up together, it was part of my inner circle. You must know that Custodian Salin, and its port of Lahooni are great friends to the Uspecipyte movement.” I was careful to keep my face neutral as I nodded, as if in acceptance of that lie. “I sent Reynard to Lahooni to purchase growth with five hundred pieces of worth. It bought the lifeforce from yielders through Salin, and it was carrying it on itself during its journey. Then Reynard was killed and the growth lost. Whoever killed the uspec must have sapped it of the growth before taking its life. The pious had led us to believe that it was the work of a renegade group of imps who had been punished for their crime, but I never believed that. Imps don’t have pansophy, only the pious do. They killed Reynard and stole from me. So, Nebud, I need you to think carefully. Do you remember what this magistrate looked like, the one who questioned you?”

I nodded. “Yes, imperial one.”

Manus snapped its finger and a tome was brought to it. “Look through this portfolio,” Manus said, inclining its head towards me. The imp brought me the tome. “Tell me which magistrate it was.”

As I flipped through the pages of the portfolio, I saw that the tome was filled with appearances of all the magistrates in the spectral existence. I looked at each picture carefully, all the while trying to control my mind’s reeling. One thing was clear, this uspec thought of Salin as a friend to the Uspecipytes. It said that Lahooni was known to be a friend to Uspecipytes, which meant that this was well known. But I knew better. I knew that Salin worked for the plenum. Salin had been handpicked by one Kaiser in the plenum specifically to come and ensure that I was able to kill Fajahromo. Salin had turned out to be a friend to Fajahromo as well, but even Fajahromo was in league with the plenum. If Salin worked for the plenum then it was no friend to Uspecipytes. I could think of how it would be advantageous for the plenum to keep people believing that Lahooni was actually Uspecipyte. It could use that as a stronghold to weaken actual Uspecipyte ports. Was that what had happened here?

But no, no uspec was responsible for Reynard’s death, or the theft of the growth it had carried. That was Xavier’s work. Did Manus really not know that pious slaves existed, ones with pansophy? Did it really believe that Salin was a friend to the Uspecipytes? How did Reynard’s death tie into all of this? And how had I ended up in the middle? What were the odds that I would just happen to see Reynard’s death right before coming to the port it had been heading to?

I found the magistrate. “This is it.” I said, pointing at the picture, as I lifted the tome so that Manus could see it.

Manus’ jaw ticked. Seconds rolled away as it stared at the picture. I could feel its anger, it grew with each second that passed. By the time Manus finally spoke, it was through clenched teeth. “Are you sure? This one?”

“Yes, imperial one.”

Manus grabbed the tome from me and threw it onto the floor. By that point it had more anger than I had ever felt from any single uspec who I’d fought in the pits.

2 Likes

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by OluwabuqqyYOLO(m): 6:44am On Aug 07
obehiD:


Lol, I'm missing them too, but I don't think I'll be done with this one till closer to the end of the year.

Although, with the way things are going, it's looking like I might not be able to post the last white sight book (the Reckoning) on Nairaland. So, I don't want to make any announcements till I'm more sure about this, which is why I wasn't going to say anything until much later. But I'm in serious talks with a publishing house, to get the marked series published, and part of those discussions is that I can't have any of the white sight books available online, until they publish it. So, if I finalize that agreement with them, then I won't be posting any more marked related stories on Nairaland (for sometime at least). This would be the last one.

But again, none of this is final final. We're still talking. I think by the time I'm done with this book, I'll know for sure and then I'll let you know.
Baby girl, please go ahead! You've done a lot with these stories and it's only fair that you get some dough. I won't speak for others but I'll buy when it's out. Kudos!
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 9:22am On Aug 07
obehiD:


Lol, I'm missing them too, but I don't think I'll be done with this one till closer to the end of the year.

Although, with the way things are going, it's looking like I might not be able to post the last white sight book (the Reckoning) on Nairaland. So, I don't want to make any announcements till I'm more sure about this, which is why I wasn't going to say anything until much later. But I'm in serious talks with a publishing house, to get the marked series published, and part of those discussions is that I can't have any of the white sight books available online, until they publish it. So, if I finalize that agreement with them, then I won't be posting any more marked related stories on Nairaland (for sometime at least). This would be the last one.

But again, none of this is final final. We're still talking. I think by the time I'm done with this book, I'll know for sure and then I'll let you know.
Just when you are done, just announce the price. I can't wait to read about Osazele, I miss her so so so much undecided cry cry cry
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Ultimategeneral: 10:04am On Aug 07
Nebud should have minded his business and leave
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 11:01am On Aug 07
So nothing happened to marcinus?? By the by this episode was short� no mind me am just insatiable.. Pls make the book affordable for broke boys like us if it eventuarry comes out... Thaink u...
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 4:00pm On Aug 07
Nebud's presence in this port and it's experience of Reynard's murder isn't a coincidence. Just like Nebud has thought; there is a connection. There is a reason why it was led there, it did not go there by impulse or act of defiance against Musa's warnings as we had earlier been made to believe, it was an intentionally orchestrated by the definer of Nebud's fate.

I can now see why Obehid keep saying this novel may last till this year runs out. It has so many underground scheming and plots that Nebud needs to unravel and understand if it is to attain the level which we all hope to see it attain. He must understand the politics and the dirtiness of each ports.

I would like to say more but I would rather sit back n watch the outcomes.

Thank you Obehid, I really enjoyed this part. cool
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:12am On Aug 09
@OluwabuqqyYOLO Thank you!!! That really means a lot to me grin

@Ultimategeneral Lol, sometimes, the gist is so sweet that you just get pulled into it. I think that's what happened to Nebud cheesy

@cassbeat LOL, thank you for being insatiable! As to Marcinus, nothing that we know of yet wink

@Fazemood Yes, I will definitely post the details once it's all done and finalized. I miss Osezele too. But this story has entered my system so I have to do it well. I can see you're starting to see the whole picture. There are definitely many little things that just pop up at different moments, which you might be tempted to disregard, but they're actually part of some bigger scheme that Nebud cannot see yet. But anyway, I won't talk too much, I'll just let it unfold cheesy

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:52am On Aug 10
Part 7
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The curtains had been given form. On sighting us, one of the uspec guards placed the tip of a baton-like instrument against the hard curtains, and they softened. I noted the white fumes drifting out through the open gaps between the curtains and the walls. Musa walked forward first. It pushed open one set of curtains and held it open for me to walk through.

The effect of the fumes hit me as soon as I walked into the room. I had used a liberal amount of the aqua-sight before leaving our suite, so I could see through the congested room. The arrangement of seats had been changed so that the lounging beds were packed closer together. Stools were scattered around the room, filled with food and drinks. I noticed several more imps, dressed in the royal tunic, lining the walls of the room. Two, holding baton-like keys similar to the one the guard had used to remove the form, stood by the door. Once we walked through, they placed the keys by the curtains, returning the form to it.

I took a breath, cautiously inhaling the fumes filling the room. I had no words in my vocabulary to describe the pleasure I felt. It was happiness, but somehow more than the normalcy of joy. It made my heart pound with exhilaration, as if in the throes of a great fight. The energy in the fumes I inhaled was primal, it was ecstasy of a form which felt extremely blissful, and wholly unnatural.

Soft musical notes drifted through the room. I saw pious ones standing at the corner of a mat in the center of the room, and on that mat, were two Unclad imps engaged in a dance the likes of which I had never seen before. The imps had streak-less skins and possessed both eyes. I could tell from their chests that they were both of different umani genders.

My pleasure increased as I continued to inhale the fumes.

There was something so different about the dancing. One of the imps, the one with breasts, was being carried by the other imp. It had its pelvis joined with the others, its legs wrapped around the other’s waist. That imp was bent backwards, its back was arched so far back that its palms lay flat on the floor, and its head was only a few inches above the ground. Its waist undulated against the other imp. The imp, the one standing, had one of its hands on the other imp’s waist while the other caressed its breasts. That imp made thrusting motions, pushing its pelvis against the others.

“This is distasteful master.” Musa said.

I turned to stare at the imp. It appeared unaffected by the fumes drifting around the room. I found myself smiling at the imp even though I did not feel particularly happy. My mind seemed to be losing grip with reality. I was suddenly having difficulty remembering why I was there or what the imp had said. All I could do was listen to the frenzied cries of the dancing imps, and take pleasure in it all. My vision began to blur as I scanned the room. I could just barely make out the other uspecs lying on their beds, eyes closed as they panted, their ecstasy plain on their faces. Even the royal imps standing around the room seemed to be partaking of the pleasure.

“Lovemaking should be between imps, a thing done in private, not for the pious to steal the lifeforce of lust for uspecs.”

I heard the disapproval in Musa’s voice, but the sound quickly faded. There was no part of me that wanted the imp’s negativity. All I wanted was to enjoy the ecstasy, the pleasure in the white fumes. I was happier and more relaxed than I had ever been in my life. It was as if I had just won the greatest battle I’d ever fought. I could see it now, I could see myself back in the pits, slicing through uspecs, cutting them down as they stood.

Fajahromo appeared in front of me. It smiled at me, confidence oozing out of it. We were both given swords, a fight between nobles. Fajahromo stood Unclad, its irira status on full display. My heart raced as I fought the uspec. It came at me with everything it had, but I made quick work of it. I cut Fajahromo down where it stood and luxuriated in the blood the uspec spilled. I swam in that blood, the blood of a foe. It coated me with its gore, running down my skin like okun. The pleasure I felt began to build as I stared at Fajhromo’s head separated from its body. My heart raced, as the pleasure continued to rise, I was going to a peak. Blood flowed from Fajahromo in an unending stream. I would be swimming in its blood soon, and I gloried in it. I could still hear the sound of Fajahromo’s cries, I could hear the uspec begging for its life. The pleasure continued to build, my heart pounded against my chest, my eyes closed as I gloried in it. And then the pleasure reached a climax and, for a fleeting moment, my euphoria was boundless.

I heard a strange cry, a guttural sound which I could not place was torn out of my lips. The sound was mirrored through the room, the same sound only from so many different voices. Then there was silence.

“Nebud!” A familiar voice called.

Blinking drowsily, I opened my eyes. An uspec walked towards me. It had four golden armbands around each arm and tentacles covering its legs. The uspec smiled as it approached. It had a familiar face, one that I had seen before, but couldn’t place. Was it Marcinus? Marcinus, the one whose eye I was to take. My foggy mind could make no sense of the scene.

Musa fell to its knees when the uspec stopped in front of me. Its head dropped to the ground and I wondered if I had seen the imp do this before. My mind wandered back to the pleasure. There were no more white fumes, but I ached for them. I wanted the fumes, I wanted the euphoria that I had felt in that one moment. The imps in the middle of the room were no longer joined. Musa had said something when we walked in, but I had no recollection. Why was the uspec staring at me? It smiled in a way that had me smiling back. It looked like a friend. Could I trust it? No, I wanted the euphoria. My mind recreated the pleasure, reminding me of what it had felt like.

The uspec’s hand clamped onto my shoulder. Marcinus, I thought, I will take your eye. I don’t know why, but I will. I don’t know if I want to, but I have no choice. The voice in my mind won’t let me. What was that voice in my mind? Who did it belong to? Who wants your eye Marcinus? Who wants me to have your eye?

The uspec’s smile widened. “Come Nebud, we have much to discuss. This is your first time feeling lust is it not?”

I did not know what to say. Was the uspec talking to me? Lust, what was lust? Lust, did the word seem familiar? My lips parted but no words came out. What was expected of me? I did not want to think, I simply wanted to feel the pleasure. Where were the fumes? I wondered with a frown on my face.

The uspec laughed. “Very good. Very, very, good. It is better this way Nebud, there is only honesty after the climax.” Its smile never wavered. “Come.” It ordered, its arm steering me towards the entrance.

Musa made to rise.

“Stay!” The uspec snapped at my slave.

Musa stayed on its knees.

We began walking. I felt a brush against my feet. It was slight, only a light touch, but as soon as I felt that brush, my mind instantly cleared. I became aware of my surroundings. I saw that it was Manus who led me out of the room. As we walked down a dimly lit walkway, I noticed the haze which had taken over Manus’ face. It smiled in a way that I found troubling. It looked relaxed, unnaturally so. With a clear head, I knew that the change in Manus’ bearing was a result of whatever it was that had been in the white fumes in that room.

Manus stopped in front of a wall of hardened fog. It placed its hand against the wall and the form left it. We walked through translucent fog. The room we walked into was empty. It had nothing but two imps standing by the entrance. They knelt as soon as we walked in, bowed, and then crawled out. The room was really just a tiny space, separating the wall of fog from a set of curtains on the other side. Two new imps walked into the room after us. One carried a shallow basin, the other held a glass goblet with a little amount of dark blue liquid in it. Manus took the goblet from the imp, drowned its contents and then proceeded to throw up into the basin held by the other imp. While it puked, quicksand formed underneath the second imp, pulling the imp in. The imp returned with a goblet filled with okun. Manus took that goblet and rinsed its mouth with the okun. Then it returned the half-filled goblet to the imp, and dismissed them with the flick of its fingers. The imps bowed and left the room.

When Manus turned to face me, the smile was gone from its face. Its previous state of calm was gone now. It stood with its back straight, observing me. I could tell that whatever Manus had drunk had reversed the effect of the fumes in the other room. In that moment, it also became clear to me what the brush of fingers I had felt before leaving that room was. It was Musa, the imp had used pansophy on me to take away the effects of the fumes.

“This is my den Nebud.” It said. “It is where I keep my pets. Come.” It ordered. Then it walked ahead, pushing through the curtains ahead of us.

The new room we walked into was filled with cages. Most of those cages lay unoccupied, but a few had animals. I noticed a number of hounds, two sky fowls, and one ugwere, the creatures which the noble one had brought with it to my slum all those years ago. We walked in between the rows of cages, till we came to a stop in front of one unique cage. This cage, unlike the others I had seen, hung from the ceiling. It was a large cage, one that dangled slightly as the uspec within it moved. The floor of the cage was filled with okun, and the uspec rested in that okun. I could tell from its tentacles that it was a soaru uspec.

“Come.” Manus ordered, moving around the cage. I followed it and was instantly shocked when I saw the uspec it had imprisoned.

It was the magistrate. The one from the inter-port trail. The one that I had picked out in Manus’ tome. I swallowed, suddenly at a loss. What was going on? How did a magistrate end up locked in a cage like this? Why did it not set itself free? The magistrate did not look like it could do much. Its eyes were open, but it just lay there, staring lifelessly at us. I found something achingly familiar about the weakened state the magistrate appeared to be in.

I glanced at the okun and it suddenly made sense. The power of the kute eyes was that they could be used to sap strength from creatures. They were used to harvest the power needed for the other forms of spectra, power which came from strength. It was magic which Fajahromo had used to weaken me in the pits.

“This is Nitan Nebud, the magistrate from the inter-port trail. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I was just about to nod, when it dawned on me that Manus expected me to still be under the influence of the white fumes. I nodded anyway.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:52am On Aug 10
“Good,” Manus said approvingly, “I had a feeling you would. You are too strong to be rendered comatose by the lust in the fumes. But not too strong for the truth, lust only leaves truth in its wake.” It smiled at me, then it turned back to the uspec in the cage. “I was Nitan’s patron, just as I was Reynard’s. I funded Nitan’s career, I am why Nitan is a magistrate. You would think that my patronage would buy me loyalty, but no. Nitan lied to me.” Manus sighed. I could see the disappointment it felt written plainly on its face.

“Pious ones always think that they are above the rules of society. They think that once they have pansophy they need not answer to anyone. That is a fallacy. The one weakness of pansophy is that it is a contact magic. You see spectra has no such limitations. I took Nitan’s strength and it crumbled, easy pickings. Now with the okun, the uspec will remain too weak to use its magic.” Manus exhaled. “It should never have come to this Nebud. All I ask is loyalty. Is that too much? It was not for Reynard. Reynard died loyal to me. But this magistrate, this common uspec who I made into something, could not remain loyal to me. It lied to me. It told me that imps killed Reynard, it convinced the other uspecs in the room to corroborate its story. I went back to question some of those uspecs and they confessed. They said it happened as you said Nebud, that no one actually saw the person that killed Reynard. Nitan, the magistrate that I made, my client, made them lie to me.”

Manus’ head fell. It placed its hand against its face, tracing the perimeter of an outer eye. Then it sighed. “I am not wicked, at least I do not like to be. Those uspecs lied to me. When given a choice between an imperial and a magistrate, they chose the magistrate. Some live right here in Katsoaru, they are not soaru uspecs, but they live here, in our port. I am their imperial, and yet they lie to me. They are not loyal to me Nebud, but when they confessed their treason, what did I do? Did I throw them in a cell? Did I have them scourged? Did I kill them? No, I forgave them. I understand that they are commoners, not wise enough to know better and so I forgave them. They told the truth and I released them.”

“I was willing to do the same with Nitan, I was willing to forgive it. But it lied to me. Continually, it denied that any pansophy had been used in killing Reynard. It denied that there were even pious ones in that inn. Do you believe it?” The last question was asked in a yell, and truly, I could not believe it. Why would the magistrate lie when there were so many witnesses? What was it trying to hide? “It said there were no pious ones, but there were, five yielders. Five! But Nitan lies to me. It chooses to protect other pious ones of a different Order. It chooses those pious over me, its patron, the one who made it. Tell me Nebud, where should ones loyalties lay? With old friends, generous friends who gave freely whenever you were in need? Or with new friends, friends who only claim you as such in affluence?”

Manus stopped speaking and I could tell it was waiting for a reply. “Old friends imperial one.” I stated, wondering as I spoke if I still sounded like one under the influence of the white fumes.

Manus nodded gravely. “It pains me to do this Nebud. It pains me to treat a friend as such. It pains me, but what am I to do? Five hundred pieces of worth gone. It is a fortune Nebud, and the sole responsibility for its loss rests on me. I must find the wealth. Nitan leaves me without a choice.”

After saying that, Manus took a step back.

Red clouds appeared in the cage.

The clouds were luminescent, producing bright red rays as all natural clouds do. With my extra sight it hurt to stare into the light, but I found myself unable to look away. I watched as the cloud encircled the magistrate. With dazed eyes, I watched the magistrate begin to change into something else within the constraint of the clouds. The extra sight allowed me to see clearly through the clouds, it let me watch as the uspec morphed into a soft rooster, covered with shiny green scales. Then the clouds went away, but the okun underneath the magistrate – now rooster – remained. This was spectra, I thought as a chill spread through me. This was the magic of the soaru eyes, the magic of changing a creature’s identity. I had never seen it done, but as I stared at the rooster, I wished to never see it again. Would Manus keep the magistrate trapped as a rooster for the rest of its life?

“Come Nebud.” Manus called. It took one last pain-filled look at the rooster, and then it shook its head and began walking back through the room, between the cages of animals.

Now, I stared at each animal with new eyes. Were these animals, or were they actually uspecs whose identity had been changed to that of an animal? A hound’s eyes followed me as I walked out, behind the imperial one, and I could not help wondering if it was an uspec who watched me.

I felt a sense of fear which I found alien. I did not like the fear, but I could not shake it. It was one thing to die, it was another entirely to be trapped as something else. I felt my heart pounding as Manus came to a stop in the center of the vacant space on the other side of the room of caged animals who could be uspecs.

I saw true misery in its eyes as it stared at me. I reached out with my pain and, contrary to my beliefs, I actually felt pain there. This was not some guise of affliction, the uspec was truly in pain. I felt the misery in its pain, I felt the despair. It squared its shoulders and tried to smile at me, but even that smile was weak.

“I am sorry you had to see that, but it was necessary.” Manus said. “I did not want you to live in fear of the magistrate. I could have told you that the magistrate would not be able to punish you for telling me the truth, but you would not have believed me, not fully. Now you have seen for yourself, you know that the magistrate can do you no harm. Without you Nebud, I would have had no trail to follow, no way to recover the growth which had been stolen from Reynard, from me. I am truly grateful. You have found a friend in me Nebud, and I take care of my friends.”

I was stunned speechless. If the situation wasn’t so serious, perhaps I would have laughed. Why did the magistrate lie? Why not tell Manus that Reynard had been killed by an invisible person? What was the magistrate trying to hide? I thought about Manus’ words and knew that there was some truth to it. It had made me watch the power it wielded, the one that could so easily change an uspec into something else. I believed that it had made me watch it partly because it wanted me to know I was safe from the magistrate. But my experiences with Fajahromo made me doubt that was the sole reason. I had a strong feeling that I had also been made to watch so that I could see the extent of Manus’ power.

Still, I nodded. “I am honored imperial one.” I lied.

Manus smiled. “Are you truly?”

“Yes, imperial one.”

Manus exhaled. “I knew that I could trust you. But I could not risk it. Tell me Nebud, can I trust you?”

“Yes, imperial one.”

Manus smiled. “I know that you say the truth. With lust in you, you are forced to tell the truth. Why did you come to Katsoaru?”

“I wanted to visit a soaru port imperial one. I just felt called to this one.”

Manus nodded. It walked closer to me and placed its hand on my shoulder. “I have lost a loyal friend Nebud. Reynard was a great fighter, it was part of my inner circle, a noble guard to accompany me to events. Now, I find myself down one guard. The other noble guards I have are good, but none nearly as good a fighter as you are. I watched you fight Marcinus. I want you to take Reynard’s place as my noble guard. Will you do it?”

Every cell in my body told me to say no. I wanted to have nothing more to do with this uspec who had turned a magistrate into a soft rooster. The green scales covering the rooster’s body flashed in my mind. Would that be me next? I wondered. Yet, somehow, I found myself saying, “It will be my honor, imperial one.” I bowed.

Manus slapped me on the shoulder. “Excellent! You start tomorrow Nebud. I am truly pleased. Come.”

It took its hand off me and it walked over to the door. I followed it. We walked back down the hallway. We returned to the familiar curtains of the room which had had the white fumes. A guard held the curtains open and we walked in.

“Nebud will join us!” Manus announced to the room. I could tell that the haze of the white fumes had passed, leaving the uspecs looking cognizant. They cheered the announcement. “Another round of lust!” Manus ordered.

I watched as the Unclad imps returned to the center of the room. They drew close together. They touched, stroking each other’s features as they began to dance to the music.

“May I leave imperial one?” I asked, not willing to endure another round of the intoxicants. While the pleasure was euphoric, I did not want to be left vulnerable. “I would like to prepare for my first day serving you.” I hoped my words seemed honest enough. Though, as the uspec thought that I was still under the influence of the fumes, I doubted that it would question me.

“Of course, Nebud.” Manus replied. It snapped its fingers and an imp appeared, with a small bottle filled with a dark blue liquid. Manus handed the bottle over to me. “To purge the effects of the lust.” It said.

“Gratitude imperial one.”

Manus nodded. “Nebud.” It called out before I could leave. I stopped and turned around to face the uspec. “Never bring your imp with you to the Chateau again.” After saying that, it turned its back on me and walked back to join the other uspecs lounging in their beds, preparing for another round of the white fumes.

I could not walk out of that room fast enough. I had to stifle my irritation at the uspec’s orders. How dare it tell me what I could or could not do with my own slave? Why hadn’t it been Manus’ eye the voice in my head wanted. Why Marcinus? As part of Manus’ inner-circle, I would have access to the uspec. It would not be too hard to get the eye.

As we walked away from the room, I noticed three uspecs walking towards us. Marcinus walked in between both uspecs. It had its arms draped over the uspecs’ shoulders as it moved. The closer I got to it, the more aware I became of its drunken state. It swayed heavily as it walked, so much so that the uspecs by its sides appeared to be carrying, more than supporting it. They passed by me without glancing my way.

I found something troubling about Marcinus’ state. It wasn’t like I had never seen a drunk uspec before, it just seemed so strange to see Marcinus that way. I shook my head, chastising myself. What did I really know about Marcinus?

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 9:32am On Aug 10
Awww! Our Nebud just had sex... grin grin. Obehid you surprised me, never expected this one cheesy. It a new you! I like the way it went by, the expression of climax carried purity in a smooth form. Was intense though wink lol.

Now going back to finish this episode cool
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by cassbeat(m): 10:27am On Aug 10
Lol.. But it's like this things are mad o... Lust between two people they are now sharing it.. Izzzokay ... Onto the next one.. Nebud has been upgraded abi na downgraded anyone sha its onto the next...
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by ayshow6102(m): 10:27am On Aug 10
Congrats nehud u have now tasted what we are enjoying �
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 10:39am On Aug 10
Yes I am back....

The second part of this episode is troubling Obehid, really troubling. I am grateful to Musa for his swift action, he is truly a blessing to Nebud. This is passionate loyalty, I am touched and pleased at the same time.

Now back to the troubling part, what could be the reason why the magistrate chose to keep lying to Manus, could it be trying to keep safe something valuable from the hands of a dangerous Uspec like Manus? I fear Nebud might have mistakenly given to a bad guy something that should be kept away. I truly hope not.

I am feeling the euphoria of this story, like I am beginning to see it like I see Osazele's part. Its got more suspense now than it had in the start.

I am thrilled. Thanks dear, more inspirations.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by phoenixchap: 7:37pm On Aug 10
Musa is a blessing in disguise and I hope he's able to get around this Minus about Manus of a inspection. Mercinus is vulnerable but it's not wise to take its eye as it is. The lust and that white fume I hope Nebud is able to handle.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:34am On Aug 12
@Fazemood lol, yeah, I enjoyed this one too grin. I had a feeling that Musa might grow on you. You're thinking of all the right things. I love this! I think, in some ways, this volume (starting when Nebud entered Katsoaru) is where the real story starts to form. We're are now finally seeing how Nebud rose to the position that it is in today. So, I hope you keep enjoying it. I know I'm going to try to keep it suspenseful wink

@cassbeat Upgraded or downgraded how? I didn't understand that part of your comment. But yes, the uspecs have found a way to use pansophy to share lust. It's amazing hahaha

@ayshow6102 as in, real congrats!

@phoenixchap Yes, Musa is indeed a blessing to Nebud. Is Marcinus vulnerable, how so? We'll sha see very soon if Marcinus is indeed vulnerable cheesy
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by popeshemoo(m): 7:45pm On Aug 13
Wow... Wednesday is just few hours away..
Can't wait

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:21am On Aug 14
popeshemoo:
Wow... Wednesday is just few hours away..
Can't wait

This brings me joy. Thank you! grin And Wednesday has arrived!!!
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:21am On Aug 14
Part 8
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Musa looked distinguished in its new jacket. The garment was made of fine leather and had interior pouches where important items could be stored. The imp admired the jacket, brushing its hand over the exterior. Its fingers traced the studded buttons at the wrist. I found the imp’s study of the jacket awing.

“You act as if you have never owned anything this fine.” I stated.

Musa’s fingers stilled. It turned to face me. Smiling wistfully, it said, “I had clothes this fine when I served as osin to the Kaisers. After master Calam died, all of my belongings were taken from me. This jacket sends me back to a past life master.”

I nodded with understanding. Turning, so the imp could ponder in solitude, I scanned the market we walked through. This market was so unlike the ones that we’d visited on the inter-port trail. There were no stalls, no hawkers crying out their wares at the top of their voices. None of that here. The shops in the market were partly dwellings. It had an open design so that buyers could walk through one store and into another, all while under the shade provided by a glass roof. Each item for sale was placed on fine counters, and the owners of each shop walked around their stalls with their aids, simply waiting to be called on for service. I much preferred the order here.

We walked along a path connecting a shop which sold smoked soft rooster flesh to another where the owner had several stunning glass decanters filled with varying colors of wine. A bottle of dark blue wine had my mind returning to the previous night. I’d had difficulty sleeping after returning from Manus’ room. I thought about the imperial one, about the magistrate it had turned to a soft rooster, and all the things that it had said to me. I thought of the inter-port trail and the murder I had witnessed, and I tried to make meaning of it all. Why was I in Katsoaru? I wanted to know whose voice echoed in my head, pushing me, driving me to do a thing which I could find no reason for. Why Marcinus’ eye? If the voice had asked me to kill Marcinus, then I would understand that it was an enemy, an uspec who wanted Marcinus out of the way. But taking the uspec’s eye? What effect would that have?

On and on the questions had barraged me, making sleep difficult. My eyes had only been shut for a few minutes when I heard knocking on my room door. Musa delivered the message from the royal imp; Manus had decided that I would start the next day. Tomorrow instead of today.

“I forgot to thank you master.” Musa’s words pulled me out of my musings.

I frowned at the imp. “For what?”

“The money master.”

I shook my head. “I should have thought of it sooner. You needed a change of clothes.”

“Here is the remainder.” It said, extending a large pouch towards me.

“You did not spend it all?” I asked with an eyebrow lifted.

“Master,” Musa laughed, “I could not spend a piece of worth in a single day, not even with the inflated prices in this market. The jacket was the finest thing I bought, and that was only worth half a piece of merit.” It stretched its hand out again.

“Keep it.”

Musa gasped. “Tha…”

I shook my head before it could finish. “What do you think of Manus?” I asked instead, the question bursting out of me before I fully considered it. Now that I had asked, I wondered why I hadn’t sooner. Musa was smart, it might notice things that I missed.

Musa took its time placing the large pouch into the new satchel bag it had bought to hold all of its new clothes. Then it shrugged. “It is not my place to comment on the imperial.”

My eyebrows pulled in towards the middle of my face as I studied the side of the imp’s head. “And Marcinus?” I asked, taking care to watch the imp.

As soon as I mentioned the uspec’s name, Musa lit up. It smiled. “Marcinus is very kind master. It reminds me so much of Master Calami. The way it fought against you, that was how master Calami would fight. When master Calami first started fighting, it made sure that all warriors knew that it would not hold an injury they inflicted against them. It had the best fighters trying to beat it, and it absorbed the pain, fell to its knees and rose up, always ready to fight again. It fought with me a number of times too, it said that I was its favorite sparring partner, that I kept it on its toes. It was lying of course, master Calami was a much better fighter than I am, but that was just the kind of uspec the master was. It was arrogant,” Musa stopped here to chuckle, shaking its head as if partaking of a joke only it could understand, before finishing with, “but it was kind.” And then Musa sighed.

My progenitor, I thought, the words locked in my throat, their weight all the more palpable as I knew I could never say them. Whenever I heard Musa speak of Calami and Calam, I felt a pain which I could not describe. I yearned to know them, to know the family that I had been denied. I thought for a moment how fulfilling it would have been to train under Calami, to spar with the uspec, to beat my progenitor, but in the way friends did. It would have taken joy in my victory, it would have been proud of me. Would I have called it mater as Marcinus called its progenitor? Would that foreign concept of ‘love’ have applied to me and my progenitor? I shook the thoughts away, pushing the grief down before I could dwell on it. Whatever may or may not have been was gone, forever lost to me.

When my attention returned to my surroundings, I noted that we had reached a new shop, this one held much more fascination to me than the previous ones which we had walked through.

It was a store filled with tomes.

Noting my interest, the shop owner approached me. It bowed in greeting when my attention lifted to meet it. “Salutations noble one.” It said. Its voice was frail. It stood with a hunch. The uspec had two outer eyes filled. It had only three tentacles emerging from its waist. I could tell from the stumps that the others had fallen off. The uspecs ailerons were mostly empty, and the feathers which remained were crinkled. My study of the uspec informed that it was long past its prime. This was an uspec that would die soon.

I nodded in greeting at the shop owner.

“Noble one?” I heard an excited voice call out from behind a stack of tomes. Riding a nama, a six-legged creature with curved horns sprouting from its head, the young uspec emerged on the scene. The nama was a fast creature, not as fast as some, but much faster than most. At the speed the creature was going, I expected them to crash into me. How old was this uspec? No tentacles, no outer eyes, very short. Probably only a year old. Too young to kill it if it ran into me then.

Sensing the coming collision, the young uspec began to pull on the nama’s horns in its attempt to slow the animal down. When none of its yanking worked, the uspec yelled, “pater!” as the nama raced onwards towards me.

The old uspec moved too slowly. Rustling sounds coming from somewhere behind me told me that there was yet another uspec in this store.

When the nama was a few paces ahead, I grabbed onto the creature by its horn, stopping it. I latched onto the young uspec’s upper arm before it was sent toppling onto the ground by the sudden halt.

“Apologies noble one.” A new uspec and the old one, both spoke together.

Letting go of the nama’s horn, I turned to face the new arrival. The first thing I noticed was the wooden tray it held. The tray was filled with some of the finest whips I had ever seen. The whips were made of gleaming black leather.

“Please take one noble one.” The uspec said, extending the tray towards me. “As an apology for my offspring.”

I turned to stare at Musa. Musa’s mock shiver made me laugh. I shook my head at the uspec. “No need. I suppose we must permit the young to be young.”

“Gratitude noble one.”

I nodded. My eyes caught on a large tome. I walked towards it. The tome stood on display on one of the store’s counters. It was bound in crimson hard paper. THE ISLE OF SHUNS was written boldly in gold ink on the cover of the book.

“How much is this?” I found myself asking.

“That large thing?” the old uspec’s voice rose in reply. Slowly, it approached me, and when it did, its puzzled gaze snapped from my face to the book. It shook its head. “No, you do not want that noble one.” It said. “A banneret like you will vastly prefer reading that,” it pointed to a much smaller tome. “That is a great guidebook to increase a warrior’s stamina. You could even finish it before the Kaiser’s bout tomorrow. I have heard many a tale of bannerets who’ve won similar competitions from reading that book.”

“The Kaiser’s bout?” I asked.

The old uspec’s brows furrowed. “Well, yes noble one. Once every year, the Kaiser hosts a tournament for all the noble fighters of Uspecipyte ports. Every year it offers up a golden pouch, thirty pieces of worth, they say, to the fighter who wins. The imperial Marcinus has won every year since it reached its prime. This year, with the naming ceremony only a few days away, it will be even more important that Marcinus shows its strength.”

The naming ceremony had not yet been done? For some reason I assumed that Manus had already been named heir. I remembered Marcinus’ clear deference to its sibling and just assumed it was because its older sibling had been proclaimed as future Kaiser. But it hadn’t?

“Who do the people prefer?” I asked.

“Master!” Musa gasped, its head turned, darting from side to side as if scared that I would be struck down for daring to ask the question.

The old uspec was studying me carefully. “The people have no preference of course, noble one.” It said. “Whoever the Kaiser chooses will be the future Kaiser and all will celebrate that choice.”

“Of course, as I thought.” I replied. I turned back to the tome which had begun the conversation. The isle of shuns, what an intriguing name. I wanted to read it. I had read a dozen books like the one the old uspec suggested. They were all the same, utter rubbish. “How much?” I asked, gesturing again to my preferred tome.

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 2:22am On Aug 14
“Well if you insist, noble one. That tome is very rare, only a few copies exist in the entire existence. The normal price is a piece of merit, but I will give it to you for half that price, as an apology for the young uspec’s behavior.”

“A thousand pieces of value for one tome?” I asked astonished. I had bought hundreds of tomes on the inter-port trail, and combined they did not add up to the price the uspec was demanding for the one book.

“That tome is not like others. It is filled with firsthand accounts, with pictures of a place that very few have been to. It is a tale of sorrow and daring, one that an uspec risked its life to write. Each copy is handwritten, not made by imps in a factory, but written by the uspec’s own hand. It only had enough time to write a few before it died. This one is the original, the first copy it wrote.”

I did not know if I believed the uspec, but it did make a fairly compelling case for why it should cost so much. None of the other tomes I’d read had been handwritten. They’d all been factory-made. With narrowed eyes, I reached into a pocket in my belt and pulled out a piece of merit.

“I will go and get the change.” The uspec said.

“No. I pay full price.” I stated.

“Gratitude noble one.”

Musa picked the tome off the stand, stared at it for a few seconds and then placed it into its satchel bag. I could tell from the curious way it had examined the book that Musa had never come across it before. The imp would demand to read it after I was done then. It felt good to know that I would have some information before the imp. Knowing Musa, it would be done with the tome in hours while it would take me days to read.

We continued our walk then, leaving the shop with the tomes.

We had just walked by two more shops, when a horn blared through the air. The horn was blown a few more times. Uspecs and imps rushed forward. They pushed back counters, widening the space in the middle of the shop, the path which connected this one to the others. I found something strange about the feverish way in which the people worked. Finally, there was a large empty path in the shop. I saw that the other shops had done the same thing, rearranging their stores and pushing counters back so that there was a large gap in the connecting path.

Two royal imps strode forward. I recognized the uniform the imps wore from my previous visits to the Chateau.

“Who is it ma?” a store imp asked one of the royal ones.

“The Kaiser and its offspring.” The royal imp replied.

The gasps of shock were quickly followed by whispers. “Is it stopping?” the question was asked in an excited voice.

“No, it is passing by.” The imp replied. The royal imps continued on their way.

As soon as the Kaiser’s convoy grew close, silence descended on the shop. The whisperings stopped, as the onlookers, imps and uspecs alike, stretched their necks for a view. I stood as I was, simply watching the display. Excitement was plainly etched on all the faces I saw.

Soon the convoy reached us. At the front of it were about ten royal imps, two of which held giant horns in their hands. I counted at least thirty soaru bannerets following behind the imps. Then there was a mix of halcyons and adherents behind them. About fifty nobles appeared then, the number of armbands varying from one to four.

Behind the nobles, there was a thin line of noble guards, a line filled with two-band nobles and one silver sheathed banneret. I saw Marcinus first. It was dressed in a sleeveless robe, which matched the one Manus wore. Marcinus and Manus were separated by another uspec, one slightly shorter than they both were. It had more bulk than Marcinus. I could tell from the five golden bands it wore on each arm that it was the Kaiser. Marcinus stood to the right of the Kaiser and Manus stood to its left.

I dropped to my knee, genuflecting with my head bowed, as the Kaiser drew closer. Musa knelt as all the other imps did, with their foreheads touching the floor. The commoners knelt on both knees, with both of their hands touching the floor and their heads bowed.

After the Kaiser passed, I rose to my feet. There was another line of guards behind the Kaiser. That line was followed by about twenty bannerets. They all walked by then, leaving, in their wake, another bustle of commotion as the shop workers rushed to put their counters back in order.

It was in this commotion that an imp dressed in a poor-quality tunic ran into Musa.

Musa grabbed onto the imp to keep itself from falling backwards onto the edge of a counter. The imp turned around then.

Its empty eye sockets darted first to me, then to Musa and then back…the imp stopped to stare at Musa. It gaped at my imp for a long time before it shook its head and began struggling to pry its arm free of Musa’s hold.

“Chike.” Musa sounded shocked.

The imp froze. Then it tried pulling its arm away again. When it couldn’t free itself from Musa’s hold, it shook its head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please release me.”

The imp was shorter than Musa was, but, I could tell that it had spent many more years as an umani before dying.

“I know it’s you Chike.” Musa stated. “I could pick you out of a crowded room filled with men who look just like you.” I could tell from the teasing tone that Musa used now, that it was somehow familiar with this imp. “What happened to you? Where did you go?”

The imp straightened. “Let go off me. I do not know you, you must have me mixed with someone else. My master awaits, so please release me.”

Musa released the imp and it ran away.

“What was that?” I asked. “Do you know the imp?”

Musa nodded with a frown on its face. “It used to serve with me in Lahooni. It also belonged to master Calam. It disappeared the day that master Calam and the young master were killed.”

Shrugging, I said, “perhaps it ran away.”

“No. Chike was close to master Calami. If it was not dictated that I would be the only osin kept by the Kaisers of Lahooni, master Calami would have made it osin as well. After master Calami died, it swore to serve the young master, master Calami’s offspring as faithfully as it would have served its progenitor. When master Calam ordered me to go to Hakute, even though I did not want to leave them in such an uncertain time, I left knowing that Chike was there. Chike is a great fighter master, it does not have pansophy itself, but it was permitted to siphon whatever it wanted from master Calam. When I returned and Chike was not there, I assumed that it had been captured and sapped for its defense of the young master. The only way Chike would have escaped being sapped was if it chose not to fight, if it abandoned the masters to their fate.”

“Not all imps are as loyal to their masters as you Musa. Most would rather run than fight and be sapped.”

“Not Chike.” Musa said with determination. “And if Chike was cowardly enough to do that, then I want to know. I want it to look me in my sockets and tell me.”

I could tell this was important to the imp. “Very well,” I said. “Tomorrow, when I go to the Chateau, you may go and find the imp.”

Musa gasped. “No master, I would rather be close to the Chateau, in case you need me.”

I frowned at the imp. “No, I told you already, Manus does not want you in the Chateau. Find your imp friend instead. Contrary to what you may believe, I can survive without your protection.”

Musa laughed.

3 Likes

Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Dathypebruv(m): 2:57am On Aug 14
Finally it's arrived time to savor this one grin
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Dathypebruv(m): 3:07am On Aug 14
More coming ahead I presume
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 11:57am On Aug 14
Nama? grin Obehid it literally means animal in Hausa, wow! This lady keeps making me laugh.

Now, what I will want to know is, the upcoming tournament, when will it start I want Nebud to participate, which it must o. There will be brawling and Nebud will have fun as he craves. I am feeling exhilarated already grin.

Pls Obehid remind me, what creatures did Osazele meet in the existence she was taken to. Can't recall names but I believe that you know where I am referring to.


Keep bringing in more interesting updates dear.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by phoenixchap: 1:12pm On Aug 14
Another detractor sighted, I may be wrong though but my gut is telling me Chike needs to be interrogated. Musa shouldn't leave this Nebud alone o, he can damage alot of things
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by presh654(m): 8:34pm On Aug 15
Obehid are you male or female? Cos im so entwined with your mind.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by ayshow6102(m): 10:36pm On Aug 15
[i][/i]Thanks for the update obehid I think chika is part of a shocking conspiracy
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Afz9095(m): 11:01pm On Aug 15
Thanks mam. I think chike is the one who escape baby Nebud

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Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Fazemood(m): 7:56am On Aug 16
Afz9095:
Thanks mam. I think chike is the one who escape baby Nebud
Quite thoughtful.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by Tuhndhay(m): 3:02pm On Aug 16
Hey Guys, I lost my phone to 3weeks ago thieves but glad no bodily harm was inflicted. Missed this story, just had to get a friend's phone to follow up. Don't know when I will be back fully but will peep as much as I can.

Nice work Obehid.
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 3:59am On Aug 17
@Dathypebruv Yes, more has come wink

@Fazemood Yes, I know what nama means in Hausa, that's why I used it, lol. So, Osezele went to the fourth existence, and at this point we have no idea what the creatures in that existence are called. Thank you, I'm trying to keep it interesting grin

@phoenixchap I say listen to your gut, it's definitely telling you something cheesy

@presh654 I am a female, and thank you for appreciating my twisted mind grin

@ayshow6102 Thank you for reading. I think you're onto something there about Chike...

@Afz9095 I concur with Fazemood, you're observation on Chike is quite thoughtful, but that's all I'll say for now. Soon, the truth will be revealed grin

@Tuhndhay It's good to see you back. I'm so sorry to hear about your phone, thankfully you were not hurt. I'm so happy you got the chance to check up on us today. Thank you smiley
Re: The Marked: In The Spectral Existence (A Stand-alone Fantasy Fiction Novella) by obehiD: 4:00am On Aug 17
Part 9
--------

“When shall I return?” the noble asked.

Manus shook its head. “Don’t.”

The noble’s eyes widened. “Surely you will need my protection when you represent your line this evening in…”

A curt headshake cut the noble off.

“As you wish.” The noble stated, huffing as it walked away.

Manus ignored the noble. It was one of the ones which had come to escort me to the Chateau the first time I met Manus. Manus and I continued walking. I did not know what I had expected guarding an imperial one to be like, but it was certainly nothing like this. All we’d done all day was sit in Manus’ room surrounded by nobles telling stories they could not possibly think was funny. Though Manus rewarded each storytelling effort with a chuckle. It stared unblinkingly at the uspec telling the story, its face a picture of rapt attention. That attention buoyed the uspecs making them even louder and sillier in the tales they told. I did not know how Manus endured it.

Luckily, we were outside now, walking between tents constructed for the warriors participating in the Kaiser’s bout. Manus had shown no interest in participating, and had only decided to grace the place with its presence for the last bout. I did not know who the opponent was, but I knew that Marcinus would be fighting.

We walked in silence past several temporary hovels obviously erected quickly from baked sludge. We were in the part of the Acropolis reserved for the made nobles and so the clouds were not nearly as thick here as they were in the Chateau. Still, I had put in thirty drops of aqua-sight in each eye. With the added sight, I could see clearly through the clouds, to the different hovels, and the uspecs we came across.

Manus stopped in front of the largest hovel in the lot. Two uspecs guarded the hovel. As soon as they saw Manus, they pulled the curtains to the hovel open.

Marcinus sat on a wooden table, laughing with the imp who poured wine into its cup. I recognized the imp and the two bannerets standing in the room, sharing in the joke. I picked up enough words to understand that they were retelling the story of Marcinus last victory. From what I assumed were greatly exaggerated details, the fight had been one to watch. Another reason I was annoyed that I had missed it. But I had agreed to act as Manus’ noble guard, which meant that I had to be where the uspec was, and the uspec had chosen to stay away from the bout. I could not help wondering why the two siblings were so different. Why wasn’t Manus a fighter as well? Surely fighting was a necessary skill for an imperial.

The bannerets stopped laughing when they saw us. The change in their countenance was quite obvious. The smiles fell away, and were replaced by straight lips and indifferent faces. They curtsied deeply to Manus, then they rose. I could not help feeling their hostility when their gazes turned on me.

Marcinus stopped laughing. With a frown on its face, it turned to face the door. When it saw its sibling, the frown morphed into a look of confusion and then a tentative smile. Then its gaze darted to me and the smile on Marcinus face grew so wide, its teeth showed. “Salutations Manus.” Marcinus greeted its older sibling with a slight neck bow. “I see you brought Nebud, my friend.”

I frowned at Marcinus’ words.

Marcinus chuckled. “Forgive me Nebud, I forgot that I was no friend of yours.”

I curtsied to the uspec. “Salutations imperial one.” I greeted.

It was with the smile still on its face that Marcinus stood from its position perched on the table, and walked towards us. It held its cup of wine in one hand as it sauntered towards us. My eyes caught on the extra glint of the golden armbands. They appeared to have been polished, just for the occasion. Marcinus wore nothing else.

“To what do I owe the honor of your visit, sibling?” Marcinus asked.

Manus’ smile was not as unreserved as Marcinus’, it did not reveal a single tooth. “I’m here to congratulate you and to wish you luck on the last bout. You do our line proud.”

“Gratitude.” Marcinus turned to face me then. “Is it too much to hope that you are here for the same reason Nebud? I cannot lie, I was puzzled when I did not see you on the roster of fighters for pater’s bout. I know the Kaiser would have enjoyed watching you fight.”

Manus’ hand rose in the air. It wore a maroon robe. The sleeve of that robe grazed Marcinus’ cup as Manus moved to tap Marcinus on the shoulder. Then Manus turned to stare at me. “Nebud is my new noble guard.” Manus announced, “it is taking Reynard’s place.”

I may have imagined it, but as soon as Manus said the words, the smile on Marcinus’ face wavered. Where once the smile had appeared genuine, it now seemed strained. It was a strange thing to notice. “Goodluck imperial one.” I said to Marcinus when the silence in the room had reached the point when a statement from me seemed necessary.

Marcinus’ tight lips pulled to the side. “Gratitude.” It said in a strange voice. Then it rose the cup to its lips, and downed the drink. As soon as the cup was empty, it fell from Marcinus hand.

Marcinus swayed and would have fallen if Manus didn’t immediately tighten its grip on Marcinus’ arm.

“What is wrong with you?” Manus scolded. “Why would you bring this disgusting habit into a game that you know means so much to pater?” Then Manus sighed.

The bannerets rushed forward. They both held onto each of Marcinus’ arms, supporting it as it rocked on its feet. The image of the three uspecs standing this way took my mind back to the night of the white fumes. I had seen Marcinus drunk then too, and being supported by these same uspecs.

“Look at yourself.” Manus spat the words out, taking a step back away from Marcinus. Then it shook its head and walked back to its sibling. It placed both hands on the uspec’s neck, a gesture that had the bannerets flinching. “Don’t fight Marcinus. If you go into the last bout drunk as you are, pater will not forgive you.”

Marcinus mumbled together a string of unintelligible words.

Manus sighed. It turned its focus to the bannerets. “If you are truly its friends, you will keep it away from the Kaiser until it is sober.”

Both bannerets appeared to be clenching their teeth, as if they were angry. I reached out through the lifeforce in my anger and found anger in all of them. The bannerets were furious. I picked up traces of mild anger from Marcinus, and even the imp was angry. A quick glance at the imp showed that it was glaring in our direction. I found all of this odd. It was strange enough that I decided to pull my consciousness from the room to focus in on the anger. I knew that if I did this, I could speak to the emotion and see through to its cause. Before I could begin, Manus turned around and walked out of the hovel, shaking its head all the way. I was forced to follow after the uspec, resigning myself to the fact that the anger would forever remain a mystery.

“Marcinus is a fool.” Manus said as soon as we walked out of the hovel. “You would think that on a day as important as this one it would stay away from liquor, but it doesn’t.” Manus stopped walking. It took a deep breath, exhaled, and then looked up at me. It had a mocking smile on its face as it spoke, “I bet you are sorry to see what kind of uspec owns the swan. My sibling is a drunk.” It shook its head. “It was not always this bad, it’s the pressure you see. Marcinus cannot handle the pressure of being considered as our pater’s heir. It is a shame really, Marcinus is such a great fighter.” Then Manus’ smile turned kind, almost pitying, as if it was sorry for the offense it imagined its words had caused me. “You need not concern yourself with that Nebud. Come, let us go to the arena. With any luck my sibling will be smart enough to stay away in its current state.”

As we walked, I allowed my mind to accumulate all that I had learnt. Marcinus was a drunk. It made sense as this was not the first, but the second time that I had seen Marcinus inebriated. But it was such a great fighter. How did Marcinus have the control to stay sober enough to perfect its craft? For some reason, even though the evidence was staring me in the face, I could not believe that Marcinus had so little control over what it imbibed. The way the uspec had fought me, that was an uspec with grace, with strength, not a drunk. Yet, it was a drunk, I had seen it. I shook my head as I tried once again to make sense of the mystery of Marcinus. Was this why I was here to take its eye then? Because it was a drunk? That made absolutely no sense. Who would care that Marcinus was a drunk, who would care enough to want it to lose an eye? An eye. No matter how hard I tried, I could not come up with a good enough reason for anyone wanting Marcinus to lose one eye. Which eye was I to take? Why? Did it matter? If I could not find the reason behind the demand for Marcinus’ eye, then what was I to do? I could not leave this port without that eye.

My contemplation ended when I noted that we had reached the end of the lot with the warriors’ hovels. We stood in front of a portal room barricaded with hard fog. There was a cyan basin resting on a stand. ‘Address’ was etched into the front of the basin, describing the multicolored pebbles which I knew from my reading rested inside the fog-sealed container. I often wondered if there had been basins like this in front of the pits of Hakute. Had uspecs come with their payments to buy addresses to watch me fight? The concept was simple. Each pebble contained the address for a seat in the arena which an uspec could purchase. There was a pricelist stapled to the sides of the stand, showing the type of seats that could be bought. An uspec could place money into the fog and a pebble, the address, would be returned. The uspec could then put that address into the quicksand in the portal and it would be taken to its seat in the arena.

Manus slipped its hand into an interior pocket in its coat. It pulled out a cyan piece, one formed into the shape of money, with markings all around it. It dropped the piece into the cyan fog which covered the top of the basin. A second later, a golden pebble came out and was brought to rest on the now hard fog. Manus picked the pebble up, off the fog, and walked into the portal. It waited till I was standing beside it, and then it dropped the golden pebble into the hard sand. Once the pebble touched the ground, the quicksand softened and pulled us in.

We were led to an area filled with noble uspecs. The uspecs cleared, creating a space for Manus once they saw it. Through the gap they created, we walked to the front of the area, to a large empty space with three seated uspecs. One sat on a golden highchair, five golden armbands on each arm and dressed in a purple coat. The other two sat on low chairs to either side of the Kaiser. They both had four golden armbands on their arms. I ascertained from those armbands that they were dukes. A row of bannerets separated the half of the room filled with uspecs from the half which had only the Kaiser and the dukes.

Manus rose its hand up in the air. Whatever it meant to do with its hand was completely forgotten as its gaze turned ahead. I followed the direction of its gaze and was shocked at the sight of the green dome. There was a wall of transparent fog cordoning off the area, separating the Kaiser from the dome. With my extra sight, I could see through the dome, to the uspec standing within it.

“What is that?” I asked.

Manus turned to stare at me. It frowned at my question and then it chuckled. “I suppose not every port is lucky enough to be bound so closely to Chuspecip.” The words were said in a teasing tone. I found that strange for an Uspecipyte.

“I don’t understand.”

Manus nodded. “According to the tales of our ancestors, Chuspecip itself created this equipoise, the great dome. The equipoise is the only thing that exists in the spectral existence with the power to render all those within without magic. Pansophy, spectra, emotions, none of it works in the equipoise. The only skill a person has underneath the dome, is the school of its fighting. Route creates that dome, it is magic only Chuspecip has. The Kaiser is very proud of the glorious history of our ancestors, who were so closely linked to Chuspecip, that the founder constructed this dome at their behest. All bouts are done here. Uspecipyte warriors and nobles are invited and the Kaiser has the opportunity to show off our close familial link to Chuspecip.”

“Gratitude imperial one.” I replied, staring at the marvel. Manus spoke of the dome with disgust, and I finally understood why it had stayed away from the bout. Manus was no warrior. All it had was its magic, a fight where it could not use its magic would hold no appeal to it. Not like it would to a warrior like me. I wished all fights were done in areas like this. Equipoise. I committed the word to memory, deciding that I would have to find tomes about it. Now that I had the means to acquire knowledge, I refused to return to my previous state of ignorance.

Marcinus stumbled into the dome.

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